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Enns, Sparks, Arnold, and Chapman on the OT (RJS)

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We started a conversation on Tuesday that touched on the subject of the nature of inspiration and the nature of scripture as the inspired word of God.  Many have  serious questions about the intent and interpretation of the Old Testament and how the New Testament uses the Old Testament. Some of these questions arise from science, but the problem of the Old Testament is not solely a conflict between science and faith.  There are serious issues and
questions that arise from the text itself, from archaeology, from Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) studies, and from Biblical studies. The topic is often bracketed away and avoided because many find it threatening and controversial. Yet these issues come up again and again as educated Christians wrestle with faith.  I would like to take a detour here and consider once again the issue of OT interpretation.  This continues a conversation we began in a post last November (A Conspiracy of Silence?) and revisited to some extent in more recent posts on Arnold’s commentary on Genesis (Gen 1, Gen 2, and Gen 3) and in the post on Paul and Adam.

For many of us the issue is not the inspiration and authority of the Old Testament – but the nature of inspiration and the form of the Old Testament text we have inherited.  We come not with doubts, but searching for answers, asking for wisdom before God. The traditional protestant approach that values literalism above all else appears as problematic as the emphasis on allegory among the early church fathers appeared to the reformers. Textual
criticism, archaeology, history, science, – all of these subjects have
made it difficult to read or study the Old Testament with exactly the same eyes and assumptions as our fathers and mothers  in the faith.  Truth doesn’t change, but human understanding does.  This shouldn’t surprise us.  The biblical narrative is not stasis – it is a story of God’s work in creation, and this work is ongoing.

What does it mean to accept the Bible as the inspired, authoritative word of God?

Two recent books wrestle with the challenge we face understanding the OT as the inspired word of God in the face of biblical scholarship (text criticism, form criticism, source criticism) and extensive study of the ancient near east (culture, archaeology, religion, history). Peter Enns published his somewhat controversial book Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament
in 2005. In this book Enns proposes a model for understanding the nature of scripture based on an analogy with the incarnation, an intriguing approach. In 2008 Kenton Sparks published God’s Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship – a book I found interesting but  somewhat more troubling than Enn’s book, and likely to be even more controversial.

Peter Enns has posted a review of God’s Word in Human Words on his site.  This review summarizes the key points of the book in the initial post and promises interaction with his own response and the responses of Bill Arnold and Stephen Chapman from the SBL meeting last year in a second installment. I think that it would be worthwhile to discuss this book and the possible approaches to the Old Testament as the inspired Word of God.

Enns summarizes the key points of Sparks book as follows (with some of my own interpolations – you can find Enns’s original much longer summary from the link above):

(1) The Bible is God’s word expressed in fully human words, and so is, by God’s own design, subject to the types of analyses offered by modern biblical criticism.

(2) Modern biblical criticism has truly hit on many irrefutable re-articulations of Scripture that most certainly affect how we as evangelicals should think and talk about Scripture. A majority of evangelical OT scholars accept much of this, although without the necessary deliberate forethought and justification.

(3) God accommodates his word to fallible human modes of expression and thinking. Sparks uses a model of “accommodation” similar to Calvin’s approach to think about God’s word in scripture. This is an alternative to the incarnational model proposed by Enns. But both are suggested as methods for intentional evangelical engagement with the text we have before us.

(4) One cannot appeal to evangelical theology to decide the proper role of critical scholarship. We have to let God’s word be God’s word. Theology does not tell us how to read the Bible – the Bible gives us our theology. We study the Bible – and this includes the development of the text, the history and cultures in which it was written – to form our theology. “Critical Anti-Criticism” will kill us. Our evangelical doctrine of Scripture as we move into the 21st century cannot be developed in the absence of true engagement with our evolving knowledge of God’s creation and the nature of the text he has given us.

