Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Christian Statement of Scripture V. An UnChristian Statement

Here is a very dynamic statement on Scripture and its placement within the life of God's people; finding its continuity in ongoing witness for those people in the 'point and purpose' of their existence, Jesus Christ.

[T]he source of all our knowledge of God is his active revelation of himself. We do not know God against his will, or behind his back, as it were, but in accordance with the way in which he has elected to disclose himself and communicate his truth in the historical-theological context of the worshipping people of God, the Church of the Old and New Covenants. This is the immediate empirical fact with which the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are bound up. They were composed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and in the providence of God have been handed on to us as the written form of the Word of God. They are the Scriptures of the people of Israel, for Israel was the selected medium of God's revelation in which his Word operated prophetically in the life and understanding of a particular historical community in order to provide within mankind a place where divine revelation might be translated appropriately into human speech and where it might be assimilated and understood in a communicable form by all humanity. And they are the Scriptures of the Christian Church, for the Church was the appointed sphere in which the historical self-revelation of God through Israel, gathered up and transcended and fulfilled in Jesus Christ the Word made flesh, is given an evangelical form in the apostolic witness and tradition, kerygma and didache, through which the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ himself continues to meet men and women as the living Word of God and to impart himself to them as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, apart from whom, as our Lord claimed, no one has access to the Father. [Thomas F. Torrance, Divine Meaning: Studies in Patristic Hermeneutics, (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1995), 5]

I would suggest that this is a properly articulated and understood ontology and/or doctrine of Scripture and its placement within the grasp (so to speak) of God's people; Christians. This is in contrast to the classical understanding of Scripture, here given voice by Evangelical Systematic Theologian, Millard Erickson:

[T]he epistemological question is simply, How do we know? Since our basis for knowing and holding to the truth of any theological proposition is that the Bible teaches it, it is of utmost importance that the Bible be found truthful in all of its assertions. If we should conclude that certain propositions (historical or scientific) taught by the Bible are not true, the implications for theological propositions are far-reaching. To the extent that evangelicals abandon the position that everything taught or affirmed by Scripture is true, other bases for doctrine will be sought. This might well be either through the resurgence of philosophy of religion or, what is more likely given the current "relational" orientation, through basing theology upon behavioral sciences, such as psychology of religion. But whatever the form that such an alternative grounding takes, there will probably be a shrinking of the list of tenets, for it is difficult to establish the Trinity or the virgin birth of Christ upon either a philosophical argument or the dynamics of interpersonal relationships. [Millard J. Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine, 62]

The nuance between the two statements is quite subtle to the naked eye, but there is one. The primary distinction between these two articulations is that the former does not make the veracity of Scripture contingent upon creation, or proving it to be so. Instead Torrance's statement places Scripture within the divine speech which actually is life giving and formative to his people's existence, as his people, indeed. The latter thesis statement, from Erickson, places humanity (in general) prior to God's Word in Scripture; such that its veracity can only said to be so through the apologetic works of God's people making it so. In other words, for Erickson, and the Evangelical sphere in general, Scripture is annexed to the realm of philosophical (epistemological) materiality in a way that leaves it out in the open until Christians can prove its reliability. But this is exactly backwards!

The question is who comes first? 1) God, 2) creation, 3) Scripture (Torrance); or, 1) Creation, 2) Scripture, 3) God (Erickson)? The latter set of questions see Scripture placed in the secular realm of philosophy; the former set of questions see Scripture located in the sacred sphere of salvation. Which means that Erickson's approach cannot, theologically, be said to endorse a particularly Christian doctrine of Scripture---only Torrance's can, because his does not make Scripture's prophetic witness dependent upon humanity but upon God's free voice of 'Lordness'---since Erickson's approach moves from a view of creation that ultimately sees creation as a mode of existence that determines its own fate and reality (this is a very modern move, but not a very Christian one).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.