The Problem of Faith and History: Theological Alternatives
Barth's theology of the Word of God. Certainly the most brilliant attempt to come to terms with Troeltsch's philosophy of history was Karl Barth's. In his Church Dogmatics, Barth embraced orthodox theology. He affirmed all the essentials of classical Christianity and gave them an explanation and defense superior to anything known before in the history of theology.
Yet his epistemology still suffered from the positivistic assumption that fact and value could be split into two entirely separate components. The action of God in history is not capable of being verified; only in the moment of faith do we know that these historical events occurred, and only in faith do we know what interpretation (a subjective value) ought to be given to these events (an objective fact).
Now God's Word (unverifiable value) comes through the words of the Bible (a record of objective fact), but the words of the Bible are not the same as the Word of God. God's Word is God himself! To call the Bible the Word of God would then mean that the Bible is God and that would be idolatry! So the decisive component of revelation is not a historical event, but the Word of revelation.
Barth says frankly that revelation “has nothing to do with the general problem of historical understanding.”Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, trans. G. T. Thomson (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1963), I:1:168. This means revelation is not a part of the ordinary sphere of history as we naturally know it.
This is crucial to Barth's theology of the Word of God. For he wants to guard against the idea of revelation being something one could “have.” Revelation is always a matter of God's free grace. Revelation is not available to us through human effort or human reason. God is known only because he makes himself known. So the basic meaning of revelation is not defined as historical information or doctrines about God; rather revelation is God's introduction of himself to us. It is the “moment” of the pure presence of God without any other specific content. This is why Barth says that revelation is not a concern of critical history.
This dualism of revelation and history means that historical criticism cannot at all distort or destroy God's Word in Scripture. Historical criticism can make judgments about what is factual or mythical in Scripture. Barth frankly says the Bible is full of errors of fact.Ibid., I:2:531. While the Bible can be assessed according to the principles of historical criticism, the Word of God in the Bible cannot be critically evaluated. For God speaks through these fallible Scriptures and lets himself be known. The only proof of the truthfulness of the Bible is God's personal authentication of it in faith. And so in faith Barth affirms all the major doctrines of traditional Christianity, such as the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, his incarnation, and resurrection.
Barth turns Troeltsch's historiography upside down and rejects it as having any relevance to the meaning of the truth of revelation in Scripture. The historical critical method is important for those who have an academic interest in the history of the Bible. Otherwise, critical history and faith are totally divorced.Ibid., I:2:56-57. Barth concludes that “there are no [historical or critical] problems in the axiomatic Deus dixit [God said].”Ibid., I:2:57.
Wolfhart Pannenberg disagrees. He thinks that Barth's reduction of the concept of the Word of God to mean only divine encounter is dangerously close to the ancient heresy condemned in the NT—docetism or gnosticism.Wolfhart Pannenberg, Revelation as History, trans. David Granskou and Edward Quinn (London: Sheed and Ward, 1969), 135. Gnosticism assumed that only the privileged few could achieve a secret and private revelation of God and that it was not open to historical observation or proof.
Bultmann's existentialist alternative. In spite of Barth's brilliant exposition of Christian theology and largely orthodox defense of it, his dualism of faith and critical history softened and weakened the historical core of biblical revelation. Consequently, the existentialist theology of Rudolf Bultmann, a NT scholar who was formerly aligned with Barth in their earlier professional career, was often more widely accepted in academic theological circles than Barth's extreme and one-sided definition of revelation.
Bultmann's main response to Barth was that if revelation is independent of historical criticism, why claim that revelation has a historical point of reference at all!Rudolf Bultmann, Essays: Philosophical and Theological, trans. James C. G. Grieg (London: SCM, 1955), 261. And if the historical question is strictly an academic consideration, why not reinterpret the phrase “faith in Jesus Christ” in a symbolic way?
This is indeed what Bultmann did. “Faith in Christ” is a symbolic expression for experiencing a more authentic understanding of the meaning of existence! In this way, one can effectively use the terms and ideas of the existentialist philosophy of Martin Heidegger to reformulate Christian belief, and the traditional doctrines about other worlds and supernatural events can be dropped altogether!
