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It was a day in April that would define the history of the church forever: April 18, 1521. An august tribunal of church officials, and even the emperor himself, had gathered together in Worms, Germany to intimidate a young monk and professor from the little town of Wittenberg, Martin Luther. Instead of renouncing his teachings, Luther shocked them with words that have inspired the hearts of subsequent generations. “Since your majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason�I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other�my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen.” Luther staked not only his beliefs on the Bible, but also his life. He was convinced that the Bible held an authority far superior to any earthly authority.

Our world has changed greatly since Luther”s statement first shook the world. Today, Scripture, for many people, no longer holds a position of primary significance. Tradition, reason, or even one”s own feelings often play a far more important role in how people decide to live life. Our study this week gives us the opportunity to consider how we understand Scripture and the nature of its authority for the Christian.

Texts

  • 2 Timothy 3:16
  • 2 Peter 1:21

Questions for Discussion:

  1. In a world that is more and more biblical illiterate, how can we encourage people to take the authority of scripture seriously?
  2. Much of the Bible is not a set of rules (like, for example, a list of rules for basketball), but a collection of ancient stories. In what sense then can an ancient narrative text be authoritative? As one author stated, “It is one thing to go to your commanding officer first thing in the morning and have a string of commands barked at you. But what would you do if, instead, he began ”Once upon a time . . .”? 1 Consider, for example, how you see the books of Judges or Acts being authoritative.
  3. This week”s lesson makes some important points about the divine authority of the Bible. What would you loose if you eliminated a specific book, say Leviticus, James, or some other book, from the Bible? And what are we to make of some of those passages in the Bible that no longer seem applicable today (e.g., Leviticus 19-20), or are very troubling in what they do say (e.g., Psalms 137:8-9)?
  4. How is the authority of the Bible seen in the way you live life on a daily basis?

Foot Notes:

1 N.T. Wright, “How Can The Bible Be Authoritative?”

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