November 20, 2017

The Conservative Evangelical View of Inerrancy

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I used to affirm biblical inerrancy. I’m not sure I understood it very well, even though I went through Bible college and seminary. I know I hadn’t read or studied the Bible enough to have a true “belief” about it.

I trusted the Bible. That, in a nutshell, was my position. The Bible is true. I can count on the Bible to tell me the truth. The Bible communicates God’s mind and heart to me. The Bible is a reliable witness to God’s character and works in history, culminating in Jesus Christ. God speaks through the Bible. It is filled with lively words that point to the Living Word.

While I was growing in my understanding of the Bible in the 1970’s and 80’s, a much more detailed and precise definition of “inerrancy” was emerging in American evangelicalism.

In her book, Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism, Molly Worthen sketches a brief outline of the doctrine of “inerrancy” as we know it today.

She notes that inerrancy is a peculiarly Protestant doctrine (inerrantists dispute this). She traces it from the generations following the Reformation, when Protestant scholastics developed their doctrine of Scripture using Greek philosophical and rationalistic principles, to the days when the doctrine “blossomed” under the tutelage of Hodge and Warfield at Princeton Theological Seminary, who taught in the wake of Darwin and modern biblical higher criticism.

Then it was on to the fundamentalist vs. modernist battles of the early twentieth century and the development of neo-evangelicalism in response to fundamentalist sectarianism and obscurantism. Though both chose different ways of relating to the world of reason, culture, and education, both held to an inerrant Bible.

In the midst of the Cold War, the social upheavals of the 1960’s and early 70’s, and a sense of growing secularism and godlessness, in the infant days of the “Christian Right” more than 200 evangelical leaders came together at a conference sponsored by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI), held in Chicago (1978). These leaders included Robert Preus, James Montgomery Boice, Carl F. H. Henry, Kenneth Kantzer, J. I. Packer, Francis Schaeffer, R. C. Sproul and John MacArthur. They produced The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, a thorough conservative evangelical statement attributing inerrancy to the Bible’s original autographs.

Read the complete Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

These next couple of weeks, as we discuss the Bible, its nature and purpose, we will be throwing ideas about “inerrancy” back and forth. It is important that we understand the modern concept of inerrancy as the ones who promote it define it. So, below, for your meditation today, is the summary statement from the Chicago Statement, followed by an excerpt of an article by Al Mohler, one of the doctrine’s foremost public defenders.

I’d like our discussion to focus on responding to inerrancy as its adherents define it. The full Chicago Statement is linked above, and there are links for further reading below in case you want more detail.

open-bibleCSBI SUMMARY STATEMENT

1. God, who is Himself Truth and speaks truth only, has inspired Holy Scripture in order thereby to reveal Himself to lost mankind through Jesus Christ as Creator and Lord, Redeemer and Judge. Holy Scripture is God’s witness to Himself.

2. Holy Scripture, being God’s own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: It is to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it affirms; obeyed, as God’s command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God’s pledge, in all that it promises.

3. The Holy Spirit, Scripture’s divine Author, both authenticates it to us by His inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning.

4. Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.

5. The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited of disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible’s own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.

 • • •

dr-mohler1I do not believe that evangelicalism can survive without the explicit and complete assertion of biblical inerrancy. Given the pressures of late modernity, growing ever more hostile to theological truth claims, there is little basis for any hope that evangelicals will remain distinctively evangelical without the principled and explicit commitment to the inerrancy of the Bible.

Beyond this, inerrancy must be understood as necessary and integral to the life of the church, the authority of preaching, and the integrity of the Christian life. Without a total commitment to the trustworthiness and truthfulness of the Bible, the church is left without its defining authority, lacking confidence in its ability to hear God’s voice. Preachers will lack confidence in the authority and truthfulness of the very Word they are commissioned to preach and teach. This is not an issue of homiletical theory but a life-and-death question of whether the preacher has a distinctive and authoritative Word to preach to people desperately in need of direction and guidance. Individual Christians will be left without either the confidence to trust the Bible or the ability to understand the Bible as something less than totally true.

. . . The affirmation of biblical inerrancy is necessary for the health of the church and for our obedience to the Scriptures. Though necessary, it is not sufficient, taken by itself, to constitute an evangelical doctrine of Scripture. Evangelicals must embrace a comprehensive affirmation of the Bible as the Word of God written. In the end, inspiration requires inerrancy, and inerrancy affirms the Bible’s plenary authority. The Bible is not inerrant, and thus the Word of God; it is the Word of God, and thus inerrant.

• Al Mohler, from “When the Bible Speaks, God Speaks: The Classic Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy”

• • •

Other Articles Defending Inerrancy:

 

Comments

  1. This idea of biblical inerrancy is a relatively new idea.

    The early Christians never thought that way about Scripture.

    In my thinking, only a smaller god would have to have a perfect and inerrant book to get his will to be done.

    A larger, powerful God is fully capable of using “earthen vessels”…and uses the finite, to carry out His infinite will.

    Just as it was with Jesus himself.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      In my thinking, only a smaller god would have to have a perfect and inerrant book to get his will to be done.

      Small minds like their gods small and cozy.

  2. Michael Spencer actually debated the issue in an issue of WHI’s “Modern Reformation,” with Horton himself and some Reformed Episcopalian guy. Spencer’s position on the issue was on the money, as far as I’m concerned, and as articulate a defender as Horton is, it still hasn’t convinced me. I’m off to bed, but I’ll be back to explain why Lutherans can and do not accept the CSBI. We have our own statements, but it is infinitely more brief and simple, kind of like yours in paragraph 2 (which I think is excellent).

    • Yes, I wish that article was more easily available, but it’s restricted to subscribers on MR. If anyone knows how to access it, let us know.

