Sunday, July 29, 2018

Does Dynamic Inspiration Entail An "Incarnational" Model of Inspiration?

Further to a note below re Michael Bird's post on "Dynamic Inspiration" (of Scripture), Bird has now also posted on why he doesn't think the "Incarnation" is a model for Biblical Inspiration, here.

Which is salutary for me, because I have often thought favourably of the idea of the Bible as similar to the Incarnation: the divine inhabits the human, the infinite dwells in the finite. And, possibly without ever thinking it through, I have associated the dynamic view of inspiration with the incarnational view: the living Word in the written Word is dynamic - not a dead letter!

Actually, I am not convinced that Bird does deal a final below to the Incarnation as a model for Biblical Inspiration.

So, yes, when Bird writes, after John Webster, he is definitionally correct:

"Incarnation is about hypostatic union, such a union is not the only mode of God’s gracious condescension to speak to human subjects nor God’s normative mode of self-communication. While Jesus is God and Man and Scripture is God’s speech inspired through human subjects, the differences in mode of divine communication here are so great that the analogy is tactless. While God identifies with his written word, he does not become the written word. This theory flirts with the danger of bibliolatry."

But is this the final blow? Sure, if we focus on "Incarnation" = "hypostatic union" then the Bible is not hypostatically unified with God. But Incarnation is not only about "the Word became flesh" (here, equals hypostatic union) but also "and lived among us" or, as commentators never tire of telling us, "set up his tent among us" (John 1:14). Might we properly speak of the divine words of God, the living word of Christ continuing to live among us via the Scripture as the written Word of God? Is it inappropriate to think of Scripture as the "tent" of the Word, the place wherein we find the words of God, and, via reading and hearing, meet the living word of Christ?


Jean said...

Hmm... there is a sense where scripture imbued with the power of God, so in this way although lofty thoughts like the incarnational nature of Scripture rarely cross my mind there is many ways in which the analogy fits; aside from the obvious that the Bible is not Christ in a spiritual sense it is what He speaks through.

“My word will not return to me empty”...”Heaven and Earth may pass away but the Word of God will never pass away”... “The word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword dividing even bone and marrow”...”The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God” (please excuse if any of these aren’t exact quotations)

Father Ron Smith said...

"While God identifies with his written word, he does not become the written word. This theory flirts with the danger of bibliolatry."

And this, Peter, is what worries me about the 'Sola Scriptura' School of Theology. Surely, when 'The Word became flesh' this nature and quality of God's revelation has to 'trump' any other? Otherwise, why would God bother to interrupt the flow of human generation by the Virgin Birth' of Jesus? Nowhere else in Scripture is any record of such an intervention of God's interaction with the human species.

This does tempt human speculation, of course about the cycle of the chicken and the egg, but, as divine Creator of all that exists, was not God doing a 'new thing' in the conception and birth of Jesus - continuing in the Scriptural account of the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus - by the power of the Holy Spirit?

The O.T. is the divinely-inspired human record of the understanding of God BEFORE the revelation of The Incarnate Logos. From that time onwards, God became known 'in the flesh' in a way that was evidenced before that verifiably historical event. Through the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus; the ministry of the WORD INCARNATE has taken precedence over the words in The Book - valuable as they still are as a guide to God's ongoing relationship with all humanity. (Orthodox Christians still incense the Book of the Gospels - as we do the Sacred Elements - in the Liturgy of the Eucharist).

I'm afraid that Biblical Idolatry is very much at home in Aotearoa New Zealand - as witnessed by some of your commenters here. Make no mistake, the Bible still has an honourable place in Christianity - not for its power to save (which, of itself, it cannot do) - but for its revelation about the power of Jesus Christ to redeem and save every single human being who looks to Him for salvation, redemption and eternal life with the Triune God whom Jesus still represents in the Body of Christ - that seeks to carry out the will and purpose of God when he came to deliver us from the bondage of sin and death.

As the BCP tells us: "We have no power of ourselves to help ourselves, and if we say we have no sin, the truth is not in us". It is in the light of this reality that the ministry of the Church continues - not as evidence of our sinlessness, but as a guarantee that, as we confess our sins "God will forgive us our sins" and grant us eternal life" - not by any virtue of our sinlessness, but through the grace and mercy of God shown to us in the life of Jesus Christ.

