Jesus, the Bible, and my Buddy Denny

Jesus, the Bible, and my Buddy Denny June 6, 2013

Denny Burke has a good response to Stanley, McKnight, and Bird on the Jesus vs. Bible thingy-bobby blogfest (see my earlier post).

Obviously Denny and I whole heartedly affirm biblical authority and the unmatchable centrality of Jesus Christ, but it is the integration of the two that we might differ on.

1. On the Bible and Apostolic Faith, Denny says: ” I do not mean by that that every peasant in fourth century North Africa owned a Bible. That’s absurd. I simply mean that the faith that they held derived from scripture, however it was communicated to them (either through preaching, the reading of scripture in church, or any other means of transmission).” I didn’t think he really believed that. My point is: what was the foundation the faith before the collection and canonization of the Scriptures? In my reckoning, the gospel led to the formulation of the rule of faith and the rule of faith determined the canon of faith (hence the criteria for inclusion in the canon like apostolicity, catholicity, orthodoxy etc.). So I wouldn’t say that our faith derives from scripture, rather the apostolic faith was expressed in scripture and, thereafter, all faith is summarized and shaped by scripture. That’s a minor difference, but a historically nuanced one, as the apostolic faith was transmitted before all the scriptures were collected and canonized, and they had a foundation prior to that. If I had to re-word Denny’s contention on his own terms, it might be better to say that the apostolic message is the foundation of our faith and it is by inspiration later sealed in scripture as the definitive account of the apostolic faith. And if we could add a little christology and ecclesiology in there somewhere, we should have an agreement.

2. On the NT language of foundation, well, 1 Cor 3:22 says, “For no one can lay a foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” That is pretty much a slam dunk if you ask me. But, with a HT to Denny, I don’t think you can play off the man against the message because, via the agency of the Holy Spirit, the gospel message brings us into a faith relation with our mediator and master, Jesus Christ. Denny affirms the point when he states: “Everyone knows that such language never implies that the message operates independently of the One proclaimed in the message.” Touchdown to the Redsocks (yes, I know that is mixing sports). But could we say that Jesus is the foundation of the foundational message of the apostles? If Denny can say that Jesus is the foundation of the faith (and nuance it vis-a-vis scripture how he likes), I’ll buy him some Buffalo Wings in Baltimore!

3. On Bible and Salvation, I concur with Denny’s treatment of Ps 19:7 and Rom 1:16, that the word of scripture is the means of salvation. I want to place the emphasis on “means.” My concern is that if you elevate scripture to the heights of your christology, then you could potentially make scripture the “saviour.” Denny doesn’t do that, but I want to make sure we don’t run the risk of doing that.

4. On the BFM 2000. Well, I’d rather die than speak ill of Michael Cassio! I think the BFM 2000 is a wonderful expression of Baptist faith, it is an improvement on the 1963 BFM as it is more robustly evangelical, it has a high christology, and rightly gives a place to the family in a confession of faith (even if I’d tweak what it says there). Think ye not that I’ve come to rag on the BFM 2000. Still, taking out “Jesus Christ” and replacing him with “eternal truths” just does not sit right with me.  It gives me crazy unchristological vibes. Just because the liberals were playing off Jesus against Paul is no reason to jettison the centrality of Jesus from the BFM. Just because Marcion liked Paul doesn’t mean we cut out Paul from the Bible. Just because Montanus liked John doesn’t mean we omit John from the Bible. If you have cockroaches under your oven, you don’t get rid of them by putting 20 lbs of C4 plastic explosives in the cooker (well, you will successfully terminate the cockroaches, but half of your house as well). You use a hammer to hit hard nails, you shouldn’t use a hammer as a painting brush to draw pictures of Jesus. The BFM could have been re-phrased to maintain the centrality of Jesus Christ  and the full authority of ALL of scripture, but without running the gauntlet of a doctrinolatry to which it is susceptible. 

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  • Denny Burk

    You’re cracking me up, bro. Thanks for the critical feedback!

    • Patrick

      “what was the foundation the faith before the collection and canonization of the Scriptures”?

      The eyewitnesses.

      I realize we could debate when the canon was the canon, but, most of it was penned by 90 AD.

      It replaced the eyewitnesses and w/o a canon, no human today would have any clue who Christ was. Imagine w/o it as a control agent all the stupidity that would have ensued and all the confusion.

      We have enough as it is.

  • Kedric W.

    I recently responded on a blog talking about this subject, stating “The Holy Spirit testifies that the Bible is the word of God. But how do we know about the Holy 
Spirit? Through the Scripture. It is reciprocal.”

    Another poster responded:

    “In your original posting, you mentioned that the Holy Spirit testifies that the Bible is the Word of God. But it seems that it would be more true to say that the Bible is the Word of God in that it testifies to Jesus Christ. This is a critical distinction in understanding what sort of book God has given us, and it is a critical distinction in understanding whether the Spirit testifies to the Bible or whether the Spirit testifies to the person of Jesus Christ.”

    I answered:

    “The Spirit does testify to Jesus Christ. How do we know? Jesus said the Spirit would do this. How do we know he said he would do this? Initially, through the preaching of the apostles and others appointed by the apostles [as seen in the book of Acts]. Then, after that, through the words written down in the New Testament. The word of God or even the name of God, cannot be separated from the person of God. All that to say is that God stands behind his word. The Bible does testify to Jesus Christ. And the Holy Spirit testifies to the word of Christ. As I stated before, it is reciprocal. Call it both/and. It could also be called perspectival.”

    I just wanted to get some feedback on my answer, whether I was articulating it correctly. Were we just talking past each other?