Evangelical Views On Illumination Of Scripture And Critique -- By: Douglas W. Kennard

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 49:4 (Dec 2006)
Article: Evangelical Views On Illumination Of Scripture And Critique
Author: Douglas W. Kennard


Evangelical Views On Illumination Of Scripture And Critique

Douglas Kennard

The contemporary evangelical views of illumination emerge through Lutheran pietism. Phillip Jakob Spener replaced the concept of verbal inspiration of the Scriptures with a personal inspiration or illumination of the believing interpreter, fostering a major controversy with orthodox Lutheranism.1 In 1685, Johann Quenstedt reframed the view as a herme-neutic.2 In 1707 David Hollanz echoed the view that the Holy Spirit is promised to every Christian so that they might understand the biblical text better.3 Around 1701, August Herman Franke introduced the illumination

* Douglas Kennard is professor of theology and Bible at Bryan College, P.O. Box 7000, Dayton, TN 37321.

of the Spirit as a “living” knowledge of the biblical text that will bring about spiritual affection.4

Evangelicalism has largely owned Spener, Quenstedt, and Hollanz’s cognitive illumination view, with others in evangelicalism joining Franke’s spirit transformational illumination view. This raises the possibility of an internalist authority of interpretation on the level of a divine intuition. Unlike Spener, and Schleiermacher after him, this pietistic evangelical view attempts to remain orthodox in claiming a legitimate verbal inspirational view for the production of the biblical text.

Liberalism took illumination in the inspirational direction. For example, Schleiermacher developed a psychological side of the hermeneutical process, echoing Spener’s personal inspirational view, including this illuminational inspiration to motivate the reader to depend deeply upon God. This liberal interpretation view of illumination (as inspiration) was championed by Cardinal John Henry Newman through his “illative” (or confident intuitive) sense.5 Some these days may view this illumination through Michael Polanyi’s tacit intuitional way of knowing. That is, whether conservative or liberal, the illumination from the Holy Spirit is seen as rendering clear the authoritative message of the Word of God.

Such an illumination aid would be hermeneutical. Usually evangelicalism sees this hermeneutical aid functioning individually. For example, the 1982 evangelical Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics includes as the fifth article: “WE AFFIRM that the Holy Spirit enables believers to appropriate and apply Scriptu...

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