I left off in my former post without stating with a certain amount of clarity the way I understand biblical inspiration to “work.” I’ll offer a few thoughts here about that.
1. Divine Self-Revelation in Historical Speech and Action: God reveals himself to persons and communities within history in speech and action. This is the clear witness of the bible itself.
2. Jesus is the Ultimate Divine Self-Revelation: God’s fullest self-revelation is in the person of his Incarnate Son, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. The text of the bible, though held in exceptionally high regard by Christians (orthodox ones at least), is not God’s primary self-revelation. But the biblical text is the authoritative witness to that self-revelation and to the outworking of the significance of that self-revelation in doctrine, religious practices, and morals & ethics.
3. “Incarnational Mystery“: There is something like (not precisely, but similar, I think) an incarnational mystery at work in the Divine-human interaction regarding the writing of Scripture. Two keys for me in this assertion: 1) Incarnational – Doggedly holding together both real divine inspiration AND genuine human engagement in the process of writing the biblical texts (and canonizing them, I would add), and 2) Mystery – Admitting to our ignorance of the precise mechanics of how divine inspiration and human engagement interplay in bringing about this thing we call Scripture.
Thus, I would agree with NT Wright when he says early in his book, The Last Word: Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture, that when we say the bible is authoritative, that what we are really saying (or ought to be really saying) is that God exercises his authority somehow through Scripture. Scripture is authoritative in the sense that it is the reliable witness to God’s gracious self-revelation in history in speech and action and the significance of that self-revelation for doctrine, religious practices, and morality & ethics. Not that there is not more work to do (as the Church has taken up from the beginning) in working out doctrine, religious practices, and morality & ethics. But all of that continuing work that we do must find its grounding in the particular Story of God told by canonical Scripture and is to proceed along a trajectory that is prayerfully and thoughtfully faithful to the biblical witness.
Ok, I’ll stop there for now. That’s my rough and ready version of biblical inspiration and authority.