Tuesday, May 29, 2012

This is the Word of God


This post is meant to be primarily a personal testimony to the inerrancy of Scripture, not an argument. Perhaps, though, in some sense my argument in defense of inerrancy is also my testimony. I guess we shall see. Hopefully, you will hear more of an exhortation than a defense. This all originated from a discussion on the topic in the context of the historical nature of Adam and Eve on a comment chain on the Jesus Creed blog, and it has strengthened through memorization and meditation on the Book of 1 Timothy. Memorization can lead to meditation, and meditation always leads to transformation, as my Pastor Dale Shaw says, and models. This is the fruit of that experience.

BACKGROUND

I feel it would be productive to give some background on my experience in these things for any possible newcomers to this blog. To prevent stereotypes being made about me, I’ll just paint a picture to put with my words. The stereotype that may already exist could be exactly right, but at least it won’t be a stereotype anymore, it will be fact. I am 31 year-old, white male from the Midwest, married (for just over two months!), with no children. I am an operations manager for a polyurethane foam fabricator, which is the family business that my grandpa founded and that my father currently owns and manages. I consider myself to be a Christian who happens to be in business, not a businessman who happens to be a Christian, and I feel very convicted that it would be plain disobedience for me to leave this context to go to seminary and full-time ministry, which many have encouraged me towards. I believe the implications of being pastoral in the marketplace with a Christian worldview, a passion for Jesus, involved as a member in a local church, and committed to the authority of Scripture, are not only hugely positive, but also very important, and a calling for which I am very thankful and humbled.

I grew up in the context of a conservative, moral family that participated fairly regularly in the community of an Episcopal Church, where I was baptized as an infant, and confirmed as a teenager. I was presented with the gospel message and the Person and Work of Jesus Christ for the first time in the context of a fraternity at a large public university. Through a loving community and a bold proclamation of the gospel of grace in Jesus, I confronted and admitted my sin, confessed, and received forgiveness in Jesus. After I graduated, God exposed me to the theological foundations of my then-young faith through Scripture, and the writings of certain individuals. Through all this His Spirit convicted me powerfully of the supernatural reality of what had happened in me once and for all (justification and conversion), and also of the nature and fruits of what was continuing to happen to me as evidenced in an increasingly Christ-like existence (sanctification).

During this time, I was confronted with serious challenges to some traditionally held doctrines by people close to me. I soon discovered what those throughout church history have come to know over many years – as articulated by Albert Mohler, that “heresy precedes orthodoxy”. Or, to say it another way, it usually takes a challenge to a biblical truth before that truth is more clearly articulated as orthodox belief (like in the form of a creed). For me, it was initially regarding the Trinity, but then in subsequent years, conversations surrounding the gospel, the church, the historicity of Adam, the creation account in Genesis, assurance of salvation, and so on. There was an underlying trend in all of these examples that I am glad to finally be writing about. Every possible departure from or question of what I understood to be orthodoxy resulted from one main denominator. It always came back to the inerrancy of Scripture.

In the initial experience regarding the Trinity, God, through the accountability of a community of believers, and a passion for and trust in the Bible, convicted me of the importance and fruit of sound doctrine, and guarding the deposit that has been entrusted to us. So, you could say, I have been conditioned to be sensitive to whatever is “contrary to sound doctrine”, as Paul said to Timothy. I don’t think this is a bad thing, and in fact, I think it is a necessary thing in the church, although as you would expect, it comes along with sinful tendencies to judge and jump to conclusions about what people might be saying, or even to a false definition of what is and isn’t “sound doctrine”. I feel like overall I have done a decent job approaching these things with humility, discernment, and awareness of my own sin so as to not weaken my conscience and provoke myself or my discussion partners to anger. I do acknowledge I always need help from God and fellow believers to avoid an "unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people" (1 Timothy 6:4-5).