      • Behold, the magic of the Internet! (Site requires Javascript to be turned on)

        http://read.uberflip.com/i/20982/35

        The real problem of inerrancy, IMHO, is that it doesn’t touch on the problem of interpretation. You have an “absolutely true” bible that teaches you that you should AND should not argue with fools, within one verse of itself (Prov 26:4-5), and that’s just the most humorous example. Inerrancy tends to assume (no matter how much its proponents deny this) that the Bible is absolutely clear about its absolute truth. T’ain’t necessarily so, no matter how much Scottish Common Sense Realism may demand it…

        • I wouldn’t say that proverb is an example of errancy or of the flaw of claims of inerrancy, for it seems to me that depending on the particular fool and circumstances one would be the proper response versus the other. It’s like giving you reasons and consequences for doing either one or the other.

          I think better examples of errancy are contradictions in the Gospels where either one or the other(s) or neither/none of the accounts of the incidents can be correct at the same time re: exactly how the incident(s) occurred or what occurred. E.g., the details surrounding the cursing of the fig tree or what Judas did with the money he received from betraying Jesus.

          OTOH, you seem to be using that proverb to point what you say is lacking in the inerrancy position, and are not using it to demonstrate errancy.

          • you seem to be using that proverb to point what you say is lacking in the inerrancy position, and are not using it to demonstrate errancy.

            That is correct, sir. 😉

        • Thanks much

          • Obviously the issue of inerrancy is a dividing one. I wonder where in scripture is even a hint that an.issue can cause so much a rift between us We act like it doesn’t but in reality it does. Even in the name of “honest””theological dialogue,we are really heaving doctrinal bombs at each other. Rick Ro makes me laugh when he proclaims himself a heretic, but down deep we do think that of others. Today, denominations are, in a different way proclaiming I’m of Paul, I’m of Cephis, I’m of Apollo Sometimes I wonder if denominations caused doctrines, or doctrines caused denominations?

          • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

            Really, the divisions don’t go all that deep.

            There aren’t any manifest heretics on this board. A dusting of infidels and an apostate or two, but no heretics.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            And a Mule with a creepy icon.

      • I happen to have the print issue, it was the free trial copy I sent for. Spencer mentioned the article on the podcast, so I had to get a copy. I’ll see if I can scan it for you or something. The whole thing is all about inerrancy.

    • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

      1) Michael Horton, in dealing with the problem of interpretation in the article from Modern Reformation to which Eeyore so graciously gave us access, lay his finger on the pulse of the issue:

      “Of course, texts are interpreted, but are you sure you want collapse text into interpretation without remainder? Would this also mean that there is no qualitative difference between Scripture and tradition?”

      Congratulations to Dr Horton for uncovering the Orthodox principle of Authority in the Church. The Bible is, of course,the biggest, most loudly buzzing hive of tradition in the whole Registry of Tradition. So, yeah, the Orthodox Church is Sola Traditio in that sense. Scripture serves for us as a kind of clearinghouse of Tradition [Sorry for the multiplicity of metaphors from apiculture, Windows Operating System, and finance]. Caveats apply, obviously I don’t speak for the whole Orthodox church. We’re fractal, but not that fractal.

      2) I was hoping to find the Lutheran version of the CSBI inside the MR issue. If someone else has found it, could they please point it out to me.

      3)How interesting that the CSBI enshrines the historico-grammatical hermeneutic as GOD’S HOLY WAY of extracting TRVTH from Scripture in Article 18. Take that!, you heathen pagan Catlick fable-spinners! I wouldn’t have a whole lot of trouble with their view of inerrancy if they didn’t insist on Article 18. Actually, 16 and 17 give me problems as well

      • Lutherans don’t have our “own version” of the CSBI. We (the LCMS) do not hold to it (minus the dignitaries who assisted in its drafting who of course signed it) because we have our own, superior statement. You can read it here:

        http://www.lcms.org/doctrine/scripturalprinciples

        Note especially the phrase: “We recognize that there are apparent contradictions or discrepancies and problems which arise because of uncertainty over the original text.”
        There goes your need for a 16 page definition of “err.” I’ll get into the problems with CSBI from the confessional Lutheran perspective in a bit.

        • Usually the LCMS keeps to itself and makes its own statements. And I do think confessional Lutheranism has its own approaches. So, everything you are about to say will be valid.

          However, in understanding the development of LCMS positions on this issue, it may be instructive to recall that the ideas contained in the Chicago statement and the sense of crisis or urgency that document expresses were influential in the LCMS.

          Concordia professor Robert Preus, author of a study on seventeenth-century Lutheran views of inspiration, signed the Chicago statement. So did Klemet Preus and Rolf Preus, who I think were/are his children. Robert Preus was the brother of LCMS President Jack Preus (1969-197?).

          Robert Preus was at Concordia in St. Louis when that flagship institution came under scrutiny from LCMS President Preus for the purported failure of its faculty to uphold Biblical authority by teaching historical-critical methods. During the subsequent suspension of Concordia’s President and the mass exodus of the faculty (45 of 50) during the Seminex crisis, Prof. Robert Preus was one of the few who remained at Concordia. The Seminex faculty taught offsite for several years, but eventually took positions with ELCA institutions.

          As many have pointed out, the Seminex crisis mirrored the purges in the Southern Baptist Convention, which occurred at about the same time.

          That does not make LCMS teaching captive to or identical to evangelical positions, but it does show how there’s been mutual influence and a similar hardening of party lines.

          • Yes, as a former Southern Baptists, the parallels between the denom’s histories are striking and fascinating, though not without their significant differences.

            Bottom line, our leaders from that time had the kind of guts it took to stick to their guns when it was very unpopular, and as a result, our denom hasn’t gone the direction of the ELCA. Those godless heathens. 😛

            I must admit, I am a bit befuddled as to why the Preuses signed the CSBI, and I wonder how many of the other signers identify as Lutheran. I seem major difficulties between the document and the Lutheran confessions.

        • Miguel, I visited the LCMS site which link you provided. In there I read this:

          “With Luther, we confess that “God’s Word cannot err” (LC, IV, 57). We therefore believe, teach and confess that since the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God, they contain no errors or contradictions but that they are in all their parts and words the infallible truth.

