IS SCRIPTURE STILL VALID?
Scripture has lost much of its voice today. It
has grown strangely silent even in the church! Does this mean
Scripture has a diminished role in the postmodern world?
For more than two millennia, biblical writers
gave form to their inspired revelations. And for two more millennia,
we believed in their written inspirations. In short, Scripture
proved its own integrity. It was "the norming norm,"1 the
standardizing standard. It was the touchstone, the test—the reliable
In other words, it was around long before the
distortions of modernity.
And, though it has stood the test of time, it was
never time-bound. "Scripture," for example, "is in the hands, but
not in the power, of the church."2 For Scripture is
Truth, but not necessarily doctrine. It is revealed, but not
Unlike man’s myopia, Scripture has open-ended
It is transcendent, in other words. No Scripture
is "a matter of private opinion."3 No Scripture
originated simply "because some man willed it."4 Indeed,
Scripture transcends both the interpreter and the interpreted. It
holds the very mystery of our salvation.
Still, it is also transparent. Biblical writers
lived the events of their revelation. Their stories came from real
life, not abstract doctrine or philosophical ideas. Their Truth came
through embodied Truth, not objective, once-removed reports. In the
chaos and mess that follow fallen people in a fallen world, Biblical
writers offered self-evident "signs" and self-authenticating "tests"
of Universal Truth.
Yet, sadly, Scripture has been dealt a mortal
blow, and the chief culprit—amazingly so!—is modern theology itself.
Good scholarship is a wonderful thing. Yet—in the
"spirit" of our time—we have surrendered Scriptural Truth to the
"higher" goals of "official systems," "rational structures," and
"stored facts." We have relinquished Scriptural revelation to
"proposed ideas," "ordained thought," and "intellectual assent."
In other words, we "know" Scripture the same way
we "know" the Battle of Gettysburg or the Period Table of Elements.
As a result, Scripture is reduced to a
philosophy. Its Word is little more than the syntax of its text. Its
Spirit is limited to abstract ideas. And its faith is something that
happened in the past. So we judge, examine, and argue with Scripture
the way we would a literary artifact. We turn it into a
textbook—something spoken by us to us—and then we make our
"objective" truth the ultimate "absolute."
Yet, "absolutes"—by definition—remain independent
of us. Absolutes, after all, are complete in themselves. So
Scripture remains free, as well, from our imperfections, from our
limitations. Scripture, in other words, stands on its own.
History is exposing the scandalous "proof" of
modern theology. And rightly so. For modern theologians reflect the
needs of the modern mind more than the intentions of the biblical
Yet, tragically, Scripture has never recovered
from the onslaught of the modern mind.
The plan wasn’t written out with ink on
paper, with pages and pages of legal footnotes, killing your
spirit. It’s written with Spirit on spirit.5 (St.
The Only Word
Scripture, in other words, has no revelation in
our Greek "soul," until it is revealed in our Hebrew "spirit." It
has no power in our logical mind until it is revealed in our
intuitive heart. It’s always been that way. Sacred records remind us
that the only authority of Scripture is the Holy Spirit speaking
After all, there’s a difference between thinking
about Truth and encountering Truth. Academic theologians often write
and talk about the Holy Spirit, but seldom, it seems, do they
encounter the Holy Spirit.
Scripture insists that it is "God’s Spirit in a
person" (the "Spirit of Truth") that "gives men understanding"—that
"confirm(s) everything" about Jesus—that leads to the "whole, full
Truth."6 Again, Scripture affirms that the revealed Word
is the only Word.
And there’s a purpose in this.
Revelation is deeper and wider than the Bible
itself. Remember that the Word first entered the world without
Scripture. In other words, "What (was) born of the Spirit (was)
spirit."7 Nothing more, nothing less. The later events of
Scripture were surely inspired, but they were, at least, one step
removed from the original revelation. As Paul said, "We get what we
say straight from God and say it as honestly as we can."8
So, in each encounter with Scripture, we’re
required to reopen its pristine Source. Scripture, after all, is a
divinely prepared medium of revelation rather than the revelation
This means we must release Scripture from the
tyranny of the printed page. Revelation is not ink on paper or mere
"words." It is not a linguistic exercise or a literary artifact. It
is not what was taught or what was revealed. It is not a systematic
theology or something spoken by us to ourselves.
Instead, the revelation of Scripture is
unwritten. It is the language of unspokenness. It "is based on not
talk but power."9 It is founded not on "the letter (of
legally written code) but of the Spirit."10 And it has
our name written all over it. It is a specific vision for a specific
person at a specific time.
It is "reasons of the heart," for which reason
In other words, its pristine insight prints
itself first on our spirit. And, in this initial encounter, it
depends on a prior-to-words world for its power. It is a different
knowing, a deeper knowing. It’s a knowing that comes when you’ve
been there, entered in, and experienced firsthand in an
unforgettable way. And, though often filled with paradox and enigma,
we sympathetically respond—not because it befits a billion rules,
but because it’s "beautiful."
Only later, with continuing meditative dialogue,
do these revelations sometimes turn into "knowledge."
Unlike our knee-jerk analysis, the "Spirit of
Truth" brings power to Scripture. First, it hits us personally. It’s
a self-identity event. It searches us—tests us—challenges us. It
"reads" us more than we read it—it "interprets" us more than we
And, as we meditate on it—reflect on it—"soak" in
it—and "chew" on it, an inspired certainty builds the substructure
of our convictions. Indeed, this certainty is the only true "proof
text," the only validating "Voice." For it has a "presence" in our
heart—it is just there! Later, it proves itself yet again. For it
leads us to a recreated life and an "exclusive" witness of Truth,
even as we share an "inclusive" witness of its Authority.
The Lord of history demands a different approach
to this ancient, yet futuric, communion with Truth. We must search
Scripture as if for the first time. Scholars must finally let
Scripture speak on its own. We must quit robbing Scripture of its
open-ended power. In short, we must quit "manipulating" our
After all, "the world cannot receive . . . the
Spirit of Truth," regardless of academic expertise.12
Yes, the biblical writings on our coffee tables and in our libraries
should be reverenced. But their life-giving power comes only from
the quickening of the Holy Spirit.
"...now breathe your wisdom over me so I can
© 2010 Thomas Hohstadt
1. Stanley Grenze and John Franke, quoted in
Robert Webber, The Younger Evangelicals: Facing the Challenges of
the New World (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002) p. 101.
2. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics
3. II Peter 1:21, The Message Bible.
4. II Peter 1:21, AMP.
5. II Corinthians 3:4-6, The Message Bible.
6. Job 32:8, The Message Bible & AMP;
John 15:26, The Message Bible; John 14:17 & 16:13, AMP.
7. John 3:6, AMP.
8. II Corinthians 2:17, The Message Bible.
9. I Corinthians 4:20, AMP.
10. II Corinthians 3:6, AMP.
11. Blaise Pascal,
12. John 14:17, AMP.
13. Psalms 119:73, The Message Bible.