Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Evangelicalism’s Radical Diversity 4

posted by Scot McKnight

Choir.jpgInerrancy broke into a debate in the late 1970s when Harold Lindsell (in The Battle for the Bible
) named names and laid down the law. The law was that a true evangelical believed in inerrancy. 

Steve Wilkens and Don Thorsen, both profs at Azusa Pacific, have a new book that takes on misperceptions of evangelicals. I like the title: Everything You Know about Evangelicals Is Wrong (Well, Almost Everything): An Insider’s Look at Myths and Realities
. One of the misconceptions is that all evangelicals are inerrantists, or at least one kind of inerrantist.
Do you think inerrancy is an important term? Why or why not? What do you think is the best single term to define the Christian’s “view” of Scripture?
Wilkens and Thorsen say no. Their contention is that there are three significantly different meanings of the word “inerrancy,” that “inerrancy” is simply not something the Church has always affirmed (with that word) and that even the word “error” has become a bit tricky.
Much to discuss here…

Inerrancy believes the Bible is without error. The term has always defined fundamentalism; it has been a dividing force and boundary marker for some segments of evangelicalism (like the Evangelical Theological Society, for which its sole confession was inerrancy at one time), and for some evangelicals inerrancy and evangelicalism or what they believe are tied together.
Yet, Wilkens and Thorsen contend there are three meanings:
1. Absolute inerrancy (Chicago Statement, Carl Henry, JI Packer)
2. Limited inerrancy — where the Bible is true when it comes to matters of faith and practice and salvation (Daniel Fuller).
3. Inerrancy of purpose — where God’s intent with Scripture is what is inerrant. God’s intent is true (Clark Pinnock, Jack Rogers).
I have in my hands as I write this a letter from a theologian (well-known) about a pastor (well-known). The theologian tells me that said pastor believes in #3 above and that the Bible can contain scientific and historical errors but that won’t influence his view that God’s intent and purpose are true and inerrant. Said pastor is known to all of my readers. The theologian described said pastor’s theory to an even better well-known theologian, a kingpin among evangelicals, and the kingpin theologian observed that said pastor is seriously mistaken.
I tell you this to say this: there are many evangelical theologians and pastors today who fit #2 and #3 and won’t say it publicly because #1’s definition is both ruling the roost and politically powerful.
But what’s an error? Frankly, those who believe in inerrancy, when confronted with “discrepancies” or “Bible difficulties” — like was it David or Elhanan who killed Goliath (cf. 1Sam 17:50-51 with 2Sam 21:19)? was the priest Abiathar or Ahimelech (Mark 2:25-26 and 1Sam 21:2-3)? — tend to find harmonistic explanations that make many historians see special pleading. 
Some prefer infallible or inerrant. I see the former to be a softer version of inerrancy.
Because of the squabbles and vitriol connected to this term, I have stopped using it: I believe the Bible is true. And the word “true” is good enough for me; it’s a biblical one. The word “inerrant” is not found in the Bible and, in fact, is a development connected to science and history debates and the term gets people into as much trouble as it solves. 


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Andy D

posted July 29, 2010 at 1:32 am


I’m very much comfortable with your position. What would you respond to some that say your view is probably #3 veiled by your choice of avoiding a charged word? #3 seems to grant us much freedom but ultimately leads to very tough questions about hermeneutics, as does believing the Bible to simply “be true.” Does assuming such a position actually reduce the primacy of Scripture and elevate other elements of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, say? Might this ultimately lead to some form of agnosticism on the important theological questions?



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D

posted July 29, 2010 at 1:58 am


I affirm #3 in that list. I struggle constantly working as a youth minister in a Southern Baptist Church.
The pastor of my current church, has stated from the pulpit many times that if you don’t believe in inerrancy, “Then God has brought you to this church to hear the truth that you are not a believer and are in need of Christ.” I shudder at this thought.
I love the people of the church and God is building an amazing group of students, but hearing things like this from the pulpit has made me consider leaving my denomination.



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Nitika

posted July 29, 2010 at 3:45 am


My understanding is that even the most conservative stance on this refers only to the autographs (of which we have none). The translations we’re all using are all flawed. It’s an argument of little relevance IMO.



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Rick

posted July 29, 2010 at 6:37 am


Over at Biologos they were discussing Joel Hunter’s, which was interesting:
“Hunter suggests that a view of scripture as the ?inerrant Word of God? does not mean that the Bible should be read literally, but rather, it means that God is inerrant. Further, while scripture itself is revelatory, that does not imply that the person interpreting it is inerrant. The disconnect between the view of inerrancy and the liberal low view of scripture is a spectrum rather than a choice….The same superintendent spirit of the writers of scripture should be in us when we learn more about how to best interpret the text?only then can God make those same words reveal even more to us. Once we have a more complete sense of the context in which scripture was produced and the context in which we should understand the text today, it will allow us to speak greater truths because the inerrancy will grow with our interpretation.”



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Diane

posted July 29, 2010 at 6:45 am


I like the term “high view” of Scriptures. I have found this is usually what people mean when say infalliable or inerrant (I believe there are specific technical differences between the two terms, with inerrant meaning without flaw and infalliable meaning, essentially, true.)
I like high view because it implies that the truth of Scripture is above other truths or half-truths in the popular culture and won’t be evaluated in terms of them. It also doesn’t alienate people who don’t understand the nuance of terms such as inerrant.



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David P Himes

posted July 29, 2010 at 6:56 am


Since our ability to interpret scripture is flawed — whether deliberately or unintentionally — I question the relevancy of the question. In spite of the fact that scripture may be absolutely inerrant, those of us who read it are not.
So the question just becomes something else for us to argue and divide about.



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GCMIN

posted July 29, 2010 at 7:10 am


I have been following this debate for some time, and it appears that it will not be soon resolved. For what it is worth, I have studied the Statement of Belief on the Scriptures for all the denominations that accept homosexuality and ordain gays and lesbians. All of them hold to belief 2 or 3 (limited inerrancy – only things that pertain to salvation are without error). It seems that rejecting the full inerrancy of the the Scriptures is the starting point of many troubles.



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Joel

posted July 29, 2010 at 7:38 am


I am not sure I follow…
Is the concept of an inerrent Bible only 40 years old or did the thought just get pulled to the forefront then?



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I Believe

posted July 29, 2010 at 7:53 am


Without faith it is impossible to please God.
My Bible (Authorized King James Version) says that God’s word is pure, that it has forever been settled in Heaven, and that He has magnified His word above His name.
The LORD promised to preserve HIS word …. and I believe by FAITH that He has kept His promise.
I find it interesting that people who doubt and debate God’s perfect word never seem to doubt the part about salvation. If one truly believes that his Bible contains errors, should not he seriously doubt his salvation?
How does one have assurance of salvation while casting doubt on everything else?
The things that are highly esteemed among men are abominations in the sight of God, and men of high degree are a lie. Put away your degrees and pick up your Bible.
Don’t debate ….. just believe.
Without faith it is impossible to please God.



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Dan

posted July 29, 2010 at 8:19 am


Joel 8
Augustine (354-430): “For it cannot be remotely possible that the authority of the Scriptures should be fallacious at any point.”
Augustine: “For we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7); but faith will start tottering if the authority of Scripture is undermined; then with faith tottering, charity itself also begins to sicken.”
Gregory Nazianzen: “We however, who extend the accuracy of the Spirit to the merest stroke and tittle, will never admit the impious assertion that even the smallest matters were dealt with haphazard by those who have recorded them”
Hippolytus of Rome: “Therefore they[the followers of Artemon's heresy] have laid their hands boldly upon the Divine Scriptures, alleging that they have corrected them…But how daring this offense is, it is not likely that they themselves are ignorant. For either they do not believe that the Divine Scriptures were spoken by the Holy Spirit, and thus are unbelievers, or else they think themselves wiser than the Holy Spirit, and in that case what else are they than demoniacs?”
I do not think it fair or accurate to say that the “inerrancy” issue is the creation of post-enlightenment fundamentalism born of rationalism at Princeton.
Regarding the idea that interpretation nullifies the question, Augustine: “I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the Ms. is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it.”
So, yes, we can have faulty manuscripts, poor translations and bad exegesis. But Augustine articulates well what most who hole position 1 would hold, that the original autographs were without error and that the problems we see with our current translations occurred after the fact.
Is this a problem? No. The variants are few in number and do not affect central doctrine in any substantive way. Not all of the attempts at reconciliation of the difficulties are compelling, but none of the difficulties affects the doctrine of God, the doctrine of Christ or the essentials of redemption.



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Paul

posted July 29, 2010 at 8:23 am


All debate about Biblical inerrant is rooted in make believe that the Bible is something that it’s not–it’s us instructing God how to talk to us.
Conflicting views within the Bible are not errors. They’re conflicting views.
People hearing God say things that Jesus’ dad would clearly never say is not Biblical error, it’s the Bible showing us exactly what still goes on every day.
Statements of belief about the Bible are another way of saying, “I’m insecure about my approach to the Bible, so I need you to sign up for a view that affirms me.”
If you opened your Bible an read Jesus debating about Biblical inerrancy it would be so out of character you’d spew your coffee laughing.



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RJS

posted July 29, 2010 at 8:29 am


Dan,
Can you provide specific references for your quotes – especially Augustine. I would like to look them up and look at his context.
(Ha! Captcha: squabbles roost)



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Scot McKnight

posted July 29, 2010 at 9:02 am


Dan, that’s a slight sidetrack to bring up some of the denials since that’s not in the post, and I’m not sure either Wilkens or Thorsen would say that.
But, one thing is clear: the word, term, etc became much more significant after the Fundamentalist controversies and the term was both centralized and worked out in detail by Warfield and Hodge and EJ Young following in the wake of those controversies. We need not deny that shift when saying the Church has always believed in the utter truthfulness of Scripture.



