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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Bible 7: God's breath and human authors

 So far we have had a strong understanding of "inspiration." It is a fair question to ask, does the Bible clearly state that the words of the Bible have been dictated by God? To say it is authoritative can mean that, but is that the only possible way of understanding the word?

Remember, human beings are also "god-breathed" creations. [cf. Genesis] There the breath of God made them 'living souls'--the Hebrew root means hungry.  Humans are the image and likeness of God, so they certainly have divine qualities, yet, they are not inerrant nor are they infallible and perfect, in spite of participating in some way in that Divine Nature. [side note, human nature has to be inherently open to the divine in a unique way, or else God the Son could not have become human.!]
I had never thought about any of this until I started this series and began searching for place where "God-breathed" occurs in the Bible . As I looked for God breathing I immediately realized the creation story was the starting place. So my question is, theological predisposition aside, is it clear that the creation of humans and God's breath has nothing to inform us regarding God's breath and Scripture?

In the end, a high view of human authorship can also be Biblical. I do not think that the Bible portrays humans as puppets. One of the earliest Bible references to "human" (Adam) indicates that God gave 'man/adam/human dominion. Let that soak in a moment; dominion means lordship... Human freedom is the basis of human responsibility and accountability. From the first humans are independent agents with which God interacts. He may speak to them (like with Adam, Eve and Cain) but be ignored. He may also influence (harden Pharaoh’s heart). He may reveal something  (Isaiah in heaven), communicate in vision (write what you see) or say something with word (Thus says the Lord) or through events (Exodus at Sea, blatant vs. Joseph saga, subtle). [side note, the Hebrew word dabar can mean 'word' or 'thing'; in Biblical language there is a much thinner line dividing the concept than in English!] Intervention can have a controlling influence (God calls Moses) but then be negotiated (God uses Aaron at Moses insistence). The “wrestling” God (with Abraham verbally over Sodom;with Jacob literally at the river, but figuratively his whole life). The Bible does not provide one clear and obvious picture/image/model/paradigm of how God and human interact. So there are various beliefs (based on assumptions beforehand):
§  Human freedom is independent of God so He must work with it and around it. The Prince of this world is the devil, not God. Humans have dominion. God is the source of creation but He immediately ‘leaves the scene.’ God is all knowing and powerful so when He intervenes He “finds a way,” but it is in dialogue with human freedom.
§  Human Freedom exists, but the human person can be, as St. Paul says, a co-worker (synergism) with God. What is possible in all times and places is especially true of Scripture (unclear is it difference in degree or kind?). This means God works “best” with those who are open to Him. IN this view, the authors of Scripture were men (women?) who were open to God and were tools at His disposal.
§  Human freedom exists but is not a barrier to God, He can control humans through their free will. Here we have double causality which gives us a way out of the dilemma, but is difficult to imagine... It emphasizes mystery. God talk is always analogical (!) so even if we cannot understand how this works, we do know that it is how things work.
§  Free Will does not exist, God controls everything. God did it. Humans are puppets. [this view makes no sense to me]
o   As we ponder the process (and take a non-magical approach to God&humans writing the bible), perhaps all written sources must also be "controlled" by God through the oral stage and each written stage. So Holy Spirit was “breathing” for a long time (up to hundreds of years) in lots of people and events. This material could have functioned temporarily as “Authoritative” or “Sacred Writ” at various times. One example, the “Law” found in the Temple in Josiah’s day, (which some think is the basis of Deuteronomy and most think was not the whole Torah), or (theoretical) earlier versions of the writings (some think they see two sources in Genesis or Northern/Southern versions of salvation history with different emphasis), or “the preaching and teaching of the apostles” which is later written in the Gospel (so Paul says “this is from the Lord” about the Last Supper or divorce long before any written Gospel).    
We tend to forget about the early Christians who predate the Bible.  We tend to think of ourselves and our times. Yet how was God talking to those who go before us, many times martyrs, who were also His people. As I have pondered these people for the last four decades, more and more I find myself envisioning the ongoing interaction of God with His people, the process of inspiration, as being richer and fuller than 'the book in my hand.'

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