It’s been hanging over me since summer, the fact that I promised to revisit some issues relating to scripture. But now that several attempts to write out something nicely coherent/cohesive have had to be scrapped as miserable failures, I’m only going to flag up the general topic and let anyone who wants to discuss anything do the running. Feeble I know, but here are some loosely worded, loosely connected thoughts which should hopefully give an idea of where I’m coming from – accompanied with the invitation to all to chip in if they’re so minded, as well as the caveat which should really be stamped across every post I write: layman’s views voiced here.
- Our understanding of scripture has to begin with God – and God communicating. It’s not that people wrote texts which the religious community came to agree would be treated as sacred; rather, God had a message to convey to human beings, which he inspired specific people to write down (and which was presented to the worshipping community to be received as what indeed it was, ie the Word of God).
- Saying that people were inspired to write down God’s message means at least this – that the Holy Spirit made use of these people (and their individual gifts, graces, circumstances, and experiences) in such a way that whatever they wrote under his inspiration is exactly what he intended them to write, unique as they were and unique as their circumstances were
- His inspiration of what they wrote is not only what gives Scripture its divine authority but also guarantees that it is (i) timelessly true in every matter it mentions, ie whether promises of salvation, threatenings of punishment, narration of history, testimony to the being and nature of God, the state and condition of mankind, the scheme of salvation, etc, and (ii) consistent with itself – ie, however multi-faceted its contents are, there is one single coherent message running through the whole, and the parts do not clash or conflict with each other
- As well as being true in every matter that they treat of, the scriptures are also a complete guide to (i) what we need to know about ourselves and God and how God and human beings relate, and (ii) how we are to behave (before God and in relation to our fellow human beings)
- As well as being true and complete, the scriptures are comprehensible. Part of what’s involved in saying that “God communicating” is behind the scriptures is that what he communicates is in principle accessible and understandable to human readers, needy and sinful as we are
- We absolutely must be acquainted with what is revealed in the scriptures; this is indispensably necessary to salvation. We can only know God as he has revealed himself; we can only know his purposes towards us to the extent that he reveals them; and he has clearly and definitively revealed himself and his purposes in the scriptures. Without the scriptures, we would have no way of making sense of ourselves, or of what our environment reveals about God, or of what God reveals in events in providence (including events such as the incarnation of God the Son and Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection). Nor could we have any idea where to start in making our approach to God as guilty sinners for forgiveness and reconciliation
- Prioritising the scriptures in this way as the source of our knowledge of God and the basis of our penitent/believing approach to God does not undermine the fact that Christ is the ultimate revelation of God and that we must be saved (and can only come to God) through him. This is because the scriptures bear witness to him, and reveal and announce him for what he is. Just as we cannot know God except by Christ, we cannot know Christ except by the Scriptures
- Indeed, the theme of the Scriptures is best summarised as Christ and him crucified. The various threads of scripture are all designed, one way or the other, to lift our minds to Christ as the only Saviour for sinners such as we are. Himself, or his work, or his dealings with his people, are displayed more or less vividly in every part of the scriptures
- The most appropriate response we can give to the scriptures is to recognise the authority of God behind them, treat them with reverence, adore God their author for what they reveal about him, accept their verdict on us as sinners, pray to be instructed in them by the same Holy Spirit who inspired them, and above all accept their invitations to embrace Christ himself manifested there in his glory as the one who God has ordained to be the Saviour of sinners from their sins.
And that’ll do for now.