“True Words” by Nicholas Wolterstorff – what is truth?

This post discusses the meaning of truth as defined by Nicholas Wolterstorff in his article “True Words.”

How does Wolterstorff define truth? interact with his biblical support.

    • Wolterstorff suggests that the “root notion of truth is that of something measuring up – that is, measuring up in being or excellence.
    • In the John 5:31 verse where Jesus says, “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true.” This is a response by Christ that the standard was the law which required two or three witnesses. So His testimony alone doesn’t meet or measure up to the standard of the law. This is also why He goes on to say, in this context, that another testifies about Him which makes it true in the very next verse.  “There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true.”

How do you evaluate his definition of truth?

    • While each case will be different and the standard will be dependent on the context, Wolterstorff lays out a simple yet sophisticated way to determine what truth is. He also does a good job of distinguishing between commands and assertions. His definition provides an excellent litmus test to determining if these assertions are “true” by meeting a certain criteria that pertains to the context. Wolterstorff does well in providing an explanation to what a “standard sense” is by saying that the “true assertion” must fit or “correspond to the facts.”

What are the most significant strengths?

    • The most significant strength of his definition is that it simply uses a certain criteria, or standard, to measure truth against. It says that if this assertion, with all of the facts, meets this standard, then it is accurate, correct and thus truth. If it doesn’t, then it is not true. Or if the proposition states that something is not true, then it is not true.

Are there any significant weaknesses?

    • While he provides one of the best definitions of truth, it does have some weaknesses. First, there will be different standards for different assertions. Each case will be different and dependent upon the context. It will be limited to those propositions. Secondly, Wolterstorff states that the listener assumes the way of measuring up to the standard is the way the speaker has in mind of measuring it. This leads to the human factor. This means that because we view truth through our limited perspective of humanity. That if we “assume” incorrectly, we may not have an accurate view of truth.

The doctrine of Inerrancy and a working definition for the Inspiration of Scripture

The concluding post on the doctrine of inerrancy and how it ties together with the inspiration of Scripture. Also, I conclude with a personal working definition of the two concepts.

The Doctrine of Inerrancy

“Divine inspiration assures the inerrancy of what God inspires.”[1] The inerrancy of Scripture is demanded by the doctrine of inspiration to affirm that Scripture is true. To put it simply, inerrancy says that if God is true, then what His Word says is true, and if Scripture is God’s Word and God is a trustworthy God, then Scripture is true, or inerrant. To say it another way, God’s Word is always true and is never false.[2] Paul Feinberg defines inerrancy as, “that when all facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical or life sciences.”[3] In a response to attacks and misunderstandings on inerrancy, a group of biblical scholars gathered in Chicago to produce what is known as “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.” In it, they define inerrancy as, “being wholly and verbally God-given Scripture is without error or fault in all of its teachings, no less than what it states about God’s acts in Creation, about the events of world history, about its own literary origins under God, and its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.”[4] This group went on further to say that one of the essential components to fully grasping and confessing the authority of the Holy Scriptures is a recognition of its total truth and trustworthiness.[5] Recognizing the importance of the issue, the board went on to say, “to deny it is to set aside the witness of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit and to refuse that submission to the claims of God’s own Word which marks true Christian faith.”[6]

Before moving any further, some qualifications and clarifications must be made about inerrancy. First, the doctrine of inerrancy only applies to the original autographs. Technically, it does not pertain to the copies or transmissions of the original text. In conjunction with that, inerrancy does not deny that there are not any contradictory or “problem” texts. It does not guarantee that solutions will ever be discovered to those text, only that a solution does exist. Believing in inerrancy, one can only assume that all the information is not available to address those problem texts.

Furthermore, inerrancy applies to the affirmations of Scripture. Scripture does record lies, errors and false statements but those are quoted accurately. Inerrancy does not demand strict adherence to the rules of grammar.[7] Inerrancy “does not exclude the use either of figures of speech or of a given literary genre.”[8] This means that general, phenomenal and metaphorical assertions are allowed. Inerrancy does not demand chronological, historical and scientific precision. It also does not require direct quotations in the quoting of others. This includes the “verbal exactness in the citation of the Old Testament by the New Testament writers.”[9]

What does inerrancy mean and allow? It means that the accounts that are presented as historical are accurate and actually occurred. It asserts that they are not myth or legend. Inerrancy means that what is stated in the sacred Scriptures is fully and completely accurate, reliable, trustworthy and authoritative. It means that the Bible is infallible, true and has no contradictions that cannot be resolved. Inerrancy means that Scripture is completely sufficient to achieve its purpose that is, the revelations of God and His redemptive works through Jesus Christ. Finally, inerrancy means that the authors aren’t simply stating their opinions, but the interpretations presented by the authors are truth.

Tying the doctrine of inerrancy back to inspiration, Bahnsen reminds us, “As the Spirit of truth He would not generate error…their message was made inerrant.”[10] Since the doctrine of inerrancy is grounded in the biblical teaching about inspiration, then Scripture being given by “divine inspiration, is infallible…it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses.”[11] “If one interprets Scripture according to its own nature, standard, and purpose, there is no need whatever to hesitate in affirming its infallibility…God is himself truth, and his Word never falters.”[12] So, what does inerrancy mean? In this writer’s opinion, inerrancy applies to the original autographs of Scripture and affirms that Scripture is the true, authoritative, accurate and reliable Word of God. The Holy Spirit, as the witness to the Scriptures, authenticates and gives authority to the Bible’s claims and purposes by presenting a trustworthy collection of books that is infallible and free from all error and deceit.

