Joy Weightman, member, Cambuslang Baptist Church
Two statements at the beginning of Dr. Steven Holmes’ lecture made me sit up and take notice 1) that there is less scripture read in most Baptist churches than in almost any other denomination 2) that there are children who for years and years do not hear the scripture readings in church
Although I was shocked by these two statements the more he elaborated and the more I thought about it, the more I realised it was true. In denominations using the lectionary, there are three readings-one from the old testament and one from the epistles as well as one from the gospel and then an option from the Psalms. Most Baptist churches have one reading or at most two’
I have heard many discussions about where scripture readings should be in a service and mostly the answer was “after the children have gone out to their classes” A)-mainly because passages of scripture were thought to be too hard for children to understand or b) that adults want to listen to the word of god reverently without distractions of children. Since Dr Holmes’ lecture, I have been revisiting my own attitude to both these statements
Perhaps more time should be given for readings from different parts of scripture and secondly, with very readable versions such as “the good news version” and “the message”, then passages of scripture, carefully chosen, need not beyond the grasp ofa ny, except the very young children. It might be worthwhile to have one reading at least before they go out-but this was only his introduction!
He took as the main basis of his lecture the Baptist declaration of principle:- “the Lord Jesus Christ our God and Saviour is the sole and absolute authority in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as revealed in the holy scriptures ,and that each church has liberty, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to interpret and administer his laws”.
Other denominations also take the authority of the bible very seriously but perhaps where we as Baptists differ, is in the second half of the declaration.
The church assembles to search the scriptures under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Scripture is available and accessible to us –to everyone under the spirit’s guidance Luther had misinterpreted scripture according to the catholic tradition at that time so conflicts began and so the reformation emerged.
Scripture is indeed available to all but not in the same way as an encyclopaedia –the right place for interpretation is when the gathered church of Christ is guided by the Holy Spirit
But Dr Holmes stressed that the authority of the bible for Baptists is Christological Jesus revealed what God felt was necessary for his servants to know and obey through Christ. No one can ever predict how Christ will reveal himself “the Lord hath yet more truth and light to show forth from his word”
None of the texts/words are easy but if we are searching the scriptures under the Holy Spirit’s guidance it will surprise us. -it is bigger than we can imagine. It is the living word not dead words and so the livingness of the word is there to uncover under the Spirit’s guidance.
Sometimes we tend to look at texts and see them as right or wrong but Christ’s laws are to be obeyed rather than components of a body of belief structures. An inerrant text needs to be believed whereas an authorative word needs to be obeyed.
We search the scriptures to find Christ’s laws but not just to find what a particular text has to say but to hear Christ’s demands and obey them
God has not given us an easy text. I is full of different genres – stories, prayers poems, history etc. But we believe as Baptists that scriptures’ authority will be mediated through Christ in the gathered community under the Spirit’s guidance.