Nov 102013

1893729389sMany teachers and preachers speak with great authority and then say, “This is not me speaking. I’m only telling you what the Bible says.” But that assertion is always dangerous. When we apply the Bible to any particular situation we are interpreting. This is another case when one’s words can seem very pious, but actually border on sacrilege. What could be more pious than simply speaking God’s words and never adding anything of your own to them? But there is the problem. You and I are not capable of speaking “just what the Bible says.” There is always something of our own thinking and interpretation in what we have to say.

The honest thing to do is to admit that what we say is our interpretation, and leave the accuracy of our interpretation open to discussion and discernment. At the same time, no matter how
forcefully someone says that what they say is simply God’s truth, whether they claim that they got it by hearing directly or by reading and interpreting sacred documents, discernment is always up to the individual hearer.

A word of prophecy must be tested. An interpretation of scripture must be tested. Everything must be tested using the intelligence God gives you and the wisdom he promises (James 1:5).

When People Speak for God, p. 78

May 312013

I’ve commented before that ignoring what the Bible actually is does not respect the text, whether God is the author in a direct sense, or the one who inspired it, we still need to see it as it is if we are to respect that revelation. And I suspect that respecting it is essentially to actually receiving the revelation intended.

I have not, however, said it as bluntly as Mike Beidler, quoted by James McGrath.

I would note that Mike Beidler is a contributor to the recent Energion title From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls.

Jul 102012

I just completed a post on my Participatory Bible Study blog which includes a couple of pages from the book When People Speak for God.

I’ve been connecting one’s understanding of inspiration and extended reading of the Bible for some time. In my view, we have tended to focus on inerrancy and simultaneously on the bits and pieces of scripture. A broader view of inspiration can go well with a broader view of scripture. This is not universal. Many advocates of inerrancy also view scripture broadly while many who oppose it tend to ignore what it says. The stereotypes tend not to work!

From Inspiration to UnderstandingI’ve used these ideas in teaching and in publishing. I started a Bible study series, co-authored a book on how to study the Bible, and wrote a book on inspiration, for which this web site is named. Then as a publisher, I published another book, From Inspiration to Understanding: Reading the Bible Seriously and Faithfully. That book could serve as the big brother to mine, even though it was written later. If it had been written earlier, it could have provided many footnotes for my own book.

In addition, I’ve written a few pamphlets, available in PDF format for downloading. You can print as many as you need free of charge.

There are a few more listed on this page.

Finally, I’ve had the idea of seeing the whole of scripture emphasized to me when editing a recent book, Creation in Scripture by Herold Weiss. What Dr. Weiss has done is look beyond Genesis in forming a scriptural doctrine of creation. It’s easy to say that one ought to go beyond Genesis, but the argument tends to stay in the first couple of chapters of Genesis even so. It’s interesting to see the broader commentary of scripture shape up.

Feb 072012

Joel Watts has started a discussion on the nature of inspiration, comparing the breathing of the Spirit into the text of scripture with the coming of the Holy Spirit into the church and the individual.

Thus far he has gotten little discussion, and he think his ideas deserve some further discussion. This reminds me of a couple of paragraphs I wrote for my book When People Speak for God (which this web site supports):

. . . 2 Timothy 3:16 provides us with the word “theopneustos” or “God-breathed” which has been made to carry a great deal of freight. But when God breathed into Adam he didn’t make him inerrant, he made him alive. What exactly is the content of a text that is God-breathed? But this issue applies much more to verbal inspiration. The evidence against verbal inspiration is very strong in the text and the history itself. There are certainly words that are attributed to God, but there are also words that are clearly not attributed to God. The synoptic problem presents us with clear evidence that the gospel writers copied from one another, that there are different sources in the Pentateuch, Samuel, and Kings, just as examples (237, 238).

The breathing of the Holy Spirit finds its roots, I believe, in this earlier breath of God and thus both provide an excellent analogy for the breathing of scripture. Theopneustos itself requires more definition; it doesn’t provide an adequate definition for inspiration in and of itself.

Jan 282012

Scot McKnight has a post asking this question, starting from a book he’s read. This is a few days old, but that just adds more discussion in the comments!

Just in case anyone wonders, my position–the position I argue for in my book–is that God still speaks today. In fact, my aim in the book was to provide a coherent and simple theology for understanding how God speaks at any time and place.