August 20, 2018

Five Reasons + Two Resources

five-fingers.jpgFive Reasons I Don’t Use The Term Inerrancy:

1. Inerrancy is a term that requires too many intelligent, honest Christians to violate their consciences over what they read in the text of the Bible, and no amount of “Resolving Bible Difficulties” resources can solve these issues. The result- those who are convinced shouting derision at those who are not- is an embarrassment to the church.

2. Inerrancy is a term that needlessly divides the church, making many Bible-believing, Christ-following, Kingdom-pursuing believers into outsiders and enemies in their own house.

3. Inerrancy is a term that requires too much special definition to be generally useful. It requires such massive, scholarly, near circular, qualification of the term “error,” that it succeeds in making the word “inerrant” as applied to many Biblical texts a non sequitur.

4. Requiring allegiance to the term inerrancy has proven to be ineffective in producing the predicted revitalization in denominations, churches or the evangelical movement. “Inerrantist” evangelicalism is more idolatrous, culturally captive and spiritually impoverished than ever. In many cases, the worldliness and pragmatism of evangelicalism stands in bizarre contradistinction to their loud proclamation of belief in “inerrancy.”

5. The term inerrancy is a recent innovation, absent from most of Christian history and almost every major confession. How do contemporary evangelicals get the right to insist that a term created in their time be binding on those who say they share the same faith in the Bible as those who did not use the term? If I say, “I am going to use the same words about the Bible that _____________ used,” are you going to condemn me if I don’t use “inerrancy?”

OUTSTANDING LINK: For an excellent discussion of how a younger evangelical views inerrancy, see this discussion from Kevin Kriedemann at emergentAfrica.

Not Everyone in Evangelicalism has gone to the Dogs. Here’s wisdom from Daniel Wallace:

What I tell my students every year is that it is imperative that they pursue truth rather than protect their presuppositions. And they need to have a doctrinal taxonomy that distinguishes core beliefs from peripheral beliefs. When they place more peripheral doctrines such as inerrancy and verbal inspiration at the core, then when belief in these doctrines start to erode, it creates a domino effect: One falls down, they all fall down. It strikes me that something like this may be what happened to Bart Ehrman. His testimony in Misquoting Jesus discussed inerrancy as the prime mover in his studies. But when a glib comment from one of his conservative professors at Princeton was scribbled on a term paper, to the effect that perhaps the Bible is not inerrant, Ehrman’s faith began to crumble. One domino crashed into another until eventually he became ‘a fairly happy agnostic.’ I may be wrong about Ehrman’s own spiritual journey, but I have known too many students who have gone in that direction. The irony is that those who frontload their critical investigation of the text of the Bible with bibliological presuppositions often speak of a ‘slippery slope’ on which all theological convictions are tied to inerrancy. Their view is that if inerrancy goes, everything else begins to erode. I would say that if inerrancy is elevated to the status of a prime doctrine, that’s when one gets on a slippery slope. But if a student views doctrines as concentric circles, with the cardinal doctrines occupying the center, then if the more peripheral doctrines are challenged, this does not have an effect on the core.

Meanwhile, have my “Ten Questions” become a meme?

Here are some thoughts on “honesty” is this entire discussion. Especially relevant to PCA old earthers who insist on inerrancy from others.

Comments

  1. I know that I for one don’t anticipate standing before God Almighty and telling Him I was faithful to proclaiming the scriptures as inerrant; rather, I hope that I can simply say that I am His, that in my inability and incompleteness He made me complete, and thank You, Lord, for saving me, loving me, and giving to me. It seems rather trite to be so focuses on a word when we must instead be focused on The Word.

  2. Historical blindness Michael: Inerrancy is a recent word because a belief in the “errancy” of Scripture is a recent attack. Pre-enlightenment it wasn’t an issue.

    Most of the problems in the articles you have linked here are on bad hermeneutics. Not being able to tell when someone is poetic and when someone is precisely narrative has always plagued men. I also like all the polls he listed…that sure should change our opinion on how we read the Bible….::sarcasm::

    Let’s apply your rules to something more fundamental and see how ludicrous we can be:
    1. Faith alone is a belief that requires too many intelligent, honest Christians to violate their consciences over what they read in the text of the Bible

    2. Faith alone is a theme that needlessly divides the church, making many Bible-believing, Christ-following, Kingdom-pursuing believers into outsiders and enemies in their own house.

    3. Faith alone is a subject that requires too much special definition to be generally useful.

    4. Requiring allegiance to the term “faith alone” has proven to be ineffective in producing the predicted revitalization in denominations, churches or the evangelical movement.

