Thursday, April 6, 2017

What Does it Mean to Say that the Scriptures are Faithful?

"Because of the oppression of the poor and the groans of the needy, now will I arise, says the LORD; and I will bring salvation openly. The words of the LORD are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on earth, they are purified seven times."Psalm 12.5,6 Lamsa
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What does it really mean if we say God, or the Sacred Scriptures, are faithful?

Back in the 1980’s, when I was in my twenties, I was a fundamentalist. I took all of the Bible completely literally, regardless of context.

One of the verses used to proof-text biblical verbal inerrancy was Psalm 12.6, “The words of the LORD are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on earth, they are purified seven times.” I remember this verse being used to proof text plenary and verbal inerrancy in books and tracts back then. I remember one in particular that Keith Greene’s Last Day Ministries put out, about  a Russian Mathematician, who supposedly used math to prove that the Biblical text was absolutely perfect.

But what I did not read, or pay attention to myself, was the verse proceeding it, Psalm 12.5: “Because of the oppression of the poor and the groans of the needy, now will I arise, says the LORD; and I will bring salvation openly.” So when the Psalmist goes on to say, “The words of the LORD are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on earth, they are purified seven times,” the Psalmist is proclaiming God’s faithfulness to the poor and oppressed, not making a scientific statement about the Bible being perfect or inerrant. This aspect of the Psalm, this context for verse 6, was never mentioned in the conservative Christian literature I read.

Notice also “salvation,” as rendered by Lamsa, is not about the afterlife in this context, but about liberation of the oppressed. In the Hebrew Bible, "salvation" is mostly about deliverance in this life.

The Bible has a lot to say about liberation for the poor and the oppressed. Charity is praiseworthy, but not sufficient, for people who claim to follow the Torah (teaching) of God in Scripture.

The Bible’s faithfulness and reliability does not consist in the doctrine of inerrancy, (which judges the Bible’s message by external, rationalistic criteria), but God’s faithfulness to us, especially those on the margins, the poor and oppressed, and in God’s teaching on righteousness and justice. This is a Word we want to take heed to in this time when our leaders want to protect only the power, and leave the vulnerable destitute.


    -   Lance

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