inspiration speculation

October 29, 2005 | 3 Comments

In Search of Paul, by Crossan and ReedI have some fairly loose views on the inspiration of Scriptures, but I am no John Dominic Crossan.

On the pages of In Search of Paul, Crossan suggests that the book of Acts was not written by Luke. He claims it was written as an apologetic of sorts to convince the reader that the Christian faith was not a threat to the Roman empire. Luke’s name was attached by the real author to give credibility. Crossan points out that consistently in Acts, Roman officials find no fault with Paul or other Christian leaders. In story after story, he claims that it is always the Jews who are the ones that are stirring up trouble.

I am not inclined to agree with Crossan. I believe Luke wrote both Luke and Acts. I also believe that Luke chose to undermine the Roman empire in his writing. (See these posts — i got your salvation right here and messiah that, josephus.) However, all of this does raise some interesting questions that anyone who wants to honestly interact with the Scriptures needs to wrestle with.

  • Can the Scriptures contain the personalities of their human authors and still be inspired? – Many believers in the Bible would be comfortable answering yes to this. It is evident even as you survey the different writings in the Scriptures that they were written by different people. With that in mind, it is not hard to see the way these writings were shaped by the personality of their writers. But, if you can agree with that, let’s push it a little further…
  • Can the Scriptures contain the opinions of their human authors and still be inspired? – This is where many will start to get a little uncomfortable, but it is by no means easy to automatically say no to this question. In 2 Timothy 4:13, Paul asks Timothy to bring his jacket and books which he left behind. Is this inspired, or is Paul just asking a personal favor? Less overt, in 1 Corinthians 7:25, Paul implies that he is about to make a statement laced with his own opinion. Does this mean that Paul is somehow mixing his own opinions into what we hold to be sacred writings? If so, in the rest of his writings, how can we tell what is merely his opinion, and what we can cling to as words from God himself? Personally, I have reached conclusions on both of these first two questions that I am comfortable with. Crossan, however, has raised a question that shows the slippery slope that these questions can quickly place you on…
  • Can the Scriptures primarily be shaped by the opinions of their human authors and still be inspired? – Let’s suppose Crossan is partially right. What if Luke was really the author of Acts, but his primary intention was to reveal the harmless nature of Christianity to a suspicious Roman Empire? Could we trust such a writing? Could even that contain inspired truth?

Faith is not about clinging to bold black and white statements, but a continual navigation through grey areas. We tend to want to make black and white statements about things like the inspiration of Scripture. Once we do, we can often back ourselves into a corner where we are defending an irrational position. However, once we stray into the grey areas, we can quickly slide into areas that we may have previously considered heretical.

May God grant us all wisdom and discernment on our journey of faith through shades of grey.

  • Andrew

    To me, believing the Scriptures to be inspired simply means submitting that they are without error or contradiction. This is not incompatible with Paul’s asking Timothy for his cloak: it is not false that Paul left his cloak behind and asked for Timothy to return it. As for Paul’s opinion on marriage, I don’t find it hard to believe that Paul’s opinion was divinely inspired toward truth; in other words, I trust Paul’s opinion as true preciesly *because* it is inspired.

    That said, I think you ended your discussion of such a delicate issue very gracefully. That last paragraph is so true. Very well done.

  • Have you read NT Wright’s article on how the Bible is authoritative yet? If not, you should stop putting it off. I think it at least give you some food for thought in this area. You’re right, there is a similar discussion in “New Testament and the People of God.” But it’s more focused in the article. Check it out.

  • I love the way you laid this topic out. I have been curious as to the inspiration of Scriptures myself from time to time, half of me wanting to respect the Bible as the pure, inerant word of God and the other half wanting to look at some writers as being no more God-inspired or truthful then any other current Christian writer.

    However, I have been slowly to dwelve into this thinking too much because if we begin to look at the Bible as being full of human opinions and agendas, we can be very quick to ignore anything we don’t agree with …. anything that makes us feel uncomfortable or accountable. We can excuse these passeges in the Bible that conflict with our lifestyle by too quickly dismissing them as human opinion and not dinvine inspiration.

    So, while I am very tempted to look at some disagreeable passeges in this light … that is gray territory that I’m not totally comfortable walking into. Maybe this is an area where it’s better to be conservative in respecting the sacred and traditional — not sure.