          We hold that the opinion that Scripture contains errors is a violation of the sola scriptura, for it rests upon the acceptance of some norm or criterion of truth above the Scriptures. We recognize that there are apparent contradictions or discrepancies and problems which arise because of uncertainty over the original text.”

          So my question is, how is this significantly or functionally different from the Chicago statement or statements made by Horton, Challies, Mohler, et al.?

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            Exactly: Lutherans tend to be just the same when it comes to these problems, they are just very serious about putting their brand (TM, as HUG would have it) on it. I ealized it after a while, when, the inner life and thinking of the ‘conservative ‘ Lutherans I got to know and churches I attended, was almost the same than the conservative Reformed, or Reformed Baptist etc churches I attended before. You just had to say the word “Luther” every now and then….

          • Several ways, though not many of them are touched on in that excerpt. I’d have to write a complete essay to completely do the topic justice. But just within that quote, it allows room for apparent contradictions and discrepancies over textual variants. So for starters, our emphasis is on the authority of the text for the Church, rather than the perfection of the original manuscripts that we don’t have.

            But most importantly, we have such a drastically different theology of the Word that often when using the same terms as Evangelicals we mean radically different things. I’ll try to write a comprehensive explanation soon.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            “they contain no errors or ***contradictions***”

            Queue the linguistic gymnasts; because to eliminate all contradictions in Scripture requires some very fancy twisting.

            “We recognize that there are apparent contradictions or discrepancies and problems which arise because of uncertainty over the original text.”

            So… you believe there are no problems with the text except that the text has problems.

            Bold statement, smooth back-pedal.

            First part deals with Theoretical Scriptures nobody has, second is about the Scriptures we do have.

            “So my question is, how is this significantly or functionally different”

            The CSBI is a taco salad, the LCMS statement is a house salad.

          • Klassie, yes, unfortunately, too many Lutherans have embrace a Reformed mindset because they are being driven more by the trends of American religious culture than by the theology of their own confessions.

            Adam,

            The CSBI is a taco salad, the LCMS statement is a house salad.

            That’s a fairly conclusive analysis of a rather lengthy document from one phrase out of it. Did you read the thing?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Queue the linguistic gymnasts; because to eliminate all contradictions in Scripture requires some very fancy twisting.

            That’s how Dispensationalism got started — an attempt to eliminate all contradictions by splitting the inconsistencies off into separate “Dispensations”.

  3. So the inerrancy summary is specific to call out creation. (but not the Resurrection)

    I do not believe that evangelicalism can survive without the explicit and complete assertion of biblical inerrancy.

    Well, maybe evangelicalism can’t. I’m skeptical on that point but am thankful there are traditions of Christianity other than evangelicalism.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Exactly. RCC, EO, and other traditions, lacking inerrancy, do not suffer from a crisis of confidence. On the contrary, it is inerrancy that seems to breed insecurity and defensiveness. But this tracks in that it is primarily a defensive doctrine; drawn up to defend against perceived threats [and a misguided one as most of those threats, in actuality, had little to nothing to do with the church or theology].

      But many Evangelicals are not that aware of CBSI, if you mention it they don’t know what you are talking about. Yet they use its concepts under many of their claims – so the CBSI is a culturally significant document.

      My primary beef with the CBSI is that it doesn’t really help. It prances about the notion of interpretation. Like item#3: “The Holy Spirit, Scripture’s divine Author, both authenticates it to us by His inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning.”

      Er… that is nothing but word salad. What does that *mean*? It “authenticates” itself by “inward witness”? If it opens our minds to understanding why do we have a myriad sharply contrasting interpretations? Clearly someone in that argument has not been authenticated? So who does the authenticating of the interpretations when they conflict – ah, yes, *our* theologians. So item#3 is meaningless blather, it does not say anything at all.

      And I’ve read passages of Scripture – and no mind-opening occurred, I remain confused. So as a matter of practice I’d say #3 is not personally useful either.

      • -> “…it is inerrancy that seems to breed insecurity and defensiveness. But this tracks in that it is primarily a defensive doctrine; drawn up to defend against perceived threats [and a misguided one as most of those threats, in actuality, had little to nothing to do with the church or theology].”

        That’s been my experience, too.

        -> “My primary beef with the CBSI is that it doesn’t really help. It prances about the notion of interpretation. Like item#3: “The Holy Spirit, Scripture’s divine Author, both authenticates it to us by His inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning.” Er… that is nothing but word salad.”

        Yes. I guess that was what I was trying to point out at an earlier post of mine. The statements leave me wondering “Why?” To me, they’re just words that have no real meaning or depth. I could declare “God put the sun in the sky and it rises from the East” and…so what?

      • Fr. Isaac (or possibly Obed, but definitely not Fr. Obed) says:

        There’s a lot of word-salad in the CBSI. I think the problem with the word ‘inerrancy” is that the concept has been hijacked by the CBSI crowd, even for those who don’t really know CBSI. As you pointed out, many who don’t specifically know CBSI still have been influenced by its tenants. A simple definition of inerrancy as being “without error” is fine with me, but it necessarily dies the death of 1000 qualifications, as is demonstrated by what CBSI did.

    • You are indeed entirely correct. The Axis of Inerrancy centered on Mohler’s and Ken Ham’s approach to interpretation is founded on their view of inerrancy and will not survive if the CBSI is show to be untenable. I have no doubt that they will have a fallback position, but the key point, as Adam pointed out, is the hermeneutic. They draw a circle and say unless one stands within their rhetorical circle, they cannot possibly be a Christian – a typical all-or-nothing fallacy.

      The example I like to use is to ask scholars to point me to a timeline of the life of David that harmonizes the accounts in Kings and Chronicles. Much effort has been expended in harmonizing the gospels with its attendant inconsistencies, but I’ve not found any scholarship that attempts, let alone succeeds, in constructing a timeline of David’s life in any sort of detail. My futile attempts as a non-scholar have resulted in frustration.

