Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
Mark Galli is right: Why We Need the New Battle for the Bible
I agree with Galli that the original publication of the book by Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible (1976), was probably the right debate but done in the wrong way. I also realize that it is easier for me to make that assessment from a distance than it is while one is in the heart of the debate.
I heartily agree that what is necessary and needed today is a "return to the Bible as the final authority."
I will quibble with Galli in his assessment that what is needed today is not a “precise definition of biblical authority . . . but a simple return to the Bible as the final authority in matters of faith and practice – and especially Christian doctrine.” In a sense I want to respond, “yes, but.” The meaning of biblical authority is foundational for understanding its meaning and implications to being the final authority in faith and practice. Furthermore, determining its authority is not limited to faith and practice but includes history and science (even though it is not a scientific textbook, when it addresses scientific matters it does so authoritatively).
If we are to say “yes and amen” to the belief that the Bible is the final authority, we must affirm what we mean by authority, or it leaves one with a less-than-stable foundation. And if we are to say “yes and amen” to the belief that the Bible is the final authority, its authority must not be limited or we end up with an authority within an authority, making the interpreter the authority who determines that.
Having said that, it is also true that, stated negatively, there is no generation in which the age-old lie will not be used and a constant temptation to question the character of God and the Word of God. It was at the center of the initial temptation of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3), and it is the foundation of the initial rebellion against God, what we refer to as the Fall. It is reflective of humanity since that time. Stated positively, every generation must own and articulate the truth of God’s Word, not attempt to live on the previous generation’s defense of the Word of God, and to be committed to do so in in both doctrine and practice and in light of the contemporary questions or denials.
Here is Galli's conclusion which calls us back to the Bible by acknowledging and living under its authority, to which I say "yes and amen" without hesitation:
To emphasize theology will entail a battle, as any pastor will sense. It will be a battle against those who have fed too long on the milk of therapeutic Christianity, and who will demand immediate application. It will be a battle against false teachers, who will react defensively. It will be a battle against our own sloth, as this type of teaching requires more intellectual labor than “10 ways to improve your marriage.”
But it is a battle well worth fighting. It will no doubt create scars, but God will also give us many a victory. Some false teachers may be saved from their pernicious ideas, and the church will have an ever-clearer picture of the beautiful God whose nature it is to save the world.
Which, really, is about the most practical thing we can offer it.
This is the battle that many encounter and to which they succumb – thinking this sort of teaching is unnecessary, impractical, etc. And to the contrary, these Words, this Book, is our life because these words inscripturated reveal the Word incarnate, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our life.
Toward the end of his life Moses writes, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no empty word for you, but your very life” (Dt. 32:46-47). And in an Eden revisited encounter, when the temptation comes, in contrast to Adam and Eve who succumbed (Gen. ), Jesus overcomes. He not only states the truth of the necessity of the Word of God but also he fulfills it obediently and perfectly: “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matt. 4:4). (emphasis mine)
This is the historical position of the church. It is also the historical genesis and ground of the EFCA. It is also the heartbeat of the EFCA! Our last year’s Theology Conference theme was The Doctrine of the Scriptures. This is also true of our EFCA school, Trinity International University, and its divinity school, TEDS. In fact, the Lord has used our school to lead the way on this vital and important truth through research, writing, articulating and defending the Word of God. And, importantly and thankfully, it is the heart of many of the young millennials who are serving (or desire to serve) in the EFCA.