Karl Barth is reputed to have said:
Jesus does not give recipes that show the way to God as other teachers of religion do. He is Himself the way,
only nobody knows when or where he said it.
I’m glad someone said it, because it encapsulates the conservative’s rejection of fundamentalism. (No, you do not have to be a liberal to reject fundamentalism.) Fundamentalism, and evangelicalism (up until the last ten years) has maintained that the Bible is inerrant in wording, theology (and often science). Conservatives who do not express inerrancy as one of their beliefs, view the Bible from the viewpoint of Jesus. Jesus is the Word, not the Bible. Yes, the Bible describes Jesus, and therefore the Bible is revered, but the Bible is not “the Word of God”, Jesus is.
When the church fathers gathered together the writings of the early church, and put them together, they discussed back and forth which books should go in the accepted pile (the Cannon), and which books were weaker. The main criteria was how each book testified about Jesus. Jesus was the template they held up to each book to see if that book deserved to go into the accepted pile.
That is why Martin Luther did not like James. He said James did not point to Jesus very much. I disagree with him. I find the law of liberty (James 1:25) and how it makes us live (James 2) if we really believe in it, a tremendous encouragement, and a contretemps to the guilt motivations so common in fundamentalist churches, and an utter contradiction of the belief that the “law of liberty” is the five acts of worship. The five acts of worship do not motivate people to love the poor people that walk into the assembly. I heard my parents say that up into the 1960s it was common practice for a deacon (in Churches of Christ in the south) to quietly whisper to any black family, that accidentally came into the (all white) assembly, directions to the black Church of Christ across town. They were expected to leave immediately. (The deacon thought he was doing them a favor. After all, wouldn’t they be more comfortable there? This behavior is worse than the worst behavior James can imagine in an assembly in James 2.)
Each one of us actually does the same thing as Luther did when we choose favorite Bible passages or favorite books. We are saying, “This book breathes God’s breath into me more than the other books.” We do the same with hymns, preachers and writers.
The Bible never describes itself as inerrant. First of all, the Bible seldom (actually never) describes itself as a whole. Paul told Timothy that the Hebrew Scriptures that Timothy had known from childhood that had been taught to him by his mother and grandmother (this is before the New Testament was written) were God-breathed, and profitable for teaching, etc…that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” II Tim 3:16
It is ironic that Paul thought the Hebrew Scriptures were sufficient to make a man perfect, in conflict with the Churches of Christ who teach that the book of Acts and the letters of Paul are what makes a man perfect, and to prove it they quote II Tim 3:16, with a straight face.
Notice that Paul said the Hebrew Scriptures were God-breathed. He never said, “inerrant”. He never said, “scientifically accurate even in allegorical stories”. All he said was that when you read the Hebrew Scriptures you are breathing the breath of God.
The Ten Commandments are referred to by the Hebrew writers as the Ten Words. Then along comes John who says Jesus is the Word (John 1). When we replace the New Testament Greek Bible as the focus of our allegiance, or make it equal to our allegiance to Christ, we do something that no early Christian ever did. Jesus is the Word. Not the New Testament. Jesus.
I remember one of my preaching mentors (yes, in the hard line Church of Christ) saying to us young preachers: “Don’t say, ‘We have no creed but the Bible.’ Say, ‘We have no creed but Christ.‘” Now isn’t that amazing?