All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. – 2 Tim. 3:16-17
I stand with this ancient letter penned by Paul or a devoted follower. (Let us note that in the author’s day, our final collection of the canon — what’s in and what’s out — HAD NOT BEEN DETERMINED YET. It is very likely his use of the term Scripture refers widely to the writings of the faithful he knew, perhaps including “scriptures” lost to us or later rejected.) Big topic. Different post.
As a Christian, it is with the heart and eyes of Jesus Christ that I seek to understand and be inspired by the lessons of Scripture. And, I count in that the wise teachings of the ages and the contributions of many of God’s seeking children beyond the Jewish and Christian traditions.
All Scripture is inspired and USEFUL… for the ultimate goal of being proficient and equipped for every good work. This seems a richer, deeper commitment to make than to a simplistic literalistic obedience. In fact, the authors of Scripture certainly did NOT have in mind the approach to literal dispensational reading that many American Protestants have been steeped in, as it actually did not exist as a package until the 1800s. If the Divine goal is shaping us for good works in the tradition of Jesus, then I must be as willing to wrestle, grieve and argue with the “inspired” texts of the ages as I am willing to submit to their wisdom. And then there are questions of transmission and translation. Big topics. Different post.
We are not called to a robotic faith or to pass along the prejudices and partial understandings of past. We are called to wrestle, to pray, and to discern what really represents the HEART of the Creator today. It is clear that the Holy Spirit has worked within and outside of tradition to enlarge our perspective on true holiness and justice. On gender equality, abolition of slavery, rejection of genocide, creation of civil pluralistic societies we have had to say “No” to some historical belief or circumstance pictured in Scripture, for the sake of living out more consistently a deeper principle of God’s will.
Today, many of the loudest voices professing Christian biblical principles are those whose image of God and God’s will is consistent with the violence, enmity and cultural superiority depicted in the Scriptures. Others side with the voices of the prophets of justice, inclusion and an expanding sense of peoplehood because we find in those texts the same wisdom which animated Jesus.
The Holy Spirit which advances his work in and through us is at ever at work revealing our thoughts, our prejudices, and our idolatries. One way to receive the full inspiration of Scripture is to simply acknowledge and confess it for what it is: a partial collection of the glorious activities of God and God’s people, and an honest representation of the sins, hopes and evolution of various ways of human relating to God. It IS inspired and certainly profitable for our spiritual development to understand it and evaluate it through the lens of Good News.
If we are to grow up into a mature faith, we must remember that Jesus calls us friends, not servants. With him, we must fulfill our destinies in this hour, and like him we must work out the core of our faith and obligations in the face of tradition’s shortcomings.
“By their fruit, ye shall know them” says Jesus. (This has been an absolutely central principle in my faith journey and my support of LGBT people of faith through spiritual coaching and classes.) Perhaps we could say that inspiration is REALLY happening when our lives look like his, and that Scriptural attachments which do NOT produce such an ever-maturing fruit are not inspired by God.
What is Scripture inspiring in you?