(5) By failing to offer viable and persuasive alternate paradigms, evangelicalism is an unwitting accomplice in the destruction of faith in many of our own, especially our youth.  We cannot continue to stick our (collective) head in the sand and inadequately address the very real challenges of biblical criticism, and I would add to this the very real challenges of our scientific understanding of God’s creation. We need an approach to scripture that we can stand on as we look to follow God.

What do you think?  Is it reasonable to propose that God has given us his word  in human form, subject to the analysis of scholarly biblical criticism?  Are the models suggested by Enns or Sparks reasonable approaches to describe the nature, inspiration, and authority of the Old Testament?



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phil_style

posted February 26, 2009 at 8:21 am


I’ve posted this link also on the last “Faith and intellectual integrity post”, so apologies for the double-up. However, I wanted to hilight the authors’ rather scathing opinion of what he called ‘accomodation': http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/feb/22/genetics-religion
Blakemore recently narrated Channel 4’s latest episode of “Christianity: A History” here in the UK. Unfortunately Blakemore is no historian, and what we got was more a criticism of religion from his philosophical stand-point than it was a historical analysis of the faith.
I’d be interested to know if anyone else saw this and what their thoughts were, particualrly in relation to his opinions on Biblical/Dcotrinal accomodation.



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Scott M

posted February 26, 2009 at 8:31 am


I suppose I would first respond to the question with a question. Where in the old testament is it written that the Messiah would be in the tomb for three days? (Luke 24:46) Of course, Jesus himself not only gave us the answer to that question, but it’s recorded elsewhere in the gospels. Nevertheless, I see absolutely no way you could read that OT text and on its own basis ever deduce that meaning. I like that example because it provides probably the starkest exposure of the problem with any Christian approach toward interpretation of the OT other than through the lens of Jesus and as a foreshadowing of Jesus the Christ.



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phil_style

posted February 26, 2009 at 8:31 am


In addition to the above, I’m particualrly interested in Blakemore’s cariciature that “The process of Christian accommodation is a bit like the fate of fieldmice confronted by a combine harvester, continuously retreating into the shrinking patch of uncut wheat.”
Presumably Blakemore is arguing that what he sees as “accomodation” is akin to God-of-the-Gaps theory? Is he justified?



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Norm

posted February 26, 2009 at 9:03 am


Forgive me if these comments do not speak directly to the question. However, it seems this kind of conversation is exactly why many evangelical churches avoid the OT like the plague, which is distressing. Also, carrying the baggage of “inspired” and “infallible” to the OT text creates many challenges – Part of the emphasis of Scot’s observations, I think. Finally, its has always been my position that one can never fully understand the NT without first understanding the OT. That may be why the table of “orthodoxy” is always a bit wobbly.
I’m interested in seeing how the comments develop.



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RJS

posted February 26, 2009 at 9:29 am


phil_style,
Blakemore’s column is interesting. I have two observations – first if we are in defense mode, perhaps the image of mice before a combine is appropriate. But I don’t think that we should be in defense mode – that the appropriate response is that all revelation is God’s truth and in each generation we must wrestle afresh with the foundational truth of the gospel. The idea that God exists only to fill a gap in understanding – so it is possible to “disprove” God is, I think, a fallacy.
I also find that Dawkins and Blakemore and such will paint the extreme view as necessary for Christian faith – because this is easily debunked and the faith discredited. We should not allow such a definition to go unchallenged. Interestingly they would be appalled at a notion that we should not allow evidence to refine our understanding of any scientific principle. But they turn around and define religion as static and refinement in the face of new evidence (God’s revelation) as waffling – running before a combine.
Finally, I found this quote in his column interesting:

I’m dubious about those “why” questions: why are we here? Why do we have a sense of right and wrong? Either they make no sense or they can be recast as the kind of “how” questions that science answers so well. When we understand how our brains generate religious ideas, and what the Darwinian adaptive value of such brain processes is, what will be left for religion?

