Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Hear the word of the Lord

One popular apologetic strategy is to bracket inspiration by simply treating the Bible as a primary historical source. Having established his claims on this basis, the apologist may then circle back and discuss the evidence for the inspiration of Scripture.

The potential justification for this strategy is that our apologist is meeting the unbeliever on his own grounds. Holding the unbeliever to his own standards. After all, an atheist doesn’t think any document is divinely inspired, yet he thinks many uninspired documents are sufficient to establish factual claims. Therefore, it’s petty for him to hold Scripture to a higher standard. That’s a double standard. That’s a stalling tactic. Trying to force the apologist to prove the stronger claim when a weaker claim will do.

I’m not crazy about this method myself, but an apologetic strategy or methodology is just a means to an end, not an end in itself, so that’s not a hill to die on. And there’s some merit in measuring the atheist by his own yardstick.

That said, there are moderate to liberal professing believers who never take the next step. They think you can skip inspiration altogether. But there are fundamental problems with this terminus.

There’s a basic tension in treating the Bible as a naturalistic document which bears witness to supernatural events. Can we still believe in a God acts in history even though he doesn’t speak in history? A mute God? A God who expresses himself in the historical process, but doesn’t express himself in language?

That’s a pretty arbitrary dichotomy. It combines a theistic view of redemption with a deistic view of revelation. A God who, figuratively speaking, uses his hands and feet, but not his lips.

In Scripture we’re told far more often to “hear the word of the Lord” than we are to see the works of the Lord. Both are important–even complementary. But certainly divine speech is not expendable.


  1. Can we still believe in a God acts in history even though he doesn’t speak in history?

    Certainly God can speak in history even if He did not inspire the Bible. For example, one might hold that Jesus spoke the word of God but also that the Gospels are not inspired by God.

  2. I'm not discussing what's abstractly possible, but what's concretely plausible.