The Scripture Principle

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Sometimes I get these little pleasant surprises when I walk into a Christian bookstore. And seeing the book above at Glad Sounds was one of them. In Malaysian ringgit before the special discount it cost RM76.95.

I recall during theology classes during my seminary days, we took some time reading significant paragraphs from Clark Pinnock’s 1984 edition. So, when i saw the appendix: The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible: Thoughts since 1984, I was drawn to read the book from the back (which nowadays I often do).

Before I went into seminary, I had never heard of the word “inerrancy” but I read the Scriptures as often as I could for nourishment and guidance for my Christian life. I don’t recall ever questioning it’s authority. I suppose it’s tempting to be more “sophisticated” in my understanding of Biblical authority after more “education” and I know the question and use of the word “inerrancy” is a hot button issue for some. I confess very often hair-splitting debates to tire me. But that’s my bias perhaps influenced more by my appreciation of Lutheran pietism and suspicion of Lutheran scholasticism which is a story for another day.

The following paragraphs leaped out as I scanned the book:

“Rather than the hard rationalist approach to biblical authority and interpretation, I had come to appreciate the story and mystery of Scripture, the key role of the Spirit’s ministry in original inspiration and current illumination, and the need to listen as well as to reason.

My core conviction had become one of certainty of truth arising more from the work of the Spirit through the biblical text than from a tight rationalism rooted in supposed human theory of biblical errorlessness of the text per se. I nonetheless saw retaining the word “inerrancy” as a possible path of wisdom given circumstances in the evangelical community (admittedly more a political than a theological stance. I also saw the need to carefully nuance the implications of this word given the circumstances of the biblical text itself.”, p.268

The final words might raise the eyebrows of some … but let’s read this slowly before we sleep.

“Now, concerning the hot button issue, biblical inerrancy, the item for which some battle most vociferously, it is not our preferred term for rendering the concept of biblical trustworthiness. Why? One reason is that inerrancy begs clear definition (which is why, ironically, we can continue to use it), and more importantly because it suggests a degree of technical accuracy that is foreign to Scripture. It places, in effect, a modern standard of accuracy upon the text and is then forced to explain away the phenomena of scores of minor flaws. The Bible does not use the term “inerrancy” but places emphasis upon its own saving and sanctifying power as witness to Jesus.

What really disturbs us with regard to the term “inerrancy” is the harm that it does. It almost makes one afraid to open the Bible lest some flaws in the text might overthrow confidence in God. It places the church at a perilous and unnecessary risk. … We think it better to use a term like “trustworthiness” or “infallibility,” which speaks of Scripture as reliable and never failing in its intended purposes. Is it not true that in the Bible we hear the Master’s voice in spite of scratches of the needle on the record? The issue is not whether the Bible is totally accurate as we define accuracy, but whether it leads us to the truth of God as all evangelicals believe.”, p. 272

For me it’s important to keep as closely the relationship between the Bible and Christ. I also believe it’s important to be open to the Spirit’s illumination of the texts read and reflected upon especially in community with others for mutual encouragement, learning and discernment.

More and more, I see the Scriptures challenging my own values or views which I bring to the text. And the moment I humble myself – I begin to “see” myself better as I study the text better. All the scholarly insights are helpful as part of the more “communal” paradigm I have adopted while not feeling an unhealthy lack of confidence because I am not an expert. Scholarly study then becomes a support rather than speculative exercises.

As a pastor and ultimately as a Christian, I believe one’s spirituality plays a crucial role in the process of reading, reflecting and responding to God’s voice as one engages with the authoritative Scriptures before us. And not forgetting, the missional direction the texts especially within the overarching narrative from creation to consumamtion – somehow keeps the whole process being privatized or merely part of religious consumption.

Just some immediate thoughts …before I sleep. I’ll throw in an extra interview Ma href=”http://www.christianweek.org/stories/vol14/no05/story4.htm”>Clark Pinnock’s uneasy journey which might give a richer context to the discussion.

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