      Yet, I never hear this talked about, either by the proponents of inerrancy as a problem or its detractors as evidence that inerrantist claims cannot be sustained when placed against the narrative. I’m sure there are other examples, but I use this as my argument that the fundamental underpinnings of their hermeneutic are unsustainable in practice. I give them the Bible. I give them their presupposition of being error-free. I even give them their codas that say the Bible is only inerrant:
      – in the original autographs (which means the copies we have are errant, so what difference does it make?)
      – except for copying errors may have crept in but they are insubstantial to alter the Bible’s meaning
      – in consideration that different genres have different standards or “inerrant” such as poetry or accurate recordings of people telling lies, etc.

      and a host of other qualifiers.

      I think it was Michael who did a down-and-dirty one time, getting out the magnifying glass, and really looking at some of the details (a bunch of details, if I recall) that don’t make the standard “biblical contradictions” list. For instance, how inerrant is the book of Jeremiah if its first draft was cut up with a pen knife and tossed into the fire and had to be re-written. Or when the did the Book of Jasher become inspired – when it was first written or when it was quoted in the current canon? And how would we know?

      Thank you for bringing this discussion up. I will get the popcorn now and see what y’all have to say.

      rick

      • Good points. The Evangelical definition of “inerrancy” redefines the meaning of the word. It has to in order to excuse and explain what in any other situation would clearly be “errors.”

        • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

          And, as I have pointed out before, it sets a definite fence around epistemology. I mean really this document is less about the Bible and more about what truth has to look like.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        The Axis of Inerrancy centered on Mohler’s and Ken Ham’s approach to interpretation is founded on their view of inerrancy and will not survive if the CBSI is show to be untenable.

        Mohler and Ham are the Axis upon which the Christian World Will Turn Forever?

        (And switching from German to Russian, “CBSI” sounds like the name of a bureau in the Russian Bureaucracy.)

        • Which is why it’s actually CSBI. Someone misspelled it and the mistake has been repeated in this thread.

          • Well, Eric, we’re all errant around here. Either that or it’s a manuscript issue caused by a dyslexic monk.

          • Joseph (the original) says:

            …or a cheesy TV show that attempts to uncover the real truth in every tidy 45 minute episode! 🙂

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Back when I was watching A&E, you could tell whoever set their broadcast schedule had a sense of humor. He followed CSI:Miami (with its fashion-plate GQ supermodel detectives in their Star Trek forensics lab) with “First 48”, a reality show following ACTUAL Miami CSI detectives on actual homicide cases. Fantasy vs Reality.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Well, Eric, we’re all errant around here.

            We’re All Bozos on this Bus.

  4. Miguels’post sums up the issue. “Lutherans don’t accept CBSI, we have our own set of statements”. The body of Christ is so divided, its really sad. It’s no wonder the secular world thinks we’re all hypocrites. I fully admit that I’m as guilty of this as anyone else, maybe even more guilty.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > The body of Christ is so divided

      With 2+ BILLION adherents I do not understand why division surprises anyone. Add in 2,000 years of history layered on top of the fractured history of the Hebrew people, then with a caramel swirl of of Greek & Latin Hellenism.

      Division doesn’t bother me.

      And I don’t believe the “secular world thinks we’re all hypocrites”; mostly they just don’t care. Often times they are quite willing to work along side us.

      But it is hard to take something like the CBSI and reconcile it to the plurality of Christianity. A problem easily enough solved by tossing the CBSI out the window.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        My take is that the “secular world” (inasmuch as that means anything) thinks we are hypocrites, but not because of disunity. Stuff like speaking in the name of Jesus while cheerleading for war is much higher on the list. And I have to say, the secular world has a point.

        As for unity, I accept it as an ideal, but this doesn’t mean much in practice. Our disunity is an aspect of our fallen nature. Until that changes, we will continue to be disunited. In practice, when someone espouses unity, I find that what he really means is that I should agree with him, since he is obviously right. At best it means we should agree to not talk about the little stuff, and he gets to decide what is the little stuff. Either way, feh.

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        If 2+ billion people all believed exactly the same thing, that would actually be incredibly creepy.

    • What binds all Christians together within Trinitarian orthodoxy is far greater than the trivial things that draw up boundaries between us. I don’t think it is a massive off-putting failure to the rest of the world that we do not all have lockstep uniformity in doctrine. They DO see us united around what is most important.

      • I’m sorry. The world doesn’t think the church is united at all. People would look at a Catholic mass and a Joel Osteen show and a Mars Hill service and believe that these 3 groups are not on the same planet!

        • Really, “the World” has all come to a universal consensus regarding us? Sure, those who take a 2 minute peak might not offhand think Osteen and the Pope are of the same religion. But anybody who knows anything about what their churches believe, teach, and confess would know that they all hold to the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the content of the creeds, and many of the same reasons why Jesus came and died. Basically, anyone with a mediocre level of interest knows we all worship the same Jesus, and I doubt many unbelievers have much of a vested interest in our contrasting worship style. Not to mention, some might find our accommodation of doxological diversity to be an asset, one that is missing in the vast majority of other mainstream religions. Sure, we got a lot of denominations. But we’re the biggest religion on the planet, we span more cultures and are practiced in more countries and languages. Who in their right mind would expect lockstep uniformity across that spectrum?

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > But anybody who knows anything about what their churches believe, …

            Exactly. Really, if Wikipedia editors can figure this out, so can anyone else … unless for some reason they *choose* not to, in which case they are not honest witnesses – and who cares.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      That division doesn’t bother me, either. The “hypocrite” labeling is really the work of a small minority within the secular world who happen to have the loudest voices, bestselling books, or heavily trafficked blogs.

      Everyone else either doesn’t care, doesn’t notice, or understands that the division of ideologies within Christendom is not as great as the principle beliefs which unite us.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        Caring – or just being vested in something – inherently makes ones voice louder. As those that don’t care don’t say anything.

        And “hypocrite”, there is plenty of that to go around. It isn’t a label serious people use very often; far to easy to stain your own hands while tossing it at someone.

        Let us not allow The Nattering Class – aka The Talking Heads – to define our vision of Everyone. They are, in fact, not Everyone or even vaguely representative of such.

