The Sufficiency of Scripture and Concluding Thoughts on Inspiration

The final doctrine on the inspiration of Scripture is discussed briefly here in the form of the Sufficiency of Scripture. The conclusion ties the last few posts up and discusses the overarching theme on the importance of the inspiration of Scripture.

Doctrine of Sufficiency

The third doctrine that resulted from the doctrine of inspiration is that of the sufficiency of Scripture. This doctrine affirms that Scripture is enough. The Belgic Confession says that, “we believe that the Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God and that whatsoever man ought to believe onto salvation is sufficiently taught therein.”[1] 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. “The written Scriptures were the statute-book by which God instructed, warned, and judged his ancient people.”[2] Henry concludes that the stated 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.”[3] Scripture is sufficient in that it is practical because it is worthy to be taught, studied and obeyed.

God, in His infinite wisdom, gave us everything He wanted us to know in His inspired Word. He gave us what we needed and because it is from God, He gave us enough. If He wanted us to know more, He would have provided that to us. Sufficiency doesn’t mean that the Bible contains all the truths of this world or all that we need to live as obedient stewards of this world. It also doesn’t mean that all of God’s revelations were or are included in the Bible. There are truths outside of the Bible, like science and economics for example. “The sufficiency of Scripture means that we don’t need any more special revelation. We don’t need any more inspired, inerrant words. In the Bible God has given us, we have the perfect standard for judging all other knowledge.”[4]

The doctrine of sufficiency is that God has thoroughly, competently and completely provided all that is necessary in His Word for His believers to obey Him.

Conclusion

God has provided all mankind a true and accurate account of Him and His redemptive works that comes with His authority, been He has preserved and collected through all the ages and has equipped those who read this book everything they will need to listen and obey Him. This all started by God breathing out the very words that we can read today. It all started with inspiration when God breathed out these trustworthy words that came with His authority to be preserved so that His people may be equipped for obedience. “For the Bible is God’s Word now. It is his authoritative Word, in and through and by which the Spirit addresses us today….Scripture is indeed what God himself would have us know and would have us obey in the church as the Word of God.”[5] John Piper sums it up nicely saying, “the Scriptures are sufficient in the sense that they are the only (‘once for all’) inspired and (therefore) inerrant words of God that we need, in order to know the way of salvation (‘make you wise unto salvation’) and the way of obedience (‘equipped for every good work’).”[6]

The doctrines of authority, canonicity and sufficiency are all derived from inspiration. When God gave us His inspired works and these doctrines came to be, He provided the Christian examples of how God has worked in history, how He is working today and how He is equipping us for the future. He has provided us a profitable collection that is trustworthy and more than enough.

[1] Guido de Bras, “The Belgic Confession,” Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics, Internet, available from http://www.reformed.org/, accessed 20 April 2014.

[2] Henry, 10.

[3] Ibid, 27-28.

[4] John Piper, “Thoughts on the Sufficiency of Scripture,” Desiring God, Internet, available from http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/thoughts-on-the-sufficiency-of-scripture, accessed 20 April 2014.

[5] Henry, 10-11.

[6] Piper, “Thoughts on the Sufficiency of Scripture.”

Bibliography

de Bras, Guido. “The Belgic Confession.” Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics. Internet. Available from http://www.reformed.org/, accessed 20 April 2014.

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

Geisler, Norman. “Canonicity of the Bible.” Internet. Available from http://www.pinpointevangelism.com/ The-Canonicity-of-the-Bible.pdf, accessed on 20 April 2014.

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.

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

Piper, John. “Thoughts on the Sufficiency of Scripture.” Desiring God. Internet. Available from http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/thoughts-on-the-sufficiency-of-scripture, accessed 20 April 2014.

“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.

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Doctrine of Canonicity

The continuation on the doctrines of the inspiration of Scripture. This post features part two, the doctrine on the canonicity. Please note, due to size constraints, this is just an abbreviated, big-picture overview. This is not a comprehensive examination on the full doctrine of canonicity.

Doctrine of Canonicity

The doctrine 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. The “canon of Scripture refers to a limited and defined group of writings, which are accepted as authoritative within the Christian church.”[1] Geisler refers to canonicity as the “authoritative books inspired by God for inclusion in Holy Scripture. Canonicity is determined by God….Its authority is established by God.”[2] “The word canon…is a pointer to authority…which belongs to God in His revelation through Jesus Christ and the Holy Scriptures.”[3]Written by men under the influence and direction of the Holy Spirit, the writings resulted in a product of “divine quality unattainable by human powers alone.”[4] These “sacred writings” being the product of the breath of God, were seen as being of “supreme value for all holy purposes.”[5] 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 thus worthy of collection.

These books were identified as being different. They were recognized as being from God and carrying His authority, as opposed to other books written by the same biblical writers, not being collected and preserved because they were not recognized as being inspired and thus from God. The fact that the writing was inspired, that is God-breathed, is what makes it part of Scripture and “canonized” because the basis of canonicity is that the work is inspired.

The issue of canonicity is a closed discussion. The Old Testament canon is linked to books written by the priests and the prophets. Some of the writings, particularly of Moses, were collected and preserved in the Ark of the Covenant. The closing of the Old Testament canon is mainly due to the 400 years of silence and lack of prophets. The New Testament, on the other hand, is linked mainly to the apostles. These writings were given to the early churches as opposed to being given to the people as it was with the Old Testament. The New Testament canon was essentially closed, much like the Old Testament, with the lack of apostles and the cessation of prophecy.

The doctrine of canonicity can be defined as a collection of sacred writings worthy of preservation and collection that meet the standard. The basis for canonicity is that they are inspired by God.

[1] Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction (West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 12.

[2] Norman Geisler, “Canonicity of the Bible,” Internet, available from http://www.pinpointevangelism.com/The-Canonicity-of-the-Bible.pdf, accessed on 20 April 2014.

[3] The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, 499.

[4] Warfield, 8-18.

[5] Warfield, 1-7.

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.