I attended a non-denominational (well, Christian Church), seeker-sensitive, missional type church for 7 years, and though I had a good experience, I couldn’t shake a lingering frustration and sadness at how vagueness on doctrinal truth, and an only average view and use of Scripture in the preaching and life of the church, seemed to lead to lukewarm Christianity. Not bad people – great people actually; God-fearing and people-loving people. But, in some cases, biblically-illiterate, thin-skinned, lukewarm, more-grace-than-truth Christians; whose uniquely Christian contribution to the surrounding community was not clear, and the fostering of saving faith was perhaps scarce. With a heavy heart, my fiancĂ© (now wife!) and I chose to leave and have since settled at a conservative, truly non-denominational (though originally Baptist) church that preaches verse by verse through the Bible, and describes their mission as “igniting a passion to follow Jesus”. They describe their Sunday services as existing for the main purpose of fueling local and foreign outreach, through the transformed lives, prayer, and giving of their members. They hold a massive prayer service once a month and raised $500K before Christmas for outreach in Pakistan, on top of regular efforts they support around the city and the world. I was baptized by immersion in October, and overall we have been attending for 10 months (members for almost 8), and it is already quite evident what the “fuel” is that ignites this passion to follow Jesus – it is the truth of the gospel found in Scripture. It transforms lives and literally ignites the passion to follow our Lord and Savior, leading to Biblical community and selfless, fruitful missions. For me, I have seen clearly the difference between the lack of this not igniting a passion, and the presence of this actually igniting a real, lasting, cohesive, fruitful passion. I realize not everyone has this specific, clear contrast in experience. But I have had it, and my testimony is what it is.

Finishing the book of 1 Timothy now, we have clearly seen that Paul’s charge to Timothy as a pastor was to guard the truth that leads to life; not just the truth that leads to intellectual ascent; not just the truth that wins arguments; not the truth that changes depending on the modern evidence; not the truth that is subjective and interpreted and prioritized differently depending on your background, experience, or personality; not the truth that is kinda cool and interesting; not the truth that is without grace and love – the truth that leads to life; and the lack of which, leads to death. There is absolute, objective truth that has one interpretation that can be understood and known by man, and that truth leads to life. The Psalmist says, "My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!"

So that is what we as a church are trying to do, and that is what I individually am trying to do, although I recognize this gets complicated (and some would argue unnecessary) when interacting with those from other backgrounds, church affiliations, etc. Obviously I recognize I have no authority over anyone online with my statements, and that no one is accountable to my opinion. But I still believe there is value interacting in public with views that seem to contradict what I (trying to represent Christian orthodoxy) believe to be not in the best interest of the Church. I was driven to the Jesus Creed blog because I came across Scot McKnight when he visited the church I have since left, and as we at the time were going though the Jesus Creed book. I have followed his ministry and been blessed greatly by it, specifically his winsome critique and caution throughout the history of the so-called “emerging church”.

IT’S PERSONAL

At the end of the day, I believe the debate about the inerrancy of Scripture has become quite personal to me. Someone denying the inerrancy of Scripture is closely becoming as absurd to me as someone denying that I am a Christian. I can tell you, I will not abandon my belief in it. Academics and apologists and scientists and atheists and journalists and doctors and professors and (God forbid) pastors have their work cut out for them convincing me that the entire Bible is not the infallible, inerrant, authoritative, completely true, verbally inspired Word of God. I like all those adjectives and I will continue to use them despite the increasing concern that such words alienate non-believers and are an embarrassment to Christians. My conscience is captive to the inerrant Word of God, and to go against conscience is neither right not safe (adaptation on quote from Martin Luther). I will listen to those who disagree, but good luck convincing me. Stubborn, huh?

This blog post is going to try to strike a difficult balance between responding to those who take an academic approach to Scripture, while communicating primarily by means of exhortation to those who take a spiritual and personal approach, and who perhaps doubt or question it without a lot of experience with the academic particulars. My exhortation will hopefully be taken as a help in approaching the Bible so that people see Jesus more clearly. I want people to know and love and trust Scripture, as I do, because I want them to know and love and trust Jesus.

