by Lauren Crane
David Nelson does not fear outsiders undermining the sacred writings of Scripture as much as he fears those who claim to believe the Bible preaching a false gospel from the pulpit.
In the opening chapel service of the 2009-2010 school year, David Nelson, senior vice president for academic administration, gave the Convocation address to returning and new students, entitled, “How to undermine the authority of Scripture.”Additionally, Benjamin Merkle, associate professor of New Testament and Greek, was elected to the faculty and Mark Liederbach, associate professor of Christian Ethics, was honored with the Faculty Teaching Award for 2009.
“I fear treating the Bible as a tool to be used or as a guidebook, instead of the sacred word it is,” Nelson said. “In so doing, we undermine the sacred writings. When you take up the Bible like this, you into your own hands life and death.”
Nelson referenced 2 Chronicles 34, in which King Josiah sought God and ordered the temple to be cleansed. As they cleansed it, they found the long-forgotten Book of the Law, the Torah. “So moved was Josiah that he tore his clothes and proclaimed that Israel was under God’s wrath for having forgotten the law,” Nelson said. “My purpose today is to remind us that God has spoken – both through Jesus Christ and through the sacred Scriptures. Therefore, if he did write it, there are truths which cannot be disobeyed. If it is true, then perish the thought of what will happen if we mishandle the word of God.”
Nelson said there are a variety of ways in which believers undermine the authority of Scripture when they teach. One of these ways is by failing to preach the gospel message, after making claims as to its inerrancy and infallibility.
“There are many who make loud claims about the inerrancy of the Bible and then fail to preach it,” Nelson said. Speaking about those who stand up and read Scripture for a message, and then fail to return to the book, he said, “When you read the Bible, and then set it aside and give your opinion about the Bible, you give little attention to what the text actually says. If you’re going to just give your opinion, I’d ask you to not read the text at all.”
He also said a common issue he sees is those who insist that what is not in the Scripture, is actually scriptural.
“Be careful about what you claim the Bible teaches. Don’t become so adamant about what is in dispute.” Nelson used examples such as the commonly-disputed age of the earth and thoughts about pre or post-millenial rapture. “Claiming these issues are definitive undermines the authority of Scripture.”
Furthermore, Nelson said it has become a common practice to take a social agenda and claim that it is biblical. “We’re pitting ourselves against brothers and sisters in Christ as saying we are biblical and they are not.”
Paying undue attention to certain things in the Bible and giving those issues more weight than they carry biblically is another trap believers often fall into.
“We pay attention to the things of minor importance and ignore the things of major importance,” Nelson said. “If we are committed to the authority of Scripture we will handle it rightly so we see the world turned upside down for Jesus Christ.”
One area Christians fail in often is that of loving one another. It is this love, which Jesus said would be the mark of his disciples, that believers all-too-often lack, thus contributing to the challenging of the Bible’s authority. “Your life may undermine the authority of Scripture if you say it and don’t live it,” Nelson said.
For those who lead churches, Nelson said to be cautious in making sure their goal is to serve the church and see it grow, rather than make a name for themselves. “And for those of you sitting under these pastors, don’t follow one who loves himself more than he loves the church.”
“So why do we preach the word?” Nelson asked. “It is through the sacred writings that you are able to see Christ. The word shows us the Word, so it is to be preached. It is the word that is inspired by God, and it is the word that equips us to do the good works that God has called us to.
“It is the book of God’s plan for this world, so we must read it, preach it, teach it and obey it.”
The mission of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Southeastern is an institution of higher learning and a Cooperate Program ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention.