Last post, I began to explore some questions about what it means to believe that the bible is inspired, especially when Paul says a few times that he is just speaking as himself.
This blogger had a really interesting response. He put into words some of the things I was going to say in this follow-up. A portion of his comment is below:
He may not have been positive that what he’d just written was inspired, but the consistent, continual witness of the church through the centuries has been that he was, indeed, inspired in all that he wrote in 1 Corinthians. The church didn’t make it scripture; the church merely recognized that it was scripture. In short, inspiration of the Bible means that the Lord guided those who wrote, so that they wrote from their own knowledge and from their own personalities, but wrote what the Lord wanted written.
I think he is ultimately on to something. But taking this tract still has some problems for me that I’d like to think out loud about.
Because the thing is, based on the English translation, Paul doesn’t seem like he isn’t sure whether or not he’s speaking God‘s words. He seems pretty confident that he is just speaking as himself. This does not mean that these words are unimportant or untrue. There are numerous books written by wise people. And Paul was one of the wisest. But no matter how wise a person is, it seems like we ought to grant a seperate, lower status to these books than the bible. I’d like to believe that most people, even the authors themselves, would agree that CS Lewis, Max Lucado, or Rob Bell books ought to be secondary to scripture.
I actually believe that God is at work through those three authors. In some limited sense they might be inspired. But this is a far cry from the deep meaning that “inspired” should have for the bible.
And I don’t think it’ll work to suggest that Paul was wrong when he wrote that he was speaking for himself and not God. Of course Paul was fallible in his every day life. He was probably even capeable of making mistakes if he was doing something at the same time as he wrote scripture. (For example, if he was writing the book of Romans at the same time he was making dinner, it would be quite possible for him to make mistakes on the dinner recipe.) But what doesn’ t seem possible is for him to write something untrue at the very time he is inspired. It seems that if it means nothing else, being inspired should certainly mean that one is writing the truth.
It’s also a bit tricky to suggest that God was decieving Paul. It doesn’t seem consistent with God’s nature. Jesus is the truth; could the members of the trinity lie?
To some extent, the answer here is the one that almost always pops up in these discussions: our puny little brains simply aren’t able to comprehend God.
To whatever extent their is an humanly comprehensible explanation, I suspect it will revolve around just what we mean by truth. I believe that a person it makes sense to suggest some events didn’t literally occur. I think, in these cases, it makes more sense to focus on the idea that God was telling a very deep truth even if the events didn’t specifically happen. The truth in the statement “The early bird catches the worm” isn’t invalidated by the lack of an actually, specific bird catching an actual, specific worm. This statement is true in a more general way which is in some sense deeper than a mere retelling of a specific incident.
So maybe there is some deeper truth expressed by Paul, when he states that he is speaking for himself, not for God. I’m not sure just how this argument would play out, or what it would mean.
What do you think?