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The Bible

‘the highest authority for what we believe and do’

Deep engagement with Scripture and the empowerment of all people to read and understand its texts is core to the Reformed Christian tradition.

There are all sorts of lenses through which people read scripture (hermeneutics) as we seek to unpack and understand its meaning (exegesis). The United Reformed Church celebrates this diversity as a great gift of God, allowing us to discern the will of the Holy Spirit for all God’s people in the different times and places in which they have been placed. To do this effectively, we must engage in differing ways of exploring God’s Word together and challenge each other, in love, to ensure that we are being true to what God might be saying to us through the Bible.

Your Bible?

Reading the Bible regularly is an important discipline for all Reformed Christians

Bible reading and discipleship belong together. Both the Old and New Testaments are made up of the stories of the People of God (Israel and the Christian church) and their journeys with God.  Those stories track their encounters with God, their developing realisation of who God is and what living faithfully as children of God means, individually and collectively.  We read the Bible – and particularly the gospel stories – in order to “see Jesus more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly, day by day”.  That happens as those stories shape us and our churches.

We also read the Bible to encounter God.  That is what we mean when we call the Bible the Rord of God: when we read it, God shows up! That’s when we find ourselves reaching for language about “God spoke to me”. This is the action of the Holy Spirit.  This is when transformation happens.

Interpreting the words

Reading the bible is one thing, but understanding what it’s saying can be quite another

The Bible was never written as a textbook of “What Christians Need to Believe”.  Nor was it written as a “Manual of Spirituality”.  Most importantly, it wasn’t dictated by God.  Its stories stretch over 4,000 years of history, and reflect the time, places, values, beliefs and ssumptions of the times.

This is another way of saying that the Bible needs to be interpreted.  There is no way of shortcutting that process if we are to read it faithfully.  That is why the Reformed tradition has always valued the contributions of biblical scholars and theologians, and has prioritised the weekly preaching of the Word.

We grow in our understanding of the Bible and opennness to God’s transformation by the Spirit when we encounter other, different ways of interpreting the Bible. 

Hearing the Word

The Word of God is revealed to us through the Bible. something else to make it three lines

“The highest authority” for our believing and living is “God’s Word in the Bible” (Nature, Faith & Order of the United Reformed Church). This describes what we believe is the process by which the church makes decisions about what it is hearing God calling us to do.  Notice that the Statement does not simply say that ‘the Bible’ is the authority, but ‘God’s Word in the Bible, made alive for us by the Holy Spirit”. Jesus, described in John’s Gospel as ‘the Word made flesh’ is the supreme authority.

We believe that we are led by the Spirit to hear God’s voice for us as a community of disciples when we gather in worship for the specific purpose of listening for God’s voice. However convinced we are that we have discerned God’s leading, we always remain open to new experiences of hearing again and more faithfully, because this is a process of trust, mutual listening and collective openness to God’s Spirit.

What we believe about the bible

The Word of God?

The Bible is sometimes refered to as ‘The Word of God’, however, in the Reformed Tradition we believe something subtelly but significantly different than that. The Bible can reveal to us God’s living Word for us today through reflection, discussion, prayer, study, context and more. Through the Holy Spirit God’s Word can be revealed to us through the Bible. 

Context is Key!

One reason for saying this is the importance of context. The words on the page stay the same, but the context in which we receive them can significantly change what we hear the stories say. 

Diversity of Belief

A mixture of context, interpretation, and our own experiences means there is great diversity of belief in the Reformed Tradition, and this is something we celebrate! There is much we can learn about God and ourselves by sharing with others. 

Conclusion

This may sound a bit more confusing to some, and a liberation to others, yet however we read and interpret the Bible, we believe it is God’s gift to us, and God can speak powerfully through it still today. 

We are

Jesus-shaped churches

full of

Jesus-shaped people

making a

Jesus-shaped difference

to the lives of our communities

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