True or False? The Bible is the final authority in all matters of faith and practice.
Well, that depends on the question it’s answering. If the question is, “What is the final authority in all matters of faith and practice?” then it’s absolutely true.
But if the question is, “What is the Bible?” then I’ll say that “final authority in all matters…” is somewhat deficient.
“What is that supposed to mean?” you say? Well, in the typical American home, who is the final authority in matters pertaining to the kitchen? Probably Mama. But if someone asks, “Who is Mama?” then I hope the answer isn’t “The final authority in matters pertaining to the kitchen”; that is far too narrow a definition of who Mama is.
Regarding the Bible, then “final authority…” is far too narrow. I’m indebted to Scot McKnight for this insight from The Blue Parakeet: looking at Psalm 119 (or Psalm 19 for that matter), we see a lot of different words describing the Bible: sweeter than honey, desirable like gold, giving joy to the heart; the writer talks about rejoicing and delight, being revived and strengthened by God’s word, and so on. This is not about a legal textbook!
Jeremiah says (in chapter 15 I think) that God’s words were the “joy and rejoicing of mine heart” and Paul says in 2 Timothy 3 that the Scriptures equip us “for every good work.”
Come to think of it, “final authority” isn’t the first thing that comes to my mind about the Bible, either. To the question “Why do you read the Bible?” my answer is “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, and this book tells me about him.” Or maybe, “So that I can think more like he does” or something like that.
I heard some decades ago that the Bible is “God’s love letter to us” but it didn’t strike me that way until one day when I was thinking about Genesis 1. What a loving God we have, who wanted to tell us that we were made in his image, that we were made to rule! The good news begins not in Matthew 1 but in Genesis 1, as I’ve written earlier.
So what is the Bible? A record of God’s interactions with humanity; a love letter to us; the living and active word of God; a source of joy and delight; a help to us in becoming like Jesus. And yes, it is also the final authority in all matters of faith and practice.