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The Primacy of Scripture


p.52.     S. is the human witness to divine revelation.
          S. is God’s witness to his own revelation.

Note the nature of revelation (Shepherd)

[1] God acts.
[2] God illumines the people who are the beneficiaries of his action.
His illumining them as to what he has done is his definitive interpretation of what he has done
E.g., What has he done in the cross? How do we know? We know as we are made the
 beneficiary of it. What we know becomes part of the event of his “doing.”

How does he acquaint us with all this? through the human witness of prophets and apostles whom he inspires.
Note here the cruciality of the risen Jesus’s self-interpretation during the forty days between Resurrection and Ascension.

Points to ponder:
[1] S. is not the rev. of God. God doesn’t reveal a book or truth or propositions primarily. God reveals himself, and does so by giving himself. Revelation is from God and of God. God is the author and object of revelation.
[2] God’s act is witnessed by those who are the immediate beneficiaries of it.
[3] Those who are witnesses of it are also summoned and commissioned to be witnesses to it.
[4] The human witness to God’s revelation God owns and blesses as his own witness to himself. What humans write God endorses; God writes “on top of it”, as it were.
If we undervalue the human witness to rev., then we confuse s. with the Lord of s.
If we undervalue s. as God’s witness to himself, then we are left with a s. that is no more than a human document and therefore has no more than human authority.

In short, s. isn’t the rev., but because the R’n of JC includes the witness (testimony) of apostles (i.e., the R’n event is the raising of Jesus PLUS the risen Jesus’s self-interpretation to the apostles PLUS their subsequent writing of all of this), therefore s. is an aspect, even a necessary aspect, of rev. In other words, while rev. isn’t primarily or essentially verbal, since the apostolic testimony is part of the R’n event, rev. always includes a verbal element.

p.52. Bloesch compares deficient view of s. to deficient views of JC:
e.g., docetism (fundamentalist view of s.) and ebionitism (liberal view of s.)

p.52. S. is not rev. itself, but whenever it is read today and vivified by the Holy Spirit, it becomes the occasion of rev. (The work of the HS obviates any deducing or inferring God from s.)
When the HS vivifies s., God himself confronts us as surely as he confronted people in the pre- and post-Easter ministry of JC.
This point is crucial: s.+ HS = the living God’s giving himself to us, addressing us and summoning us.

p.53 Then what is meant by “Word of God”? — the self-utterance of the living God. I.e., “Word of God” = s. + HS.

p.54. Note: because we are fallen and therefore spiritually obtuse, the HS is essential to our finding s. to be the vehicle of God’s self-impartation.

p.55. Rev. is the action whereby God discloses himself. Inspiration is the election and guidance of prophets [and apostles], ensuring the trustworthiness and efficacy of their witness through the ages.
(Shepherd: Be sure to keep rev. primary. Rev. generates inspiration of s.; inspiration doesn’t generate rev. — as in much fundamentalism}

p.55. Note the distinction between inspiration (of writers of s.) and illumination (of readers of s.)

p.56. Insp. is complete; illum. is ongoing; therefore rev. is ongoing in the sense that JC, in the power of the HS, continues to disclose himself to readers/hearers of s. and bind them to himself in the faith he quickens within them.

p.56. JC is the substance of the OT as much as of the NT.
(Shepherd) this point is crucial or else
[1] we think a different deity is spoken of in the OT.
[2] we jettison the OT, thereby forfeiting a doctrine of creation, an understanding of community, the burden of the prophetic protest, the meaning of holiness, etc.
[3] we falsify Jesus. (Without the OT, Jesus becomes whatever we make him.)
[4] we become anti-semitic.

p.56. Historical criticism has its place in helping us uncover the meaning of s., but upholding historical criticism must never become the pretext for importing a non-s.’l philosophy that skews s.
 S. is not the record or evidence of anything evolutionary.