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T

posted July 29, 2010 at 9:07 am


I think the “high view” of the scriptures that Dan articulates (or quotes from significant voices) is important. But I still think that we make a mistake sometimes thinking that all the connotations we get from “inerrancy” are the same as the Church fathers’ high view or, more importantly, all that God means by elevating the scriptures.
We’ve said here before that those in camp 1 now say, regarding the scriptures that say that the earth does not move, that those scriptures are not “mistaken” about the earth moving, rather, God intends to communicate by those statements something other than the express terms. I think it is very, very important, as a matter of learning from history so that we are not doomed to repeat it, that we recognize that all the folks in camp 1 at the time heliocentrism began to emerge were opposed to the theory as heretical and as opposed to scripture. Both Luther and the catholic church leaders agreed on that point. It was only the mathematical impossibility of the earth’s non-movement that slowly forced those in camp 1 to come to view those passages as we do now. Now, I mention this because we need to admit that sometimes the most “conservative” or “highest” view of the scriptures isn’t necessarily the one that leads us to the highest level of truth. Many of the “enforcers” of position #1 have no room for folks who want to take this history seriously and actually let it shape our approach to scripture and truth.
captcha: note problem



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EricG

posted July 29, 2010 at 9:14 am


Dan – my guess is that if you can say the errors are few, you haven’t looked much into it. The issues are fairly significant, run throughout the OT and NT, and affect historical questions some evangelicals claims are key.
I couldn’t find an evangelical church in my area that didn’t insist on #1, so I guess I’m no longer evangelical. I did find a mainline church in my area that has a high view of scripture, so I wouldn’t have to keep pretending the emporer has clothes.
The danger in the approach #1 is when people realize the emperor has no clothes, but they had built their faith on it. Then they question their faith over a non-central issue.



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Justin

posted July 29, 2010 at 9:47 am


This is why I do not understand liberal Christians

Frankly, those who believe in inerrancy, when confronted with “discrepancies” or “Bible difficulties” — like was it David or Elhanan who killed Goliath (cf. 1Sam 17:50-51 with 2Sam 21:19)? was the priest Abiathar or Ahimelech (Mark 2:25-26 and 1Sam 21:2-3)? — tend to find harmonistic explanations that make many historians see special pleading.

When I first became a Christian, these things actually troubled me. So I went and bought Gleason Archer’s Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties and read some of it before getting bored, because the alleged difficulties are not so difficult. In this post, CARM breaks down Archer’s explanation.
I do not see any special pleading.
What I do see are liberal Christians trying to give themselves more wriggle room.
http://www.carm.org/bible-difficulties/joshua-esther/who-killed-goliath-david-or-elhanan



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Andy W.

posted July 29, 2010 at 10:15 am


I find the word “inerrant” to be divisive and hurtful for furthering the Gospel. This is used as a boundary marker to define who is “in” and “out” by both sides. As mentioned by others, inerrancy in practice is simply not true because there is no agreed upon consensus for how to interpret the scriptures. Quoting the Church Fathers to support inerrancy does not help at all, because they interpreted scripture through the Church Traditions passed down by the Apostles and believed you could not do so outside of the this. 28,000 protestant denominations and counting says a lot more about the reality of this than any position you or I may hold.



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Chad Holtz

posted July 29, 2010 at 10:23 am


I think the words infallible and inerrant are unhelpful and should be dropped from discussions about Scripture.
I believe the Bible is true. I believe in Scriptures primacy. I believe it is story, narrative, incarnational, and a compass. I believe it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.
I believe all this while rejecting and finding unhelpful terms like inerrant.



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Richard H

posted July 29, 2010 at 10:29 am


I have deep feelings about this issue. I’ve been searching for a teaching position in Christian higher education for years. Most schools in my own tradition (Methodist) think I’m far too conservative, while most in the evangelical tradition think I’m too liberal, since I don’t profess inerrancy.
While I have what I take to be a high view of scripture (I think of it as a “functional” inerrancy), the current quest for inerrancy seems pointless because:
1. It is usually predicated on a foundationalist epistemology. I think foundationalism, of whatever flavor, is hopelessly flawed, so finding a Christian version so we can find our certainty is misguided.
2. As several have noted, the major theories posit inerrancy of the original autographs, documents we don’t have and likely never will. If inerrancy is driven by a desire for clear and distinct (and certain!) words from God, then what use is a theory about documents we don’t have? Is the auxiliary hypothesis that all difficulties are adequately resolved in the originals tenable?
3. Even if we have an absolutely sure text – in both form and content – inerrancy doesn’t get us past the problem of interpretation (though some seem to pretend it will) without undue dependence on a narrow theory of “literal” interpretation (whatever that is).
If my ethics were looser, I could pretend to have a theory of inerrancy just so I could get a job. But though the outcome of my position is in the same ballpark as other evangelicals (unless you have to be Calvinist to be an evangelical), I think it’s immoral to misrepresent my convictions merely for the sake of a job.
Jumping to the other side for a moment, my experience in my own tradition leaves me convinced that we DO need to maintain a high view of scripture. So while I’m not able to affirm inerrancy, I do sympathize with those those who pursue it.



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ken wilson

posted July 29, 2010 at 10:30 am


Amen! Plus which the current use of inerrancy applies to “the original manuscripts,” which of course, we don’t have. Leaving us–what?–with an unreliable Bible in the meantime, since all reliability has been packed into this errant word, “inerrancy”?



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Justin

posted July 29, 2010 at 10:37 am


Richard H,
1. It is usually predicated on a foundationalist epistemology. I think foundationalism, of whatever flavor, is hopelessly flawed, so finding a Christian version so we can find our certainty is misguided.

That is interesting. I think moderate foundationalism (with particularism and externalism) is quite successful. By contrast, the coherence theory does not have a good response to the isolation objection.



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Jeffrey Rudy

posted July 29, 2010 at 10:42 am


T, you said: “Now, I mention this because we need to admit that sometimes the most ‘conservative’ or ‘highest’ view of the scriptures isn’t necessarily the one that leads us to the highest level of truth.”
I resonate with your statement here. To say that view #1 is the only “high view” of Scripture is a political power statement (similar to what was said in the original post) that makes anyone who takes the Bible seriously to be cautious of nuancing a position on ‘inerrancy’ for fear of being outcast for something so trivial.
For a while now I have held to a three-fold understanding of the Word: personal, spoken, and written. And there is a hierarchy there. In other words, if all the Bibles in all the world were obliterated and we were no longer given the ability to communicate through writing, it would not take away the fact that we still have the Gospel (spoken), which is the heart of Scripture (or the word within the word, if you will), and tells the story of God’s rescue mission to save the world through his son Jesus. And even if our tongues were cut out so that we could not proclaim, it would not change the fact that Christ did come to save the world and that he inhabits his church through the Holy Spirit to continue in that mission.
Simply put, the “highest level of truth” is Jesus Christ, not the Bible. I am happy to say that the Bible is inerrant in terms of leading us into right faith in Jesus Christ and practicing out that faith. I am also happy to ascribe authority and inspiration because they are scriptural terms but to go beyond that is likely ascribing something to the Bible that is not intended for it. Among what else has been said, an issue I take with those who say that view #1 is the only way to be a Christian is that this often (if not always) leads to bibliolatry (worship of the Bible rather than the Triune God).



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AHH

posted July 29, 2010 at 10:48 am


I think an important aspect is how “inerrancy” (especially sense #1) is such an Enlightenment-driven concept. It judges the Bible by modern rationalistic and scientific standards that would have been foreign to the Biblical writers.
I like Scot’s choice of “true” (especially if we reject Enlightenment-style limitation of “truth” to science and literal history). Cheating a bit by using 2 terms, I tend to go with “trustworthy and inspired” myself.
I don’t so much like the term “high view of Scripture” because in my experience it is often used to put down or marginalize those whose view is considered too “low” (often those in Scot’s #2 or #3).



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Richard

posted July 29, 2010 at 10:54 am


I think anyone wrestling with this view has a high view of Scripture by definition, otherwise they would be throwing it out rather than wrestling with it.
I don’t affirm inerrancy or use the word because of how it has been used in the past and the way it muddies any attempt at ecumenicism.
Scripture is inspired, true, and trustworthy. It leads us authoritatively to the ultimate authority, the Triune God. That’s about as much as I feel a need to nail it down and what has resonated with my own experience and my readings of church tradition.



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T

posted July 29, 2010 at 11:03 am


A few clarifications: First, I want to say again how important it is to me that we have a high enough view of scripture that allows it to put us on trial, as the famous museum parable goes.
But let me give another illustration that makes the kind of “inerrancy” that I was taught as a child into an obvious, though well intentioned, mistake. In the accounts of Peter’s denials, we have not only the problem of how many times the cock crowed, but also and more pointedly, how many denials there were and to whom. You can see the issues laid out nicely here within the context of the topic of this post: http://www.quodlibet.net/articles/chong-denial.shtml.
The discrepancies in the gospel accounts on Peter’s denials don’t change how central and primary the scriptures are to me in forming my faith, or even the power of that particular event. But they do inform how I think the “inspiration” of scripture worked (and the “dictation” model is out the window), and also why I think that the problem lies not with the gospel accounts, but with a misguided zeal, an over-reaction to the philosophical trends of the last few hundred years, for the making the scriptures into something they don’t appear designed (or maintained) by God to be. We have to make peace with the fact that either God didn’t really care about keeping “the original manuscripts” that would solve these discrepancies available to the Church, or that he didn’t mind having these discrepancies in the original manuscripts. Either option drives me to the inevitable conclusion that God’s own view and value of “inerrancy” is different than the one that many evangelical institutions try to teach their children (of whom I was one) and force upon their staff. That’s a serious point, and one that I hope more of my brothers let simmer in them on low heat for a while.



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Jeff Stewart

posted July 29, 2010 at 11:03 am


No. Moses was in error killing the Egyptian, yet God revealed pure truth through him. David was in error for doing the Bath-babe and then setting up Uriah’s demise, yet God revealed pure truth through him. Saul of Tarsus was in…… “Infallible” is more appropriate as it correlates with the living, penetrating nature.
I agree with Ken Wilson’s observation. When folks make the distinction of the “original autographs” (I once had Mickey Mantle’s) – they create 2 problems. 1. They are fine with receiving God’s pure truth via “errant” translations; 2. Someone “erred” in not preserving them.



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GCMIN

posted July 29, 2010 at 11:04 am


Jeffrey,
You wrote, “Simply put, the “highest level of truth” is Jesus Christ, not the Bible. I am happy to say that the Bible is inerrant in terms of leading us into right faith in Jesus Christ and practicing out that faith. I am also happy to ascribe authority and inspiration because they are scriptural terms but to go beyond that is likely ascribing something to the Bible that is not intended for it. Among what else has been said, an issue I take with those who say that view #1 is the only way to be a Christian is that this often (if not always) leads to bibliolatry (worship of the Bible rather than the Triune God).”
I am guessing by your twitter account you are a Wesleyan. If so, how do you reconcile your position with that of John Wesley who wrote in his journal July 26, 1776 “If there be any mistakes in the Bible, there may as well be a thousand. If there be one falsehood in that book, it did not come from the God of truth.”
Sadly many Methodists, Wesleyans, and Nazarenes have allowed neo-orthodox positions from Karl Barth to filter into their belief on the Scriptures which results in the position of “things that only pertain to salvation” which is not even intellectually consistent.



