This is the second part of a post in which I’m talking about some of my guttural objections to some of the ways I’m treating the Bible for my ongoing Lent series, and then my responses to my own doubts. [Part 1]
This would not at all have been in the minds of the original writers. The original writers, at most, it seems, would have seen themselves talking about how God simply “ordained” Jesus’ death since eternity past. They probably were not thinking about making a statement about a “slain” and suffering aspect to the nature of God.
My responses: There is no mainstream view of the Bible that I know of that holds that each of the biblical writers had the fullness of theological knowledge at their disposal. They were still human (and poor, uneducated humans at that!).
All of us have had some ideas that took us a long time to get around to thinking through the actual implications of (yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition. The “correct” way of writing that sentence sounded both pretentious and unclear). There is something to be said for people taking what these fisherman were thinking back then and really considering it, coming to more developed conclusions (not simply “new” ones).
As I said in the last full post in this series, further musing on this idea of “ordaining” things has helped us realize that these “ordainings” (or “decrees” as I called it there) of God must logically flow from who God is, else there is something “changing” in God, and Scripture is even more clear that that is a truth about God. And so, whether the writers simply did not think about it to that extent, or they did and just never got to write it, it’s pretty well-established that the limited knowledge of the writers at their particular point in redemptive history is not what we are bound by in our theological pursuits.
At the very least, I wouldn’t say that any of these ideas go against what the biblical writers thought.
The Bible is a very organic, human book. Why are you trying to over-supernaturalize it unnecessarily? This is the inverse of the “over-poeticizing” point in Part 1 of this post. To restate these two points more clearly: in “over-poeticizing”, there are times that the writers of biblical texts write in poetic terms and we should be very wary and careful about pulling more meaning (philosophical, historical, scientific or otherwise) from the text than what is dressed in the literary device. In short, we try and pull more out of the text than what’s there.
This current point, on the other hand, says that there are other times when things are written very plainly and simply and we try to import more meaning into them, usually by saying that “God meant this the whole time”. For example, taking the Genesis creation account as literal history; or seeing Matthew quote the prophet Hosea in reference to the child Jesus and assuming that Hosea meant that all along. I have criticized this in the past, but am I similarly abusing the text by assuming God is so secretly working in the writers of Scripture that they don’t even know what they’re “really” saying at the time?
My responses: Yes, it’s true, I have personally heralded a very “human” (or “incarnational“) view of the Bible that can sometimes seem like I’m demeaning the supernatural working of God’s Spirit. And perhaps, at times, I really am demeaning it–I try to do my theological work in both community and prayer to fight against this.
But here’s what I would say. These issues with the “human-ness” of Scripture messing us uo primarily arise when it comes to the Acts of God, more than the Being of God. Let me explain. It’s usually in the context of the on-the-ground workings of God in his world and among his people, that we most often get into the hairy situation of theological “interpretation”, “bias”, and “appropriation of things to God”. In other words, I think there’s a slight difference between saying “Look! There’s a bunch of Locusts coming, it must be God who sent them!” and “Our God is God whose nature is love”. One is an inference and interpretation (perhaps correct), the other is a declaration (that is plain).
When it comes to this idea of “eternal slain-ness”, we see that the explicit statements of this doctrine are almost exclusively in the context of declarative statements to the fact, rather than interpretations.
Also, at some point, if this book truly is Scripture and not just another book, doesn’t there have to be some level of supernaturality at work within its pages? Doesn’t there need to be some spiritual and “other-worldly” aspects to this faith spoken of by these writers, if we are to, indeed, call it a “faith”?
Lastly, to conclude this post, I’ll simply point out that regardless of all these potential troubles one might have with the interpretive framework by which this doctrine is arrived at, Church History has consistently claimed this idea of the “eternal slain-ness of Christ” as its own.
And so, with these random, disjointed thoughts having been articulated to both me and you, I will move forward with this series, feeling as faithful to God, the Church, and the Bible as one can feel when delving in such deep waters. Thanks for your patience.