Concerning Scripture: Historicity Versus Inspiration

Concerning Scripture: Historicity Versus Inspiration January 27, 2015

Samuel Fleischacker, Divine Teaching and the Way of the World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011)

The historicity of scripture is not a matter of faith. It is an issue of critical analysis and academic inquiry. On the other hand, the inspiration of scripture, meaning its ability to assist readers access divinity, can never be a matter of critical analysis and academic inquiry. Instead, much like beauty, inspiration is found in the eye of the beholder. Therefore, while critical analysis and academic investigation can enhance faith, they need not destroy it.

Speaking personally, I strongly resonate with the position articulated by the Jewish scholar of philosophy Samuel Fleischacker in his book Divine Teaching and the Way of the World: A Defense of Revealed Religion. Defending revelation, Fleischacker declares:

“There can, accordingly, never be scientific evidence that a revelation has taken place. Scientific evidence establishes empirical facts: facts within nature. Revelation discloses a realm or entity beyond nature … Whether an event or text is revelatory or not depends, rather, on how it appears to those inclined to have faith in it. And it is ethical, not empirical evidence that draws the commitment of religious believers.”

Fleischacker also observes:

“To make room for revelation we need to make sense of what it might mean for a truth to come from something more radically outside ourselves, more radically different from any aspect of who we are: ‘Other’ to us, in contemporary jargon.”

Translation: Avoid apologetics, embrace critical thinking, and rely upon revelation.

Samuel Fleischacker, Divine Teaching and the Way of the World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 281, 303.

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