A Rule of Faith and Practice
Dr. Frank P. Crane
Both the title and the subtitle of this, my first HUB, (now revised) are sure to draw some arrows. Rules by which to believe and live? Is there a "right thing"? Interesting how only in religious or spiritual issues we insist on keeping our options open. Traffic laws? That guy coming toward me better stay on his side of the road. Price tags? If it says $10.50 I expect the cashier to ring up $10.50, not $12.75, 'cause today he feels bullish. We want what runs our day to day lives to be certain and predictable. But regarding the really big questions of human existence and meaning we're comfortable with vague feel-good assertions.
An instruction manual
Down through history millions have found in the Bible reliable data by which to shape a reasonable world and life view. "Give me a break!", you exclaim, "Who believes that stuff these days?" I do. And I've got a lot of good company: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, not to mention his 16th century namesake.
Why would you use the Bible as a rule of faith and practice? For the same reason you look at your car's manual. The manufacturer knows best how it works. I study the Bible to learn how I operate at maximum efficiency and joy. I figure my Creator should know. I'm grateful He provides an instruction manual.
"Even granting your point, which is pretty archaic, how would a book written by around 40 human authors over a period of 1600 years, the latest being in 95 A.D., offer me anything relevant, not to mention authoritative?" So glad you asked!
How to know the right thing to believe and do
Here's the short answer. Read the Bible as the self-revelation of a powerful, just and loving God; not as a human record of a people's walk with God. It is the latter, but you'll make sense of it only if you accept the former. Here's how the reasoning goes. By all counts, Jesus is someone to be respected and admired. We all have our heroes. Jesus is mine. He regarded the Scriptures to be the Word of God and quoted them often. But he did more than quote them. He lived by them. He was fond of explaining his points of view and actions with "that the Scriptures be fulfilled." That seemed to settle it for him. How could you go wrong following that example?
If you accept that the Bible is worth your time and attention, then the issue becomes one of interpretation. That's my passion. Not to tell you what the Bible says but to help you figure it out for yourself. So much conflict and pain and disappointment has been generated by cock-sure interpreters who use the Bible to promote a human agenda rather than submit to it as the Word of the Almighty Creator.
Far more than an instruction manual
The Bible offers a window into God's heart. If it were just an instruction manual, we'd only need to use it when we're in trouble or confused. No, God desires more than conformity to his laws. He's looks at the motivations behind our obedience. The Scriptures read, "Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." (Romans 14:23) Did you get that? A life of perfect conformity to God's law is a life of sin if not motivated by faith. That turns a lot of "good deeds" into "filthy rags."
The purpose of Scripture is to show how to enjoy God despite the fact that even our best efforts fail to meet his perfect standard. From start to finish it's all about God's plan of salvation through faith in Christ. The gospel is the good news that God offers you a way to be perfectly righteous in his eyes. That way is to embrace Jesus Christ by faith. He is the believer's righteousness. (Jeremiah 23:6)