September 2, 2014

Contradictions among the Baptists

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Michael Spencer did not subscribe to Biblical inerrancy.

Inerrancy looks, smells and feels remarkably like a philosophical imposition on the Bible, going beyond what the Bible CAN say about itself, and forcing those of us who believe in the authority and truthfulness of the Bible to take a “loyalty oath” that goes beyond what should be said. Typical of evangelical attempts to show they are really really really really really right. Catholics do it with the Pope. Pentecostals with experience. Evangelicals with inerrancy.

“Bingo!” with a capital “B,” I say. Let’s hear more, Michael…

I want to say more, but I am weary from saying this much. I love and respect my inerrantist friends. When they tell me I am rejecting the resurrection by rejecting “inerrancy,” I am hurt and puzzled. But so I will remain, because the quests to insure that modernistic assertions about the Bible precede and protect the Gospel are not about to end. Denominations will split. Friendships will end. Seminarians and pastors will be shown the door. Christians will reject their brothers and sisters. It is needless, and a ridiculous waste of unity.

I wonder what Michael would say about the latest kerfuffle in the Southern Baptist world over inerrancy. It seems that Houston Baptist University (which has a “ministry relationship” with the SBC in Texas) brought apologist (and suspected non-inerrantist) Mike Licona onto its faculty last fall. In November, he confirmed the suspicions of the inerrancy defenders by saying in an interview that some of the facts in the Gospels might contradict possibly each other.

Here’s a summary of the interview from Baptist Press:

In an interview with Lenny Esposito of Come Reason Ministries at the Evangelical Theological Society’s annual meeting, Licona, a former apologetics coordinator at the North American Mission Board, said it had not necessarily ever bothered him that some facts reported in the Gospels appeared to be contradictions.

“I believe in biblical inerrancy, but I also realize that biblical inerrancy is not one of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. The resurrection is,” Licona told Esposito. “So if Jesus rose from the dead, Christianity is still true even if it turned out that some things in the Bible weren’t. So it didn’t really bother me a whole lot even if some contradictions existed. But it did bother a lot of Christians.”

Licona recalled a student in a class he was teaching at Southern Evangelical Seminary who, with tears forming in her eyes, wanted to know whether there were indeed contradictions. A majority of the class, he said, raised their hands to indicate they were troubled by apparent contradictions. Then he realized it was something he should address.

As he studied the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Licona began keeping a document of the differences he noticed. The document grew to 50 pages. He then read ancient biographies written around the time of Jesus because New Testament scholars often regard the Gospels as ancient biographies, he said.

Licona focused on Plutarch’s biographies. The assassination of Julius Caesar, he noted, is told in five different biographies by Plutarch.

“So you have the same biographer telling the same story five different times. By noticing how Plutarch tells the story of Caesar’s assassination differently, we can notice the kinds of biographical liberties that Plutarch took, and he’s writing around the same time that some of the Gospels are being written and in the same language — Greek — to boot,” Licona told Esposito.

“As I started to note some of these liberties that he took, I immediately started recognizing these are the same liberties that I noticed that the evangelists take — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,” Licona said.

“… If this is the case, then these most commonly cited differences in the Gospels … aren’t contradictions after all. They’re just the standard biographical liberties that ancient biographers of that day took.”

GearsIronically, in the interview Licona was actually trying to increase Christians’ trust in the reliability of the New Testament by pointing out that what we might consider “contradictions” according to our post-Enlightenment standards of historical veracity were simply characteristic of the way historians wrote then. He also affirmed that these “contradictions” were all written with regard to peripheral details in the accounts and not major points. In addition, he suggested that what we are really talking about here in the vast majority of cases are “differences” and that there is only a handful of stubborn differences that might rise to the level of actual contradictions — and again, even if they did, these relate only to peripheral details.

This, however, was not good enough for Al Mohler, who was involved in another dispute involving Licona’s understanding of Scripture in 2011. In that case, even though Licona wrote a book which strongly defended the literal resurrection, his handling of one pericope (Matthew 27:51-53) as a “poetic device” fell short in Mohler’s eyes and ” “handed the enemies of the resurrection of Jesus Christ a powerful weapon.”

With regard to the dispute we are considering today, Dr. Mohler  has commented, “It would be nonsense to affirm real contradictions in the Bible and then to affirm inerrancy.” He was not satisfied with Licona’s suggestion that certain forms of inerrancy might be ruled out by his approach. “What you lose is inerrancy itself,” Mohler asserted.

Norman Geisler chimed in too, supporting agreeing with Mohler: “One thing is certain: his view is not consistent with the historic view of inerrancy as held by the framers of the ETS and ICBI statements.”

The “historic view of inerrancy”? Now that’s some remarkable historical revisionism right there.

In the Great Commission, Jesus did not say, “Go into all the world and make disciples, teaching them they must subscribe that the Bible is a perfect book.” I agree with Michael Spencer that this “historic” doctrine is a much later, unnecessary addition to the faith that places an unfortunate burden upon Christians in our attempts to engage the world with the Gospel.

It is enough for us to believe and assert that the Bible is from God, authoritative, a reliable witness to Christ, and that it tells the truth.

I encourage you to go back and read a good summary that we quoted last year from Roger Olson. He likes to use the word “trustworthy.” That is sufficient. “Perfect” is not necessary.

Quoting the iMonk again, we need not claim that the Bible is “…a perfect compass. Or a perfect map. Or a perfect book. Because God is perfect. And if God said it, it must be perfect. It’s perfect. Really, really really perfect. Not just true. Not just a book that brings us Christ and the Gospel. Perfect. And if you don’t come out and walk around saying the Bible is perfect, then you reject the Bible.”

My friends, our faith is not a Jenga game, dependent on blocks of post-Enlightenment logic being stacked just right so that they are in danger of collapsing if one of them is moved the slightest bit.

The inerrantist’s quest for absolute certainty with regard the way we understand Scripture serves to make me more fearful and anxious rather than assured with regard to the Gospel and living out my faith. If I not only have to believe in a perfect Savior, but also defend an ancient book as perfect in every way according to modern standards, then that’s simply too daunting a task for me and most Christians.

Our authority? Yes. A reliable witness to Christ? Yes. A book that tells the truth? Yes.

Perfect? Don’t ask me to prove it. I’m tired of trying to keep this stack of blocks from tumbling.

