Revelation redefined? (was: RE: Seely's Views 2)

From: Peter Ruest <pruest@mysunrise.ch>
Date: Fri Sep 03 2004 - 14:16:03 EDT

Bob Barnett wrote: "If we allow for imperfection in God's revelation in
Scripture, then we open a door that I don't think we want to enter...."
and Don Winterstein answered: "The Bible itself witnesses that it is
imperfect."

Bob's statement: "We assume inerrancy in the biblical text - that
everything claimed by Scripture to be true is indeed true!" was
countered by George Murphy with: "& of course like all fundamentalists
you assume that 'true' = 'accurate historical narrative,' an assumption
manifestly at odds with many parts of the biblical texts as well as
common sense. This contributes nothing useful to the discussion."

As an answer to Glenn Morton, Don wrote: "Glenn, coming as you do from a
YEC background, you seem to have swallowed the 'Wonderful One-Hoss Shay'
view of the Bible common to some YECs, namely, that every part of the
Bible is perfectly created and is as good as every other part."

What is imperfect - God's revelation in Scripture, or our understanding
of it? And are there only the two extremes of seeing Scripture as either
God's verbal dictation or as an odd collection of writings whose "level
of divine inspiration" is subject to the whims of the readers? At this
point, the exchange of views seems to have again degenerated to the
level of black-and-white painting.

I don't remember having seen any earlier posts of Bob Barnett, but I
would agree with all he wrote on 31 Aug 2004. It's up to him to tell us
whether George's characterization is adequate. I would certainly object
to being answered in such a way, as it would be a distortion of my
views. I also object to George's use of the term "fundamentalist" in the
perverted sense it is used by some journalists.

As for Glenn, I know him from many earlier contributions of his, and so
I know he is certainly no longer guilty of the type of YEC absolutism
Don is charging him with. If I understand both Glenn's and Bob's quests
correctly, it is to make sure our acceptance of any biblical statements
or teachings is not dependent on our own whims.

Hardly anyone would doubt that the Scriptures are imperfect in the sense
of giving incomplete information about any subject (as any text of
limited size is bound to do). But they can still be perfect in the sense
of transmitting to us exactly what God wants us to have under our eyes.
So, are they perfect or imperfect? Perfection is not identical with
completeness of information, nor with formulation in accordance with
some preconceived idea (like modern scientific language).

What does it mean to say they are "inspired by God"? It certainly is
qualitatively different from Dora Lazurkina being inspired by Lenin! How
do we know what is inspired? The existential aspect of God's Spirit
directly bearing witness with our spirit (Rom.8:16) must not be equated
with some subjective feeling, and it can never be independent of the
text of God's written Word. This text is the only thing we objectively
have in hand. Of course its interpretation requires sound exegesis.

How does God reveal the truth? In Christ, he did it by making "himself
nothing" and "humbling himself" (Phil.2:7-8). In the Scriptures, he used
fallible writers, copiers and translators making mistakes, and a
canonization process by fallible theologians. In creation, he left it to
fallible scientists to find out the nature and history of "the heavens
and the earth". In a sense, each of these self-disclosures has a certain
amount of ambiguity - presumably required to foster a personal love
relationship between humans and himself, requiring a free-will decision.
Yet nothing of this can be accounted for in a merely "natural" way,
without God's active intervention. Jesus could not be nothing but human.
The Bible cannot be understood if treated as a merely human book.
Creation resists "nothing-buttery" (MacKay) explanations.

Just as God has (due to quantum uncertainties) countless possibilities
of guiding "natural" processes without touching his "natural" laws, he
has countless possibilities of guiding a writing prophet without
overpowering his personality and thinking, and of guiding the
canonization process. When interpreting a biblical text, we must take
into consideration the possibility of finding concordances with truth
(reality) going beyond what the writer "could know at that time". After
all, there are also plenty of genuine prophecies in the Scriptures.

Is "accommodation" to human errors (of fact and ethics) really needed?
Looking for anthropomorphisms and ambiguities in language, unknown
circumstances, and incompleteness of accounts is a must before we too
easily call for divine accommodation.

I am deeply troubled by the way Bob's and Glenn's central claims are not
being understood, or not being respected. Treating large parts of
Scripture as often erroneous opinons of ancient writers (myths etc.),
with God "accommodating" to them, begs the question of understanding
God's intentions behind the texts as we have them.

So, what is inspiration and revelation?

Peter

-- 
Dr. Peter Ruest, CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland
<pruest@dplanet.ch> - Biochemistry - Creation and evolution
"..the work which God created to evolve it" (Genesis 2:3)
Received on Fri Sep 3 14:33:48 2004

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