I don’t claim to be a theologian and therefore won’t, at this juncture, reinvent the wheel defending the inerrancy of Scripture from a disciplined, academic, theological perspective. Many have done this, and I am indebted greatly to them (in my generation alone: G.K. Beale, Albert Mohler, Ligon Duncan, D.A. Carson, Michael Horton, etc.). More books are coming out all the time, which confirms the relevancy of this topic, and thankfully, the continued defense of it despite the pressures even within the Evangelical community. Perhaps my interpretation of other well-defended points in defense of inerrancy is for another day. Suffice to say I agree with these people and am thankful that my personal encounter with Scripture can be verified through objective study by those with far more brain power and capacity than yours truly.

I value inerrancy because I believe the Bible to be the revelation of a unique truth about a Person who is God, which cannot be found anywhere else (creation, human thought or discovery, imagination, etc). And the fact that the Bible contains this truth that is the access to this Person, and is reliable as a source for it, and is clear in its presentation of it, is essential to having any confidence that any of us can know it for sure (and therefore know Him for sure), and in turn come to saving faith and have a lasting influence on the world. I suppose it doesn’t have to be “inerrant” to contain this objective, absolute truth and be authoritative, but the reasoning for how it can be the latter without the former is not coherent to me. I am willing to keep listening. If it is God’s Word than it is without error. The working definition I am using of “inerrancy” is that the Bible does not affirm anything contrary to fact in what it teaches. I'm not concerned with what it doesn't teach. Inerrancy by this definition does allow for some limitations in chronology, scientific precision, etc. Inerrancy and authority, for example, is not damaged if the mustard seed is not actually the smallest seed (Matthew 13).

Hopefully I can convince you not to get bogged down with possible factual limitations in a date or a name. Let’s not bicker on the very small amount of discrepancies from the original manuscripts that, even if proved as “error”, are so insignificant to the narrative of the Bible or the message of salvation in Jesus that life is entirely too short to even speak of them. Let’s not talk about the historicity of parables, which Jesus clearly refers to as parables before he explains them, or about clear symbolism in the Bible that is not meant to be taken literally, and no one in Scripture or history, in their right mind, has taken them that way (i.e. much of the Book of Revelation). But let’s talk about the Book of Jonah, which Jesus clearly references as historical, not parable. Let’s talk about those things that are significant and matter because they refer directly to what Jesus said about Himself and about Scripture, and because they relate directly to the gospel. This includes, despite recent debate and supposed scientific and literary evidence, the historical nature of Adam as the first man whose sin impacted every person after him in the form of death and futility and set the stage for the entire redemptive narrative of a Sovereign and gracious God.

MAKING SENSE OF CONSENSUS

I have been interested to learn that some once held to the doctrine of inerrancy, and have been surprised at what it sounds like drove those people from it, namely, intellectual discoveries that seemed to render it invalid. This is shocking to me because a belief in inerrancy does not hold one captive, preventing interaction with other eternal truths revealed outside Scripture, or to anti-intellectualism. Holding to it should never have been dependent on discovery. The foundation of my faith is not an inerrant Bible – it is the Person and Work of Jesus who is the hope of the world. The revelation of Him happens to only be found in that Bible. This is my foundation of knowledge, even while Jesus is the foundation of my faith. Can you have one without the other? I personally come to see Jesus alive and new each day through the pages of Scripture. I don’t think we can encounter Him fully outside of this, though we try. He is the Word of God, and the Bible is the Word of God, so the Bible itself is to us the words of God (grace) revealing Jesus. I do not believe that the Holy Spirit and Scripture can be separated, which is to say, the Holy Spirit can never speak anything contrary to Scripture, and Scripture always speaks through the Holy Spirit to people.