Conclusion

Taking into account what has been discussed about inerrancy, the doctrine of inspiration can now be summarized. Inspiration applying only to the original autographs, is the act of the Holy Spirit working, moving and breathing out the very Words of God through human authors that were prepared by His Spirit to produce a sacred work that is totally inerrant and authoritative. The Holy Scriptures were written by God to provide instructions and promises to His people to obey in equipping them for His service.

The doctrine of inerrancy and inspiration technically applies only to the original autograph. One must remember that because God is God and in His providence has given and established His Word that we use today, and has not tried to distance Himself from it, yet calls us to obey it and for it to have authority in our lives, then we must conclude that it is the Word of God. Since it is the Word of God, and God is the source, it must be true and thus inerrant. God in His sovereignty and authority could have corrected the transmission or printing errors at any time, yet He continues to use this Scripture to mold and shape His believers, to reach the rest of the world and change hearts. At stake here is the character of God, and God has proven that He is willing to have His name attached to these Scriptures and use them to reach people each day, thus even the Bibles we use today must be called inerrant. “Copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.”[13] As Jesus Christ made all of His references to the Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament, most likely using the available copies, we too can put our entire confidence in the accuracy and veracity of God’s written Word.[14] They must be true because God is truth. “The Holy Spirit bears witness to the Scriptures, assuring believes of the truthfulness of God’s written Word.”[15]

The Scriptures are at its simplest a product of the divine, that “God-breathed” them out by His creative breath.[16] We do not have any idea or indication as to how God operated in producing them, only that God did breathe them out of these human authors to produce His inerrant masterpiece of literary work. “The purpose of the biblical writings is to give man all that is necessary and sufficient for his redemptive rescue and obedient service of his Maker.”[17]

[1] Ibid, 35.

[2] Paul Feinberg, The Meaning of Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 294.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 493.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Feinberg, 299.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid, 300.

[10] Greg Bahnsen, Inerrancy of the Autographa,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 152.

[11] The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, 496.

[12] Henry, 34.

[13] The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, 496.

[14] Archer, 82.

[15] The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, 496.

[16] Benjamin B. Warfield, “Inspiration 1-7” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Internet, available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/4618/Inspiration-1-7.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

[17] Henry, 25-26.

Bibliography

Archer, Gleason. “Alleged Errors and Discrepancies in the Original Manuscripts of the Bible,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler, 57-82. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Bahnsen, Greg. “Inerrancy of the Autographa,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler, 151-193. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Bromiley, Geoffrey. “The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture,” Eternity, August 1970, 14. Quoted in Carl F. Henry, “The Authority and Inspiration of Scripture,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein, vol. 1, 2-35. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.

Erickson, Millard J.. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983.

Feinberg, Paul. “The Meaning of Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler, 267-304. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Henry, Carl F.. “The Authority and Inspiration of Scripture.” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein, vol. 1, 2-35. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.

Ryrie, Charles. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1999.

“The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler, 493-502. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Warfield, Benjamin B.. “Inspiration 1-7.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Internet. Available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/ 4618/Inspiration-1-7.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

Warfield, Benjamin B.. “Inspiration 8-18.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Internet. Available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/ 4618/Inspiration-8-18.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

The Doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture

The continuation of defining the doctrine of inspiration and the inerrancy of Scripture. This is part 2 of 3.

The Doctrine of Inspiration

Charles Ryrie defines inspiration as “the act by which God’s superintended the human authors of the Bible so that they composed and recorded without error His message in words of their original writings.”[1] Millard Erickson also defines inspiration by reminding us of the work of the Holy Spirit in inspiration, that is “the supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit upon the Scripture writers which rendered their writings an accurate record of the revelation, or which resulted in what they wrote actually being the Word of God.”[2] One of the key hallmarks of inspiration is the work of the Holy Spirit and how the Scriptures were produced: the words of Scripture were conceived by our Lord and the writers using their human words when speaking “in the Holy Spirit,” by His initiative and under His controlling direction.[3]

Based on the definitions provided, we can understand that inspiration is used to designate the product, it is not about the process. It is the whole of Scripture given in the form of expression that is from God; but the whole of it has been given by God through the instrumentality of men.[4] Looking again at 2 Peter 1:21, that “prophecy” of Scripture was not spoken of the human writers or out of them, but it was from God.[5] Second Timothy 3:16-17 further describes Scripture and inspiration: “All Scripture is God-breathed (or inspired) and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” This points to how God did not just dictate the words or breathe in the words to the authors, but how Scripture was breathed out of the authors by the Spirit working in them. As Paul and Peter both suggest in these verses, we can see that they and other biblical writers didn’t view the production of Scripture as a “human product breathed into by the Divine Spirit, and thus heightened in its qualities or endowed with new qualities; but as a Divine product produced through the instrumentality of men.”[6] Moreover, these writers were moved by God’s “Divine initiative and borne by the irresistible power of the Spirit of God along the ways of His choosing to the ends of His appointments.”[7] “The main point about verbal inspiration is not that the words are inspired rather than their content, but that there is no such thing as the one without the other…. The content is not to be had without this form.”[8] This demonstrates that inspiration does not happen without the work of the Holy Spirit. To deny inspiration, is to minimize the work of the Holy Spirit. Warfield says that inspiration occurred not by the distant act of dictation, but that “it took place in a process in which the control of the Holy Spirit was too complete and pervasive to permit the human qualities of the secondary authors in any way to condition the purity of the product as the word of God.”[9]

Inspiration is, as Carl F. Henry states, “a matter solely of God speaking in His Word, supernaturally to and through chosen men, making his thoughts and message known to those who must have otherwise been strangers to them.”[10] Henry reminds us that God’s Word shares His “very own attributes” and cautions the Christian community that “without an authoritative Scripture, the church is powerless to overcome not only human unregeneracy but also satanic deception.”[11]

In trying to define inspiration, clarity must first be provided in an age that likes to use this word in many different ways. Nowadays, it could mean writing a song, or jumping off a cliff, or even killing an innocent person; if inspiration is to be used, we must be clear as to what it is. In Carl F. Henry’s definition, he not only indicates the Spirit’s part in inspiration, but also some of the by-products of inspiration in regards to inerrancy and preservation. He states, “Inspiration is that supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit whereby the sacred writers were divinely supervised in their production of Scripture, being restrained from error and guided in the choice of words they used, consistently with their disparate personalities and stylistic peculiarities.” The doctrine of inspiration is made up of four separate doctrines: inerrancy, authority, canonicity and sufficiency. Each of these doctrines are all by-products or derivatives of the doctrine of inspiration.

