Five things United Methodists say about the Bible

David Watson discusses the mainline Protestant tendency to say more about what we don’t believe about the Bible than what we do believe.

He ends his post with five statements he drew from the doctrinal standards of the United Methodist Church:

1. Scripture is the primary source of divine revelation in our tradition. Other claims to divine revelation should be tested against scripture.

2. Everything we need to know to receive salvation is in the Bible.

3. The Bible is the true guide for Christian faith and practice.

4. The Holy Spirit helps us to understand and apply scripture to our lives.

4. Christian tradition, such as is found in the creeds, helps to interpret scripture for teaching the historic faith of the church.

5. Reason and the experience help us to understand scripture, but on matters of salvation, and matters of faith and practice related to salvation, they should not contradict scripture.

My postmodern friends, I suspect, will object to some of these statements because they suggest that scripture has a meaning independent of the community of interpretation.

To address those kinds of objections, I find I need to talk about revelation and the work of the Holy Spirit. But we ground those statements — or at least I try to — on scripture. So, there is a certain circularity in my argument that I do not see how I can avoid.

In the end, I find that I adopt the attitude that scripture is something we receive as a gift of the Holy Spirit to the church, and in light of that attitude of reception I embrace the five statements that Watson offers above.

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2 thoughts on “Five things United Methodists say about the Bible

  1. I appreciate what you and David have written. It seems we want to read scripture with the end in mind, or with the focus on salvation. That seems right in my mind.

  2. I’m late to chime in, but after a long discussion with my wife (cooling down late at night on the patio) about Billy Abraham’s hot little book of point-counterpoint on current issues, I’ve got a little more clarity about the urgency of the work being done. My wife is fairly blunt. She says Billy is fed up with a conversation that has no traction, and the so-called via media on sexuality doesn’t exist (though the gilded elites are fond of such in theory). It’s a false start. David F. Watson is pretty sly in advancing the case for the authority of scripture against the Adam Hamilton bucket sorters. Billy and David, a one-two punch. It’s this leadership that we’ve needed.

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