Dave Jenkins is the author of The Word Matters: Defending Biblical Authority Against the Spirit of the Age, published recently by G3 Press.
Scripture is reliable, trustworthy, without error, without the possibility of error, and the clear and binding Word for every stage and phase of life. It might seem like that first sentence is a clear summary of what Scripture and the church has taught about Scripture, and you would be right. In the past few decades, we have seen a multi-pronged attack on the Bible, from “progressive” Christianity to New Age, social justice, and attacks on a biblical understanding of gender and sexuality. Additionally, there is the growing influence of the New Apostolic Reformation, and the list seems never to end. Amid these ongoing attacks on the Bible, it must also be said that the statistics on the Bible reveal the problem and how serious it is regarding biblical and theological illiteracy.1Consider checking out my first book, The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (H&E, 2021) for more on biblical illiteracy.
Scripture and the Character of God
A recent Gallup study states that now just 30 percent in 2011 and 24 percent in 2017 believe the Bible is the literal Word of God. These statistics are revealing because, in the 1980s, forty percent of people thought the Bible was the literal Word of God.
If that isn’t shocking enough, recent research reveals that twenty-nine percent of Americans believe that the Bible is a collection of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by men. The church has taught, following Titus 1:2, Scripture contains the Holy Spirit-inspired words of the “God who never lies.” Titus 1:2 ties the character of God to the authority of Scripture. So, when Christians rightly state that the Bible is without error, they mean that because God cannot lie, his Word is entirely trustworthy since he is holy. That means we can take the promises in the Word of God to the bank, like in 2 Corinthians 1:20, knowing that as Paul says, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.”
The Sufficiency of Scripture and the State of Evangelicalism
The sufficiency of Scripture is also vital to understand here because Scripture is for every phase and stage of life. So, believing that Scripture is full of fairytales, myths, etc., undermines this doctrine. What is truly revealing about the statistic I’m discussing is that 49 percent of Americans who responded that the Bible is neither strictly literal nor fables also said that the Bible is “inspired by God, not at all to be taken literally.” Now the interesting part of this discussion is in 2011, 49 percent said the same thing, with 52 percent choosing the same option in 2022.
What’s also interesting about this discussion is in this same time period, we have seen the rise of critical race theory, intersectionality, the enneagram, yoga, and more in the church. See, when you don’t believe and consistently put it into practice Scripture, we must ask the question, “Is it any wonder why we’ve seen many ‘evangelicals’ undermine the very authority in Scripture they profess to believe in the past few decades?”
It’s worth sharing that even among many evangelicals today, you’ll see shared convictions around the Bible, and everyone will give an “Amen” to the Scriptures without error. But then look at the articles those “evangelical” ministries publish or what many books “evangelical” publishers publish. They say they believe in inerrancy, and yet they publish material from those who aren’t evangelicals. Historically evangelicals are those who believe in the reliability and trustworthiness of Scripture. But it isn’t enough to give assent to this belief; if you aren’t going to put into practice what the Bible says and have your ministry shaped by Scripture, we need to understand you’ve undermined the belief you’ve professed. James 1:22 very clearly tells us that we are not to be hearers but doers of the Word of God. That means that we must not just hear the Word but do the Word by the grace of God and with the help of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
I am not aiming here to assign motives or to question the legitimacy of anyone’s convictions. But one aspect that isn’t often considered in discussions about the doctrine of Scripture and its authority is the Scripture’s consistency and coherency. All of us are imperfect in the practice of our convictions. The Scriptures also teach us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling we’ve received (Ephesians 4:1). Paul and James also teach us to put into practice what we believe (Philippians 4:9; James 2). It matters what we believe about Scripture, and it also matters that we put Scripture into daily practice by walking this walk of faith in light of what Scripture teaches and being obedient to God’s revealed will in the Word.
A Question Every Christian Must Ask
How can we put into practice the convictions that we undermine? This is a question every Christian must ask, and it’s a convicting question. We live in a time when many claim extra-biblical revelation and “commissions” from the Lord to put together Bible translations and teach whatever they want outside of the Bible. The Holy Spirit indwells every Christian. He (the Holy Spirit) aims to use the Word in our lives to point us to Christ from the Word, so we can grow to be more like Christ (Romans 8:28; 2 Peter 3:18).
These recent statistics reveal that the battle for Bible that was waged in the 1970s is not dead and gone, dear brothers and sisters. We are living in a time when the Bible is under assault. And make no mistake, it has long been under assault and will be because Scripture confronts us with the question, “Do you believe God, will you take him at his Word, and obey his Word?” If so, you must believe and practice the Word in your everyday walk of obedience.
Dear Christian, you must stand on the Word of God by rightly handling Scripture (2 Timothy 2:15). Discernment isn’t an option in our times but is a must in all times (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We must contend for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). We are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and give an answer for the reason for our hope but do so with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). Further, the reason given for all of this by Paul to his protegee Timothy is vital in 2 Timothy 2:24-25:
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
The Battle for the Bible Continues and What to Do About It
Another fascinating aspect of this Gallup poll is how it coincides further with the perceived importance of religion in American lives. In 2022, 44 percent said religion was important, down from 60 percent in 2021. During this same period, the conviction the Bible is the Word of God went from 30 percent to twenty percent.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the battle for the Bible has not ended. It is as old as the Garden and will continue until Christ returns. And in-between today and the return of Christ, let us be faithful to Scripture. Scripture reveals from Genesis to Revelation and everywhere in-between the glory of Christ. Scripture is enough for us because it is the only way to know God. Scripture is also enough because it reveals a sufficient Christ to meet every need in every phase and stage of our lives.
Now is not the time to cower in fear, brothers, and sisters in Christ. Let us stand on the Word of God without apologizing or compromising, faithfully proclaiming the glad tidings and good news of Jesus from the Scriptures.
|Consider checking out my first book, The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (H&E, 2021) for more on biblical illiteracy.