The Divine Angle
Lecture Notes for Topic 1.2-
|Last revised: 1/22/04
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The Role of God in Scripture Texts
The moment the word "Bible"
is mentioned the issue of God's relationship to a set of ancient writings
treasured by Christians as sacred scripture arises. Where did these documents
come from? Who wrote them? How and where were they written? To whom were
they written? Why just these documents? All these questions and more are
a part of the baggage connected to the term "Bible." Many of these questions
we will explore in subsequent topics, since these are questions that Christians
have been wrestling with for almost two thousand years.
But one early issue that
needs exploring is how God is connected to these documents we call "Bible."
This is the goal of topic 1.2. Two pivotal ideas are a part of that discussion:
revelation and inspiration. A third concept, illumination, will emerge
in the process of the discussion as well, but will not receive separate
treatment here. The first two concepts have to do with the origin of these
document, while the third concept focuses on the use of these documents.
From the outset the modern
student of scripture needs to learn to distinguish his/her twenty-first
mental garb from the ancient Greco-Roman and Jewish garbs. Just as the
study of the Church Fathers so dramatically reveals -- pun intended --
later generations of Christians, loosed from the Jewish roots of primitive
Christianity, face a huge challenge. Their way of thinking -- garb, Weltanschau,
world view etc., however you want to label it -- is very different from
the way Jesus and the apostles in the first Christian century thought.
We live in a very different world than the beginning Christians did. Becoming
sensitive to this reality is a major first step in being able to grasp
the concepts that we're going to study in this topic.
One of the first things
is to learn how to ask the right questions of the ancient texts? Because
our questions tend to be shaped by the world we live in, they may not have
answers, at least directly, from the ancient sources. Because of their
different world view, our questions just never arose. Conversely, we sometimes
are puzzled by some of their questions, since the motivation behind them
seems strange to our post-modern minds. Thus the challenge is to listen
closely to the framing of the ideas in the ancient world, and then compare
that framing of issues to the typical way the same issues are framed from
our world view. Long ago the Germans devised an apt word for this approach
to raising questions: Fragestellung. What presuppositions stand as a foundation
to our question? What implications in the question are present? Can the
question be answered on its own merit? Or, must it be answered as one segment
of a network of ideas that are interlaced together? The shaping of the
question plays a vital role in success at finding answers.
Then we must figure out
ways to successfully build a thought bridge between the ancient world and
our world -- Brückenschlagen, "slinging an idea across the bridge
between then and now, as the Germans call it. In this effort we will encounter
tensions. Although ancient and modern ideas can have points of intersection
with one another, often these intersecting points will be very narrow.
The post-modern question just will not be able to find an fully satisfying
answer from ancient sources. Learning to live with this tension is both
challenging and a necessary step to spiritual maturity, since, you see,
the idea of biblical faith steps into the picture at certain points here.
But faith must never become a cop-out for serious intellectual inquiry.
But still the tension between faith and reason will always be present in
varying degrees depending on the topic under consideration.
Now to begin asking questions
about revelation and inspiration. What did they mean? What do they mean?
How can we successfully get from then to now? Three related but very different
questions. As you probe the topics with these questions, look for the baggage
attached to each question in each of the assigned reading sources.