I worry that ultimately what many who deny inerrancy are doing is building the foundation of their understanding of faith, and maybe even the foundation of their faith itself, on academic consensus. To me, that is unsustainable and a constant burden that God did not intend for us. The life, death, resurrection, and enduring promises of Jesus, and how they apply to us individually, the church, and the world, are not fundamentally “intellectually tenable” – they are foolishness (although, of course, the person of Jesus is plenty tenable because He is historical). If everything about our faith has to have an intellectual explanation and academic consensus for it to be considered objectively true, then you might not be left with much in the Christian faith. It is no wonder that it is the Christian “faith”. We need not apologize for the fact that we don’t (and won’t) have all the answers when ministering to non-Christians, and need not worry that such “mystery” in our faith will be an ineffective witness. We do not need to wait on any modern academic community (even the Christian one) to reach consensus on what the Bible clearly communicates as objective truth. In one sense, this is because we already have. Further waiting would essentially be waiting for heresy. To say we are waiting for additional discoveries shows that those discoveries are our foundation for knowledge, not Scripture, which not only puts our faith in something we can’t even know for sure, but also, I think, misunderstands the concept of “progressive revelation”. Revelation is progressive in the sense that the Bible is a narrative communicated over thousands of years, whereby what was less clear in the Old Testament is now more clear in the New. It is not a book of eternal truths, only, that requires progressive discovery or consensus for us to understand.

Besides, we already have a historic consensus. I am very skeptical of those who ridicule church history and orthodoxy more so than embracing it, as if the majority of it was off track. As Ligon Duncan winsomely pointed out in a recent panel on inerrancy at Together For the Gospel, the best of the critics at least admit that the church has always believed that the Bible is inerrant. If now one is convinced that belief must change, so be it. It is the less informed critic who tries to explain that “inerrancy” is not actually what the church fathers, or Paul, or Jesus, believed about Scripture. And it is the less authentic critic who changes his definition of inerrancy or authority to align with current scientific or secular trends.

MY INTUITION IS FALLEN

The other extreme from consensus when it comes to understanding the Bible, is intuition. Michael Christensen in his book C.S. Lewis on Scripture, says, “To fully grasp the essential message of the Bible, an intuitive approach to its literary images is necessary. To try to abstract truth rationally from Scripture or to reduce embodied Reality to absolute propositions is ‘like trying to bottle a sunbeam.’ The Bible simply is not meant to be read that way.”

Hmm. I would contend that if this was the case, I would be in a ditch somewhere. I’m serious; a ditch. Wet and dirty and miserable. And I’d have a worn Bible, and an old smeared piece of cardboard next to me that said, “Help. Please. My intuition is fallen. I can’t experience God and don’t understand this book. What must I do to be saved?”

What the doctrine of inerrancy offers me is confidence that my faith is real. Not dependent on consensus or intuition. It presents the Bible as a clear, true revelation of the God of the Universe that is all we need for life and godliness, and is the only source of the gospel that leads to salvation (however you define “gospel” – some version, hopefully, of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, for individuals and the nation of Israel / the church, and the created order). This is information that is not intuitive and would not be intelligible outside special revelation. Scripture is God’s witness to Himself, not our witness to His revelation. That is a groundbreaking statement. The Bible is not a human attempt to explain God; it is God’s attempt to explain Himself to humans. That is the starting ground for any conversation about the authority and nature of Scripture. And it throws out so many of the “interpretation” or “literary genre” or epistemological arguments almost right away. It does not matter if the eternal truths of God and ultimate reality are unable to be adequately communicated through human language or propositional truth. If God chose to reveal them and translate them in those ways, than the inability of us to communicate these things on our own is irrelevant. Hence, divine inspiration. Nothing is impossible with God. Why was Scripture inspired? So we could understand God and be saved. Francis Schaffer said, “If God doesn’t exist, we’re doomed. If God exists, but doesn’t speak, we’re equally doomed. But if God exists, and speaks, than salvation is in that speech.”