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Chad Holtz

posted July 29, 2010 at 11:11 am


GCMIN,
I’m a Methodist pastor and Wesleyan – I love John Wesley.
But I will also say that Wesley is not inerrant or infallible.
Do you know that Wesley also wrote a letter condemning the colonies for their letter of Independence to Britain? (something I agree with him on, btw) :)



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Larry

posted July 29, 2010 at 11:14 am


The whole debate over inerrancy is, I believe, pointless. I can think of no point of difference between Christians that hinge on the condition of the Biblical text. Inerrancy is just a way of dismissing the arguments of those who disagree with you, it is much easier to simply say your opponent has “a low view of scripture” than to do the hard (maybe impossible) work of showing where their interpretation of said scripture is wrong. “Inerrancy”, to me, seems to be merely a power-play among those who favor a so-called “literal” hermeneutic.



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Richard

posted July 29, 2010 at 11:15 am


@ 28
Oh snap.



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Wade Hodges

posted July 29, 2010 at 11:17 am


This reminds me of something I heard a storyteller say at one of his performances:
All the stories I tell are true, and some of them actually happened.



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Jeffrey Rudy

posted July 29, 2010 at 11:17 am


GCMIN,
Yes, I am a Methodist/Wesleyan, but that means I hold to his overall theology, but admit that Wesley himself was by no means inerrant nor that all his particular views were spot on. Wesley held, for instance, to the perpetual virginity of Mary, a position which I do not share. However, it seems you are positing him as in line with position #1, which may be accurate, or maybe not. What he understood as a “mistake” may not be the exact same as what someone means by that term in today’s context.
Is what I said in line with Barth? I haven’t read much of him, to be honest.



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T

posted July 29, 2010 at 11:41 am


GCMIN,
What do you with the differences in the gospels about Peter’s denials, or the multiple differences in how the gospels report how different conversations were precisely phrased or even ordered? Do you assert that these differences aren’t in the (very) long-lost “original manuscripts” or that these factual differences don’t rise to the level of being “mistakes” or “falsehoods;” that God himself was okay with these kinds of minor differences even in the original author’s mind?
Just so you know where I’m coming from, I tend to the latter.



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Richard H

posted July 29, 2010 at 11:57 am


Yes, Justin, I exaggerated and used sloppy language. Thanks for holding me to account. My beef is with the quest for absolute certainty for which some offer foundationalism as the solution.



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Glen

posted July 29, 2010 at 12:00 pm


Personally, I’ve let go of the concept of inerrancy in the past few years. I no longer believe it to be an accurate description of what we have in the Bible, nor does the Bible apply that term or concept to itself.
For those who hold to inerrancy, I wonder if you would agree that the modern evangelical church has elevated the doctrine to an importance it has not held throughout most of church history? For example, in my own church’s statement of faith, the belief in inerrancy is listed in the first article (I suppose because it is viewed as the foundation for all that follows). I find it striking that the early church creeds are silent on the doctrine of inerrancy. Those who wrote the creeds evidently didn’t feel the need to establish the inerrancy of Scripture in order to ground their faith in the gospel. Why has this become so important to us?
I lament the fact that this is such an unsafe issue to raise in the evangelical church. Perhaps I’m overestimating the problems that would arise, but there are very few people in my church with whom I feel comfortable discussing my true thoughts on this topic. (Disclosure: until a couple years ago I was a supported missionary of my church, and I fear that people would feel that I had been duping them by living on their support while not believing what they believed. This isn’t really the case, as I left the ministry fairly early in my journey of evolving beliefs, but nevertheless, the perception could be there.)
And then I wonder, if someone like me had the courage to put it on the table, how many people would I find in the church who are struggling with the same issues?



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megan

posted July 29, 2010 at 12:04 pm


I dislike the phrase “high view of scripture” even more than I dislike “inerrancy.” As much as we’ve loaded that latter term with all our baggage, at least there’s still a functional element that describes an actual issue. “High view” is even more loaded, IMO, because it’s effectively a comparative, my-view-of-scripture-can-beat-up-your-view term.
I disagree that this is a pointless issue. At the root are questions about the nature of truth, about where we get our authority from, etc. All important. It’s a pointless issue if it is only used to create divisions, but pretty much any issue is a pointless issue if only used to decide who’s in and who’s out.
Not that I’m eager to claim a label, but my personal viewpoint is closest to #3. I’m in an uneasy truce with evangelicalism because I’ve found friends and neighbors who generally respect the areas in which I disagree. Inerrancy remains the exception there. Even though I’m sure I have different eschatology, for example, than most of the people in my church, that’s fine. I’m not required to sign on for a particular end-times view in order to join the church. I am, however, required to sign on to Chicago Statement-type inerrancy to join, which has kept me off the rolls of the church I live and serve in.



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Chad Holtz

posted July 29, 2010 at 12:45 pm


Megan,
I’m curious: What is this Chicago-Statement you refer to? This sort of signing off on certain beliefs before one can join boggles my mind and saddens me. I’m so glad to be part of a church that ties its membership in with baptismal vows and say nothing about certain mental gymnastics one must bow to in order to be “in.” ick.



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YourName

posted July 29, 2010 at 12:45 pm


@16 Justin: “What I do see are liberal Christians trying to give themselves more wriggle room.”
Define liberal, and why you believe a person’s politics are related to their view of inerrancy.
Re: inerrancy: I know that last Holy Week I did “real-time” status updates on facebook from the entrance into Jerusalem to the resurrection. I had no idea of the many inconsistencies in the story until I started parsing through each of the gospels planning my updates. I didn’t know whether to have Mary visit the grave by herself, or with other people, or if it was dark or light. Let alone the 3 days thing.



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Caleb

posted July 29, 2010 at 12:46 pm


I doubt that the word “inerrancy” will ever go away
While there are many people on this post who are calling for its removal or redefining, there are also many many more who strongly believe in the word and what the word symbolizes
I personally think that the Bible is like Jesus… He was fully human and fully God. The Bible was written by God through the personalities of people. I think that God is strong enough to protect His Word from error just as Jesus was without sin…
Maybe that’s too simplistic, but I’m more worried about leading people to Christ than arguing over a word



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DRT

posted July 29, 2010 at 1:43 pm


Thanks to those writing. I never really thought people thought the bible was inerrant until the past few years. I was shocked to find out they actually believe that.
I too like the bible being true, but I soften that even more and say the bible is full of truth. The quest for the truth bears its own fruits and is part of the purpose.
In my youth we call them “bible stories” and that had a very specific meaning. It meant that they were stories from religion that revealed things about people, god, and the relationship between the two. The idea of taking it literally never occurred to me.



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Rick

posted July 29, 2010 at 2:33 pm


DRT #40-
Are there parts you think that we are to take literally, such as the Resurrection?



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Brad Boydston

posted July 29, 2010 at 2:38 pm


If we were starting this debate from scratch it might be helpful to frame things in terms of accuracy and precision. In the ancient worlds precision was not so much an issue. Something was accurate if it adequately conveyed the message. The emphasis on tight precision is a modern phenomena — and generally foreign to the ancient world. Is “inerrancy” talking about accuracy or precision?



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 29, 2010 at 2:47 pm


@Brad Boydston #42
I believe the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy allows for things to not be precise (e.g. rounding, etc). But it wouldn’t allow a true scientific error.



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Justin

posted July 29, 2010 at 2:48 pm


Hi YourName,
Define liberal, and why you believe a person’s politics are related to their view of inerrancy.
I meant theologically liberal. But theological liberalism allows the wriggle room to become politically liberal.*
* On social issues. Jesus was not in the tradition of Milton Friedman, Henry Hazlitt, or Ayn Rand.
P.S. 42 comments into this thread and no one has challenged Gleason Archer’s defense of the alleged “Bible Difficulties”. The reason, of course, is not that people are relunctantly forced to accept inerrency because of the evidence, but rather that (theological) liberals welcome the excuse to adopt a lower view of scripture. They don’t want the apologetics.



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DRT

posted July 29, 2010 at 2:57 pm


Rick#41 – Yes, the OT and NT are totally different beasts. The former is a mixture of fact, story, allegory, teaching. The NT though is much more oriented toward trying to document what this person Jesus said and did. They are different styles. Not that there is no fact in the OT, but that does not seem to be its purpose.
So yes, I have always believed that the resurrection is intended to be real, not a story.
in Brad#42’s terms, it seems the emphasis in the NT is more toward precision than the OT.
captcha – known from



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 29, 2010 at 3:04 pm


@Justin #44
I’m neither a theological liberal or an inerrantist. Nor do I have a low view of scripture. I just find that inerrancy is no longer a doctrine that has any value to me and has in many cases caused my faith more harm than good.
I’m not going to debate CARM or Archer’s apologetic. But I will say the answer they give is exactly why I dropped inerrancy. Instead of an actual error, it’s a “copyist error” which of course, we don’t have the originals to falsify the claim anyway.
I find it a very unsatisfying answer, personally.



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T

posted July 29, 2010 at 3:29 pm


Justin (44),
No; the reasons that no one has challenged the defense you mentioned to the Goliath question are that (i) the very ambiguity of those passages is still proof of the problems with the strictest forms of inerrancy, and, more importantly, that (ii) the larger question doesn’t rise or fall on the issue of Goliath’s death. You can review my previous comments alone to see that. And I’m not a liberal. I take the scriptures quite literally in ways that many conservatives don’t.



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Nathan

posted July 29, 2010 at 3:32 pm


The reason, of course, is not that people are relunctantly forced to accept inerrency because of the evidence, but rather that (theological) liberals welcome the excuse to adopt a lower view of scripture. They don’t want the apologetics.
How ironic on a post that’s part of an effort on this blog to clear up misconceptions and stereotypes of evangelicals this kind of a comment gets thrown around.
Sadly, when we make claims like this that presume to know the heart of people with whom we disagree we only succeed in reinforcing the very stereotypes we seek to refute.
Very disappointing.



