Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Calvin on Scripture

This Sunday, as I'm sure you know, is Bible Sunday. Being the good liturgical, lectionarical Anglican that I am, I'm going to preach on the Scriptures - what they are, what they do, etc., all, funnily enough, grounded in an exposition of 2 Timothy 3:14-4:4, but preceded by a (very) brief summary of how the Bible speaks of itself and how Christians throughout time have spoken of the Bible. In looking over the giants of church history I came across this quote from Calvin:

[speaking of 2 Tim 3:16] ... we owe to the Scripture the same reverence as we owe to God, since it has its only source in Him and has nothing of human origin mixed with it. (Calvin's Commentaries on the New Testament, 1 and 2 Timothy)

Now don't get me wrong, I'm a BIG fan of Johnny C. But, I think here he oversteps the mark. It's clear what he's trying to say - that what the Bible says God says, and that it is his word, not mans. But he makes absolute what the Bible leaves slightly more open. We don't venerate the book - for all the attacks on evangelicals of bibliolotry I've never seen anyone treat the Bible like it were God. In fact, I've seen liberals treat their (physical) bibles with far more care than evangelicals (primarily because they leave it in pristine condition on the
shelf, whereas evangelicals get it out and use it). I don't revere my UltraThin (ironic, eh) Reference Edition NIV Holy Bible (all the way from Nashville, Tennessee) in the same way I revere my risen Lord. I don't fall flat on my face when I see my Bible in the same way that I'm sure I'm going to fall flat on my face when I meet Jesus.

And I'm glad that, contra Calvin, my Bible does have something of its human origin mixed in. Not that I think that some words are Gods and some aren't, of course not. All Scripture is exhaled by God. But he did it through normal men. He breathed out his word through Peter who, red-necked clown that he was, got so scared he thought it would be a good idea to pitch tents for the transfigured Lord and his buddies. Who in a fit of terrified insanity denied Jesus. But whom Jesus forgave, and breathed out his Spirit on, and through whom Jesus was pleased to have his gospel boldly proclaimed. He breathed out his word through Paul who got depressed and angry and sad, who modelled a self-giving, self-denying ministry both through what he did and how he wrote.

I understand what Calvin has said, and what he wants to protect. And I'm with him. But he, it seems, goes to far. What the Bible says, God says. But the Bible is not God. Everything that the Bible says is from God, breathed out by him. But he breathed it out through my brothers, who loved him and served him, and at times failed, but always looked to their Saviour for forgiveness.

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