In the previous edition of Insights we introduced you to Dr Steve Brady, the Principal of Moorlands Bible College. Steve has recently joined the Board of Trustees for Insight for Living UK.
This month we continue that interview, and find out about Steve’s approach to ministry, and particularly his approach to the Bible.
Terry… Let’s talk a bit about your take on the Scriptures. Just yesterday I was reading an article that explored the possibility that you can make the Bible mean whatever you want, that the meaning is all dependent on the reader’s perception and not the author’s intention. What’s your response to that approach?
Steve… Somebody once summarised – I thought very well – the Bible like this: “The plain things are the main things, and the main things are the plain things.” So on one level you can make it mean whatever you like, in that a text…without a context…becomes a pretext…for a proof text. So, Psalm 14 or Psalm 53 There is no God. The Bible says it twice! There is no God. All the atheists rejoice! But the context says the fool has said in his heart… so context is really, really important. It’s vital to read what a particular passage in the Bible says in relation to what the rest of the Bible says, otherwise you can get a skewed impression.
Of course the most important thing to do is to actually read the Bible. It’s crucial that we are encouraging ordinary Christians to read the Bible for themselves, and not just bits of it. It’s going to be a bit embarrassing when we get to heaven and a bloke comes up and says “Did you read my book?” and we say “well, perhaps, what’s your name?” and he says “Obadiah! I only wrote one chapter; you didn’t read it? Give me a break!” (laughter).
The Puritans used to write about the “self-authentication of Scripture” which means that God persuades the hearts and the minds of those who read His word. So my own story of reading the Bible through nearly twice as a teenager and coming to the deep conviction that I was in big trouble before a holy God and that I needed forgiveness…nobody dropped that into me, nobody said I’d got the hang of this, I just saw the big picture – the big storyline of the Bible which is that we need what ultimately Jesus offers.
Once you get those big patterns you begin to see that on every page this is a book that is about God and about humankind.
Terry… It’s not uniform though is it, the Bible has different genres and styles. Talk about that for a minute…
Steve… Paul is never more Paul when he’s writing his epistles, John is never more John when he’s writing his Gospel, which is distinct in feel and tone to Matthew, Mark, and Luke. He’s himself. These men were themselves when they wrote, they each had their individual styles. But when John wrote, he wrote exactly what the Spirit of God wanted him to write. Does that mean his mind went AWOL? No not at all, it means that his mind and his experience of Christ was all used by God to accomplish His purpose in writing just what needed to be written.
And on the subject of genre, if you try to interpret Proverbs in the same way that you might read the Laws of Leviticus you get into huge trouble. Because Proverbs is…we might say in English…too many cooks spoil the broth AND many hands make light work. Can they both be true? Well as proverbs they can, and we don’t bat an eye.
I was in a class one day trying to get my students to get their heads around the many kinds of literature we have in Scripture – poetry isn’t prose and so on. And to lead them into a kind of honey-trap I quoted Proverbs 26:4 which says “answer a fool according to his folly” and then of course, verse five which says “don’t answer a fool according to his folly.” So I said to them “What do you make of that then, if the Bible doesn’t contradict itself, and verse four says answer a fool while verse five says don’t answer a fool. That’s a contradiction, what do you make of that?” And a voice at the back said “We’re not answering you!” (more laughter).
I’m actually preaching at that guy’s induction service this weekend. So there are a few promises in Proverbs, but actually there are a lot more principles than promises – things that tend to be true in the light of experience. You need to be careful.
Nevertheless the Bible is a divine book. It’s not only human. We have a helpful analogy when we think of Christ. We regard the Son of God as fully God, yet at the same time fully human. The Bible is the same. It was written by forty people, but at the same time it was written by God. So it can be trusted because of this dual authorship.
But there’s a purpose to the Bible, it’s not just an end unto itself. It’s the Word of the Lord, but its purpose is so that through it we might know the Lord of the Word. As originally written, that was exactly what God wanted to say to us about Himself.
Terry… Well Steve, thanks for sharing some of your thoughts and ideas with our readers. It has been a real treat to talk to you today, and we’re all really looking forward to working with you as you join the board of Insight for Living UK.
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