Bultmann's philosophical split between fact and value propelled him to make a real divorce between faith and historical events. For Barth, the divorce between faith and history was only epistemological. For Bultmann, it was actual and real (ontological). The truth of Christian faith was reduced to psychological insight about the possibilities of personal existence. This made historical events as well as historical criticism irrelevant to faith.See Bultmann's essay, “New Testament and Mythology,” in Kerygma and Myth, ed. Hans Werner Bartsch (New York: Harper and Row), 1961).
But a question must be addressed to Bultmann and the existentialists in general. Is it really possible to talk about the meaning of personal existence in isolation from the history of revelation? Such a relational theology is inadequate if it eliminates the ontological reality of God's personal being and his power to act in real history.
Gerhard von Rad shows the decisive importance of Israel's experience with a personal God as forming the basis of their understanding of history. He writes: “There are only two peoples in antiquity who really wrote history—the Greeks and, long before them, the Israelites.”Gerhard von Rad, The Problem of the Hexateuch and Other Essays, trans. E. Dickens (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966), 167. Von Rad also shows that it was Israel's experience of God in history that gave rise to the true meaning of personal existence:
Here alone, in his encounter with God, does mankind become great and interesting, breaking through the enigma of his humanity to discover all the inherent potentialities of his self-conscious existence. He becomes, in the final analysis, a man taken over by God, one who must surrender to God all his rights over his own history and who by the very fact of so doing is led to new and unsuspected horizons of freedom.Ibid., 153.
Psychoanalysts have been especially interested in the origin of the idea of the personal. Erich Fromm is representative of those who seek to explain the origin and development of personhood. He says the “seeds” of the meaning of personhood “are to be found in the history of monotheistic religion.” He writes:
The development of the human race as far as we have any knowledge of it can be characterized as the emergence of man from nature. . . . He finds his security by going back, or holding on to these primary bonds. He still feels identified with the world of animals and trees, and tries to find unity by remaining one with the natural world.Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving (New York: Harper and Row, 1956), 53-54.
Fromm shows that Abraham's awareness of God's transcendence over nature made him aware of his own difference from nature, and from this awareness emerged the feeling of moral responsibility as a person in relationship to God. Fromm frankly acknowledges that belief in God was a necessary stage in human development.Ibid., 53-69.
This does not mean, of course, that no degree of personal awareness was to be found among the ancient people. Of course they possessed a sense of individuality, but it was marked by fear and a desire to be joined to mother nature through mythical rituals.
The experience of history and the personal are interrelated and both emerged out of God's disclosure of himself as transcendent. This point is conceded by the Marxist Czech philosopher Vitezslav Gardavasky, who says: “Not merely the Book of Genesis but the Old Testament as a whole contains something which is exceedingly important for the whole of European thought in particular . . . this is the first appearance of the idea of transcendence, of a step beyond all that has so far been achieved.” He goes on to say that “the dream of a personal identity in the midst of Time begins to show itself here for the first time.”Vitĕzslav Gardavasky, God Is Not Yet Dead, trans. Vivenne Menkes (Baltimore: Penquin, 1973), 28.
The modern understanding of person thus focuses on the rational component of self-awareness and individual freedom to stand outside the relativities of nature. Human beings are not bound to their natural environment through their instinctual makeup as animals are. We are able to exercise a measure of control over our environment through our capacity for rationality.
The concept of personhood came to an explicit stage of development for the first time during the early Christian centuries when theology was attempting to explain the relationship between God and Jesus. E.L. Mascall writes:
The concept of personality is not, of course, confined to Christianity or even to the Judeaeo-Christian revelation, but it is very significant that it was only when it centered into theology, through the controversies in the early church about the nature of God, that its full content and implications became manifest. . . . The idea of personality was present in Greek thought only in embryo, and to this day it is practically absent from Hinduism and Buddhism.”E. L. Mascall, The Importance of Being Human (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1958), 39.
