Sunday, October 27, 2013
How do we deal with the claims of Scripture's errors?
On another forum a poster to the never ending debate insists that Scripture is full of errors, though he calls them rather pious errors of God's condescension and not the pernicious errors of lies. According to Mk 4:30ff. Jesus says that "the mustard seed... is the smallest of all the seeds on earth." Is that statement factually without error? Are there not smaller plant seeds on earth? Yes, there are. Jesus spoke as a man of his time and place. If Mk 4:30 does contain an error in plant biology, does the presence of such an error undermine the point of the parable? Does the presence of similar errors in the Scriptures undermine the Spirit's use of those same Scriptures to bring people to faith in Christ and to salvation in him?
According to this idea, errors in Scripture are just that errors. They are distant from and do not attach to the truthfulness of Scripture's claim of truth or its promise of salvation. These errors, no matter how they entered the text, are disconnected from the claims of Christ and the claims for Christ. Any attempt to understand what is said, except to acknowledge its error, is to waste your time and effort in preserving a false idea of infallibility and imposing upon Scripture what it does not claim for itself. So, never mind the rabbinical context or significance for this discussion of the mustard seed or the hyperbole in which Jesus often indulges. No, Scripture is wrong. But for Luther it is as simple as if Scripture is wrong, Christ is wrong.
Luther's claim, indeed the claim of Christ and of the Scriptures themselves, is that Jesus is not merely the fulfillment of the Scriptures of Israel -- the keeper of its promise. No, Christ is their fullness. They testify of Him and He is Him of whom they speak. He is their source, He gives them their life, and He is the object of their words, events, and witness. They testify of Me, insists Jesus. I am the Word which has come down from heaven, insists Jesus. Scripture, Moses, Elijah, and all the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings together form the witness to the truth of Luther's word that Christ is not only the subject of Scripture but its object and its life. “All the stories of Holy Writ, if viewed aright, point to Christ.” The Lord Jesus “shows us the proper method of interpreting Moses and all the prophets. . . He shows that all the stories and illustrations of Moses point to [Himself],” (Luther, AE 22:339).
Therefore, a problem with Scripture is inherently a Christological problem. It is not possible to separate, even though one may make distinct, Christ and His Word.
Surely not all of those who insist that there are errors in Scripture are as outwardly skeptical and suspicious as the higher critics who have no boundaries to their disdain for the written word of Scripture. They presume the words of Scripture are lies or myths to be proven true and not the opposite. In this way they treat the words of Scripture very differently than they treat nearly every other book and its claims. That said, we cannot allow such convictions of error to stand without address. The Church protects the Scriptures not out of fear but as one protects a treasure of surpassing worth. Scripture speaks of Christ, speaks Christ, to us and apart from Scripture there is no sure voice to reveal Him that we might believe. The Scriptures are not a book of lies which will unravel if one begins to pull at the strings of the text but a book of truth that speaks truthfully the Word made flesh for us and our salvation. The Church affirms the infallibility of this Word as an act of witness, not of fear, born of the confidence that the truth of Scripture and the truth of Christ are neither separate nor competing but one and the same.