“The Bible tells me. So?”

The Vizsoly Bible, in Vizsoly

The Vizsoly Bible, in Vizsoly
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A couple of months ago, Bill Leonard, Professor of Church History and Baptist Studies at Wake Forest University wrote a reflection on what so often happens when people get into a “Bible quoting” mode. We wrote:

Lent, the season of reflection and repentance, offers opportunity for those of us who live in and out of the Bible to acknowledge that the church’s history is full of acts and imperatives thought to be grounded in Holy Scripture that led the church to make horrible mistakes.

He goes on to list several instances in church history where people were convinced that “the Bible says” one thing or another, and therefore justify behavior that today we would consider to be outrageous. It leads him to wonder:

And what of us? While grateful that such destructive misuses of Scripture are no longer acceptable, we must ask ourselves: what texts are we using to promote practices for which later generations will call us to account?

It reminds me of the story of a ruler who became tired of battles among his advisers  over what “the Bible clearly says” should be a course of action. “Bring me a Bible!” he said. It was brought in, and he instructed that it be placed in the center of the room. After some minutes of silence, he observed, “I don’t hear it saying anything.”

It’s a reminder that the Bible doesn’t speak; only its interpreters do. And any (and all) of us are capable of getting it wrong. A measure of humility is certainly called for.

You can find Prof. Leonard’s full commentary over at the Associated Baptist Press.

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