Monday, July 09, 2007

Authority "Behind the Bible" or "In Front of"?

Click on the link above to see Dr. Rolf A. Jacobson's introduction on, "How to Read the Bible".

As an LCMS Lutheran, I have little to quibble with in (ELCA) Dr. Jacobson's comments until about 4:35 in the video, where he discusses the authority of the Bible.

He discusses two approaches:  "Behind the Bible" and "In Front of the Bible".  The "Behind the Bible View" he then goes on to describe as "verbal inspiration".  However the way he describes it sounds more like the "dictation theory", which those of us in the LCMS typically don't espouse, even though we do hold to "verbal inspiration".  So this is a straw man.  

I would also object to his assertion that Lutherans haven't traditionally understood the Bible as verbally inspired.  In fact, they always have, as Luther did.  It is this new approach that is the real innovation....

The "In Front of the Bible" approach, he says, sees the Bible's authority more in its effects or its "claim on my life".  While I would certainly agree the Bible should not be put on a shelf or in a cooler, I find this a false alternative he is setting up.  Certainly the Bible has power.  Certainly the Bible is inspired - the very word of God.  It is one because it is the other.

What is truly Lutheran is so embrace the both/and, not the either/or.  However, if I had to choose one, I would still go with a "Behind" approach.

The danger of Dr. Jacobson's approach, as the ELCA exhibits, is in diminuating certain portions of the Bible as "not verbally inspired" (i.e., not God's word?), and therefore if it has no "effect" on me, then where is its authority?  It would seem the "In Front of" approach he is stumping is rather subjective, compared to an objective (and therefore more reliable) "Behind the Bible" approach.

I suppose he could have also talked more about a Christocentric view of Scripture, which is just important to Lutherans as anything else he has mentioned.  His citation of Luther's "cradle" quote at the end would have been a good jumping off point for that.

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