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dopderbeck

posted July 29, 2010 at 3:37 pm


Hello Jesus Creed friends! I’ve been traveling and working in Europe and so haven’t been on the blog lately, and haven’t had time to read all the comments on this post, but I wanted to pop in and say good post, Scot. I apprecate the notion of “inerrancy of purpose,” or perhaps the term used by Bruce McCormack: “functional infallibility.” Whatever term we use, we have to hold together, I think, (a) God’s truthfulness; (b) the normativity of scripture; (c) the functions of scripture; and (d) the humanity of scripture.
I think it’s actually on (c) that “total inerrancy” gets hung up, even as much as on (d). The functions of scripture, properly situated in the economy of salvation and the life of the Church, and summarized beautifully in 2 Tim. 3:16, have only a tangential relationship, at best, to modern, post-Enlightenment historiography and science, IMHO.
It’s beyond unfortunate that the political dynamics you allude to exist, Scot. Thankfully, I’m in a position and stage in life in which I realize that I don’t need to give a rat’s patootie about those dynamics, and so I refuse to let them bother me anymore. Nobody has ever infallibly articulated how to hold together (a)-(d). It’s freeing to realize that theologizing is also a human endeavor.



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EricG

posted July 29, 2010 at 3:42 pm


Justin (#44) — I looked at the website you linked, and the only people those sorts of arguments persuade are the ones who really, really want to believe; they just want a reason. Their laundry list doesn’t even list some of the key problems — it simply avoids the issues, and the points it does address are weak. If you read *both* sides (which is important to do), rather than one side of the debate, you’ll see there are huge problems buying into inerrancy, particularly view #1. The emperor truly has no clothes, and we should stop pretending otherwise. And this is coming from someone who would much prefer it if inerrancy were true! So your assumption that this is just people looking for an excuse to not believe is way off base.



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Justin

posted July 29, 2010 at 3:46 pm


Hiya Nathan,
How ironic on a post that’s part of an effort on this blog to clear up misconceptions and stereotypes of evangelicals this kind of a comment gets thrown around.
It is not irony, but disagreement. The (theological) liberal Christian asserts that the Bible is filled with errors, that inerrency should be rejected, and that they are in the mainstream of evangelicals. The (theologically) conservative Christian asserts that the alleged “Bible difficulties” are not so difficult, that inerrency should be accepted, and (theologically) liberal Christians are trying to give themselves wriggle room to become (socially) liberal.
Here is a simple test: how many of you who reject inerrency support gay marriage? 70%? More?
My Hansonian side tells me that (theologically) liberal Christians reject inerrency and adopt socially liberal beliefs because they want to affiliate with high-status secular intellectuals. The inerrency crowd are a terrible embarrassment.



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muse

posted July 29, 2010 at 3:56 pm


single word: accurate



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Justin

posted July 29, 2010 at 3:56 pm


Hiya Eric,
I looked at the website you linked, and the only people those sorts of arguments persuade are the ones who really, really want to believe; they just want a reason. Their laundry list doesn’t even list some of the key problems — it simply avoids the issues, and the points it does address are weak. If you read *both* sides (which is important to do), rather than one side of the debate, you’ll see there are huge problems buying into inerrancy
I used to have a blog about Christian apologetics. I gave it up because people in general and New Atheists in particular do not have chops to do philosophy. But one thing I learned was that the killer argument of atheists was not an alleged lack of evidence. They tended to avoid arguments like Kalam or fine-tuning of physical constants. Instead I got nonstop Bible difficulties.
I do not think there are two sides to the inerrency debate. I got a lot of links to Bible difficulties and they would not even mention the apologetical arguments in order to refute it. They just lived in an echo-chamber where the apologetics do not exist. Thus the debate is this:
ATHEIST (or liberal Christian): the Bible is false because of X, Y, Z!
CHRISTIAN: Actually A, B, C show that X, Y, and Z do not hold
ATHEIST (or liberal Christian): the Bible is false because of X, Y, and Z!
Consider our own exchange. There are concrete arguments on the CARM website. Your response is simply to assert the alleged difficulties a second time. But assertion is not an argument. Assertions need to be backed up with reason and evidence. If CARM’s arguments fail then you need to explain why with defeaters. You do not do this.



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DRT

posted July 29, 2010 at 4:04 pm


Justin,
will you define the theologically liberal and conservative christian for me? I sense that the degree of innerrency in scripture is one of the criteria but that does not make sense to me.
I feel that I am very conservative in that I take the teachings of Jesus and the challenge of bringing in the new kingdom quite seriously. Am I a liberal?



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Scot McKnight

posted July 29, 2010 at 4:13 pm


Justin, you’re giving off the whiff that you alone are logical and reasonable and evidential while suggesting that no one else really is. Entailed in this is the suggestion that what it really comes down to in the denial case is motivation and will and not mind, but you have to admit that this works both ways — in other words, they’d say that you want to think Ahimelech and Abiathar is not a problem because you don’t want it to be a problem.
My request is a little more conversational approach and a little less assertiveness about the superiority of your case.



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J.R.

posted July 29, 2010 at 4:21 pm


Why would an atheist play Christian apologetics? Really the only people interested in Christian apologetics are apologists. You start with the “right answer” and backfill in logic behind it. A good lawyer can convince a jury that up is down and that left is right, but at the end of the day, it’s only rhetoric.
You want to prove that the Bible is inerrant by referencing the Bible, and you can’t see why an atheist wouldn’t want to debate you on those terms?
I can take pretty much any book or magazine in my library, state that it is the Word of God, and defend that assumption using the passages in that book or magazine to back me up.
Remember that several centuries ago it was conservatives burning liberals at the stake for daring to question that the sun revolved around the earth, as plainly proven in inerrant scripture. Apologetics won the round, but science won the fight.



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EricG

posted July 29, 2010 at 4:22 pm


Justin, if you want to get specific, here’s an example. In what city did Jesus first appear to the gathered disciples, and how many were there?
I’m also not sure how you tie this in to debates regarding atheism. I’m not one of them, and I don’t buy into their philosophical assumptions. I do, however, see a big philosophical problem with the foundationalism on which inerrancy arguments are based.



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EricG

posted July 29, 2010 at 4:23 pm


First appear after the resurrection, that is.



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T

posted July 29, 2010 at 4:24 pm


David, welcome back!
Justin, I don’t think gay marriage is something God approves; and I hope this conversation doesn’t now get swallowed by that issue. I don’t think one has to be a liberal to admit that the strictest forms of inerrancy force their adherents to imagine grail-like original manuscripts, which we’ve not had for millenia and likely won’t recover, that resolve all the (minor) discrepancies in our bibles. Therefore, folks in this camp are in the very odd position of having to say that (i) perfect consistency and accuracy of every detail in all of scripture is of critical theological importance for anything worthy of being trusted as “scripture,” and (ii) God has not seen fit to preserve those perfect manuscripts of scripture for his Church, so we still have to trust the almost perfect ones we have (and call them “scripture” anyway).
Do you see the problem here? The reason that all inerrancy statements point to “the original manuscripts” is because they all acknowledge that the manuscripts we have contain various minor discrepancies. Who cares how perfect the original manuscripts may be if all we have (and will likely ever have) are the ones with the minor (and arguably irrelevant and God-permitted) discrepancies?



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Justin

posted July 29, 2010 at 4:37 pm


Hiya Scott,
I do not want to violate the norms of your blog. This is your home and I am a guest here. But surely confidence and assertiveness are not wrong? After all, our models in scripture did not lack those traits! And while I am too lukewarm to reach the great biblical heights of love and depth of repentance, I don’t see how confidence and assertiveness are unbiblical.
Moving on,

Entailed in this is the suggestion that what it really comes down to in the denial case is motivation and will and not mind, but you have to admit that this works both ways — in other words, they’d say that you want to think Ahimelech and Abiathar is not a problem because you don’t want it to be a problem.

Sure, but we aren’t postmodernists. At least on this issue, one group is right and the other is in denial. We find our unity not in appeals to ecumenicism, but in the truth. So let’s turn to scripture and find the correct interpretation.
I find the argument that the killing Goliath “difficulty” is a copyist error and that 1 Chronicles. 20:5 has the correct account convincing. I also like the argument that other passages in scripture make it clear that Ahimelech is also called Abiathar (or vice-versa). These can be challenged. Maybe there are other versus which show that Ahimelech and Abiathar really are different people. Maybe 1 Chronicles 20:5 introduces new problems. If so, then make the case.



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Andy D

posted July 29, 2010 at 4:46 pm


I would like to engage the original post. #2 is an option I think non-inerrantists are comfortable with but it seems too ambiguous. It does not touch on issues like diverse theological voices and how to read texts. Again, #3 requires a very robust theological method and at least seems like it would make very important theological questions (the nature of God, salvation, ethics)?which very much affect daily living?the realm of scholars and intellectuals. Also, when we use terms like “high view” or “true,” what does that mean, really? I think philosophy is important in this sense because without precise definitions or tracing the implications of our view of Scripture we fall into inconsistencies. I’m also led to believe all statements on inspiration (if one assumes that basic theology, at least) has to answer questions about hermeneutics too.



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Scot McKnight

posted July 29, 2010 at 4:50 pm


Justin, details can be beat to death; my point is that once one resorts to saying people are taking positions because their motives are less than rational, then it comes back on you too.



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Ethan

posted July 29, 2010 at 4:52 pm


Hey Justin,
I agree with you on the Goliath case. It is a copy error and I actually teach from this example to show how copy errors could happen. So I agree with the argument you address.
But this potential solution to this specific difficulty doesn’t help defend the concept of inerancy. In fact this is the death knell of inerancy. By your own solution, the text we have today. The only Bible available to us has an error.
So let’s get busy explaining that these small details are not a threat to the reliability of God’s scripture to teach and correct. Let us share the good news that although the Bible we have does not live up to some modern standard of inerancy, it is in fact true and reliable and authoritative. Let us be explaining how the multiple attestations to the resurrection are different than a little bit of confusion over who killed Goliath.
If you want to claim that a theoretical bible is without any error of any kind then be my guest, but your own argument demonstrates that the only actual bible we have does contain at least one error. And nevertheless I still am basing my entire life on its truthfulness.



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Justin

posted July 29, 2010 at 4:53 pm


Hiya Scott,
Of course! As Christians we know the moral and cognitive effects of sin better than anyone! We see through a mirror darkly and all that. But then: which direction do the moral and cognitive effects of sin tend to go: towards a higher view of scripture or a lower view?



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Larry

posted July 29, 2010 at 4:54 pm


Justin, blaming discrepancies in the scripture on “copyists errors” demonstrates nothing except whiplash inducing circular reasoning. The only reason to suppose these copying errors exist is to preserve your doctrine of inerrancy. You then turn around and use that same doctrine to determine the existence of these same copying errors. This would get you flunked out of any sophomore level logic course. All this kind of thing does is reduce scripture to the consistency of silly putty, can I assert “copyist error” to refute the bodily resurrection? Why not? Is there anything in the scriptures that can’t be overturned with this kind of reasoning?
Even in the example involving Goliath, a far more convincing explanation, at least in my opinion, is that the writers of Chronicles (which is considerably younger than Samuel) cleaned up the account given in the older texts.



