New version page

“Who Says So?” The Nature and Authority of Scripture

This preview shows page 1-2-3 out of 9 pages.

View Full Document
View Full Document

End of preview. Want to read all 9 pages?

Upload your study docs or become a GradeBuddy member to access this document.

View Full Document
Unformatted text preview:

“Who Says So?” The Nature and Authority of Scripture Dr. Elaine Phillips Convocation Message at Gordon College Wenham, MA on April 13, 2007 Introduction – The Question(s) We are engaging in a challenging task this morning and you are as much a part of the success of this enterprise as I am. It is not for the faint-hearted. In fact, in the space of 35 minutes, we are going to cover what I spend several weeks addressing in one of my classes. It has been my prayer that this will be neither soporific nor simplistic but I need you to stay with me. You may be interested to know that we are addressing this issue today primarily in response to students’ concerns expressed over the last year or so. Let’s get right to the substance of the issue: “On what basis do we appeal to the Bible as our authoritative rule of faith and conduct as opposed to any other vaguely inspirational text?” or “How can I trust the Bible to be the truth, especially when it says things I don’t happen to like?” The answers to these questions are essential to our understanding and dynamic exercise of moral imagination (our convocation theme for the term). As you know by now, imagination is a gift that allows us to see differently and respond in ways that are creative. At the same time, this creative thinking needs boundaries. That is precisely what the Word of God does in all its perfection, purity, and power. While this is particularly significant as we prepare to engage with both compassion and conviction our guests in the coming week, it has life-long implications as we live out our calling to be salt and light in a rotting and darkened world. Furthermore, to be painfully blunt, this issue has eternal implications. It is not a matter of a spiritual smorgasbord where we pick a little here and choose a snack there without much consequence other than a bit of existential indigestion. On the contrary, what we do with the Scriptures is a matter of life and death, as unseemly as that may sound in our current environment. I am particularly troubled when I hear the glib affirmation that, oh yes, we accept the authority of God and of Scripture and then discover that the speaker really hasn’t a clue what Scripture says on issues of profound importance! Now, let me initially put this to you as a story. I will confess to being a slow learner – true throughout the entirety of my life. These questions which you might be asking now did not hit me forcefully until I was well into my 30’s. I had come to Christ in those heady days in the early 70’s when I was an undergraduate at Cornell University – so even in that, I was well behind many of you. If you are unaware of the nature of the campus communities in those years, let me assure you they were very unsettled. Depending on where you were, there were riots, protests, and moratoriums and I was initially a part of some of that. As, however, I made my way haltingly toward the light of the Gospel, I was enfolded by the love and enthusiasm of the primarily student church that had embraced me in spite of my very rough edges and my basic biblical illiteracy. This was a vital and intellectually challenging Christian community; we discussed theology when we gathered on Sunday afternoons. We were clearly shaped by solid Reformed thinking in terms of the nature of Scripture. Inspired by the pastor, many of us, including a number of graduate students in the natural sciences, anticipated further seminary education once we finished at Cornell. I am forever grateful for that foundation as we did indeed2pursue graduate studies in seminary and subsequently in Israel. Those experiences were, of course, rich but another story altogether. Suffice it to say that when Perry and I returned from Israel and began teaching in a small college outside of Philadelphia, I had a wonderful background with which to continue my pursuit of biblical studies, both teaching and further study – which I did. And then one day, something exceedingly unsettling happened. In fact, I can tell you the exact circumstances of this experience. I was out for a run. It was a bright sunny day – crisp, invigorating, and I was about halfway through my three mile route. In fact I can still see the corner that I was rounding as I made my way through the Southeastern Pennsylvania countryside. I was probably mulling over a lecture that I had been preparing. Suddenly, the thought went through my mind – “What if none of this is true?” It was not a casual question; it felt like an attack on everything that I was. If nothing else, my very livelihood depended on teaching Bible. What if I no longer believed it? What on earth would I, could I do? It was a painful moment; in fact, I had a distinct visual impression of everything crumbling around me because I knew that I could not with integrity continue to teach something in which I had no confidence. Perhaps that is how you might be feeling at this time; or perhaps there are people around you who have arrived at this point considerably earlier than I did in my delayed development. Or maybe you just have honest questions about the nature of the Bible. It took some time for my foundational confidence to be re-established and I will tell you now that it was not a matter of arriving at something radical and new. Instead, it was re-thinking and reaffirming what I already knew and what had been planted deeply in those earlier years of discussion and reading. That does not mean it was easy; it does not mean that I then had the luxury of ceasing to think about these issues. None of us do. In fact, as I have continued to teach, my students have taught me – raising their own generations’ questions and prompting me to visit and revisit and refine my own thinking in light of the questions from a world now rarely shaped by biblical language and thought. So, let’s get started. Revelation in Creation and in the Word Our Objective is to explore a robust Trinitarian understanding of the doctrine of Scripture which is lodged firmly within our doctrine of revelation. The starting point for our understanding of revelation is “Word” and, for that matter, words. In the biblical world view that we affirm, creation by the Word is intrinsic to the whole fabric of our


Loading Unlocking...
Login

Join to view “Who Says So?” The Nature and Authority of Scripture and access 3M+ class-specific study document.

or
We will never post anything without your permission.
Don't have an account?
Sign Up

Join to view “Who Says So?” The Nature and Authority of Scripture and access 3M+ class-specific study document.

or

By creating an account you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use

Already a member?