(part I)

Father Ron Smith said...

(Part II)

We need to remembers that Jesus, when questioned, offered his own summary of all the requirements of The Law in the 'New Commandment' - which He obviously felt necessary to enunciate to all humanity. (Jesus, Himself, in the flesh, fulfilled and the requirement of the Law as it then existed)

To assess the 'strictness' of Jesus' treatment and understanding of anything other than the original Mosaic Law, we only need to look at the N.T. evidence of his lenience with the woman 'caught in the act' of adultery. He was more lenient than the requirements of a culture that then demanded the death penalty! I wonder if any of your more conservative commenters, Peter, would ever consider the possibility that his words to her on the need to 'go and sin no more' might have conveyed a warning about the inevitable result for her if she did continue in her way of life: that the Scribes and Pharisees might still have felt justified in stoning her to death?

The most important point about Jesus' treatment of this prostitute (and, remember, there is no record of her having expressed specific repentance at this stage of the story) was that Jesus assured her that he did not condemn her! ("Do they condemn you? Neither do I!")

Interestingly, Jesus also taught that the Holy Spirit's ongoing revelation was needed, in order to inform his followers about the reality of what God considers to be sinful and what God does not! (When the Holy Spirit comes, S/He will lead you into all the Truth - about sin ....") Could it possibly be that we still need to learn that lesson today - in the light of continuing discovery of the reality of the diversity present in the area of human responses to our given sexual identity? Regarding 'sins of the flesh'; what Jesus seemed more concerned about was sexual promiscuity. He never said anything negative about faithful, committed relationships!

Of course, concerning issues like the Church's treatment of the LGBTI community; one has to believe that there is still an ongoing need to be open to the Holy Spirit's guidance in responding to new knowledge of our biological situation as human beings. To allow that God may be more interested in our dealing with such knowledge with compassion rather than judgement requires an unquestioning openness to understand Jesus' own treatment of the outsiders (prostitutes, lepers, etc.) of his day. Sadly, it seems that for some conservative 'perfectionists' among us, that is very difficult to do.

However, the Gospel is meant to be Good News for ALL; so that sinners and saints together might find, in Christ, our redemption.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron
The paradox of your distinction between the Incarnate Word and the words of Scripture is that everything you say about the Incarnate Word is drawn from the words of Scripture.

That is, I place a much higher value on Scripture than you appear to do above: Scripture is the written Word of God, not least because it conveys to us everything we need to know about the Incarnate Word of God.

Father Ron Smith said...

Yes, Peter. I, too, regard the Scriptures as 'Important For Our Learning' - but not as the agency of Eternal life, as is The Word Incarnate in Jesus, Who ,alone, is trhe source of our Salvation.

The Scriptures proclaim the Gospel. Jesus as Word of God is both Source and End of the Good News.

Salvation is proclaimed in the Gospels. Jesus IS that Salvation!

BUT, here we go again, the Chicken and the Egg syndrome?
Not quite. Before the scriptures arrived; Christ was, is and is yet to come (in other words, Christ is pre-existent AND eternal).

Christ is risen, Alleluia! He is risen Indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia!

In a similar way for atheists: Creation just is, it doesn't need any explanatory medium for its existence. Guidebooks are important for directions along the way, but they actually don't become a medium of transportation, do they? One needs to travel the road to really know it.

Holocaust-deniers are not persuaded by the literature on the subject. But, if they had worked or suffered in the Camps??

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Peter; apropos our recent conversation on Words in The Bible v, The Word made flesh - Jesus said to some of the Scribes and Pharisees: "You read the Scriptures and yet you do not understand"

He Himself gave a clue to what was required for Salvation: "Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have NO LIFE IN YOU. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day". This does imply, don't you think, that; reading the Bible alone will not save a person. Only participation in the life of Christ (Eucharist?) has any salvific validation.

Myself? I was nurtured (and continue to be nurtured) on the Scriptures, but many received the life of Christ in Baptism and Eucharist before they could even read or understand the language.
"Only believe and thou shalt see, that Christ is ALL in all to thee"

On the other hand, I have read that a Bible in the breast pocket of a soldier did prove to be his salvation - when a bullet was diverted from its intended course 'by the Word of God' in a book. Deo Gratias

Jean said...