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 29, 2010 at 4:56 pm


I guess I find the fact that Gleason Archer had to write a 460 page book to defend strict inerrancy from Bible difficulties itself a problem. What exactly is the purpose?
Even William Lane Craig, who I believe is a #1 inerrantist, argues that inerrancy is a internal (church) debate and should never be used in apologetics.
Justin. I don’t think you answered. What is a liberal Christian and what is a conservative Christian? Am I to understand that strict inerrancy = conservative and limited or inerrancy on purpose = liberal Christian? Funny, because Marcus Borg would probably call me a fundamentalist. :)



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joanne

posted July 29, 2010 at 5:00 pm


i am not sure I like the word inerrency. it has conotations of a power move–like the words of the bible are without fault so it may be used to judicate every disagreement.
I think human beings can know what is true but are fallible interpreters who look through their human lenses at a book that expresses the wisdom of God about himself to humans.
i think the Bible is true in it’s message about God and God’s people and what God has done to redeem humanity. And it is true about it’s message about the world God envisions that is within his loving.
I also think much of the Bible’s wisdom is to help us know God and discern the good and just. we must apply it in each generation.
I like the word wisdom better than truth because wisdom contains truth but wisdom seems to be a truth applied within the character and person of God.



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Richard

posted July 29, 2010 at 5:04 pm


@ 60
It’s a good thing that we have those inerrant originals then.
Sorry but playing that card leaves us sounding like Joseph Smith: “I have those gold tablets right here… oops.”
Honest question, I’m really curious how you approach passages like the “sun standing still” while the Israelites fought in Joshua 10?
also, a little humility goes a long way here and it’s very easy for confidence to be misinterpreted as arrogance on the internet.



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Justin

posted July 29, 2010 at 5:04 pm


Hiya Ethan,
But this potential solution to this specific difficulty doesn’t help defend the concept of inerancy. In fact this is the death knell of inerancy. By your own solution, the text we have today. The only Bible available to us has an error.

But it is a copyist error that has been caught and fixed. We are able to reconstruct the truth. The New King James Version actually records it correctly. That’s the version I use (it is closer to the majority text) so I was initially confused about McKnight’s post.
This is probably where liberal Christians – with some justification – get a little frustrated because there is fine print attached to inerrancy. But everything in the Bible has fine print. E.g. salvation by faith alone has fine print (it has to be a faith that transforms and produces works). In that sense I sympathize. But my question is always: why not simply affirm this more nuanced view of inerrancy? (That’s a serious question).



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Justin

posted July 29, 2010 at 5:18 pm


Hi Richard,
Honest question, I’m really curious how you approach passages like the “sun standing still” while the Israelites fought in Joshua 10?

Oh boy. How about: God did not give Joshua a revelation about the structure of the solar system prior to his prayer for more daylight? This is a perfect example of my point above that there are not two sides to the inerrancy debate because those who champion errors in scripture make absolutely zero attempt to engage their opponents. If you are going to start picking out new Bible difficulties you should at least pick out something good. I’d go with either (1) animals did not eat meat before the Fall, forcing old earth creationists to become young earthers or reject inerrancy, or discrepancies in the Gospels.



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Ethan

posted July 29, 2010 at 5:19 pm


Hey Justin,
Thanks for your well tempered response.
You ask, “But my question is always: why not simply affirm this more nuanced view of inerrancy?”
That is a great question and I don’t have the answer totally worked out, but this does get us back to the broader point of the post. Here is why I never use the word and have no interest in working to affirm statements that include any version of inerrancy (even a nuanced one that focus on the missing originals).
I try to use Bible language to talk about scripture. I love that when Paul wants to say something grand about scripture he uses the term theopneustos (inspired – God-breathed) and useful (or profitable).
I take the first word to refer to its origin and its on going aliveness. I see this a metaphorical reference to how God made the mud alive as Adam.
I take the second word to tell me about the function of scripture and this word come complete with additional explanations.
I find it plenty exciting to proclaim and defend what scripture does claim about itself and have no need worrying about new categories. I guess I am with Scot. It is true, God-breathed, useful in all kinds of ways. and those categories apply to the copy in my hand, the one on my iphone and the lost originals. I am not even sure why I would want to worry about the category of inerrancy.



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Larry

posted July 29, 2010 at 5:20 pm


But it is a copyist error that has been caught and fixed. We are able to reconstruct the truth. The New King James Version actually records it correctly.
Then why don’t other translations record the “correct” reading?
Isn’t far more likely that a Byzantine scribe (the majority text is essentially a late Byzantine text), using the same logic you are using, “corrected” what he thought was an erroneous reading?



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DRT

posted July 29, 2010 at 5:22 pm


joanne,
wisdom is indeed good. Despite me earlier having soften truth to having truths, I feel that wisdom goes too far in that you may be thinking the wisdom of god, but I think many would think that wisdom is inherently of man.



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 29, 2010 at 5:28 pm


@Justin #70,
Then you likely fall into Category #2 in Scot’s post. I don’t believe your interpretation of Joshua fits with the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy. Does that make you a liberal Christian?



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Chad Holtz

posted July 29, 2010 at 6:10 pm


Justin,
You ask: how many of you who reject inerrency support gay marriage? 70%? More?
Why do you assume that a rejection of inerrancy and support of gay marriage go hand in hand? I could happily and easily uphold an inerrant view of Scripture and yet be fully affirming – the two are not mutually exclusive.
One could just as easily ask of those who trumpet inerrancy: Do you counsel young men to marry at the first stirrings of lust? Do you insist that all women remain silent in church? Do you greet everyone with a holy kiss? Do you allow women to wear jewelry? etc., etc.



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Fish

posted July 29, 2010 at 6:31 pm


Well, either the sun stood still for Joshua or the Scriptures are in error when it comes to astronomy.
It’s trivial to prove that the sun revolves around the earth with the Bible and hold that position against any Bible-based argument for heliocentricity. (Much like creationism.) Galileo was a smarter guy than me, and he had no success against the Bible logicians of the day.
On copy errors, the ones that are of concern are not the ones we can identify. Those are easy. The ones that are concerning are the ones we don’t know about. The very existence of such a possibility argues against inerrancy.



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Caleb

posted July 29, 2010 at 8:53 pm


I was a student at Fuller Seminary, and switched to Talbot and graduated from there. Many Fuller profs were against the word inerrancy, and even questioned the logic of those who would believe it. What’s funny is that there are many who compare #1 inerrantists to the Pharisees, but some of the people who rail against the word inerrancy and want everyone to accept their position seem to be looking more and more like pharisees themselves…
Ironic how we become what we try to fight against



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YourName

posted July 29, 2010 at 9:14 pm


I think many of the people who oppose gay marriage just don’t like the thought of it, and Scripture just gives them a rationale.
I’ve never heard anyone way “I really support gay marriage but unfortunately the Bible says no.”
Another example of how we use scripture to confirm our own opinion is how we treat the rich. The Bible condemns them, but we find ways to justify our own perception that it’s a good thing to lust after money.
Regardless of your definition of inerrancy, you cannot help but look for God to back up your own positions. If Jesus said “I command you to provide health care to the poor!!!” it wouldn’t matter, we’d find a way out of it.



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Justin

posted July 29, 2010 at 9:24 pm


Hi Fish
Well, either the sun stood still for Joshua or the Scriptures are in error when it comes to astronomy.
People who reject inerrancy argue against a straw man caricature of Biblical literalism. The context matters. If Joshua prays a certain way because he is not omniscient, then it is appropriate for the Bible to record events in the context of his prayer. (And if you really want to split hairs, there is no reason why God may not have simply frozen the whole solar system in place, including the sun). By contrast, consider the creation account in Genesis. Biblical inerrancy demands holding that God created the universe and that God created life. If arguments for intelligent design were weak (and they are not – naturalistic explanations for the origins of life are very thin) then you could hold that science contradicts the Bible.
Hi Chad,
I submit that people who reject inerrancy are more likely to have secular morality. Gay marriage is as good of a standin for secular morality as anything else. As to your other questions, I certainly believe that premarital sex is immoral. And I think the correct interpretation of the relevant passages about women is that they are not to be pastors or leaders of a local church, but there are some positions where it is appropriate for women to have authority over men. I haven’t looked into it too deeply and I open to alternative explanations. What I reject is using the world’s standards rather than Biblical standards. I think that is exactly what people who reject inerrancy tend to do.



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EricG

posted July 29, 2010 at 9:39 pm


Justin —
I still haven’t seen you respond to my questions in #57. 1. You asked me to get specific, so I noted a couple of the many discrepancies between gospel accounts. What say you? 2. Since you raised philosophy, how do you respond to the big philoshopical problem that inerrancy is essentially foundationalism? Can you name a factual situation that would lead you to believe inerrancy is wrong?



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Tom

posted July 29, 2010 at 9:54 pm


Re: Justin in #64
It seems to me that this is begging the question.
1.) Moral/cognitive effects of sin tend towards a “low” view of scripture.
Meh, not without its problems, but let’s grant this for the sake of argument.
2.) All those who espouse a “low” view of scripture are being corrupted by sin.
Perhaps. Say I grant even this.
However, if I may summarize your main point, I do not think it follows, but simply begs the question we are trying to answer here.
3.) Those who deny absolute inerrancy, and instead opt for some other form of innerancy or infallibility, are moving towards a “lower” view of scripture, and therefore being influenced by sin.
Surely the highest view of scripture is the one that is true. So to accuse those who have a different understanding of scripture than yours as being “lower” is a qualitative distinction that seems merely to restate your own position, i.e. a “low” view of scripture is one that does not affirm absolute innerrancy. But of course, that is precisely what is being debated here, in answering the question, What is the truest way of understanding the scriptures?
But perhaps I am overreaching; do you have a way of defining a “lower view” of the scriptures that does not simply reaffirm absolute innerrancy? It does not seem to me that there is a qualitative distinction between these two concepts as you use them. In other words, “low”=”non-absolute innerrancy”, without any addition or qualification. Could someone have a low view of scriptures and yet affirm absolute innerancy? Could someone affirm absolute innerancy and yet have a low view of scriptures?
I look forward to hearing from you.
Blessings,
Tom



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Justin

posted July 29, 2010 at 10:23 pm


Hi Eric,
Justin, if you want to get specific, here’s an example. In what city did Jesus first appear to the gathered disciples, and how many were there?

