Inventing the Bible

Joel Garver’s essay “Inventing the Bible” is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of the Church’s encounters with Holy Scripture. And since I won’t discipline myself to stop paying attention to the Internet flame wars between Catholic apologists and Protestant apologists, I just have to say that Garver’s discussion brings out some concepts and issues consideration of which is desperately lacking in those wars.

Parenthetically, I think some of the concepts and issues in Garver’s discussion have implications Van Tilian presuppositionalism, in which, in my understanding of the topic, Scripture is treated like what Garver calls a “superadded deposit of information,” a “propositional object of revelation” which itself “comes more and more to be conceived as extrinsic to nature, a set of revealed facts that ordinarily lie outside the field of vision of rational perception, now laid bare with clarity and offered to the human mind as worthy of belief.”

By contrast to the Medieval view of Scripture, which sees the subject matter of revelation and the world being essentially the same but approached under a different light, the “propositional object of revelation” view of Scripture seems to inherently make Scripture an external object which falls under the control of a rational, scientific process of critical exegesis which itself results in epistemological “certainty.” I can’t help but wonder if this way of thinking about Scripture and the truth it reveals doesn’t tie into the historically demonstrable influence of Cartesian philosophy on 17th century Reformed theology – and perhaps, by way of anti-intellectual dumbing-down processes of American Fundamentalism, into the self-stultifying “Bible Only” mentality of so many Protestants today.

Garver’s discussion of hermeneutical transformations accompanying the Modern “technological” view of “the Bible” (not “the Scriptures”) is very interesting, and echoes many themes I have been blogging about here for several years (albeit on a much less cogent level than Garver). I can’t help but feel vindicated against certain of my more militant Evangelical critics.

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