You’re one twitch of the finger and a screen-blip away from conjuring up scores of “results” on how Christians should think about everything from Coronavirus to George Floyd’s death and the protests following in its wake. I have found it increasingly difficult to absorb and synthesize all these resources. For the first two months of the pandemic, I sent out recommended “web resources” to our church every Wednesday. But now I’ve pretty much stopped. Not because there aren’t good resources out there, but in part because I realized I’d personally been neglecting a better resource right here.
I’m talking about the Bible.
When the pandemic hit and the protests began, I found myself instinctively looking to other Christians whom I didn’t know for insight into how Scripture applies to “the current situation.” I was partly motivated by a desire to figure out what “the current situation” even was, and the internet seemed like a reasonable place to look for help. After all, the body of Christ and the gifts of the Spirit are not coextensive with the Bronx Household of Faith. We are not self-sufficient as a church, and it is a blessing to benefit from the wisdom of the church in other places.
Still, after a while, I came to realize that I was neglecting the one “resource” (though it is much more than a resource) which matters most: the infallible Word of God. I was relying on other Christians and pastors to know their Bible and think through how it applies to “the situation” in general, rather than depending on the Bible itself to clarify my perspective. I was failing to press into something I would guess many of us struggle to enjoy: becoming so immersed in Scripture that rich and increasingly vivid, nuanced categories are ready at hand for interpreting “the current situation,” whatever it may be.
You could say that I have been failing to treasure the sufficiency of Scripture. The sufficiency of Scripture, as theologian John Frame explains the doctrine, refers to how “Scripture contains all the divine words necessary for us to please God in any area of life.”
The other “resource” I think I struggled, and still struggle, to grasp as fully as I can is the perspectives of other Christians in my church. Not that there’s anything wrong with reading a blog from Minnesota about the pandemic, or with listening to a podcast from Georgia about justice. But on the whole, it ought to be strange—or at least, it’s historically abnormal—to spend more time listening to the amateur reflections of believers I’ve never met than discussing and praying through these things with my own brothers and sisters.
You could say that I have been failing to treasure the importance of fellowship.
If you want to put a “media ecology” spin on it, you might say that I have allowed what is technologically possible and easy to replace what is necessary and beneficial. Just because I can spend more time trolling Facebook for info and opinions than I do reflecting at length with a thoughtful sibling in Christ, doesn’t mean I should. Of course, the problem is exacerbated when the only things my sibling in Christ and I have to say—we got from Facebook!
Hence we’re brought back to the need for Scripture. Not as a sourcebook for Twitter-quotes, but as a deep dive we take together into the history of God’s dealings with men and women, civilizations and devils. Not as a book of quick answers, but as the revelation of God’s character and plan unveiled over the ages. The tyranny of the urgent might make slow, systematic study of Scripture (which really is a study of God) seem impractical.
But really, it’s the one thing necessary. And it’s enough.
The Bible and the blogosphere are not mutually exclusive; I’m not trying to say I’ve abandoned the web or mastered the Bible. But I have been challenged to reflect on whether I am actively believing in the sufficiency of Scripture. And I’m excited about the possibility of spending much more time listening to the one source I know for certain I can trust.
One of the best ways for any Christian to listen to that source is to sit regularly under gospel-proclaiming, Scripture-expositing preaching. The Scriptures are sufficient—but the church is essential, and preaching is the crucial, God-ordained means for all believers (including the illiterate) to be taught, rebuked, corrected, and trained in righteousness, built up as a body, and strengthened in our faith and walk by that sufficient Scripture.
But I am also referring, more specifically, to reading and studying the Bible. In our busy age, some of us might need to drastically cut back on looking to other resources for guidance so we can absorb wisdom from the source. David Wells writes:
“We need to carve out space for ourselves in which we can daily attend to God’s Word, to study it, mark it, learn it, and inwardly digest its truth. This truth must shape our whole understanding of life as we recognize from whom this truth comes and why God has thus given it to us. This must take precedence. It must take precedence even at the cost of phones, e-mails, the internet, texts, TV, Facebook, music, and all the other ways that our technology wires us into a major competitor for our time and attention. Innocent though these things may be, they stand in the way of our knowing God if they steal from us the time that we need for that pursuit. And we do need time.…Let us make no mistake about this. If we do not do this aright, if we are not daily seeking God’s face, if we are not pondering the truth he has given us in his Word, if we are not daily being nourished in our souls by it, and if we are not daily repenting of our sin where we need to, our faith will wither and our walk with God will disappear.” (God in the Whirlwind, 185–86)
In the middle of a pandemic, in the midst of protests and all the questions these things raise: are you settling for second-rate summaries, or sitting at the feet of the Master? Are you just searching for resources, or are you going to the Source?