Watching, hearing and reading some of the present debates going on in the church at large, and the evangelical church in particular, one’s beginning to wonder is there a plumbline anymore, or more particularly, is Scripture the only sure basis for faith and conduct.
It’s interesting to note that some are saying the plumbline is Jesus, that whatever he said or did is the guideline alongside whatever he didn’t say or didn’t do! So for example Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality, therefore it can’t have been very important or an issue for him, but neither did he say anything specifically about paedophilia, nor did he say anything about euthanasia etc. doe’s that mean these things don’t matter, that we should just live and let live, that we all just make up our own minds and do accordingly?
The problem with this approach is that we are in danger of creating a Jesus of our own making, a Jesus divorced from the rest of the Word, and subsequently demoting the rest of Scripture. It’s a bit like saying the only important words in the Bible are the ones in those Bibles with the words of Jesus in red (I really wish they didn’t do that), that that’s what God really said! Not only that we are in danger of creating a Jesus divorced from the rest of the Trinity – the Father and the Spirit.
In fact from this point of view, one might argue what’s the point of the Old Testament, why not ditch it altogether, or for that matter the Letters as well, especially as they deal with things Jesus didn’t specifically talk about, that would make it so much easier. Let’s just take Jesus on his own, for himself – sounds simple, straightforward doesn’t it?
To do that though would divorce him from his history. Jesus isn’t just an event in time. He doesn’t turn up out of nothing, saying, hey, this is God. Jesus comes on the back of the unfolding revelation and purposes of God.
It would also deny the inspiration and unity of Scripture, that it is all God-breathed, and is profitable, every word of it. And yes, that does involve wrestling with the text, but never to the point where we make it mean what we want it to mean. Our hearts, minds, lives, relationships etc. must be submitted to the Word, not the Word to them. To go any other way, will result in us all doing what is right in our own eyes, and we know where that leads.
Yes, Jesus is our guide, but not apart from the rest of Scripture. We do not seek a Jesus “Beyond the sacred page….” as the hymnwriter expressed it, but within. To understand Jesus we need to understand the whole of the revealed Word, and when we do that we will not differentiate Jesus from the rest of the Word, but find he is indeed the consistent and authoritative Word incarnate.