    5. The term faith alone is a recent innovation.

    I can make a five point list about anything and it proves nothing. Your link to the kid with his polls proves nothing. And the Bible, if flawed, proves nothing. The job of faith is not to make us believe the unbelievable, vague assertions of some feel good book. The job of faith is to lead us towards what we should believe based on the word of another. If we can’t trust Scripture at one point, what makes ‘you’ wise enough, Mr. Spencer, to think you know the key points. If you continue to erode the foundation that “revelation” is founded on, you will find yourself in some wonderfully sinking sand.

  3. Some years ago I got into a debate with a rather dogmatic new believer about inerrancy. All he knew is what his pastor told him; his pastor believed in inerrancy, so he believed in inerrancy. (He also believed in cessationism and the King James Version, but those are other issues.)

    So I dug out the first-semester Old Testament example of David’s census — Yahweh convinced him to do it in 2 Samuel 24, and Satan in 1 Chronicles 21. “That’s a pretty big discrepancy,” I pointed out. “How are they both right?”

    I’ve heard the usual explanation (God had Satan tempt David) but he hadn’t. He was horrified. He kept flipping in his King James bible back and forth between 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles, comparing, looking for a way out. Finally, he said, “Then is any of this true?”

    I thought he was asking a rhetorical question, but a minute later — and finally noticing the great distress on his face from my clever argument — I realized I had shaken his faith pretty bad. He wasn’t questioning his dogmatism; he was questioning his entire belief in Jesus, and whether it was valid. After all, his pastor had taught him that if the bible wasn’t 100 percent solid, then we had no basis for believing anything in it. (And, as cessationists, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t allow them to ask Him for help.)

    Rather than rant further about how horribly his pastor had prepared him for the real world, I should point out what a jerk I was being for body-slamming his belief system simply to make a point. There are a lot of bibliolaters out there who confuse the Living Word with the word of God, and think of the bible, not Jesus, as the foundation of their faith. That’s why they’re so strident in their defense of inerrancy and the like — when you criticise their belief, you’re taking on their god. It needs to be knocked down, but at the same time we must be prepared to lead them to Jesus afterwards.

  4. I think your Ten Questions is becoming a meme; I answered them my own way on my blog, and I got them off someone else’s blog (though the blogger didn’t answer them for himself). I think these are questions Christians should ask themselves, ’cause they need to recognize what position the bible takes in their own lives.

    As for inerrancy, here was my answer for 10. “Anything else you want to say?”:

    “Yeah: Those who believe in inerrancy aren’t struggling with the scriptures enough. If you’re seriously trying to let the scriptures change you, you have to do a great deal of debate with God and internal struggle before you can dare reject any passage as an ‘error’ — and ultimately you will likely find the error is in yourself, not the bible. But if you never accept the possibility, you’ll never have the struggle.”

  5. jmanning:

    >what makes ‘you’ wise enough, Mr. Spencer, to think you know the key points. If you continue to erode the foundation that “revelation” is founded on, you will find yourself in some wonderfully sinking sand.

    Your comment gives me the opportunity to say 3 things.

    1) Faith is a term in the Bible and in confessions. Inerrancy is not.

    2) Your personal insults and demeaning of my profession of faith in Christ, your accusations of superiority and arrogance, and your own judgmental tone remind me that doctrine produces character. The comments are open at Fide-o if you’d like to continue your announcement that I am not a Christian and I’m going to hell.

    3) I find that my five reasons also work with other terms….like Calvinism.

    Still a Christian, no matter what you think,

    MS

  6. The “nice” counter:
    2) Which personal insults of mine were “demeaning” of your profession of faith in Christ? I’ll fully confess to being arrogant, but I never called into question your eternal state.
    3) Your five reasons work with anything you want to disprove, because they are arbitrary and nuanced (no offense or arrogance intended, those are both valid words to describe them in a neutral sense)
    1) Taking the time to cool off gave me a chance to read more and wonder if you have heard the term “verbal plenary inspiration” and if you would agree to it: Scripture is true and authoratative in the sense that the author (divine and human) intended it to be. [We all know there are smaller seeds than mustard seeds, not ALL of Capernaum turned out, and maybe some of the numbers weren’t important to the authors in battle casaulties , just the fact that God provided victory] Genesis isn’t science, etc. But that the Bible does not contain blatantly misleading information…

    The anger comes out b/c as a casual reader of your blog for some time, a friend and I are distressed to see your continuing slide in a direction that is not positive in some issues. You call it post-evangelical, we call it a spiritual mid-life crisis. We call it a trend towards postmodernism, you may call it a valid reaction to the present sad evangelical environment you find yourself in. Imagine how the pre-wrath rapture camp would feel if Tim Lahaye suddenly started taking a postmillenial view…you see what I’m getting at? He may full well see the dangers of the camp he represents, they only see a betrayal at times.

    its just words after all

  7. >a friend and I are distressed to see your continuing slide in a direction that is not positive in some issues

    I’m going to assume you are either a reformed Baptist or a Calvinist of some kind.

