Bible (was Re: YEC Destroying Faith)

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Tue Apr 20 2004 - 09:03:03 EDT

Howard J. Van Till wrote:

> Now, as I have said before, I treasure the biblical text for what it can
> tell me about the beliefs and practices of the ancient Hebrews and the early
> Christian community, but I see no warrant whatsoever for this concept of
> biblical inspiration. ................

Howard -

        This way of describing the Bible seems at 1st glance to regard it as
"uninspired," but everything really depends on how "the beliefs and practices of the
ancient Hebrews and the early Christian community" came to be what they were. In
particular, how (if at all) is God understood to be involved in the development of those
beliefs and practices?

        One answer would be that God is no more involved in the development &
transmission of those beliefs than God is with the beliefs & practices of any other
culture. Then one might try to extract some basic religious ideas held in common by the
Bible, the Qur'an, the Bhagavad Gita &c - a not uncommon liberal (non-pejorative)
approach. But that is not the only possibility. Christians can argue that the Bible
does indeed contain "the beliefs and practices of the ancient Hebrews and the early
Christian community" _and_ that God was involved in a distinctive way in the history of
those communities in such a way that the Bible can be said to be "the Word of God"
expressed in the words of those human beings.

        This makes sense especially if one understands God's revelatory activity to be,
1st of all, not the biblical text but God's action in the history of Israel which
culminates in Jesus. The Bible as witness to, & reflection on, this action is then in
itself part of that history.

        An implication of your remarks is that "non-coercive" divine action in the
development of scripture would lead us to expect that the concepts, language &c of the
Bible would be those available in the cultures of the Bible's human authors. We need to
avoid dogmatism about what that might mean because of course there are individuals whose
thinking seems to transcend their culture. But in general this makes it reasonable
that, e.g., what the Bible says about creation doesn't make use of scientific concepts
that only came into being many centuries later.

        Such a view is, I think, consistent both with a process view of divine action &
a view that such action takes place cooperatively & kenotically with created agents.
(We need a new word that combines those latter 2 concepts.)

        Of course some will object to the idea of anything like a superior revelation
given in one culture & not another - the old "scandal of particularity." But if God's
action is indeed limited to what's available in the culture (either by process dynamics
or kenosis) it's probably what we should expect. Cultures aren't interchangeable.

George L. Murphy
Received on Tue Apr 20 09:05:38 2004

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