Scripture as Word of God: Evangelical Assumption or Evangelical Question? -- By: John D. Morrison
TrinJ 20:2 (Fall 1999) p. 165
Scripture as Word of God:
Evangelical Assumption or Evangelical Question?
John D. Morrison is Professor of Theological Studies at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Within historical and modern evangelical orthodox Christian contexts it is all but assumed that when reference is made to “the Word of God” it is Holy Scripture that is intended; and that in spite of evangelical Christocentricity and the fact of “the Word made flesh.” Modern evangelicalism, across the traditions, has consistently maintained the propriety of the claim that Holy Scripture is the written or, more recently, “inscripturated” Word of God, whatever else may rightly and more directly be identified as the Word of God. Indeed, much of evangelical theological identity, and its Christocentricity, is grounded in the confessional linkage whereby Scripture is the written Word of God.
Yet this contention cannot be regarded as confined only to modern evangelicalism. Historians of Christian theology have repeatedly pointed out, often with scorn, that this textual identification or connection of Word or revelation of God with Holy Scripture is the almost universal position of the church fathers and pre-Christian Judaism.1 Historically, post-Nicene, medieval (East and West), Reformation, and post-Reformation Catholic and Protestant Christianity has held the same position—despite historical, ecclesiological, conceptual, and methodological shifts and developments. In fact, the often predominant position of church fathers and doctors, and on occasion the Reformers, was not simply that Scripture is or can be rightly identified as the written Word of God but that this very process meant essentially divine dictation of the books of Scripture. While such an extreme “docetic” view has been disavowed almost unanimously in modern evangelicalism, the central contention about the revelatory character of Scripture has
TrinJ 20:2 (Fall 1999) p. 166
continued to be basic. But it is this very point of identification that has in recent years been carefully and subtly denied by theologians who claim the label “evangelical.”
In order to bring preliminary clarity to the claims, issues, questions, and criticisms, as well as constructive reformulation, several points regarding evangelical assessment of Scripture and contemporary developments ought to be made. By thus identifying Scripture as the written Word of God, the claim is then that God has revealed himself historically in acts, centrally and supremely in Jesus Christ. It also means that God has revealed himself personally to persons to redeem them; that God has reveale...
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