Inspiration

Alden Thompson, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1990, 332 pages, $15.95, hardcover.

Reviewed by Gosnell L.O.R. Yorke, associate professor of religion, Atlantic Union College, at the time of this review. He is now at Solusi College, Zimbabwe, Africa.

Thompson's book comes at a time when the difficult doctrine of inspiration is being vigorously debated not only within the context of post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism and post-liberal Protestantism, but also against the back drop of discussions and developments within the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

In four parts comprised of two lengthy excerpts from Ellen G. White's writings, 21 chapters and seven appendixes, Thompson introduces us to and elaborates on the thrust of Inspiration. His basic thesis: The doctrine of inspiration is credible and defensible only when it makes allowance for both the divine and the human at work in the creation, transmission, and translation of the Scriptures. To ignore either, he contends, is to play havoc with doctrine.

A book like this one can best be reviewed by analyzing it on two levels: message and method. As to the former, the author, a professor of biblical studies at Walla Walla College, Washing ton, seeks to keep the divinity and the humanity of the Scriptures in creative tension by opting for an "incarnational model of inspiration." Without negating the infallible divine, he stresses the fallible human side of the equation be cause it is here we find the most challenging problems. Thompson draws out the implications of this emphasis on the humanity of the Scriptures by directing the reader's attention to the following: 1. A great deal of literary overlap and unacknowledged borrowing exists in some Scripture. For example, Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles in the Old Testament and the Synoptic Gospels in the New. 2. Inspired authors used uninspired secretaries, as Paul used Tertius (Rom. 16:22). 3. Inspired books such as Psalms and Proverbs were either com piled and edited by anonymous and uninspired editors or they adopted and adapted uninspired African (Egyptian) wisdom traditions (cf. Prov. 22:17; 23:11).

Thompson is aware that whatever we, fallible humans, touch we tarnish. Therefore, he is not surprised when inspired Matthew makes mention of the murder of Zechariah, the son of Berachiah, when he really meant Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada (see Matt. 23:35; Zech. 1:1; 2 Chron. 24:20). Thompson also raises a slew of other issues (perhaps too many) having to do with the genealogical lists of both Testaments, Ussher's chronology and the age of the earth, the date of the Exodus, and the interpretative problems posed by the inflated number of those who crossed the sea of Reeds.

The author makes his overall message clear, well-articulated, and informative. His inductive and responsible reasoning allows him to argue that the Bible is the Word of God, more practical than philosophical in purpose. He sees the Bible more like a casebook than a codebook, a book filled with principles based on God's love and meant for contextual application and reapplication rather than for providing precise answers to be legalistically enforced in any given situation. Thompson states, "Let the Bible all the Bible (omnis Scriptura!)— determine our theory of inspiration rather than bringing a predetermined view of inspiration to the Bible" (p. 316).

Written primarily for an Adventist readership, Thompson draws parallels between church pioneers (like Prescott and Haskell). He points to their views of the doctrine of inspiration as they apply to the Scriptures and Ellen White's writings. He shows in a number of cases that the former gets mirrored in the latter and not always with White's endorsement.

Now to the book's method. The author has made a serious and commend able attempt to approach the potentially touchy subject of inspiration with pastoral and pedagogical tact and sensitivity. Throughout his work, he writes as a pastor-teacher rather than as a hypercritical and iconoclastic scholar. He begins his discussion with two excerpts from Selected Messages (book 1, pp. 15-23) and The Great Controversy (pp. v-xii). In both these passages White's commitment to the incarnational model of inspiration is clear. Without attempting to be original in his view of inspiration, Thompson helps make clear the implication of White's inspired position on the subject. Further, he draws on his own classroom experience as a student and teacher to alert the reader that a responsible and inductive discussion of the humanity of the Scriptures (without negating its divinity) can be uncomfortable or liberating, depending on one's mind-set. Thompson tries to keep the cognitive dissonance to a minimum by assuring the reader that regardless of what the humanity of the Scripture implies, it remains God's Word. For him, "it is possible to see the human and still believe in the divine" (p. 90).

Thompson's book is an excellent at tempt to deal with a difficult subject. No book ever satisfies everyone, and Inspiration will have its detractors. Some may question the author's (and publisher's?) judgment not to include footnotes or endnotes. Others may want to amend the subtitle of the book and have it read "Hard Questions and Honest Attempts at Answers." Still others, including my self, would want to register mild dis comfort with the author's tendency to extrapolate somewhat loosely about what "most Adventists" (p. 128) are or do based solely on the author's Euro- American experience of, and exposure to, a church that is global. These minor irritants, notwithstanding, Thompson makes a significant contribution to the topic of the doctrine of inspiration. I highly recommend it.

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Reviewed by Gosnell L.O.R. Yorke, associate professor of religion, Atlantic Union College, at the time of this review. He is now at Solusi College, Zimbabwe, Africa.

December 1991

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