The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Does the Bible matter?

4 ways to revitalize the authority of the Bible in our congregations

My students, like young people in general, are a weather vane for what is occurring in society. Our culture is shaping people in ways that make it more difficult for them to accept responsibility to and for others. To the extent that we are shaped by culture, we find it hard to acknowledge authority because it means that another has a claim on our minds and actions.

For people who feel responsible only to themselves, no one and no thing can be an authority. Neither other people nor publicly recognized truth has much claim.

All this affects our feeling about the Bible. If the words of Jesus, Paul or Jeremiah are just "true for them," why should they have any claim on our attention? Why should we allow Scripture to challenge what our culture says is right or true? Why should we expect guidance from a book that is interpreted so many ways, especially if one interpretation is as good as another?

Every active church member lives in two worlds. Within the faith community the Bible is assumed to have authority. The surrounding culture currently has little room for authority of any kind, much less that of the Bible. Instead, power is what counts.

Throughout the centuries every revitalization of Christianity has involved the Bible. The best tonic for the "tired blood" of U.S. churches today is an intensified communal use of the Bible. And we can do things to strengthen the Bible's authority among us.

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