Conforming to the Bible (Not the Other Way Around)

Posted on February 11, 2021


By David Ettinger

A Matter of Relevance
I believe the Bible is God’s divine communication to the human race. As such, I accept that everything in it is exactly what God wants to be in it, whether I or anyone else understands, likes, or approves of it.

This applies to a previous post, “My Least Favorite Bible Book,” where I questioned why the Song of Solomon is part of the canon [the 66 books] of Scripture. I never questioned its “right” to be there, I just considered the content and couldn’t see how it fit in with the other 65 books.

Despite my pondering, I don’t question God’s selecting of the Song of Solomon for inclusion in the Bible, and absolutely accept it as His sovereign and perfect decision. If there is a problem, it lies with me and my failure to see God’s purposes. God owes no one an explanation for what He does; it is up to us to seek wisdom that we might understand His perfect will. It is we who must conform to His will, not Him to ours.

Likewise, it is not the job of the Christian to decide the relevance of the Bible, but to accept the truth that the Bible is already relevant and it is we who must conform to its standards. The Bible need not conform to humanity’s thinking, nor does humanity have the right to determine its relevance. The Bible is relevant; Christians who disagree are gravely in error.

The Standard
This became an issue with me back in 1988 when I read an article by a big-name pastor asserting that it was the job of preachers and Bible teachers to make the Bible relevant to the culture. Though a Christian for only two years at the time, I cringed. It was a terribly misguided assertion. What was misguided about it?

First, demanding that the Bible had to be made relevant inferred it was not relevant, thereby imperfect, and if imperfect, not the Word of God. Second, saying the Bible had to be made relevant to modern readers made humanity the standard of what is relevant, not God’s Word.

What a horrible existence for a Bible teacher! If humanity with its constantly shifting principles, judgments, and “wokeness” becomes the standard upon which the Bible measures up, then indeed God’s Word is worthless. And if so, how in the world is the Bible teacher to make it relevant? And even if the Bible teacher could make it relevant, it is relevant for this week only; who knows what next week will bring.   

The Christian Must Conform
Pastors, preachers, and Bible teachers must teach believers that the Bible is the absolute standard of God, which makes it relevant. Not understanding the place in the canon of a particular book of the Bible does not make it irrelevant. Disagreeing with the Bible’s labeling of certain behaviors as “sin” does make the Bible out of touch with modern sensitivities.

Finding the study of certain Old Testament books difficult – Leviticus comes to mind – does not mean it has no place in the 21st century. Disapproving of certain Bible content does not make it wrong. For the Christian, the Bible is the standard. If believers are at odds with this standard, it is we who have drifted from God and are out of touch – not the Bible! As Christians, we must believe “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) – that it expresses precisely that which God intends it to express.

Believers must cling to God’s Word at all times, understanding that it never has to conform to our dictates, but that we must conform to its dictates!

May God help us tame our rebellious hearts!