Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Defining Inspiration

In my earlier days I did some baseball umpiring, and while I had a few conflicts over my judgement (or my eyesight), any disputes about the actual rules of the game were easy to settle: "here's the rule book coach: Rule 8 - Section 4 - heading 'A': 'blah blah blah.' Coach reads and then shakes his head in agreement. The rule book was always appealed to as the final authoriy, and it was agreed by everyone that this would be the source for settling disputes.

In matters of faith, the follower of Jesus makes a similar claim, but one needs to be careful, because if the analogy is carried too far, the Scriptures are reduced to nothing more than a rule book, legalistically decreeing an ethical code of conduct to which we must all adhere. When it is only this, it becomes a weapon used to beat people up. When it is never this, having been stripped of it's authority, the church becomes shaped more by the forces of culture than by God's spirit.

The Bible declares itself to be 'God-breathed' and this means that God is the originator of the Bible's books; but it doesn't mean that God overuled the individual personalities of the prophets and poets who wrote the various books. And this, of course, is where the dilemma enters in: God is the source, and because of this the Bible is the supreme authority when it comes to matters of faith and the meaning of both God and humankind in the universe. Yet man is the agency through which the Scriptures are delivered, and because of this, the cultural context must be considered as part of the interpretive process.

My concern lies with the errors that arise on both ends. We can stress neither divine origin, nor human agency at the cost of the other. To make this practical, when we talk about ethical issues, we need to be careful to avoid 'decontstructing' historical interpretations by just waving our hands and saying, 'well we all know Paul hated women so .... etc. etc.' Careful reading and scholarship reveals we don't know that at all.

On the other hand, we need to be careful to not blindly shout a text (Paul says "women should be silent" so no teaching etc. etc.) without considering the historical context and other texts from both the same and different human authors of the Bible.
When we do this we come to a point of seeing that this matter of interpreting the Bible is harder than it first appears. When it comes to Romans 1...well I'm going to save that for another entry.

Here's a link to standard definitions of inspiration. Enjoy


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