I guess I am what one might consider an evangelical and right up front I want to get this out of the way–I do believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, and that the Bible is the Word of God–however, I am somewhat confused by the way that many evangelicals seem to view the Bible. It seems to me that we often flirt with the line between understanding it as the word of God and worshiping it as God.
Recently a couple of people told me about this “amazing message” that they heard and one of the big points of the message was this that 2 Timothy 3:16 was the most important verse in the Bible I immediately found myself somewhat on guard as I am anytime somebody makes an absolute claim about the Bible that the Bible does not make about itself. This is only one of numerous recent incidents that prompted me to write this.
From that statement and others it would seem to me that some have began to believe that God’s greatest purpose for us is to know scripture, and understand that it is factual. Personally I am much less concerned with the factuality of scripture than I am the truth of scripture, here is what I mean most of the facts in scripture the things that were seen heard and touched are much less important than the truth that accompanies them. Allow me an example: Jesus was hung on a cross and died that is a fact, but in and of itself has very little meaning unless we understand the truth of who Jesus truly was and why He died on a cross. Now to 2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
this is a very good verse and an important one but, to say that it is the single most important verse is not only a logical fallacy but a scriptural one as well. The fallacy begins with the belief that the most important thing for a person to know is that the scripture is fact and we as good evangelicals would assume truth. Logically thought this is simply not true.
First of all from a purely logical standpoint as we are all descendants of enlightenment thinking and appreciate a good bit of logic (of course this is part of our problem when we read the Bible we look at thing from a logical western viewpoint, and the Bible is eastern and less concerned with fact and logic than truth)
The reasoning behind claiming this as the most important verse was because it lends credence to all other verses, however, unless I already believe the Bible to be truth why would I believe the Bible is truth because it says it is. If I swear to you that I am telling the truth and I am the real president of the United States would you believe me? No? But I swore it was truth what if I told you it came from God? Still not? Well why not?
Here is the point as good logical people we don’t believe people or writings simply because they say they are true we believe them based on that they are true which is attested by many external things as well as internal. You would believe I was the president if I were surrounded by CIA agents and addressing you from the Oval office, and you or people you knew had voted for me in an election. Without all of the external evidences you would not likely believe such a statement though. It is the same with the Bible it is true because it is true and both the external and internal evidences both point to its truth. But in many respects the external evidence is more important. The President of the United States doesn’t have to tell you He is the president you believe it because everything about him points to the fact that he is the President.
Secondly I have trouble saying that this is the most important verse because everything in this verse is stated in slightly different ways throughout the scripture. Admittedly this is probably the cleanest little formulaic saying in the Bible on the inspiration of scripture, but certainly not the only.
Lastly; in my mind to say that something is the most important thing means it is the one thing you should know but, if this verse was all I knew I would be in a sad state indeed. It tells me nothing about the character of God, it tells me nothing about how to live, it tells me nothing about salvation, or relationship which I would suggest was God’s greatest priority.
Think about it; consider all those really weird rules in the Old Testament about what to eat and not to eat, and what to do if you accidentally killed someone’s donkey. What was that all about? Relationship. It was about maintaining right relationship with those around you. Then Jesus in Matthew 22:36-40 says that the greatest commandment is:
“ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Obviously Jesus felt that relationship was important, first our relationship with Him, and secondly our relationships with each other. and if I was going to say there is a most important verse in the Bible I would choose this one but, I feel no compulsion to choose a single most important verse. I do believe that God has a great desire to have real relationship with each of us and for us to live in relationship with one another.