Friday, October 12, 2007

the red letter Christians

Stan Guthrie explains how he isn't a "Red-Letter Christian."

Though I own several Bibles with the words of Christ printed in red, I've always found the concept a bit iffy. After all, we evangelicals believe in the plenary, or full, inspiration of Scripture, don't we? Setting off Jesus' sayings this way seems to imply that they are more holy than what is printed in ordinary black ink. Sure, Christians understand that Jesus the incarnate Word fulfills the written Word. But if all Scripture is God-breathed, then in principle Jesus' inscripturated statements are no more God's Word to us than are those from Peter, Paul, and Mary—or Ezekiel.

That's why I felt a bit queasy when I heard about a group calling itself "Red-Letter Christians." In the book Letters to a Young Evangelical, Tony Campolo says RLCs have an "intense desire to be faithful to the words of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament." That's a worthy start, of course—but only that.
Compolo gave a response.
I have to say, "You got us right!"

While we, like you, have a very high view of the inspiration of Scripture and believe the Bible was divinely inspired, you are correct in accusing Red Letter Christians of giving the words of Jesus priority over all other passages of Scripture. What is more, we believe that you really cannot rightly interpret the rest of the Bible without first understanding who Jesus is, what he did, and what he said.
(HT: Justin Taylor)

ADDED: My blogging friend Doug has left an excellent comment which I've chosen to bring up here instead of leaving it in the meta: how did we get the Bible today? It's certainly not a question that deserves an easy, ten-word-or-less answer. Let me point to some places to start:


  1. Out of curiosity, what is the foundation of the belief that every word of the Bible is divinely inspired?

    The Bible is, of course, a series of approved texts. Relevant texts that did not make the cut are the Apocrypha. My understanding is that a definitive list of approved Biblical texts wasn't set in stone until the Council of Trent in the 16th century. Before that, however, the texts were mostly settled at the Council of Hippo in the late 4th century.

    That being the case - some texts in, some texts out, with the decisions being made by committee, I was wondering who declared the approved texts to be divinely approved and with what authority?

    Just by way of disclosure, I do not happen to believe in the divinity of Christ. I do, however, find him powerfully persuasive as a moral philosopher. I can't say the same, really, for St. Paul. So, I'm sympathetic to the approach of highlighting the words of Jesus over and above the other parts of the Bible.

  2. Doug: you have asked the most important question about Christianity, because Christianity stands or falls upon the Bible. I hope that the sites I've linked to are helpful to you - they can go into much more detail than I can if I just put something here in the meta. As always, your comments and statements here are most welcome.