Sundoulos - Fall 2007

Dean's Column

Is Scripture Really Our Authority?

by Dr. Dennis Dirks

What is it that determines what we do and how we do it? Most Christian leaders would confidently say it is Scripture. But is it? Or is it rather Christian culture? Maybe pop culture? Or is it the expectations of the most vocal members of our Christian communities? Critical notes from prominent attenders? Ministerial or leadership peers? Expedience – what is quick and easy in a hopelessly packed calendar? Is it really Scripture that directs our thoughts, decisions and actions?

The authority of Scripture in the life of Christian leaders, and indeed many believers, is a major issue in our time. Lest we are tempted to say, “It’s not a problem for me or my group of believers,” we need only to note recent research of evangelical lifestyles. The pictures of evangelicals that emerge are of practices and activities that appear little different from those of an unbelieving world. Sadly, Scripture’s authority apparently has little practical effect on believers’ lives. As one observer noted, the teachings of Scripture have for many Christians and many churches become “fragments of belief” that are “scattered to the edges.”1 Put another way, “it is one thing for God to give the Scriptures their authority, and quite another for men to recognize that authority.”2 If as we maintain, the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, then its claims on our thoughts, beliefs, motives, and behaviors are legitimate, and they should be observable. Bob Saucy’s article in these pages addresses this critical concern.

If Scripture is what we claim it to be, our guiding authority, then it matters a great deal what we preach and teach, and how we preach and teach it. Does our preaching nourish deeply because it flows from the deep well of Scripture itself? Does our teaching penetrate the soul because it is borne out of Scripture’s infiltration through the core of our own being? Either Scripture is genuinely what we claim, our source and authority for all we proclaim, or we have little to offer. We dare not contribute to the Scriptural-authority-free zones that characterize much of what is delivered to believers today. Kent Edwards shines the spotlight on the crucial area of biblical preaching in pages that follow.

1 Wells, David F., No Place for Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (Eerdmans, 1993), p. 8.

2 Geisler, Norman L., and William E, Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, rev. and expanded ed. (Moody Press, 1996), p. 202.

Dr. Dennis Dirks is Dean of Talbot School of Theology and Professor Christian Education. He has been with Talbot for more than 27 years as a faculty member and administrator after serving on the staff of two churches.

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