Last Sunday proved particularly satisfying for me, in that I got an opportunity to preach to about 300 college students. They were members of the Missouri State University band, and they are so good that they will be marching in the Rose Bowl parade in Pasadena on New Year’s Day. I preached a message about the importance of hanging on to the Bible, even though other books may come and go. It is the book for life.

Having been raised as a (Southern) Baptist, I know the importance of the Bible. Attending seminary reinforced this notion for the most part and I began to learn more about how the Bible was written over a period of time. There are a variety of theories relating to inspiration and inerrancy. With particular attention to the latter, I came to realize that Baptists could get into bitter arguments over this subject. It is a tiresome discussion.

I’ve come to realize that there can be a disconnect between talking about the Bible and actually living out the Bible. It’s puzzling to me that so many Christians can claim the authority of the Bible without allowing it to have any authority over their own lives. The message and story of the Bible gets lost among a series of propositional statements defending its credibility. There are a lot of well-intentioned folks who claim things for the Good Book that it doesn’t claim for itself. This is done in an effort to defend the Bible from those who would question its authority. I suppose there is a place for this, but what I’d really like to see is more Baptists actually living out the Bible (especially the words written in red).

It’s a sad day when fellowship among Baptists turns on how they define the Word of God. The key issue in my mind has been interpretation rather than inerrancy or inspiration. It’s a great challenge to maintain unity in the church when conformity to a singular viewpoint is a requirement–at least among thinking congregations. The one area that Baptists have been unified on is missions. If Baptists can keep that as our focus, then we might actually make an impact in our world.

The Apostle Paul told Timothy that the Scriptures would make him “wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” (2 Tim 3:14-16). We worship a risen savior and have an inspired, reliable text to show us the way. The Holy Spirit is our ultimate teacher, and I never cease to be amazed at learning something new. The Word of God is truly “unsearchable riches” and serious students of the Bible realize they will never get a handle on it.

And that’s a good thing. We’re better off when the Bible gets a handle on us. May we strive to preach it, live it, and rejoice in the Good News.