Should Christians Only Read The Bible?

In Christian RealTalk by Antwuan Malone

Is the Bible the Only Book That Matters?

There are many schools of thought, I think, when it comes to how to facilitate spiritual growth. In a meeting I recently had, I heard an impassioned plea for church to “get back to the Bible” as the sole source of reading. In these convos, the saying usually goes, “all you need is the word of God.” If nothing else, that’s one heck of a sound byte.

Since then, I’ve spoken with a young pre-teen in a spontaneous conversation about faith and what it means to “spend quiet time with God” and she told me she doesn’t read the Bible much. Spending time with God, in her view, involved mostly prayer and some work out of a devotional.

Here you see the difference in approach from two very different generations. One may even say these are representatives of two extremes. And before you totally discount the pre-teen’s view, a version of this thinking is present in people of all ages… most notably among the new generation of Sharers (bloggers, Googlers, Facebookers, Tweeters, etc…) One sees the voices of the masses as noise to the central message, distractions from the “real meat” of God’s word.  The other can’t understand God’s Word (at least the part in print) without some translating medium to help along.

The “Bible Only” Approach

I must admit I’m not entirely on board with the ‘bible-only’ approach to spiritual development or “discipleship” as many choose to label it. But I would also submit that most people who think they are on board with it might find they aren’t after further examination. It certainly sounds great to say that “the Bible has all the answers” and that, “you don’t need anything else but God’s Word,” but they are just sound bytes for the most part.

The reality is that the Word of God was meant to be taught. To be exposited. To be translated into language the world can receive and apply to their lives. This is the very reason God gave us the talents and gifts he has given us. It’s the reason we are compelled to speak, write, paint, act, sing, and otherwise express the meaning of God in our life and the truth of God’s love and grace. Is there really a difference between hearing a preacher expound on God’s Word every Sunday and reading those same words on a blog, or in a book or song? Are those “bible-only” people willing to accept that, to truly abide by the code they are pushing, it would mean Scripture-only sermons and services? I don’ think there is.

Jesus and the Word

So what does Jesus say about the matter?  Not much from I can tell… at least not verbally. But reading through the gospels we can see that Jesus did not simply walk around with an the Torah, teaching from it as if that alone defined evangelism or discipleship.

Instead, Jesus — the Word embodied (John 1:14) in flesh– was the walking, living, breathing scripture and scroll. The world experienced The Word, not just read or heard it, through the witness of Jesus’ life. And when he did speak, he told more stories and parables than he did share Torah scripture. He shared more meals and held more conversations with the marginalized than He did preach sermons. When meeting with the Samaritan women at the well, Jesus didn’t over quote scripture. He conversed with her in the language and terms she could identify with. And in doing so, he ignited a fire and passion in her that spread throughout the town (John4).

His example should not lead us to over-stuff our conversations, sermons, and Bible studies with Biblical scripture. That was what the Pharisees were so, so good at. Jesus built a ministry on relatability. His model for discipleship extended far beyond the confines of scriptural text, even though the life he lived (which spoke much louder) was based on those texts. Scripture was part of the ministry, even core to the ministry, but there was more to it.

Spiritual development tactics must retain the same mixture of biblical teaching, topical study, and social engagement. Hard subjects like pornography, masturbation, homosexuality, abuse, addiction, and countless others are not addressed directly with scripture. At least not past the point that they are things God frowns on. The way to deal with these subjects must include candid conversation mediums that invite and protect emotional, intellectual and spiritual transparency so that real spiritual healing and growth can begin.

Such a combination will allow that pre-teen who doesn’t read the Bible ( and those like her) to find a path to God and his Word in meaningful ways. Books, art, movies, and other such mediums should all be available to facilitate such a life centered on God’s Word. Had Jesus written a book, it would have probably been chock full of personal stories about the way God interacts, teaches, leads and loves his people.  Oh wait, he has written a book.

Let’s be careful about blocking the variety with which God employs his Word, and release the “great sounding” sound byte, Sunday School answers that sometimes do more harm than good.

How would you define “discipleship” and how much does the Bible fit into it?

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Antwuan Malone is a Ministry Director at ELEVATE Young Adult Ministry (elevateministry.net) where empowers young adults toward Christian leadership. He is passionate about seeing young adults take their place in church history by drawing near enough to God to hear his call on their life, and courageously living in obedience to that call.