Wednesday, June 07, 2023

The Bible Gives Guidance, Purpose, and Meaning

(Detroit Metro Airport)

Does the Bible have authority in my life? Yes. The Bible is my Text. It provides the Metanarrative I look to for guidance in life, for greater purpose, and for the meaning of my existence. 

I begin every day reading from the Bible. I study it. I meditate on it and absorb it. Today I'm reading - again - from Proverbs, and the Gospel of Matthew.

Guidance. Purpose. Meaning.

Don't be shocked by this. As a philosopher, I've spent a lifetime studying guidance, purpose, and meaning. Everyone, including atheists, has a Narrative that addresses these three subjects. If asked, most atheists would not have a clue about this. (Those philosophy professors I studied under, and who were atheists, would have a clue about this.)

Likewise, most Jesus-followers will be unable to answer the question, "Why is the Bible authoritative for you?"

N.T. Wright's book on biblical authority, Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today, is helpful here. Wright also has an essay on biblical authority here, much of which is in the book.

Wright's work provides good reading for any Christian interested in the question, "Why should the Bible be considered authoritative as the Word of God?"
Wright, as well as that of scholars like Craig Keener and Ben Witherington, warns us how to avoid making "the Bible into something which basically it is not," and gives a perspective and a hermeneutic that is far more authentic to the Bible itself.

I like what Wright has to say about "story authority." Consider, e.g.:

"Story authority, as Jesus knew only too well, is the authority that really works. Throw a rule book at people’s head, or offer them a list of doctrines, and they can duck or avoid it, or simply disagree and go away. Tell them a story, though, and you invite them to come into a different world; you invite them to share a world-view or better still a ‘God-view’. That, actually, is what the parables are all about. They offer, as all genuine Christian story-telling the does, a world-view which, as someone comes into it and finds how compelling it is, quietly shatters the world-view that they were in already. Stories determine how people see themselves and how they see the world. Stories determine how they experience God, and the world, and themselves, and others. Great revolutionary movements have told stories about the past and present and future. They have invited people to see themselves in that light, and people’s lives have been changed. If that happens at a merely human level, how much more when it is God himself, the creator, breathing through his word."

The Koran, for example, is a set of commands. (Eide Alawan of the Islamic Center of America told me this. And, of course, you can see for yourself by reading the Koran.) While the Bible does contain commands, they are situated in what scholars call "salvation history." The commands are part of the story. The story is compelling, with the Jesus-event being the greatest story ever told.

How brilliant of God to give us a Story, and situate us within it. Within this Grand Metanarrative our lives find guidance, purpose, and meaning. "Meaning" is situatedness within a coherent context. In the Bible, I have found my place. This is the core of biblical authority.

My books are:

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Encounters With the Holy Spirit  (Co-edited with Janice Trigg)