Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Theses on the subject of sacred scripture.

1. It must be maintained, contrary to all modern sophists who pose as theologians of the Word, that the chief article pertaining to sacred scripture is its authorship by the Holy Spirit; proceeding from the Father and the Son.

2. That man has had a part to play in this authorship is accidental and, in the face of the Majesty of the Eternal One, of infinitely less importance.

3. It follows that questions of the author's (in this case most always accredited to sinful man) intent, purpose, interpretation, motive, Sitz im Leben, historical context and so on do not constitute the substance of exegesis, but normatively hinder its manifestation.

4. They strive against God who maintain that the prophetic oracles received in the church as sacred scripture came about as a result of man's interpretation.

5. Yet those who seek to convey an empirically verifiable origin of scripture in the divine will confuse a fastly dating epistemology with the knowledge of the truth as God sees it.

6. Rightly then did Karl Barth insist that the doctrine of scripture as the Word of God be apprehended and proclaimed by faith alone, in which alone the gospel is apprehended and man is able to please and find God.

7. Yet the substance of scripture cannot be understood as a being-in-becoming only, as if the Word of God (in any form) is enslaved to the temporal sphere for its existence as such.

8. The apostolic witness only recognizes the eternality of God's Word according to 1 Peter 1:23-25.

9. The sacred scriptures are not bound by high-sounding rules of context, which the sophists (without the apostolic example) arrogantly appeal to when exegeting a verse.

10. Their appeals limit the verse to the phenomenologies of other works of literature in the history of man, and the Word is never limited.

11. Yet neither can a verse be declared without context in the same wanton manner, as if the mind's willy-nilly selection of a decree from the Eternal God is a sure way to end an argument.

12. All exegesis and scholarship is conducted by men who are dead in their transgressions and sins, completely void of any knowledge of the truth and liable to judgment and destruction. Rightly then does the scripture in Ecclesiastes attribute vanity to the pursuit of wisdom.

13. If every word of the scripture is not first and foremost understood as a witness to Jesus Christ, it must be asked whether the scriptures have even been remotely understood at all.


Theophilus said...

I am surprised by your choice of your first and most prominent thesis; it seems to me the last is of truly paramount importance. This is because Scripture does relatively little to define itself and assert its own authority. Rather, its authoritative claims are grounded in appeals to the great works of God in history, the greatest of which are the events of the Incarnation of God Himself on Earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. A high doctrine of Scripture such as you have provided is itself the product of "exegesis and scholarship … conducted by men who are dead in their transgressions and sins, completely void of any knowledge of the truth and liable to judgment and destruction." Thus the Bible is not to be approached as some sort of heaven-sent talisman which is valued for its own sake, but truly as a testament to the words and acts of the living God.

Emerson Fast said...


I agree that Christian exegesis does not escape the same futility. "Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless." It makes the whole debate over scripture entirely circular, but still thrilling and very much for our own edification!

The early apostles were able to make a distinction between human and divine words. The apostles also refused to consent that their materials on the gospel were of human origin.....REFUSED. I don't think this attitude differs all that markedly with the deuteronomic literature and with the prophets.

The bible absolutely should and can be approached as a heaven-sent talisman that is valued for its own sake, for as a legitimate testimony to the living God it is in itself (by grace through faith) the Word of God.

The fact that Jesus was born of a woman, under law, in the time of Caesar Augustus and partook fully of human history does not change his being sent from Heaven (according to John's gospel). In the same way, the fact that the scriptures came onto paper through the mind and penmanship of various redactors from various traditions within the community of Israel and later the church does not alter their origin in Heaven.

Theophilus said...

It is precisely that it was the material of the Gospel that the Apostles insisted on attributing to God that is the crux here, I think. They did not hold the way they professed in as high esteem as that which they professed. In fact, this is precisely Jesus' contention with the Pharisees. They viewed the Law as a talisman to be mechanistically obeyed and lost sight of the God revealed through the Law. As Jesus made plainly obvious, God had markedly different priorities, which were more personal than legal. It is clear that Jesus viewed the Law as not something that existed by and for itself, but rather as a way of knowing and rightly relating to God. I should think it would be appropriate to view our own scriptures in the same light - good and useful inasmuch as it allows us to know God.

And I am immediately very suspicious of simplistic distinctions between human and divine words in light of the Incarnation. If we take this doctrine seriously, then the words of Jesus are clearly both human and divine. I cannot fathom how someone might attribute divinity alone to other parts of Scripture without denying the full extent of the Incarnation.

Emerson Fast said...