Comments

  1. God uses what is imperfect, the witness of imperfect, erring men and women, to convey his infallible good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. To demand more is to demand the prerogatives of God himself.

  2. Good post.

    A God that needs a perfect (in every way and word) book, isn’t really much of a God.

    Our God uses earthen vessels to accomplish His perfect purpose and will.

    Even our Lord was fully man, and yet fully God.

    “The finite contains the infinite.”

    • Well put, Steve. I’ve had occasion to wonder if what is commonly called “Biblical inerrancy” is in fact an attempt to set up a sort of graven image, so that its adherents need not approach the true God directly. No matter how much He wants us to.

      • Ditto, Steve and Ray.

        Ray, the graven image perspective is true in some cases; I’ve been stung by that lately. I think the parallel from the Bible itself is in Matthew 23, the various woes to the Pharisees. Here’s the first and most general one, out of the mouth of Jesus:

        “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”

  3. Spencer also took part in a round table discussion on inerrancy with Mike Horton and Donald Richmond in the March/April 2010 issue of Modern Reformation. Best I could surmise, his issue wasn’t with the content of the Chicago Statement as it was with its necessity. I agree with him that it is at the very least redundant if you subscribe to one of the major reformation confessions. Their language on the nature and authority of Scripture is truly sufficient, and was for 400 years. I don’t know that at term that is short-hand for a 16 page definition of the word “error” is actually helpful, especially when the term gets commandeered by fundamentalists and loaded with a ton of cultural baggage.

    The only problem I have with the opposing side is that it seems contradictory to say that something is from God and it has errors. That would be a direct reflection on its author that, imo, is unacceptable. I could be content to believe that if there are any errors in the text we have today, they are the result of human transmission and not divine authorship. But the argument over what technically constitutes and error and places God in direct violation of the law of non-contradiction is never helpful. I just assume prepositionally that what scripture says is true and reliable, the sole authoritative source of doctrine, and if it doesn’t jive with my reality I give it room to either correct me, or challenge me to understand it better.

    I think the reason that Baptists and Evangelicals need inerrancy so badly is because they have no place for tradition to anchor them in the faith. Apart from the Bible itself they have nothing else to give them the Gospel.

    • “I think the reason that Baptists and Evangelicals need inerrancy so badly is because they have no place for tradition to anchor them in the faith.”

      As a former Greek Orthodox, now Evangelical, I’ve often thought Luther may have thrown the baby out with the bathwater in that regard.

      The need to stand against a corrupt institution shouldn’t cause us to disregard the importance of tradition as a carrier of truth.

      • Lutherans didn’t throw out tradition!!! They appealed to tradition and the church fathers repeatedly to show how much of Roman doctrine was recent innovations that contradicted tradition and Scripture. Lutherans reject only so-called traditions that contradict Scripture; Scripture itself is undisputed by any authentic tradition.

        • Perhaps that wasn’t Luther’s intent, but many who claim to admire him have gone that route.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            This is actually more of a Reformed than a Lutheran trait. A big question during the Reformation period was whether to reject merely those traditions held to contradict scripture, or to reject all traditions but those held to be mandated by scripture. The Lutheran position generally was the former and the Reformed tradition generally the latter. This is why you see a (modified) Latin Rite liturgy in Lutheran churches, which are themselves furnished very much like Catholic churches, while Reformed churches largely rejected the liturgy and stripped their churches of those furnishings.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            The Reformed did to churches what the Wahabi did to mosques.

            Plain whitewashed walls, maybe with some verses from the Holy Book written on the same plain whitewashed walls.

          • Many who claim to admire him have gone…in every direction!

          • “Those who claim to admire him” is a rather broad indictment. And it certainly doesn’t include Lutherans on this point. True Lutherans fight to maintain their tradition. All Protestants look to Luther, but they really pick and choose what they want from him.

          • The best analogy I’ve heard of the difference between the Lutheran and Reformed approaches to things is this (found buried in my files from who knows where)

            The Anglican/Episcopal/Lutheran way is to open the sock drawer, perhaps half way, peek in, pull out those few obvious misfits and wornouts and quickly place them in the rubbish bin; one may then review the reformation, pronounce it “done,” close the drawer, and go about other tasks.

            The Presbyterian/Reformed/Calvinist, on the other hand, moves to the task with dispatch and determination, completely removing the sock drawer, turning it totally upside down on the bed; this reformer places a new paper liner in the drawer and then meticulously selects only the best and most useable socks in pairs to return to this “thoroughgoingly reformed” drawer, leaving all “questionables” out for immediate discard; the job has been done; only those items of which there is no doubt have been allowed to remain.

    • Miguel,
      The Chicago Statement has the same problems as any position which denies “errors” in the Bible. An error is by definition”a deviation from accuracy or correctness”. The problem is that to prove this, one must compare the think that is claimed to be without error to an external judgment of accuracy or correctness. On the one hand this seems inappropriate with the Bible, on the other hand, depending upon one’s standard of accuracy or correctness, the Bible could certainly be seen to “have errors”. For example, if one’s standard is modern biology, then the Bible has errors, because rabbits don’t chew their cud. Etc. etc. Which is why the Chicago Statement dies the death of a thousand qualifications. Much better in my mind to claim a positive – that the Bible is entirely true and trustworthy – than to import these kinds of modernistic assumptions into our theology and then struggle because they don’t stand up to critical thinking.

      • the Chicago Statement dies the death of a thousand qualifications

        Amen. Nailed it. You might even say that the Chicago Statement IS the death of 1000 qualifications to the term “inerrancy.” Like I said, if you accept a major reformation confession and its teaching on Scripture, you have all you need to confess its authority and truthfulness. Another thing that’s always boggled me is that the “inerrancy” stuff only applies to the original autographs, which we don’t have. I understand the manuscript scholarship does bring us remarkably close with very little deviance between the different traditions, but we would still have to admit that the best we can claim is that we have a fairly accurate transmission of what originally had no “errors.” But where the manuscript traditions differ, AT LEAST ONE of them must be wrong. So despite the fact that they are all remarkably similar, we’re still stuck with which Bible is inerrant? Not a helpful discussion, imo.

        • Another thing that’s always boggled me is that the “inerrancy” stuff only applies to the original autographs, which we don’t have.

          That’s the scholarly position but not the position of the inerrancy adherents in the pews. In the pews, and many pulpits, it means their fav translation is totally without any error. Period. Die heretic if you don’t agree.

