Thursday, January 13, 2011
There is a growing confusion over the nature and source of biblical authority. David K. Clark clarifies “the functional view of authority makes a grievous error to the degree that it collapses the critical distinction between the recognition of the Bible's authority by the church and the Bible's inherent possession of authority. For evangelical theology, a community's act of recognizing a document as authoritative for its thought and life is essential, but this is not the reality, the power, or the force that gives a document its divine authority. That is, the church's act of receiving the Bible as divine is not the ontological ground of the Bible's being God's Word. Rather, for evangelical theology, it is God's act of inspiration that grounds the Bible's status as God's revelation. So this is the salient distinction: the ontological ground of the text's authority is not the same as the epistemic acceptance of the text's authority. For evangelical theology, the first idea, the ontological ground of authority, lies rooted in the objective reality of the triune God speaking through the Spirit's inspiration. The second concept, the subjective recognition of the Bible as God's Word by a believing community, is the appropriate human response to the authority of Scripture. These two ideas work together, and both are absolutely necessary. The objective authority of the Bible rooted in God's inspiring action stands against allowing any contemporary agendas to gain control over the theology. The subjective recognition of the Bible as authoritative guards against a dead orthodoxy that pays lip service to divine truth even as it pursues other agendas.” From David K. Clark, To Know and Love God: Method for Theology, ed. John S. Feinberg, Foundations of Evangelical Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003), 65.