  5. I’ve gone from being a literalist while in a Christian cult in the 70’s, followed by a fundamentalist belief in scripture while hewing to the A of G teachings, to the Nazarene’s loosely held inerrancy beliefs till today where I am leaning more towards a Narrative theological belief that seeks to understand how the actual writers understood the things they were writing.

    If the CBSI statement is a hallmark of today’s evangelicals then I am NOT an evangelical, although I still attend an evangelical church.. Further, Reformed doctrine as it is taught today seems to me to be a product of rationalistic thinking which is at odds with the eastern thinking of the NT writers.

    I hold tightly to my faith in Christ and His mercy and look askance at the pronouncements of the likes of MacArthur, Moeller, etc.

    • Nice word Oscar. Askance first known use circa 1530 of it caused me to look it up. Thanks I’m not sure I’ll retain it though.

    • Though I find it impossible to be an inerrantist, the problem I have with Narrative/Postliberal Theology as a controlling theology is that it seems to me not to have a mediating perspective that is accessible to most laypeople, other than intellectuals and those with a tendency to intellectualism. Could an uneducated peasant understand N/PT? Could a truck driver with only a GED understand it?

      In this respect, it seems to be extraordinarily and strangely beholden to the very Enlightenment values it ostensibly critiques, and exists mostly in the domain of academia and seminary. And it seems to be a the mercy of the latest scholarly opinions and discoveries, so that it’s hard to link any God who claims to be the same yesterday, today and tomorrow with its variety and constantly shifting opinions and perspectives.

      How is something as subtle and sophisticated as N/PT “foolishness to the Greeks”? Don’t the Greeks in fact eat it up like candy?

      • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

        Narrative is not about theology – it is about interpreting the text. And in the NT there wasn’t a single Christian with the Bible as we know it…and for centuries most Christians didn’t have access to a Bible and/or couldn’t read it. So I think there is a difference between theology the essence of which is contained in the creeds, and textual interpretation which is very much limited to scholars.

      • Perhaps I am merely about to prove just how fat I am from eating my own Greek candies. And I don’t have a clear picture in my mind of exactly what post-liberal theology or narrative interpretation argue. So what I’m about to say may be at disjuncture with it.

        But I will venture this: it seems to me that anything that purports to concern itself with narratives ought to be able to figure out how to jump the classroom and address itself to a wide audience via its ability to tell stories and involve people in those stories.

        I would think it ought to be quite possible to state in plain language that the Bible contains stories and songs about how God has acted within the experience of particular people and communities. It should also be possible to add the idea that God is still acting, so that these stories are both about people in the past and about people now and about people at some future time. Is there anything more accessible, or more replete with meaning, than storytelling and singing? Is there anything that invites people to hear and interpret a story’s meaning more than telling the story and assuming they will retell it in their own voice and in the fabric of experience? To pick one of the more red hot images from our own immediate history, just look at what slave religion—practiced by a population that was prevented from learning to read–did with the exodus story, the Day of Jubilee, and other imagery. Obviously there’s no modern historical analysis going on in this instance – but there’s certainly a recognition of the common circumstantial links and a seizing of divine promise.

        I will further venture that in such a paradigm, knowledge about the original historical context (such as it is) could enrich a teacher’s ability to tell and retell the story – one could add details that make it clearer what world the writer lived in and what he might have felt or meant, and makes him a person rather than a totally anonymous personality. This delivers, in narrative, an idea and select details that others can interpret, retell, and use themselves. Articulating the original and immediate meaning to the audience, or describing the circumstances or concerns of another time, shouldn’t necessarily control or limit the interpretation of a text – it would influence it, assuming the teacher did a good job at storytelling. Yet there are a hundred reasons it shouldn’t strictly limit it, not the least of which is the fact that stories contain their own internal meanings and logic, drawn from within the immediate context but holding value beyond it. What the current audience hears does not determine the “meaning of the text;” but neither does the original audience own it exclusively for all time. Texts stay with communities because they keep “talking.” Teachers and knowledge creators contribute to the process helping texts talk, but they don’t own them, either.

        Again, I’m not sure how much this connects to what proponents of narrative interpretation are trying to do. But my thought is: if the original story matters so much, than the subsequent ones must too, so the practical art that follows the scholar’s craft (and that must work even when the scholars are gone or not very useful) lies in typing people to stories and through them to each other.

  6. Hi CHAPLAIN MIKE,

    I may not be able to join the conversation on as scholarly a level as would serve this topic best, but I can offer an interesting link, where if you scroll down to p. 2 of 4 and locate ‘The List of Terms’, you will find a comparison and contrast of the SBC’s definition of ‘inerrancy’ with the Catholic bishops definition of ‘inerrancy’. There is more that is salient to the topic in this link, but that is something I thought would be of interest to the discussion, perhaps eventually. I hope to learn much from this post.

    http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/ecumenical/southern-baptist/upload/Report-on-Sacred-Scripture.pdf

  7. I read the CBSI and am left wondering, “Why?”

    Why would anyone feel the need to so strictly declare these things about the Bible?

    • Rick, is it possible that in the mid-1800’s when slavery was such a divisive issue, that people turned to verses in sacred Scripture for ‘proof’ that God sanctioned slavery as an institution?

      And when Darwin challenged the thinking of the day with his presentation of the theory of evolution, there may have been a knee-jerk reaction to grab the ‘Bible’ as evidence of ‘the truth’ about Creationism in the literal six day sense.

      Things were happening in the 19th century that shook the status quo and people reacted turning to the ‘authoritative’ word of God as a defense. Up until that time, there had been no ‘need’ to get so ‘defensive’ . . . and ultimately that defensiveness turned into a kind of ‘aggressive fundamentalism’ still encountered in extreme examples of attacks on social change in our own country. A whole ‘nother post could be written on how politicians capitalized on fears of change. . . . . . some thoughts

      • Proof that even a strictly defined set of beliefs doesn’t guarantee uniformity of outcomes, even if everyone agrees on the ground rules. Just like the Bible Versions Issue that claimed the faith was in the handbasket and headed to the hot place over “inferior” English versions of the Bible. So for 400 years we had a single “authorized” English version and we also saw the exponential growth of denominations, so how is one version going to “save” the faith, even if it is the “correct” one?

