Can we make it more Biblical?

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I remember a few years back that we had issues with a particularly disruptive church member. They liked to see themselves as the guardian of orthodoxy and so they would regularly find ways to protest and object. They would also write to us to tell us how we were somehow in league with some person they considered dodgy and were promoting views we weren’t even aware of.  On one occasion the elders felt it right that I respond in writing on their behalf. I drafted the letter and shared it with them. They were generally happy but I got one request back.

“Please could you include some Bible verse references. He likes to use them in his correspondence and he is more likely to listen.”

What they meant was that I needed to put some verse references in brackets to show where we had got a particular point from. I conceded at the time. However, did it make my response more Biblical than it had been or did his littering of his letters with verses make them more Biblical than our replies?

I want to suggest that they did not.  I think it is misunderstanding of what we are looking for in normal discourse. Remember that we were not engaging in a Bible study or preaching. We were sharing thoughts.  Of course the littering of a script with Bible verse references primarily sets up  a feel. We assume as we look that the verse references guarantee that the writing is worthy and weighty. How many people do you think carefully check each quotation? How many do you think do this properly by looking at each text cited in context, going back to Greek or Hebrew to read the verse again, interpret it from scratch and look things up in a commentary?  I may be being a bit extreme here but my point still stands.  Citing Scripture does not make you scriptural. In fact most false teachers and trouble causes throughout history going back to Arius have been able to readily cite Scripture. Of course they cited it without context or with a twisted understanding. Even the Devil is able to quote scripture (Matthew 4:3).

The Biblical nature of what you write or say is not weighed by the number of verse references you cite but how true it stays to the whole teaching of Scripture. For the same reason, I tend to despair when someone takes us on a Bible safari of out of context verses to pad out their Bible study or sermon. Better to stick to the one text and ensure you’ve understood it correctly, in context and applied it rightly.

Now when you blog and when you talk with friends and neighbours, you are not preaching a sermon or giving a Bible study. This does not mean however that you can forget about Scripture. What we say should be seasoned with salt. However, there should be a naturalness to what we are saying being soaked in scriptural thought even when we cannot remember exact quotes and references. In fact, the supply of quotes is usually more evidence of a particular form of memory re-call gift than of  being Biblical.

At this stage, you will realise that although I’ve not cited it yet, my thoughts and words here are being shaped by a particular Bible verse

16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”[1]

The point is that God’s Word should be having such a daily/weekly impact on my mind and heart that it is constantly affecting how I think, speak and act.  Older generations in fact were so influenced by scripture memorisation that it would leak out in their writing quite naturally, so that if you read Wesley on a variety of topics for example you will see that Scriptural words and allusions keep escaping his mind and coming out through his pen onto the page.

In our techy world I think we may have sadly lost the gift of memorisation, not just of Bible texts but of other things too. As a child I memorised scripts when acting (not just my own parts but those of others too), songs, multiplications tables and more. I do admittedly mourn the loss of such training for wider society and wish that I was better at recalling myself.  However, I don’t think that this is the important thing here.  More important by far is that God’s word is indwelling us richly so that people who know it will be able to recognise the scriptures alluded to when we talk and write.

[1] Colossians 3:16

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