Let’s use the opportunity of #GivingTuesday to remember that it is more blessed to give than to receive – be it today or at any other time of the year.
Why Scripture refuses to separate the theological from the historical.
What is easier to say to a paralytic man: “Your sins are forgiven” or “Arise, take up your bed and walk”?
Answer: It is a whole lot easier to say: “Your sins are forgiven”.
Answer: Because it is a non-verifiable theological declaration.
It is far harder to say “Arise, take up your bed and walk” because a physical healing can be analyzed empirically. If the Lord had not healed the palsied man, His enemies could have exclaimed: “Look, the paralytic is still bed-bound! Have you all noticed? Jesus of Nazareth, the son of a carpenter, is an imposter, a charlatan”.
So, what does Christ do?
Did Jesus somehow ask His followers to believe in Him by means of a blind leap of irrationality? Does the Christian faith call for the complete negation of the empirical sphere as our beloved brother Kierkegaard tried to teach us? By no means!
Jesus connected His theological truth (“Your sins are forgiven”) with the empirical, scientific and literal world (“Arise, take up your bed and walk”). This way the Lord showed that He is worthy of trust in the spiritual realm because He exhibits irresistible power in the verifiable sphere of real history.
Since Jesus healed the paralytic with unparalleled authority, His disciples could trust everything He said about the non-empirical domain. Thus Mark 2:10 is fulfilled: “But that you may know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins (He said to the sick of the palsy), I say unto you: Arise, and take up your bed and go your way into your house”. Jesus’ followers knew that He had power to forgive because He healed the afflicted fellow.
Now, what has all of this got to do with contemporary Bibliology?
An evangelical Bibliology that divorces the subjective (theological pretensions) from the objective (what is empirically verifiable) is necessarily false. It is nothing more than the resurrection of the esoteric religions of ancient Greece and the Far East which major upon the theological to the detriment of the empirical.
This Greek/Oriental spirit –completely foreign to the Bible- is paraded amongst us today via an oft-quoted phrase, namely, “Jesus is the truth, not the Bible”.
At first glance the statement seems quite evangelical and spiritual. Nevertheless, it violates the worldview of the beloved Son of God as it is more philosophical than theocentrical (my neologism).
This subjectivist affirmation presupposes that truth is only personal (Jesus), not linguistic or propositional (the Bible).
First of all, such a statement is erroneous because it conjures up a false antithesis: Jesus or the Bible. Orthodox Protestantism replies by saying that both Jesus - the incarnate Word of God- and Scripture - the written Word of God- are both true and fully reliable. The truthfulness of Christ and the veracity of Holy Scripture stand or fall together.
Secondly, how do we know who Jesus is without the inerrant propositional statements of Scripture? Again, whosoever confesses that Jesus is the truth is obliged to presuppose the full trustworthiness of Sacred Writ. How can we know Christ but by Scripture?
Thirdly (and somewhat linked to the second point), one would have to ask those who say “Jesus is the truth, not the Bible” why they pay attention to the Bible at all? Why would they take it upon themselves to trust in an erroneous source?
Fourthly, the very statement “Jesus is the truth, not the Bible” is a linguistic proposition. The one who makes such an assertion believes that his propositional statement is the Gospel-truth! In contradictory fashion, those who believe that Jesus is the truth appeal to John 14:6, so they do at least believe in one inerrant Bible verse! Something just does not add up here…
Finally, and ironically, this school of thought forgets that the Jesus who is presented to us in Scripture believed in the full inspiration and inerrancy of the written Word of God. Jesus proclaimed that no Scripture could be broken and that even the jots and tittles mattered. Jesus, the truth, exalted the linguistic propositions of the biblical text.
To develop an authentically evangelical Bibliology, we must discard the contemporary love-affair with all things subjective. Was it not Kuyper who told us that Christ is Lord over every sphere, not just the religious one?
A Christianity founded upon the empty clouds of human subjectivity commits the old heresy of Docetism, making mention of Christ’s divinity alone with no inkling of His humanity.
As the apostle instructed us: “Every spirit [or Bibliology] that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God” (1 John 4:2). We would do well to apply this principle to contemporary evangelical thought.
The Bible never separates the historical from the theological. So, when Scripture speaks to us about history, they are the inspired and inerrant Word. And when Scripture speaks to us about theology, they are likewise the inspired and inerrant Word.
At the end of the day, if we produce an impenetrable dichotomy between the empirical and the subjective, the poor paralytic man would still be lying in his bed…