Wednesday, February 6, 2008

What do we expect the Bible to do for us?

I have found that in my early Christian experience I had put too much hope in the Bible. What is it that evangelicals expect the Bible to do? What is it that evangelicals expect the Bible to be for them? We trust God, but there seems to be this implicit inference that one shows that they are trusting God precisely by trusting the Bible. Should this be? I don't think so. God is not the Bible, the Bible is not God. People say to me that the Bible does so much for them because the Bible is God's Word. I respond that it seems to me that they are acting as if the Bible is God. They rely on the Bible in the way that I try to rely on God. What historical development made this bait-and-switch possible and even plausible to begin with? Anti-clericalism drives people to individual Bible study, just Jesus and me via the Bible. That might have something to do with it. But lately I've had occasion to reflect on some of the Vollenhoven reading I did while at ICS. I wonder how influential that trajectory of thought is for modern conservative, inerrantist, American evangelicalism. The old theoretical vision of a "Calvinistic philosophy" may be what helps perpetuate the inerrantist expectation of the Bible, even to this day:

"Philosophy investigates the cosmos as a whole. But to grasp this object of knowledge as a whole and in its formal unity, one must be able to grasp it from the outside, i.e. transcendently. This truth is unfortunately not always acknowledged. As a member of a mob you cannot command a view of it, but the outsider, the bystander, can; human personality is unintelligible from the 'view-point' of a blood corpuscle, however much this corpuscle may have travelled through all parts of the human body; the beauty of a painting can never be 'enjoyed' by one of its paint-patches. Likewise the ultimate meaning, significance and unity of cosmic reality can never be understood from a mere human viewpoint, i.e. as long as man (as a part of it) views it 'from the inside', from a cosmically immanent standpoint. The whole is more than the sum of its parts—(this truth enjoys a widespread acknowledgment to-day)—and the whole cannot be understood from the viewpoint of one or of more of its parts. When, however, the whole is grasped from a transcendent point of view, the ultimate meaning of every part is revealed at the same time. To understand the cosmic universe as a unique whole as well as in its parts there must be a transcendent source of knowledge supplying the necessary transcendent point of view—the necessary (philosophical) point of Archimedes. Such a transcendent revelation can only be given by a transcendent Personality —by God. The Calvinist maintains that this necessary condition is fulfilled by the Bible, the genuine Verbum Dei." (H.G. Stoker, "The Possibility of a Calvinistic Philosophy,” The Evangelical Quarterly 7 (1935): 20,

The Bible paid it all, all to it I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, it washed it white as snow.