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A Chalcedonian Bible
Many contemporary theologies of Scripture are basically Christological heresies (or else reasonable concepts overemphasized to the point of heterodoxy) applied to the inscripturated Word rather than the incarnate Word.
Here’s a sampling as I see it.
1. Kenoticism: From the language of “kenosis” or “emptying” in Philippians 2, Kenoticism promulgates the error that in the incarnation Jesus laid aside His divinity either partially or completely. The analog for the doctrine of Scripture is seen in theories that “empty” the written word of its divine character. It becomes a purely human artifact, regarded as one more piece of ancient literature. This is bibliology “from below.” Historical Criticism is charged with keeping the Bible humble, manageable and socially acceptable. No doubt Scripture would start getting all sorts of exalted notions if it found its genealogical records in the bottom drawer of the demythologizer’s desk.
2. Docetism: This ancient heresy denied the true humanity of Jesus, maintaining that his flesh was merely the appearance of flesh rather than true, actual humanity. Views of Scripture that insufficiently acknowledge the human components of the Bible may be characterized as docetic. A docetic view of the Bible is a temptation for certain types of fundamentalists. This theory has more in common with Islamic “perfect book” theology than with the patristic insistence that the Bible has true flesh and true divinity.
3. Adoptionism: This heresy declared that Jesus was a mere man who was “adopted” by God at his baptism (or at some other event), thus becoming divine, though never equal to God. An adoptionist view of Scripture is one that suggests that the Bible is a human artifact that “becomes” the Word only when God operates through it. It also insists that Scripture is never equal to Revelation itself. This is a typical Barthian or Neo-Orthodox view (though not, I would argue, that of Barth).
4. Nestorianism: This heresy argued that Jesus was two persons—one human, one divine—loosely united together in an amalgamated “Christ.” The liberal view of the Bible may be characterized as Nestorian. It posits a human word, bereft of divine origin; and some idea of “the divine” loosely tied to it in a religious, liturgical, or phenomenological form. Though this designation is a bit unfair to the Nestorians since they did not believe, as liberals do, that God was made of beeswax.
By contrast, I want to affirm a “Chalcedonian” doctrine of Holy Scripture, maintaining that it is both truly human and truly divine ; that those two natures are united “unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably” with both the differences and the properties of each nature being preserved in Holy Scripture. Though this model has come into question because of the bad faith arguments of a particular bad actor, it enjoyed a respectable position among the fathers in ancient times and among conservative theologians such as Kuyper and Bavinck nearer our own.
Bavinck taught that Scripture—
“is the working out and application of the central fact of revelation: the incarnation of the Word. The Word has become flesh, and the word has become Scripture; these two facts do not only run parallel but are most intimately connected. Christ became flesh, a servant, without form or comeliness, the most despised of human beings; he descended to the nethermost parts of the earth and became obedient even to death on the cross. So also the word, the revelation of God, entered the world of creatureliness, the life and history of humanity, in all the human forms of dream and vision, of investigation and reflection, right down into that which is humanly weak and despised and ignoble…All this took place in order that the excellency of the power of Scripture, may be God’s and not ours…The incarnation of Christ demands that we trace it down into the depths of of its humiliation, in all its weakness and contempt. The recording of the word, of revelation, invites us to recognize that dimension of weakness and lowliness, the servant form, also in Scripture. But just as Christ’s human nature, however weak and lowly, remained free from Sin, so also Scripture is ‘conceived without defect or stain’; 𝑡𝑜𝑡𝑎𝑙𝑙𝑦 ℎ𝑢𝑚𝑎𝑛 𝑖𝑛 𝑎𝑙𝑙 𝑖𝑡𝑠 𝑝𝑎𝑟𝑡𝑠 𝑏𝑢𝑡 𝑎𝑙𝑠𝑜 𝑑𝑖𝑣𝑖𝑛𝑒 𝑖𝑛 𝑎𝑙𝑙 𝑖𝑡𝑠 𝑝𝑎𝑟𝑡𝑠.”1
And for those who think that such language serves as a warning sign for early onset heterodoxy, the Chalcedonian analogy even found its way into the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics: “We affirm that as Christ is God and Man in one person, so Scripture is, indivisibly, God’s word in human language. We deny that the humble, human form of Scripture entails errancy any more than the humanity of Christ, even in His humiliation, entails sin.” Though I would parse the details a bit differently than did our friends in the Windy City, we stand in agreement that there is a legitimate analogy between the incarnation of the Word and the inscripturation of the Word.
Since the common crimes committed against the Word of God written mirror Christological heresies, it seems most fitting that they should be remedied by a Chalcedonian answer.
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Herman Bavinck , Reformed Dogmatics: Volume 1: Prolegomena, (434-435).