The relational categories of Bultmann's existentialist theology cannot deal adequately with the meaning of revelation. For the emergence of the meaning of the personal arose first out of the human awareness of God's real personal existence. To drop this ontological dimension of God's personal intelligence and his capacity to act decisively in history (as Bultmann does) is to erode the very basis of a relational interpretation of Christian theology.
Bultmann and the secular psychoanalytic tradition in general represent a departure from the father of the existentialist movement himself, Kierkegaard, who has plainly shown that the meaning and discovery of personal existence is impossible without having first been known and loved by a transcendent God whose essence is other than the world.
Pannenberg's concept of truth as personal/historical. Pannenberg argues that a critical-historical study of the Bible requires us to believe that God is a personal, self-conscious, and intelligent being whose power to make himself known and to be seen is his power to act. This means that theological knowledge is historical knowledge, and historical knowledge is derived through the historical-critical method.
Because God is a real individual who is free to act, Pannenberg makes historical events the primary feature of revelation. The interpretation (“the Word”) is the secondary component of revelation, and it must emerge out of a natural consequence of understanding the meaning of the events of revelation. So the Word of God is not a superimposed interpretation on the facts of biblical history; rather, the function of the Word is to report what God has really done in history. He thus rejects a fact/value divorce between faith and history.
The knowledge (rational insight) that faith presupposes is a knowledge of history that is intelligible to the human mind. To put the knowledge of revelation over against ordinary knowledge “is [to be] in danger of distorting the historical revelation into a gnostic knowledge of secrets.”Pannenberg, Revelation as History, 135. Pannenberg develops a theology of reason integrated with faith, which proposes that God has made himself known within the context of our ordinary processes of thought. Based on Paul's comments that the Resurrection “was not done in a corner” (Ac 26:26) and on his appeal to “the open statement of truth” (2Co 4:2), Pannenberg says: “The historical revelation is open to anyone who has eyes to see.” He polemicizes a strong methodically objective approach in this way: “Nothing must mute the fact that all truth lies right before the eyes, and that its appropriation is a natural consequence of the facts.”Ibid., 136-37.
This means a knowledge of revelation is a knowledge of history, of what factually has happened in the space-time spectrum. What cannot be known in the Bible by means of the historical-critical method cannot be true for Christian faith. And of course, the key historical event that the historical-critical method (properly understood) has demonstrated with the highest degree of probability is the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Pannenberg's painstaking, comprehensive, and scholarly investigation into the historical probabilities of this central event of the Bible is compelling and convincing. Unlike any other contemporary theologian, Pannenberg has clearly forced the issue that either Christian theology must affirm the historical fact of Jesus' resurrection (including the empty tomb), or Christian theology has no redeeming message to give to our broken and meaningless world.Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus: God and Man, trans. Lewis L. Wilkins and Duane A. Priebe (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1968), 53-114.
He insists that “Christian faith must not be equated with a merely subjective conviction that would allegedly compensate for the uncertainty of our historical knowledge about Jesus.”Pannenberg, Theology as History, 131. This would turn faith into superstition. The task of the theologian is to assess critically the truth of Christian faith. To define faith as a “fortress into which Christianity could retreat from the attacks of scientific knowledge . . . can only lead to destroying any consciousness of the truth of the Christian faith.” He goes on to say: “Faith can breathe freely only when it can be certain, even in the field of scientific research, that its foundation is true.”Ibid.
Pannenberg's difference from the majority of contemporary theologians has been his rejection of the Enlightenment's dualism of faith and knowledge, value and fact, appearance and reality, the subjective and the objective. His quarrel is not with the Enlightenment's insistence on critical reason, but with its unwarranted assumptions about the impossibility of obtaining a knowledge of a historical revelation. He particularly refutes Troeltsch's analysis that the historical critical method is essentially hostile toward believing in the reliability of the Bible as a historical record. Many, if not most, contemporary theologians follow Kant's dualistic epistemology in which history is split between the sacred and the profane. Pannenberg rejects this dualism and insists that God works in the ordinary world of observable history.
