A while back, I went to the JETS (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society) website and came across a rather long essay by Wayne Grudem. The essay, Do We Acts as if We Really Believe that ‘The Bible Alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God Written, is timely even if it was written and delivered before the ETS in November 17, 1999.
It is timely because, in fact, many have abandoned the Word of God written. Or, worse, they have re-written the Word of God to suit their own ideas, their own lifestyle, to justify their sin. This will not do. Some folks in the world of churchianity are teetering on a very narrow edge in their attempts to be relevant and practical and to seem important to have their opinion courted. Thus the Word of God is ‘useful’ or the Gospel ‘works’ or it ‘helps’ or it ‘helps me lose weight, be a better business manager, understand where I should go on vacation.’ But is this what the Word of God is written for at all? Is that why God gave us these Words, preserved them, inspired them, and set them as that which is necessary to the formation of biblical faith? Or did God have something else in mind when it came to The Law, the Prophets, the Psalms, the Gospels, and the Epistles?
That is all very preliminary and I shall address it a little more when I being making some comments on Hybels’ prayer book Too Busy Not to Pray. Just exactly what is the Bible? Why do we have it? Why do we preach from it? Why do we have confidence that it is somehow substantially different from any other book that has been written and collected and preserved?
Grudem’s first suggestion (he has six) is this: Consider the Possibility that God may want evangelical scholars to write more books and articles that tell the Church what the whole Bible teaches us about some current problem.
Well, this is a great idea! Sadly, I don’t think it is being done and the main problem with this is, again, what is the Word of God written for? I think it misses the mark just a bit. To be sure, he does say ‘that tell the church…’ But I actually have a better idea: Maybe scholars should write more books and articles that deal primarily with theology of the whole Bible. Or, better, maybe preachers should preach more sermons that deal primarily with the biblical content, which is Jesus Christ crucified! It seems to me that if we address the Bible from the perspective of people who are under its authoritative teaching, we would be better off understanding first what the Bible says about God, about Jesus. When Jesus walked with the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, he didn’t go through the Bible and explain a biblical theology of why the Romans occupied Israel at the time. Instead, Luke writes, ‘And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Thus everything else is understood in relation to what the Scripture says about Jesus. It’s hard to avoid this conclusion.
And again, “This is what I told you when I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about ME in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:27, 44, niv). I can understand a preach about why there is evil and suffering in the world only if I first understand the person, work, and victory of Jesus Christ. Scripture is only opened to those who are in Christ (2 Corinthians 3:7-18).
So, I’m not entirely dismissing Dr Grudem’s idea. I just think it needs a little more, and a little better, focus; viz., Jesus. Grudem asks at the end of this lengthy section of his essay: “Where are the whole-Bible exegetes? The Church needs you!” (Emphasis his). Well, I’ll tell you where they are: In the pulpit, Sunday after Sunday, preaching the Word of God. The whole Bible exegetes are not those scholars in their hallowed chairs, heading up departments of theories, not lecturing to their own at conferences. Those people are vital, to be sure, but the world will not fall apart if they suddenly vanished. But woe is the world without faithful preachers and exegetes of God’s Word!
I agree with the principle Dr. Grudem is establishing; I disagree where the principle will be played out in real life. I agree that the ‘whole Bible’ must be proclaimed (Old & New Testaments); I disagree what we preach when we preach the whole Bible. People will not necessarily be saved because I preach a series of sermons on the ethics of cloning. But people will be saved when I preach Jesus Christ and Him Crucified. Finally, I agree that we need ‘whole-Bible exegetes’; I disagree as to who those people are. Granted, Dr Grudem was speaking to the scholarly elite, but the real work of Gospel doesn’t take place, necessarily, in the hallowed halls of academia. It takes place in the thousands of pulpits around the world every Sunday morning, in coffee shops on Monday, in Bible studies on Wednesday, in the work place everyday, in prayer meetings on Saturdays, in schools, are ball parks, at little league, and cub scouts meetings. And it takes place when Jesus is lifted up: “When I am lifted up I will draw all men unto myself.” This needs to be remembered.
I renew my call to those preachers who happen to be by for a spell: Read and proclaim the Word of God. Preach Jesus. The Bible is about Jesus and when that focus is returned to the pulpit then the Church will begin once again to have the moral authority to address other issues that plague our world. Preaching must begin and end with Jesus Christ crucified.
Soli Deo Gloria!