Here is a question that occurs to anyone sensitive to interpreting the Bible: Is the event itself — say the crossing of the Red Sea or the exile/return or the incarnation or the death or the resurrection of Jesus — revelatory or does the event become revelatory under the power of the Spirit who inspires the authors of the Bible to “interpret” the event so that its true meaning is clear? And, the chaser question: If the latter, does the historicity of the event matter for determining the truthfulness of the biblical presentation?
Where do you stand?
Karl Barth dealt with this question, though his understanding of Scripture transcends this question. In Justin Holcomb’s highly-recommended text, Christian Theologies of Scripture, the chp by Mary Kathleen Cunningham is about Karl Barth. I summarize her nice study:
First, revelation // Scripture // Preaching = Word of God. Revelation, therefore, is distinct from Scripture and from Preaching. Scripture is a witness to revelation and Scripture becomes the Word of God. Furthermore, Scripture becomes “Word of God” at God’s initiative [the way the Wardrobe became an entry into Narnia at the choice of Aslan].
Second, Scripture’s unity — and he draws upon the deep patristic and medieval tradition — is found in Jesus Christ. Thus Barth develops a highly-sophisticated theological exegesis where the goal of interpretation is to lead to Christ. The historical critical method is fine, but one can’t expect to study history and find Word of God. That Word of God, Jesus Christ, is revealed and only by reading in faith in Jesus Christ does one comprehend Scripture.
Third, on inspiration: Cunningham: “Barth reads the Bible as a kind of realistic narrative whose history-likeness does not ensure the historical likelihood of its stories” (189). And, “Barth complains that the doctrine of inspiration in Protestant orthodoxy came to be seen as the objective inspiredness of the text” (190).
Here’s his conclusion: “the locus of biblical inspiration and authority for Barth is therefore not the text per se, but rather the gracious action of god, who determines when and where the human world becomes the bearer of the divine Word” (190).
Fourth, on story: “the biblical world is the real world, and our task as exegetes is to find our story in the biblical story and not the reverse” (191).
I’m doing a series on Scripture here in preparation for an article on Scripture, so I will finish this book by Justin Holcomb before I turn back to LeRon Shults’ book about God.