Such a splitting up of historical consciousness into a detection of facts and an evaluation of them (or into history as known and history as experienced) is intolerable to Christian faith, not only because the message of the resurrection of Jesus and of God's revelation in him necessarily becomes merely subjective interpretation, but also because it is the reflection of an outmoded and questionable historical method. It is based on the futile aim of the positivist historians to ascertain bare facts without meaning in history.Ibid., 126.
Pannenberg insists on the original unity of fact and meaning, event and interpretation. Every event imposes its own meaning to each inquirer. To be sure, not every event possesses equal clarity, but its clarity will be disclosed in proportion to the knowledge of its “context of occurrence and tradition in which it took place and through which it is connected with the present and its historical interest.”Wolfhart Pannenberg, Basic Questions in Theology: Collected Essays (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1983), 1:127.
This is a realist theory of perception—that there is a reality antecedent to the mind and that the mind can know it really and truly. It is a “realist” theory because it claims we can know things truly, but it is also realistic because no one can really live without believing this. Even the skeptic David Hume admitted that the practical demands of our human nature require us to act as if we do in fact know things as they really are.David Hume, An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1955), 194.
This is an assumption that cannot be proved, of course, as it is with the case of all assumptions. And it is specifically a refutation of the Kantian theory of perception—that we can know only the impersonal brute “facts” of our five senses and that any “interpretation” that we give to these “facts” are biased and represent our personal set of subjective values. This positivistic assumption implies that there is no reality beyond our own five senses except for the mere inferences (values) we wish to make about these facts. These inferences allegedly are private and have no universal or normative authority beyond the person who holds them.
According to those theologians (as Bultmann) who hold to a Kantian dichotomy of fact and interpretation, history is the realm of finitude only. And finitude is supposedly governed by the impersonal, mechanistic law of cause and effect. History thus eliminates the realm of freedom and transcendence altogether. At best, God is an unprovable (and thus an impersonal and abstract) value. And human freedom is something we “feel” and imagine ourselves to possess.
This modern split between the personal and the historical, between value and fact, between the subjective and the objective, between interpretation and event is the false presupposition that is destructive to Christian faith rather than the historical critical method being the danger. Pannenberg's scholarship is committed to the overthrow of this depersonalizing and dehumanizing Kantian dichotomy and its false connection with the historical critical method.
It would not be accurate in the strict sense of the word to say that Pannenberg is trying to prove faith. Pannenberg is willing to subsume knowledge under the category of faith in the Reformers' terminology. Faith, in this respect, includes notitia, assensus, and fiducia (knowledge, agreement, and trust). Pannenberg further points out the relationship of faith and knowledge when he writes: “One cannot really know of God's revelation in Jesus Christ without believing. But faith does not take the place of knowledge.”Pannenberg, Theology as History, 128. Thus, faith has its sole condition in the work of God and is not the accomplishment of man, though at the same time Pannenberg contends that the knowledge that faith presupposes must be open to critical historical research. Therefore, it is trust in Jesus that creates fellowship with God and not theoretical knowledge. He writes:
He who believes in Jesus has salvation in Jesus whom he trusts, without regard to the question how it stands with historical and theological knowledge of Jesus. The presupposition is, of course, that fellowship with Jesus really mediates and assures salvation. The research and knowledge of theology, or at least of the theoretical disciplines of theology, deal with the truth of this presupposition of faith. Such knowledge is thus not a condition for participating in salvation, but rather it assures faith about its basis. It thereby enables faith to resist the gnawing doubt that it has no basis beyond itself and that it merely satisfies a subjective need through fictions, and thus is only accomplishing self-redemption through self-deception.Ibid., 269.
