Giving The Bible Its Sway

If actions speak louder than words, we all realize that it is much easier to speak than to act; to voice a loud protestation than to put it into practical effect. This is particularly true in relation to the supremacy of the Bible as our authoritative norm of faith and conduct. Almost all churches agree nominally in according this role to the Bible. But our human make-up instinctively resists the implied authority of Holy Scripture, and therefore seeks, if not to deny or flout it outright, at least to render it innocuous so far as practical thinking and living are concerned. While the Bible is the supreme rule, it is not allowed to exercise this rule freely but is tamed or harnessed in such a way that behind or above or around the rule of the Bible there stands another and ultimately decisive rule.

This emerges very clearly in liberal Protestantism. Liberalism, too, is willing to take the Bible as its starting point. In its own way and according to its own understanding it can join in the acceptance of the Bible’s supremacy. But the vulnerable point is that, whereas freedom is claimed for inquiry and interpretation and experience and rational thought, the Bible itself is not allowed to be free. It is subjected to various norms of understanding which are forced upon it from outside, so that in the long run the only useful purpose which can be found for it is to provide illustrations for the individual ideas, experiences or even preferences of individual thinkers, speakers or disciples.

This emerges no less clearly in Roman Catholicism. No church has a clearer or more consistent record of assertion of the authority of Scripture than the Roman Catholic. Yet no church has more blatantly or successfully ...

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