Let’s get all my heresies out in one day.
While I was hunting through How to read the Bible for all its worth, I found something which crystallised a number of problems I have with the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture.
Now to say that I have problems with something doesn’t mean I don’t believe it. Actually I don’t know where I stand on it. The best argument I’ve heard for it is that the Bible says that the Bible is inspired - which is a seriously broken interpretation of 2 Tim 3:16 (as this page makes clear) - which is very similar to the Da Vinci Code saying that everything in the Da Vinci Code is true. Oddly believers in this argument agree with the first part of that sentence but not the second.
The second best argument I’ve heard is that the Bible is inspired because the Church recognised its inspiration. Good news for the doctrine of inspiration, really bad news for the doctrine of the authority of Scripture, because Scripture is only authoritative because the Church says so.
But the one that really freaks me out is how textbooks on exegesis, like How to read the Bible for all its worth deal with the fact that within the Bible, the authors break all their rules of exegesis. They deal with it by appealing to magic. Always a bad sign, I feel.
At a number of places in the New Testament, reference is made to Old Testament passages that do not appear to refer to what the New Testament says they do. That is, these passages seem to have a clear meaning in the original Old Testament setting and yet are used in connection with a different meaning by a New Testament author… We, however, are simply not authorized writers of Scripture. What Paul did, we are not authorized to do. The allegorical connections he was inspired to find between the Old Testament and the New Testament are trustworthy. But nowhere does the Scripture say to us: “Go and do likewise”.
But of course the Scripture never told Paul to do it either. The message is clear: there are two types of Christian. The first type is the “inspired writer”, the second type is the “illumined reader”. (I am using Fee and Stuart’s terms.) The Holy Spirit, which we are supposed to believe is unchanging and lives in all believers, speaks in a special authoritative way to the first type of Christian, and in a more tentative way to the second type of Christian. The first type of Christian is special and may bend the Scriptural text in any way the Spirit tells him to, and the second type of Christian is ordinary and may never bend the Scriptural text in any way at all.
Oh, and there are no more of the first types of Christian at all. How convenient! This explains why the same unchanging Holy Spirit inspired a bunch of books a few thousand years ago, but has not been particularly interested in inspiring anything at all since then.
When people come up with exegetical and historical contortions like this, and like with the case of Biblical authority, in order to defend a doctrine, I can’t help but wonder whether it’s a doctrine we need to be holding on to, and whether we’d be any poorer if we let go of it. In this case, I don’t think we would.
Incidentally, what does the Bible say about the two-types-of-Christian hypothesis?
Elijah was a man just like us.