Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Quote of the day: Proof of the inspiration of the Bible

... in the last resort, the proof of the inspiration of the Bible—not, indeed, in every particular, but in its essential message—is to be found in the life-giving effects which that message has produced, wherever its word of truth has gone. This is the truth in the argument for inspiration based on the witness of the Holy Spirit. The Bible has the qualities claimed for it as an inspired book ... It leads to God and Christ; it gives light on the deepest problems of life, death, and eternity; it discovers the way of deliverance from sin; it makes men new creatures; it furnishes the man of God completely for every good work. That it possesses these qualities history and experience through all the centuries have attested.
J. Orr, Revelation and Inspiration, 217-218; cited in Stephen Chapman, “Reclaiming Inspiration for the Bible,” 198.


psalterium said...

How does Orr deal with inerrancy?

Phil Sumpter said...

I have no idea. This quote comes from another article, where the issue of inerrancy doesn't come up. I don't think it's required at all for this quote to work.

Sally said...

To my way of thinking "it" i.e. the Bible, does nothing of the sort. Without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the discipline of shared community, "it" (dead letter) does little good but on the contrary is capable of enormous harm.

One cannot make this sort of claim for the Bible and yet, at the same time, fail to acknowledge the terrible hurt "it" has unleashed on human and animal life, up until this day, through the various historical interpretations. Moreover, each of those qualities is also present elsewhere, in literature that makes no claim to be "the words of God", in life experience, in other faith traditions, and so on.

This quote from Orr closely approaches "biblianity" or even, "bibliolatry". It seems to be encouraging us to accept something that is sub-Christian, not to mention incapable of "proof". Hopefully it has lost some context here, which might provide the missing balance?

Phil Sumpter said...

Hi Sally,

I really appreciate your comments and can only say that I agree 100%. I noted this quote a while back and cannot remember that its broader context would contradict your important points. Interestingly, you've made me go back to it and look at the language more closely, and I think that he does kind of guard himself against the charges you mention. For example, it is not the Bible as material object that dispenses salvation, but the message it contains ("in its essential message"), which leads us beyond it to God. He also talks of the "witness of the Holy Spirit." But I agree that this quote needs a broader context.