Basically his position is that why questions are meaningless – the why question can be recast as a how question and answered – but ultimately this means that there is no meaning, there is no purpose, there is no real basis for morality or hope. The end of the sun will end life and ultimately the universe will expand to a random cold gas. Life, beauty, honor, morality, community, … are all illusion.
So “why” do I believe? – because I believe that there is meaning and purpose, and that beauty, honor, morality, … are real not illusion.



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phil_style

posted February 26, 2009 at 10:04 am


RJS,
Thanks for the comments. I had also spotted the apparent hypocrisy that you note “Interestingly they would be appalled at a notion that we should not allow evidence to refine our understanding of any scientific principle. But they turn around and define religion as static and refinement in the face of new evidence (God’s revelation) as waffling – running before a combine”, but was unable to articulate it in the way you did.



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Derek Leman

posted February 26, 2009 at 10:17 am


Norm #4:
Not accusing you of saying this, but you raised a point I’d like to quash: the idea that the OT is less worthy of inspiration than the NT. The difficulties in the OT text, the repetitions and doublets and apparent contradictions, all exist in the NT as well. The difference is that the NT text is more recent and overall better preserved. The NT text presumes OT background and cannot stand on its own, a lesson I wish more would learn (not implying you have any problem with the importance of the OT).
Scott M #2:
I feel you have got it exactly backwards and Jesus would argue against you. You read the NT in light of the OT and not the other way around. Jesus used midrashic methods in his speaking, including that midrash on the Jonah text. Midrash is expansive or homiletic application and does not imply that its meanings are inherent in the text. Thus, to conclude from this example in the life of Jesus that we can only understand the OT by working backwards from the NT is a faulty premise. In spite of midrashic sayings here and there, Jesus had a remarkably brilliant understanding of the OT theology exhibited, for example, in his call for Israel to receive Gentiles.
Derek Leman



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Derek Leman

posted February 26, 2009 at 10:24 am


RJS:
I remain devoted to the truth and divine origin of the text, yet have found myself more and more open to critical methods. I remain skeptical of the documentary hypothesis (it has major problems for those honest enough to see them).
There is no doubt, however, that God used human forms. Our Torah portion last week was Mishpatim (Exod 21-23). A friend wrote, “You would think that God would not allow his people to enslave others in light of Israel’s painful enslavement in Egypt. Yet God knew the way to rid Israel of slavery was not to decree this change of heart, but to regulate the societal norm and let Israel change its heart.”
An African-American man in our congregation said that the slave passages in the OT and NT were the most troubling for him. Why did neither the OT or NT speak with a clear voice banning slavery?
The troubling answer we must accept is that God works through human forms and culture even in ways we don’t want to accept. The Bible is human and divine and we must read it as both.
Derek Leman



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Rob

posted February 26, 2009 at 10:41 am


“Is it reasonable to propose that God has given us his word in human form, subject to the analysis of scholarly biblical criticism?”
I would say not only is it reasonable, but it is the only way that God could communicate to humans who are subject to the limitations of finitude and fallen-ness, i.e. not God.
“Are the models suggested by Enns or Sparks reasonable approaches to describe the nature, inspiration, and authority of the Old Testament?”
I found both books extremely helpful to this discussion, and the approaches reasonable. Sparks also addresses the NT, which is also very helpful.