        The problem isn’t the Bible. It’s how its interpreted and applied. We all know that. It’s the elephant in the inerrantist room. For me, the bottom line is that even if they are right and even if they succeed in convincing everyone to sign on to the CBSI, it still makes no practical headway in reducing the other errors they strive so mightily against.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Rick, is it possible that in the mid-1800?s when slavery was such a divisive issue, that people turned to verses in sacred Scripture for ‘proof’ that God sanctioned slavery as an institution?

        “Men of Sin” will glom onto any cosmic-level authority — Bible, Koran, Marx, Darwin, Freud, Nature, you name it — to justify What I Wanna.

        • “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” We want to keep those things we want to keep. The rich young ruler couldn’t fathom letting go of his money. Maybe for others it’s not wanting to let go of the idol of Biblical “inerrancy.” We’ve talked about this on other posts, the idea of the Bible as an idol.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Perhaps because strictly declared things are most easily used as distinctives? And distinctives are critical Political assets. Without a shibboleth you cannot determine who is us and who is them.

      Try to whip people up into warrior frenzy without clear distinctives. They will just look at you funny and then go back to getting along with their neighbors.

      The CBSI is a product of its times; it is a Political document; more a manifesto than a theological treatise.

    • Because it was written by people who believed completely in the Enlightenment ideal that truth can be arrived at by pure reason, and that human beings can operate as purely rational creatures. And so (ironically) they went to heroic ends to twist the Bible and their understanding of it to fit their cultural assumptions (rationality and the “modern” mindset), rather than letting their faith critique their culture. If you were operating from the same cultural background as those writers, their approach would make perfect sense to you because you wouldn’t even bother to question their unspoken assumptions.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > who believed completely in the Enlightenment ideal that
        > truth can be arrived at by pure reason

        No, I don’t believe that is true. Read the document – it is about the Spirit magically authenticating things and what not. That is NOT Enlightenment Reasoning, some statements in the CSBI are essentially occultic. There is no “pure reason” within those pages.

        What this is is superstition wrapped in an Enlightenment brand robe. To call this Enlightenment betrays the very moral of The Enlightenment. Someone who loves country music can wear an AC/DC t-shirt, all that does is confuse the person who casually encounters them. And that is what the CSBI an Inerrency stuff is, it is decidedly not Enlightenment thinking, although it may be an Enlightenment *mode* of thinking it has taken a turnout to another track leading to a different place.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says:

          Very well said. There is a lot of magic in these views…

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          What this is is superstition wrapped in an Enlightenment brand robe.

          Divination Magick, to be exact. With an Age of Reason coat of paint.

          Just like Scientific(TM) explanations of Astrology.

        • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

          I view the Magick stuff as essentially validating the role of pastor and/or spiritual authorities. The actual underlying epistemology is very Enlightenmentish, foundationalist, and empirical-rational. I mean, it basically says that truth can only take the form of empirical-rational observation!

    • Evangelicalism is a vast, loose network of authorities and their ministries that purport to share a set of common, characteristics doctrines. It lacks clear outer boundaries. You can always tell when you are near the evangelical epicenter, but it’s less clear as you move to the margins where evangelicalism “stops.” That is evangelicalism’s strength as a movement (it is a broad coalition). But it is also an inherent problem: the leaders closer to the epicenter stake their claims about authority and identity on the idea that a core agreement should arise out of evangelical commitments and exegesis. Thus, not everything that wants to call itself evangelical can be allowed the claim.

      Hence the attraction of drafting a statement and getting leaders to sign it. It defines a “dividing line” between the true center and everyone else. It creates a short list of leaders whose voices are “safe.”

      • Piper and Boyd in the same conference…

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Is this an “Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend” situation, a setup for a steel-cage smackdown, or both?

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        Fred over at Slacktivist argues that Evangelicalism has no boundary to the right, but a carefully patrolled boundary to the left. The right/left model hardly describes everything, but within the limitations of the model I think he has a point.

        • Interesting observation, and a good “visual” for an abstract notion.

        • I think the way to put this is that neo-evangelicalism will take any Protestant fundamentalist who want to call themselves an evangelical. Some fundamentalists regard the evangelicals as apostates for being relatively moderate compared to themselves, and will not accept the title.

          What evangelicals have defined themselves against is “liberalism.” Nobody agrees on exactly which lines reveal that one has become a liberal, but it is always the thing one does not want to be, and one’s enemies are.

        • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

          A negative definition, in other words. Like fundamentalism.

    • It’s a knee-jerk reaction against liberal theology and Protestantism generally who lowers the supreme authority of Sola Scriptura to elevate reason and experience as equal or even superior arbiters of truth. It’s an attempt by mostly Reformed folks to return to a Reformation principled view of the text, without acknowledging that their own rationalism has within it the seeds of all the theological progressivism they decry so much. Is it any surprise that the Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Congregational churches have truly led the way in theological liberalism? This is the majority heritage of Calvin, Knox, and Edwards in the US, and conservative confessional Calvinists are truly a minority viewpoint.

      The conservatives have by and large lost the fundamentalist/modernist controversy. Acts 29 and Calvary Chapels are far easier to find fellowship with the confessional Presbyterian heritage of Machen, and they are comparatively recent inventions. Those who went with the modernists now have control of the mainlines. Those who went with the fundamentalists got co-opted by the pietistic anti-intellectualism of the revivalists and restorationists, so not only are they not interested in defending doctrine at a scholarly level, their children aren’t much interested in anything doctrinal at all and belong to non-denominational churches. …who wind up getting sucked into the liberal drift in the ecumenical currents. The SBC is the last holdout for CSBI views, and their demographic is split between Osteen fans, fundamentalist Bible belt culture, and church-growth obsessed pragmatists. None of these are much interested in the CSBI.

      • Exactly.

        • Joseph (the original) says:

          doesn’t a formal document like the CSBI actually imply an intellectual infallibility then???