THE GRACE OF CLARITY

We know we need the Bible to make us wise unto salvation, but the question becomes how much do we need it, or do we need all of it, or can some of it be unreliable or with error in a way that does not jeopardize all of it, or even, do we define “error” correctly. I’m personally nowhere near being intellectually or spiritually convinced it is with error, especially on gospel-centered matters. My experience is that patient study of Scripture makes the “contradictions” less of an intellectual stumbling block. The challenge is, are we willing to consider Scripture to be authoritative enough to defend itself? We let science defend itself, so why not Scripture?

Inerrancy helps me understand, appreciate, and benefit from the clarity of Scripture. Theologians call it perspicuity. The Bible fits together and is self-authenticating. When you read it faithfully and comprehensively, the lack of error is almost obvious. The trajectory of the gospel (the narrative of redemption) and the Person and Work of Jesus holds throughout. I have learned this specifically through increased memorization and meditation of the text, and Scripture cross reference, which I consider a much more valuable use of my time than intellectual study outside the Bible (like in Ancient Near-Eastern literature), considering the shortness of life and the brokenness of our world. This is not to say that other study is a waste, or unfruitful – not at all. Nor does this imply that an intellectual approach to Scripture itself is unnecessary or unhelpful. Just, as a Christian, I can’t fathom considering intellectual study outside Scripture even close to on par with the study of, and meditation on, Scripture. This does not change at all if other study is your profession, just as it does not require my main devotion, as a Christian, to be the study of business principles just because that’s my vocation.

To deny inerrancy would include the “fallacy” of begging the question: at what point did we gain the authority to even make the accusation that there are errors, considering its clarity and cohesiveness, and the fact that we are not God? What the heck do we know? I have this picture in my mind of God looking at our discoveries like the equivalent of us watching a baby discover he has a belly button. Not impressive. When we discover things that validate Scripture, we glorify God, but don’t necessarily give ourselves new information required for life that was not already in the Bible. This is another way of saying that Scripture is sufficient for us; not exhaustive, but sufficient. When we discover something that does not validate Scripture, and causes us to re-think it, to God I see this as the equivalent of us re-thinking the purpose of our belly button. The arrogance! Not to mention the ignorance.

C.S. Lewis, whose own views on the inerrancy of Scripture were, to his own admission, partial at best, once said, “Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask - half our great theological and metaphysical problems - are like that.”

The more we are dependent on “intellectual tenability” with stories and doctrines in Scripture, or our own intuition that couldn't possibly grasp Eternal reality cohesively on its own, the less we are going to appreciate the clarity and interconnectedness, which it has and is amazing, and the more we are going to drift into nonsense. This does not mean we can’t benefit from what our own mind or imagination brings to our experience in the text. It also does not mean we can't intellectually question (or answer!) certain difficult to understand texts – just as I believe the “interconnectedness” of evolutionary science does not mean we can’t question certain tenets of evolution (i.e. the creation of a new species through natural selection alone). The key point is that Christianity, just like any other worldview, is a faith claim, yet amazingly, one that does not require us to leave our intellects at the door. The supposed contradictions in Scripture have intellectual explanations. Oh, how my heart breaks for those who weren’t taught to patiently and faithfully look for these things! But Scripture, and salvation, does not require us to have everything perfectly figured out on an intellectual level for it to be true, even while what we need to know is clear. Science, likewise, does not require this, but at the end of the day, when you nail it down to the most unexplainable level, which is your faith claim? Can’t be both. It is not a good sign, I don’t think, when as Christians we continue to try to intellectually explain the unexplainable (i.e. miracles, the virgin birth, etc.) – it shows where our faith is (in human understanding). It shows we are dependent on human explanation.

