Submission to Scripture

Written By Bill Gorman

Campus Pastor - Brookside

Growing up, Boy Scouts was my favorite activity. I loved camping, hiking, knot tying, and fire-making. Even today I get such great satisfaction out of a well-built fire. But the one skill that fascinated me the most in Scouting was map reading and orienteering. I was captivated by the idea that with a good map and a compass you can find your way in the wilderness, even without clearly marked trails.

But to accomplish this feat of navigation requires a posture of submission to the map. If you think you know better than the map, you will end up lost or worse. If in trying to take a short cut, you ignore a cliff or river marked on the map, you may end up with wet feet or a broken leg.

Submitting to Scripture is a lot like submitting to a map.

Both require an acknowledgment that we are in a beautiful but dangerous world. Both require us to conform our steps to what is “written” rather than what is “seen.” And neither can be done safely in isolation. Just like a map took the skill of many to create and refine, so when we read Scripture we enter the community of people through whom God spoke. Our imaginations are invaded by a story that is bigger than our own.

Submission to Scripture is also like submitting to a map in that it takes skill to do it well. This is why map reading is a better metaphor for submitting to Scripture than a GPS. With a GPS, I’m in control. I say where I want to go and the GPS finds the way for me. But with a map, you first have to locate yourself on the map. Find your place in the story. Submit your imagination to something bigger than just where you think you want to go.

It is also a more fitting metaphor because GPS requires very little skill to use well. Most of them you can simply speak to — Get me directions to Starbucks. But to use a map well requires learning and practice. The same is true with Scripture. This is why we often get discouraged when we read our Bibles. We want Scripture to be easy — Get me directions to peace and the good life. But what we find is a sprawling story with many interconnected contour lines that we require work to understand and follow, especially at first.

Yet as we grow in our skill in reading the map of Scripture, we discover the joy in finding our way through the wilderness to Jesus. Because ultimately, when we submit to Scripture, we are submitting to our master Jesus.

It is important to remember that we’re all submitting to someone, and we are all following someone.

This is how one of my professors from seminary, Kevin Vanhoozer, puts it in his book Hearers and Doers:

“Every person is someone else’s disciple. We’re all following somebody’s words, everything from Plato (Greek philosophy) to platitudes (like the ones we find in fortune cookies). We have all imbibed somebody’s vision of wellness, somebody’s ideal of health, somebody’s idea of fitness. Reading the Bible theological, as teaching from God, of God, and leading us to God, is our only hope for breaking free from the pictures that hold us captive.” (Kevin Vanhoozer, Hears and Doers, 85)

Submitting to the map is only a burden if you want to get lost and hurt. Submitting to Scripture is only oppressive if we want to stay lost. It is only a burden if we want to remain captives. The paradox of submission to Christ is that it is the only way to freedom.



Week 4 of 8 Submission

1 Comment

  1. Eben Fowler

    Great analogy Bill!


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