An Expanded View Of Biblical Authority: A Response To Van Kuiken -- By: John H. Walton

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 58:4 (Dec 2015)
Article: An Expanded View Of Biblical Authority: A Response To Van Kuiken
Author: John H. Walton

An Expanded View Of Biblical Authority:
A Response To Van Kuiken

John Walton


Brent Sandy*

* John Walton is professor of OT at Wheaton College, 501 College Ave., Wheaton, IL 60187. D. Brent Sandy is chair and professor of Religious Studies (retired) at Grace College and Seminary, 200 Seminary Drive, Winona Lake, IN 46590 and adjunct professor of NT at Wheaton College.

In this article, the author has combined an evaluation of parts of The Lost World of Scripture and The Lost World of Adam and Eve with his own constructive suggestions that represent trajectories launching beyond the proposals made in the books. We appreciate some of the points made; others, though well intended, are inaccurate. The reviewer came to conclusions about our work that are not ours.

With regard to The Lost World of Scripture, Van Kuiken affirms our emphasis that God’s truth was revealed in the context of pre-modern understandings of authorship and composition, as well as according to the way things appeared in the physical world. In other words, readers must not presume the Bible addresses issues of modern science or suppose it used historiographical methods common today. The reviewer also accepts our point that the Bible was rooted in an oral culture where differences in wording and small details were normative. It is especially encouraging to see the comment that The Lost World of Scripture may be able to bridge some of the divisiveness over inerrancy within the church. Many of Van Kuiken’s comments about our book we agree with, such as our distancing ourselves from Kenton Sparks and Peter Enns.

Van Kuiken does not engage, unfortunately, with the central thesis of The Lost World of Scripture. We understand the authority of divine truth to span multiple stages of the transmission of revelation, from its first oral forms, then through the hands of various tradents (oral and written), and finally embraced by believing communities. Our thesis is that through all the stages, God’s revelation—as expressed in various genres, preserved in various manuscripts, and accepted in the final form of the canon—was faithfully transmitted. As we state, “Authority is located initially in an authority figure or an authoritative tradition, and ultimately in the canonical product, and therefore is extended by the faith community to all the steps in between” (pp. 299–300; cf. p. 298).

We do not jump from hypothetical autographs, which for many are the focus of inerrancy, to the canon of the early church as if that is the only form of authoritative truth. You will not find anywhere in our book what the reviewer states: “The Lost World of Scriptu...

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