Tie, Peter L. H. “Spirit, Scripture, Saints, and Seminary: Toward a Reappropriation of “Spirit Illumination” in “Scripture Interpretation” for Seminarians. In Spirit Wind: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit in Global Theology—A Chinese Perspective, edited by Peter L. H. Tie and Justin T. T. Tan, 3-36. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2020.
Acknowledging the dual authorship of Scripture suggests that, on the one hand, Christians should rely on the Spirit’s illumination to understand Scripture; on the other hand, they are responsible to interpret Scripture using the proper hermeneutical tools. Ideally, keeping the two—illumination and interpretation—in proper balance is the goal of biblical interpretation. A more relevant question in this chapter is whether believers, especially theologians and seminarians who are called to teach Scripture, have preserved the intimate connection between the Spirit and Scripture for better understanding of God’s word and will.
The initial step of this paper is to assess the issue concerning whether Christians and/or theologians keep a proper balance between the divine (illuminating factor) and human (interpretive methods) aspects in the interpretive process, that is, if “concursive inspiration” or “dual authorship” is faithfully acknowledged and executed in practice. This writer will briefly analyze a common situation in Chinese churches, in particular, as to why some discourage seminary training in biblical or theological understanding (hint: too academic, not spiritual enough!). Then, I will investigate a handful of substantial textbooks on biblical hermeneutics used in evangelical seminaries to see if they give “sufficient seriousness” to both the “divine and human” aspects in interpretation. An initial survey suggests a significant imbalance, i.e., overemphasizing the human aspect over the divine aspect, throughout the selected textbooks. Put concisely, the divine aspect of “Spirit illumination” seems to be proportionately deemphasized in seminary studies. Finally, I will offer a tentative proposal to counteract the imbalance of the human endeavor and Spirit illumination in the hope of fostering a more biblically balanced hermeneutical principle and practice. In this section, I will also attempt to include the relevant hermeneutical writings from those selected textbooks while interacting with other hermeneutical works on the illumination of the Spirit. By providing a broad overview of the “Spirit illumination” aspect in relation to interpretation, the ultimate goal is not only to help the seminarians grasp solidly the theological understanding of Scripture, but also to grow continuously in spiritual discernment/maturity as disciples and churches of Christ.
Pickwick (website: https://wipfandstock.com/9781532632730/spirit-wind/; https://www.amazon.com/Spirit-Wind-Doctrine-Theology-Perspective-ebook/dp/B08SSPRS37/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&qid=1610670524&refinements=p_27%3AH.+Tan&s=books&sr=1-1)