Discernment and Revelation

Discernment and Revelation

Yesterday I wrote a post regarding judging revelation by means of reason, and in particular pointed out that one of the problems I see with Biblical inerrancy is that it cannot be demonstrated in this fashion.

In a failed attempt at being brief I failed to underline that this is only one of my many objections to inerrancy, or that this objection is only applicable to certain approaches. It seems to me that when one can pick up a book attempting to reconcile errors in the Bible so as to demonstrate its inerrancy, it is appropriate to object to the process on the basis that there is no adequate standard to use in the task.

There are those who take inerrancy as a presupposition, but does it not seem odd to take “this book is without error” as an axiom in one’s thinking and build all else from there? And if one has done so is it not a bit odd to then go about comparing the scripture with historical research in order to demonstrate what has been taken as an axiom? (‘Axiom’ and ‘presupposition’ are not quite synonymous, but are close enough for my purposes here.) That is a large topic, and I’m going to leave it for later.

At the moment my concern is that my critique of that one approach means that I think it’s the only one, and that it has failed. In other words, if I think reason is inadequate on its own to determine whether God is speaking, or whether something is divine or demonic (think Tillich’s definition of these terms, though I don’t have his Systematic Theology on hand to quote, I think I found the right passage on page 226ff of volume 1 via Google Book Search.)

This is especially important because Peter Kirk has broadened the discussion to discernment in the wider sense, such as testing Todd Bentley’s ministry, and I would hate to be understood as saying that such discernment is impossible. I do think that the fact that I disagree to a significant extent with Peter about Todd Bentley, though not as much as some others, indicates that discernment is not an easy subject to pin down.

I’d like to point back to this post, which deals with discernment, as well as the Biblical Inspiration tag on my Participatory Bible Study Blog.

For those who will go so far as to buy books (stop reading now to avoid gentle commercial announcement), I discuss these issues in my books When People Speak for God and Identifying Your Gifts and Service: Small Group Edition dealing with spiritual gifts in general but with substantial discussion of testing and authority. (End commercial, you can start reading again!)

The key point I would like to make in this hopefully short post is that discernment, inspiration, revelation, and related issues are not simple, and we must approach them carefully and with–dare I say it?–discernment!

3 thoughts on “Discernment and Revelation

  1. Henry, thanks for this helpful comment and also for your older post. You are right there to stress the community aspect of discernment, which I did mention in my post but did not stress. I think we are agreeing that discernment is not based entirely on literalist readings of the Bible.

    1. I actually think we are largely in agreement on the principles here. My yesterday post made it seem that the disagreement was greater because I covered only a slice of the topic, and not the most important slice.

  2. Good clarifying post – incidentally I don’t disagree with your opinions on inerrancy, I simply was wondering whether you were rejecting it for the wrong reason. If I had read a little deeper I might have seen that.

    Another problem for me in the matter, most likely due to not being trained in formal apologetics, is I don’t quite understand what inerrancy is supposed to mean. My fundamentalist friends seem to think that every word in the modern translation is without error in a literal sense. If that is inerrancy, then I heartily agree that this is a flawed concept. If inerrancy is ,what I had surmised on my own was, the idea that what we have in the canonized scriptures doesn’t express anything untrue, but may use any number of devices (including mythical and figurative language) to express the truth, then I do think that it is inerrant.

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