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Taken from "Myth or Faith?"

1. Does the Bible "contain" the Word of God?
The Bible's origin (the one, true, Triune God) and the Bible's purpose (communicating God's life to us in Christ) make it thoroughly unique. No other book in the history of the world has had that origin and purpose.

As you worked through this week's study leaflet, you read 2 Tim. 3:16 - 17 several times. Let me read it to you again right now:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
"All Scripture is God-breathed." Christians also use the word inspired. God the Holy Spirit gave His chosen writers the thoughts they expressed and the words they wrote. Even so, the holy writers did not simply take down heavenly dictation. They were not robots. Each wrote in his own style, and each book reflects the experiences of its writer. No other book fits this description. The Bible is unique.

The Bible is also unique in that it is completely reliable. It is God's Word, not the word of human beings. Inspired by God, it is inerrant. That means it is free from error. We can depend upon it as God's truth, as God's truth for our lives. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is God's message of love to sinful human beings.

Unlike other books, even other so-called holy books, the Holy Scriptures are uniquely God's Word. It is wrong to deny their truthfuhess or to pick and choose those parts we will believe because we consider them "reasonable" or "plausible." We cannot decide which parts of the Holy Scriptures we want to believe. Our reason, flawed as it is by sin, must instead submit to the authority of God's Word.

2. Is it true that you can make the Bible prove anything, that its teachings are really just a matter of interpretation?
We can despise God's Word by ignoring it or ignoring parts of it. We can also abuse God's Word by twisting the meaning intended by the Holy Spirit. Each passage of Scripture has one intended meaning. We can't get away with thinking that person A can arrive at one legitimate interpretation while person B arrives at the opposite (but equally legitimate) interpretation. Also, the specific application of each passage can - and does, of course - vary from person to person and from time to time in our lives. But the Spirit's intended meaning in each text does not and cannot change. Neither does the Holy Spirit contradict Himself. This is why we interpret the "darker" verses in the light of the clearer texts.

But how do we decide what that meaning is? How do we interpret the Scripture? In one sense, those who say, "It's all a matter of interpretation" are right. As we interpret the Bible, our question needs to be this: "What is God trying to tell us?"

Several principles of interpretation help us answer that question in a way that we can be sure of our answer. You looked at some of those principles as you worked through the study leaflet this week. Let's review them briefly.

Principle 1. Christ is the very center of Scripture; the Bible must be interpreted in light of Christ. Luther once asked, "Take Christ out of the Scripture, and what do you have?" His implied answer? Nothing.

Principle 2. All Scripture is to be interpreted in the light of Justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, God declares us right with Himself freely, as a gift, not because we deserve it but because Jesus lived, died, and rose again for us. Every passage of Scripture is to be interpreted against that all-important background.

Principle 3. We approach Scripture not with a "prove it" or "show me" attitude, but with an open mind, a penitent heart, and faith that clings to Christ alone. As Luther said, "Reason is held captive under the obedience of faith." We come to the Scriptures asking, "Lord, what would you teach me here?"

Principle 4. We approach Scripture asking the Holy Spirit to work through His Word to convict us of our sins, and then, confessing our sins, we ask for God's forgiveness.

Principle 5. We read the Scriptures asking the Holy Spirit to reveal their meaning for our lives. We look for blessings God has given us for which we can return to Him thanks and praise. We ask, "Lord, what would You have me do?" as we look for ways to respond to His mercy in acts of loving service.

With these principles in mind, searching the Scriptures is not difficult, but rather, it is quite an exciting adventure!

3. Is the main point of the Bible how to live a good life?
From the principles of interpretation l just summarized for you, you can see that the Bible is not a book of rules for right living. Not at all! The central teaching of Scripture is God's call to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, our Savior. From the Scriptures we learn that Jesus lived a perfect life - in our place. He obeyed each one of God's laws perfectly for us. Then He died on the cross - in our place. He suffered the punishment that we by our sins had deserved. And He rose from the dead to give us new life, eternal life, a life with God that never ends.

That's why we can read the Bible, not looking for lists of dos and don'ts, but asking God to transform us more and more into the image of His Son.