Greetings Ron

Jesus is the author of salvation as you clearly articulate. Yet His-story amongst us did not begin when he entered human history in human form but was woven throughout the OT. Even Jesus knew the power of the scriptures, like when in the temptation he uses them to stand upon, “It is written...”...”It is written...”. In my mind you are correct when you say scripture cannot save in and of itself without Christ yet its authority is in many ways almost underwritten by the Word himself. When in a situation when people give words of knowledge or prophecy it is Scripture I test them against as ‘God’s’ truth. When I started my adult faith journey I received some words from God. At that time my biblical knowledge was relatively limited - a good Anglican raised child I hadn’t read the Bible that thoroughly : ) - so it was with some astoundment I discovered months later the very words I received actually written in the Bible. For this reason and others Scripture in my mind is intrinsically linked to God in Christ.

In summary yes I agree with you that the Bible points to Jesus as Saviour and itself cannot save so this places limits on the degree it is incarnational. On the other hand I think you perhaps underestimate the spiritual authority carried by scripture as it relates to the Word, Jesus - less a guide book more an ingested form of life-giving food - which gives it an echo of incarnation.

Father Ron Smith said...

Jean, has it ever occurred to you that some 'prophetc utterences' of today may just be well-remembered words of the Scriptures that the 'prophet' wants to emphasise? I do quite clearly remember some such utterances occurring during the early days (1960s) of the N.Z. charismatic Church meetings - with no supporting evidence from others present. There certainly were authentic healings taking place, but not many prophetic utterances were ever corroborated in my experience.

As for the identity of Jesus beng 'known' to the writers of the N.T., do you remember how the Prophets Moses and Elijah were amazed to meet up wth Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Obviously it was their first time of meeting with the Messianic Redeemer. One of the purpose of their being present was to be introduced to the man Jesus, secondly; to impress Peter, James and John with the position of Jesus as the fulfilment of their prophecies. What would have really convinced and convicted each of those present was the actual mystical Transfiguration of Jesus

Incidentally, whilst in Australia just recently, Diana and I saw a very interesting TV programme on the 'prophetic witness' of an American Evangelist with his own radio station, who caused quite a lot of bother for many people with his failed prophecies about the 'End of the World' - a preoccupation that Jesus humself discredited.

Unknown said...

A Friendly General Reply To All Comments On All Recent Threads On All Topics At ADU.

In the Way of Jesus, the Judaic streams of apocalypticism and wisdom have merged. The apostolic episteme is this: if (and only if) one sees that God was in Christ and gives one's allegiance to him, then (and only then) can one be graced with the wisdom to see the new creation he inaugurated and to live in wholehearted accord with it, "becoming wise unto salvation." The synoptic gospels attribute this apocalyptic + wisdom episteme to Jesus in the several legal pericopes where he teaches, not the raw law of the not-so-apocalyptic Pharisees, but law filtered through some wisdom that is itself filtered through the apocalyptic "signs of the times." The first disciples were not the only Second Temple Jews to read law through apocalyptic wisdom bifocals, but the subtradition they passed on is the only one that survived the events of AD 70.

My esteemed friends on all sides of all topics often seem to have regressed to raw law-- legal texts unmarinated in apocalyptic, and uncooked in wisdom, and therefore unsafe to eat. They do this, not through any failing of their own, but because they are accustomed to hearing medieval justification talk where the apostles are speaking like the prophets of the renewal of all things. When the gospel is heard as a message, not about the consummation of the creation, but about law, then there is no marinade or cooking fire, and sincere Christians begin to sound like aspiring but untrained rabbis. Good comments can make sense of the legal texts, but that sense will be perplexing to anyone who has not been shown that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself."


Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Bowman for a word in season and a reminder that we are always in the same post-Jesus (on earth) pre-consummation (in heaven) season :)

Jean said...

Hi Ron

I too am cautious about ‘prophetic utterances’ aka the future. My experience has been more with prophecy in terms of personal encouragement - to build up, sustain etc the individual. Even in this regard I am careful and apply a double litmus test first that they align with scripture or are not contrary to it - not necessarily a scriptural quotation as such; and secondly that what is said resonates within. Often in relation to the later such as in the case of words of knowledge the words being spoken relate to something unknown by the speaker or prayer but known to oneself. It is obviously easy to abuse the spiritual gifts and yet they are indeed such a gift to the life of the Church if practised well.

