As I follow Torrance through this narration of inspiration, I become aware that the doctrine of Scripture I grew up with puts far less emphasis on this relation between Christ and his apostles and far more on the work of the Holy Spirit in the particular moments of inspiration. Have any of you wrestled with a similar tension? Let me pose it as a question: do you believe the New Testament books are more inspired by God than their authors were when they weren't writing those books? Do you believe that the apostle's (or other writer's of the New Testament) were given temporary infallibility when writing the New Testament documents but then lost it as soon as they stopped writing/dictating? Or are the New Testament documents the product of an ongoing ministry in which Christ was in control of his Gospel in the mouths and lives of the apostles through the ministry of the Holy Spirit? Do we worry that this latter view makes human bias and corruption too much of an obstacle for God to reveal himself through? If so, doesn't reacting with a "higher" view of Scripture (one free of the human influence of the apostles) actually mean a lower view of God's self-revealing power?
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Apostles and Inspiration
I'm working on a paper right now on the relationship between Christ and the New Testament in Torrance. For Torrance, the inspiration of the New Testament is not dealt with in terms of the Spirit's operation in and through the apostles in the particular acts of composing their distinctively inspired and authoritative documents, but in terms of the whole sweep of revelation and reconciliation accomplished in Christ as including the preparation, empowerment, and authorization of the apostles to mediate the ongoing presence of the risen Christ through power of the Holy Spirit. The preparation and empowerment included learning from Christ as disciples under a rabbi, encountering Christ in his crucified and resurrected form as the firstborn of the new creation they were given to share in, and their baptism in the Holy Spirit in which their understanding of Christ was bound to Christ's own understanding of himself. Thus for Torrance, "the apostolate, expressly formed and created by Christ...as the human end of revelation, belongs to the once for all nature of the incarnation, and is caught up in its finality and authority" (Atonement, 329-330). Torrance's concept of "onto-relations", or relations that contribute to one's identity, seems at play here; a description of the historical Jesus Christ that does not include his relationship with the apostles, his calling of them and the struggle of teaching them, the drama of their being brought into more and more intimate union with him, would be so incomplete as to be false. Christ binds them into such intimate union with them that he can tell them "whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me." Torrance's doctrine of the inspiration of the New Testament derives from this relation between Christ and his apostles, those he sends in his name.