First of all, allow me to offer my apologies to a faithful reader of this blog, Dr. Cory Williams. I failed to approve a comment he made in response to my last blog post dealing with questions about Scripture. I am sorry, Dr. Williams. Not sure why I responded to your post personally and failed to approve it, but I did just that. I feel certain that if there were fines that could be written for “bad blogging techniques,” this mistake would have landed me a whopper of a fine – right along with my failure to properly spell check my posts and my occasional overuse of “however”! I’d be broke being these fines.
With that in mind, I want to publish Dr. William’s comment in its entirety here and offer my humble response. I would love to see this conversation continue.
Dr. Williams writes:
Though I respect you mightily Scott, I also respectfully disagree that we “haven’t read the Bible”. This makes it sound like we are missing some sort of God-given truth, hidden from us by some agenda of the past. We ARE reading the Bible. How can we know this? Because we have faith in God’s hand not only in our lives, but in our words. I get that courses in Biblical Criticism analyze the frustratingly imperfect process of how we ended up with the text we have, as though God beamed down the Bible in perfection via the apostles and we have corrupted it over time. However, as a rhetorician, I see the word as much more fluid (and vibrant!) than this. As soon as we–including the apostles–interpret God’s Word we bring sin into the equation through our fallen nature (i.e., what is “God’s perfect language”? Greek? Hebrew? certainly not English! Personally I doubt God has need of words at all–he “Knows.” Yet he communicates with us in our imperfection to save us.). All words are interpreted and thus, the question is not “is scripture perfect?” but rather “is scripture inspired and guided by God via the Holy Spirit?” Has God let us know who He is enough to have a rational and remarkable faith in Him and His Son? I believe the answer is most certainly, YES! I think God is powerful enough to make sure His word is given to us in a form that represents Him with more than enough evidence to foster a complete and fulfilling Faith. Through our scriptures, we have access to the Truth such that we are equipped to know His plan, His nature, and His desire for our lives. In sum, it wasn’t “the community of faith [that] found these words were what God had to say to us” but rather that God via the Holy Spirit found us and inspired the faith community that these were His scriptures. God moves in all our imperfections–including our ability to interpret scripture– to bring the fulfillment of his ultimate purpose: our salvation in Jesus Christ.
Let me say that I greatly appreciate your comment. After reading it, I found that I really wanted to rework parts of my response to this question to make it more clear what I was trying to communicate.
I did not want to say that the Bible as we have it today is anything less than God’s word for us. However, for some people the idea of God’s word falling victim to human sin as it interacts with the hand of women and men is a difficult idea to handle. Some understand the Bible as being an “infallible” document that was transmuted to us directly from the hand of God to what we have today. I wanted to state something different than that and I admit that you said it much better than I did – so, thanks! The discipline of Biblical criticism has given us many things but one thing that it has not done is taken away the fact that the Bible is still the word of God for the people of God. It has exposed some of the problems we have in interpretation and translation but I still firmly accept that God speaks to us through the Bible. The problem brought forward by the Time article that I mentioned is that many people today equate what we have as the Bible as the “original” Bible. I don’t see how we can make that claim. There just appears to be so much evidence to the contrary. I guess I don’t need the Bible to be “original” in order for it to speak to me!
I also did not mean to undermine our ability to use the Scripture to make our faith in Jesus “remarkable.” I, however, don’t have much need to make my faith “rational.” In some ways, I think those two terms used together are not always helpful. Sometimes the rational goes against my faith and in those cases I pray for the strength to hang onto faith. I will admit that I realize I am discussing these terms with a more skilled rhetorician. If you can help put those two terms together in a better way, please do so.
I also have to say that I love the way you expressed the idea of language as being “fluid and vibrant.” I would go even further and say that the Word of God – that which we understand as Jesus, revealed in Scripture, tradition, reason, experience and through the Holy Spirit – is very much alive as well as fluid and vibrant. This is one of the things that has made our Christian faith a timeless faith!
Once again, I appreciate your response and really see us closer to agreeing than disagreeing. I hope the conversation continues!