The appropriate genre for the Gospels is oral history. That leaves the possibility for minor details being different. As William Lane Craig points out, it is like telling a joke. Everyone tells it a little different but it does not mean that one telling is wrong. In fact, discrepancies are essential. There is already a lot of secular support for Q despite, as Tim and Lydia McGrew point out in their contribution to The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, a complete lack of textual evidence. When multiple eyewitnesses give the exact same accounts people don’t think “wow, they nailed it.” They think “they’ve been coached.” Case in point: Larry on comment #65.



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Fish

posted July 29, 2010 at 10:27 pm


“And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.”
That is not Joshua praying a certain way because he didn’t know better. That is not Joshua deluding himself that the sun didn’t go down. That is the sun (or the earth) stopping in the sky. There’s no contextual interpretation.
I believe that God created the universe and life, but that doesn’t make me an inerrantist. I believe in evolution and not in a literal Adam and Eve. I see no conflict between the Bible and science because the Bible isn’t about science. God is revealed every bit as much through scientific study of His creation as He is through the Bible.
Archaeologists tied themselves in knots trying to match the evidence on the ground with the Biblical record of the invasion of Canaan. The two just do not correlate. I’m not bothered by it. The Bible is still truth.



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Justin

posted July 29, 2010 at 10:43 pm


Hi Tom,
I do not think it is question-begging.
When we stop and think about the noetic effects of sin, we need to realize that it will tend to send us (1) to favor what is high-status in the eyes of the world, and (2) towards a view of scripture that gives us greater freedom to determine for ourselves what is right and what is wrong.
Step one is to assess the evidence from scripture. Does it seem like there are errors? Then we factor in the noetic effects of sin. The “errantist” should adjust his strength of belief downwards. The inerrantist should adjust it upwards.



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Justin

posted July 29, 2010 at 10:48 pm


Hi Fish,
Are you really arguing that inerrantists are committed to the idea that God must add a footnote explaining celestial mechanics in order to answer Joshua’s prayer?



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EricG

posted July 29, 2010 at 11:12 pm


Justin — so what city they were in, and which disciples were there to see Jesus in the first gathering after the resurrection, are “minor details”? I would have thought that eyewitness accounts of the risen Christ would be some of the most significant details there are in Christianity, particularly if you fall within inerrancy version No. 1. What is your standard for determining which facts are minor?
In any event, if I’m reading you correctly, you seem to agree that the factual details of these post resurrection accounts are not all historically accurate. And despite these differences, we agree that the thrust of the Resurrection story is true. Perhaps we’re not that far apart.



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 30, 2010 at 1:00 am


@EricG #86
That’s the funny thing. I think that Justin is pretty much in agreement with most of the people’s here view of scripture, but other just don’t choose to use the word inerrancy. Justin seems to be ignoring me, because he hasn’t answered any of my questions or responded to me, but it seems that he seems to lean more toward a #2 approach to scripture than a #1, which many here have affirmed themselves.
When he fleshes out what he means by inerrancy, it even seems (to me) contrary to the Chicago Statement.
So I’m sorta at a loss as to why he’s being so combative and resorting to calling everyone “liberal Christians.”



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Tom

posted July 30, 2010 at 1:49 am


Justin, thank you for your response. I think there are some good points, but I would really like to hear if you would consider “inerrantist”=”high view of scripture”, so that they mean exactly the same thing to you. The answer to that would seem to be pretty important as to whether you are actually begging the question.
1.) “To consider what is high status in the eyes of the world.”
This seems to me to beg the question yet again. To put “questioning absolute inerrancy” in the category of the “the world” is to again pre-judge the question. It is to make a decision ahead of time to say that this is “worldly” and therefore bad. Again, the debate is on which view of scripture is true, and we can all agree that the true one can not be negatively “worldly” in the way you are talking about.
2.) “Towards a view of scripture that gives us greater power to determine for ourselves what is right or wrong”
I can not speak for everyone, but I think this is to badly misunderstand the motives of at least SOME, if not MOST who are uncomfortable with absolute inerrancy. To sit with the biblical texts and to try and put them together and then to find that to do so sometimes requires convoluted feats of exegetical acumen that one would never, ever attempt in other historical study, that is frustrating, and it is what leads me to not be able to affirm absolute inerrancy. Does limited inerrancy correlate with people who are challenging certain ethical boundries in the Christian faith? Sure, to some degree, although less than is often assumed. But inerrancy could equally be said to correlate with people who refuse to realize that some past understandings of the Christian faith were not accurate and need to be updated. To take one hopefully uncontroversial example, it was often those who held the strongest versions of inerrancy who often argued for a long time that women (and presumably men too) had to remain in abusive relationships, so long as adultery was not involved. Did all inerrantists hold to this? No, of course not. But neither is it valid to say that all those who question absolute inerrancy push the limits on sexual ethics. In summary, sin’s “noetic effects” as you put it, are not uni-directional, simply towards greater freedom from morality. They can also be turned the other direction, in corrupting morality in a way that brings death and oppression, such as forcing women to stay with abusive husbands. It takes wisdom and discernment and God’s empowering grace to avoid both.
In other words, perhaps we could be charitable towards each other: I will not assume that you hold to absolute inerrancy because you want to protect abusive husbands, and you could (should you choose to) not assume that I question it because I want to ruin Christian teaching on sexual ethics. If we could do this, perhaps it would take the “heat level” of this conversation down a few notches? It would be to admit there both of us are fallen, finite creatures, and that neither of us is immune to the way sin might warp our understanding.
Blessings,
Tom



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Wolf Paul

posted July 30, 2010 at 2:02 am


Justin,
#82 — if the “oral history” genre of the Gospels justifies discrepancies between different accounts of the same event, the word “inerrant” has lost any meaning distinct from “infallible” and “true”, and your position is certainly not compatible with the Chicago statement. At that point you might as well stop arguing for it. Almost all the “difficulties” can be explained by “genre”, because while some of the Older Testament might be “history”, it is definitely “pre-scientific history” for which certain inaccuracies (as the scientific mind set would call them) are normal and acceptable.
It is also normal for the genre “letters and correspondence” to be culturally informed and influenced, which is exactly the argument used by those supporters of gay marriage who even bother to try and argue their position biblically (definitely a minority).
Viewed thus your concession to genre is just as corrosive as you claim inerrancy views #2 and #3 to be.
But in my experience doctrinal and moral revisionism is not caused by any particular view if Scripture but by an unwillingness to submit our human will to the will of God.



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dopderbeck

posted July 30, 2010 at 2:20 am


Re: inerrancy or not correlating with various ethical views: I have non-inerrantist friends who might say this: belief in inerrancy seems to correlate with obviously unBiblical ethical views such as belief that America is a “Christian Nation,” nearly unqualified support for any American war, bigotry against immigrants, misogyny, and so on. It doesn’t seem fair when that shoe gets put on the other foot, does it?
Re: various Bible difficulties: we could spend all day on this, but no one has ever been explain to me the cud-chewing rabbits of Lev. 11. The text here is obviously not merely “phenomenological,” and no amount of genetic engineering will cause rabbits to chew cud. “Total inerrancy” is a falsifiable claim, and IMHO Lev. 11 clearly and irrefutably falsifies it. Only one example is required, and there it is. (There are lots of “explanations” for this floating around on the web, all of which seem to me desperately absurd). Therefore, and because of a wide variety of similar examples, I’m an inerrantist of the third type, not of the first.
Nevertheless, I certainly won’t question the faith or community membership of my brothers and sisters who hold to type-1 inerrancy. They are, I believe, stuck in a paradigm from 100 years ago from which both “evangelical” and “liberal” theology have properly moved on, and some of them argue in ways that damage the Church, IMHO — but they are nevertheless my brothers and sisters.
BTW, I really regret the fact that the “we’ve moved past that” meme of the early days of the Emerging Church movement seems to have gotten lost somehow. The fact that many of the comments in this thread are still framing the Bible question in terms of “evangelical” and “liberal” views allows the conversation to remain stuck in a previous generation’s “Bible wars.” There is a very robust center — post-liberal folks like N.T. Wright, Richard Hays, Bruce McCormack, and contemporary evangelicals such as Scot, and Pete Enns, Ian Provain, the Fuller Sem. folks someone here was complaining about, and so on — not to mention Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theologies of scripture, which can be quite nuanced and powerful. In the scheme of things, only a tiny minority of mostly white, mostly male, mostly American theologians still cling to the Bible War paradigm. Let’s just shake of the dust and move on….



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DRT

posted July 30, 2010 at 9:09 am


Caleb#91
I don’t think that was particularly helpful. I for one am participating in this conversation from the standpoint of working out my faith along with others who are also pursuing their faith. In that sense this conversation is quite valuable and holy, as far as I am concerned.
We each have our gifts, and gifts of intellect cause hardship that is difficult to imagine if one does not have them. I ask that you have patience for the intellectual and recognize that the communication style does not mean people are not struggling with the same things everyone else is struggling with.
captcha – of captions – these are all just captions for a more complex story going on in the image



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 30, 2010 at 10:24 am


@ 89 Wolf Paul
You said exactly what I was trying to say but lacked the words to do so. :)



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kevin s.

posted July 30, 2010 at 10:30 am


The value of adhering to a consistent position on inerrancy is that one may have confidence in the vast body of research, knowledge, and consensus that has been poured into the texts as they read presently. Like the commenter above, I too got rather bored reading the elucidations of discrepancies (real or imagined), though I found the explanations re-affirming on some level.
I also agree that the vast majority of evangelicals adhere to one mode of inerrancy, whether or not they can articulate that viewpoint. By my lights, if a Christian is apparently drawn away form the faith over a nominal paradox, there is much more than meets the eye.
I see at least an equal risk in the “high view of scripture” or “God is inerrant” approach. At such a point when any biblical passage vexes personal (or, lately, political) interests, it can be discarded on the basis of God’s own personal revelation.



