Battle over Inspiration or Interpretation

There’s an interesting article by Mark Galli on the Christianity Today web site, titled A New Bible Battle. Galli refers to the “old” battle, and Lindsell’s book. That battle was over inerrancy. But this new battle has to do with reading the Bible in what Galli calls “sub-biblical” ways, for example, as a self-help manual.

In my book When People Speak for God, I emphasized the importance of including interpretation when we talk about the reliability of the Bible. My point there is that describing how reliable a measuring instrument is would be pointless if nobody could read the reliable results. Thus when people get such varied results from reading the Bible, what is the point of speaking, in isolation, of the Bible’s reliability?

Of course those who speak in this way normally do include the additional caveat, “interpreted correctly.” But too often that caveat is simply dropped in, and the methods of interpretation don’t, in fact, handle what the text actually contains. Figuring out what is a “sub-biblical” method of reading the Bible will take a robust idea of inspiration from the earliest oral tradition to the latest printed text.

But getting us away from “self-help” readings is a good step or two in the right direction.

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  1. “Sub-biblical” and “self-help” sound like pejorative terms used to describe any approach to reading the Bible which yields understandings at variance with one’s chosen set of “orthodox” understandings.

    Indeed many people read the Bible and come to erroneous conclusions. This problem is not solved, however, by stipulating in advance the orthodox conclusions to which one must come. For if that were the case, what would be the point of reading the Bible at all?

    How then do we understand the Bible rightly? There is no fail-safe method. We must read to the best of our ability, and, fully supported by conscience, act on what we have read. In the process we will advance or fall. God will be merciful and continue to show us His light. Through this iterative process we deepen our understanding and reduce our missteps. Blessed be our merciful and communicative God: Jesus Christ our Lord.

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