Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Collecting Autographs: Missouri's Assumption of Princeton's Doctrine of the _Autographa_.

Rast, Lawrence R. Jr. & Knepper, Grant A. "Collecting Autographs: Missouri's Assumption of Princeton's Doctrine of the Autographa."   All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer. Fort Wayne, IN: Concordia Theological Seminary Press.  2000.  349-373.

Rast and Knepper suggest in this article that early 20th century fundamentalism may be related to the LCMS view of inerrancy.  They suggest that fundamentalism in the early 20th century was essentially dispensational premillennialism with an addition of the Princeton view of the inerrancy of Scripture.  

What is the Princeton view of the inerrancy of Scripture?  Where did it come from?  As with many theological points of view found in Calvinist seminaries, according to the people who hold to the Princeton view of the inerrancy of Scripture, it is an unbiased interpretation of Calvin's views on the matter.  Yet there are some changes that can be tracked from the time of the Reformation to the start of the 20th century.

Princeton was formed in 1812 for graduate theological education.  The institution has a tremendous history of professors who are writing scholars, as well as graduates who go on to teach and write extensively.  During the 19th century, A.A. Hodge and B.B. Warfield first insisted on an inerrancy of the manuscripts of the Bible rather than an inerrancy of the current revelation found in extant copies of the Scripture.  This was held as a reaction to textual criticism which was rising to prominence at the time.  It would seem the statements to this effect articulated most clearly in 1879 by Hodge (though not in a similar work in 1860) had to do with protecting the collection of facts found in the Bible, as opposed to an older historic view of protecting the divine power of God's Word and revelation.  

Rast and Knepper suggest that this view of inerrancy is a departure from historic belief in a God who has revealed himself primarily through his living Word, Jesus Christ, and who has protected the essential facts in the Bible.  The historic view of Scripture is more concerned with an understanding of the power of God being present in the proclaimed and enacted Word of God.  Scripture is inerrant in a plenary way, not necessarily verbally inspired.  Scripture is God's powerful and effective revelation.  Yet in the early 20th century the LCMS began adopting and articulating a view which was consistent with the Princeton view, effectively lowering their historical view of the power of God as revealed in Scripture.

As a philologist I found this an interesting premise.  Do we really think of Jesus as the Word of God?  When the New Testament refers to the Word, does it refer to the power of Jesus?  When something is done in Jesus' name, is the proclamation of Jesus' name something with performative effect?  Those ideas turn my Enlightenment era thinking on its head.  But it may be exactly what is right to do.  What do we tink?  Is the concern with the facts and figures, with the power of God, or both?

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com and http://alex-kirk.blogspot.com

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