    If I am wrong, please correct me.

    I wrote that essay almost three years ago. Slide?

    I’ve never been to another person’s blog and expressed “Concern” for their theology in my life. Excuse me for thinking this is a strange hobby.

    Concerned about me? Please add people like Eugene Peterson, N.T. Wright and Peter Enns to your list. Add all non fundamentalists, all mainline theologians, all those who don’t buy the word “inerrancy.”

    I could sit here and blog verse by verse statements from scripture and you think my view of the Bible is insufficient? Amazing.

    I endorse WCF 1 and my view of scripture is insufficient? Amazing. Utterly amazing.

    Thanks for your concern. I confess the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, I was ordained by faithful men, and I preach the Bible that I believe was inspired by God to give me the Gospel.

    Sorry that’s not enough for you.

  8. If you’d put the claws back in your “mits” and read that whatever I say isn’t a personal attack for a few seconds….is verbal plenary inspiration as listed above an adequate definition that is somewhat “similar” to what you espouse?

    I’m not a Reformed Baptist in the general sense of the word…the church I attend is Baptist and Reformed…and constantly under attack for it, but not for the same reasons you will automatically assume. We aren’t Al Martin, and we aren’t Driscoll. Somewhere in the nether regions between…so don’t assume I’m some Particular Baptist holdover trying to goad you into confessions…

    I’m sorry that “reading and commenting” on your hobby is a wierd hobby…perhaps you should rethink your hobby if this is troubling…:-) what’s a blog for?

  9. >But that the Bible does not contain blatantly misleading information…

    The Bible is God’s word, telling us what God wants us to know in the words and literary forms that God chose. There is No EXTERNAL AUTHORITY that stands over scripture, therefore the idea of scripture being “misleading” would mean that scripture would be verified by scientists or historians and I do not accept that. The Word of God is true from its source, not because it matches up with someone’s idea of what is real or historical.

  10. Remember that I’ve also heard you called a Calvinist at some blog sites…:-) (ever heard of the flyswatter?)
    And to quote myself, I am not the typical Reformed Baptist…
    I don’t believe very few people are actually Christians, and I don’t agree with the LBC on the treatment of the Sabbath, and I’ve never been to fideo or triablogue as I recall…and I believe nonCalvinists can go to heaven, and that most Calvinists have no idea what they are talking about.
    I sympathize with the Founders, but don’t know about apologetic/debate ministries as being supported by the “regulative principle”
    As for your being unfit to be a minister, mentally unstable, etc….Martin Luther made a nice minister

  11. Oops, you edited your response to me I believe, and now mine is incoherent..er

  12. Michael, as a long-time but relatively occasional reader, I’ve appreciated your willingness to speak your mind on a number of issues that folks are often loathe to speak their minds about; I’ve linked to your site, and encouraged others to read. That said, it strikes me that this is really not your best work and reasoning, here, and the Kriedemann article that you label an “outstanding link” is especially weak, full of red herrings and misunderstandings of the term “inerrancy” itself; suffice it to say that as I read it, I found myself at the same time grieved over the “scholarship” of at least this “emerging” type, and absolutely confident that a person taking the time to defend inerrancy against his objections would have little problem spanking his butt on this one. I’d really encourage you to read it again and think through the flimsiness of at least a good portion of this fellow’s arguments.

    I’d agree with jmanning that your words do not call into question at all your salvation, but for me, they do call into question your reasoning on this particular critical issue (and yes, I unapologetically consider it to be extremely critical).

  13. michael –

    I have to agree with Byron on this one. You’d get a poor grade in my hermeneutics seminar.

  14. Thanks ok John. Anyone who believes in the rapture would get an “F” in my class.

    🙂

  15. “Add all non fundamentalists, all mainline theologians, all those who don’t buy the word “inerrancy.””

    Maybe I missed something, but considering his influence and your regard for him, I think J.I. Packer’s role in the Inerrancy saga counters your claim here.

  16. I haven’t done enough study on the doctrine of inerrancy to say whether Michael’s assessment of its content is accurate. I think ‘inerrancy’ as a term is problematic, because you would expect it to mean, without qualification, that ‘there are no mistakes or errors in the Bible in any form’. The moment you have to start qualifying what ‘error’ means, the term is becoming misleading.

    I think that Michael is putting his finger on a problem with the usefulness of the doctrine. As jmanning has pointed out, it was developed to provide a bulwark against liberal Biblical criticism, but however it seems to have morphed into a bulwark against any questioning of evangelical theology. If you do find yourself uncomfortable with evangelicalism, as Michael and others have, then how do you express your concerns if they are going to be read as attacks on the authority and inspiration of the Bible?