The doctrine of inspiration is proving slippery to pin down (especially with my theology textbooks packed up for the move to Florida).
Bill Hunter and I had an excellent conversation about inspiration today. One of the things that came up in our conversation was the importance of intent.
What if the doctrine of inspiration meant that God included everything he wanted us to know in our Bible? If that's what it means that the Bible is God's word, then our task in Small Group becomes searching for what God intends for us to hear from the passages we're studying. What did God intend us to get?
This requires some mastery of the inductive method (which I keep promising we'll get to eventually). If we start with Scripture and search for Core Intent, we'll end up ignoring tons of rabbit trails.
But, somehow, we've come to associate a vigorous pursuit of rabbit trails with Christian maturity. This wrongheaded view of maturity throws fuel on the fire of our urges toward petty factionalism and silly heresy. Many a Small Group has been shipwrecked by these fires.
The desire to discern God's intent should drive our dives into the Scripture. But it does introduce a temptation. Instead of saying "This is the main point. That is a minor point." Small Group Leaders are tempted to say "This is inspired (word of God). That's just Paul's opinion (word of man)." But the Bible cannot be split up like this, according to our doctrine of inspiration.
God's behind it all, pushing it all to the front, and he endorses it all. Not everything in the Bible is theologically sound. Not every rule moral. Not every leader worthy of being followed. Saul goes mad, orders David killed and turns to witchcraft. Job's small group of friends add insult to injury, command false repentance and present a totally cause-and-effect universe. Peter stopped eating with Gentiles, helped lead Barnabas astray and taught a false gospel. But God wanted us to hear these stories. Peter and Job's friends and Saul are all part of the Story God's telling us.
The Bible is not a book to treat casually of lightly. It's easy enough to understand, but important enough to study well. Let's keep looking for inspiration as we dig into God's word.