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Justin

posted July 30, 2010 at 2:20 pm


Ok, I can’t respond to everyone but I’ll try to pick out a few points.
Kenny #87,
I agree with you here, but I take it the other way: there is nothing factually objectional so why do you dislike the word inerrant? I see two main differences: (1) a willingness to actually stand up for scripture rather than basically running away from it. We may agree, but I’m the one pointing out how silly the “debate” over who killed Goliath is. (2) Affiliation. Everyone hates to be generalized, but I see this group as evangelical Christians who feel called to evangelize upper middle class educated professionals. That is probably your circle. People sneer at Christians in those circles, and those people need to be saved. Heck, I was one of them so I’m glad they are getting saved! But the way you do it is by basically cutting other Christians off at the knees. “Being a Christian doesn’t mean being some ignorant Bible-thumper from the deep south who thinks that the world is 6,000 years old. You don’t have to be like them to be a Christian.”
WolfPaul #89,
Sorry, I do not accept the move from ‘there are minor discrepancies between eye witness accounts (by necessity)’ to ‘Biblical morality is rooted in cultural prejudice and does not apply to modern times.’
dopderbeck #90,
The cud-chewing rabbit is another silly one. Rabbits poop and then chew their poop. The word refers to chewing your food again after it has been partially digested in the belly. I’ve been listening to Jay Vernon McGee’s Thru the Bible series (*gasp* but he is an old fundy!) on my commute and he made the point that the Jewish law has many symbolic meanings. E.g. the prohibition between blended fabrics is because the Israelites are supposed to be separated form the world, not blended from them. Unleavened bread because God’s word is bitter and unpalatable. Leaven is sin. It makes things sweet and yummy. That’s why Jesus said to beware the leaven of the Pharisees. Chewing the cud has its own symbolism. It means that you must be constantly studying the word. Chew it, digest it, and chew it again. I’m not an eymologist, but I’ll bet that this is the source of the expression “I’ll chew it over”. It was from a more Biblically literate time.
I do agree that many conservative evangelicals are knee-jerk Republicans. I have no problem with that on social issues since the Republican party’s position on social issues is largely dictated by Christians. But Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand were atheists. They had their own form of rebellion against God. And conservative Christians who are informed by their beliefs are simply wrong. In fact, that is one of the main points of .



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Chad Holtz

posted July 30, 2010 at 7:35 pm


‘I have no problem with that on social issues since the Republican party’s position on social issues is largely dictated by Christians.”
Justin,
Thanks for the laugh!
If interested, I have a bridge in Alaska for sale.



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Nathan

posted July 30, 2010 at 10:22 pm


@Justin,
Hi.
It actually is ironic that you would perpetuate a caricature of another group during a discussion meant to clear up and correct caricatures.
To write off the Liberal (and probably post-liberal) project as one big exercise in simply trying to justify a position on the “gay issue” shows me that you really don’t understand what the “liberal” theological project is with respect to its roots that long precede “the gay issue”.
That’s as uncharitable and wrong headed as liberals saying that “conservatives” are simply pursuing their theological work to perpetuate patriarchy and racism.
We can’t look into people’s hearts. At best, your rhetoric, and all like it, is unhelpful.
While it’s obvious that this cuts both ways, I’d think that a community that claims the moral high ground on valuing the Scripture (evangelicals) have a duty to be much more careful in their descriptions of others.
We can whine that we get looked down on for “lack of education”, but that’s a far cry from the insult of writing off people who actually are seeking to love God and value Scripture as just being involved in a big exercise to theologically justify certain sexual habits. As if EVERY liberal divinity school is Chicago Theological Seminary or wants to be…
It’s the oldest polemical tactic in the book, and it’s still ugly.
My point is this…we can’t complain about unfair caricatures about our community if we gleefully perpetuate them about those with whom we disagree.
Then again, we’ve all walked away from those communities, so how could we really know the why’s and wherefore’s of their beliefs?
I can guarantee you that most of us don’t.
I’m particularly sensitive on this issue, not because I disagree about the value of Scripture, it’s role and authority, but because I actually have lived and moved among what you would term theological liberals and they in no way lived up to the stereotypes (read: Lies. Yes, lies) I was given as a kid growing up in evangelicalism. To the point, I would say that most of us are profoundly uniformed about the hearts and minds of the inheritors of the Liberal theological project.
And most of us do not really understand the Liberal theological project.
We want people to know “us” evangelicals, but you won’t do the work to loving learn about the “them”. And you’d be even more surprised at the character of the student bodies at many of those “apostate” liberal theological schools. I graduated from Vanderbilt Divinity and I can tell you that there was, and still is, a strong contingent of theologically conservative students there. I was never shamed for my theological perspective. In fact, my mentors on the faculty were instrumental in me learning to deeply appreciate and embrace the treasures of my evangelical upbringing. My professors all railed against relativism and lowest common denominator ecumenical endeavors. They cared deeply for the life of the Church. They sniffed at the idea that all religions are paths up the same mountain. I could go on and on and on and on and on.
I’ve sounded this note here before, but I would just ask everyone here to try and be more careful…thanks…



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dopderbeck

posted July 31, 2010 at 2:26 pm


Justin (#94) — re: the cud-chewing rabbits, you are trying to make two moves here, one of which works (but not in the way you intend), and one of which doesn’t.
First the one that obviously does not work: chewing poop is not chewing cud. The passage doesn’t refer to chewing poop; it refers to chewing cud. Whether or not the Torah has symbolic meanings, in this instance it is affirming something that does not correspond to reality: that rabbits chew cud.
No knowlegdeable OT scholar will claim that the literal meaning of this passage encompasses poop chewing as well as ordinary cud-chewing. This kind of dissembling is exactly what turns many thoughtful people away from total inerrancy and, I’m afraid, from taking Christianity seriously. I once asked a knowledgeable OT scholar who is an inerrantist about this passage, and his response basically was “we don’t have to accept ancient science.” In other words, he was honest enough to admit that nonsense like the “poop chewing” explanation fails absolutely.
Your second argument — that the purpose of this particular law has to do with symbolic cleaninliness and holiness — seems to me right on the mark. In fact, the Levitical dietary codes have many common elements with other ANE dietary laws that relate to ritual purity and so on.
But notice the move you’ve made here: at least some of the “literal” content of the law can be separated from its “purpose” when we are trying to assess its fidelity to God’s purposes. So, I agree — there is no “error” here, because the concepts of “truth” and “error” in the Biblical sense have to do with to purpose. The purpose of this passage is not to teach modern scientific facts about rabbits, but rather to instruct the Israelites in how to live as a called-out community.
And so, I think my inerrantist OT scholar friend is correct: we don’t have to get tied up in knots about the “ancient science” and claim the “author” of Lev. 11 really intended to make a factual statement that encompassed poop-chewing as well as cud-chewing in rabbits. And yet, this kind of “silly” (to use your word) move is exactly what total inerrancy requires. Better to acknowledge that this is yet another of the many places in which “total” inerrancy must yield to something like an inerrancy of “purpose” or to some other articulation of what it means for scripture to be God’s truthful speech to us.



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Caleb

posted July 31, 2010 at 5:43 pm


Well, the word “inerrancy” is not in the Bible, but neither is the word “Trinity” or “Triune” yet we have no problem with that word… I’m sure there are very many other words that are the same.



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Caleb

posted July 31, 2010 at 5:46 pm


@DRT
#91
Your comment came off a little rude when you talked about the “intellectuals” as if I was not one of them… Intellectualism isn’t the same for everyone, and there are many who are “intellectual” in different ways



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Caleb

posted July 31, 2010 at 5:50 pm


If you haven’t read Greg Beale’s newest book on this topic, I highly recommend it… it addresses many of the issues discussed here



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Chad Holtz

posted July 31, 2010 at 7:33 pm


#98
Caleb, that could be a self-refuting argument. One could argue that an “inerrant” Bible could have been a lot more clear about God’s nature as Triune, even spell it out for us. Or, one could argue that since the Bible is inerrant then all our language about God should not exceed what the Bible already says, therefore “Trinity” is out – but then, so too is “inerrant.”
FYI, I’m as rabid Trinitarian



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Caleb

posted July 31, 2010 at 11:43 pm


Chad
Your last point is exactly my point… that we say that the word “inerrancy” doesn’t fully grasp the nature of the Bible, but we seem comfortable with the word “trinity” thinking that that is the best word to describe God’s nature. The term “inerrancy” may not fully grasp the nature of the Bible, but I’ve yet to hear a better word… and maybe because any English word that we use will be eventually misused and have baggage attached.
For instance, I have the upmost respect for Dr. McKnight… he is a scholar’s scholar and has depth in his teaching and writing… and I believe him when the word he uses for Scripture is “true” — that he believes that the Bible is true… so do I, but “true” for him might be different than “true” for Shelby Spong, but yet Spong could still use the word “true” to describe his view of the Bible.
Our opinions of the Bible may be subjective and seen through different hermeneutical lenses, but when it comes down to it, we’re trying to get to the AIM of the text, not our own personal interpretation.
The other day I heard Francis Chan preaching, and he made a powerful point. He had invited some Mormon missionaries over to his house to talk to them. After he listened to their talk, he told them “listen, if I had just the Bible, and I read it front to back, I wouldn’t see any of your Mormon beliefs in the Scriptures… I just wouldn’t see them there, I wouldn’t get that out of Scripture.” I think he makes a good point—what does Scripture say about the matter? What does Scripture say about Scripture. If I were to read the Bible front to back (with no commentaries, no study guides), would I be encouraged to believe in an inerrant Scripture or a Scripture that contained errors in regards to science and history of events? I’d bet that someone who read it from beginning to end would see the presence of “inerrancy” more than not.
Now, this is not my sole basis for believing in inerrancy, but it is a good point.
Caleb



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RJS

posted August 1, 2010 at 1:55 am


Caleb,
I have not found time to read all of the comments here – but this last one demands response because it is dead on wrong.
If one actually starts with Genesis and reads the OT as a whole – not bits and pieces, not skipping around – the most apparent feature is that it is an anthology of stories combined together, edited and reused. It is true – but inerrancy as it is commonly used is a misleading and faith destroying term. The text itself demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that “traditional” evangelical theology is wrong.
True jumps out – inerrant does not. It is because I read the scripture front to back without commentary that the evangelical doctrine of inerrancy was very nearly faith destroying.



