I was struck by what Abraham Kuyper had to say about the features of the Biblical text and the inspiration of scripture. The more I read by the Amsterdam theologians, I’m intrigued by their open-mindedness to certain trajectories in biblical studies (especially in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s when critical studies were much less refined than they are today). While leaving a great deal of room for critical engagement with the difficult features of the Bible, they staunchly affirm the inspiration of that very text.
It does not alter the case that the Holy Scripture shows so many seams and uneven places, and looks different from what we should expect. The chief virtue of this masterpiece was so to enfold God’s thoughts in our sinful life that out of our language they could form a speech in which to proclaim through the ages, to all nations, the mighty words of God. This masterpiece is finished and lies before us in the Holy Scripture. And instead of losing itself in criticizing these apparent defects, the Church of all ages has received it with adoration and thanksgiving; has preserved it, tasted it, enjoyed it, and always believed to find eternal life in it.
“The Scripture a Necessity,” in The Work of the Holy Spirit, pg. 64. (Bold emphasis mine.)
It is interesting that Kuyper notes “seams” and “uneven places”; the very things that critical readers address on a daily basis. But Kuyper does not concede to either the fundamentalists or to the unbelieving-critics by saying that such troublesome things are not becoming of something called “God’s word.” While it may at times look “different from what we should expect,” the problem lies not with God’s word, but with our fundamentalist impulses that attempt to force God’s word into a model that is sensible to us. Instead, we receive this very word – with all its unevenness – as the word of God and confess that we find life in it. We do not insist that life can only be given via a Bible with no tensions, seams, and difficulties.
Kuyper goes on to address historical and critical studies of the Bible:
Not as tho critical and historical examination were prohibited. Such endeavor for the glory of God is highly commendable. But as the physiologist’s search for the genesis of human life becomes sinful if immodest or dangerous to unborn life, so does every criticism of Holy Scripture become sinful and culpable if irreverent or seeking to destroy the life of God’s Word in the consciousness of the Church.
“The Scripture a Necessity,” pg. 64. (Bold emphasis mine.)
The key for Kuyper is that historical-critical study of the Bible is a common-grace enterprise. Though it can be misused, it only becomes sinful when used to “destroy the life of God’s Word in the consciousness of the Church.” In fact, Kuyper recognizes that critical approaches can (and indeed ought) to be done by believing-critics Soli Deo Gloria!