          On another blog there was one lady strenuously stating over and over that all translations were perfect and without error. They had to be since they were all God inspired. Reading between the lines it appeared her faith would crash if she admitted to anything else.

    • Miguel -

      You stated originally: The only problem I have with the opposing side is that it seems contradictory to say that something is from God and it has errors.

      You and I were created by God, but we’re not perfect. I understand the issue of our sin problem, so that we are not as God originally intended. But God continues to create us, even though we come out as sinful. We ‘come from God’, but remain imperfect. And I think there is a problem in the first place in viewing the concept of perfect through the idea of empirical & absolute date. The presentation of Adam & Eve in the early chapters of Genesis is that they were perfect, in that they were without sin. But they were not absolute.

      With our understanding of Scripture, I think we would do well to distinguish between the direct word of God, which is perfect, and the mediated word of God, which we have in the theopneustos (God-breathed) Scriptures. One is absolutely perfect. One is God-breathed (though not empirically perfect). For example, God could do mission himself, but he empowers imperfect humans to partake in mission on his behalf. God could drop a book right out of heaven that is perfect, but he initiated this great team project in giving us holy Scripture. Neither of these are absolutely, empirically perfect. But they are still empowered and have the imprint of God’s Spirit.

      I think we conflate passages like Ps 12:6 and Prov 30:5 (which seems to speak of the direct speech of God) with that which comes mediated through the prophets/apostles of old in Scripture. It’s not unlike the misapplication of passages like Deut 4:2; Deut 12:32; and Rev 22:18-19 as if they are speaking of a closed canon. Those passages specifically speak into the context of what was being given at that time – Deut referring to the torah/law; Rev referring to the prophetic words/visions of Revelation.

      In the end, I think, in an effort to combat some of the critical perspectives of the modernist & post-Enlightenment era, evangelical Christians felt the need to produce concepts about Scripture that made it seem like it contained fully empirical propositions of an objective nature. We also adopted the correspondence theory of truth – that truth always comes in the form of fact. But the Scriptures are true even when it doesn’t give facts – but rather songs, poems, imagery, stories, theological shaping of narrative, details that don’t line up exactly in the gospels, etc.

      God is who he is. But God’s engagement with humans does not produce direct God-speech & God-acts. The speech & acts can still be theopneustos, God-spirited, God-breathed, transforming our lives as it does in the living Word, the gospel and the Scripture. But it doesn’t fit into a Cartesian, empiricist framework that became the obsession of 20th century evangelicalism.

  4. I wish I could say I was surprised. The inerrancy thing continues to puzzle me. I supose if I hadn’t studied any theology, philosophy, or rhetoric, I might possibly be persuaded to take it seriously. I have and I’m not.

  5. Amen to the nth degree!

  6. What are the errant parts? One would think that if the Bible has errors, we would have a list of them so we could avoid wasting time on them. But nobody’s lists are ever the same.

    And why would the church need to prove inerrancy but not any other belief? Our only basis for believing in Christ’s divinity and resurrection is the stories passed on from his disciples and recorded in Scripture. If we can’t believe those stories to be inerrant without proof, then every part of Scripture needs proof. One does not avoid having to prove the resurrection or Christ’s divinity by rejecting inerrancy. That’s a total cop-out. Faith is not a Jenga game until inerrancy is rejected and we have the options of removing blocks. Why shouldn’t I think the whole thing is poetic license.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      “What are the errant parts?”

      It depends on what you mean by “errant”. If you demand that every detail, no matter how trivial, is literally factually correct, then there are innumerable errant parts: genealogies that don’t match and multiple accounts of the same event that differ from one another. The classic case is the chronology of the events of Holy Week. The inerrantist approach to these is to put one’s hands over one’s ears and loudly proclaim “I’m not listening!” What strikes me about this post is that Licona was teaching in a seminary before he ever looked into this. Bravo to him for being willing to take his hands off his ears and to open his eyes, but what took so long?

      Fortunately, the word “inerrant” can be taken many ways. If someone asks me if I hold the Bible to be inerrant, I can smile serenely and assure him I do. I know full well that he likely is using “inerrant” as a code word for a whole bunch of stuff I don’t agree with, but I can give an honest answer without having to argue. (This is, incidentally, how most ecumenical statements work.)

      • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

        I’ve gone round and round with a good friend of mine who is very astute theologically, albeit from a Baptist point of view on this. If you keep the definition of “inerrant” to a simple “without error,” I can agree, but we’re both putting so many qualifications on that simple definition, that we may not actually agree.

        For example, does subscribing to inerrancy require that one believe in a literal six-day creation? Does it require me to take as literal that Solomon’s wealth made silver so common in Israel as to become worthless? Does it require me to believe that when Jesus was telling a parable that he was relating something that actually happened rather than using a fictional story as a way of making his point (yes, I’ve known some who take it that way)? Does it mean that if John’s Gospel put the cleansing of the Temple at the beginning of the Jesus ministry but the synoptics put it at the end of the ministry that I need to believe in two Temple cleansings if I’m to believe the Bible is inerrant?

        Or can I have the liberty to see mythological or allegorical language in the Creation story? Or that ancient historians often engaged in obvious (and not-so obvious) hyperbole or liberties with the chronology of the details for the sake of making their point? Or that Jesus was capable of spinning a yarn as a sermon illustration?

        I have no problem looking at those things and still claiming the belief in inerrancy. But some folks really do, especially if you’re Al Mohler talking about the Creation narrative.

        My tradition has traditionally only required its ministers and teachers to affirm the following, and I’m OK with that:

        VI. Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation
        Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.

        Of the Names and Number of the Canonical Books.
        Genesis, The First Book of Samuel, The Book of Esther,
        Exodus, The Second Book of Samuel, The Book of Job,
        Leviticus, The First Book of Kings, The Psalms,
        Numbers, The Second Book of Kings, The Proverbs,
        Deuteronomy, The First Book of Chronicles, Ecclesiastes or Preacher,
        Joshua, The Second Book of Chronicles, Cantica, or Songs of Solomon,
        Judges, The First Book of Esdras, Four Prophets the greater,
        Ruth, The Second Book of Esdras, Twelve Prophets the less.

