Friday, 4 July 2014


I've been running a series of groups lately, teaching people ways to read the Bible. It's a kind of "exegesis for beginners" discussion group, aimed at people who might never pursue tertiary studies but who take the Bible seriously, as texts that should be read and understood and applied.

For that group there's no discussion of inspiration, inerrancy, or infallibility. Nevertheless, they all see the Bible as inspired, as God-breathed (but not God-dictated). This is a serious claim. It's a claim of authority, a claim of revelation. The words in the Bible aren't just any words from any authors, they are words from inspired authors. Somehow, God's spirit has been involved in the production of the text that we have today.

But at the same time, the Christian belief is that God's spirit is also breathed into each believer. Each believer is inspired. This is especially true in the charismatic and pentecostal traditions, and taken all the way in the Christian Quakers' tradition. I like this quote from George Fox, as recorded by Margaret Fell:
"You will say Christ saith this and the apostles say this, but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of the Light and hast thou walked in the Light, and what thou speakest, is it inwardly from God, etc.?"
In other words, if the believer is really inspired then they have some measure of authority through their experience of the spirit. Let's be clear about it. In this way of thinking, a Christian has God's spirit in them, making them inspired and this entails that the believer has inspired authority.

The various traditions will have much to say about this, I'm sure. Someone will probably say that a believer has to be "in the spirit" when they are being authoritative or that the believer's pronouncements cannot contradict the Biblical texts. They will cite texts like Rev 1:10 to support it. I can't help but feel that this approach is more like the vision of Yahweh's spirit in Ezekiel 1: the spirit descends to make a pronouncement and then leaves after it's done. The believer no longer has the spirit.

In a way it's like saying, "All my friends like my taste in music." If someone doesn't like my taste in music, they aren't my friend. "All Christians are spirit-filled when they live and speak as inspired." If the Christian experience is a genuine transformation then our lives and words will be inspired, and that will give us authority. We know what it is to meet someone who has committed their life to Christian charity. We can't help but listen to them speak. They have an authority about them. In a way, I think that this resolves the deadlock in the situation. A life transformed by God to discipleship and service is a life that will overflow with divine authority. But then, Jesus said something about that in Matthew 7.
‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.

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