Scripture should have a prominent role in the decision-making process of all believers. This does not mean that believers should make Scripture fit into the situation at hand, rather they should take the situation to Scripture. One can easily inject Scripture wrongfully into a problem making the result worse than the beginning. This must be avoided by all believers. Since Scripture is the final authority for all things in the life of all Christians, one must take extreme care to use Scripture correctly. Even though Scriptures are the final authority, this does not mean that it fully and exhaustively addresses all problems. One must avoid the misuse of Scripture, understand its nature, and know how Scripture and theology should address problem-solving. If this is done, then one can faithfully and fully utilize Scripture to address problems that will invariably arise in life.
THE MISUSE OF SCRIPTURE
The first step to understanding how Scripture should be used in decision making is knowing how it can be misused. The first thing to know is that the Bible was written to certain people in certain situations at a certain time in history. Dennis Hollinger wrote, “Though we may face many ethical issues and situations that are vastly different from those the Bible addresses, our task is to move from the particular situations in Scripture to those that now confront us” (Choosing the Good: Christian Ethics in a Complex World 153). This means that one is not to inject their problems or situations into those of the Scriptures but are to utilize what the Scriptures teach to work out the problem. Right here is where Scriptures get misused the most. Many people will take the Scriptures and insist on its authority, and then fit it into their framework. These people will take verses and make them mean something because they have not set the Scriptures in their larger context. Hollinger emphasizes this point saying, “The biblical material employed will not simply be commands and principles but the broad array of Scripture…” (155). To take Scripture out of context, or to force context into Scripture, is the biggest way to misuse it.
Another way it is misused is when the Bible is treated as a textbook for fixing problems. This “dishonor’s its very nature and the process God utilized in revealing his Word to us” (Hollinger 151). One must make sure that the biblical material used applies to the situation at hand. The text of the Bible is not to be used simply as proof texts for problem-solving, as this can cause a bigger problem. The Bible is not a book of just commands for men to follow. What it is, is a book that guides all mankind in a way to live because it discloses the nature and purposes of God and His desires for His creation.
THE NATURE OF SCRIPTURE IN DECISION MAKING
Since Scripture is not just a codebook of commands to inform mankind in what to do, what is its nature? This question is a very important one to be answered. There are many nuances in scriptural decisions that one must look at. The contextual nature of biblical teaching and proper hermeneutics must be considered. Scripture naturally lays out how humanity should live with one another. This means that many of the texts in Scripture are descriptive and not prescriptive. For example, Abraham’s calling to leave his homeland to another country. This is not something for all people to do, it was a one-time command to a specific man. Scripture does give many directives from God, i.e., the Mosaic law. This law was itself for specific people at a specific time. Yet, even though it was for specific things, one can glean good teachings from it. This is the nature of Scripture. It is the authority of God, “the triune God, exercised through scripture” as N. T. Wright stated (Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today 21). This means that Scripture has immense authority in the decisions made by believers. This does not mean that someone can find a verse and make it the rule in every situation. Scripture does have the ability to “transcend the particular situations of the original hearers to provide truthful guidance for hearers in other circumstances” (Hollinger 153). This is true because Scriptural authority is based on the authority of God. For scriptural truth to be properly applied to situations means that one has appropriately understood it to be God’s authority. This is the nature of Scripture, it is God’s Word. One should always be fearful to misapply God’s Word. If one keeps this thought in mind while addressing problems, they will more than likely properly utilize the Scriptures.
THEOLOGY AND SCRIPTURE INFORMING DECISIONS
A theological slant can be a leading factor in how one applies Scripture. As Wright describes men such as Luther and Spurgeon using “biblical authority” to lead in protests (25). One’s theology can cause them to maybe not see the truth in a passage because they are set in a certain way. No doubt, these men were behaving under the thought and knowledge that the Bible is God’s inspired word to men. Even though this is the case the theology led the thinking rather than the actual text itself. This means that all theology must rest completely upon the Bible. It cannot be a man-centered doctrine because if it is, then it will have man-centered decisions. This can even cause problems. Accordingly, Hollinger wrote, “A strong affirmation of biblical inspiration and authority does not solve all the problems related to Christian ethics” (153).
Many will take the Bible and speak it to be God’s authoritative word and still misuse it. Again, Hollinger wrote, “A high view of Scripture calls for honest engagement with the hermeneutical issues and difficulties we face” (153). Therefore, men such as Luther and Spurgeon, who had a very high view of Scripture, still used Scripture not quite correctly. Another aspect of one’s theology that can direct their use of Scripture is how one relates the Old Testament to the New. If one views the whole Bible as being written to and for all believers now, this can cause some difficulty. Many Old Testament teachings are difficult to see employed in the present time. Yet, they are God’s word and His word is authority. How then does one discern what is still for the church now? If one views the Old Testament as descriptive rather than prescriptive for all believers, many of the problems vanish. Indeed, there are many passages in the Old Testament that are encouraging. Though this is the case a certain division must be made. How one does theology here will be a big determination of how they will utilize Scripture in decision making.
As can be seen, there are many difficulties with the use of Scripture in decision-making. Does this mean that it should just be discarded and something else used? Certainly not! The whole of the Bible is good for “teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (English Standard Version, 2 Tim. 3:16). Even though this is the case, one must be careful to not misapply what is found within those sacred pages. The Bible is the authoritative guide for all believers, and it should be utilized in the decisions made by all believers. This means that one should use extreme care and discernment in its use. It can be and has been, abused by many and has caused much heartache and grief throughout the centuries. One must balance what is being faced today with the timeless truths found in Scripture. Even though this is what they are to do, they must never force a text to fit into the mold of a situation today. Some situations are just not fully explained in Scripture, so we must balance out the whole of Scriptural truths to decide what we must do and how we must act. If one does this, they can use the Bible to answer the difficult problems of today.