When talking about the Bible, what is :
Central and Hub,
Indispensable, Key, Leading, only and singular, Paramount, Peerless.
Primacy and Primary,
Telling, Unique, Unequaled, Unmatched and Matchless, Vital.
Spirithome > Words About the Bible > Essential and Primary
You Can't Do This Christ-Following Stuff Without It
Over the years, there has been a steady stream of movements within the learned folks of the Christian churches, colleges, and seminaries which have tried to wean the Church from its dependence on the Bible. They've pointed to errors of facts and even of judgement by its human authors. They've pointed to how illogical it sometimes is. They've applied all sorts of literary and historical criticisms to it, and said all sorts of things about the supposed motives of the authors. They've applied comparative religious studies to the Bible to show the many ways it is like other religious books. They've condemned how it speaks of war, brutality (including that which appears to be required by God), slavery, gender, human goodness/evilness, progress, family, sex, commerce, other peoples, and just about everything else, and decided they can ignore those parts, or even that such things make rejecting the Bible an essential for a healthy mind. They've explained away all miracles, all demonstrations of power, all of anything that would make the leaders of the Testaments anything worth remarking about. They've read it through the colored glasses of the faith as they want it to be, usually according to a political philosophy or an economic status. They've selectively used it to try to get Christian believers to go along with the latest social trends of the day. They've blamed the Bible for nearly every ill that has ever beset any believers or any group of believers.
Still, in generation after generation, those who truly seek a relationship with God eventually stumble their way to the Bible. They find themselves touched, strangely warmed, dumbfounded, and even struck to the floor in tears. They find this to be true even of the hard parts, the ugly parts, the bizarre parts, the parts they hate, and the parts they can't explain. They see a vision for a world that is strangely familiar yet starkly different than the one we live in today, and discover where the hints of this other vision are sprouting up in the world we know. In the Bible, they find God there with us in our best and worst, in the kinds of happenings that make for life in the pivotal moments and in the day-to-day. In the Bible, they find the core, the backbone, the safety net, the content, the meat, the direction of not just their relationship with God, but also their relationship with humankind, the rest of creation, and with time itself. They find the untold depths of real-ness of prophets, chosen leaders, a chosen people, apostles, deacons, and sons of encouragement -- a real-ness they can't find in the increasingly false world they live in. They discover what changes, what is essential, and how the two are not mutually exclusive. They find what love really means and where its roots are. Most importantly, the Bible is the witness to the life of the One person on whom all of this hinges, the only One who gives the phrase "relationship with God" all of its true meaning. The One, Jesus of Nazareth, the Anointed One of God.
For anyone who wants a close relationship with God (to the extent we can want such a dangerous thing), the one and only indispensable place to turn is the Bible. If you don't, you won't even learn what such a relationship looks like, or how it works. The Bible is where the Spirit is most at work.
The following words are terms that many Christians use when they try to describe the role the Scriptures play in shaping the Christian faith. None quite fit. All the terms lack something, or are easily stretched to mean more (or less) than they do. But you'll get the gist of what these words tell you about how important the Bible is to getting the relationship right.
The main word that describes the role of the Bible is essential [ < Latin essentia < esse (to be; is)] something you cannot do the task without. Because there are no other reliable sources to tell us about Jesus, His ministry, and the start of the Christian church, the New Testament must be seen as the essential record for those who would follow Christ or even for those who just want to know what that means. The Hebrew Scriptures are essential, too, since Jesus came in fulfillment of it.
Another word in the same direction is indispensable. (You can't get rid of it and still hope to get to your goal or rightly do your task.)
