Beethoven, Science and Inspiration
In a journal article some years back Chris Wright reminded us that even if "we have discovered and explained all the theory of music, harmony, instrumental qualities and acoustics" there's no reason for us to deny the Beethovian composition of the Fifth Symphony. All we would have succeeded in doing is to understand better how Beethoven did it. This is true in the realm of science and elsewhere. Suppose Stephen Hawkin's dream and Steven Weinberg's confidence is fulfilled—one of these days we finally arrive at a single explanation for "everything" in terms of how the universe began and works. The Christian would say that that would be no grounds for denying that God created the universe.
The same is true regarding the nature of the Bible. I'm one of the millions that believe the Bible we have is "inspired" of God and that what we have we have under the superintendence of God. We have some sense of how God went about giving us the Bible but even if we can't always understand how he did it there's no reason to deny that he did it. And if we worked out all the ways in which he did it there'd be even less reason to deny that he did it.
It doesn't matter that we don't know who wrote the book of Job and it doesn't matter that we can't prove to everyone's satisfaction that Jonah is all to be taken at face value or why the book of Jeremiah has been put together in such a "haphazard" manner—this is the Bible God has given us, the one the People of God has fed on from Moses until now.
It's right and important for us to continue to work on issues related to inspiration and canonicity but thankfully the vast majority of us works with and feeds on and trusts to the biblical text we have.
Habakkuk 3 is a prayer (as are the psalms). It is a prayer of a worried and frightened man who's been told that God is coming against his own people at the head of a predatory nation (Babylon). His response to that news is embodied in the prayer that ends with one of the most wonderful expressions of trust in the entire Bible. But it's a man's personal prayer! That prayer is part of our inspired Bible and God's hand in producing it involved his working in the life of Habakkuk—trace out all the elements in that if you can! God wanted the man's pain, bewilderment, fear and faith written down ￼for his people but there's nothing here that even approaches God dictating it into his ear. Nothing remotely like that!
Still, we have reason to believe that this is the Bible God wants us to have and because Jesus saw it that way and because Jesus saw it that way we're more than happy to see it that way also. It's him we trust and we trust his choice of the apostles and NT prophets who help us to understand the entire Bible in light of Jesus himself. We don't trust our ability to get to the bottom of things any more than we trust "the critics" to manage it with their literary/historical/grammatical and other pieces of equipment or the scientists to get to a final answer by scientific methods.
In the end we believe Beethoven (or someone his equal) did the Fifth or Shakespeare (or someone his equal) did Julius Caesar or Hamlet and no advance in understanding how they did it changes that. In the end we believe God created and gave us an inspired Bible and it doesn't matter to us that the many and varied ways he worked to accomplish both are increasingly uncovered. He did it and we're just following his footprints as best we can on the how question.
In the final analysis we choose to hear, be shaped by and live in light of the Bible—in this area the rest is secondary.
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, theabidingword.com