        And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine; such are these following:

        The Third Book of Esdras, The rest of the Book of Esther,
        The Fourth Book of Esdras, The Book of Wisdom,
        The Book of Tobias, Jesus the Son of Sirach,
        The Book of Judith, Baruch the Prophet,
        The Song of the Three Children, The Prayer of Manasses,
        The Story of Susanna, The First Book of Maccabees,
        Of Bel and the Dragon, The Second Book of Maccabees.

        All the Books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive, and account them Canonical.

        VII. Of the Old Testament.
        The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.

      • Who showed up at the empty tomb first?

        Was the Holy Spirit given to the Church at Pentecost, or in the Upper Room?

        Why does Genesis describe a flat earth?

        ___

        Do these things really matter in the grand scheme of things and for your faith?

        Not to me, they don’t. I know that Word is infallible.

    • Very good, Boaz, we need a list!

  7. I also don’t understand why would we question whether Matthew 27:51-53 is factual? God himself dies on the cross, descends to the grave to declare victory over death, and rises from the dead, and we want to question whether others might also have risen from the dead? Why? Is the whole story of Lazarus also poetic license? I don’t believe any church father pre-enlightenment ever questioned any of this. It’s like watching the Avengers movie and complaining that the Helicarrier violates the laws of physics. Right, nevermind Thor or the Hulk, or the Arc reactor, or a guy with a bow and arrow shooting down interdimensional aliens.

    The problem isn’t inerrancy, it’s our “modern” or “enlightenment” evidentiary standards are themselves impossible. The expectation for scientific accuracy in history has long faded. The more any event is studied, the more questions arise. The civil war is a great example. We don’t even know the exact words used in the Gettysburg Address. Lawyers complain about the impossible expectation for perfect knowledge all the time. Look up the CSI effect. People have greater expectations for proof than is possible even with all of our current technology and investigation tools. If Licona’s effort was simply to lower people’s demands for proof, the way to go about it is not to attack the inerrancy of Scripture, but to teach the inability of man to escape his own subjectivity and fallen will, even when looking at objective facts and evidence. True objectivity is impossible for fallen humanity.

    Rejecting inerrancy frees the Old Adam to ignore what is objective and outside of us, the Word and Sacraments. We are then free to go about fashioning a personal Scripture. Old Adam likes to do what Jefferson did and cut out the parts we don’t like and preserve the parts that suit our subjective notions of who we think God should be. Inerrancy prevents us from doing that.

    • I’m not trying to be contentious, boaz, but I think that it’s important to recognize that in claiming that “….True objectivity is impossible for fallen humanity….” you are in fact making an assertion for which you claim objective truth. And in asserting the inerrancy of Scripture you are also making a claim of objective search.

      • I meant objective truth, not search.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “Only a Sith deals in absolutes…”

          Itself an absolute.

          • Wow. It takes a special skill to bring George Lucas into this discussion.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            That’s because the situation didn’t mesh with My Little Pony or Zardoz.

          • What I’m trying to say is that I think it is possible for human being to know some objective truths. In fact, whenever we discuss the nature of objective truth, we are implicitly asserting that we know something objectively true about objective truth. Now, we may be wrong, we may know nothing about it; but we would never say anything about the nature of objective truth if we didn’t BELIEVE we know something objectively true about it. We would simply be silent, hearing only gibberish when other people brought up the subject. The fact that we human beings can manipulate the world around us and our own bodies so much through applied science and technology illustrates that we in fact do know some objective truths about the world around us and inside us. In a fit of skeptical solipsism one could assert that we don’t know these things; but to attempt to live out a philosophy of such extreme skepticism would land one in a psychiatric hospital very quickly (that is, if psychiatric hospitals in fact exist). And I don’t really believe that there are multiple truths, a truth of science, a truth for literature, a truth for religion, etc. I think truth of its very nature is unified. In fact, it’s impossible to discourse about truth without implicitly asserting that truth is unified. So I don’t believe there is a complete disconnect between the binary answers we give to scientific questions and the types of answers we should expect from religious questions. And human being do know some of the answers to the religious questions, even as they know some of the answers to the scientific questions.

    • Boaz, have you read Michael’s book? He does a pretty good job explaining why he thinks the passage in question is apocalyptic. And he asks the exact same questions you do. He decided this passage was apocalyptic based on the nature of the gospel texts, not because it was an unbelievable occurrence. It had nothing to do with a need for “proof” or anything of the sort. And he leaves open that he could well be wrong. I do hope you would get your understanding of his position from his own writings, and not from the likes of Mohler.

  8. Beautifully explained. Thanks.

  9. Ali Griffiths says:

    I used to be a trial lawyer. The witness statements we gathered for evidence were often about the same event but they would be from a different viewpoint. The statements that neatly told the same version of the same event were immediately suspect because they indicated that the witnesses had got together to make sure they had the same recollection of events.
    We didn’t want that. We needed independent accounts of the same event and we would expect there to be some differences because that indicates that the witnesses were telling the truth as they saw it.
    Try it for yourself. Get 5 people in a room and ask them to describe the same event – they will all come up with the basic truth of the event but they will have each noticed different aspects of it.
    Also, in relating historical matters there will always be different emphasises depending on the historian’s preferences – that is to be expected.
    The Gospels can be read in the same way – the crucial points are all the same – that is what is important and it’s a healthy indication of veracity.

    • The problem with differences among the accounts is that on particular points they can’t both or all be right; in fact, in some instances maybe all the witnesses are wrong about a particular detail. When you use this to defend the varying Gospel accounts (e.g., Matthew 8:5-13 vs. Luke 7:1-10), you have just agreed that one of the authors is wrong at some or several points. I.e., the author has made or stated an error, therefore the account is partly errant. This means that part at least is not inerrant, and so one can’t assert “inerrancy” for “the Bible.”

      Given that there are such instances of irreconcilable differences among the Gospels, one cannot affirm inerrancy for the Bible and be true to either the definition of “inerrancy” (free from error) or the Bible itself.

      • Varying reports of “what happened” or “what did you see” CAN and do occur, depending on your focus and state of mind. This discussion ALWAYS reminds me of the story of the five blind men describing an elephant. Each was correct about the area of the elephant THEY encountered, but wrong in not knowing about the parts others had touched and described!

