Thursday, November 09, 2006

Religion: Theological exam continued, part III

Am going to continue to utilize this item as a jumping off point for another blog post.

What are some objections to the doctrine of verbal inspiration?

The postmodern objection would be that matters of history suffer distortion due to cultural bias and temporal distance. The atheist would object that inspiration invokes a God who is not proven to exist. However, of course, if we assume God exists and God wants to be known through the vehicle of written text then God should be competent to "inspire" human authors. But even this line does run into a problem: how do we recognize out of a pile of writings claimed to be inspired what truly is inspired? We have 66 books in our English Bibles. Is it theoretically possible that we have included material that was not truly inspired? Is it theoretically possible that we have excluded material that was inspired? I freely acknowledge that it is an article of faith that what we have is inspired. In the case of the New Testament, there is some rational basis for the inclusion of the 27 books such as proximity to Jesus and the apostles and wide acceptance by the early church. As for the Old Testament, as Christians, we trust that the record of God's interaction with the Jewish people were retained in the works of Moses (Torah), the prophets and the other writings. But in the end, it is an assertion of faith.

Is it essential that inspiration extend to every word in the Bible? Why?

Hard to say. The main Hebrew text we use to translate into English is the Masoretic text. It has consonants and vowel points. However, vowel points were not part of the written language for much of the history of written Hebrew. Thus, are the vowel points inspired?

Additionally, the Gospel accounts we have do not always use the exact same words in parallel accounts of what Jesus said. Today, we have video and audio tape and can make exact transcripts. 2000 years ago, it was an oral culture where word-for-word accuracy was not possible. However, they were still highly motivated to preserve what Jesus said. For an excellent discussion of how preservation can occur reliably without word-for-word accuracy, check out this item by Mark D. Roberts.

What do we mean when we speak of unity and diversity in the Bible?

The Bible is a unity in that God is behind the diversity of human authors through inspiration. Each author wrote in his time and circumstance (diversity) yet they all point to (unity) the same God and the consistent message of God's holiness, mercy and desire to have a relationship with us.

What do we mean when we speak of the historical interpretation of the Bible?

I suppose that could be the study of how through history the Bible is interpreted. With 2000 years of church history, it is quite likely that in different eras a certain mode of interpretation may have been more prevalent. Some passages are probably so clear that there hasn't been much debate over the centuries. However, some passages that are less clear will have had a diversity of opinion through time. Perhaps the idea is related to the importance of understanding the historical-cultural context of a given text before an interpetation is ventured.

What are the basic principles of theological interpretation of the Bible?

Since I haven't taken a theology class I can only offer a guess! If we believe that God is behind the Scriptures then we would believe there should be a unity of theology in all its individual parts. If some of the foundational ideas are the holiness of God and the redemption through Christ then these lay out the core from which other ideas would refer back to.

Disclaimer: I'm a molecular biologist not a theologian! However, I do want to have a thoughful approach to my beliefs.

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