Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Bible is inspired... *Full stop*

(Inspiration, by Lars Justinen)

Another portion of my essay on 'What do we mean when we say the Bible is the Word of God?' , edited for this blog:

The mechanism of how exactly did God inspire the scripture will not be discussed here because it is an impossible discussion in the first place.[8] Yet some clarifications on this matter are appropriate.

Millard J. Erickson has listed some working models available to elucidate the scripture’s inspiration. They are the intuition theory, illumination theory, dynamic theory, verbal theory, and dictation theory.[9] Seeing that none of them are adequate, he introduced his own theory, which is a combination of some of the characteristics of the other theories he has listed. We find elements from each of the theories juxtaposed together in his own theory.

For instance, his recognition of the combination of the divine and human elements in scripture’s inspiration is a characteristic of the dynamic theory. Another one is his quasi-dictation characteristic which is derived from the dictation theory.[10] There are others like A. T. B. McGowan who argues in a similar way like Millard J. Erickson.[11]

All these theories (including that of Erickson and McGowan) on scripture’s inspiration assume a certain understanding of the ways the infinite and eternal God acts and relates in our finite and temporal world on an abstract and analogical level. No doubt there are others who argue for a more concrete way to explain inspiration by drawing analogy from the incarnation of Jesus,[12] yet since the understanding of the interaction and relation between these two different categories can never be achieved even with slightest notion due to our inability to acquire any analogy on the side of the infinite and eternal, then it is an over-blown and unchecked ambition to construct an analogy based on it.

At best, we may follow the Ecumenical Council’s dogmatic declaration of its hypostatic union (the divine and human natures of Jesus is united in his one person), which is far from having any positive cognitive value on the matter. (This sort of discussion parallels the philosophical discussion in neurosciences and metaphysics on ‘determinism versus freewill’). In the end, we are left only with the liberty to recognize and draw the boundaries of such discourse on one end (a feat which we undertook in this essay), while, following John Webster, to affirm a dogmatic sketch of how the Bible is divinely sanctified. He argues that sanctification is the process of being “elected, shaped and preserved to undertake a role in the economy of salvation.”[13] A process which Rowan Williams similarly saw as producing a “movement” that communicates God to and for God’s people.[14]

[8] A fact recognized in the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Article VII”, in Stephen Nichols and Eric Brandt, Ancient Word, Changing Worlds (USA: Crossway, 2009), 163. "We affirm that inspiration was the work in which God by His Spirit, through human writers, gave us His Word. The origin of Scripture is divine. The mode of divine inspiration remains largely a mystery to us." (Italic added).

[9] Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd Edition (USA: Baker Books, 2004), 231-233.

[10] Ibid, 243-244. You may do a comparison study of his own theory with those he listed on page 231-233. You may notice that Erickson is trying hard to preserve God’s determining sovereignty on one side and human’s freewill on the other, without letting each coincides or overrules the other. As I shall noted slightly further down, such attempt is impossible.

[11] A. T. B. McGowan, The Divine Authenticity of Scripture (USA: IVP Academic, 2008). Instead of ‘inspiration’, he argues for the ‘spiration’ of scripture. Add to that he thinks that ‘inerrancy’ is irrelevant and unbiblical (p.209). A stark contrast from Erickson.

[12] See Peter E. Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation, (USA: Baker Academic, 2005), Charles C. Ryrie, What You Should Know about Inerrancy (USA: Moody Press, 1981), Gordon Lewis, “The Human Authorship of Inspired Scripture” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler (USA: Zondervan, 1979).

[13] John Webster, Holy Scripture (USA: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 26.

[14] “The Spirit’s work as ‘breathing’ God’s wisdom into the text of Scripture is not a magical process that removes biblical writing from the realm of actual human writing; it is the work of creating one ‘movement’ out of the diverse historical narratives and textual deposits that represent Israel’s and the Church’s efforts to find words to communicate God’s communication of summons and invitation. The Spirit through the events of God’s initiative stirs up those words and makes sense of them for the reader/hearer in the Spirit-sustained community.” Rowan Williams, The Bible Today: Reading & Hearing, http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/1718 (accessed 24 November 2009).

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