Sunday, March 3, 2013

N. T. Wright: "The Bible is breathed out by God"

The Bible is far more ... than what some people used to say a generation or so ago: that it was simply the (or a) "record of the revelation," as though God revealed himself by some quite other means and the Bible was simply what people wrote down to remind themselves of what had happened.  The Bible offers itself, and has normally been treated in the church, as part of God's revelation, not simply a witness or echo of it.  Part of the problem is the assumption that what's required is after all simply "revelation," the communication of some kind of true information.  The Bible does indeed offer plenty of information, but what it offers in a more primary way is energy for the task to which God is calling his people.  Talking about inspiration of the Bible is one way of saying that that energy comes from the work of God's Spirit.

It helps, in all this, to remind ourselves constantly what the Bible is given to us for.  One of the most famous statements of "inspiration" in the Bible itself puts it like this: "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Equipped for every good work; there's the point.  The Bible is breathed out by God (the word for "inspired" in this case is theopneustos - literally, "God-breathed") so that it can fashion and form God's people to do his work in the world.  

In other words, the Bible isn't there simply to be an accurate reference point for people who want to look things up and be sure they've got them right.  It is there to equip God's people to carry forward his purposes of new covenant and new creation.  It is there to enable people to work for justice, to sustain their spirituality as they do so, to create and enhance relationships at every level, and to produce that new creation which will have about it something of the beauty of God himself.  The Bible isn't like an accurate description of how a car is made.  It's more like the mechanic who helps you fix it, the garage attendant who refuels it, and the guide who tells you how to get where you're going.  And where you're going is to make God's new creation happen in his world, not simply to find your own way unscathed through the old creation.


~ N. T. Wright, Simply Christian: 

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