The doctrine of authority can be defined as that which is to be obeyed. As authoritative, Scripture reveals God and His commands and promises. Since Scripture has God as its source, we can attribute it to being God’s Word and having all the authority of God, thus Scripture is to be obeyed.

Scripture points out the character of God, and reveals that He is worthy of all praise, glory and honor. The second doctrine, that of canonicity, could also be called worthy of preservation. The books of the Bible were collected and set apart as Scripture because those who had compiled them could see that they were worthy of preservation and were authoritative. As the early church read these books, meditated on them and collected them, they recognized them as Scripture. Why? Because these certain books came with the authenticity as being God’s inspired Word. They were recognized as being from God and worthy to be called God’s Word. Since they were God’s Word, they were worthy to be obeyed and put into a collection.

The third doctrine that resulted from the doctrine of inspiration is that of the sufficiency of Scripture. This doctrine affirms that Scripture is enough. Inside the pages of Scripture lies everything that is needed for the follower of God to be “…thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17, NIV); it provides all that is necessary for the Christian to live a godly life.

Finally, that leads us to the doctrine of inerrancy which will now be discussed in further detail before defining inspiration.

[1] Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1999), 82.

[2] Millard J. Erikson, Christian Theology, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983), 199.

[3] Benjamin B. Warfield, “Inspiration 8-18” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Internet, available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/4618/Inspiration-8-18.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid, Section 9.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Geoffrey Bromiley, “The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture,” Eternity, August 1970, 14, quoted in Carl F. Henry, “The Authority and Inspiration of Scripture,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 20.

[9] Warfield, Section 8.

[10] Henry, 8.

[11] Ibid, 13.

defining inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture

This is the first part of a three part post to discuss the pivotal doctrine of inspiration. Over the next three post, we will discuss inspiration: what it is, what it includes and what is part of it. Also, the doctrine of inerrancy will be discussed.

defining inspiration and inerrancy

Second Peter 1:21 states “For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” One of the key doctrines of the Christian faith is that of inspiration, specifically the inspiration of Scripture. A key ingredient to inspiration is the idea or concept of inerrancy, which is commonly thought of as “without error.” The Bible, and everything included in it, is a central and pivotal part of the Christian faith. To deny its Divine Authorship is to also deny its accuracy, authority, sufficiency and sacredness which is quite dangerous because it is to deny God’s character. The character of God and the descriptions of Him are revealed in Scripture as a truthful and trustworthy God; this is what makes the issues of inspiration and inerrancy so significant.

While the terms and ideas of inspiration and inerrancy have come under attack, it is the goal of this paper to lay out a definition that will be profitable and truthful to God’s revelations that are found in His Word. While these terms, inspiration and inerrancy, have been misconstrued and redefined by the modern world, it is important that we understand the concepts that these two terms refer to, and why they must be maintained as part of the Christian faith. God gave us the original writings by breathing out of the authors His divine words that those who believe in Him may be “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17, NIV). It is those original writings that were inspired and inerrant, but the copies that we can hold in our hands today are still accurate and reliable.

Why this Issue is Important

“The Bible presents itself first and foremost, as the Word of the Lord, given to man through chosen recipients and transmitters of divine redemptive revelation.”[1] The doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture says that God is the Source. The writings are inspired which means they came from God, or to say it in a more biblical sense, they are God-breathed. With God as the Source, Scripture describes, discloses, and marks His character. Among the many disclosures about God throughout His Word, is that He is true and perfect. Thus, if God is the source of the inspired Scriptures and of all truth, then what is written in His Word must be true and free from error. Since God is the source of Scripture, we can imply that Scripture has the authority of God; because God is who He says He is, Scripture is to be obeyed, and have authority and influence in a person’s life. The nature of Scripture as the Word of God means that every part of it is authoritative and trustworthy. “At stake is the credibility and reliability of the Bible as authentic revelation from God.”[2] “The result of inspiration is that God’s revelation is fully, permanently, and reliably committed to writing, assuring as a consequence the full trustworthiness of the prophetic-apostolic writing.”[3]

In recent years, skeptics have criticized the character of God through the attack on the inspiration and inerrancy of God’s Word. By describing that the Bible contains errors and questioning the process of inspiration, critics are challenging the providence of an Almighty God that is the only perfect and infallible being. Therefore, to challenge the Divine Word of God and bring His character into question is of utmost importance. For God cannot lie or deceive and what He reveals in His sacred Word must be true because God is the standard of truth.

[1] Carl F. Henry, “The Authority and Inspiration of Scripture,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 5.

[2] Gleason Archer, “Alleged Errors and Discrepancies in the Original Manuscripts of the Bible,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 59.

[3] Henry, 26.

Models of Revelation continued: Presence, Awareness, and Proper Evangelical

Continuation of the discussion on Avery Dulles’ book, “Models of Revelation.” This post discusses the dialectical presence model and the new awareness model. Finally, it concludes with what the evangelical model more accurately looks like.

