Scripture, Experience, Reason, and Tradition, or what have you, is only authoritative on matters to the extent that it accurately represents Truth; for they are not Truth themselves, but are interpretations of the Truth. To put it another way, they are only witnesses to the Truth and any revelation that is revealed from the Truth. They themselves are not self-revelation of the Truth but are interpretations of said revelation and are not free from errors. These sources of Interpretations are not authorities in and of themselves, but are streams in the epistemological desert that lead us to the source of all being and through which God exercises his authority. Christ himself is The True Scripture. He is The True Tradition, He is The True Experience, and he is The True Reason. The Scriptures, Traditions, Experiences, and Reasons are what point to the True Christ, they indicate that there is something greater casting these shadows, and that we must turn around to see this greater person. He is the one that casts these shadows, but we must remember from Plato’s allegory of the Cave that they are only shadows of the True focus of our life. This does not make them unreal, they are in fact real shadows, but they are not the same thing as the one casting the shadows. The shadows indicate the direction we must turn in order to see the one casting the shadows. And perhaps on the day of the resurrection Christ himself will lead us fully out of the cave and into his glorious light.
The Scriptures, Traditions, Experiences, and Reason create conditions or contexts in which God’s presence through his Spirit speaks his Word to us, God’s very self. God’s-Self the presence of God is Revelation. It is not that Scriptures, Traditions, Experiences, and Reason is God speaking to us, these are merely the conditions that grab our attention in which we are made ready to experience God speak, and God’s-Self is pointed to by them. Here it is God speaks alongside the Scriptures, Traditions, Experiences, and Reason as a commentator or rather The Commentator. Imagine a bowl. The Bowl is useless until someone pours water into it. The bowl is not necessary for the water to be poured, but without it until we reach the stream, the source of the water, we will have nothing to carry the water in. What we come to find out is the stream is right behind us. But even if we do turn towards the stream realizing the bowl is unnecessary we still understand the bowl to be useful to drinking from the stream. Now in the same way Scriptures, Traditions, Experiences, and Reason is the bowl, it is not the water, or Word itself, but carries the Word, and in that way is useful, but we must realize the stream, the Word, God’s very self is right behind us, and we must turn. We can still use the bowl or Scriptures, Traditions, Experiences, and Reason to drink from the stream to carry his Word from the source, because it makes it easier, but it is not necessary. And if while we are unaware of the stream behind us, God as the Incarnating God will himself draw water from the stream and pour into our bowl. Although we may be unaware that God is doing this, or that the bowl is in fact not the water itself, but God in his Goodness and Mercy brings God’s-Self, His Word, The Son, Through His Holy Spirit to us, and pours it into whatever bowl we have chosen.
The Scriptures as human witness to Divine Revelation serve as a recording of the Hebrew people’s experiences with God, and serve as a Written Tradition, so to speak, in which we can look back to and learn from. These Spiritual and Physical ancestors of ours model a life of faith that places trust in God as a primary way of living, all the while seeking deeper intimacy with the divine. And here it is again that we must address the pressing issues of authorship and Inspiration.
In my opinion it must be stated that Scripture along with the rest of our streams of authority are not the product of God speaking to us, but of us speaking about God. We must be humble enough to admit the distinction between our human ideas about God and God’s-Self. Inspiration is not to be equated with Authorship. Certainly at least not by our modern conceptions of authorship. Again and again I run into a seemingly unquestioned presupposition that assumes the Bible is God’s Word, and that it’s God’s Word because it’s inspired. In other words, Authorship is seen as synonymous with Divine Inspiration. But are they really the same thing? Does God have to be the author of the Bible to be the Inspirer of it?3
For example: If I write a Biography about my good friend Brad Pitt (I really don’t personally know him) and publish it, who’s name will be on the cover as the author of the book, mine or his? Well of course mine. I would be the author since I wrote the biography. He, and our friendship together, was merely4 the Inspiration. He is certainly the source of my Inspiration for the book, but in no way would anyone think him to be the author of the book. He did not write the words, but what he did do was inspire the experiences we had together that prompted me to write the words. Inspiration comes from our experiences together, through our interactions and relationship. Inspiration is primarily, and perhaps entirely relational. Through Brad Pitt and our experiences together, his Inspiration changes me. I am different now because of our relationship together than I was before. He has inspired me for better or for worse. My life would look completely differently if I had never developed my friendship with Brad.
Or let’s say I decide to write a journal about my experiences with my wife. Again, no one would say she wrote the journal, but they would say she, and our experiences together, were the Inspiration for my journal. And in this sense, she plays an integral part in the devolvement of my journal. The Divinity of Scripture or its inspiration isn’t found in the words themselves but is found in the experiences of the authors who wrote the words. To beat a dead horse, Scripture is not God speaking about himself, but human authors speaking about God from their very real, finite, culturally, and historically saturated perspectives and localities. They were speaking about God from their subjective experiences and understandings of those very real experiences of the Objective God. Or to put it another way, they were recording their human interpretations of their interactions with the Divine. Must we see authorship and inspiration as the same thing?
When we hear the phrase “God-Breathed,” why do we assume that our understanding of it is correct? Does “God-Breathed” really equal authorship? We cannot approach this phrase without first questioning our own presuppositions; and asking what the phrase meant in its own original, historical, cultural, and linguistical context. Let alone what is has meant in the last 1,900 years of the church’s understanding of that concept and phrase, or even Israel’s understanding of Inspiration and their particular interpretative frameworks for understanding scripture. The other two instances of this theme “God-Breathed” is found in Genesis and John. In Genesis 2:7 it says, “Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.” And in John 20:21-23 it says, “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” Neither of these instances seems to be promoting “God-breathed” as a sort of Pseudo authorship.
Do the authors themselves even think that God is speaking in such a way that God the Holy Spirit is writing through them thus producing his written word? In speaking about what seems to be dictation theory C.S. Lewis says in a letter from Lee Turner, “Scripture itself refutes these ideas. St. Paul distinguishes between what ‘the Lord’ says and what he says ‘of himself’-yet both are ‘Scripture.’ Similarly the passages in which the prophets describe Theophonies and their own reactions to them would be absurd if they were not writing for themselves. Thus, without any modern scholarship, we are driven a long way from the extreme view of Inspiration.”
Some may be wondering what this does to the doctrine of Inerrancy. Of course, I believe this would obliterate any notion of inerrancy; but of course even with the equating of Inspiration and Modern Authorship Inerrancy collapses upon itself. For the common inerrantist says, “By God’s Inspiration He prevents the human authors from committing any errors, thus creating an Inerrant Bible.” But it would seem for God to infringe upon our finiteness for even a moment would hence make God useless to us, for we would be like God ourselves and have no need for him. All this to say maybe we need to create a doctrine of inspiration that is more nuanced and allows for common sense, modern biblical scholarship, let alone how the bible actually behaves to influence how we think about the Bible and God’s relation to it.