The Bible and the early church
In his review, Greear took issue with Stanley claiming that the early church relied on the Resurrection of Jesus when evangelizing rather than the Bible.
“When you anchor the authority of your teaching to the Bible, you reinforce an assumption that has the potential to weaken rather than establish faith,” wrote Stanley in Irresistible.
While agreeing that saying “the Bible says” in modern American culture would not be effective in witnessing, Greear rejected Stanley’s claim that the early church lacked a Bible as historically inaccurate.
“Of course it is true that in the 1st three centuries they did not carry around the completed, leather-bound Bible we currently do. But Paul’s letters were passed around between the churches and were already being referred to, during Paul’s life, as ‘Scripture,’ like the Old Testament,” wrote Greear.
“Critics of the early Christian movement, in fact, made fun of them for being a bookish people. Paul told the Corinthians that if they were truly spiritual they would acknowledge his writings as the very commandments of the Lord (1 Cor. 14:37).”
Greear added that “even without a completed Bible the early church was still a ‘thus says the Lord’ community, centered on the Scriptures.”
In part three, Stanley responded that Greear actually made a point in Stanley’s favor when he wrote: “Sure, it wasn’t the completed leather-bound thing we carry around now …”
“By the way, that leather-bound thing we carry around is ‘The Bible.’ The gospel of Matthew isn’t ‘The Bible.’ Neither is Genesis,” replied Stanley. “When I refer to the Bible, I’m referring to what 99 percent of folks think of when they hear ‘The Bible.’”
While agreeing with Greear’s explanation about the early church and its relationship to Scripture, Stanley reiterated that “they didn’t call it ‘The Bible.’”
“And that is an important distinction in my way of thinking and preaching to this generation. And folks today need to know that ‘The Bible’ is a title,” stated Stanley.