Model Four: Revelation as Dialectical Presence

Dulles defines this model by stating that, “God…could never be an object known either by inference from nature or history, by propositional teaching, or by direct perception of a mystical kind. Utterly transcendent, God encounters the human subject when it pleases him by means of a word in which faith recognizes him to be present.”[1] The “crucial moment of revelation” for this model is God’s utterance of a word charged with divine power.[2] This model is a response to the inner experience model which overemphasized the imminence of God. In this model, God is unknowable unless He makes Himself known. Revelation begins with God’s self-disclosure. The difference between this model and the experience model is that this encounter begins with God’s initiative. The content of revelation for this model is God, particularly God revealing Jesus Christ through words is one of its strengths.

Other strengths of this model are its focus on Christ and the need for revelation as God’s self-disclosure. The problems with this model is that it “views Scripture as a fallible witness to a revelational encounter” and considers its propositional statements fallible.[3] In addition, it limits divine revelation to the encounter with Christ and ignores other forms of divine revelation.

Model Five: Revelation as New Awareness

The form of revelation for this model is that of a “breakthrough into a more advanced stage of human consciousness, such that the self is experienced as constituted and empowered by the divine presence.”[4] The “crucial moment of revelation” for this model is the “the stimulation of the human imagination to restructure experience in a new framework.”[5] Revelation occurs by active involvement and immersion in the world. It is a reflection of God in human consciousness and is ongoing, not to be confined to the past.

The strengths are that symbols and experience can produce and induce a divine consciousness. It is also not as rigid and as authoritarian as other models. The weaknesses of this model though are quite substantial for the evangelical. Since God is not the object of revelation, the lack of content and rejection of verbal revelation are serious problems.

The More Complex Evangelical Model

Dulles reminds us that “The differences are limited and relate more to the theological understanding of revelation than to the fundamental idea.”[6] These models point out how different people understand the same terminology differently, which is part of the issue with revelation, it is how we respond or interpret it.

As we have seen, each model offers a variety of strengths and weaknesses. In the revelation as doctrine model, the major strengths are that God does speak and reveal Himself and His will verbally. Other strengths include the inspiration, inerrancy and authority of Scripture we recognize as part of the evangelical model. In the revelation as history model, God revealing Himself in acts in history is the main strength. The major strength of the revelation as inner experience model is that God does reveal Himself in a personal and communal relationship with His followers. The strength of the dialectical model is revelation occurring by God’s initiative and that God is perfectly revealed in Christ. Finally, the major strength of the revelation as new awareness is the value of symbols and active involvement in the experience of God’s creation. In summation, the evangelical model is much broader and more complex than Dulles originally described. By taking the main strengths of each models and incorporating them into the evangelical model, it becomes a more comprehensive and complete model that symbolizes the views of the evangelical Christian in an effort to know and respond to God’s divine revelations.

[1] Dulles, 28.

[2] Ibid, 28.

[3] Henry, 24.

[4] Dulles, 109.

[5] Ibid, 28.

[6] Ibid, 118.

Bibliography 

Dulles, Avery. Models of Revelation. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1992.

Henry, Carl F. H.. “The Authority and Inspiration of the Bible,” in The Expositor’s Bible

Commentary, vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.

DULLES’ MODELS OF REVELATION AND THE EVANGELICAL VIEW

The issue of this post centers on the book “Models of Revelation” by Avery Dulles. In this book, he describes different models or constructs that he believes God reveals Himself and His Will to believers. Dulles’ attempt to separate the different models is quite good but unfortunately lacks clarity on what a true evangelical Christian model of revelation is. This will be broken out into two post with the remaining models in a separate post as well as what an evangelical model is believed to really include.

Can the Unfathomable ever be scaled down to a single, limited view of how He works? Is there a model that can be used for finite beings to know an infinite God? In the book “Models of Revelation” by Avery Dulles he explains how various Christians over the years have tried to know and experience the divine revelations of God. He chooses five different views that have been prominent since the 20th century and breaks them down into theological models. “Their purpose is not to present replicas of God or of the divine action, but to suggest ways of accounting for theologically relevant data and for explaining, up to a point, what Christians believe on a motive of faith.”[1] But, Dulles himself recognizes that “a given system, even though correct in what it affirms, will inevitably fall short of fathoming the mystery of the divine being or the divine activity.”[2]

Therefore, to truly respond to Dulles’ limited view of the evangelical model, we must observe each models strengths and a weaknesses as Dulles defines them. As Dulles breaks down each model, we shall see how limited his evangelical model is and why it needs to be redefined.

Model One: Revelation as Doctrine

In this model, also known as the evangelical model, revelation “is principally found in clear propositional statements attributed to God as authoritative teacher.”[3] The “crucial moment of revelation” for this model is the formulation of teaching in a clear conceptual form. This model is understood on the analogy of authoritative teaching where God is seen as the infallible teacher who communicates knowledge by speech and writing to His recipients, as pupils.[4]

Dulles does show this model as believing in general revelation where God has revealed himself in nature, but that His revelation in nature is not sufficient for salvation. He believes that all special revelation is necessary for salvation, which is not completely accurate since it is limited by space and time and that is what sets it apart. The treatment of inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture is accurate and seem to reflect mainstream evangelical understanding.

The major problem with Dulles’ understanding of this model is how he labels a very narrow use of proposition. Part of the issue is that most of the Bible is not propositional in the strict sense and it is not doctrinal. He confuses revelation and a response to revelation, which is doctrine. He essentially equates revelation with the meaning of the Bible. In contrast, an evangelical would see doctrine as a response to revelation and not all revelation as doctrine.

