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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 witness—of Truth.

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 necessarily "religious."

Unlike man’s myopia, Scripture has open-ended power.

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 prophets.

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. Paul)

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 through Scripture.

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 itself.

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 knows nothing.11

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 interpret it.

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.

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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 revelation.

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 understand you."13

© 2010 Thomas Hohstadt

ENDNOTES

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 http://www.next-wave.org/apr03/truth.htm

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, http://bit.ly/bLp3CY

12. John 14:17, AMP.

13. Psalms 119:73, The Message Bible.




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