        (Not that I beleive in inerrant scripture….this old Catholic was a very young Catholic when I noted that you can’t get through Genesis without stumbling over contradictions…)

        • I am not discounting or rejecting variances among the accounts. I’m just saying that the appeal to differences between/among witnesses as being expected or normal so as to explain varying and irreconcileable accounts in the Gospels or elsewhere admits that one or both/all of the witnesses can’t be right at all points at the same time, and hence one or more of them must be wrong somewhere – i.e., in error = errant. Hence one cannot claim “inerrancy” for the Bible because in at least one instance one statement or claim, by being at irreconcilable variance with another statement or claim, is errant. And some of these do have irreconcilable differences of detail. Errors impacting truth or faith? Probably not. Errors affecting the claim of inerrancy? Yes.

          • EricW,
            You have such a logical mind. I’m with you all the way in your above comments. Well said.

          • “Hence one cannot claim “inerrancy” for the Bible because in at least one instance one statement or claim, by being at irreconcilable variance with another statement or claim, is errant. And some of these do have irreconcilable differences of detail.”

            According to what? Is it an error if the authors included or excluded aspects that fit their purposes?

          • Rick,
            It’s a factual error if the accounts contradict each other according to the logical rule of non-contradiction: a thing cannot both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect. It’s important to remember that an error is not a lie.

          • Robert F-

            “It’s a factual error”

            Was the author trying to convey minute by minute factual details?

            As one writer on this topic wrote: “The best solution to handling the Scriptures is to take them at face value. If one author indicates a hesitancy for the centurion to come and another says that
            he did come, then one must strive to understand how they can both be true without
            denigrating the reliability of God’s Word or resorting to intellectually unsatisfying
            proposals. The Scriptures are not given so that every aspect of every encounter must
            be present and accounted for and fit neatly together to form a comprehensive
            whole. The emphasis of each author will dictate what material is included and what
            is omitted. If one divorces oneself from the sterile, unemotional environment of
            academia for a moment and delves into the realm of everyday life, harmonizing these
            accounts is no problem….Luke does not mention the centurion’s coming because it did not
            fit with his purpose—the contrast between the Jews’ conception of the centurion and
            his own view of himself compared to Christ.
            Matthew’s account picks up with the faith of the centurion contrasted with
            that of Israel. His purpose is to show that even a Gentile recognized the authority of
            the King of the Jews while His own people rejected Him.”

            My point is to keep in mind that these are meant to be historical, truthful portraits, not photographs.

          • As one writer on this topic wrote: The best solution….

            That’s his (or her) opinion and/or method and/or fantasy for dealing with the contradictions. Some of us find fault with the logic of this method and hence cannot embrace it, because it seems to ignore the issues.

            Narrator: Tyler, you are by far the most interesting single-serving friend I’ve ever met… see I have this thing: everything on a plane is single-serving…
            Tyler Durden: Oh I get it, it’s very clever.
            Narrator: Thank you.
            Tyler Durden: How’s that working out for you?
            Narrator: What?
            Tyler Durden: Being clever.
            Narrator: Great.
            Tyler Durden: Keep it up then… Right up.

          • “…because it seems to ignore the issues.”

            That you are looking at/for, not necessarily the issues the Gospels authors were concerned about.

          • Sure, I get it. Inerrancy, at least of the Chicago Statement kind, doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. But, I think the very premise is flawed. I don’t think binary appropriations of “true and false” apply to linguistics, writing, narrative, or belief. Faith ain’t math. Heck, it took 400 years to sort out the Trinity. So, I don’t think the issue is whether there are errors of accounting in the text (this is relative to the standard one uses), but rather the shoe-horning of historic Scripture into an enlightenment envelope and pretending it fits.

          • John,
            Even before the Enlightenment , people looked both ways before crossing a busy city street. Since issues surrounding the nature of faith are more important than crossing the street, it’s no wonder that people want to know what the criteria are for distinguishing between what’s true (yes, it’s safe to cross the street) and what’s false (no, Jesus isn’t the only name whereby we may be saved). That it may not be possible to give such a binary answer SOMEWHERE within the discourse concerning the nature of faith strongly suggests that it’s really not a life-and-death matter, but more like sitting down to read a good yarn on a lazy afternoon, and nowhere near as important as looking both ways before you cross the street. If there is a place SOMEWHERE within the discourse concerning the nature of faith for such a binary answer, then people rightly want to know what the criteria are for the discerning the boundary between what is essential and what is non-essential, because, after all, they want to get across the street safely.

          • I realize that I’m playing on both sides of the net in my comments, but that’s because I’ve never arrived at what I consider to be a fully adequate answer to the question concerning just what is the nature of Biblical inspiration, and it seems like a very important question to have answered.

          • Robert,
            Every idea has its reductio. However, you are confusing veracity (the truth of a thing) with inerrancy (the absence of error). They are not the same.

          • John,
            To the degree that something is true, it excludes error. Is this not so? If it is not, please show me the error of my ways. And please do not think that I’m arguing for the inerrancy of Scripture; I’m not. But neither can I accept that there are different kinds of truth that are completely discrete from each other. Since Scripture does contain error, I’m looking for the hermeneutic principle and framework which I can depend on to tease out from among the errors in Scripture the essential soteriological content. I have never found that principle and framework, and it helps me not at all when you say “Faith ain’t math”; if there’s truth in math, and there’s truth in faith, then they cannot be completely dissimilar kinds of truth. Neither will it help me when you bash the Enlightenment, as if human beings never applied the kinds of tests for truth that the Enlightenment project sought to perfect before a certain date in history. That’s just mystification.

    • As I read through, especially your post, I can’t help but think of the old game, “Telephone.” It’s the same premise. Near-sighted and far-sighted people see events through their own set of glasses, which just may be smudged.

  10. “Perfect” is a tricky word, as is “inerrancy”.

    Perfect in what way. God’s word is perhaps perfect in what it is trying to communicate, not necessarily in the way many (both some of those who hold to inerrancy, and those who criticize it) think it should be.

    • Good point, Rick. Perfect is a tricky word. What do we do with Hebrews 5:8 and 9? ” Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”

      Was Jesus not “perfect” before then? So long as we continue to confuse “without flaw” with “completed” we will have a hard time with that word.

  11. “Catholics do it with the Pope. Pentecostals with experience. Evangelicals with inerrancy.”

