What does it mean when we call the Bible the infallible Word of God?
This is something my husband and I have been talking about from different angles lately. Something that will probably get some vehement reactions, LOL. But something I really think bears thinking about.
Here are a few phrases I’ve heard quite a lot:
All we need is the Bible
If it disagrees with the Bible, it’s wrong
The Bible is infallible
The Bible is the ultimate authority
The Bible is the inspired Word of God
The Bible was written by God, penned by man
On the surface, I agree with each and every one of these statements 100%. But I have to admit…the more conversations I hear where these statements are used as arguments, the more I sometimes think–and this is going to sound very strange, so bear with me–sometimes people make an idol of the Bible.
Okay, I know how that sounds. I do. But hear me out.
Before the Bible was written, did God speak to His people?
When the Old Testament was codified but before Jesus came, was God still planning His means of salvation?
After Jesus had come, but before the New Testament was put to parchment, did His Spirit speak to the Church?
When what we today call the Bible was just a collection of letters, various versions and copies floating around, did God guide His church?
When we find multiple manuscripts with slight discrepancies, is there still a Truth?
Where does all that lie?
The Bible is an amazing gift that He’s given us. Inspired words, absolutely. But here’s the thing: God existed before the Bible. God was worshiped before the Bible. God provided salvation for us before those books we call the Gospel existed. The Church was built before those letters from Paul were written. People were living, day in and day out, serving Him and trusting Him and knowing they would join Him in Paradise…all before what we call the Bible was a thing.
For three hundred years, there was a New Testament church, yet there was no New Testament.
Do you see where I’m going with this? Our faith, our trust, our worship, our praise, does not lie in the Book. It lies with the Author.
God is SO…MUCH…BIGGER than those 66 books. Right? Just imagine how the Jews felt when Jesus began preaching His life-changing lessons. What He was basically claiming was that God was more than what they understand Him to be from the Law and the Prophets. He was more loving. He was more merciful. He was more concerned with heart than action. He was basically saying that the Old Testament understanding, while correct, wasn’t complete.
We today have more. We have the New Testament as well. And the understanding it gives us is correct…but is it complete? Can everything there is to know about God be summed up in those pages?
I hope you agree with this answer: Of course not! The pages themselves claim as much!
How could the God of gods, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Creator of the entire universe, ever be summed up in full by measly human words, right? We know He’s bigger. We know He’s more. We know that, yes, the Bible is God-inspired…but the Bible isn’t God. People can be Christians without the Bible in their hands, without having read it all. They can have a true, full faith.
Now, the Bible certainly helps! As I said, it’s one of the most amazing gifts He’s given humanity. And I believe that we need to be certain that teachings line up with Scripture, absolutely. Just like the NT needs to harmonize with OT, so do teachings that come after
the Bible need to align with it.
But I don’t believe the Bible was even intended to be the sum total of what we read, what we think about, what we rely on, and what we base every decision upon. Why do I think that? Because the very heroes of the Bible didn’t have it! And they still did the things that earned them a place in the ultimate Story. Because they relied on Him. On His living Word.
I love that John calls Jesus the Word–He is the true Word of God, right? Not the books written about Him–the actual Man. Which is so, so important. Because the Bible is static–but He is eternal. The Bible is words, but He is flesh. Even in the Bible itself, He doesn’t promise us more writing to help us and give us the answers. He promises us the Spirit.
A lot of the people of Jesus’ day dismissed Him because they thought they needed nothing more than the Law and the Prophets. I pray that we today don’t dismiss things God is trying to do, understanding He’s trying to give us because it’s not part of the canonized Bible. We argue with ideas that don’t agree with our understanding of the words He gave to Moses or Paul. We say if it’s not in the Bible, that it’s not worth knowing.
But what if it’s our understanding that’s faulty–incomplete? Just as theirs was in Jesus’ day?
This is what leads to a lot of tension between, for instance, religion and science. Because sometimes those of faith have a particular reading of the Bible that seems to disagree with what scientists have discovered. And sometimes those of science seem to have an axe to grind when it comes to faith.
But the Bible was never meant to be a scientific treaty. The Bible was meant to be a love story between God and man. It’s not about knowledge–the collection of facts. It’s about wisdom–how to apply knowledge to our lives and use it to guide our decisions, our morals, and our beliefs.
Sometimes, what we view to be tension is in fact just incomplete understanding. A few hundred years ago, most Christians could not accept that the sun was the center of the solar system–it disagreed with their fundamental understanding of God’s love for humanity, placing them at the center of His creation. Today, we don’t see this as a problem. Two hundred years ago, many Christians couldn’t accept the idea of “outer space” because it disagreed with their understanding of the “firmament” described in Genesis. Today, we don’t see this as a problem either. Who’s to say how wisdom will grow to accommodate knowledge in the next fifty or hundred years? But too often, we look to the Bible and say, “But it says…”
But here’s the thing: it says what it needs to say to tell the story of God’s love. It uses language that the people who wrote it could understand. It’s still relevant, it’s still True. But there can also still be more to the story. Because no words can express Him and His wonders. He can teach us more, and it does not negate what He said before. It tells us the how of the that He already whispered to us about, that’s all. It expands our vocabulary. But knowing more words to describe the phenomena never changes the basic facts of it, and of Who designed and orchestrated it. Knowing the words to describe the symphony changes nothing about how beautiful it is–it just gives us a means of discussing it.
My Bibles–and I have quite a collection of them, LOL–will always remain some of my most valued possessions, and the books I turn to daily. Something no other book can ever claim, to be sure. But I also love knowing that if those physical books pass away, if every last copy is destroyed, the Word of God will still stand. When it isn’t written on a page, it will still be written on our hearts. It’s more than my feeble understanding. It’s more than a collection of words on a page.
The true Word of God is my Savior, my Lord, my Jesus. I don’t worship the things He said. I worship Him
. The Bible is my guide–but it is not my God.