Hey Theo,

The apostolic word is defended as the word of Christ (cf. Gal. 1:12). Paul is not a maverick in his usage of the apostolic authority. This is- I take it- precisely how the other apostles wished to be understood (as men entrusted with the gospel of Jesus).

As you said, the Incarnation has profound implications for how we take human and divine words. In the case of the apostolate, it is the word of the very Incarnate Christ himself that has been entrusted to these select few (cf. 1 Cor.4:1). And so there is nothing idolatrous or pharisaic about the early church devoting itself to the apostles' teaching as the famouse passage in Acts 2 mentions. Why should our attitude be any different? The New Testament is the Word of Christ....unless Paul is blatantly lying, so let us devote ourselves to it in the fear of Christ!

I too am suspicious about blithe distinctions between human and divine words. Which is why I find it shocking that the sophist theologians cannot accept the bible as the Word of God but merely human words that serve as witness to the divine Word and Act. That sounds suspiciously similar to the way the liberals treat Christ's incarnation (most God-conscious man who ever lived?)

We may adore the Bible as it is because of what it is....God's gift to us that (to use your phrase) allows us to know God. This makes it precious in and of itself, just as the elements of the Eucharist are precious in and of themselves on account of faith.

I'm not advocating bibliolatry but merely a high view of scripture for the sake of God's honor (Is. 66:2). And if you think my own view is high, you ought to read through the self-testimony of scripture once again!

Theophilus said...

Actually, I suspect you don't understand me, because I agree with the bulk of what you wrote in your rebuttal, possibly all of it. If "we may adore the Bible as it is because of what it is … God's gift to us that … allows us to know God" then we both acknowledge that the Bible is valuable because it does something, and we have no real quarrel.

Where I might still part ways with you is your critique of people who refer to the Bible as "merely human words that serve as witness to the divine Word and Act." But if they are true witnesses to the divine, then does not that in itself qualify as divine inspiration? (An analogy: If I go to see the symphony and tell you about it, is my speech not inspired by the symphony?) I wholeheartedly affirm your wish to avoid "blithe distinctions between human and divine words," but I am concerned you are tending towards the opposite error of those you criticize.

Emerson Fast said...

Hey Theo,

I'm glad we agree with each other.

I've been pondering the subject of scriptural inspiration over the years now...always wavering somewhere in between Barth's presentation of the subject in CD 1.1 and the Chicago statement as presented by the evangelicals and fundamentalists.

Something seems to be missing when we deny the scriptures the priviledge of being the perpetual Word of God (as opposed to a being-in-becoming).

Conversely, something seems to be missing when we take a stock view of scripture, one which makes the Word of God wholly immanent to man.

I agree with your statement about the scriptures usefulness, but I am prepared to add to it. The Pauline tradition does not only attribute usefulness to the canon but the very own life-breath of God (theo-pneustos).

It may be consonant with our own zeitgeist to make pragmatic value the sole criterion of legitimate being, but the scriptural ontology has more to say.

Anonymous said...

The thing about the Chicago statement is that even if it is true, is it useful?

We don't have the original manuscripts. Therefore, according to the statement, we can never have the full truth of the Word of God.

That and, turning the Bible into a collection of propositions leaves it open to obvious attacks. If the Bible is a set of propositions, it is demonstrably wrong. We must not put the Gospel at stake for inerrancy's sake. I suggest you give more thought to CD1.1

Anonymous said...

By the way, I found you through Jim West's blog. I too could see myself becoming a regular reader of you. Don't let my criticism above imply otherwise! How "young" are you anyways? 16? 22?

-the same Anonymous as above.

Emerson Fast said...

Hey Anonymous,

I actually appreciate your criticisms. They are precisely what my pea-sized and pompous brain need.

I agree with many of your statements. If the bible is inspired and inerrant according to its original manuscripts only, then no one today has the right to call themselves an inerrantist. The fundamentalist can only really say," The bible WAS inerrant."

I'm not an inerrantist. The bible is a human document...yet insomuch as it is also taken on faith as the Word of God, its humanness is "of infinitely less importance" and certainly not the task of exegesis or theology to investigate.

Why can't the bible have propositional value? Seeing the bible as a "story" is so utterly jejune. And ultimately both of these categories fail- of themselves- to do justice to the canon.

Emerson Fast said...

And I'm 21. Almost too young to open up my mouth and talk, but I'm pretty sure Spurgeon had already converted whole towns to the gospel by my age, so this might not be outside of the mercy of God. :)

Don't take my blog too seriously. Children are better seen, not heard.

Anonymous said...

I'm 24 myself. That's still young, right? And when I was 21, I can say with no intended flattery toward you, that I knew less than nothing in comparison. That's what happens when you grow up in a watered down non-denominational Church.