Christian spirituality

Words About the Bible

What do they really mean?

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Describing the Bible's Role For Christians

There are many words that Christians use when they describe what the Bible means to their teachings, their faith, and the Christian way(s) of life. The terms point out ways to evaluate and learn from the Bible, how to use and not use it, how to teach others with it. They're often found in official statements of faith, online Twitter fights, and in debates about the Bible. Some of these terms are badly abused, others aren't used anywhere near enough, and some you may never have heard in this context. But unless you had a a drill sergeant for a Sunday School teacher, you'd find it hopeless to know their meanings. So, here I go, trying to succeed where others have failed for 2000 years, to slay the Fire-Breathing Jargon. I'll also offer here some other terms that may be more helpful than the usual ones.

Christians read the Bible to learn what God says through it about ourselves, world, and God. This is done through the story of the Israelites and of the earliest Christians. Most centrally of all, it is done through what the early church taught about Jesus of Nazareth's life, death, and return to the living, at first by those who were there and then by those they told it to. We look to the Bible so the Spirit can show us what it is to follow Jesus the Christ. We look to the Scriptures to help us sort out our own lives and deeds, as families, as individual persons, and together as the gathered followers of Jesus.

We're sharing these definitions with you so that when you hear or see them or use them yourself, you understand a deeper meaning for the word. The better-known terms have a lot of nuance to them, built up over the course of centuries, but people find it so easy to use them carelessly, or to attack people. The lesser-known terms may point to a way past the usual arguments about the Bible, to a more helpful point of view. Try this: look at the terms in the buttons below. Maybe you see a word and say, "why would they say that about the Bible?" Or, "what is ...?" Or, maybe "yeah, right..." or "whatever...". Click on its button and see; the word may not mean quite what you think. You might even already think this about the Bible but didn't have a word for it.

Words That Describe the Role of the Bible

Is there something I've written about these words that seems off-kilter, or is there something important that's missing? Maybe your organization's statements of faith or your experience in study have other words you prize or despise? Or maybe suggesting other words or approaches toward reading the Bible that I've missed? Email me at this link. I intend to have a new page responding to your comments in detail sometime by the end of 2016. Come back and see what's on it.

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There's also a PDF booklet of the pages on scripture, including most of these definitions.