AN ERRANT BIBLE WON’T PREACH

Inerrancy is important because the Bible is important, because we don’t have hope outside it. To be blunt, an errant Bible won’t preach. Sorry. Intellectual explanations for genre comparisons and scientific findings that expose Biblical contradictions and all that don’t stir the affections, as Edwards would say. Subjective imagination is not going to top objective spoken truth revealing the desire of our hearts (Jesus). Those that say that it is our duty as the church to embrace scientific findings, even if they cause us to rethink traditionally held and theologically crucial doctrines of Scripture - because young, scientific-minded skeptics are walking away from the faith - completely miss the point in my opinion. Those that deny the Savior out of intellectual and moral pride, and use alleged contradictions between science and the Bible as an excuse for their rebellion, do not need our compromise of the infallibility of the Bible. They need our defense of it, and our love to them that will, through Scripture and the Holy Spirit, reveal to them the glory of Jesus, and help them embrace and celebrate science with a Biblical worldview that also embraces and celebrates the non-scientific truth in Scripture.

Science can and should be embraced by Christians, but it isn't going to stir the affections the same way. I think this is because science reveals God, but only Scripture reveals Jesus. So even Christians who happen to be scientists should not confuse the fact that their faith should preach more from their life than their vocation or hobby. Scientists have no more reason to question the inerrancy of Scripture based on findings in their field than do business professionals who are confronted with situations where profit seems to render moral commands in Scripture antiquated.

An inerrant Bible just makes more sense because of its profound truth and compelling narrative. The story of Jonah in the belly of a fish could have only been a metaphorical or poetic story to show God’s compassion for his people and his desire to use us in the spread of the gospel to those people, but if it didn’t actually happen the power of the story falls a little short. It’s not as good. It’s actually pretty silly. Surely God could have inspired a better story than that. Unless it’s true! Like when you watch a movie that is based on a true story there is something additionally powerful that comes through in the message that would have been less lasting had it been only metaphor or myth. I would rather my confidence be in the authority and clarity and actual truth of Scripture, which is inspired by God, than in intellectual consensus of man’s wisdom or creativity interpreting myth, which, if inspired at any level, is not so in the same way. The latter will perish, and just doesn’t captivate me towards the Savior.

The more I read about the “incarnational analogy” about Scripture from BioLogos – that it is both divinely inspired and humanly written, just as Jesus was both fully God and fully man in his incarnation, and so is inherently fallible – the less I understand the comparison, and the more I wonder why they are so quick to remind us of the human element of Scripture, as if that has been ignored or under emphasized in traditional understandings of inerrancy. In no way does this analogy help me understand why inerrancy cannot coexist with human imperfection, just as no verse or passage or underlying idea in Scripture gives me any reason not to fully embrace that God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are completely compatible. Jesus’ humanness did not make him any less God (or even a sinner). How can we dare set one against the other? Jesus was human yet did not sin. The Bible was penned by humans yet is inerrant.

Additionally, the departure from an inerrant view of Scripture inevitably is going to lead to a less robust and grounded faith. Paul warns Timothy of those who have swerved away into vain discussion, made shipwreck of their faith, departed from the faith, wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. What keeps us from this if our view of Scripture is that it is with error? That question is not rhetorical. I really want to know.

WHAT IF?

With all that said, what if the Bible is not inerrant? What if there are some errors that don’t affect the essentials of saving faith? What’s the big deal?

Perhaps nothing. I’m ok with this possibility – IF - the ultimate authority of Scripture can still be intelligible and defended. Some say it can, but it shouldn’t have to be considered authoritative over God’s creation or human experience. I don't think that's going to work. The authority of Scripture, even if errant, will never hold if we don’t elevate it over the authority of God’s revelation in creation and experience. And God’s revelation in creation is actually the authority of academic consensus, because it’s all based on what humans have figured out and think about what God has revealed. Some of it accurate, some of it error. You might say this is the same with the Bible, but now we are comparing the clarity of Scripture with the clarity of science, and considering them equal to me is an abomination. Please consider this comparison carefully. God has not spoken revelation in creation (except in Scripture), whereas in the Bible, “Thus says the Lord.” Science does not contain the truth that leads to life; it cannot die for your sins.

Human experience is even more precarious. There is no way you can get anything objective from experience, and therefore, you can never know for sure if what has been revealed to you about God is true. Might be. But there is no way to know without the testimony of Scripture.

