Category Archives: Scott R. Swain

Does the Doctrine of Biblical Inspiration Suppress the Importance of Scripture’s Human Authors?

Here is the single greatest explanation of the divine-human partnership in the creation of Holy Scripture I’ve ever read. Here Scott Swain, in Trinity, Revelation, and Reading, clears away misunderstandings of biblical inspiration. The book is a tad bit pricey, but analyses as good as this make it worth every penny. I quote at length:


Some worry that such an emphasis on the Spirit’s power in the production of Holy Scripture overrides or ignores it’s human authorship. The more the Spirit’s responsibility for this book is stressed, the more the intelligence, freedom, and personal activity of the Bibles human authors are suppressed – or so it is argued.

But this worry is unfounded, because the One who is “the Spirit of the Father and the Son” is also “the Lord and Giver of Life” (the Nicene Creed). The presence and operation of the Spirit’s sovereign lordship in the production of Holy Scripture does not lead to the suppression or overruling of God’s human emissaries in their exercise of authorial rationality and freedom. Rather, his sovereign lordship leads to their enlightening and sanctified enablement. The Spirit who created the human mind and personality does not destroy the human mind and personality when he summons them to his service. Far from it. The Spirit sets that mind and personality free from its blindness and slavery to sin so that it may become a truly free, thoughtful, and self-conscious witness to all that God is for us in Christ. He bears his lively witness and therefore prophets and apostles also bear their lively witness (Jn. 15.26-27). The Spirit creates a divine-and-human fellowship – a common possession and partnership – in communicating the truth of the gospel (Jn. 16.13-15).

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Biblical Interpretation is Always Personal

And the hits keep on coming from Swain in Trinity, Revelation, and Reading:

Because of biblical interpretation is an act of covenant mutuality, a living in engagement with the living God through his living in Christ, biblical interpretation is always personal. As interpreters, we are always making decisions either for or against the truth, promises, and commands of a given text. There is no neutrality here. We are either in the process of further embracing Scripture’s truth, promises, and commands or we are in the process of distancing ourselves from them. We are either bringing ourselves into further conformity to God’s word or we are slowly drifting away from that which we have read and heard (cf. Heb. 2.1-4).The timing of biblical application therefore is always “Today” (see Heb. 3.7-4.13).

– Scott R. Swain, Trinity, Revelation, and Reading, 134.

Scripture is Eternally Youthful

Another excerpt from Trinity, Revelation, and Reading:

The writing of the Law thus provided an enduring means whereby God’s covenantal word through his authorized agents could reach endless generations of his people. And this is exactly how later generations of God’s people received his written word, not simply as a record of past acts of revelation, but as the divinely authorized literary means whereby the living God continually speaks to his people (see esp. Heb. 3.7ff; also Rom. 15.4). What Bavinck says of Holy Scripture in general applies to the Old Testament in particular. It “is not in arid story or ancient chronicle but the ever-living, eternally youthful word of God, which God, now and always issues to his people. It is the eternally ongoing speech of God to us.” The scriptures are the viva vox Dei, the living voice of God.

-Scott. R. Swain, Trinity, Revelation, and Reading,

God Breathed Scripture

In Trinity, Revelation, and Reading, Swain has some wonderful things to say about the nature of biblical inspiration and its dual authorship. Here’s another sampling of his work:

“To say that Scripture is “God breathed” is therefore to say that, in the writings of these divinely appointed prophets and apostles, and by virtue of the Spirit’s power to awaken spiritual understanding and utterance, we have God’s own covenantal and Christological word. J.I. Packer’s Trinitarian definition of biblical inspiration is apropos: Scripture in its entirety is “God the Father preaching God the Son in the power of God the Holy Spirit.” “All Scripture is God breathed” (2 Tim. 3.16), the almighty utterance of the triune king”

– Scott R. Swain, Trinity, Revelation, and Reading: A Theological Introduction to the Bible and its Interpretation,  65

The Prophets and Apostles as Fitting Witnesses to the Word

“These emissaries [the prophets and apostle of Scripture] are uniquely qualified to fulfill the commission [of being divinely authorized spokesmen for God] by virtue of their unique access to God’s counsel (Jer. 23.18, 22) and by virtue of the unique anointing with the God’s Spirit (Isa. 61.1)… The prophets and apostles are thus fitted to bear the eternal Word of God, who ever lives at the Father’s side (access) and who comes forth into the world in the fullness of the Spirit’s power (anointing) to make the Father known (Jn.1.1,18; 3.34; cf. Isa. 55.10-11).”

– Scott R. Swain, Trinity, Revelation, and Reading: A Theological Introduction to the Bible and its Interpretation,  39

The New Testament Does Not Abolish…

I’m presently working through Trinity, Revelation, and Reading: A Theological Introduction to the Bible and it’s Interpretation, the latest volume by my former seminary professor Dr. Scott Swain.  It’s fairly small in size, but packs a strong punch. I plan on pulling some quotes to post over the next few days, just to give you a taste of the gems found therein.

Here’s a sample where Swain discusses the link between God’s self-disclosure in both Old Covenant and the New:

The progressive nature of revelation does not suggest evolution from more “primitive” to more “sophisticated” stages in humanity’s knowledge of God, of redemption, and of itself. Nor do earlier stages of revelation require correction or augmentation by later stages of revelation. Contrary to every form of Marcionism that has plagued the history of Christianity, it is the same God who makes himself known to Israel and to the church. Moreover, Jesus, God supreme self – revelation and final word (cf. Heb. 1.1-4), did not come to abolish earlier revelation but the fulfill it (Mt. 5:17-19). Even those institutions that are abrogated in the new covenant (e.g., the Levitical priesthood, the Temple cult, etc.) serve as tokens, promissory notes of the final institutions that Christ came to establish, and therefore function as paradigms – indispensable models – understanding those institutions. As such, they are never truly left behind but are rather incorporated into the brilliant mosaic of New Covenant revelation. Each stage of God’s revelation thus represents God’s wholly reliable redemptive truth, tempered to that stage of redemption by the Divine Rhetor, and therefore profitable in its own rights for imparting the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and to a life that is pleasing to God (2 Tim. 3.15-17).