Since the only means of ascertaining the revelation of God in Jesus of Nazareth is through the historical method, Pannenberg cannot subscribe to any form of an authoritarian “word of God” theology as in Barth and Bultmann. This only suppresses critical rationality and compels one to believe. Until the Enlightenment, the Bible had been more or less identified as the authoritarian Word of God because it was supernaturally inspired. In Neoorthodoxy (Barth), the Word of God was no longer identified with the Bible, but with divine encounter. In existentialist theology (Bultmann), the Word of God was identified with kerygmatic proclamation (the proclaiming of Jesus Christ as a symbol of human self-understanding).
Pannenberg says Barth's and Bultmann's shift away from the orthodox concept of revelation nevertheless left intact the idea of authoritarianism. “But for men who live in the sphere in which the Enlightenment has become effective, authoritarian claims are no longer acceptable.”Ibid., 226. Pannenberg in this way is seeking to point out the inadequacy of all authoritarian theologies, which in essence would exempt the truth-claim of Christian faith from critical rationality.
If Pannenberg so strongly insists that the revelatory events are open for anyone who has eyes to see and that the interpretation of these events is self-evident to historical reason, why is there no general consensus of opinion concerning the revelation of God in Jesus of Nazareth? Pannenberg's answer is found in Paul's statement (2Co 4:4) that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers.”Pannenberg, Revelation as History, 136.
If this is so, then historical reason can hardly qualify as the sole means of ascertaining the proper interpretation of revelatory events. Instead, one must rely also upon the Holy Spirit, “who will guide you into all the truth” (Jn 16:13). This is not to introduce the Holy Spirit as a stopgap for ignorance, but a fundamental biblical recognition that our powers of reason also come under the curse of the Fall. The work of the Holy Spirit is to convict and convince persons of the truth (Jn 16:8). Without the work of the Spirit no one can even claim that Jesus is Lord (1Co 12:3).
In agreement with Pannenberg, this spiritual intuition is not an irrational act of faith. Rather, through the work of the Spirit, who is also the Spirit of Truth, our minds are able to see. This is so because the Spirit “regenerates” the capacity of the mind to know what morally and spiritually it had been inhibited from knowing, just as the Spirit “regenerates” our hearts and makes it possible for us really to love others unselfishly and to embrace them in friendship.
This is not to say that faith is a substitute for knowledge. But it is to say that a knowledge of the truth is dependent upon a relationship with God. For a relationship with God regenerates and restores our cognitive (knowing), affective (feeling), and volitional (willing) abilities. Of course, that relationship does not increase our so-called “I.Q.,” but it does help to clear away the prejudices and moral distortions that obscure the proper functioning of our intelligence.
We are assuming here that the Fall (Ge 3) distorts our capacity to know as well as our capacity to love. We are also assuming the need of divine grace to deliver the mind (as well as the heart) from its distractions and inhibitions so that it can think clearly and truly. This is not simply a Calvinist doctrine, which is carried to any extreme in some instances by Calvinist theologians. It is also a basic premise of the Catholic tradition. Contemporary neo-Thomist scholars in the Catholic tradition have been calling attention to the widespread Protestant misunderstanding of natural theology in this regard.E. L. Mascall, He Who Is (Hamden, Conn.: Archon, reprint 1970), 25. On the other hand, many in the Protestant tradition reject any type of rational proofs because of their extremely negative view of the fallenness and depravity of the mind to know the truth of God. The consequence of this excessive skepticism is that faith is made a substitute for knowledge.
Pannenberg makes a helpful distinction between the logic and psychology of faith. Psychologically, we enter the dimension of faith before we come to understand the logic of what we believe. Logically, we spend the rest of our lives trying to understand with our minds the truths of faith.Pannenberg, Theology as History, 269.
This interaction between the logic and psychology of faith shows that there is a reciprocal connection between believing and understanding. We cannot truly understand without believing. For example, the resurrection of Jesus cannot be seen through the “eyes of the old aeon,” Pannenberg says.Pannenberg, Jesus: God and Man, 99. This means that only believers know Jesus was raised from the dead. Trust in Jesus is initiated by Jesus, not by the historical method, Pannenberg says. But the logic of faith's claim that Jesus was raised from the dead depends upon the historical-critical method. Yet unless the historical method has been informed by the faith of the new reality in Christ, then the critical historian will misunderstand the historical data concerning Jesus' resurrection.
