Musings about the Doctrine of Illumination:

The illumination of the Holy Spirit is necessary for believers to fully or completely understand the meaning of scripture. In fact, D.L. Moody once said, "The Bible without the Holy Spirit is a sun-dial by moonlight." "The unsaved man cannot experience the illuminating ministry of the Spirit since he is blinded to the truth of God (1 Co 2:14). This does not mean be cannot learn anything of the facts of the Bible, but he considers what he knows as foolishness."

The Bible is God-breathed (Grk. theopneustos) and consequently is unique among any work of literature to this day. Because of this, it is necessary that man receives illumination, divinely given, to aid in understanding the Bible (1 Corinthans 2:11). To this illumination we must concede, it is the work of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17; 16:13). The work of illumination needs little prerequisite, it seems all is needed is faith in our Lord and a willingness to allow His Spirit to lead us (John 14:16-17). Illumination is key for the academic student beginning his study of the Scriptures.

The Holy Spirit aids the searching by making clear or plain the meaning of Scripture. I believe this is what the scriptures preclude when it suggests that the Holy Spirit will "lead" into all truth (John 16:13). Carl Henry said, "God intends that Scripture should function in our lives as his Spirit-illumined Word. It is the Spirit who opens man’s being to a keen personal awareness of God’s revelation. The Spirit empowers us to receive and appropriate the Scriptures, and promotes in us a normative theological comprehension for a transformed life. The Spirit gives a vital current focus to historical revelation and makes it powerfully real."

Many thinkers, and practically we do as well, use what is called the Hermeneutical Spiral. It is a process of learning, where we begin with presuppositions (which we all have) that we use to interpret the text, initially. We then modify our presuppositions according to what we have learned from the Scriptures. We do this again and again, allowing the text to reconcile our presuppositions each time. Thus drawing closer to not only the authorial intent of the Scripture writers but also the understanding being given to us in modern times. The literal meaning of each text will never change, but sometimes multiple theological principles emerge just as fresh and relevant. Intellectually honesty can lead someone to the truth, but it will not cause them to embrace truth. I believe those who yield to the Holy Spirit in this process will embrace truth.

It is quite true that "human history, including language and behavior, bears significantly on Scripture." However, this does not negate the fact that the Spirit is needed yet still. "Replacing the Holy Spirit as inspirer and illuminator of the scriptural word with environmental inspiration and illumination is something far different. When the critic emphasizes that the Bible is inescapably conditioned by its cultural setting, he all too often exaggerates the impact of ancient culture on Scripture and minimizes or neglects the impact of modern culture on the critic." "R. C. Sproul reminds us in Knowing Scripture, the twentieth-century secular mind-set is a far more formidable obstacle to accurate interpretation of the Bible than is its conditioning by ancient culture."

Since illumination is an intangible process by a divine act it is quite hard to translate such a thing into our sense of feel or look. If we "feel" illumination then it must be through visceral or mental prodding of the Holy Spirit prompting us to further truth. We can possibly "feel" the work of illumination in our understanding, as it is broadened. In Psalms 118, the psalmist recognized his need for divine aid in understanding the Scriptures. He prayed that his eyes would be opened (v. 18). As our eyes are opened we "feel" the light of truth shine upon us.

References in Order of Appearance:

1. Green, M. P. (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching : Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor's illustration file.). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House

2. Ryrie, C. C. (1995, c1972). A survey of Bible doctrine. Chicago: Moody Press.

3. Henry, C. F. H. (1999). God, revelation, and authority. Originally published: Waco, Tex. : Word Books, c1976-c1983. (4:273). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.

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Adversus Trinitas

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