What’s the Word?

If you’re reading this blog, I’m going to make a few assumptions. First, I’m assuming that you are a follower of Jesus Christ. Second, I’m assuming that you care about teenagers – whether you are a youth pastor, parent, volunteer, or anyone else. And third, I’m assuming that you’ve read the Bible and believe it is important. It’s this last assumption that I want to interact with today, as I discuss why I think a theology of Scripture is crucial for doing youth ministry with excellence. And if one or more of those assumptions don’t apply to you, I hope you’re still challenged by this post and that it might cause you to rethink things.

A Theology of the Bible

When I put together the content calendar for the first year of blog posts, I seriously underestimated the amount of depth this subject deserves. As a result, I intend this post to be a launching point for further discussion and study – both on our parts individually and potentially in future blog posts. I’m going to do the same thing I did in the post on the virgin birth. I’ll provide citations when I directly quote something, but here is a list of the books I consulted and recommend[1], and I especially recommend looking at the bibliographies in those books for more suggestions.

It’s not very controversial to suggest that the Bible is important. However, exactly what we believe about Scripture beyond that fact is more important. Sure, we can believe that the Bible is important, but do we recognize the authority of Scripture? Is the Bible the inspired, inerrant Word of God, or simply an important book with some good ideas? While we believe that the Bible is important, we have to ask ourselves exactly what we think of it. The claims in Scripture about God, Jesus, salvation, etc. are absolutely crucial, and if we are unsure about our theology of Scripture, everything unravels. I really like the way Sam Storms puts it:

“For apart from a belief in the authority of Scripture, we would have no way of knowing with any certainty whether any of the remaining doctrinal affirmations is true or false. If the Bible is not the sole, sufficient revelation of God himself, how could we possibly know that God is a Trinity of coequal persons, or that the second person of that Trinity became a man in Jesus of Nazareth and died for sinners and was raised on the third day? Simply put the inspiration and authority of the Bible is the bedrock upon which our faith is built.”[2]

If we care at all about the various pieces of our faith, we have to care about the Bible and about our theology of the Bible. More so than this, however, is the fact that Scripture itself speaks to its importance. In 1 Timothy, God speaks through the apostle Paul: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”[3] Paul is talking about the Old Testament, and refers to it as Scripture. It is clearly the Word of God, and inspired by him. Scripture is also necessary for teaching, reproof, correction, and training.

Lest we think the Old Testament is the only piece that was viewed as Scripture, Peter writes in 2 Peter, “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”[4] In reference to the writings of Paul, Peter includes them in with the “other Scriptures”. Additionally, Paul quotes from the gospel of Luke in 1 Timothy. Scripture claims its own necessity, inspiration, and authority – shouldn’t we pay attention to those things as well?

It’s important for us to know what we believe about the Bible’s authority because that directly impacts our submission to that authority (or at least it should!). Does the Bible have authority in all areas, or just in some? Answering that question is crucial for the follower of Jesus.

It’s important for us to know what we believe about the Bible’s inspiration because that directly impacts whether we believe it is the Word of God or simply a book written by human men. That then impacts how much authority we give to it, and whether we believe it is necessary or just optional.

It’s important for us to know what we believe about the Bible’s inerrancy because that directly impacts the truth of the accounts in Scripture. I think Sam Storms says it best again: “Clearly, then, the question What do you think of the Bible? reduces to the question What do you think of Christ?”[5] A theology of Scripture is essential.

What does this have to do with youth ministry?

While I think the application to youth ministry is apparent, there are a few things I want to point out in particular. First, we are responsible for imparting a theology of Scripture to the teenagers we work with. As they try to sort out their faith with the claims of the world around them, the truth and authority of Scripture needs to be a bedrock for them. If we do not challenge ourselves to form a theology of Scripture, we cannot challenge them to do that, and the Bible becomes a nice idea. Second, our theology of Scripture will impact how central the Bible is to our teaching. Sure, we can all say that the Bible is central to the teaching in our ministries (at least I hope we can). But how central is the Bible to our teaching? And do we teach about the authority, necessity, inspiration, inerrancy, etc. of the Bible, both explicitly and implicitly? Are we actually equipping our teens with the tools to read and study the Bible, not just quote it? (There’s a fantastic article about that here) A theology of Scripture is essential for youth ministry.


As I mentioned above, I hope this post is a launching point for further discussion and investigation. Continue to grow in your understanding of Scripture, firming up that bedrock. One of the best ways we might do that is to read our Bibles more. And as a supplement to that, to read different viewpoints on these aspects of Scripture, so that we can more fully understand why we believe what we believe. Let’s continue to strive for excellence in youth ministry, which means excellence in our everyday lives. Thanks for joining me in that journey.

 

[1] Tough Topics by Sam Storms, Now, That’s a Good Question! by R.C. Sproul, and Who Made God? By Ravi Zacharias and Norman Geisler

[2] Sam Storms, Tough Topics, 16.

[3] 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

[4] 2 Peter 3:15-16 ESV

[5] Sam Storms, Tough Topics, 17.

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