Sunday, July 13, 2008

Biblical Inspiration - Part 2: The Foundation of our Faith

One might reasonably ask whether, when I argue against the inerrancy doctrine of Biblical inspiration, I might not be undercutting the very foundation of our Christian faith. To this I answer an unequivocal "no." At its core, our faith is not in any text, but rather in the person of Jesus Christ, the Word become flesh who dwelt among us, "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 3:11, NRSV).

Greg Boyd said it better than I can, in a recent blog post (note that he qualifies his use of the term "infallible"):

"My belief that Jesus is the Son of God isn’t rooted in my belief that the Bible is God’s infallible Word. Rather, my belief that the Bible is God’s infallible Word is rooted (mostly) in my belief that Jesus is the Son of God. I don’t believe in Jesus because the Bible says so. I believe in the Bible (mostly) because Jesus says so."

We have got to realize that the Bible's authority depends on God, not the other way around. The old song

Jesus loves me, this I know
for the Bible tells me so.

actually has it backwards. Put another way, you could take the Bible away and still have a sovereign God; but take God away and the Bible is meaningless.

This is not to discount the value of Biblical texts--after all, most of the little we know about God's very identity and character, we learn from the Bible. I said in my last post that anything we can't derive from Biblical sources (as opposed to extra-Biblical) dare not rise to the level of doctrine, and I stand by that statement.

But I don't think that it's accidental (or in error) that one of the oldest creeds of the Christian faith, the Apostles' Creed, begins

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord.

There is no mention of the scriptures at all in that early creed. This is right, because it isn't the Scriptures in which we believe. . .they are the source of information and teaching and the words of the One in whom we believe. It's not an idle distinction.

2 comments:

J said...

The fact that the creed begins with creation is not a mistake, and it was absolutely critical in its historical context. Take away a cosmos-creating God and you eviscerate all of the other doctrines. Much of Christianity suffers at present from an extreme reductionism that would rather inhabit the narrow, ethereal world of concepts and reason - even when the implications of that reason have inescapably cosmic implications. Attention to scripture (which with a bit of lovely irony is central to your work in a way that makes perfect sense to me) is not the problem. Detatching scripture from Messiah, from cosmos, from the complete self (other than the thought life), and from the current historical context is the problem. An ancient Christianity which started with God and Cosmos and only then mentions the scripture and the prophets toward the end (at least in the Nicene version) has been replaced one that starts from the central point of scripture and moves outward. Taken to an extreme, this can have tragic implications, and makes the neo-Pagan charge that we have desacralized the cosmos hit very close to home for me. God is not a concept, and efforts to reduce Him to that are perilous.

Dan Martin said...

Good point, J. Further thoughts:

1) Your contention of God at the center and beginning of the Cosmos meshes nicely with John's "in the beginning was the Logos." It's no accident that John associated Jesus with the beginning of all things (without him was not anything made that was made).

2) A number of thinkers (I recently read it from Boyd, but he did not originate it) stated that Jesus was/is the fullest revelation of the Father, and that all other revelation--Scripture included--must be interpreted in His light. This, too, parallels your thoughts if I am hearing you correctly.

3) There is, however, a risk in your statement "Take away a cosmos-creating God and you eviscerate all the other doctrines." I have heard it said that God is sovereign BECAUSE He is creator. This is part of what upsets people when I suggest (as I may develop more fully in a later post) that Satan may not be (I did not say "is not") the created being of most Christian myth from Dante on. I disagree. God is sovereign because sovereignty is part of His self-existent being, and that sovereignty has no dependencies. It simply is.