You can also check the
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Only [ < assumed Germanic ānlik (one-like) ] means alone in its purpose; sole. It's usually used with words like 'norm', 'rule', and 'source', often in the form of the Latin 'sola' (alone). It's most often used by Lutherans, who got addicted to the word by using it with 'grace' and 'faith'. When 'only' is used about the Bible, it means that no other documents, sources, resources, and such, and no leaders individually or collectively, can act to define the way Christians have faith (belief), think and speak of God (theology), teach Christian beliefs (doctrine), act as a church (practice), honor and praise God (worship), develop a relationship with God (devotion), communicate the good news of Christ (witness), and carry out their daily activities and relationships within an unbelieving world (life). Only the Bible fills that role. "Only" is the kind of word which grates against the ear of today's people -- we hate exclusive claims. But the truth is that no other source actually gets the job done. The Bible is the source the Spirit chose to use for this purpose. True, the Spirit also speaks through other books, arts, resources, events, and people, but the Spirit doesn't use them definitively to set the course or direction, or give you what you're to measure current actions and happenings by. Only if you know your Bible are you able to rightly discern when God is speaking through other sources, because that's where the life and purpose of Jesus is shown. The Bible teaches you how to recognize what the Spirit is doing.
To that end, to use 'only' to exclude the other sources entirely is both foolhardy and futile. The Bible itself makes no such claim. Instead it shows people weighing other information according to the previous Word of God or the prophets who speak with God's authority, and then using the other stuff accordingly. You can't use "the Bible only" for life even if you wanted to. Life is bigger than that, God's Kingdom is bigger than that, and so are you.
Another word with a slightly different shade of meaning is unique [ < Old French < Latin ûnicus < Latin ûni- (one, only)]. It means unlike anything else; distinctive, alone in kind, standing apart from the rest. A similar word is 'singular'. The Spirit worked in a unique way to create
the Bible. The Spirit operated in a unique manner to spread it around. The
Spirit acts uniquely on you when you read or hear it. The Bible is
unique, just as each person who reads or hears it is unique. These things are each true in a way that is true of no other book. That makes it 'one of a kind', not just one among a gazillion books on spirituality, holiness or philosophy.
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There are many words that speak to the Bible's effective place among the other sources and forces that shape a Christian's faith :
The words about the Bible's effective place tell us only about its role in making things happen. They don't tell us of its rank among all else that God uses to grow us and change us. Rank is a matter the Bible itself rarely speaks about. It speaks of the importance of heeding Jesus and the Prophets, it shows the people of the Bible respecting or disrespecting the Torah, but nothing much directly about the rank of the whole thing. In part, that's because when it was being lived, there was no whole thing yet. In part, that's because Scripture's not into itself, it's into you and your living a life that pleases God.
But over the years, thinking Christians noticed how the Spirit led them through these writings beyond any others. This led them to gather them together and recognize their role (that is, recognize them as the Scripture they had already proven themselves to be). This collection, which we call "the Bible", was then ranked for what its parts had shown themselves to be, as the #1 place from which to draw our thoughts and visions of God and Godly living.
There are words which are used for describing this rank. Two of these are the terms primacy and 'primary' [ < Latin primus (first) ]; they mean 'first in rank', above all others. Anglicans are most keen on those words. Other like words include :
The inference on most of these words is that it is not first 'by a nose' or by a tiny bit, but is the rather clear champion and master of the task.
The word 'primary' infers that there are others below it. We learn from living, doing, reading other people's works (including those of other philosophies and religions), practicing our traditions, listening, and paying attention. Our relationship with the God of the Bible teaches us about how to dialogue with other sources, and how to discern the truth where it is found. The rest can have much truth, but it is the Bible where we find the answer to Pilate's question, "What is truth?"
Because the Scriptures are specially inspired by God for the task of communicating God's ways, they are the home base from which all other matters of life and spirituality travel. The Scriptures rank :
Not that any of those are unimportant, but those are all less important. The Bible stands as the ultimate corrective -- the Spirit uses it to tell us when and how we are going astray, and what and how to do as God wills.
One word that must never be used for the Bible is 'sovereign'. It means 'one who rules' or 'ruling over all'. That term can only be used of a being or entity, not an object, and in the Christian faith it is used for the Trinity, and particularly Jesus, who is called or 'Lord', a term of sovereignity applied to emperors of his day. Only God is sovereign, over us and over the Bible. The Bible's authority for Christians is totally derivative and not its own; it is an authority only because it bears God's Word, and thus God stands behind it. You live by the relationship with God which the Spirit uses the Bible to shape in you; you do not live by the Bible or any other book.
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|ver.: 26 October 2011
Essential. Copyright © 1999-2011 by Robert Longman.