    Michael Spencer so often knocked it out of the park! If I had to believe that there were no contradictions in the Bible in order to be a Christian, there is NO WAY I could be a Christian. There are many, many passages in the Gospel stories that don’t “line up” with other passages. BUT…the letters from Paul and the other writers of letters to the Church make it clear that Jesus truly was raised from the dead and now lives forever in a different way than he did before. And they all make it clear that God truly loves human beings.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Regarding having to have the Gospels (or the entire Bible) utterly consistent — does anyone remember police procedure when questioning witnesses?

      If all the witnesses agree on every detail, it’s a sign that their testimony (“Witness” in Christianese) was cooked up after the fact. Separate eyewitnesses to an event will ALWAYS show minor discrepancies in their testimony while agreeing on the big picture, as different people will notice different things. The much angsted-over “contradictions” and “discrepancies” actually add to the credibility, and as we’ve found out in the history of the Testimonium Flavium of Flavius Josephus, subsequent editing for doctrinal consistency actually destroys the credibility of the original. (As in the later edited version is Too Perfect to be true.)

  12. I do not believe that any of the books of the Bible claim inerrancy, or make statements that necessarily imply inerrancy, for the whole of the Scriptures. Am I wrong?

    • In his post on inerrancy (link in today’s post), Michael makes the insightful point that the Bible wasn’t even a BOOK when the “books” were being written, and that whatever statements about Scripture one finds cannot therefore be referring to the entire book we have today.

      • Mike -

        Very true. If we only recognised how the Scriptures came about in such an organic & dynamic way, not in some static form. I think even if one looked at the historical probability of edits, udpates and reshaping of the accounts through the OT. But, even if one wants to completely reject his perspective, the Scriptures took a VERY long time to come together. And we were never given an objective list of what should be in the canon. It included the leaders of God’s people making discernible decisions of what would be helpful to include in the canon-standard that we have in Scripture.

  13. One thing I read by Michael Spencer regarding inerrancy has always stuck with me. Don’t remember the exact essay it appeared in, or the exact words, but went something like the inerrancy he subscribed to was “the Bible says exactly what God wants it to say,” and in that sense is accurate. That made a lot of sense to me at the time I read it, and it still does. (Maybe somebody else will remember the context/location better than I did)

  14. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    The inerrantist’s quest for absolute certainty with regard the way we understand Scripture serves to make me more fearful and anxious rather than assured with regard to the Gospel and living out my faith.

    Because that turns the Gospels into The Party Line and nothing more. Perfect Purity of Ideology. Ask any survivor of Cambodia’s Killing Fields how far that road can go.

    Dispensationalism began as an attempt to prove the Bible as Utterly Inerrant, by grouping the apparent discrepancies into separate Utterly Consistent “dispensations”; we’ve all seen the fallout of that, from Hal Lindsay to Dake’s Annotated.

    Some months ago, Chaplain Mike commented about the Industrial Revolution changing perception of the Bible from “the Old, Old Stories” to a Spiritual Engineering Manual of FACT, FACT, FACT, spelled out in contract law-precise detail.

    And I’m not even touching on “double verbal plenary inspiration” regarding Kynge Jaymes Englyshe.

  15. Hi Chaplain Mike. Thanks for writing this. I happen to be Mike Licona’s son-in-law and an apologist in my own write. When this controversy broke out, I was a student at SES who had studied under Norman Geisler. I have since left there and am getting my Master’s elsewhere.

    I am an inerrantist, but not a modern one. I think the texts are inerrant if we hold them up to ancient standards of what it would mean to be inerrant and not modern post-enlightenment ones, which is where Mohler and Geisler go wrong. Both of them treat the Bible as if it was a modern text written in ways that the man on the street can easily understand today. It’s not. The book is far richer than that and treating it as modern will rob us of some of its rich teachings.

    Geisler is out of touch entirely. He doesn’t realize the gospels are Greco-Roman biographies and has one of the dumbest arguments against it. I remember his T.A. had even told me at one time that there are scholars who question if there was a period known as Second Temple Judaism.

    Anyway, I’ve written extensively on this whole debate at my own blog at deeperwaters.wordpress.com. My ministry partner, J.P. Holding of Tekton Apologetics has written at tektonticker.blogspot.com and tektonforge.blogspot.com. If Geisler and Mohler take the day, then bullying will be the route of evangelical scholarship rather than going where the evidence leads. Geisler has damaged the cause of Inerrancy far more than Mike Licona ever could have.

    In Christ,
    Nick Peters

    • It’s interesting that we attempt to understand the message of the Gospels without a clear understanding of the cultures in which they were written. We look for linear accounts of history from a culture that didn’t tell stories in a linear fashion. I appreciate the impact of multiple witnesses and perspectives and included details and excluded details. Having lived in a culture where similar values were expressed daily, I’ve become less concerned about what I can’t figure out, and more concerned about what God has revealed to me from his scriptures. The Gospels continue to impress in that they still communicate to a 21st century post-modern culture the truth of person Jesus Christ, his purpose, and his mission, and the reality of a life of faith in his redeeming work.

    • Thanks Nick. I appreciate you adding your input.

      I recommend that our readers visit Nick’s site and get a fuller perspective.

  16. So are there two definitions of “inerrant”?

    1. The dictionary definition, which means “free from error.”

    2. The Evangelical Inerrantist’s (a la The Chicago Statement) definition, which means “free from error, with whatever qualifications and explanations of ‘error’ are necessary so that we can continue to affirm that the Bible is ‘inerrant’.”

    • Whenever Mohler et.al. talk about inerrancy, I can’t help but quote a line from one of my favorite movies…

      “you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means”

    • Yes. It’s almost as if the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy is an inerrant document itself if Mohler holds it in such high esteem that it can dictate what is and is not an error in the Bible.

  17. Ok, as I’ve mentioned in other posts, when a confessional Lutheran refers to “inerrancy,” he means something drastically different from a Baptist. The Evangelical wants to treat scripture like a modern reference source and hold it to those standards. I say that if casting a demon out of one man vs. two men destroys your faith, you are missing the the forrest for the trees.

