Tremble, Don’t Squirm (Post #3 on the Holy Spirit)

 “…But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2 ESV)

We have come up with so many clever ways to undermine the authority of Scripture:

“This passage of Scripture is too hard to understand so we should not draw conclusions from it.”

“The historical context is so different than our context that this passage does not apply to us.”

“The letters of the New Testament were ‘occasional’ ad hoc letters so they do not apply to us.”[1]

The real problem here is that we often hold more firmly to a preconceived bias than to the clear meaning of the words of Scripture. And so if the Bible challenges our value system we find ways to make the Bible say the exact opposite of what it almost certainly means.

Now that is not to say that we don’t bring a bias to our study of God’s word – we all do. We all bring our experiences into reading the Scriptures. But that is not really the problem. The problem is that in our hardness of heart, we would rather mute Scripture than let go of an ideology we hold to. Some go so far as to make whole systems of interpretation based on one particular ideology or another – Marxist, Feminist, Liberation, Green.

Every society and every person encounters parts of the Bible that make them squirm. There are passages that make socialists squirm. There are passages that make white males squirm. When you squirm, that is the light of God’s truth exposing you. Embrace those uncomfortable moments when the Scripture cuts against your values. If we chose not to tremble at his word we end up with a God of our own making, and this is happening self-consciously in some academic circles – there is now an ecofeminist view of the Holy Spirit, and a liberation view of the Holy Spirit! Wow![2]

That’s ok. Go ahead. As long as you recognize that one day you will stand before the living God. That same God took the gracious initiative to communicate with us beforehand regarding his being and character. Don’t set yourself up for a big surprise. Tremble at his word.[3]

[1] Thanks to Carl Hinderager of Briercrest College and his tongue-in-cheek handout “Creative ways to undermine the authority of Scripture”

[2] Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Pneumatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2002), 147-77.

[3] There is also a very controversial point in all this for cessationism and the post-enlightenment bias from which it arises. But that will have to wait for another post.


One thought on “Tremble, Don’t Squirm (Post #3 on the Holy Spirit)

  1. I’d have to say the point here is a little unclear. I very much appreciate Carl Hinderager’s notes, but I’d offer another consideration on the “perspectives” one gets from, say, feminists, liberationists et al. I certainly wouldn’t suggest we have to accept any perspective as equally valid just because we recognize that our own perspective is limited. That would lead to a radical relativism. On the other hand, I use an illustration of a telescope in some of my classes about “perspective” (“to see through”). I can never read scripture from the perspective of a black African woman, but through dialoguing with one I can sort of borrow her telescope and try to see what she sees. The fact is, I do have a perspective that partially determines the way I read scripture. I think women, or Asians, or blacks, etc., do sometimes see things that I miss. Dialoguing with other perspectives can be a tool that the Spirit uses to make sure that I’m hearing the words of scripture when I read the Bible and not just the echo of our own voice.

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