Divinely Inspired

I just realized something, while commenting over at Pastor Marty’s outstanding blog:

There’s a difference between thinking God’s word is divinely inspired and thinking that every single verse in scripture is self-sufficient.

People begin, often times, by emphasizing the fact that every word in The Bible comes straight from God’s mouth.  (I think they are right, by the way.)

Then they provide a verse on whatever subject is at hand.  And that single verse is supposed to clinch whatever deal is under discussion.

There’s a faux pas here.    To suggest that any single verse is sufficient and authoritative on every issue is to take a much more radical position than to say the Bible is the word of God.

I’ll leave aside the question of how the magic verse is chosen.  The problem with this approach is bigger than the importance of context or what to do when verses seem to conflict.

The bigger problem is that this position implies that grappling with the whole bible is irrelevant.

If everything we need is in every single verse– or chapter, or book, or even testament– then why even bother with everything else?  Why not simply grab on to that smaller unit, and use it for our whole lives?  Why not throw away everything else?  Why would God even both with the whole cumbersome, confounding, confusing, and amazing bible?

It seems like the implication is that God should have come to use for some help with editing.  We could have helped him whittle the whole deal down.

The only alternative I see is this:

If every word of the bible is inspired, then every word must be given weight.  (Perhaps equal weight?  I don’t know about that.  What do you think?)


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

4 thoughts on “Divinely Inspired”

  1. First of all, the bible is not technically God’s Word. Christ, the Divine Logos, is God’s Word. That’s what Logos means, as everyone knows.

    Second, the bible is the written icon (or image) of the Word of God. It no more fell out of the sky from God’s lips than did Jesus. Jesus had to be born into the human world as a man through a woman’s body. The bible had to enter the human mind as a body of literature written by a multitude of seers. You already know this too. I’m just organizing the thoughts.

    Third, every limitation voluntarily accepted by the Christ when He incarnated as a man is applicable in its own frame of reference to the written icon of the Word of God. Both suffer a diminution or reduction in the process of being translated from heaven to earth. In neither case does this veiling of glory diminish or dilute the absolute Truth of the Word of God in any way.

    Fourth, the bible is infallible in its unity and infallible in its parts, but the application of this infallibility always depends on the intervention of the Holy Spirit, who alone knows how, when and where to apply it. Without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, the bible cannot be known as infallible, indeed cannot be known at all for what it is. A medicine may be infallibly effective, but if it is not applied or ingested in the right way, at the right time, and in the right place, it can have even the opposite effect, possibly becoming lethal. Only the physician knows how to apply it in every case.

    At this point, we introduce the concept of the use of proof texts and the like, which can be applied in sometimes disastrous ways by persons who have not ingested the whole of scripture by constantly and daily feeding upon it without mixing it, but who rather begin to teach their partial understandings (some of which may be wholly true, others wholly false) without being first built upon the sure foundation of faith. It is not how educated and learned one is that qualifies one for understanding and interpreting the written icon of the Word, nor is chronological age a criterion. Spiritual maturity rather than chronological age, practical application, even incarnation, of the scripture’s tenets rather than academic prowess or a prodigious memory, these are what put a man in the place where the Word of God can employ him as an agent of divine Truth.

    Remember who the Word of God is, and do not trifle with the arguing spirits. Rather apply yourself to knowing and living the Word, who is alive and active, and in so doing demonstrate on the battlefield of your own body the victory of Christ, who is Truth come unto His own in you, and by thus receiving Him, receive also the power to become the son or daughter of the Most High.


  2. Romanós

    Thank you for your comment–it was helpful to me. I agree with your prioritization of the Spirit within us as necessary for correctly interpreting the scriptures. The scriptures don’t stand alone.


    Maybe it is just because I am paying attention, but there seems to be an awful lot of blog activity regarding the status and interpretation of the scriptures–and apparently you are attuned to that subject too. I might manage to write a post in a month or two, but in case you are interested here are some recent links I’ve been impressed with:


    — Vance


  3. My thanks to you both. I’ll look foreward, Vance, to reading the link and to your future blog posting.

    You are clearly well-informed on the language issue. I’m open to correction on this, but my recollection is that the term “Logos” had a pretty specific technical meaning. It wasn’t just any word, it was more like a divine utterance, an idea easier to get your brain around if you hold the metaphysic that words have some mystical connection to the thing they refer to.
    (I’m not claiming that Jesus believed that words have this mystical connection, nor am I claiming it is true.)

    There are instances where it seems that scripture is being referred to as the Word of God. Is this a mistake in translation? Is the original word not “Logos” but some more general term rendered as “word”? Or am I mistaken? It seems that I ought to be able to come up with some example, but I confess that I can’t.

    That said, I think that’s a profound idea: Scripture is the image of the living Christ. The paralell between Jesus’ earthly birth and scriptures earthly… birth? Instantiation? is a fascinating thing.

    May I cut and paste your comment into the blog post that inspired my own post? I think that the folks over at martyholman.com (My pastor’s blog) would find it illuminating.


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