    The thing is, ALL our theology starts and ends with Christ. As the slogan goes, “All theology is Christology.” Our view of Scripture, specifically, is rooted in the incarnation. Just as Christ was 100% God and 100% man, so we believe scripture to be a book that is fully of divine and human origin. The way that this works out can not be fully explained, but must be accepted as a mystery. Just as Christ was without sin, so Scripture is without falsehood. Just as the living Word can be trusted for salvation, so the written word can be trusted to bring you that salvation. Jesus exhibited human characteristics such as hunger, thirst, sorrow, etc… and so Scripture does also exhibit fully human characteristics (to which I personally am content to ascribe anything that might be considered an “error”). But also, just as Christ’s divinity made him infallible and gave him power to do supernatural things, so the same power abides in His words, written for us, that we might believe. The word creates faith: this is it’s infallible power. We believe they are true, and we accept them for what they say. IF two versions of the same genealogy have slightly different names listed, our faith does not collapse like a house of cards. The book is truth, and its words bring us life without fail. The details are not the point.

    • Miguel,
      In your opening paragraph you misspelled ‘forest’. This obvious error renders your entire argument invalid.

      • After I picked myself up from rolling on the floor laughing, I realized that your humorous line actually illustrates the point I was trying to make. Well played!

      • My momma always said, “Reading the Bible was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

  18. Randy Thompson says:

    A lot of the defenses of “inerrancy” remind me of the OT story about the Tower of Babel: “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens. . .” (Genesis 11:4, NIV). Many evangelicals want an uncomplicated direct line to heaven, just like they want a Bible that will give them all the details of the end times. In fact, the latter may go a long way to explain the need for a direct line to heaven.

    Sadly, the OT Tower of Babel fell, because God confused their language, just like the doctrine of inerrancy collapses every twenty years or so with yet another group of people moving out of fundamentalism for theological options that are more grounded in reality–both spiritually and intellectually . Unfortunately, unlike the OT Babel builders, the contemporary Tower of Inerrant Babel keeps getting re-built–and keeps falling.

    Years ago, I realized I was a “reliabilist” rather than an inerrantist. Graduate school and seminar left me with a strong sense that the Bible really was, when all was said and done, a reliable account of who God is, what God has done, who Jesus is, what Jesus taught, and what we should be up to. The inspiration of Scripture, I think, is best understood in terms of sacramental theology. Underlying and within the very human words of the Bible, spoken and written within all the limitations of being a human being, is God’s Word. Scripture i “God-breathed” because God breathed His Spirit into it, just like He did in the second creation account and as He did in Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones, where God’s breath/Spirit made what was dead come alive.

    One more thing about the Tower of Babel: The story tells us that God “confused” the language of the Tower builders so that “they will not understand each other” (Genesis 11:7). This suggests to me that language is indeed a very frail vessel to contain God’s revelation. Language is adequate for the task, but just barely, and we need to honor the confusion, vagueness, and inadequacies of human language.

    • ” The inspiration of Scripture, I think, is best understood in terms of sacramental theology. Underlying and within the very human words of the Bible, spoken and written within all the limitations of being a human being, is God’s Word. Scripture i “God-breathed” because God breathed His Spirit into it, just like He did in the second creation account and as He did in Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones, where God’s breath/Spirit made what was dead come alive.”

      Yes!

  19. Here are some of my questions at the moment:

    1. How far can we trust the bible to tell us true things about God? A recent guest writer on Peter Enns blog (Dr. Eric Siebert) said that he did not believe that God ordered the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites. If this were the case, and the bible ascribes to God words he never actually said, what do we do with the other, often less problematic, ‘words’ attributed to God?

    2. What is the bible actually for? Is it just to tell us the story of God and the world, including Israel’s story, the gospel story, the story of the church, and where the story will eventually end up? Is it to tell us how to live our lives? On that point, does a command or principle become applicable to us by virtue of being in the bible?

    3. How did the idea that some words or texts were, in some way, from God, originate? What made these words/texts different from other, secular words/texts?

    4. Is a narwhal a real animal, or something mythical?

    • Randy Thompson says:

      I too am disturbed by the OT passages and themes such as the total annihilation of Israel’s enemies.

      It is somewhat helpful to me to think of the OT in terms of politics, although only somewhat! I get the sense that warfare in ancient times was an all or nothing proposition. There was also no theories of “just wars.” One killed one’s enemies, or was killed by them. A nation destroyed its neighbor lest its neighbor destroy it. Violence was much more part of human life than we’re used to here in the United States or Europe. In this regard, I’m struck by the horrible words of Psalm 137, addressed to Babylon: “[H]appy is he who repays you for what you have done to us–he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks” (Psalm 137:8-9, NIV, cf. Isaiah 13:16, Hosea 13:16, Nahum 3:10). This was standard operating procedure in those days. My point is, culturally and even ethically, these were times that were radically different than our own (unless you happen to live in Afghanistan or the tribal areas of Pakistan, in which case, God help you).

      There is still violence, bloodshed, murder and mayhem in the modern world. But, I suspect, the leavening of the Christian Gospel on the modern world world, as secular as it is, is considerable. Jesus’ emphasis on turning the other check, teaching that the meek and gentle inherit the earth, and his own crucifixion has affected the modern world more than it knows. As a result, the violent OT world is beyond our comprehension. (As an aside, this may well be why we have such a hard time making any sense out of what’s going on in places like Afghanistan or Pakistan, where the Taliban and other Islamist extremists live in a world that is totally foreign and even repugnant to many.)

      In some ways, the Gospel makes it very hard indeed to make sense morally of parts of the Old Testament.

      Oh, and yes, there really is such a thing as a narwhal.

      • Randy Thompson says:

        I just realized that I never finished my parenthetical point about the Taliban and Islamist extremists. My point is that they very much reflect an OT mindset or worldview, which is why they are so alien to us (post-Christian) Westerners.

        • That OT mindset was dealt with nicely in CM’s post last Monday (Feb 11th). They were (and Islam is) honor/shame, we are geek and Greek (right/wrong or guilt and innocence). A world of difference. Our consuming interest is in words and their precise meaning. They watched actions. If we were to ask someone, “Do you love your wife?” and he answered, “Yes”, we would tend to believe him. They would follow him around for a week and then decide, based on his actions, if he loves his wife. This preoccupation with words and definitions is what obfuscates our understanding of the word “inerrancy”.

          I very much liked the comment above that says the Bible “isn’t math”. Nope. It’s as much art as it is history. Can a poem be true? Does a poem or a song convey a meaning that can be larger than the “sum” of it’s words? Math is the language that represents the Creation in every equation, thus revealing the Creator. The Bible is the story of man in relation to Him. Both are elegant. Each is different.

          It would be informative to know if Muslims are out there right now questioning the inerrancy of the Qur’an and what form their arguments might take.

