Sunday, July 22, 2012

Can Christianity Exist Without the Bible?

I have grown up loving and reading the Bible. I remember starting annual Bible reading plans over and over starting around 5th grade. Like most people who adopt this plan, I became an expert in Genesis and Matthew and had little or no exposure to the minor prophets. Thankfully, I attended a church where my dad was the pastor and he believed in preaching "the Word" so I was able to expand my Biblical knowledge as I sat under his tuteledge up to 4 times a week.

At some point in my professional ministry experience, I decided that I needed to be an expert in at least the content of Scripture as I believed that would allow me to be a better interpreter and expounder of what was written. I proceeded to read the New Testament at least once a month along with Psalms and Proverbs. I read the Old Testament annually. I did this for years and did become very conversant with what was in the Bible and where it was located.

Having betrayed the institutional experession of Christianity (read: Christendom, church) I have been permitted new and refreshing reflections on the nature of what we have as the Bible and perhaps more importantly, I seem to have a greater appreciation for its value and application. Not as the "Word of God", as if it has found its way into the stature of the Divine Godhead, making it the fourth member of a Quadrinity. But rather as a Spirit-inspired text opening my soul to deeper and more realistic applications of faith in my contextual existance.

Today I wonder if Christianity can (and perhaps at this point, should) exist without the Bible. After all, hundreds of years passed before there was a canon and even more years passed before the Bible reached the hands of the community by virtue of the printing press. Christianity, in its best and perhaps purest forms, was founded without the New Testament as we have it today. Yes, there was the Old Testament and unquestionably the early believers relied on it for instruction. But that "instruction" had a new Instructor that was delivered as a gift in the form of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter that Jesus said would teach us all things and lead us into Truth.

Does that not still work the same today? Should it not be the Spirit by being present, that sparks the life of Christ in every soul and guides us into a life designed for every human by God? Could not a life in Christ be lived by the provision of faith and the gift of the Spirit apart from the text of the Bible?

It seems to me that embracing this possibility opens us to a greater understanding of what it means to believe in Jesus and to walk in the faith provided to us by God. It allows us to live instinctively rather than legalistically. It even allows us to read Scripture through a spiritual lens instead of limiting it to a cultural one. Perhaps the Spirit is fully capable of guiding us into very real demonstrations of Christ's life in whatever country, culture or context we find ourselves.

Wouldn't it be refreshing to live with others who share a hunger for the things of God as discovered through time and togetherness and not by seminars and strategies. I believe the life of a believer ought to have the fullest opportunity to realize a God-given destiny in Christ and current Bibliolotry prevents the experience of the Divine Mystery.

It's what the Israelites lost when they embraced the Golden Calf.

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