On August 4, 2018, Dan Moran posted an article at the blog for The Institute on Religion and Democracy entitled, “‘Uniting Methodists” Panelists: ‘The Bible is Wrong.” It reads, in part:
On July 16–18, the “Uniting Methodists” caucus hosted a conference to organize their support for the so-called One Church Plan proposal for the special United Methodist General Conference in February. Around 200 people gathered at Lovers Lane UMC in Dallas, Texas, along with another 200 watching online. The caucus urges the UMC to unite around the basic idea of ordaining homosexually partnered clergy and allowing but not requiring clergy to perform same-sex weddings, repeatedly claims that such proposals would bring unity to the denomination, and describes itself and its agenda as “centrist” despite actually being rather liberal. John Lomperis has written a series of articles analyzing the Uniting Methodists’ cause and leadership.
Many of the conference’s most memorable moments came from a panel discussion led by Rev. Mike Baughman, an ordained elder serving as the lead pastor for Union, a new church start in Dallas, Texas, and featuring four young millennial leaders from its worship planning team. Disappointingly, the millennial panel lacked the kind of theological diversity that should define any truly “Uniting” Methodists movement. All were fully LGBTQ-affirming. The unorthodox beliefs shared by these “Uniting Methodists” panelists appear to speak clearly to the heart and future aspirations of this caucus and its preferred plan…
Lauren Manza, who identifies as lesbian, was unabashed in criticizing the Bible itself. She too grew up in a conservative family, and felt conflict with her upbringing. When speaking on same-sex marriage and the verses that traditionalists use to argue against it she said, “I believe if I sat down with Paul today, Paul would say ‘I’m not down for that,’ but I think the Bible’s wrong.”…
Instead of providing a counterpoint to her attack on Biblical authority, Baughman continued Manza’s train of thought. Recalling meetings with some of these young church leaders at Union he said:
“There were times that folks like Stephen and some other members of the team would just say like ‘Can we just say the Bible’s wrong?’ and one of the things that’s been interesting is I think there is this sense among a lot of millennials that just because the Bible says something, that doesn’t mean it has any authority whatsoever.”
One wishes that such views were unusual in the church today and that a chorus of protest at such a blatant rejection of scripture within the church would arise whenever such is voiced, but increasingly that is not the case. Increasingly the sentiments of these young people seem to be more and more mainstream. For our church, however, we have committed ourselves to be an authentic family around the whole gospel, and our understanding of what that means entails a high view of the authority of scripture.
“Can we just say the Bible’s wrong?” Absolutely not! For we believe it is the word of God. For this reason, our covenant contains an explicit statement about the scriptures as God’s word and our need to be deeply grounded in them.
As a body of born again believers,
We covenant to become an authentic family by
loving one another as Christ loves us,
praying for one another,
speaking truth to one another in love,
being patient with one another,
protecting one another,
considering one another as more important than ourselves.
We covenant to embrace the whole gospel
studying God’s Word faithfully
Why do we covenant to “study God’s Word faithfully”? Why should we? Why does it matter?
What should our posture toward scripture be? Continuous interaction.
Our text is the classic text on the nature and authority of scripture, 2 Timothy 3:14-17. In it, Paul encourages young Timothy to stay strong and focused in his calling as a Christian minister. He begins by acknowledging the foundation on which Timothy’s knowledge of the Lord rests.
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whomyou learned it 15a and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings
This is a profoundly rich passage that challenges us in our complacency. It does so first by calling for continuous practice of the faith: “continue in what you have learned.” It does so secondly by calling for resolution in our convictions: “and have firmly believed.” It does so thirdly by calling us to go deep into scripture: “and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings.”
Notice that Paul links Timothy’s belief with Timothy’s long grounding in the Bible, “the sacred writings.” Notice, too, parents, that Paul acknowledges that Timothy’s grounding in scripture began when he was a child, “from childhood.” I ask you, parents: are you fostering a deep love of scripture in your children? Are they acquainted with the Bible in your home? Could Paul say to your child, as he said to Timothy, that he is aware of your child’s early nurturing in scripture?
What should our posture toward scripture be? It should be one of continuous interaction, one in which we are nurtured daily on the sacred writings of God’s word! In Psalm 119, the psalmist writes:
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
This elevates scripture to the place of a necessity in the Christian life. It depicts it as the lamp and light that will keep us on the right path. The implications are clear enough: to neglect this light and lamp is to risk falling into a dark place, to risk falling off the path!
Can you say that you are a person of deep conviction concerning the gospel and that your convictions are buttressed and built up by continuous interaction with scripture? If not, why not? Can you say that your steps are guided by the light of God’s Word, the Bible? If not, why not? Can you say that the study of the Bible is important to you? If not, why not? Can you say that your posture toward scripture is one of continuous interaction? If not, would you commit to move toward that posture?
What benefit does our study of scripture have? It leads us to Jesus.
