Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Inspiration and Inerrancy

I must confess that I do not understand all the fuss from those who insist upon belief in the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture but see the Bible as a book.  It amazes me that people would argue so hard for a book as if that were the meaning of the inspiration of Scripture and its truthfulness.  I know some of you readers of this blog will have heard some of these words before but they are worth another look.

The word inspiration literally means God breathed.  What does that mean?  The breath of God is not some magical force for human inspiration.  The breath of God is His life, breathed into creation and especially into the dust of the earth that man might live - a living being formed in the image and likeness of his Creator.  I don't get very excited about a God breathed book.  What I am in awe of is a living voice, that is filled with the breath of God to call forth life in the hearer, that speaks forth the Word of God (Christ), and has the power to do what it claims.  The amazing reality of Scripture is not that it comes from God or that it speaks without error.  These are all well and good, I suppose, but they pale in comparison to the efficacy of Scripture.  It is a living Word, a life giving Word, that brings forth what it proclaims, does what it promises, and gives what it speaks.  It is alive not because of something in the character of the book or its words but because Scripture is the mouthpiece of God and the voice of Christ, the Word made flesh.

We spend way too much ink and energy trying to protect the Bible.  From whom?  If it is God's book, let Him protect and defend it.  It is not a treasure we are to guard against devaluing.  It is a living voice we are called to hear, that by hearing we might believe, that by believing we might be forgiven, restored, and reclaimed to the life with God that He intended -- a  live without end, distance, tragedy, sorrow, or pain.  We need to spend more energy and effort proclaiming the efficacy of Scripture and worry less about those who attack its credibility or question its source.  Reason is a wonderful gift of God but no one is ever reasoned into the kingdom of God.  Faith cometh by hearing and hearing the Word of God... it was drilled into me in catechism some 43 years ago.

Those who do not understand Scripture to be efficacious must circle the wagons and protect Scripture from its detractors, argue the fine points of inspiration and inerrancy, and hold it up as a book of truth (but with the fear that if any error can be found, the whole house will fall like cards).  Lutherans are not comfortable with propositional truth.  Our truth is living and active, mystery and paradox, received and believed though not fully understood until paradise releases us from the barriers mortal life and creaturely understanding now limits.  We believe in a sacramental Word that is itself a means of grace -- the gracious Word that does what is says and delivers on all its promises.  This is the Word that is God breathed and breathes God to us, that forgives, restores, uplifts, encourages, sustains, nourishes, nurtures, and still more.

We are forever trying to box up God in the cardboard of human reason and too often inspiration and inerrancy are merely two of the sides of this box.  We do this to our harm.  God is not to boxed up in a neat carton but unfolded and delivered to the world, the Word that we pray may not be bound, but have free course and be preached to the joy and upbuilding of Christ’s holy people, that in steadfast faith we may serve You and in the confession of Your name abide unto the end...

For this reason, I believe that our adoption of the language of fundamentalism and Protestantism in the Synod (some relate back to the official position of Synod from the words of Missouri's Brief Statement of 1932) is a tragic mistake.  We do not have much in common with most of those who banter about these words of inspiration and inerrancy because what they relate to is for us not a book of words but the living Word, the God breathed and God breathing Living Word who makes known the Word made flesh and leads us from death to life in Him and through Him.

I do feel better having said this... but I feel like you cannot ever stop saying this... not ever...


KathyS said...

Amen, brother! Keep on saying it! As you will notice in GOOD NEWS, we almost always have "living" in front of "Word" when referring to God's Word. One translator complained to us about the constant repeating. However, until this is part of the very fabric of who we are as Christians, we will not quit repeating it!

Rev. RS said...

Alas, I have learned this the hard way, having spent the last three months and countless emails arguing, cajoling, and trying with all my might to prove to a gentleman of my congregation that the Bible is inerrant, after he told me one day he didn't believe in sola scriptura. It finally hit me (after a brother pastor and former professor of a seminary gently told me) that I do not have to defend the Word, and only the Holy Spirit can convict someone of the truth of God's Word, not my clever ministrations or wise persuasions.
Will this man ever get it? That's not for me to worry about. Presently, he is enamored with another denomination that does not hold to inerrancy, and thinks that the Bible contains nonessential words, personal opinions, and even mistakes by the authors. You're right, it is God's Word.

RobbieFish said...

Excellently said. Just the other day I was talking with a Sunday Bible class about "how to talk about the faith" and someone brought up how she likes to hand out Ken Ham's pamphlets on creationism. I told her, basically, "Apologetics is OK if you're reassuring a Christian who is feeling doubt. But as witnesses of Christ, our job is not to argue with people until they are convinced, but to proclaim God's message and trust Him to handle the results."

I think this goes hand-in-glove with the distinction of inerrancy vs. efficacy. As a hermeneutic, inerrancy takes us no farther than "we have to take this seriously" and obviously does NOTHING to stave off false teachings (e.g. of the Pentecostals). As a standpoint for outreach it forces us to worry about winning arguments with reason & evidence, rather than encouraging us to trust in God.