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Caleb

posted August 1, 2010 at 9:44 am


RJS
I have no idea who you are, but from my studies of seminary, the languages, and in my doctoral studies, I will have to disagree with you… Inerrancy is not “faith destroying.” When I submitted my life to Christ, I read the Bible without commentary, boy was it trustworthy and did it prove itself over and over again. I cannot argue your experience, because that is your experience, and not mine… but in my years of studying, pastoring, and helping people study, you are the first that I’ve heard say that.
I came to Christ in an enviornment where I was seeking to attack the Bible, and disprove it because I saw the errors… but the more I studied the more I realized that the Word was sufficient, true, and without error in what it claims.
Beale’s latest book on inerrancy is one of the best out there, and if you haven’t read it, I would recommend it—though it sounds as if your mind is already made up
I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree, because you think that I’m dead wrong, and I think that you are wrong on this issue… though I’m sure you and I would agree on a host of other issues
While these things are fun to discuss and blog about, inerrancy is not my biggest axe to grind, nor is it my own personal soapbox. There are too many people out there who don’t know Jesus and haven’t learned to walk with Him. That should be our axe, and everything else is commentary and opinion
Caleb



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dopderbeck

posted August 1, 2010 at 1:11 pm


Caleb, I don’t think you really listened to what RJS and others have been trying to say. Total inerrancy as it is popularly taught is faith destroying because it’s not true.
The earth wasn’t created in six days six thousand years ago, Adam wasn’t the first of the human species, the globe wasn’t inundated with a flood that destroyed all life but that on the Ark, the Exodus and conquest narratives are dubious as historical documents, the settlement and Judges and Kings narratives are highly stylized at best, Kings can’t be “harmonized” with Chroncles, the synoptic Gospels can’t be “harmonized,” some of the history in Acts seems mixed up…. and rabbits don’t chew cud … and on and on.
You use the phrase “sufficient, true, and without error in what it claims.” I agree — but only if we are exceedingly careful about “what it claims” and about the ways in which scripture makes “claims.” Unfortunately, the vast majority of total inerrantists, in my long experience, insist on flattening out all of the “problems” mentioned above with utter trash such as young earth creationism and so on. When shown to be false — which really is not difficult — this destroys faith.
I’m guessing you would not take the path of such nonsense, because you would be much more careful about “what it claims.” Maybe, like Beale, you’d explain the “days” of creation in terms of a cosmic temple metaphor. At that point, however, I think you are in fact promoting an inerrancy of purpose and not total inerrancy. Why not just be honest about what the content of the doctrine really is? I suspect that the large majority of “progressive” evangelicals who are challenging inerrancy today could live with something along the lines of an inerrancy of purpose. The other major branches of Christianity, Catholic and Eastern, basically hold to inerrancy of purpose. Dissembling and using lawyer’s tricks to define “total innerancy” in ways that don’t really comport with the notion of total inerrancy is just as faith defeating as demanding that people believe things that obviously are false.
BTW, I haven’t read all of Beale’s book, I’ve read parts of it, and the parts I’ve read really don’t seem very impressive to me. When it comes to things like the solid firmament in the OT, for example, Beale dodges and weaves. I doubt that book would convince anyone who doesn’t already think total inerrancy is important. Beale’s criticisms of Enns, I think, are in large part lame. I wouldn’t recommend Beale to anyone who is really struggling with this issue. Instead, I’d recommend what to my mind is still the best book on the subject, Donald Bloesch’s “Holy Scripture.”



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Caleb

posted August 1, 2010 at 3:52 pm


dopderbeck
In regards to your comments on Adam and so on…that’s your conclusion and interpretation of the text. I have seen Kings and Chronicles harmonized, and do not understand what you see in the Gospels that cannot be harmonized… these are things that you personally have come to conclusions on, and there are VERY many who have come to conclusions that are polar opposite to what you think… and many of them are just as intelligent as you and I.
I think that you can believe in total inerrancy and still hold to a different interpretation of Genesis 1-2, and what each day represented… many of my former professors would: William Lane Craig, JP Moreland, etc… but I’ve heard them say they still hold to total inerrancy… it boils down to interpretation, but not just writing off a text and saying that it was a story told for a greater purpose (BTW- even if I do take an older view of the earth, I still believe that Adam was the first human being)… I guess that makes me less intelligent and someone who doesn’t have the guts to deal with the text and potential issues? Well, I have…after study, I’ve chosen this as my conviction about Scripture.
If you’re going to see Gen. 1-11 and so on as just collected stories (as RJS) then you might as well employ the same hermeneutics as the Jesus Seminar… and while you’re not going that far in your conclusions as the Jesus Seminar might, you’re using the same reasoning that they are to interpret the historical validity of a text… that seems pretty dangerous.
And, sorry you feel that way about Beale… especially since he is a forerunner in NT scholarship. I have read Bloesch’s book, and disagree with it’s thesis…
As I said before, Jesus is the most important issue here…that He arose and is coming back, and left us to love God and people… everything else is fun to talk about…



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dopderbeck

posted August 1, 2010 at 5:54 pm


Caleb — I’m sory, but if you think that Kings and Chronicles can be “harmonized,” you just haven’t read them carefully. Very, very few capable scholars, even capable evangelical scholars, would claim that the histories in Kings and Chronicles “harmonize” (or for that matter that the synopotics “harmonize”). It’s not a matter of “interpretation” — it’s a matter of what the text says on its face. Really, the only people who see things the way you’re suggesting are people who are a priori committed to a very tight definition of inerrancy. And then it is a matter not of “interpretation” in some objective sense, but of trying to squeeze the text into you’re own box. If you want to make a credible argument, IMHO you should at least acknowledge this.
I agree that Beale has written some excellent NT scholarship. His commentary on Revelation is one of the best. On systematic theology … different story, unfortunately. His book on scripture, I’m sorry to say, seems to me filled with unhelpful polemic and canards. But I suppose people can read Beale and Bloesch and Enns and others on scripture and reach their own conclusions about who is doing proper justice to all the evidence.
I agree completely with your final paragraph. So here’s my question: why does someone like Beale then publish a book in which his particular, narrow view of inerrancy is presented as a kind of “do or die?” Why does someone like Moreland claim that “the Christian worldview” requires inerrancy?
If most strict inerrantists believed, as you do, that exactly how we formulate the doctrine of scripture is a secondary matter — that the matter of first importance is who Jesus is — then I don’t think we’d have such heated discussions in forums like this about inerrancy. People wouldn’t get kicked out of evangelical seminaries or excluded from the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society just because they can’t affirm a particular view of inerrancy. Certainly no one would claim inerrancy is central to “the Christian worldview” as Moreland does. We would center on the Gospel, and on the basic notion that scripture is normative for faith and practice, and we’d let type 1-3 inerrantists and infallibilists and dynamic infallibilists and even (gasp) Barthians call themselves “evangelicals.” And we’d never focus apologetics on “proving” inerrancy. But that’s not the way it is, is it?
I agree with you entirely that we must stand under scripture and that scripture is uniquely powerful, with the illumination of the Spirit, to guide and shape us. What I reject is the presumption that there is only one legitimate way to work through the difficulties presented by scripture’s humanity.



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Caleb

posted August 1, 2010 at 7:47 pm


dopderbeck
I’ve seen Chronicles and Kings harmonized a couple of times, with the exception of some translation errors, but minor and few. I’m not one that thinks that inerrantists 2 and 3 are going to hell… not even sure that I’d fit inerrantist 1… maybe I would, I don’t know… in this forum there seemed to be few who represented the interrantist 1 view, so I chimed in… sorry if I was rude or anything… not my goal. As for Moreland and Beale making inerrancy a key issue, it most likely is in some of the cases they’re referring to, but which kind of inerrancy that is I’m not sure. I know neither of them are young earth creationists, so who knows. Just because they’re total inerrantists doesn’t mean they think everyone else is… Beale is going to WTS, and I’m sure there are still a few there like Enns
On another note, I read through some of your notes on hate crime protection. I appreciate them a lot. I think homosexuality is a sin, and it’s hard to get around that in Scripture. However, this IS something that is a soapbox of mine, because it hits home.
My parents were divorced when I was 2 years old. Both taught grad classes at the University of Missouri, Columbia. When they separated, my dad moved and taught philosophy and law at Stephens College and my mom taught English Lit at UMKC. Both of them entered the homosexual lifestyle separately. My dad was more in the closet, but my mom got a partner, joined the board of directors at GLAAD, and was a prominent figure for a while. When I was 5, she started taking me with her to gay bars, clubs, gay parties, and so on. I saw many of her friends die from AIDS. My idea of Christians were people who hated my mother, because I saw how they treated her, how they spoke to her, and so on. This one time, I was actually afraid for her life.
I joined a Bible study to disprove the Bible and the errors I saw…but the more errors I tried to prove, the more answers I saw… and then I became a Christian and decided to go to Bible college to be a pastor. My parents kicked me out and disowned me for a while, but I kept on reading about Jesus, following Him more and more, trying to show the love of Christ to my mom and her friends.
I’ve always had a passion to make sure others aren’t treated as my mom (even though I don’t agree with her lifestyle) because I see how damaging it is.
Thanks for your work
Caleb
PS, on a side note, my mom trusted Christ in August, and is now attending a church.



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dopderbeck

posted August 2, 2010 at 1:00 am


Thanks for your thoughts Caleb, and many blessings to your family. One thing that can be good from this kind of disussion is if both “sides” recognize that they each have a proper passion for truth and for God’s Word.



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RJS

posted August 2, 2010 at 1:48 am


Caleb (106),
I do not see Genesis 1-11 as “collected stories.” Rather I see them as true – meaning that they communicate coherent and important truths and we do well to pour over them, understand them, study them – even memorize them. What do they teach – why and how? What do they tell us about God and his interaction with his people?
Same with Exodus and Kings and Chronicles and Psalms and the prophets, and of course the gospels.
Problem is that doing that – and taking the text very seriously as the word of God – is what makes it clear that inerrancy as it is commonly taught (including in those harmonizations and such) is a patchwork human attempt to turn the Word of God into something it is not and was never intended to be.
So I think that we simply need to relax, let scripture be scripture and immerse ourselves in the text and the story. We also need to stay centered first and foremost on Christ. The edges can and will flop around a bit as we wrestle with our understanding and with the story in scripture.



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Barry H

posted August 2, 2010 at 7:32 pm


I remember a message/lecture where the speaker was talking about a book, I can’t remember the title but it was one of those that argued for an inerrant view of the bible. The speaker said that the book made the claimed that the bible was one unified, error free book written over thousands of years. The author then spent 1/2 – 2/3 of the remaining chapters explaining away ‘seemingly errant’ issues like: was it David or Elhanan who killed Goliath? was the priest Abiathar or Ahimelech? (just to name two)
The attitude is “These look like errors, but let me explain to you why they are not.” This just seems wrong. So they:
1) make claim that bible is inerrant (#1)
2) prove this by claiming an error free bible
3) explain away errors found in the bible.
A major assumption in this view is that the only ‘so-called’ errors in the bible are the ones that can be proved other ‘seemingly’ conflicting verses. Who’s to say that there are not 10x or 100x as many copyist errors that are not recognized because we do not have other verses that bring it out.
The Evangelical understanding of inerrancy (#1) may be correct, however, the evidence has to be manipulated to fit this view.
Justin (16) “When I first became a Christian, these things actually troubled me. So I went and …” had these difficulties explained away.



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