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How the Bible is Trustworthy
All of God’s communication in the Scriptures are covenantal in nature. Expressing his covenantal love and faithfulness, God stoops to “breath” Scripture as a means of bearing witness to his covenant relationship with Israel, and then with the Church. Ultimately God “breathed” (2 Tim 3:16) the Scriptures in order to bear witness to the One in whom he fulfilled both the divine and the human side of his covenant. In other words, the Son faithfully fulfilled God’s promises toward humanity, while at the same time fulfilling the requirements on behalf of humanity in the climax of the cross.
God’s covenantal faithfulness is reflected in the unfailing way his inspired written witness achieves its purposes. The Bible’s ultimate purpose is to bear witness to Christ, and more specifically, to the Christ who definitively revealed God’s eternal, self-sacrificial character and covenantal faithfulness by suffering the covenantal curse that we deserved by dying a God-forsaken death on the cross.
This is why we can know that the Bible is trustworthy. When we trust our “God-breathed” Scripture to bear witness to the cruciform Christ, the Bible accomplishes its purpose infallibly, and therefore we can view it as trustworthy.
This conclusion is based in the ultimate revelation of God in the crucified Christ. Just as Christ’s infallible revelation of God’s character and covenantal faithfulness includes his appropriating our limited and sinful humanity as his own, so too we must affirm that the Scripture that bears witness to Christ infallibly reveals God’s character and covenantal faithfulness in a way that includes, rather than excludes, God’s self-sacrificial accommodation to the limited and sinful humanity of his people. The Incarnation and Crucifixion reveal in history that God has always been incarnational in nature and has always possessed a cruciform, sin-bearing character.
In this light, it should be clear that the cruciform model of the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture avoids the conundrum regarding the full humanity of Scripture that some other models of biblical inspiration face.
For instance, some use the human qualities of Scripture to question whether or not the Bible is trustworthy. I argue the opposite is the case because the cruciform model of the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture not only has no problems with the very human qualities of Scripture; it allows us to discern the “God-breathed” quality of these very human qualities.
This approach allows us to do away with a peculiar dualism that some have observed in contemporary hermeneutics, as is evidenced in the common metaphor of Scripture’s inspired message being found in the “husk” of the culturally-conditioned and fallen humanity of biblical authors. What I propose allows us to abandon any notion that Scripture is “God-breathed” despite the reflections of human weakness and fallenness we find in it—as though the discrepancies, inaccuracies, archaic cosmologies, barbaric moral codes and conflicting theologies in Scripture were embarrassments that were beneath the almighty God.
They would be an embarrassment to any conception of God whose perfection and transcendence was defined over-and-against human limitation and sin. And since this is precisely how classical theologians have defined God’s perfection and transcendence, they have tended to be an embarrassment to theologians throughout history.
But if the cross is the quintessential revelation of God, we are led to the conclusion that God’s covenantal self-communication takes place not despite the limitations and sin of his covenant partners, but precisely by means of the limitations and sin of his covenant partners.
Hence, far from being embarrassed by the limitations and failings of his covenant partners, the God of the Bible owns them and even becomes them (2 Cor. 5:21). And by this means, this stunning God displays his wisdom, love and covenantal faithfulness by turning the limitations and sin of his covenant partners to his advantage by making them the means by which he is revealed!
We must bear this in mind when we consider the manner in which Scripture is “infallible.” Rather than importing an alien concept of infallibility from science or accounting or some other secular field, I submit that fidelity to the crucified Christ requires us to reflect on this concept with our eyes firmly fixed on the cross. Just as Christ infallibly revealed God by appropriating our limitations and sin as his own on Calvary, so God breathes through the Bible infallibly to reveal himself by appropriating the limitations and sin of the covenant partners through whom he “breaths.”
Therefore, the Bible is trustworthy in terms of its ultimate purpose, which is to point us to the person and work of the crucified Christ.
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