It is misleading when Pannenberg insists that the historical-critical method is the only means for determining the truth of the Bible. In fact, Pannenberg's reformulation of the historical-critical method actually provides a basis for seeing that the concept of biblical inspiration is also a necessary aspect of the biblical revelation.
Cullmann's integration of historical criticism and biblical inspiration. Oscar Cullmann, a highly respected (now retired) NT scholar from the University of Basel, Switzerland, has shown that historical criticism necessarily leads one to affirm the inspiration of the Scriptures. Cullmann devoted much of his writings to showing that NT form-critical methodology does not in itself prejudice the case against the historical reliability of the Bible. He thus engaged in dialogue with Bultmann's opposite form-critical assumption that the NT is largely mythological. This assumption is not derived from form criticism but from his existentialist philosophy.Oscar Cullmann, Salvation in History (Geneva, Ala.: Allenson, 1967), 49.
Cullmann showed that simply because many events in the Scriptures are not capable of being historically tested does not necessarily require that a critical thinker label them as mere myth. These “historically uncontrollable events” are labeled “historicized myths” by Cullmann because they are so intertwined with “historically controllable events.” He points out that it is impossible at times to differentiate the historically controllable from the uncontrollable elements.
In this respect, Cullmann chooses to speak of events, such as, the Creation, the Fall, the Virgin Birth, the Second Coming, etc., as historicized myths, but not mere myths. These divine events are real events in space/time, but they do not come under the control of the critical historian except indirectly. These historicized myths, Cullmann says, “really happen” and “must not be conceived as metaphysical and nontemporary”; rather, they are “included in the temporal process.”Ibid., 143.
The distinction Cullmann is making between “history” and “myth” corresponds to the traditional distinction between what is naturally and what is supernaturally known. Historicized myths are divine, temporal events that cannot be historically determined. They are “myths” only in this limited sense of not coming under direct historical control.
Cullmann agrees with Pannenberg about the importance of historical criticism for those whose thinking has been marked by the Enlightenment.Ibid., 57. Cullmann shows that the Bible invites this kind of critical evaluation.
Just as eyewitnessing is a fundamental accompaniment to a witness of faith for the apostle, and one cannot be thought of without the other (εἰ̂δεν καὶ ἐπίστευσεν [“he saw and believed,” rsv], Jn 20:8), in the same way, research on the narrated events with any available means precedes faith in the interpretation of the events for the exegete.Ibid., 73.
Does this mean that the critical exegete must take a neutral or negative attitude about the so-called “historicized myths” in the Bible? Do the reported events need to be demythologized as Bultmann says? Cullmann points out that what does fall under the category of being historically controllable indirectly confirms those parts, such as the Creation, the Eschaton, etc., which are not under historical control. Especially the witness of the prophets and the apostles is a key to faith because they stand in close proximity to revelatory events. This leads Cullmann to say: “It must be noted that the apostle's eyewitness is more important than that of all the other biblical witnesses because it relates to the decisive event and in this way indirectly guarantees the revelations of all the previous witnesses.”Ibid., 296.
What Cullmann is pointing out here is that the knowledge upon which faith has its point of departure does not always qualify as historically controllable knowledge. Though faith is rooted in historical events, these events do no always qualify as being historically demonstrable. It is the witness of the prophets and the apostles that creates faith and not what can be merely demonstrated historically. Thus faith includes the credibility of the witnesses of divine revelation, who themselves stand in a relationship to the witness of their predecessors, which culminates in the final witness of the apostles to Jesus Christ.