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dopderbeck

posted February 26, 2009 at 12:33 pm


“Is it reasonable to propose that God has given us his word in human form, subject to the analysis of scholarly biblical criticism?”
I’d want to nuance the question. Everyone agrees that God gave us his written revelation in human form — it is a text in a historical human language. And nearly everyone agrees, at least concerning the NT, that the text is subject to “scholarly biblical criticism,” at least in the sense that scholars can sort through variants in the extant copies of the text to try to get as close to possible to the underlying originals or “autographs,” which are no longer accessible. The only significant modern exception here is the “King James Only” crowd.
The better question is, to what extent can source, redaction, historical, and genre criticism be used to inform us about the nature of Biblical inspiration and authority? More particularly, should our theology of inspiration and authority by deductive — working from a broad theory of inspiration and authority and applying it to the specific observations about of the text — or inductive — starting with specific observations about the text and working towards a general theory of inspiration and authority.
Many of us from conservative evangelical backgrounds were taught an essentially deductive theory: the text is factually and completely inerrant, and any observations about the phenomena of the text must be presumed to fit this theory. Enns, Sparks, et al. are proposing an inductive theory: the phenomena of the text define the limits of what “inspired,” “inerrant / infallible” or “authoritative” might mean.
Deductivists start with God: God does not err; God inspired the text; therefore the text does not err. Inductivists start with the text: the text is humanly errant, therefore God communicated to us trhough errant human beings.
A big problem for deductivists is that a deductive theory is supposed to be falsifiable by actual observations. If the observations don’t confirm the theory, the theory is supposed to change. A big problem for inductivists is that you’re not supposed to start with any a priori theory — but evangelical inductivists start with the notion that the Bible is scripture and therefore will not allow critical methods to support a conclusion that the text is merely human. So, I’m honestly not sure that either approach totally works.



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Chris E

posted February 26, 2009 at 1:01 pm


Derek #7
>>>Jesus had a remarkably brilliant understanding of the OT theology



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Michael W. Kruse

posted February 26, 2009 at 1:38 pm


As to the authority of scripture, I?d say they have authority because the OT and NT communities from which they emerged perceived that they carried an authority different from other writings. The communities did not give them their authority but surrendered to the authority they demonstrated across the broader community over time.
The texts do not have authority for us because of which authors wrote them. That some works may be compilations of texts, come from multiple authors, or have pseudonymous authorship is interesting and helpful research but not ultimately determinative in their authority. The community closest in time and culture to the events, led by the Spirit, preserved these works for us as revelation.



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RJS

posted February 26, 2009 at 1:43 pm


dopderbeck,
Good analysis – I would say that I definitely take an evangelical inductivist approach. I think that the statement “God does not lie — therefore” leads to an inherently flawed notion of the text – a notion that is falsified by the data.
But I think that an evangelical inductivist approach starts with reasoning from the church to the text – not that traditions trump the text but that the church gave us the bible and we start with the bible as scripture based on the testimony of the church.
The text is not a proof of the faith, it is not a proof of the existence of God or the basic story of Jesus, life, death, and resurrection. The basis for this starting point comes from experience and from the 2000 year tradition of the church. And there is nothing in the text that is inconsistent with the “faith we have received” through the creedal statements from the earliest days.
So an evangelical inductivist approach takes faith to the text, to learn about our faith and the relationship of God with his people from the text, but to do so we have let the text tell us how to read the text.
And now I think that I am rambling a bit.



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RJS

posted February 26, 2009 at 1:48 pm


Michael,
I think we are both saying the same thing … yours was posted as I was composing.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted February 26, 2009 at 2:59 pm


#14 RJS
Yes. I was really reflecting more on preceding comments than the actual post.



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Sean LeRoy

posted February 26, 2009 at 3:27 pm


I’ve not read Sparks and the only thing I’ve read by Enns is on his site and in the three views book. Here’s what I see, though, in what’s above in the original post…
Theology doesn’t necessarily tell us what’s in the Bible, but the Bible gives us our theology. But what Sparks seems to be saying is that though theology doesn’t give us our Bible, apparently critical scholarship does!



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Kent Sparks

posted February 26, 2009 at 8:21 pm


Dear Friends:
“Theology does not tell us how to read the Bible – the Bible gives us our theology”
I certainly would not put it that way, and I don’t think that my book ever says anything like this. All readers of the Bible bring their theology to their reading of Scripture, myself included. Theology is always telling us how to read the Bible.
However, if in fact that Bible is also a major or primary source of theology, then this must be understood dialectically; the Bible must also put placed in a position to challenge our theology. My book argues that the Bible itself gives us plenty of good reasons for thinking that critical scholars are right about lots of things and that, consequently, FI (fundamentalistic inerrancy, which believes that Scripture?s human authors never err) can?t be right.
Scott:
To go back to your original post, what about my book ?troubled? you? And I wonder if you?d say the same thing about the little book by IH Marshall, Beyond the Bible, which charts the same course but sometimes goes even further by suggesting Jesus?s more judgmental statements reflect the context of first century Judaism rather than a final word on personal theology.



