Is the Bible set in stone?
Ask a Pastor
“The Bible seems to be rooted in history from a long time ago. Did the Bible stop being written at some point in history or does God still inspire people to write ‘scripture’ today even though we don’t add it to the Bible?” -- Glenn Carson, St. John’s Lutheran Church, Sacramento, Calif.
Anne: The United Church of Christ uses the tagline “God is still speaking” and the image of the comma to reinforce the idea that God didn’t stop acting or communicating with the world when the biblical canon was formed — God is active and communicating with us today! That said, Christian Scripture refers to the canonized books of the Bible: words that were written down and agreed upon by councils as being the foundational documents of our faith. Part of the power of these documents is that they are firmly rooted in, and a product of, a specific historical time and place and yet also transcend that time and place to be a living document that speaks to us today. The changing ways we interpret Scripture over time is one of the ways God continues to speak to and through us.
David: The word for which books are in the Bible is “canon.” The traditional answer of the church has been that the canon is “closed” — that is to say that we are not going to add any new books to Scripture nor are we going to take any books out of Scripture.
However, even though the canon is closed, we trust that the Holy Spirit is still speaking. We ask for the Holy Spirit to speak through the actions of our church. We look for the Holy Spirit to speak through historical documents that help to guide our church (called “Confessions”). We pray for the Spirit to speak every time our congregation gathers in worship.
Scripture holds a special place. It is our final authority. When we listen for the Holy Spirit in newer places, we always compare it to what Scripture tells us about God and the world.
Neddy: I asked a similar question when I was in seminary. As part of one of our courses each of us had to write a personal story where we felt God had revealed God’s self to us, not through Scripture, but in ways similar to the ones we read in Scripture. I appreciated the invitation to write these stories and keep them dearly to share with my future generations. The gospel tells us that not all stories were written. John 21:25 says: “But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”
So we know that much more could have been written and should be written, but cannot be included in our canon for obvious reasons. It is great when churches create space for these stories to be shared, because just like of old, they were meant to not only bless the individual, but the whole community of faith. We believe in a living God, who continues to manifest God’s self to us daily.
Do you have a question you'd like answered by an ELCA pastor? Email us your question, and you might see it answered by one of our pastors. You can also find out more about our pastors on our "Bios" page. LivingLutheran.com offers a platform for ELCA members to share their diverse experiences of what it means to live Lutheran.