A few years ago, I went through a time of re-evaluating my understanding of scripture. I saw it being used very legalistically and reacted against that practice. I began to question the idea that scripture should be called the “word of God” and received a very harsh backlash from a few members of a forum I frequented, even though I didn’t deny the authority and inspiration of scripture.
Essentially I now think most of the argument was more about semantics and terminology than honestly addressing the nature of scripture.
Not long after this I came face to face with another view point, where scripture was taken extremely lightly and was seen as being secondary to the “voice of the Spirit”. It led to all kinds of strange beliefs and practices and attempts to bring correction through appeals to scripture were dismissed.
These experiences showed me the dangers of extremes.
One extreme takes every word as being individually God inspired and therefore containing the full authority of God. It leads to taking individual verses out of their intended context and trying to apply them in some way in our lives. It reduces scripture to a collection of instructions or individual stand-alone truths that must be held in all circumstances regardless of intended context.
The other extreme sees scripture as out-dated and almost irrelevant because we now have the Spirit to teach and guide, we just need to follow His leading. Of course that relationship with the Spirit is true (or should be) – but part of His Spiritual leading comes through the scriptures He inspired. We can’t cast aside His previous revelation as being no longer relevant in order to follow a “new” thing totally separated from revelation already provided.
A dangerous side of this is found in the SELECTIVE approach to scripture where some think they can pick and choose which parts are relevant today, which parts are REALLY inspired, and which parts are not. This often leads to adding new “truths” in place of scripture and progresses to practices and beliefs contrary to the scriptural revelation of God’s character. Look up the antics of people like Todd Bentley and John Crowder to see examples of this.
I am convinced that scripture needs to be seen as a whole revelation and reliance on “texts” needs to end. We at least need a basic overview of the bible. I see that is much more important than familiarity with individual “memory verses”. How do the Bible’s parts fit together? How does the story of God’s relationship with mankind progress from creation (Genesis) right through to the end of the book of Revelation?
Where do the prophets fit into the history? During which period were they prophesying? Pre-exile, post-exile, or during the exile? We don’t need to be experts on these things, but a little knowledge of the flow of scripture and how different parts relate to each other helps increase our understanding of God and His purposes: in other words what scripture is REALLY revealing.
Additionally I have seen the importance of recognising what scripture ACTUALLY says; accepting it literally unless context makes it clear that other meaning should be sought (clear symbolism for example or things expressed as poetry).
Too often people ignore the literal message because it challenges what they want to believe. They then choose to interpret what they read to make it more palatable.