Source:Nibley:CW03:Ch31:3:Return of a sense revelation is needed

Return of a sense revelation is needed

Return of a sense revelation is needed

A French Protestant scholar reminds us that in the Middle Ages there were so many legitimate ways of interpreting the Scriptures that they really meant nothing at all—since they could mean anything you pleased—and boasts that it was the Reformation "which was to give its objectivity and its dignity back to the sacred text."50 But that was no solution to the problem of interpretation, as the rapid multiplication of conflicting Protestant sects demonstrated, and today the words of a leading Protestant theologian are strangely reminiscent of Hilary: "The Bible has to be interpreted from its own centre. It is not concentric with Aristotle, as Roman theology posits, nor with modern rationalism, as theological liberalism has assumed. . . . It . . . authenticates itself . . . to the man who comes in faith and prays for the inward witness of the Holy Spirit."51 The old double-talk again: it authenticates itself, but it does not authenticate itself—a higher authority is needed, "the inward witness of the Holy Spirit." Why not break down and call it revelation?

Today there is cautious but unmistakable edging toward an acceptance of the long-forbidden idea of modern revelation. This has followed upon a growing realization that the Bible alone is not enough. The Apostles, we are now being told, had no intention of writing all their knowledge down in a book; what they did write "was only meant to complement the spoken word: they had no intention of supplanting it."52 Furthermore, what they wrote was meant for the initiated alone and may never be deciphered by the learning of men.53 They wrote, moreover, with no idea of canonicity in mind: "The idea that any book was written with the conscious purpose of securing a place in the sacred corpus," says Rowley, "rests on the most unreal conception of the process of canonization."54 Nay, the New Testament, we now learn, was only a sort of substitute for living witnesses and for a long time remained a very plastic document.55 So today we find Catholic and Protestant scholars agreeing that "the inadequacy of the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture has demonstrated itself"—that favorite official doctrine of Protestant and Catholic alike!—"It is too narrow to fit the facts; it cannot be carried through in the exegesis of Scripture without resorting to special pleading; it does not explain the admitted imperfection of the Old Testament; it involves a materialistic notion of the truth. Above all, in being a negative word, it is quite inadequate to express the glory of the revelation of God in the Scripture."56 But even if the Scriptures were inerrant, where is their inerrant interpreter? That is the question, and D. M. Mackay assures us that we won't find it among the scholars or scientists when he writes: "Our position, then, in attempting to make any comprehensive or systematic statement about God, is logically very insecure. It is just no good quoting a series of inspired scriptures and then supposing that the guarantee of inspiration will extend infallibly to all our apparently logical deductions from them."[1]


  1. Hugh W. Nibley, The World and the Prophets, 3rd edition, (Vol. 3 of Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum, and Don E. Norton (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1987), Chapter 31, references silently removed—consult original for citations.