Saturday, December 15, 2012

J I Packer on the Bible as God's Torah or Law

Another quote from J I Packer's book Truth & Power: The Place of Scripture in the Christian Life (1996)...
It needs to be said, before we move on, that living by biblical torah can be costly. Society will press Christians to do things that God's law forbids and to omit things that God's law requires. Christian nonconformity to others' ways will be felt as an insult and a threat. In the early centuries Christians were persecuted throughout the Roman Empire because they would not join in emperor worship. Persecution is rife today in Muslim and Marxist countries where toleration is not part of the culture and Christians are seen as subversive of national goals. In the West, Christian physicians who will not do abortions are marginalized in their own profession, and in many circles Christians who still see homosexual practice as sin are, to say the least, disliked. Christians, however, must obey God rather then humans when there is a clash (see Acts 4:19; 5:29), and if that means trouble, so be it: we have to learn to commit our cause to God and stand steady, seeing the situation as a testing of our faith. But living by Scripture as one's law in this way can cost a great deal, and we must face that fact realistically.

Further, it needs to be said that living by biblical torah can be disturbing. It has been said that either the Bible will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from the Bible. What is meant is that the Bible will jolt us to the roots of our being by zeroing in on our weaknesses, shortcomings, vices, disobediences and neglects and will sensitize our consciences to the displeasure of God and the imperative need to make changes. At such times we will find that the temptation to stop taking the Bible seriously will be very strong indeed.

... Also it needs to be said that living by biblical torah can be very humbling. Pride is the sinful infection of all our hearts, and to a degree we are all proud of our opinions. But if, as we let Scripture instruct us, we find it teaching something different from what we have hitherto assumed and contradicting what, as we say, we "like to think" (ominous phrase!), then it is so much the worse for our former thoughts, and we have to change our minds. To admit that you were wrong can be painful, but those who take Scripture as law for their lives must be prepared for this.

(Packer in this book offers seven ways to think of the Bible as we approach it: A Library, A Landscape, A Letter, A Listening Post, A Law, A Light, A Lifeline. Packer describes torah as "affectionate instruction on behaviour as from a father to his family, given in the expectation that the children will take it to heart and faithfully obey their father's directives".)

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