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The Inspiration of the Bible

Anselm of Canterbury was the first to attempt ...

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As with so many other subjects that I dare to approach, I must begin by saying that I am truly an apprentice in the trade of biblical interpretation. I have earned my wings, so to speak, but I am far from a master. I can take off with the best of them, but my landings sometimes rattle my teeth.

With that caveat in mind I bravely sally forth thusly. To say that I am perplexed concerning the attitude of certain “Christian” leaders in regard to the inspiration of Scripture is to put my response mildly. Sometimes I am amused, sometimes I am frustrated, and sometimes I am deeply angered. What I would really appreciate is a straightforward statement from these authors and lecture-circuit speakers detailing exactly what they believe Scripture is, and how that view of Scripture informs their view of Jesus Christ.

Here are a few of the questions that I have regarding those who claim to have a “high” view of the inspiration of Scripture, yet through their writings and sermons demonstrate a very low view of that inspiration. If a text bears the name of a man who claims to be its author, how can you summarily dismiss that claim based on assumptions that you read back into that text? How can you posit an evolutionary development of an author’s writings when you dismiss certain writings claiming to be from that author, and especially in light of the fact that we do not have definite knowledge of the order in which those writings were produced? How can you so lightly dismiss the opinions and conclusions of scholars writing a mere century or so removed from the autographs and yet hold so unswervingly to the “assured results of scholarship” produced two millenia (or more) after the authors of the various biblical writings died?

I am enough of a scholar to know that our insight of the biblical texts amounts to a tea cup in the comprehensive ocean of all possible knowlege. It is the pinnacle of arrogance to suggest that we, in the 21st century, have a lock on the living and active Word of God. But I am a child of tradition enough to know that we believe in order that we may understand (to quote that fine theologian, Anselm).

To disbelieve is the first act of disobedience. And to minimize the power of the Word of God by suggesting its claims are false or somehow invalid in our advanced and supposedly more enlightened culture is the first act of disbelief. We cannot hear the blessings of Matthew 5 without listening to the judgments of Matthew 23. We cannot bask in the glow of 1 Corinthians 13 if we excise chapters 5-7 and the last half of chapter 14 (among the other “odious” sections of the letter). The promises of Revelation 19-22 are meaningless if we do not first contemplate the warnings of Revelation 1-3.

We don’t get to choose which portions of Scripture are inspired and which portions we conveniently get to ignore. This is especially true since we seem to be incapable of reading the text without inserting our own conservative, liberal, Republican, or Democrat biases back into the text. 

We either stand under the text as disciples of  the incarnate Christ or we stand over it as judges of human literature. The one position denied us is standing within the text as copy editors.

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