Hard to know if Elijah and Moses had met Jesus in heaven prior to the Mount of transfiguration experience or not : ) ... By including the Old Testament I was referring to the likes of what BW explains that those who read even the OT scriptures with wisdom/spirit combined with the law/teaching, such as Anna and Simeon, were able to discern of whom they spoke.

Best Wishes

BW I enjoyed your extrapolation. Now if only what percolates in my head could come out with such clarity! ...

hogsters said...

Hi Ron, while I have known Jesus for some 40 years my personal experience of him is subjective. My knowledge of Him is governed by the scriptures BCE and AD. While God was doing a new thing in Christ he was also continuing with something set in the councils of eternity. Jesus himself used the scriptures as the litmus test of truth and the way that we could see what God was doing in and through his life death and resurrection.

My subjective self is too much moored to both my own sinfulness and the norms of our culture. I for one need the measuring rod of scripture. Indeed, how am I even to know the word incarnate without the Gospel word that tells me both what this Word is like and how I can know him.

Father Ron Smith said...

" I for one need the measuring rod of scripture. Indeed, how am I even to know the word incarnate without the Gospel word that tells me both what this Word is like and how I can know him." - Hogster -

We're on the same page here, my friend. None of us would know a single word about The Word without the existence of the Scriptures. BUT, they are not the final Word. The Living Word became flesh at the unique Incarnation of Jesus The Christ, who lives in and through the sacramental life of the Church (for Christians like you and me).

And then, of course, there is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in individual lives - the authenticity of which is subject to the discernment of the local Church (ACANZP) - not just the individual.

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Jean, just a thought; when you say that you look/looked to the Scriptures for authentification of any 'word of knowledge' you have received; have you ever had a word about 'hats on women in church'. Or, even, the need to end prostitution by putting the (female) prostitute to death? These are 'words from Scripture'.

There are problems with 'interpretation of the Scriptures' today; especially as discerned in the careful examination of the words and actions of Jesus, who sometimes seemed to discount the exigencies of the Law in favour of mercy and compassion. My question for you is this: Do today's Christians need to interpret Scripture in the light of Jesus' own words and actions as reported in the gospels? Because, unless we do, we are liable to be reverting to the Old Testament (and perhaps some New Testament) shibboleths which even Jesus did not agree with. Blessings, Fr.Ron

Jean said...

Hey Fr Ron

I haven’t even been on the receiving end of a word of knowledge that involved hats on women in church or stoning prostitutes : ) ... Although I have worn my wolly hat to church several times this winter! Know the words of knowledge I have heard or received tend more to fit with the Corinthians verse “On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.“.

There have been many examples so to choose one when doing the Alpha course and being prayed for the person praying for me said they saw a sword going through my heart. Now this may not on the surface appear encouraging! However, despite the persons obvious reluctance to say it at the time it made perfect sense to me. It related to something I had felt as long as I could remember. Scriptural reference, remember in the NT it says of Mary being told a sword will pierce her own soul - in reference to Jesus? Why was a consolation to me at the time? Because recently having returned to faith as an adult it was consoling to know that God knew the pain I felt. As an aside the person praying had no idea of what the word they received to say meant to me or even its relevance which is often the case I have learnt when a genuine word of knowledge is given.

In such instances it is less about interpretation of scriptural text as in rational analysis but more the way the Holy Spirit uses scripture today in a living way to affirm a spoken word in a given situation. The reason I use scripture in such a way is because in scripture we are told to test prophecies and from the teaching I received seeing how they align to scripture is one form - not the only form - of testing. As we live under the New Covenant I have not known an instance where such a word given has conflicted with us living in the spirit rather than under the law...

Not all words of knowledge I have known have been scripture but in my experience those that are genuine never counteract it. For instance I have real issues when I hear (not directly experience) accounts of people being told they will receive gold fillings for example. In my understanding through scriptures God values the thoughts and aspirations of the heart above worldly concepts and displays of wealth. Jesus’s miracles had more to do with healings and where this is not the case they tend to have a purpose or carry an ethical quality, such as providing wine at a wedding the lack of such would have bought shame upon the host.

Take Care