  20. What a coincidence. I’m reading Kenton Sparks’ book “God’s Word in Human Words” right now which is proving to be the best book on the Bible I’ve ever read. This book created an uproar at Southern when it was released a few years ago. There was even a round-table discussion with Mohler and others about inerrancy and the challenges posed to the doctrine by Peter Enns and especially Kenton Sparks. The conversation boiled down to “these are old issues that we’ve already dealt with” even though they haven’t been dealt with sufficiently. Also a lot of questions like “Why doesn’t Sparks just give up the Evangelical label if he rejects inerrancy”? The answer to that, of course, is that it is much more difficult for Mohler (et. al.) to ignore Sparks arguments if he is not part of the tribe.

    Pete Enns gave a running commentary to the discussion on hig blog here.

    • Kenton. I almost skipped over the reference. We knew him as Kent. It is now obvious why he left the church I was at about 15 years ago. He was an associate pastor and if this was his trajectory he would not have been welcome to stay. Great guy. (I also left said church over many similar issues.)

  21. Could it be that, in a certain sense, innerantists aren’t modern enough? I mean by this that knowledge today is informed (if too much at times) by statistical thinking, rather than an Enlightenment emphasis on mechanistic reasoning. It’s a point worth considering at least briefly.

    When you plot your data out, expecting a straight line trend to emerge, you can certainly opt to cry because the points don’t all lie on the straight line. But most of us don’t cry.

    Better, of course, to use the data as it stands to create your best stab at that line. But here’s the really, really cool thing: it’s precisely how much those data points DON’T fit the line (literally called “the error,” for better or worse) that tells you whether the line you see is worth a hoot. They don’t have to fit perfectly for you to conclude that something’s going on.

    It gets even better, though. As long as you have enough data, even a tiny signal — a barely perceptible uphill climb by that line — can be flagged as significant. And to top it off, having satisfied yourself about the line, you can study the errors themselves on their own merits!

    This is all a metaphor, of course. But it can still promote a useful mental attitude. Inerrantists insist that data all lie along the straight line, for fear that no one will believe that there’s really a trend present. The rest of us are comfortable saying both that there is a trend — the line points to Christ — and that the errors/discrepancies are themselves interesting in their own right without engaging in double-speak.

    • Trevis,
      I like it; I don’t understand it, but I like it. I think I once read something like this in a novel by John Updike; I don’t think I understood it then, either, but I liked it.

      • Robert,

        If Updike said something along these lines, I’m sure it was better said than my effort.

        • Trevis,
          I think there was something like this in the novel “Roger’s Version,” and I think the character who voiced ideas analogous to your own (a brilliant graduate student using an advanced computer program to try to establish proof of the existence of God even as the bitter late middle-aged Barthian professor of theology he’s asked to assist him by giving his project institutional support subtly undermines him at every turn) may have used language very similar to your own, right up to and including “But here’s the really, really cool thing…” and “It gets even better…”. Uncanny.

      • Look at the charts, ignore the math. :)

        http://online.stat.psu.edu/online/development/stat501/14outliers/02outlier_distinction.html

        Just a random thing I found with a quick Google search.

  22. From the Orthodox perspective, the insistent claim of a particular type of inerrancy is due the rejection of the Church as part of the mosaic of what guarantees truth for the Christian. Thus, I can remember being taught about how the Scriptures are self-authenticating, supposedly. Thus–the argument continued–the Scriptures were mysteriously always recognized by the Church as Scripture, as versus other writings. The fact that one can read in history that this was not always true, that there were serious arguments over some of the Books of the Bible is diminished to a mere temporary discussion.

    The idea that it was the Church that authenticated the Scriptures under the guidance of the Holy Spirit is almost considered nonsensical. The Orthodox argument is very Evangelical in some ways. God did inspire the Scriptures. All Christians agree on that statement. But, God also preserved the Scripture through the Church, and authenticated them through the Church. The Church’s received deposit confirmed the written deposit. It was an issue of hand in hand.

  23. I’m going to come out hard against many of the preceeding comments. Not two weeks ago, there was a three-part review of Misreading Scripture Through Western Eyes, and here we have many loudly basing their criticisms of inerrancy on their modern Western worldviews. The Chicago Statement of Inerrancy gets denigrated because they try to explain these prejudicial interpretations; it allows for idioms, hyperbole, Pre-Enlightenment and non-scientific thought and expression.

    While many have written that words (including “inerrancy”) have different meanings, they then go on to attack the strawmen of their pet peeves. The Doctrine of Inerrancy, The Chicago Statement, and scientific method are all products of our modern rationalistic approach. When the LORD God asked if Abram could count the stars in the sky He was not requesting a response that there are some 6,000 odd visible stars.

    Some of the responders seemed to equate belief in inerrancy to fundamentalism or ignorant King James Only folk. Hey, I like the AV, but don’t rely upon it when I want Biblical scholarship. Sometimes we rely too much on the good ol’KJV, which is also Pre-Enlightenment. John’s comment of Feb 19, 9:54 AM about rabbits not chewing their cud is an example of this. Bats being called birds is another. Archaeology was unknown; access to variant manuscript traditions was limited; linguistics and philology were uninvented; biology was limited to naturalism or half magical medicine.

    Inerrantists have been dogmatically called doctrinaire. Really? It won’t be found in the historical creeds, probably because it didn’t become an issue until secularist philosophers began taking a “scientific” approach to Scripture. Few regard it as a salvific issue. Improper handling by either camp can produce tragic spiritual consequences. Be careful, love one another.

    Remember, just because the Bible says “Curse God and die.” does not make it Biblical teaching.

  24. I think it is fascinating that Licona looked to Greek writing from the same time period as the gospels and with accounts of Julius Ceasar from the same author and still finding some irregularities in the text that could be viewed as contradicting. The Gospels were written by various authors using different sources. It is amazing they harmonize as well as they do. When 4 people witness an accident, they all notice different things that make their accounts sound contradictory. The Bible is a wonderful source and witness to Jesus and there is no need to be ashamed as a follower who esteems it’s content. Get ready for the world to raise it’s game in criticizing any of you who believe the Bible is authoritative. We are about experience slander and hatred if we follow and believe scripture is holy and to be followed. The early church experienced this and many in the world are experiencing this even now, and it is about to make it’s way to America…. It will be over this very issue too… It will be Bible relevancy vs. Bible is archaic irrelevancy…