The Bible is NOT the center of Christianity.
Just kidding… Please be nice.
Earlier this year I wrote a post called Everything in the Bible is True… BUT. It even got picked up by Relevant Magazine. The article looked into several misconceptions about Biblical inerrancy. While the Bible is true, there are a few BUTs. One of the points I made in the article was that while the Bible is true, it’s not the center of Christianity. That point caused more than a few people to give a little push back. Which is great, I like some push back! But I thought a little more in-depth look would be beneficial on this one point.
The Bible Is Written About The Center of Christianity
The Bible is not the center of Christianity, but rather it is written about the center of Christianity: Jesus.
Jesus is the center of Christianity. I think Andy Stanley sums it up well: Christianity does not exist because of the Bible any more than you exist because of your birth certificate. Your birth certificate documents something that happened. If you lose it you do not go out of existence. Andy Stanley
The reason that millions of the people claim the title “Christian” today is because of Jesus. The reason so many churches exist today is because 2,000 years ago Jesus entered into the world, made a bunch of crazy claims about being God, was killed, and then backed up all the crazy things he said by rising from the dead. Thus proving all those claims to be true. The foundation for Christianity is based firmly on Jesus.
Perhaps one of the best summarizations in the Bible is John 3:16-17. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Jesus makes it clear that he is the center of our faith. The Bible makes it clear that it centers around him. It’s the church that sometimes loses sight of that. We like to place the Bible as the center. Hear me on this, the Bible is important. I’m not trying to say we should just throw the Bible out, more on that later.
We need to recognize that the Christian faith centers around Jesus and the work he did. The Bible tells us about what he did, and it tells us how we should live in light of what he did. But the Bible is not the center of Christianity.
The Dangers When We Make the Bible the Center
The evidence of the Bible being the center of Christianity is easily seen in our culture. The church is known for what it stands against, or better yet who it stands against. And we are totally justified in that stance because the Bible says so. The Bible says it, that settles it. That’s what happens when the Bible becomes the center of our faith. It becomes a tool that we can beat people with. It’s the truth and anyone against is is wrong. Sadly this has been played out over and over again.
That’s not the purpose of the Bible. It’s not what our lives center around. It doesn’t have that level of authority. But Jesus does. He’s the reason the Bible has power. He’s the reason we have faith today. And it’s under his authority that we are to live our lives differently once we follow him. The Bible tells us that story. The story of God redeeming creation and the story (really many stories) of the human experience. But the Bible itself is not the authority. Jesus is.
I’m not saying that if we focus on the Bible that will always lead us to beat people with it. But when we only focus on the Bible it often leads to a self-righteousness (just look at the Pharisees). When the Bible is the center of our faith the goal becomes increased knowledge. While knowledge isn’t bad, our pursuit isn’t solely based on knowledge. Our pursuit should be of a growing relationship with Jesus and looking more like him in our actions.
Knowledge without a relationship often leads to self-righteousness; i.e. I’m better than you. If we focus instead of Jesus and go to the Bible with that in mind we will come out with an attitude more like his and a relationship that is growing deeper. Again I’m not saying knowledge or reading the Bible isn’t important. It is important, but it’s not the chief goal of Christians. The main goal is relationships. With God. And with those around us.
Don’t Throw the Bible Out
One of the main arguments against this view is that it undermines the authority of Scripture. I don’t think that’s the case. I think this views puts Scripture in it’s proper place, behind the center of Christianity. And it adds to the effectiveness of utilizing Scripture for growth.
Hear me out. The purpose of the Bible is to teach us about Jesus and how we should live in light of what he has done. The Bible is the primary source in which we can know what Jesus has done. And secondarily how we should then live because of what Jesus has done.
Though the Bible is not the center of our faith it plays a pivotal role in Christianity. Without the witnesses that wrote the stories down we wouldn’t have the level of evidence and reason for our faith today. Without the Bible we wouldn’t know what to do and how to live our faith out. While it’s not the center, it is important. Very important.
We should read it. We should study it. We should let the words, the stories, and the truth found in it’s pages affect our lives. It’s a fascinating and life-changing book.
A great book on the background of the Bible that I HIGHLY recommend is Philip Yancey’s The Bible Jesus Read.
The reason we have hope today is because of what Jesus did. Christianity does not rise and fall on the Bible. Rather it rises and falls on Jesus dying and rising again. The Bible, while very important, is not the center of Christianity.
The goal of a Christian ought not to be increased knowledge through Bible study. The goal of a Christian ought to be a deeper relationship with God. AND a life that reflects the love that he has for us. Of course the Bible can, and should, help us in our relationship with God and affect how we treat those around us. It is a means to an end and not the end in itself.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you think the Bible is the center of Christianity? What has lead you to that belief?
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