I would challenge one to meditate on Scripture and afterwards try to articulate the whole counsel of God as found in the entirety of Scripture, and with a straight face continue to say that the Bible isn’t an ultimate authority. If it’s not, I would be as bold as to echo Paul as he referenced the truth of the Resurrection – we are most to be pitied. If the clear revelation in Scripture of Jesus Christ crucified and risen, leading to eternal saving faith, is only equal in authority to the revelation of scientific discovery, or human experience, which mainly offers only intellectual understanding, or in some cases, maybe temporal care (as in medicine), than it seems to me, like Esau, we are settling for a bowl of porridge when we could have a lasting feast. We are elevating the authority of our collaborate minds to the same level as the authority of God’s actual words, and even holding the authority of God’s words captive to our own thoughts about what they say. We are more confident that what we figure out about the world, and even about Scripture, is a more definite and trusted authority than (or at least as definite and trusted as) what God says about it Himself. Oh, God forgive us!

MY PRAYER

Christensen in C.S Lewis on Scripture, says, “When eternal realities are transposed into our finite realm, something is lost in translation. A divine concession is made. There is a deficiency of substance when Eternal Truth takes on finite form. The particulars we see and affirm as true are only shadows of the truly Real.”

And elsewhere, “The literary interpretation of Scripture, like myth, is somewhat subjective. Its value depends on the one who receives God’s Word from its pages. Like all great literature, the Bible has several levels of meaning and can meet the individual where he is. To understand Scripture, we should look beyond the language to what is represented, thereby gaining intuitive insight into the nature of reality.”

Oh, that is not my understanding or experience! After reading Christensen, I am starting to realize that maybe there are a lot of people – Christians – who are not seeing, comprehending, or experiencing the eternal God of the Universe through literal and propositional truth found in the narrative of Scripture. Not because they can’t, as Lewis and Christensen would argue, but because they just aren’t. May it never be!

This is my prayer: “Lord, I don’t want a bridge to eternal realities, dependent on my imagination or intuition, or human academic consensus, and I don’t think I need one. I want the real thing. By your power and grace you have not made a divine concession in revealing yourself to us. A mythical manifestation of you that is dependent on an imagination I don’t think I could muster, is not the extent of our experience of your revelation. A real living word – an authentic experience and understanding of objective truth and reality, revealing a real human Person who is God – is revealed to us in finite form by the grace of God. Words! Human language! You desire to know me, and for me to know you, and I know that the incarnation of the Word of God in Scripture through the Holy Spirit reveals the eternal God to me, not exhaustively, but truly and sufficiently. And I receive greater joy and you receive greater glory than if the Bible were not verbally inspired, inerrant, and completely trustworthy and authoritative. Oh, how sad and cruel if subjective imaginative intuitive perception, or fallen human academic efforts, were necessary to experience your glory. Thank you Jesus!”

J.I. Packer said, "Any degree of skepticism about the portrait of Christ, the promises of God, the principles of godliness, and the power of the Holy Spirit, as biblically presented, has the effect of enslaving us to our own alternative ideas about these things, and thus we miss something of the freedom, joy, and vitality that the real Christ bestows. God is very patient and merciful, and I do not suggest that those who fall short here thereby forfeit all knowledge of Christ, though I recognize that when one sits loose to Scripture this may indeed happen. But I do maintain most emphatically that one cannot doubt the Bible without far-reaching loss, both in fullness of truth and of fullness of life. If therefore we have at heart spiritual renewal for society, for churches and for our own lives, we shall make much of the entire trustworthiness–that is, the inerrancy–of Holy Scripture as the inspired and liberating Word of God. (Truth and Power, 55)"

As for me, I will trust and hold Him to His Word.

“If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and the good doctrine you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather, train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it hold promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” – 1 Timothy 4:6-10

1 comment:

Mr. Fellows said...

Profound words, Joseph. Great reflection and thanks for passing this along.