Recent years have seen a number of different approaches to how we should understand the Bible. Is it the Word of God? The words of some backwoods goat farmers scattered over a millennia and cobbled together over time? Something else entirely?
Even within the umbrella category of believing it to be the Word of God, there are many options. Is it all the Word of God, or just some of it? Are there mistakes in it? What about contradictions? Of such questions and speculations about their answers there is seemingly no end.
I hold that the Scriptures are the very Word of God, issued from the Throne of heaven. That is, every punctuation mark of it was put there by the Spirit to communicate something, and that the words He chose to use are not exchangeable or replaceable. I have read a lot on contradictions and errors in the Bible, but remain unconvinced. Most of the offered errors are weak and come from a lack of attention to the text. None of this is to say there aren’t things in the Scriptures that require resolution. But these things are paradoxes, not contradictions. A contradiction is something we know to be a mistake; a paradox is something that is beyond explanation given our current knowledge.
It seems to me the contradiction-hunters of either skeptical or source-critical writers is an invention of modernism. Unbelievers and liberal scholars who chop it up to “get behind” it, and conservatives who want to paste it back together in a way that it answers and resolves all our questions are all equally guilty of modernistic reductionism. Only a worldview dependent on logical reductionism wants to so totally “get behind” the text so as to sandpaper off every rough point and uncertainty. It is dependent upon a Foundationalist and modernist drive to so entirely explain what was going on behind the text that interpretation is no longer necessary. James K. A. Smith has identified this drive behind much of evangelical and liberal scholarship in his book The Fall of Interpretation. He points out that the attempt to know without the burden of interpretation is a recapitulation of the fall of Adam and Eve, to be as gods. Familiarity with the Yahweh of the Bible shows that He is not prone to spelling things out. “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; but the glory of Kings is to seek it out,” (Prov. 25:2). Our God is a wrestler, and He wants to train up sons and daughters to wrestle with Him. It seems to me this is a more consistent with an Incarnational approach to Scripture. Truth is a Person, and that Person is Christ. But Persons aren’t manifestos or propositions that sit there on the page. You must listen and speak, and over time a shape of the whole person emerges.
It seems to me liberal scholars want to emphasize the human authorship and conservatives want to emphasize God as author, often to the point of saying that God overrode the human person to write them. We must affirm duel-authorship, but in the same way that Chalcedon affirmed the duel-nature of Christ. 100% man and 100% God. God’s Spirit does not take control of people, it comes rushing upon them and inspires them to various actions. To suggest that God “took over” the human writers in some way (in order to preserve total gnostic separation of the Scriptures from the corruptions of the world) is really more characteristic of demonic possession. God’s Spirit works with the grain of creation, not against it. So God actively shaped the personalities and minds of the Biblical writers so that they would need to be what He needed them to be, from birth.
Because the Scriptures were written by God as much as men, recorded for our guidance and the living of our lives, they must of necessity be trustworthy. At this point I don’t see how constantly figuring out what was “really” Scripture and what was added later makes it trustworthy. After all, new scholarship could come along in a few years showing that something else we thought was “really” Scripture really wasn’t, and we’ve been living in the light of something that was put in later. Some want to use the historical process and development of Scripture as reason for its falsification, but who decided that the earliest version or spliced-together agendas (can anyone say Q document?) make them more primary than the documents we possess as a unity at this moment? It is just another gnostic distaste with the complicated development of history, a development we want the Bible kept as far away from as possible. But just as God’s Son entered the complexities of history, so His Word entered the messiness of history. This process should be embraced as another aspect of God’s incarnational nature, though with caution to the claims of any particular scholar or historian of these matters.