Dulles does offer a good amount of positives in this model, specifically the stress of God speaking and being our teacher, which is lost in other models. His emphasis on inspiration and inerrancy, the emphasis on developing doctrine in response to the Scriptures and finally the emphasis on progressive revelation are all items the evangelical can agree with. This is a good start, but it is insufficient and narrow as a model of revelation for the evangelical in order to have a greater experience and knowledge of the Almighty.

Model Two: Revelation as History

This model “maintains that God reveals himself primarily in his great deeds, especially those which form the major themes of biblical history.”[5] The “crucial moment of revelation” for this model is the occurrence of historical events through which God signifies his intentions.[6] This model offers a greater deal of diversity which was missing in the first and stresses the priority of event over interpretation. The event is revelation and the interpretation of it is a response to the event. This model declares that the Bible is not revelation but an interpretation of history and it might even be a divine interpretation of history. The content and form of revelation is primarily the great deeds of God throughout history.

The strengths of this model is that is helps us to see that events are a form of revelation. It emphasizes the redemptive events of the Exodus and the events of Christ. It refocuses the attention on the great acts of God delivering and redeeming His people. But, to consolidate all of God’s work in history as revelatory is too narrow; while this model is a form of revelation, it cannot be the only form of divine revelation.

Model Three: Revelation as Inner Experience

Revelation occurs when God reveals Himself in an inner experience in the individual person that is personal and continuous. Revelation is a “privileged interior experience of grace or communion with God” that “depends on the mediation of Christ, who experienced the Father.”[7] God is both transcendent and imminent, particularly present in the inner experience. The “crucial moment of revelation” is “an immediate, interior perception of the divine presence.”[8] The content of revelation is God as He reveals Himself through a direct, unmediated encounter.

The major strengths of this model is that God is the content of revelation and that He reveals Himself in a personal and intimate way with His faithful followers. While there are many good things about experiencing God, it also raises concerns when this is the dominant form of revelation. This model rejects the distinction between general and special revelation because it denies general revelation. “One characteristic defect, it is not its emphasis on experience but rather its excessively narrow concept of experience.”[9] Dulles also points out is that it “makes rather selective use of the Bible and even contradicts many biblical texts.”[10] This model “deprives Scripture of revelational value and considers it the framework for a ‘language-event,’ an internal encounter in which one experiences authentic being.”[11]

[1] Avery Dulles, Models of Revelation, (Maryknoll: Orbis Books 1992), 32.

[2] Ibid, 32.

[3] Ibid, 27.

[4] Ibid, 33.

[5] Ibid, 27.

[6] Ibid, 28.

[7] Ibid, 27-28.

[8] Ibid, 28.

[9] Ibid, 81.

[10] Ibid, 78.

[11] Carl F. H. Henry, “The Authority and Inspiration of the Bible,” in The Expositor’s Bible

Commentary, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 24.

Is relativism and postmodernism the same?

The self-identified postmodern philosopher Richard Rorty asserts: “Relativism is the view that every belief on a certain topic, or perhaps about any topic, is as good as every other. No one holds this view. Except for the occasional cooperative freshman, one cannot find anybody who says that two incompatible opinions on an important topic are equally good.” (Consequences of Pragmatism [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982], 166.) Why do you think the charge that postmodernists are relativists persists?

The primary connection between the postmodernist and the relativist can be narrowed down to the principle of truth. Both have a very similar description of truth and what it means, at least how the term “truth” can be defined. To understand how the charge persists, we must look at the most basic similarities between the two.

Relativism is the concept that differing points of view have no absolute truth or validity. In addition these points of view only have relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration. The very essence of relativism is that there is no one standard that is valid for everyone. Relativists may infer that there is no such thing as truth since there are no external objective standards that are valid for everyone. In addition, relativist may use the word truth but it may be filtered through their own subjective preferences, i.e. “what is true for you is not true for me.” Additionally, relativism chooses its path and direction according to the ruling preferences of the individual and acts not in a humble way. Since relativism doesn’t submit to an objective external truth or authority it is self-serving and prideful, reflecting that the individual’s decision are best.

The concepts of right and wrong, true and false also fall under the category of expressing personal opinion or agreed upon community values, but these are not based on a universally accepted valid system or standard. Because of this rationale, the relativist can do what he pleases since he is not submissive to a universal truth. The final by-product of relativism is its effect that it has on language. It seeks to obtain the preferences of the writer and turns language into giving the people what they want to hear.

Similarly, postmodernism was developed on profound skepticism toward language, knowledge, history, reason and truth. Because it doesn’t have a single definition that can be agreed upon, it can almost mean anything, everything and nothing. It is objective to different communities. Jean Lyotard, the French champion of many postmodern themes, said that “postmodernism requires a suspicion of the overarching stories (often called “metanarratives”) that support our claims of truth. Any claim to know truth or any attempt to commend truth to others is likely to be just a power play, they argue, an attempt to impose one’s own metanarrative in the guise of an absolute truth.

At the heart of postmodernism is a redefining of truth. While the truth of the Modern Age could be discovered or reasoned in an individual way, truth in the postmodern age is found in community. If truth is found in community, then the tradition and culture are the means of growing truth. The concept of truth can be different because what one community defines as truth may be different from what another defines as truth. There is no longer a single authoritative truth.

Where postmodernism and relativism are connected is how they both deny an external source of authority. Postmodernist attempt to redefine the concept of truth in a number of different ways. First, it depends on the definition of truth. For example, what is true to one person may not be true for another. Second, truth is not a transcendent, timeless, universal absolute that is present everywhere and applicable everywhere. Truth is also located in and relative to the community in which the individual belongs.