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Angie Van De Merwe

posted February 26, 2009 at 8:35 pm


Scripture is inpsired “human” writing. It is not some “spiritualized” superhuman information that has special meaning. I believe that God innately gave inspiration to all of creation, and that men respond and react to these “inspirations”, in nature, art, music, literature and other human lives that impact them…
Jesus of Nazareth was a human being, who represented ‘god” to those whose lives he touched. His life was a useful example to illustrate what humanity, and humanenss and the Golden Rule is about.
So, the scribes who wrote about his life were those who used his life as an example. Many saying of Jesus have not been proven to be orignally his. A story was formed around Jesus life.
We are all story-tellers in this sense, as we attempt to make sense out of life and give life purpose. Religion is a tool to frame meaning, but is a human attempt to do so.



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Your Name

posted February 26, 2009 at 9:05 pm


Hi Angie,
“So, the scribes who wrote about his life were those who used his life as an example”
I suspect that the scribes who wrote about him thought that Jesus offered far more than an exemplary life. But indeed, there are many people such as yourself who view his life as exemplary. And indeed, it was a beautiful example IMO.
I wonder, Angie, if you entertain the idea that some religious stories that are closer to the truth than some others.
Kent



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RJS

posted February 26, 2009 at 9:25 pm


Kent,
First I wrote the post – not Scot, so I take the blame.
I may have overstated what you meant (or even what I meant) with the statement Theology does not tell us how to read the Bible – the Bible gives us our theology.
What I really meant to comment on was the deductivist approach that dopderbeck noted in #10. When we take an understanding of God (Theology) to the text, such as God does not err; therefore the text does not err; therefore Gen 1-11 is literal history, the earth is 6000 years old, Peter denied Jesus 6 times – Jesus cleansed the temple twice … (I know ,I’ve picked extreme examples) … this is a big mistake. The Bible should tell us what it means to have the word of God in the text, the Bible itself should inform this aspect of our theology.
But perhaps I’ve just dug myself a deeper hole.



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Kent Sparks

posted February 26, 2009 at 10:03 pm


?But perhaps I’ve just dug myself a deeper hole.?
Not at all. My only concern is that we don?t come to Scripture without preconceptions of what it is or ought to be. But that said, it is inherent in the concept of ?reading? that I can learn something new, and this means that my assumptions about Scripture can be challenged when I read it. We agree on this.
To get back to dopderbeck?s comment, I suspect that a healthy epistemology will foreground both induction and deduction, and will notice the way in which our experience as interpreters pushes us from one posture to the other. There?s nothing wrong with saying: God does not err; The Bible is God?s word; Gen 1-11 doesn?t err; Gen 1-11 is ?perfect history? (an oxymoron since history is produced by human inquiry, but we?ll let it stand). But when there is sufficient evidence that Gen 1-11 is not perfect history, then one should be willing to ask whether the original train of deductive logic was somewhere flawed. A resulting test will be an inductive examination of Scripture, the aim being to get a sense of the kind of book Scripture really is ? in my view, a serious inquiry along these lines produces the impression of a very human book, especially if one is expecting something else.



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RJS

posted February 26, 2009 at 10:17 pm


Kent,
And thanks for the push back on my comment and use of the word “troubling.” I read your book and found it fascinating. I finished it in only a few days because it held my interest all the way.
I used the word troubling not in a theological sense – but more in a practical sense. I think the book is somewhat more troubling than Peter Enn’s book for two major reasons – it is more abrupt in taking a stand and more forceful in its statements. It challenged my thinking in more significant ways. I think a general audience would find “Inspiration and Incarnation” somewhat easier to read, discuss, and possibly embrace.
Does that make sense?



