How Does the Bible Work? Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

Those outside the borders of Fundamentalist America, like me, are often stumped by the way conservative Protestants use the Bible.  For instance, I have a hard time understanding how conservative Protestants, in particular, interact with the Bible.  I should note here that this reverence for the Bible is still a fairly bright line between conservatives Protestants and other conservative religious folks.  Though Catholics, for instance, value the Bible, they generally do not invest it with the same authority as do conservative Protestants.  Also, even among conservative Protestants, there are many different traditions of Bible interpretation, exegesis, and hermeneutics.

Granting all that, there is still one question that puzzles me and many other outsiders: If the Bible is the Word of God, how can fundamentalists edit it?  As we’ve seen, fundamentalist missionaries have long used selections from the Bible as tools.  Fundamentalists often believe that these words have supernatural power to convert people to fundamentalist Christianity.  In addition, some of the most popular books among fundamentalists have been editions of the Bible with fundamentalist commentary.  This history goes back to the earliest days of Pilgrim and Puritan in Europe and the New World.  In 1560, Protestant divines completed an English-language Geneva edition of the Bible, flush with voluminous marginal commentary.  According to historian Harry Stout, it would have been considered irresponsible by sixteenth-century Protestants to “provide this Word raw, with no interpretive guidance.”  The commentary explained to readers, following Martin Luther, that every bit of Bible inclined toward the Christ.

In the twentieth century, this tradition of Bible commentary continued with enormously popular commentary editions, such as the Scofield Bible.  This edition of the Bible adds voluminous commentary on each smidgen of text.  Scofield’s interest in eschatology and suggestions of distinct dispensations contributed materially to the dominance of a dispensational reading of Scripture among American fundamentalists. 

In order for outsiders to understand Fundamentalist America, especially the Protestant traditions of fundamentalism, evangelicalism, Pentecostalism, conservative Lutheranism, and other Bible-based faiths, we need to understand this attitude toward the Bible.  The Bible, to many conservative Protestants, must be understood as the inerrant Word of God.  Yet that does not contradict with the notion that the Bible is also—and has also always been—the proper target of editing, translating, and commentating.

Leave a comment

1 Comment

  1. Hello one and all. We in this plane of existence know all too well that “Too Smart is TOO SMART.” In this day of I.T. and the laundry list is Huge, we as a civilized society have become too smart for our own Spiritual health and well being. Though, some may argue, yet why? I meet people all the time who argue just for the sake of argument, which is confusion and chaos.
    God is the Author and finisher of our Faith. We all know where the former exists. Yet, Denial is a terrible way to waste a Soul. What?
    Yes, one may waste their own Soul in this fantasia of cynical hum-drum merely by being involved. Denial is a killer of and to the Souls of all men (m/f)
    Denial keeps anyone from discovering what Paul writes: Comparing Spiritual Things with Spiritual Things. Meaning; anyone may read a Bible, etc. But, where is Wisdom?
    Most equate Wisdom with Intelligence, but being so far off the path of Truth, miss the entire story and perspective and balance only God’s Holy Spirit of Truth may endow them with.
    Yes, choices, we all have and make them every moment of every day. Yet, Truth (s) of God


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s