Language and literary theory is another similarity between the two. Postmodernists’ view that language must be deconstructed from its oppressive cultural overtones to a non-standard flow of amoral values. The postmodernist believes that there is no one meaning of the world and that a transcendent center to reality as a whole does not exist. One of the main ideas of postmodern philosophy is that it doesn’t search for a unified, objective reality; it accepts that everything is different.

Based on the evidence provided, the persistent claim that postmodernists are relativists can be summarized by understanding the similarities with truth and how no absolute truth or external authority exist. Postmodernism is identified with relativism because both reject the claims of absolute knowledge and objectivity. In addition, both reject the role of reason and rationality in science. Finally, each have similar views on language since there is no truth, it is easy for the writer or speaker to flatter the audience with what they want to hear because they both create their own realities.

RESPONSE TO GRENZ & OLSON, WHO NEEDS THEOLOGY?

Book Review of Stanley Grenz and Roger Olson’s “Who Needs Theology”. The book describes the public misconception about theology in the church, the good and the bad, and why proper theology is so useful in today’s society.

RESPONSE TO GRENZ & OLSON, WHO NEEDS THEOLOGY?

The book “Who Needs Theology” by Stanly Grenz and Roger Olson takes the reader on a journey to discover why everyone needs theology and everyone is a theologian. It describes the common misconceptions that many have with theology and exposes those misconceptions to the real purpose and truths of theology. That purpose is not just one of amassing knowledge or growing to know more about the Christian faith, but it is to affect the life of a believer in Christ, and allow one to be able to articulate truth to the surrounding culture. It is to take that knowledge and truly know what one’s beliefs are and whether they are doctrinally sound. Proper theology does not follow with blind faith but develops a strong faith to use as a background as to why one does believe God and why God is real; theology moves us from knowledge to living out ones faith and “help us be the believing people of God in the world today.”[1]

The major thesis of the book and greatest lessons are that theology is not just about a set of beliefs or doctrines but it is about strengthening the foundations of Christian faith, living out that faith in the identity that God created the Christian to be, and not being satisfied to just know truth but to explain that truth to contemporary culture. The authors remind us that theology is not about us, but about knowing God and being God-centered. The authors describe that theology “results in God being glorified even in believers’ minds themselves. Theological reflection leads to thinking rightly about God as well as about oneself and about the world as a creation under God.”[2]

One of the brightest parts of the book is essentially a step-by-step guide in forming theology. These instructions guide the reader by using the critical and constructive tasks of theology to rely on the proper sources to form ones’ theology. They remind the reader that God’s Word will always be the primary source, with the additional sources being tradition and culture. They share the dangers of starting with the wrong idea first and the repercussions that could lead to by not having a theology that is either relevant or effective.

Reading this book reminded me that our lives are to glorify God in all we do and to seek knowledge where our theology “moves beyond our head to touch our heart and even our hands.”[3] A challenge that is posed to the reader is to create one’s own “integrative motif”. While they selected community, what struck me the most as I read was how the authors reinforced the idea that theology can’t just stay inside of a believer. For a believer’s faith to grow, theology is necessary to know what to believe, to discern false doctrines and to know and please God by knowing Him more. That is why my “integrative motif” for this book and Scripture as a whole is the glory of God, specifically revealed through Christ Jesus our Lord.

[1] Stanley Grenz and Roger Olson, Who Needs Theology?: An Invitation to the Study of God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 94.

[2] Ibid, 48.

[3] Ibid, 46.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Grenz, Stanley, and Roger Olson. Who Needs Theology?: An Invitation to the Study of God. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

DEFINING POSTMODERNISM: CHRISTIANITY AND CONCLUSION

The continuation of the postmodernism discussion. This post addresses the Christians response to postmodernism and concludes the topic by summarizing the main points of postmodernism.

The Postmodernist and the Christian

So what does this mean for Christians? Brian McLaren says, “Emerging Christian leaders are interested in understanding the shift in culture and how it affects Christianity because it helps them grapple with the problem of making the faith relevant to a younger generation that has increasingly left the faith.”[1] To reach people in the new postmodern context, we must set ourselves to the task of deciphering the implications of postmodernism for the gospel.[2] As many people in the postmodernist world turn off the controlling, demanding metanarrative of Modern Era Christianity preaching, the Christian community is at a crossroads. It can either continue down the path of an era that is dead in modernism, or it can reform its ways to reach a whole new generation. A generation that has seen the hypocrisy of the church and its believers. A generation that is tired of the argumentative style of old. A generation that has hear enough words and in its multi-sensory was see the observable acts of love. The postmodern world has some realization that it is a fallen world, but they are searching for a hope. The Christian must live as a person of hope and truth in the midst of a society that do not believe in truth. In a world that is more interested in stories, if the Christian can move from a modern approach to an approach listening and telling stories, the opportunities for evangelism are out there. In a world craving hope and interested in spirituality, it is an exciting time for Christians. But also a time, where change needs to happen and the Christians approach must be different than the past.