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Michael W. Kruse

posted February 26, 2009 at 10:34 pm


As I’m reflecting on this conversation, it seems to me that it is not possible to come to scripture without a theology. We all bring at least a rudimentary understanding of the nature of the texts we are reading and who (or what) is behind them. That is inescapable. Yet if we hold our views too tightly we choke off further insight and possible needed correction.
Kenneth Bailey talks about the need to come to tentative finality about our understandings. Tentative because we must always allow that our finite and flawed minds haven’t got it quite right. Finality because we can’t simply but life on hold until we get it all figured out.
Going back to Thomas Kuhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” I suspect abduction, not just deduction and induction, plays a significant role in healthy theologizing.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted February 26, 2009 at 10:42 pm


BTW, I haven’t read “God’s Word in Human Words” but ordered it today because of this post. I rather like “troubling” books. :-)



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Your Name

posted February 26, 2009 at 10:58 pm


Yes. One frustration I’ve had is that evangelicals seem to dance around the issues (I not talking about Pete enns) … I decided that I would write what I was actually thinking, for better or worse. It was, quite frankly, an act of faith.



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Kent Sparks

posted February 26, 2009 at 11:32 pm


“Does that make sense?”
Yes, RJS, that makes sense. One frustration I’ve had is that evangelicals always seem to dance around the hard issues (I’m not talking about Pete Enns) … I decided that I would write what I was actually thinking, for better or worse. It was an act of faith; like breathing fresh air.
I don’t say this in the book, but … I suspect that the heart of difficulty with evangelicals is soteriological anxiety. The fear is that getting something wrong will land you, or someone else, in the eternal fires of hell. Fundamentalists have a system that secures indubitable salvation, and anything that disturbs that system is “dangerous” and “disturbing.” As for me, I simply don’t worry about that. I try to understand what is true and live by it; surprising as it might seem to some evangelicals, God can handle the final judgment without our help.
Michael:
Yes, though most of us probably include “abduction” in our notion of “induction,” in spite of the conceptual difference.



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dopderbeck

posted February 27, 2009 at 11:33 am


Kent said: I suspect that the heart of difficulty with evangelicals is soteriological anxiety. The fear is that getting something wrong will land you, or someone else, in the eternal fires of hell.
I respond: Yup. You pegged it I think, at least for me. I would simply find these questions about the OT, background sources, the genre of the creation stories, the reality or “mythic” nature of “Adam,” etc. just interesting and maybe even fun, if it weren’t for this kind of worry, which can express itself as an overwhelming fear sometimes.
BTW, Kent — how many different blogs are we going to meet on? ;-)



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Your Name

posted February 27, 2009 at 1:11 pm


Kent,
What about that “sufficient evidence”? What is it?



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MatthewS

posted February 27, 2009 at 2:27 pm


Michael #23,
Your comment about ourtheology that we bring to the text and that gets shaped by the text reminds me of Grant Osborne’s “Hermeneutical Spiral.”



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Cam R

posted February 27, 2009 at 2:33 pm


I totally agree that soteriological anxiety makes this all the more difficult.
Kent,
You are right that we bring our presuppositions and our theology to reading the bible. There isn’t a purely objective way of approaching the bible or really anything. I guess something that has been useful has been realizing that I have presupposed ideas and then seeing how they inform theology.
How do you come to your presuppositions? Is this a case of tradition, evidence, choice, or a hybrid?
RJS,
Do you think we are really dealing with issues involving out views of inspiration and trustworthiness of the bible? Or are the perceived conflicts with faith and science more about holding to a more strict literal/factual hermeneutic than anything else?
Peace,
Cam



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Michael W. Kruse

posted February 27, 2009 at 2:56 pm


#26 Kent
“I suspect that the heart of difficulty with evangelicals is soteriological anxiety.”
Bingo!
#29 MatthewS
“Hermeneutical Spiral”
I like it!



