Dr. Fred Sanders is one of the smartest and most interesting people I’ve ever met. Conversations with him are stimulating and challenging. His last two posts at Scriptorium Daily have been exemplary in both these regards.
O Lord! We cannot trust ourselves with our own money, and we sure don’t trust anybody else with it. These dollars of ours have wings on them, Lord. There is no cage or trap we can build which is strong enough to hold this money.
It’s getting away from us. It’s making us nervous. Our only hope is that some of our money flies into your hands; that some of it flies back to you, the giver of all good gifts. Our livelihood flows from you in the first place, Lord: Let our money and time and energy fly back to you. Use this money to make us wise with all money, with all energy, and with all time.
Once you’ve added the heft of evidence to your claim, you’ve escaped the vicious circle and are ready to participate in polite human discourse. Suddenly, people can tell the difference between your claims and the claims of the guy on the corner shouting, “I am God! Hear thou my words, for they are true, for I speak them, and I am God!” When other devout people, in all sincerity, put forth their own holy books with putative revelations from God, you’ve got something to talk with them about instead of degenerating into “Is not,” “Is so,” “Is not,” “Is so,” “Is not,” “Is so.” People who make claims bring evidence; that’s just how we do things in civilized society.
Yet while the circularity of the doctrine of Scripture isn’t a vicious circularity–that is, it is broad enough to be reasonable–it is still there. As Sanders writes:
First, “what you believe about the Bible” is your doctrine of Scripture. Just like “what you believe about Jesus” is your christology, and “what you believe about God” is your theology, and “what you believe about the church” is your ecclesiology, so “what you believe about the Bible” is your bibliology, an inelegant word for your doctrine of Scripture. Now, where do Christians derive their doctrines about anything? They derive them from Scripture. The source of all our knowledge about the things of God is the word of God. When you are framing your ideas about creation, salvation, the Holy Spirit, or anything else, we take our information and our interpretive keys from Scripture. When the time comes to frame some theological claims about Scripture itself, we behave exactly the same way we do in the other areas. We put together a biblical theology of Scripture. The only alternative is to have an un-biblical theology of Scripture, and who wants that? Insofar as the doctrine of Scripture is one of the doctrines, one among many, of a scriptural religion, it is legitimately circular to have a biblical theology of Scripture.
Dr. Sanders is just one of the reasons why Scriptorium Daily should be daily reading for all Christians.