And to what end do we study scripture? What benefit does it have? Paul continues:
15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
The scriptures “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” It is very important to note that Paul does not say that the scripturessave you. There have been times when people have spoken of the Bible almost as if it itself is our Savior. It is not! It is God’s Word that points us to the Savior, Jesus. It is not our forgiveness, but it tells us how we can be forgiven. The Bible does not cleanse us from sin, but it points us to the Savior who does.
The Bible is “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” It gives us content. It teaches us. It tells us the story of God’s love for humanity. When the Holy Spirit of God illuminates this content, this story to us, we are open to receiving wisdom from God. Suddenly it makes sense! Then you see Jesus for who He is. You cannot wait any longer! You must give your life, your all, to Jesus!
This is how God works through scripture. I wonder how many of you have experienced what I just described? Do you remember that moment when, through His word (either read or heard) your heart and mind and eyes were opened to the truth of the gospel?
Can you see now why the devil is so invested in keeping us fromscripture? Can you see how flimsy our excuses have become? I have heard grown men say that the Bible is too complicated, that it is beyond their understanding. These same men will, in the next breath, speak of guns or firearms or politics or what-have-you with a degree of intelligence and complexity and specificity that is utterly brilliant. But when it comes to scripture, we complain of its complexity and declare it utterly beyond us.
There are challenging texts in scripture and passages that require deep thought and even a kind of holy wrestling with the text. But the core of scripture can be understood by a child! Do not give yourself a pass and attempt to dress up your own disinterest as something else. If you are able to read, you can read the Bible and God will speak to you through it!
What authority does scripture have? The authority of God’s word.
The Bible is God’s Word. As such, it has the authority of Heaven behind it.
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of Godmay be complete, equipped for every good work.
“Breathed out by God.” What a powerful image! Scripture is God-breathed! It comes from His mouth. For that reason, it can accomplish the many things Paul lists. It can teach, reprove, correct, train, equip, and lead us to completion in Jesus Christ. Scripture can do all of this because it is no mere book.
No other book can claim to be God-breathed! No other book can claim this authority! There is power in the word and the breath of God can wash over you as you read it. I have seen this in my own life, moments when I was laid low, devastated by the glory and power and beauty and truth of the word of God! I have had moments when the words of scripture pierced through my own selfishness and foolishness and sinfulness with amazing power!
Peter Mommsen has written movingly of a time when this happened with the Bruderhof, the Christian community originally out of Germany that spread into South and then North America. Mommsen’s great-grandfather started the Bruderhof and his grandfather was instrumental in its leadership. He describes how one group came to join the Bruderhof and the role that scripture played in that process.
Whole groups joined. One was Macedonia, a cooperative community that ran a dairy and manufacturing business in the hills of Georgia. Dick Mommsen was a typical member. He had come there ten years before, shortly after his release from the Civilian Public Service camp where, as a conscientious objector, he had spent World War II. He and his wife, Dot, lived in the log cabin they had built. Heiner and Annemarie had visited them in 1953, and hearing about Primavera had impressed them and other Macedonians. But it also left them apprehensive. Admirers of Gandhi and Albert Schweitzer, they tended toward a humanist idealism. To them, Christianity was narrow and dogmatic. They had no use for it. In the summer of 1957 that began to change. Outwardly Macedonia was finally flourishing after more than a decade of dogged efforts. But Dick and Dot felt that something was not working. Among those coming to Macedonia were people dogged by alcoholism, adultery, involvement in the occult – and how did one address such issues in a humanist community? After deciding that a common spiritual basis would help, Macedonia planned out a course of group study. First they would read together from the New Testament, and then from the Koran, and then from the Bhagavad-Gita. They didn’t get far. Only a few chapters into the Gospel of Luke, they found that the text was taking hold of them in a way they had never expected. Reading about Jesus stirred them deeply. Many were in tears. They called Woodcrest for guidance, and Heiner and Annemarie traveled down. After a few days, to Heiner’s astonishment, the members called him into a meeting and presented him with the keys to the place. “We feel that Macedonia belongs to Woodcrest,” they explained.
There it is! “Only a few chapters into the Gospel of Luke, they found that the text was taking hold of them in a way they had never expected. Reading about Jesus stirred them deeply. Many were in tears.” “All scripture,” writes Paul, “is breathed out by God.”
Church, take up the book and read! Christian, take up the scriptures and read! Enough of our excuses and avoidances! Let us read the scriptures that bear the authority of God! Let us immerse ourselves in the scriptures that God has breathed out! Let us open the book and let us let it carry us quickly to Jesus!
It is God’s word! It is able to make us wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord!
Mommsen, Peter (2015-04-30). Homage to a Broken Man: The Life of J. Heinrich Arnold – A true story of faith, forgiveness, sacrifice, and community (pp. 268-269). Plough Publishing House. Kindle Edition.