Friday, October 27, 2006

Statement of Faith on the Bible

The following comes from a church's statement of faith. It is a section about the Bible. They acknowledge the infallibility and inspiration of Scripture, and then give the following thoughts. I have inserted the Scripture texts cited in smaller print. The reason I am posting this is that I think it gives a much better idea of a Christian hermeneutic. This is truly a grammatical-historical hermeneutic. This is unlike the so-called "literal" hermeneutic of dispensationalism, which though it claims the "grammatical-historical" label, it is not such. So here is a statement on the Bible that I am very comfortable with, and I would love to hear some feedback about it:

1.2 We believe that God’s intentions, revealed in the Bible, are the supreme and final authority in testing all claims about what is true and what is right. In matters not addressed by the Bible, what is true and right is assessed by criteria consistent with the teachings of Scripture.

1.3 We believe God’s intentions are revealed through the intentions of inspired human authors, even when the authors’ intention was to express divine meaning of which they were not fully aware, as, for example, in the case of some Old Testament

The prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired about this salvation; they inquired what person or time was indicated by the Spirit of Christ within them when predicting the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glory (1 Peter 1:10-11). He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation (John 11:51).

Thus the meaning of Biblical texts is a fixed historical reality, rooted in the historical, unchangeable intentions of its divine and human authors. However, while meaning does not change, the application of that meaning may change in various situations. Nevertheless it is not legitimate to infer a meaning from a Biblical text that is not demonstrably carried by the words which God inspired.

There are some things in [Paul’s epistles] hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures (2 Peter 3:16). [Satan said to Jesus] “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (Matthew 4:6-7).

1.4 Therefore, the process of discovering the intention of God in the Bible (which is its fullest meaning) is a humble and careful effort to find in the language of Scripture what the human authors intended to communicate. One’s limited abilities, traditional biases, personal sin, and cultural assumptions often obscure the understanding of Biblical texts. Therefore the work of the Holy Spirit is essential for right understanding of the Bible,

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For "who has known the mind of the LORD, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:12-16).

and prayer for His assistance belongs to a proper effort to understand and apply God’s Word.

Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law (Psalm 119:18). Blessed are You, O LORD; Teach me Your statutes (Psalm 119:12). I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might (Ephesians 1:18).


Tim Barker said...

It sounds right on. A unique description in a church's statement of Faith. I think 1.4 is a nicely worded confession of what confounds interpretation (biases, sin, etc.).

I do like the 1.3 as well. I had to read it a couple times to notice "authors'" for the specific placement of the apostrophe. It makes a big differene. :)

Will said...

Right. I concur. It is sections in this statement like 1.4 that help make the whole statement a very devotional reading, not merely an academic one.