Saturday, January 29, 2011

What Makes Evangelicals Different?

From the Crossway Books blog, an answer to the question  What Makes Evangelicals Different? (from chapter four of Don’t Call It A Comeback edited by Kevin DeYoung).
What is it that separates evangelicals from the rest of the world, even some other branches of Christianity? The fundamental dividing line is the belief in the inerrancy and authority of Scripture. Why does it matter if we believe this or not?
  • It matters because what you think about the Bible directly affects what you believe and how you live. Is the Bible like an all-you-can-eat buffet where you pick and choose what to believe and obey?
  • It matters because views of the Bible set individuals and institutions on very different trajectories. Institutions that have rejected the Bible’s entire trustworthiness have often gone on to embrace beliefs incompatible with the gospel. This controversial issue is a theological line in the sand.
How is the Bible a book like no other? It is
  • A book that is God-breathed: Inspiration. God authored the Bible through humans. He did not dictate it as an executive would dictate do a secretary. If a musician plays the same tune through a variety of wind instruments, each will sound different although each is coming from the same breath. God produced the Bible through the different personalities of his “instruments.”
  • A book that is entirely true: Inerrancy. The Bible is not only inerrant in matters of theology, but in every subject it addresses. This does not mean that there are no difficulties in scripture. We do not have all the necessary data (i.e. archeological findings) to perfectly interpret the Bible. As sinful creatures we are susceptible to misinterpretation.
  • A book that is the boss of me: Authority. God is the supreme authority since he created the universe. It is the final authority for every domain of knowledge that it addresses.
  • A book that is all you need: Sufficiency. In the Bible, God has given us all we need to know in order to trust and obey him. The Bible alone is sufficient. It is not to be equated with the Koran or Book or Mormon. Some believe that God continues to reveal himself through special words or guidance. We cannot place these things on par with the Bible.
  • A book that is actually understandable: Clarity. Not everything in the Bible is clear. But the central message about God’s saving grace is easily understood. The debates that arise are not the fault of the Bible, but the faults of sinful and finite human nature.
  • A book that is essential to know God: Necessity. You must hear the message of the Bible, either by reading it or hearing it from someone else, in order to have faith in Christ. It is essential to remain immersed in it throughout our Christian walks. Spiritual endurance needs the Bible like physical endurance needs food and water.