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Application – the Evangelical Cure-All


What is the bible for?

I've just read a prominent UK evangelical blogger answering: "Application"!

Time to repost this one then...


Like coathangers, we own a hundred bibles but have no idea how they came to be ours.  One of them is called a "Life Application Bible."

As far as I can tell, it exists in order to footnote every biblical indicative so that a moral imperative may be added.  This is, we are assured, the cure to our spiritual malaise.  Just listen to this endorsement on the back cover:

Evangelical Christianity is suffering from an acute case of spiritual malnutrition.  The symptom is well known - defection in personal standards of living.  The cure - Vitamin A - application of God's Word.

This remedy is both refreshing and realistic, calculated to change the will.  Not merely satisfying curiosity or making us smarter sinners, the Scriptures were given to make us more like Jesus Christ.


What's the understanding of the bible here?  The Spirit's testimony to the Son?  Christ's love-letter to His bride?  The deposit of faith given to the church for the sake of proclaiming Christ to the world?  No.  At base the bible is, apparently, given for individual piety.

What kind of anthropology is this?  Change the will and you'll correct the 'defection in standards of living.'  !

What kind of salvation is offered?  Apparently we are not to become merely 'smarter sinners' - well what then?  Do we become subtler sinners?  more self-righteous sinners?  self-satisfied sinners?  There's one option that is assuredly closed to us - that of ceasing to be sinners!  So why not a smarter sinner?

This approach to Scripture and to Christian faith is not good.  And yet, doesn't this kind of thinking throb away beneath much of what passes for evangelicalism?  Isn't the majority of 'evangelical' preaching informed by just such beliefs?  I'd say our spiritual malnutrition is not because of a lack of this kind of application.  We're spiritually anaemic precisely because we have turned the Scriptures into moralistic or therapeutic self-help.  No wonder other Christians deride us as simplistic legalists.

For a thought on what good application is, go here.


4 thoughts on “Application – the Evangelical Cure-All

  1. Phil Allcock

    Hi Glen, I can see your point, but I wonder if there is a false distinction here: I agree the Bible is about Christ, not me, etc. But this does not mean that the Bible is not for application, as Deuteronomy 29:29 indicates. It means that application needs to reflect this. The mistake, the heresy is that we think application means making the passage about me. Blowing our minds with the glories of Christ IS application if I'm preaching Colossians 1:15-20.


  2. Phil Allcock

    Scratch that. Just re-read the article and realised a bleary eye and fuzzy head meant I misread it the first time round :-)

  3. Glen

    Hi Phil - good to hear from you. Blowing minds with the glory of Christ sounds like just the ticket. Absolutely the "fall out" will mean every area of life renewed. The task of the preacher is to make absolutely plain the Origin and Power for that renewal. It must all flow out - and be *seen* to flow out - of faith alone in Christ alone.

    OldAdam - love your clarity as always!! :)

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