Rudolf Bultmann on God’s Word in Scripture

Rudolf Bultmann on how God speaks through the Bible

The question of how God speaks to us through the Bible has no sense unless we ask at the same time what God says to us through the Bible. [166]

[…] God’s voice sounds from beyond the world. If we wish to hear it, we must be prepared to let it challenge everything in us and everything in the world: our instincts and desires, our ideals and enterprises, all everyday and ordinary things, but also everything extraordinary and noble. If we wish to hear God, we must give up everything to which we are attached, everything that binds us. If we wish to come before God, we must be prepared to look into nothingness, into death. For God does not grant life except after first having demanded death. His word is the word of creation, creating out of nothingness; before him all that we ourselves are and have must be wiped out. The everlasting life, which God wishes to grant through his word, he grants to the dead and in doing so wakes them. Are we prepared to realize that without this word we are dead? That through this word we shall be “born again,” that we shall be “newly created”? Do we want to expose ourselves to this word that is sharper than a two-edged sword? [167]

[…] How does God speak to us through the Bible? As the sovereign Lord, who demands death and brings life, who claims our whole existence for his will, who sets us free to love. Are we ready to hear? [170]

from Existence & Faith: Shorter Writings of Rudolf Bultmann, (Living Age Books, 1960).

Nicholas Lash on various authorities

Nicholas Lash on media of theological authority

1. scripture

A “high” doctrine of scripture as the Word of God does not, cannot, make it easier to understand the biblical texts — and hence, to enable them effectively to be authoritative — than would be the case if they were “merely” the words of men. [64]

[cf. Robert W. Jenson here and here. It goes without saying that one’s doctrine of scripture will inform one’s approach to scriptural interpretation, but does it follow that talk of, say, inerrancy, adequately reflects the multi-dimensional character of our life with scripture? The actual authority we acknowledge scripture to exercise, I’d submit, is revealed less in what we have to say about scripture and more in the scope of our lives to which we hear scripture speaking.]

2. creeds

Any discussion of the “irreformability” of dogmatic statements should begin from a discussion of the “irreformability” of scripture. This elementary principle is, in practice, too often ignored. And yet it is unthinkable that a “higher” view of “irreformability” can be taken in respect of church doctrine than of the scriptures themselves. If, therefore, we feel that faithfulness to the New Testament does not demand a slavish, literal repetition of New Testament propositions (and that such faithfulness may, indeed, often demand that we say quite different things today in order to capture, in our very different historical and cultural context, the basic intention of the biblical teaching) then this must be equally true of creedal affirmations and dogmatic definitions. [66]

3. providence

just as a ‘high’ theology of scripture as the Word of God cannot make it easier to understand the biblical texts than would be the case if they were ‘merely’ the words of men, so also a ‘high’ theology of the providential governance of the church in history by the Spirit of truth cannot make it easier to know how contemporary beliefs and practices are faithful to the original message than would be the case if we had to do with a ‘merely human’ history. [65]

from Voices of Authority, (Sheed &Ward, 1976).

James Torrance on scripture, worship and theology

James Torrance on scripture, worship and theology

I have long thought and taught that the right road into Christian theology is taken by reflecting on Christian worship in the light of the Bible. The Bible is supremely a manual of worship, but too often it has been treated, particularly in Protestantism, as a manual of ethics, of moral values, or religious ideas, or even of sound doctrine. When we see that the worship and mission of the church are the gift of participating through the Holy Spirt in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father and the Son’s mission from the Father to the world, that the unique center of the Bible is Jesus Christ, “the apostle and hight priest whom we confess,” then the doctrines of the Trinity, the incarnation, the atonement, the ministry of the Spirit, Church and sacraments, our understanding of the kingdom, our anthropology and eschatology, all unfold from that center.

from Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace, (IVP, 1996), 9.

William Abraham’s genealogy of biblical criticism

William Abraham’s genealogy of biblical criticism

The rise of biblical theology was a pivotal development within Western Christian theology. It did not arise merely because we wanted a proper reading of scripture; it arose because Christian systematic theology had gotten itself into a mess after the Reformation and had therefore invented biblical theology to get out of that mess. Systematic theologians had come to develop a very particular epistemology of theology as a way of resolving first-order disagreement. Their hope was that if they could only deploy the right method of justification for beliefs then they could settle their disputes; disputes that had reached the point of death for the protagonists. The favored epistemology was simple: turn to scripture as the crucial if not sole warrant for theology and then we will find the answers we need. Hence the creation of biblical theology as the foundation of all theology was a kind of accident waiting to happen in the bosom of Western Christian theology.

from The Bible: Beyond the Impasse, (Highland Loch, 2012), 36-37.

What sort of book is scripture?

Thoughts toward reading scripture as Christians, and not only as historians

1. Hans Frei

I am persuaded that historical inquiry is a useful and necessary procedure but that theological reading is reading of the text, and not the reading of a source, which is how historians read it.

from [I’ve lost track of the source, but whatever it was, it can be found on page 11 of that work].

2. Francis Watson

Description [of an object of study] always presupposes a prior construction of the object in terms of a given interpretive paradigm. The assertion that historical-critical practice undertakes the “description” of the biblical texts is dependent on a prior interpretation of those texts as historical artifacts.

From Text, Church, and World, (Eerdmans, 1994), 33.

3. Joel Green

The meaning, truth, and authority of Scripture’s historical narratives cannot be tethered to or made dependent on modernist notions of history or historical veracity. Instead, with biblical narratives, the essential truth-claim with which we are concerned lies above all in their claim to speak, as it were, on God’s behalf — that is, to interpret reality in light of God’s self-disclosure of God’s own character and purpose working itself out in the cosmos and on the plain of human events. In this sense, the authority of these documents, read as Scripture, rests in their status as revealed history.

from “Practicing the Gospel in a Post-critical World: The Promise of Theological Exegesis,” JETS vol. 47, no. 3, (2004), 391.