Sunday, April 22, 2018

11.4 Scripture as Revelation 2

Previously in this chapter:
11.4 Scripture as Revelation
11.4.1 God-breathed
  • 2 Timothy 3:16 - "All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for instruction, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness."
  • Note that the NT did not always find this God breathing in the literal meaning of OT passages (cf. Matt. 2:15 and Hos. 11:1-2). In Galatians 4:24 finds God breathing through Genesis by way of allegory.
  • Also note that 2 Timothy would have referred to the Old Testament, since the New Testament was not yet collected at that time.
  • 2 Peter 1:20-21 - "No prophecy comes into existence of one's own loosing, for prophecy was not brought by the will of a mortal but, being brought by the Holy Spirit, people spoke from God."
  • 2 Peter is particularly concerned with its audience's belief in prophecies relating to Jesus and his second coming (2 Pet. 3). That is to say, it is not only the Scriptures but the prophecies of prophets in the early church that are likely in view. He is assuring them that prophecy is not a matter of opinion but comes from the Holy Spirit.
  • In short, special revelation is much bigger than the Bible itself. The Bible is a subset of special revelation in general.
  • 1 Peter 1:10-12 - Contextual study makes it clear that most of the words of the prophets were about the time of the prophets, although there are some ambiguous texts (e.g., Isaiah 53). An incarnational sense of revelation suggests that 1 Peter's understanding of revelation is itself incarnated revelation.
  • So a "translation" of 1 Peter 1:10-12 might go like the following: "The Holy Spirit inspired the early Christians to see anticipations of Jesus' sufferings in the Scriptures. God thus planted such potential meanings into the words of the prophets, although the prophets themselves probably only saw the first meanings to their audiences rather than these "fuller senses."
11.4.2 Infallible
  • Isaiah 55:11 - "My word will not return to myself empty but accomplishes everything it sets out to do."
  • Again, this statement is in no way limited to the books of the Old Testament that were in use at the time of writing. The point is that God's will--here personified as his word--is unfailing. Scripture reveals to us a subset of his overall will. 
  • What is God's will in Scripture (cf. Vanhoozer)? Sometimes it is to give its audiences and us commands (in this respect it is authoritative). Sometimes it is to give us promises and anticipations of what is to come (in this respect it is unfailing). Sometimes its purposes were to express the joy, anger, sadness, and feelings of God's people (e.g., in the imprecatory psalms, psalms of lament, thanksgiving psalms, etc). Sometimes its purpose was to inform (in this regard it was inerrant within the level of precision that accorded with God's will).
11.4.3 Authoritative
  • All of God's commands are summed up in the Great Commandment: Love God and Love neighbor (see section on Christian ethics). Matthew 22:34-40
  • The authority of Scripture relates specifically to its commands upon us. All of these are filtered through the love command. As the ethics section sets out, this is an authority of the whole of Scripture rather than a direct authority of its individual parts.
11.4.4 Means of Transformation
  • The Bible has often been treated as a source of information or beliefs, but this is its most elementary function, not its deepest one.
  • We know this because "God looks on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7) and spiritual identity is a function of the heart more than the head (Mark 7:20-23).
  • The inspired instruction of 2 Timothy 3:16 has to do with the discipleship of the person, not the mere informing of the mind--correction, training in righteousness.
  • The Bible thus uses Scripture to change people--to bring them into relationship with him, to mold them into Christ-likeness, to make them more loving. 
  • The Bible is thus at its heart a sacrament of transformation.
11.4.5 Synthesis
  • There were original moments of inspiration--the individual books of the Bible were inspired to speak to their original contexts largely within the conceptual frameworks of their original audiences. 
  • We do not hereby preclude the possibility of stages in the generation of these books. As Christians, we focus on the canonical form of these texts but don't preclude the possibility of inspiration in relation to "pre-forms" of the canonical text.
  • Over the course of the testaments, we can plot an overall, increasing precision in the revelation. In general, the New Testament conceptualizes revelation more precisely than the Old Testament. This dynamic is sometimes called "progressive revelation."
  • The Holy Spirit continues to inspire individuals as they read Scripture, never in contradiction of God's revealed character, but to "improvise" for specific contexts (which is essential for the appropriation of Scripture to specific circumstances). We find this dynamic in the sensus plenior of the New Testament use of the old.
  • The final revelation, the "last Word" (cf. N. T. Wright) was Christ. All the rest is anticipation, witness to, and unfolding of the witness.
Previous "chapters"
Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
Chapter 2: Theology of God
Chapter 3: Creation and Consummation
Chapter 4: Sin and Atonement
Interlude: A Theology of Israel
Chapter 5: Jesus the Christ
Chapter 6: Salvation
Chapter 7: The Holy Spirit
Chapter 8: The Church
Chapter 9: Eschatology
Chapter 10: Christian Ethics

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