I like it when things make me think, and yesterday's reflection on 2 Timothy 3:10 - 17 in Words for Today certainly did that. The writer was reflecting on what is meant by 'scripture' and what is meant by 'God-breathed' if you don't go down the 'inafallibility' route which is clearly not supported by the text.
"Scripture" the writer asserts means '"sacred writings" - all sacred writings. Presumably, though he does not say it, those of any or all faiths. The inspiration cannot guard against fallibility of transmission, so presumably that would be why there are differences, assuming his logic holds. Having read portions, albeit very select portions, of Sikh and Islamic sacred texts as part of my theological education I cannot deny that there is evidence of the same inspiration (which is probably a factor in my inclusivist, fulfilment theology). I recall at the cross-cultural wedding I conducted using a Hindu blessing (in English!) which all the Christians could happily say 'amen' to. I would concur that in 'officially' sacred texts we can detect God's voice, often in surprising ways.
The writer then takes things a step further:
'All we have to do to turn any good book into God's word for today is to ask the question "What would Jesus make of this?"
Essentially, then, he says God can speak to us through any piece of writing that is 'good' - but then I have a question of what he means by 'good'. Does this equate to the quality of writing? Surely not, because that would rule out the Gospels which are in very poor Greek! Does it equate to the standpoint of the writer - e.g. as 'my kind of Christian'? I think not, since that would rule out the Prophets who often offended their hearers/readers! I am not sure that I can come up with a neat definition of 'good' that would permit me to say 'God can be heard in this but not that.' Easy enough to say 'God can't be heard in slander' or 'God won't be heard in vitriol'; not so easy to say 'God will/might be heard in...'
So what do I do? I decided I'd check what the Greek says, albeit using an online interlinear as all my Greek books are at church.
Verse 15 speaks of 'sacred writings' whilst verse 17 (the one people use for their infallibility arguments) says simply 'every writing [is] God-spirited/breathed'. The word 'good' does not appear. Whilst it would seem reasonable, in context, to restrict the divine inspiration to 'sacred writings' that doesn't remove the question of which writings are designated as sacred. There is, I think, an implied question of authority here, and one that any half-decent Practical Theologian ought to be willing to wrestle with!
Suppose we say, with the simplest reading of verse 17, that God inspires writing - be that 'scripture,' hymnody, prayer, history, fiction, scientific reports, newspapers... even tweets and blogs - then there is the potential for God to be heard in any or all writing. That does not make all 'writings sacred', some are self evidently profane, and it does not give all 'writings' equal status. As a Baptist I sign up to a Declaration of Principle that located primary authority in Jesus Christ the 'living word' over against any 'sacred writing.' Which is fine except that the only way to meet him is via the Christian sacred texts... it is a no-brainer that the Bible among texts has priority. But after that? Does theology trump fiction? Does science give way to poetry? Does western liberalism outweigh Asian scripture? There are no simple answers and maybe the question "what would Jesus make of this" is a good one - so long as it not simply a case of "what would the Jesus I have created in my own image make of this?"... which of course opens up a whole new can of theological worms (as distinct from a diet thereof).
In the end I think I am content with the idea that God inspires the enterprise of writing and that it is possible for us to detect hints and glimpses of God's voice in the most unexpected places - but I thought that before I read the notes yesterday. I think what I have been made to consider is just how wide or narrow is my personal canon of potential resources, and that's no bad thing.