The great theologian A.W. Tozer writes, “We cannot present Christ and His atoning work as if it were one of many ‘virtual’ options. The postmodernist can ‘accept’ Christianity or reject it without ever considering its ‘reality.’ To him, there would be no contradiction in accepting more than one if not many religions. Today, we hear of many ‘faiths,’ any one of which becomes truth for the one accepting it.”[3] The gospel hasn’t changed and we cannot conform it to society. To make a difference in this new culture, it will be an act of trust in God Almighty. The Christian must learn from the past and bring the greatest story of hope and grace to life. If the postmodernist is interested in stories, then the Christian has a whole book of stories to tell, including the greatest story ever told. The story of Jesus Christ and His redemption and love for this fallen world. Os Guinness writes:

But perhaps postmodernism’s main challenge to the church is to our central mission as Christians: following Christ and making him Lord in all of life. The church cannot become simply another customer center that offers designer religion and catalogue spirituality to the hoppers and shoppers of the modern world. Followers of Christ are custodians of the faith passed on down the running centuries. Never must we allow anyone outside or inside the church to become cannibals who devour the truth and meaning of this priceless heritage of faith. Letting the church be the church and the gospel be the gospel is integral to letting God be God.[4]

Conclusion

In the song, Dylan records, “For he that gets hurt; will be he who has stalled; There’s a battle outside; And it’s ragin’,” speaks to the heart of those that do not change with the times. That as Christians, if we try to do things as they were done in previous times, like the Modern Era, we will be a dying breed in a world that is tired of our oppressive, domineering claims. In a world that is more interested in hearing stories, our standard operating procedure needs to be updated from that of an argumentative controlling lecture of people to the humble stories of God’s grace and amazing redemptive abilities. The battle is raging all around us and if we do not step up in a this dark, pessimistic world that sees no hope, than many will get hurt and our future will be much darker and with much less hope.

Postmodernism may not be able to be defined, because to do so would be to put a label on it. But for the purpose of this exercise, it is the writers belief that postmodernism originally was a movement in the arts as a direct affront to modernism. It has since invaded every aspect of our culture and we are now living in the time of postmodernism. The postmodernism of today believes that there is not authority on truth and the source of any truth comes from community. History and knowledge can no longer be trusted because of previous metanarratives and language cannot be trusted. Postmodernism celebrates diversity and is concerned for the marginalized. It is an ever changing, always connected, multi-sensory world that believes in the inter-connectedness of all things and limited resources of the world in which we live in. Postmodernism is pessimistic about science and technology and is skeptical of the world in which we live in.

[1] Jennifer Riley, “Brian McLaren: Postmodern Christianity Understood as Story,” Christian Post, Internet, available from http://www.christianpost.com/news/brian-mclaren-postmodern-christianity-understood-as-story-31238/, accessed 28 February 2014.

[2] Grenz, 7.

[3] A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, (Harrisburg: Christian, 1958), 69.

[4] Os Guinness, Fit Bodies, Fat Minds, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 110.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Crouch, Andy. “What Exactly is Postmodernism?” Christianity Today, November 2000.

Grenz, Stanley. A Primer on Postmodernism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996.

Guinness, OS. Fit Bodies, Fat Minds. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994.

Keller, Tim. “Preaching Morality in an Amoral Age.” The Resurgence Leadership Journal. Internet. Available from http://theresurgence.com/files/pdf/tim_keller_1996-01-01_preaching_morality_in_an_amoral_age, accessed 1 March 2014.

McLaren, Brian. “An Open Letter to Chuck Colson.” A New Kind of Christian. Internet. Available from http://www.brianmclaren.net/archives/000018.html, accessed 28 February 2014.

McGrath, Alister E.. Christian Theology: An Introduction. West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

Postmodernism. 20 February 2014, 05:13 UTC. In Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. Encyclopedia on-line. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodernism. Internet. Retrieved 28 February 2014.

Riley, Jennifer. “Brian McLaren: Postmodern Christianity Understood as Story.” Christian Post. Internet. Available from http://www.christianpost.com/news/brian-mclaren-postmodern-christianity-understood-as-story-31238/, accessed 28 February 2014.

Tozer, A. W.. The Pursuit of God. Harrisburg: Christian, 1958.

Postmodernism: a definition for the undefined

DEFINING POSTMODERNISM: The subject of this assignment was to create a personal, working definition for Postmodernism. This is part 1. The second part will describe the Christians response to postmodernism.

During one of the most confusing and troubling times in the history of American culture, one of the greatest artists and poets once said, “The times they are a-changin’.” No one will ever mistake Bob Dylan as a prophet but in this song written for the purpose of creating an anthem for change during the civil rights movement, little did he know that those lyrics would apply to the shift that the Western world was undergoing.

Postmodernism is a specific movement of the late-20th-century in the arts, architecture, and criticism that was a reaction and a departure from modernism. It was a cultural phenomenon that invaded every facet of academics, including skeptical interpretations of culture, literature, art, philosophy, history, economics, architecture, fiction, and literary criticism. It is often associated with deconstruction and post-structuralism because its usage as a term gained significant popularity at the same time as twentieth-century post-structural thought.[1] Postmodernism seems to mean anything, everything, and nothing.[2] Alister McGrath says that a full definition of postmodernism is “virtually impossible.”[3] While postmodernism is no longer a major them in the art and architecture worlds, the word “postmodernism” has been applied in different ways now, most specifically in discussions of culture.

Postmodernism can refer to a group of people that have typically been the marginalized or even called “the others.” It is a desire to do justice to the claims of those whom the dominant culture has excluded politically, economically, and (probably not least of all from the postmodern perspective) rhetorically.[4] Postmodernism can also refer loosely to advanced consumer capitalism, in which the prevalence of choice has rendered everything level.[5] But many suggest that postmodernism refers to a “profound skepticism toward modernity’s assumptions about knowledge, truth, and reason.”[6] Jean Lyotard, the French champion of many postmodern themes, said that “postmodernism requires a suspicion of the overarching stories (often called “metanarratives”) that support our claims of truth. Any claim to know truth or any attempt to commend truth to others is likely to be just a power play, they argue, an attempt to impose one’s own metanarrative in the guise of an absolute truth.”[7]

Characteristics of Postmodernism

One of the defining characteristics about postmodernism is its direct opposition to the Modern Era. After the optimistic view of the Modern Era was attacked in the twentieth century by increased wars, violence, turmoil and civil unrest many people became more pessimistic. The world that was once positive and thought that all problems could be fixed or discovered, now had to deal with a world that was falling apart. The postmodern world became weary and more restrained about science and technology because they witnessed what it could do and how it could inflict pain. Brian McLaren states, “9/11 demonstrates the fear of postmodernity with a controlling metanarrative, a controlling big idea, controlling story which has proved to destroy.”[8] In turn, this created a growing cynicism and skepticism about the world around them.

