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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Baptist Faith & Message Ch. 1 "The Scriptures"

"The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation."

I agree wholeheartedly with every word of this section of the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message. The only reason I bothered to write a post about it was to comment on one detail.

I wish they had gone further in the second to last sentence.

It says that Scripture is "the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried." True enough, as far as it goes! And possibly sufficient for the Message's purpose of delineating a religious confession of faith.

I only wish that it used more exhaustive, universal language about the kinds of ideas and opinions that should be tried by Scripture--namely, all of them. Maybe "religious" is a sufficient term if one thinks of all ideas as being "religious" in the sense of being related to God in some way--antagonistic, indifferent, or otherwise. But at least in our contemporary context, I think that "religious" brings to mind an unfortunately limited realm of thought containing only Theology Proper and specifically church-related, scripture-related, and ritual-related notions.

In actuality, Scripture is the ultimate standard of all truth, as the infallible witness to God's ultimate self-revelation in Christ. All things are related to God, derive their most fundamental meaning only in relation to His existence and character. Therefore there is a sense in which the Bible is not only true in all that it addresses, but it actually addresses everything, even if less directly or obviously in some cases. That is not to say it addresses everything in the same way, or with the same sets of concerns, or in the same categories as those in which we think of things.

For example, the Bible is not concerned to give us a scientifically detailed account of the mechanics of Creation. Now, once we have interpreted Genesis 1 and 2 with careful regard for literary, cultural, historical, and linguistic context, as well as Christocentric hermeneutics and a regard for a scriptural Analogia Fide (a task that is not easy or devoid of controversy even among solid, faithful evangelical interpreters), in principle we could deduce from the biblical text limits on what a faithful Christian may or may not believe even about the "scientific" details of the mechanics of Creation or the lives of the first human beings. For example, even though I am open to a "Framework Hypothesis" view of the six days of Creation as described in Genesis, I am not open to understanding Adam and Eve as anything other than two literal, historical people who were the first human beings (because of convictions I have about what the rest of Scripture also says about Adam, etc.)

In conclusion, this post may have been unnecessary because the Baptist Faith & Message also refers to "all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions" being subject to Scripture as the ultimate standard of truth. "Creeds" here could refer (and interpreted in the best light, should probably be thought of as referring) to all human ideas whatsoever. Nevertheless, I am afraid the word "creed" has the same problems as what I said above about the word "religious." That's why, if I had written the document myself (a scary thought indeed), I would have used clearer and more explicitly exhaustive and universal language about just which human ideas must be subject to the written Word of God (all of them). But I think this chapter of the Faith & Message is great! It has an appropriately high esteem for the written Word.

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