Rich Paxson

“Does learning about the editing process of Scriptures change your relationship to the text? If it has been edited, how does it remain an act of communication from God?”

What follow compares an insight about auditing that I discovered before retiring from the Revenue Service with my new and unfolding discoveries about Scripture facilitated by this course.

When I ran across Texas Tech law professor Bryan Camp’s article: “Tax Administration as Inquisitorial Process …” I was still employed as an IRS revenue agent. The article made a lot of practical sense to me. Camp asserts that tax administration is inherently inquisitorial, not adversarial. Camp’s position validated what I had known and practiced intuitively. After reading Camp’s article, I occasionally shared his insights with taxpayers during audits; but these discussions never proved to be good ideas!

Now as I learn about the ‘lack of external evidence’ for David’s and Solomon’s kingdoms; about the non-occurrence of Joshua leading the Israelites into the Promised Land; and on top of that, no external evidence for the existence of Moses, I find a similar ‘adversarial vs. inquisitorial‘ insight once again flooding my consciousness. And yet, merely recognizing the lack of ‘history’ does little to mitigate the sense of loss that I feel. Reading Bible stories as historical truth provided a kind of orienting backdrop in my daily life. Now I’m acting in front of new scenery, where the rear-curtain for the stage of my life no longer matches the old scripts. New scenery for old scripts always requires reconciliation and rewriting!

Why would the change from historical to metaphorical interpretation of the Bible impact me like the change from an adversarial to an inquisitorial approach to auditing? I learned that tax administration is inherently inquisitorial because of the information asymmetry between government agent and individual taxpayer. Auditors need to know not only transactional details, but also the context in and through which those transactions were undertaken. How else does one discover deception and fraud?

The adversarial approach sees the taxpayer as uncooperative antagonist. The inquisitorial approach sees the taxpayer as contributing participant. Without taxpayer self-disclosure augmented by the use of legal tools to uncover hidden information, auditors cannot enhance overall tax system equity; a necessary but always moving target. In the larger scheme of things, the auditor’s role as taxpayer inquisitor not adversary is always a challenging one!

So now I’ve learned that I’ve been uninformed about the historicity of scripture, which is much more narrative metaphor than history. All Scripture’s narrative metaphor reflects God’s self-revelation, albeit within the particular author(s) historical circumstances (but, not necessarily the history of the time reflected in the details of the narrative itself.) Once again a backdrop for the script of my life changed, just like the auditing backdrop change from adversarial to inquisitorial.

And so, while scripture reflects varying scope and depth of anthropological and theological understanding, all scripture has the common, if incompletely understood inspiration of God’s self-revelation. The hermeneutical key to discovering personal meaning is Jesus, the true Grand Inquisitor, Who its seems is always offering help reconciling and rewriting the scripts of our daily lives!