Let me begin with a bold statement:
The Bible is not the full and final revelation of God.
That statement ought not to be shocking; the only reason it is shocking is that our theological education is generally so poor, shallow and distorted.
Here’s why the Bible is no good as the one and only, definitive source of understanding about God: you can use the Bible to support just about any view of God that you want to. Sure, you can use the Bible to paint God as a loving, compassionate Father; but you can also use it to depict him as a vengeful, two-faced, bad-tempered ogre. However you want to imagine or describe God, you can find verses and passages in the Bible that will help you make your case.
It’s because the Bible contains so much contrasting information about God that we need a reference point, a filter through to which to read it to help us understand what is fully true about God and what is only partially true or even not true at all. The problem is that we tend to come at scripture with our own filters that we’re not even aware of. Our subconscious starting point is usually that God is immutable, all-powerful, implacable, unswervingly just, and so forth. Now, none of these adjectives may be false descriptions of God in and of themselves, but when they function as our subconscious benchmarks for understanding God, we’re going to find chunks of scripture that agree with them and we’ll end up with a God who looks more like either an ancient pagan deity or the divine watchmaker of the Enlightenment than the eternally co-existing Trinity.
So what’s the answer to this conundrum? It’s quite simple: you just have to start with the right benchmark. And that benchmark is Jesus, the one in whom all the fulness of the Godhead dwells. Jesus is the full and final revelation of God; or, to put it another way, Jesus is what God is like.
Where you find descriptions of God in the Bible that line up with what you see in Jesus, you know that they are good and true descriptions. Conversely, where you find descriptions of God in the Bible that are out of sync with what you see in Jesus, you know that they are attempts to portray and explain God that fall short of the truth in some way.
To summarise: our whole understanding of God should begin and end with Jesus. If we keep that idea front and central as we read the Bible, we won’t go too far wrong.
[ Image: Delirious? ]