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RJS

posted February 27, 2009 at 3:05 pm


Cam,
Many will argue (especially within evangelicalism) that inspiration and trustworthiness are tied to a more or less literal/factual hermeneutic. But I think that this assumption is falsified by the evidence…
The question then becomes is “inspired and trustworthy” false or is “literal/factual hermeneutic” false?
I think that the Bible is trustworthy – this is not so much something that I take from the Bible as something that I bring to my reading of the Bible. But it also stands the test … it is not “falsified by the evidence.” I also think that the Bible is inspired.
So I really think that we are talking about a hermeneutical approach. And we need to rethink our approach.
Enns and Sparks have presented evidence for why a new approach is necessary and suggested hermeneutical approaches that are worth considering.
I would present slightly different evidence – the universe is ca. 14 billion years old, the earth is 4.6 billion years old, death was part of creation long before humans or even hominoids appeared on the scene, the first modern humans appeared something like 190,000 years ago, the evidence for some form of evolutionary development and common descent is overwhelming. This also leads me to look for a new hermeneutical approach.



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Kent Sparks

posted February 27, 2009 at 5:22 pm


(1) ?What about that “sufficient evidence”? What is it??
The point at which evidence becomes ?sufficient? is in the eye of the beholder. From my vantage point, the sufficient evidence includes biological and stellar evolution (contradicts Gen 1-2), our knowledge about the development of languages (contradicts Babel), our knowledge of the genealogies in Gen 4-10, 10-11 (borrowed from Mesopotamia plus variants of the same genealogy in Gen 4-5), the fact that all species were not ?squeezed through? a genetic strait a few thousand years ago (no flood), not to mention internal contradictions in the text (e.g, animals were created before humans in ch. 1 but between the man and woman in ch. 2), etc. etc.
Evangelicals are way behind the curve when it comes to assimilating evolutionary biology and social evolution into our theology. We want a stable world with stable categories, so we?re generally bad at everything that involves ?becoming.?
(2) ?How do you come to your presuppositions? Is this a case of tradition, evidence, choice, or a hybrid??
I think that the whole thing is complicated. Read Polanyi (for example) on the nature of tradition and how we tacitly and unconsciously absorb it. And then there is a complex set of variables that include questions, evidence, judgments, anxieties, etc. And the more we learn, the more complex things get, Cognitive psychologists have shown how often we embrace multiple and contradictory ideas about the same think, and how our interpretive faculties shape ?raw sense data? ? even when we ?see? something or have an experience, the so-called sense data is immediately shaped by our expectations and memories so that we supply things to the data. We literally remember things that didn?t really happen.
(3) ?Hermeneutical spiral?
I have no idea where Grant Osborne would be on these matters. I suspect he wouldn?t like my book, but I would suggests that my approach really follows the implications of his thoughtful work. The spiral is never ending because our interpretations are always imperfect and can always be improved. The only trick is that the interpretive spiral is not fool-proof; depending on our presuppositions and on our openness to having them challenged, the spiral can actually lead us away from the truth to poorer interpretations.
(4) ?? inspiration and trustworthiness of the bible? Or are the perceived conflicts with faith and science more about holding to a more strict literal/factual hermeneutic than anything else??
This could get long ? I?ll try to be brief ? All talk about the Bible as inerrant, or infallible, or trustworthy is metaphor. Words are not in themselves errant or inerrant. To say that the Bible is inerrant is a short hand way of saying that the biblical words are not traces of error by the human or divine writer. So, to inquire about whether the Bible is ?trustworthy? is really to ask: Is God ?trustworthy? when he speaks through Scripture, and Is Paul (or Luke, or another biblical author) ?trustworthy??
It is imagined by some evangelicals that God is not trustworthy if the bible contains errant viewpoints, but this has never been the judgment of the church. As my book points out, the fathers and Calvin interpreted errors in Scripture as God?s wise accommodations to our finitude and fallenness. God seems to have accomplished this by adopting the viewpoints and perspectives of the human authors as his own (cf. N. Wolterstorff, Divine Discourse). But if this is the case, then on the level of the human horizon Scripture is as trustworthy as the human authors who wrote it. Personally, would judge much of the Bible to have been written by authors who were very trustworthy, in that they endeavored to pass on to us what was true and healthy. There are some parts of the OT, however, that seem to have their origins in opportunistic priestly and political propaganda; even in the NT we have an author who passed himself off as Paul (the pastorals).
This means that in the deepest sense, the Bible is VERY trustworthy as a portrait of humanity?s finite and fallen condition ? not only because it describes this condition but also because it participates in that condition. When Jesus said, ?You have heard that it was said [by Moses], eye for eye and tooth for tooth, but I say unto you ?,? he really was (as he told us) fulfilling the law, though, on the surface, he seems to be reversing it. The reason for this odd phenomenon is surprisingly straightforward in my opinion: by his death, burial, resurrection, ascension and return, Jesus is redeeming the entirety of creation ? you, me, ancient Israelites, and yes, even the Bible itself (as a product of human finiteness and fallenness).
The Bible is trustworthy … it describes and incarnates the human condition, and it points us to the solution in Jesus Christ.



