Inspiration &c (Was Re: Concordist sequence--why be a concordist?)

From: George Murphy (
Date: Fri Jun 27 2003 - 08:59:04 EDT

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    Terry M. Gray wrote:
    > George Murphy wrote:
    > >
    > >
    > > Whether or not scripture is described as "revelation" is a
    > >matter of theological
    > >opinion. The Bible itself never uses the word of itself or parts of
    > >itself. I think
    > >it's better to make clear the distinction between God's
    > >self-revelation in the history
    > >of Israel culminating in Christ and the inspired written witness to
    > >it. All sorts of
    > >aberrations can result (though of course they don't have to) if one
    > >tries to read
    > >scripture as an inerrant or infallible text independent of its
    > >function as witness to
    > >revelation.
    > >
    > > Earlier I quoted snippets from the ELCA constitution. More
    > >fully, after
    > >speaking of Christ and proclamation of law & gospel, it says:
    > >
    > > "The canonical scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are
    > >the written Word of
    > >God. Inspired by God's Spirit speaking through their authors, they
    > >record and announce
    > >God's revaltion in Jesus Christ. Through them God's Spirit speaks
    > >to us to create and
    > >sustain Christian faith and fellowship for service in the world."
    > >
    > > Of course this is not an infallible definition but I think is
    > >a useful one. It
    > >does not use the term "inerrant", I think wisely. The term is so loaded with
    > >connotations of "accurate historical account" that I'm afraid it's pretty much
    > >unsalvageable.
    > George,
    > I'm not arguing here for inerrancy, but "merely" inspiration--that
    > scripture is God-breathed and thus God's definitive and unique
    > written Word recording and announcing God's revelation in redemptive
    > history. It is fully legitimate to call it God's Word. Whether you
    > call that revelation is a semantic issue. In the much of the modern
    > parlance, "witness to" puts the full weight on the human faith
    > community's reflection. Our on-going reflections are seen to be of
    > the same flavor. Inspiration is seen in a much more generic sense
    > ("the awesome nature scene 'inspired' me to write this poem" or
    > "watching God do this amazing miracle 'inspired' me to write about
    > it") than the unique "God-breathed" or prophetic "carried along by
    > the Spirit" meaning that is fouind in scripture. This fully human
    > "witness to" is not the traditional view--it is not the view
    > reflected in the ELCA statement from which you have quoted.
    > The ELCA statement also rightly points to the work of the Spirit
    > through the scriptures. This promise and expectation cannot be made
    > in reference to any other human writings.
    > You may be correct in your assessment about the connotations of the
    > word "inerrancy" although I know of plenty of conservative Reformed
    > theologians who understand it in a reasonably nuanced way that avoids
    > the problems you attach to it--including B.B. Warfield and A.A. Hodge
    > who wrote the original piece in *The Fundamentals*. Many modern
    > inerrantists are much less nuanced then those who defined the term.

            "Enthusiasm" (/Schwaermerei/)is a rather broad term which originally was applied
    to some in the radical wing of the Reformation who claimed to have special input from
    the Holy Spirit independently of the written Word. It usually has an individualistic
    implication. But when Luther said "Pope and Enthusiast are the same" he meant that the
    error, as the Reformers saw it, of the Roman church in developing doctrines and rules
    supposedly from tradition, without biblical warrant, was of the same character.

            Many RC theologians today would agree that things like the Marian dogmas do
    have to be supported scripturally, and not simply asserted on the basis of
    extra-biblical tradition. OTOH, Protestants should recognize that doctrines and
    practices have developed over the course of time: While there is certainly plenty of
    trinitarian material in the NT, one can't simply read classical trinitarian doctrines,
    as they were formulated in the 4th century, out of the Bible. & while the NT recognizes
    some kind of legitimacy of human slavery, very few Christians today would try to defend
    it. & it isn't too much of a stretch to say that the Christian opposition to slavery in
    the 19th century which was largely responsible for its abolition was a result of
    guidance by the Holy Spirit.

            Those brief comments hardly settle the matter but I think just point up a major
    issue for Christians: How do we take both the authority of scripture and the ongoing
    activity of the Spirit - including insight into our experience of the world - seriously?

            I think Howard has made a good point in distinguishing the claim to special
    spiritual insight characteristic of Enthusiasm from the appeal to an experience
    available to all people, after the manner of scientific observation. The problem with
    the approach he's advocating is not so much that of Enthusiasm as of independent natural
    theology. But there may be some connections worth exploring.


    George L. Murphy

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