4. Is the New Testament more important to us today than the Old Testament?
The New Testament portrays the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ for us. We treasure its words, its portrait of Christ, its message of God's love, His grace. But the entire Old Testament also points to Christ. It abounds in the revelation of God's grace - His promise to send a Savior after Adam and Eve fell into sin. His answers to prayer in the Psalms, His message of forgiveness spoken by the prophets.

We do not pit the Old Testament against the New. Nor can we conclude that the Old Testament carries a message of law and judgment and the New Testament a message of love and forgiveness. Both Law and Gospel are central themes in both testaments.

Both testaments tell of God's judgment on human sin, of the grim consequences that befall those who rebel against God's Law and who refuse His grace. But both testaments also tell of God's mercy toward repentant sinners. As the hymn writer once put it: "Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sins." That's the message of both testaments.

5. Are there a lot of mistakes in the Bible?
There certainly are a lot of "mistakes" in the Bible! In its pages we read of many mistaken persons - people who made "mistakes." But these "mistakes" were far more than that. They were sins against our holy and just God, sins that rightly deserved His punishment. But the Bible itself does not contain mistakes about who God is or what He has done down through history for us and for our salvation.

Sometimes people point to "mistakes" in the Bible, to supposed "contradictions" in its pages, or to presumed conflicts between science and the Holy Scriptures. Certainly some textual problems exist. There are "variant readings" of some verses of Scripture. But given the massive length of the Bible, these "variant readings" are few and far between. More important than their number or length, though, is the fact that none of them detract from the central truths of Christian doctrine.

Furthermore, those who refuse to study the Bible because "it's unscientific," need to study it more deeply. True science and the Christian faith do not disagree at all. All truth is God's truth. Pure science discovers the truths in the natural world around us. It deals with laboratory texts and empirical data, not with matters of faith. To use science as an excuse to construct a God-denying world-view would be scientism, not science, and scientism is a faith, not provable knowledge.

One final comment about the reliability of the Bible texts we have in English. Some people have come to the mistaken notion that because we have so many translations and versions of the Bible, no one can really know the truth. "Which translation can you trust?" these people ask.

If this is your question, take an hour or so sometime this week. Compare several major translations, for instance, the New International Version, the New King James Version, and the New American Standard Version. Look at verses like John 3:16 or 1 John 1:8 - 9. Compare Psalm 23. Check out some of your own favorite texts. If you do that, you will almost certainly conclude that the translations all say the same thing in slightly different words. Sometimes slightly different shades of meaning come out in different translations. Certainly no differences in the critical doctrines of the Christian faith can be found among the major translations.

Rather than erecting a roadblock, the variety of translations can add vitality to your personal Bible study. You can gain fresh insight into the meaning of specific texts by looking at how the various translators chose to phrase words and verses. Try it and see!

God the Holy Spirit is always present to strengthen us when we pick up the Bible and take a long, sweet drink of the "milk of the Word." Some have suggested that the Bibles we have in our homes never be closed, that they always lie open - on the table, by the bed, in the kitchen - the better to remember the invitation of our Lord to "take up and read."

But even if our Bibles are left open, how can we develop the right attitude toward reading them? How can we find time each day to read the Scriptures for our own personal spiritual growth, a time when our blessed Lord can speak to us through His sacred Word?

For one thing, we need to view the Scriptures not just as divinely inspired, but also as a living power. If the Scriptures are only "God-in-a-box," a code-book of texts that probe our intellectual understanding of Him is a correct one, then no wonder they are of little help to us in real life.

The Scriptures are our Lord's Word to us. An active, dynamic Word. A Word that works changes in our hearts and lives. We can go to it when our spirits are low. We can read it as God's letter of love, a letter written to each of us personally. We can think of it many times a day. We can refer to it in our daily conversations. And as we let God's Word have its way with us, those around us will see evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in us. We. will become more and more the living, epistles Paul once wrote about, "known and read by all men" (2 Cor. 3:2 RSV).

Taken from Myth or Faith? published by Concordia Publishing House. You can purchase Myth or Faith? by calling Concordia Publishing House at 1-800-325-3040.

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