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Cam R

posted February 27, 2009 at 7:53 pm


Kent,
Thanks for explaining. There is lots to chew on. I will check out your book.
Kent #33:
“All talk about the Bible as inerrant, or infallible, or trustworthy is metaphor. Words are not in themselves errant or inerrant. To say that the Bible is inerrant is a short hand way of saying that the biblical words are not traces of error by the human or divine writer.”
I find this very interesting. I think a lot of the talk about inerrancy and infallibility only applies in the scope of what is God trying to communicate with it. So what is He saying? To find this out then we need to discern and interpret it. The inerrancy is only found in God’s intended message. But our interpretation is fallible. We can think it is saying something it isn’t. So any inerrancy is locked up our fallible interpretation.
So maybe this is where the sufficient evidence comes in. It plugs into our discernment of the message and refines our interpretation to be closer to the truth God wanted to communicate to us.
Grace and Peace,
Cam



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Kent sparks

posted March 1, 2009 at 12:11 am


Hi Cam,
“I find this very interesting. I think a lot of the talk about inerrancy and infallibility only applies in the scope of what is God trying to communicate with it.”
One strategy that is often used by conservative evangelicals to preserve inerrancy is to “limit” the scope under which the discourse is scrutized for error. The most sophisticated example is the work of Kevin Vanhoozer, who uses speech-act theory to focus attention on the specific purpose or “act” being undertaken by the writer. So, for instance, if God’s only purpose in Gen 1 is to tell us that he created the cosmos, then it is not an error if, in the process, we are incidentally told that there are “waters above the heavens.”
Personally, I don’t think that this works because there are so many “apparent” errors in Scripture that one is everywhere saying that, “well, that wasn’t the writer’s real purpose.” Far better to simply say that God doesn’t err in Scripture and that the human authors, being human after all, do err. The fathers and Calvin, among others, have already given us an approach that allows this distinction between the divine and human horizons in Scripture, so I’d prefer that to any quest that makes Luke into an inerrant writer.



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George Elliott

posted June 29, 2009 at 6:33 pm


The Bible is errant, and it provides a way to compensate for that fact.
The Bible twice declares that it is errant. The first declaration is Matthew 13:33 which reads, “Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” The second declaration is Luke 13:21 which reads, “It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.”
The Bible thrice mentions a way to compensate for the errancy. The first mention was at Deuteronomy 19:15 which reads, “One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.” The second was at Matthew 18:16 which reads, “But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” The third mention was at 2 Corinthians 13:1 which reads, “This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” Their commonality, which is the way to remove the leaven, reads, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”



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