July 11, 2008

Scripture's authority and its humanity

My own continuing investigation into a robust doctrine of Scripture continues (it's an investigation that goes in fits and starts, but is always ongoing, I think). Coming as I do out of a relatively conservative evangelical tradition (my own church home is the Evangelical Free Church) I received and assumed a very conservative view of Scripture, one in which it was all God's Word to me here and now, with it's original context as more of a curiosity than a vital component of study. Saying I received and assume this is to say that it is what I took from what I heard in church, Sunday school, and other places; it isn't to say that is what my pastors and teachers necessarily believed (though I'm sure it is true of some of them). There was a real common-sense approach to Scripture that assumed its perspecuity. I'm greatful for that heritage, and still believe that a strong devotional use of Scripture is essential to the Christian life as we hear how Scripture speaks to us. But I've also been working for the past ten or more years to round out my understanding of Scripture by really coming to grips with the God who speaks in Scripture and by the ways God has revealed himself through its authors and pages. That has meant acknowledging and appreciating the human aspects of God's revelation. They are undeniable, and are often paid lip service, but I think a better appreciation for the phenomenon of Scripture (that is, paying attention to the books we have and how we got them) can heighten our appreciation for how God acts and for what God has chosen to give us. To that end, Peter Enns has a post on his blog from last month that discusses how Scripture's humanity relates to its authority.

Enns writes, "Scripture is God’s word because it is of divine origin. That is the locus of authority, and no discussion of its humanity in any way compromises that authority. What a study of Scripture’s humanity does do is help us see the manner in which the divine author speaks authoritatively into particular ancient cultures. How this authoritative Scripture translates to different times and places, in both its timeless affirmations and contextualized particularity is (I trust this is not too reductionistic) the task of theological study. It is my firm experience, however, that evangelical lay readers, those to whom the book is addressed, are not accustomed to understanding the nature of Scripture this way."

Well said.

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