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A Mile Wide, an Inch Deep: Rediscovering the Bible's Authority

According to “The State of the Bible 2013,” a new report from the American Bible Society, four in five American adults believe the Bible is a holy book. While that percentage is down slightly from a few years ago, it still shows that there is a wide respect for Scripture. But wide respect does not necessarily lead to deep engagement.

In fact, the deep end of the American Bible literacy pool would barely get our ankles wet! In fact, this same report says that 45 percent of those surveyed — nearly half — strongly agree with the statement that God helps those who help themselves. Really? What Bible are these folks reading? The whole point of the New Testament — of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins, in fact — is that we’re lost sinners who cannot save ourselves and need God’s help, from first to last.

In our shallowness, we often treat the Holy Book as a self-help book or as a collection of a few favorite “moral mcnuggets” (as Phillip Yancey calls them) that we put up on our walls via inspirational posters, calendars or cross-stitched knickknacks.

This shallowness has consequences. The late, great theologian Lesslie Newbigin once said, “Most of us treat the Bible as an anthology of helpful thoughts to which we occasionally turn, and from which we can obtain comfort, guidance, direction.” And what’s wrong with that? you say. Well, here’s the problem, according to Newbigin: “... in that case the Bible, of course, is not our authority.” And that’s exactly right. If we pick and choose what we find to be inspirational, we are the authority.

Last week, my BreakPoint colleague Eric Metaxas told you about an exciting new teaching DVD series we put together at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview that addresses this “mile wide and inch deep” understanding of the Bible. It’s called “He Has Spoken: The Worldview of Scripture,” hosted by yours truly, along with T.M. Moore, who for years was one of Chuck Colson’s closest theological advisers. It aims to deepen our understanding of the Bible so that we can live a truly deep life that glorifies God.

The “He Has Spoken” DVD does this by focusing on five vital areas that many of us may have forgotten, or never learned in the first place: the place of Scripture, the point of Scripture, the purposes of Scripture, the power of Scripture, and the posture we ought to take to Scripture because of its authority. Now that’s a passel of "P"s, but the goal of learning Scripture, Paul said, is that the servant of God may be prepared for every good work. Are we?

The “He Has Spoken” DVD reminds us that Scripture isn’t a disconnected series of moralistic or therapeutic thoughts served up so we can be happy and successful. It’s a grand narrative that tells us how we are to know the God who made us and what it means to think and live rightly in His world.

Newbigin often told of a Hindu scholar who questioned him about why missionaries always presented the Bible as just another “book of religion.” The Bible, said the Hindu, is different than all other sacred books in India, in that it offered a “unique interpretation of the human person as a responsible actor in history.”

It’s amazing that a Hindu could see this when so many of us can’t.

As Chuck Colson pointed out, “For 2,000 years, the Bible, often unaided by any human intervention, has transformed — often dramatically — the lives of those who read it: St. Augustine, St. Anthony of Egypt, Martin Luther, to name just a few. And I have known thousands,” Chuck said, “including hardened criminals, who have read the Bible and been transformed for good.”

Friends, if we’re honest, we all know we need this kind of transformation, but it will never happen if our faith is a mile wide and an inch deep. The “He Has Spoken” study is a terrific resource; so come to, click on this commentary, and get a copy of “He Has Spoken.”

BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at where you can read and search answers to common questions.

John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

Publication date: September 19, 2013

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