The postmodern world has the fastest rate of change when compared to the two previous era’s, the Pre-Modern and the Modern. The Pre-Modern world basically lasted from 500 BC to 500 AD and had a very gradual rate of change, but during the Mordern Era, also called the Enlightenment Project, which lasted from the 18th to 20th centuries change was very rapid. During the Modern Era, communication tools became more widespread and resulted in a serious growth of information and information sharing. The postmodern world on the other hand is an age where everyone is connected. There is virtually a wealth of information at one’s finger tips. With the abundance of information and rapidity of change, the postmodern world is one that is multi-sensory and experiential.

At the heart of postmodernism is a redefining of truth. While the truth of the Modern Age could be discovered or reasoned in an individual way, truth in the postmodern age is found in community. Truth may be the tradition of the community. Culture has become the garden for growing truth. Whereas culture used to conform to accepted standards of truth, now truth conforms to accepted group culture. The concept of truth can be different because what one community defines as truth may be different from what another defines as truth. There is no longer a single authoritative truth. “This means that there is no one meaning of the world, no transcendent center to reality as a whole.”[9] “Truth is established neither by the correspondence of an assertion with objective reality nor by the internal coherence of the assertions themselves… we should simply give up the search for truth and be content with interpretation.”[10] Since there is not an absolute truth in the postmodern world, truth now comes from sharing and hearing others stories so that some type of truth might be received. Metanarratives can longer be trusted because they are seen as oppressive and controlling. Tim Keller writes, “In this view [denial of truth], all ‘truths’ and ‘facts’ are now in quotation marks. Claims of objective truth are really just a cover-up for a power play. Those who claim to have a story true for all are really just trying to get power for their group over other groups.”[11]

Contrasting Postmodern and Modern

Postmodernism in contrast to the individualistic ways of the Modern Era has a more holistic view of life. It sees that in some way we are all connected. The Modern Era believed that we had unlimited resources and once all those resources are used up, they can be gathered from somewhere else. Whereas the postmodern world is aware of the world’s limited resources. The postmodernist is able to view the side effects of using those resources to make a particular item. In the Modern Era, the world was full of questions and they believed that there was an answer to every question. If they were not able to answer a question it did not trouble that society, because the people believed it gave them reason to live. In a postmodern world, the opposition to the Modern Era is displayed by the knowledge that there will be some unanswered questions because there is more to life than anyone will ever know. The postmodernist is not troubled by the lack of certainty.

One final contrast between the two time periods is the belief in God or a god. During the modern time, there was belief that there may or may not be a God. The overarching metanarrative for that time period was a Christian one. Grenze writes, “evangelicalism is a child of early modernity.”[12] Postmodernism on the other hand, because of the distrust of the metanarrative, Christianity is seen as oppressive and controlling. Although many in postmodernism have an interest in spirituality that relates to the Pre-Modern age.

[1] “Postmodernism,” in Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia; (Wikimedia Foundation Inc., updated 20 February 2014, 05:13 UTC) [encyclopedia on-line]; available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodernism; Internet; retrieved 28 February 2014.

[2] Andy Crouch, “What Exactly is Postmodernism?,” Christianity Today, November 13, 2000, 76.

[3] Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction (West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 73.

[4] Crouch, 76.

[5] Ibid, 76.

[6] Ibid, 76.

[7] Ibid, 76.

[8] Brian McLaren, “An Open Letter to Chuck Colson,” A New Kind of Christian, Internet, available from http://www.brianmclaren.net/archives/000018.html, accessed 28 February 2014.

[9] Stanley Grenz, A Primer on Postmodernism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), 4.

[10] Ibid, 4.

[11] Tim Keller, “Preaching Morality in an Amoral Age,” The Resurgence Leadership Journal, Internet, available from http://theresurgence.com/files/pdf/tim_keller_1996-01-01_preaching_morality_in_an_amoral_age, accessed 1 March 2014.

[12] Grenz, 4.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Crouch, Andy. “What Exactly is Postmodernism?” Christianity Today, November 2000.

Grenz, Stanley. A Primer on Postmodernism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996.

Guinness, OS. Fit Bodies, Fat Minds. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994.

Keller, Tim. “Preaching Morality in an Amoral Age.” The Resurgence Leadership Journal. Internet. Available from http://theresurgence.com/files/pdf/tim_keller_1996-01-01_preaching_morality_in_an_amoral_age, accessed 1 March 2014.

McLaren, Brian. “An Open Letter to Chuck Colson.” A New Kind of Christian. Internet. Available from http://www.brianmclaren.net/archives/000018.html, accessed 28 February 2014.

McGrath, Alister E.. Christian Theology: An Introduction. West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

Postmodernism. 20 February 2014, 05:13 UTC. In Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. Encyclopedia on-line. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodernism. Internet. Retrieved 28 February 2014.

Riley, Jennifer. “Brian McLaren: Postmodern Christianity Understood as Story.” Christian Post. Internet. Available from http://www.christianpost.com/news/brian-mclaren-postmodern-christianity-understood-as-story-31238/, accessed 28 February 2014.

Tozer, A. W.. The Pursuit of God. Harrisburg: Christian, 1958.