Note to My Readers: from mid-June to mid-August (6/18 - 8/20), I will be taking a summer break from posting new articles for my Thursday and Friday slots. This will only affect my Thursday series on the global growth of Christianity, and my Friday series, the "Theological Bestiary" of birds, both of which will resume in late August. During the summer, I'll be dusting off some of my best essays from the first few years of this blog (a decade ago), as well as my verse play "Thus Ends the World," and re-posting them in the Thursday and Friday slots. All other weekdays will continue to feature new material throughout the summer.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

95 Theses, #28: The Bible, the Holy Spirit, and Tradition

To see the introduction and disclaimers for my 95 Theses, first go to: 95-Theses-Introduction

(Painting: "The Apostle Paul," attributed to Rembrandt, c.1657, oil on canvas)

 28.) The Bible, the Holy Spirit, and Tradition - My approach to the interpretation of Scripture first of all demands that we understand the full revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is "the Word of God," the Logos, and the Bible is referred to as the "Word" in a secondary way, in that it is the foundational and primary disclosure of the Logos to us who live between the Christ's incarnation and his parousia. The Bible, then, is the authoritative witness to God’s self-revelation—in his relationship with Israel, in Christ, and in his relationship with the early Christian community. The Holy Spirit, always active in the people who embody the Kingdom-of-God-in-history, was necessarily involved in the writing, redacting, preserving, and collating of these texts—thus they are inspired. But there's also the human side of things to consider. Scripture may in fact contain so-called "errors" (though these tend to be aspects of culture and genre rather than true errors), since its works necessarily include the culture-bound human-nature perspective of the authors, and thus incidentals like historical details, being written from a culture that conceived of the telling of "true" history in several different modes than what we're familiar with, may strike us as erroneous in a "strictly historical" sense. That said, it's also worth noting that the Old Testament has consistently surprised archaeologists at its consistency and historical trustworthiness, even on details that once were doubted in academic histories (such as the existence of a King David). So the Bible, when taken as the whole testimony of God’s story, oriented around the true revelation of his nature in Jesus Christ, will never lead us astray, at least when we are reading it under the guidance of the Holy Spirit—thus many evangelicals hold it to be infallible. I further believe that the Holy Spirit was not only operative in the writing of these Scriptures, but that he also speaks through them even now in the worship of his people—this is a second part of the “inspiration” of Scripture, the sacramental part, that many evangelicals miss in their statements of doctrine (but not usually in their practice). Since the Holy Spirit continues to be active in the people of God, though, we ought also look to the Scriptural interpretations and theologies of all the communities of Christian faithful throughout history when framing our own theologies and interpretations. This is a difficult process, because these voices will not always agree with one another in their outer details. But what one does find is a golden cord of agreement on the core doctrines of the faith, and we must learn from all our teachers in communion with one another as we seek, through the help of reason and experience, to be edified by these many voices and to allow their thoughts to guide us into deeper understandings of divine reality as given to us in Scripture and revealed in its fullness in Jesus Christ.

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