My friend Trevor (not his real name) has proudly identified as a Christian for the nearly two decades I have known him. Throughout our childhood and teenage years, he was what I then mockingly called my “Bible-thumper” friend. He was heavily involved in the ministry of his church and was always inviting me (and everyone else) to youth events, game nights, lock-ins, etc. However, shortly after graduating high school, Trevor’s fiery passion for God began to dwindle. He stopped going to church and didn’t seem nearly as gung-ho about Jesus or the Bible as he had been previously.
Ten years later, Trevor’s faith has taken on a less than orthodox appearance. He still believes the God of the Bible is the true God—you cannot convince him otherwise. He continues to identify as a Christian and insists he is saved by the redemption that is in Jesus. However, he is no longer willing to submit to the idea that the entire Bible is divinely inspired and authoritative over his life. He believes the gospels are on point in what they say about Jesus being our Savior, but that’s about it. He thinks some of the behaviors the Bible describes as sinful are not actually sinful. He thinks the Bible’s teaching about Hell and God’s wrath are way off base. Consequently, he has made increasing peace with particular manifestations of his sinful nature and is presently living a lifestyle the Bible would not describe as “worthy of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).
Trevor’s shift away from a life of faith and repentance and toward this biblically malnourished, unspiritual thing some call “progressive Christianity” is not uncommon. I know countless others who have taken a similar trek in recent years, casting aside the Bible’s authority as they breathe in the air of self-autonomy that permeates our cultural atmosphere. They now believe what feels true to them is true, and what feels right to them is right. They are the ultimate authority over their lives, and, when it comes to matters of faith, they get to decide who God is and what he does or does not require of them.
Believing truth is relative and morality is subject to personal opinion or experience is a wildly illogical way of approaching life. This system of thinking disintegrates when you attempt to carry it into real world situations. I’m not going to go into all of that now, though. What I want to focus on today is the danger of approaching the Christian faith with this mindset. A person cannot truly abide in Jesus Christ while simultaneously rejecting the truthfulness and authority of God’s written revelation. Why? Here are just a few reasons:
- Our knowledge of Jesus Christ is utterly dependent on this collection of inspired writings we call the Bible. The only reason you and I know what we know about Jesus is because the events of his life, death, and resurrection have been preserved for us and explained to us in the Scriptures. If the whole sum of the biblical writings are not inspired by God and true in totality, we cannot be sure that even what they say about Jesus’ redemptive work is true! If the Bible got it wrong on Hell or sexual ethics or when life begins, how can we know it got it right on John 3:16? To reject part of the Bible is to bring all the Bible’s content into question.
- Jesus repeatedly and emphatically affirmed the authority of the Scriptures. When someone says they believe in Jesus but do not view the Bible as the inspired revelation of God, they reject Jesus’ own perspective of the Bible. Jesus unequivocally affirmed the inspiration (Matthew 22:43) and authority (John 10:35) of the Old Testament. If we are to truly embrace Jesus, we must embrace Jesus’ perspective of God’s written revelation. How can we believe in him without believing what he believes?
- Jesus said those who reject apostolic teaching actually reject him. All the major issues that “progressive Christians” have with the Bible are contained within the apostolic teaching of the New Testament. It is not just Moses who talked about homosexuality being sinful; Paul talked about it, too. It is not just the Old Testament that communicated God’s fury toward faithless people; Peter, John, and Paul did, as well. Jesus told his apostles that those who would receive their teaching would actually be receiving him, and those who would reject their teaching would actually be rejecting him (Luke 10:16; John 15:20). We cannot, according to Jesus, embrace Jesus while dismissing the Spirit-inspired words of the New Testament writers.
Some of you, like Trevor, might also disbelieve in the inspired and authoritative nature of the Bible. And I suppose that is your prerogative. But it is inconsistent to call yourself a follower of Christ while holding to this perspective. We only know about Jesus through the Scriptures, and he himself affirmed the inspiration and authority of both the Old and New Testaments. Jesus and the Bible are a package deal. We cannot have him if we reject his Word.