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            Of course it does. It also requires the original councils etc who compiled the canon to be infallible. The logical fallout feom this is interesting, if not amusing…

          • Good point. I hadn’t thought through to that conclusion before, but it does seem to follow.

          • They get around the councils being infallible with explanations like, “The authority of the Bible was so clear, that the councils were able to form a consensus.’ So councils don’t have authority in themselves, they just know authority when they see it.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            Danielle – but then they still had be infallible in their recognition of authority etc., which brings us back to square numero uno.

          • Klasie –

            I’m not making the argument, I’m just repeating what the good baptists told me, back when I was a good baptist.

            Next fall back: Special one time only divine intervention? Hi Catholics, get this right! K – Thanks – Bye – See ya in few hundred years!

        • Conservative Heretic says:

          I will ditto the exactly. This has become one of my big problems with infallibility. It actually exalts this idea above the scripture itself. Thus it rides rough shod over so much of the text. We can’t deal with subtlety and paradoxes in the scripture, because that might bring into question this whole idea, along with other doctrines. Thus the traditions of the Reformation have become more important than the actual scripture. Sola Scriptura!?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        It’s an attempt by mostly Reformed folks to return to a Reformation principled view of the text, without acknowledging that their own rationalism has within it the seeds of all the theological progressivism they decry so much.

        As in adding “Who needs Christ when We Have CALVIN!” into the mix?

      • But infallibility is based on liberal, enlightenment philosophy! It’s enough to drive one crazy.

  8. senecagriggs yahoo says:

    35 year later, I still hold to the inerrancy of the Scriptures. I haven’t seen anything in recent years ( and I’ve read a lot ) coming from others of a different persuasion to dissuade me.

  9. I think it needs to be pointed out that there is a spectrum of views on defining inerrancy within the inerrancy camp (ex. the book “5 Views on Biblical Inerrancy”).

    Example: some such as Mohler, may hold to a more literal approach, whereas others such as Vanhoozer are more interested in what is being “affirmed”.

    • I read some of the 1978 stuff yesterday. When I see the date it seems so far away from the date our Lord was here walking.
      It always amazes me when we need councils to redetermine what a word means and then seeks to define it in a way that props up their way of thinking. The Bible is the inspired word of God and is trustworthy. God has the ability to move and work within it the way He sees fit with whom He is working with in the place they are at now. Just like Hebrew poetry building on ideas and thought in real life experiences with the beloved. The beauty of the love is the depths thoughts are built upon as we are able to receive them. Such a gentle hand kindly taking us on into a greater way of enjoying His fruit in sharing it with others. Certainly wish I could be reminded to be so gentle at times.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I read some of the 1978 stuff yesterday. When I see the date it seems so far away from the date our Lord was here walking.

        But 1978 WAS When The Rapture(TM) was imminent — PROVED from Inerrant SCRIPTURE!

        “Prophecy is being Fulfilled even as we speak! We might not have a 1978!!! Or even a 1977!!!!!”

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > Example: some such as Mohler, may hold to a more literal approach,

      Except that these “literal” views are not Literal. They project as much interpretation and as many symbols on the text as not “literal” views. Nobody, and I mean nobody, interprets scripture in a “literal” way. “Literal” is just another shibboleth, meaning nothing but us-vs-them.

      I can *disagree* with CBSI [Evangelical Innerency]. I do not even *respect* claims of “Literal”. “Literal” is nothing but posturing.

      • Adam-

        I was trying to be kind to his approach. He tends to more literalism/literalistic in his take on Scripture, which diminishes both the nuances and meta-narrative of Scripture. I think that approach is a bigger problem than “inerrancy”, and is in fact what many people are actually criticizing when discussing the topic.

        • I agree with the kindness to the approach. These men were likely very genuine in what they were doing as I would believe most councils concerning such affairs. I wonder the same about the councils that were architects to the Bible I now read. It would seem that many of the views that were circulating at early times needed to be addressed. I often wonder if those views would have dissipated on their own. It would seem some haven’t even to this day and some resurface over and over.

      • I agree. Invoking the word “literal” is a lot like invoking the word “Biblical.” Whoever succeeds in attaching the adjective to their view first gets gravitas.

        In conversation, I think you are right, it’s an way to call attention to an insider who is out-of-line, or to an outsider. Functionally, it really means “the plain or accepted meaning,” or “the way this community is used to reading that text.”

      • “Literal” is problematic mostly because it is a gross oversimplification. It reduces the Bible to a mix between a dictionary and a newspaper periodical, both of which are highly anachronistic. Ironically, as you notice, those who claim this view apply it selectively. The interpretation of Scripture, or the language of ANY ancient document, is an infinitely complex matter, but at the same time, it’s not exactly brain surgery. It may not be as specific as we want it on matters of, say, church polity, but at the same time, it’s quite hard to read the New Testament and come away thinking that Jesus is not the whole point (even though I see this done time and again).

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        “Nobody, and I mean nobody, interprets scripture in a “literal” way. “Literal” is just another shibboleth, meaning nothing but us-vs-them.”

        Testify, brother!

  10. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    She notes that inerrancy is a peculiarly Protestant doctrine (inerrantists dispute this).

    Isn’t that also true about The Rapture(TM)?

  11. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    In the midst of the Cold War, the social upheavals of the 1960?s and early 70?s, and a sense of growing secularism and godlessness, in the infant days of the “Christian Right” more than 200 evangelical leaders came together at a conference sponsored by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI), held in Chicago (1978).

    Wasn’t that a time of Extremes and Utopianism (i.e. We Have The One True Way just Get Rid of All Who Don’t Agree 1000% With Us and it’s unicorns farting rainbows and free ice cream forever)?

  12. The danger of viewing the Bible with an understanding of textual inerrancy is that it leads to biblicism.

    This class on ‘the dangers of biblicism’ is a good primer as to WHY biblical inerrancy is not a good thing overall:

    http://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/the-danger-of-biblicism.mp3

    You might hear a different slant on it.