S. takes precedence over tradition. Tradition can “vote” but cannot “veto.” Trad. must always be challenged and corrected by s.

p.58. The church recognizes the canonical collection, but the church doesn’t determine it. (Put differently, the canonical collection delineates “church”; the church doesn’t delineate “s.”

p.59. S. authenticates itself. (I.e., as self-authenticating, s. requires nothing to authenticate it.)
(Shepherd: Calvin’s point is crucial. Jesus Christ authenticates himself to us, and in doing this he consequently authenticates to us that document (s.) by which we learned of him.)

p.59-60. S. always stands above the church, above our experience, above culture.

p. 62-63. Bloesch makes the point again that s. is self-authenticating derivatively in that it is the means whereby I encounter the self-authenticating One.
(Shepherd) Note the way Luther speaks of baby and manger.
(Shepherd) At no time is s. an “Aladdin’s Lamp”: we “rub” it until the genie (JC) “comes out.” The s. we always have in our hands; JC we never have in our hands: he forever remains Lord of his own self-disclosure and Lord of the witness to him. At no time do we control him or that Spirit which he bears and bestows.




p.64. Unquestionably we find culturally conditioned ideas and historically conditioned language in s. Yet by the miracle of God’s s grace that Word is heard which isn’t conditioned.
(Shepherd: s. is “infallible” in that it never fails in doing that for which it is intended: bespeak the fact, nature and offer of salvation.)

p.66. Bloesch speaks of inerrancy. See f.n. #62 p. 83: Inerrancy doesn’t consist in scientific exactness or consistency in detail [Shepherd: Calvin drew up a list of inconsistencies in s.] but in “the faithfulness of God to communicate his Word to his appointed spokespersons and to preserve their testimony as the vehicle of its continual revelation to his children.”

p.69. We are not to treat s. as a source book of revealed truths that we can then extract from s.
[1] This would presupposes that God reveals a book.
[2] This would obviate any need for the HS, implying that not HS but our REASON gives us access to ultimate reality. (Note the relationship between ult. reality and the means of apprehending it: The Rational <> reason, versus Spirit<>spirit.)
[3] This would mean that unbelief has the same access to the heart of s. as has faith.
[4] This would deny the relationship of JC to s.: he ever remains Lord of s., is never “locked up” in it.
[5] Gathering up all the above, we must say reason or historical research cannot disclose God. God alone does this, and does this by creating faith in him in the context of our reading s. A miracle of grace is needed. (Since fallen creatures cannot “ascend” to God, any time any person comes to faith, a miracle has occurred.)


p.71. [1] We come to s. as a believer, expecting God to reveal himself and therein reveal us (as opposed to those like Bultmann and Tillich who presuppose a prior self-understanding we bring to s.)
[2] We examine the task critically (since we don’t uphold a “Joseph Smith” approach.)
[3] We read the text in the light of its theological context. For this, spiritual discernment is needed. While we may begin by interpreting the text, we always conclude by having the text “interpret” us.
[4] We relate the text to contemporaneity.
[5] Finally we must grasp the substance of s. as a whole. p.72. (Shepherd: I’d invert 4 and 5.)



p.74 The s. is not to be identified with rev.
A theory of mechanical dictation is not to be identified with inspiration.
Once s. is no longer grounded in JC and his authority, it is said to be grounded in itself (K. Barth: “a paper pope”). (Shepherd: Why not simply say that when s. is regarded as grounded in itself it has become an idol?)

p.75. Note: much modern evangelicalism assumes a rationalist position and maintains that the Word of God is directly available to human reason.

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Bloesch: The Future of Evangelical Theology
Bl. discusses three approaches to s.
[1] liberal-modernist. The s. is the written record of the religious history or religious experience of an ancient people.
[2] scholastic-fundamentalist. The s. is identified with rev; the s. is what God has revealed.
[3] sacramental. The s. is the “mirror” that reflects JC, a “channel” which brings Christ to us and us to him, a “vehicle” (think of Luther’s manger) by which the risen One is “conveyed.” We neither identify JC with scripture nor pretend that he can be known (i.e., received) apart from it. Once more, s. isn’t rev. but it ever remains unique and indispensable to our knowing and being the beneficiary of rev.