This chain of witnesses to divine revelation, which culminates in the witness of the apostles, is the basis for Cullmann's statement that their witness “indirectly guarantees the revelations of all the previous witnesses.” He writes:
Faith is therefore also a faith in the witnesses, or rather in their function in salvation history. Faith intrudes upon us as we hear the witness, although we see the human weakness and imperfection of the witnesses themselves. We cannot be eyewitnesses any more. But to be witnesses ourselves we must believe in their witness. This looks like dead “faith in authority.” But the biblical witnesses, the prophets and apostles, are so closely bound up with the salvation history revealed to them that their witness as such can become an object of a true and living faith in their mission[,] the basis of which lies in the mission of the bearer of revelation, Christ. We have seen that the biblical witnesses too believe in the witness of their predecessors, so that the new facts and their interpretation are connected with the salvation history of the past. We find ourselves in this same situation, but now vis-à-vis the whole salvation history of the Bible.Ibid., 323.
Through a form-critical analysis that is thorough and persuasive, Cullmann has demonstrated that the NT speaks of the tradition of the apostles in a definitive way. He shows that Christ, exalted to the right hand of God, is considered by the NT writers to be the “direct author of the tradition of the apostles, because he himself is at work in the apostolic transmission of his words and deeds.”Oscar Cullmann, The Early Church, ed. A. J. B. Higgins; trans. Stanley Goodman and A. J. B. Higgins (London: SCM, 1966), 59.
Among numerous texts to support this conclusion is an analysis of Jn 16:13 and 14:27. These passages report that the Holy Spirit would give to the apostles the teachings of the historical Jesus and bring to their remembrance the things that they had been taught. So far as the New Testament is concerned, its truth concerning the revelation of God in history is reliable and trustworthy because of the unique relationship between the apostles and the earthly Jesus and the outpouring of the Spirit of Christ at Pentecost, who spoke through them the living Word of God.
In this way, Cullmann has shown that there is no difference between the apostolic witness and revelation. In this sense, the Scriptures are not a dead letter but a living word because the Holy Spirit inspired the historical records and likewise confronts the reader with Jesus Christ directly through these records.Ibid., 81.
One of the theologically reasoned conclusions of Pannenberg is that Jesus' resurrection from the dead confirms his claim to be one with God. If Easter is the proof of Jesus' claim to be God, then Cullmann has shown that Pentecost is the confirmation of Jesus' claim that the Holy Spirit would inspire them to be faithful witnesses of his reality and authenticate its truth in the minds and hearts of those who read and hear its testimony.
So the doctrine of biblical inspiration is not so easily dismissed as Pannenberg thinks. It was not developed out of an authoritarian attitude. It is not the result of a deductive logical system of thought. The truth of Scripture of course does not stand on the basis of the idea of its inspiration. That is, it is not the doctrine of inspiration that guarantees the truthfulness of the Scriptures. The truth of Scripture rests on the historical factuality of Jesus' life, death, resurrection, and the outpouring of his Holy Spirit. And it is out of these facts that we come to recognize the nature of biblical inspiration; namely, that the earthly Jesus promised that his Spirit would come and teach them and remind them of things they had learned from him and that they would be guided into the truth by his superintending presence.
He further promised that the truth of what they reported would be authenticated by the same Holy Spirit. So it is not gnostic to believe that the whole of Scripture is inspired by God. It is derived from a proper understanding of the biblical texts themselves, which can be brought under historical control.
Just as there are good historical foundations for believing in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, so there are good historical foundations for believing in the divine inspiration of the Bible itself. Furthermore, this recognition of the divine inspiration of the Bible imposes certain restraints on the conclusions of the historical critical method itself. An ongoing dialogue continues between historical criticism and faith. Faith needs historical criticism to help it understand the objective foundations for itself, but historical criticism also cannot ignore the Spirit as the ultimate source of the biblical teachings. Theology and historical criticism must therefore be mutually interrelated and complement each other rather than compete with each other. Frankly, this means that the truths of Scripture cannot be subordinated and upstaged by historical criticism for the simple reason that historical criticism itself points faith in this direction to affirm the Bible's inspiration. This interdependence of faith and the historical critical method is the basis, then, for Cullmann's statement that the NT texts themselves invite critical historical inquiry.