    • “The Bible Made Impossible” does a good job of talking about that.

      • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

        Great book for anyone with a philosophical bent! The only problem I had with it is that Smith doesn’t really engage the other side. I understand that even if he did, he would be highly unlikely to persuade anyone to change their mind.

    • Desert Storm Libertarian says:

      Great discussion on “the dangers of biblicism” that highlights the error of elevating the Bible to Savior status, instead of Jesus Christ. The gospel of Christ’s redeeming death and resurrection, by which believers are granted eternal life to perpetually commune with God, Christ and fellow saints, should be the message emanating from pulpits each Saturday and Sunday. Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith, not the Bible.

  13. There are many different forms of inerrancy. Does anyone actually believe the Chicago Statement version? Seems disingenuous to say you believe one thing and actually believe another.

    • I recall that Michael Spencer himself, on this website, spent much time trying to convince people that he held to the words of the Chicago statement, while drawing different conclusions than others who held to the same statement. Perhaps Chaplain Mike can dig up some classic IM to illustrate how this plays out.

  14. Good post – it’s important not to caricature the belief.

    #1 – You don’t need to be an “inerrantist” to get on board with the part about God being truth. But I think the writers have a particular idea of “truth” in mind and therefore have a preconceived notion of what the Bible MUST be. “Inerrancy” doesn’t just define what the text is, it’s also implying hermeneutically how it’s to be understood. That is: truth = objective, propositional facts. “Truth”, therefore, can’t contain any “human” perspective, opinions, ambiguity or passion at all since that introduces bias and human limitations which can’t be trusted as “truth”. There can’t be conversation or competing viewpoints or accommodation to the limitations of the hearers because that would imply uncertainty – all has to be reconciled to one set of propositional facts. Starting with that definition of what “truth” is/must be, scripture must conform to THAT or else God is “lying”. Whether or not I agree with this, I simply don’t think that it describes what the Bible actually is. “Inerrancy” would seem to apply to some things more than others. We might say that the Psalms are “God-breathed” and/or that they’re “what God wanted us to have”, but “inerrant” simply isn’t the right word to describe them.

    #2 – I honestly don’t know what “superintended” means in this context. God overrode their brains and made them think the thoughts that he wanted them to think and then they wrote those thoughts down? That’s the definition that works with “inerrancy”. I recognize that this is a complicated question for anyone who believes in any kind of inspiration – not just inerrancy. Also, the text was assembled by people. It didn’t drop out of the sky. Is there a claim of supernatural guidance in selecting which texts were inerrant? It was very troubling to me when I discovered that Protestants/Catholic/Orthodox have different Bibles. I don’t see a note on “inerrancy” only being related to the “originals”, but is there a statement acknowledging that we don’t possess the originals? I’d expect any honest, thinking person to raise these questions – no intent to destroy “inerrancy”.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      #2 – I honestly don’t know what “superintended” means in this context. God overrode their brains and made them think the thoughts that he wanted them to think and then they wrote those thoughts down? That’s the definition that works with “inerrancy”.

      And Automatic Writing a la OAHSPE, Seth Speaks, and Spaceship Ruthie.

    • “Is there a claim of supernatural guidance in selecting which texts were inerrant?”

      Mike, you hit on an important topic with this question. From a Catholic perspective (and to an extend an Orthodox one as well) the short answer in a round-about way is yes. Ecumenical Councils or local synods with Ecumenical authority have determined what the Holy Spirit has dictated through Tradition what the Biblical canon consists of.

      “God overrode their brains and made them think the thoughts that he wanted them to think and then they wrote those thoughts down? That’s the definition that works with “inerrancy”. ”

      It’s not so much that God overrode anyone’s brain but rather man synergistically participated with God to write the scriptures. This would account for why the character and portrayal of Jesus seem different from St Mark to St John, even though they are inspired by the same God.

      • If you were to add in additional point that the church has also inerrantly identified the correct writings, would Catholics agree with the definition above of what the Bible is.

        The synergistic viewpoint seems to me to be a better representation of what scripture shows itself to be – that it’s tangibly human in some way. I just don’t see that human aspect when I read the CSBI statement. I see it saying that it’s God’s words, that humans were more or less passive participants in the process of its creation. God is the author according to this statement – not a co author.

  15. #3 – Except nobody can seem to agree on what it says. This sounds authoritative but has little actual value.

    #4 – It’s like a big jigsaw puzzle of propositions actually. A few verses here, a few there. I think most would deny that the Bible is a grab bag of truth, but verbal plenary inspiration would necessarily indicate otherwise wouldn’t it? This makes the Bible sound like a handbook or owners manual. The question is, given an assumption of verbal plenary inspiration/inerrancy, why shouldn’t the Bible be used as a grab bag to find absolute truth about money, relationships, marriage, etc.

    #5 – “Made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible’s own”. That seems to be the real question. What is scripture and what is it claiming? Does “inerrancy” describe that? Is it purely divine words written down by human vessels? If it’s also a human book, what does that mean?

    The overall goal of the statement seems to be to provide a philosophically impenetrable wall around a view of what scripture must be (regardless of what it actually is, says, or how it came to be) so that it can satisfactorily meet the requirements of modern foundationalist philosophy.

    • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

      Correct. Especially your closing paragraph. In fact, it seems painfully obvious to me (undergrad and graduate classes in philosophy, rhetoric, logic, argumentation, etc.). I suspect it functions more as a shiboleth.

  16. The more I think about and read the actual CBSI statements, the more I realize why it’s distasteful to me. It seems very “join the club”-ish, very “believe these things and you’re in.” It seems like it would be fertile ground for shame-based leadership. A person who joined the club but then later felt they no longer believed some of those statements might feel need to suppress their doubts or be shamed and rejected for voicing them. I don’t see a lot of wiggle-room in those statements, I don’t see much grace for the person who’s not 100% on board.

    I know you could say that about Christianity itself, but I believe TRUE Jesus-shaped spirituality allows for doubts and wobbles and isn’t a “club” in which you need to pledge your allegiance to the Bible and its “undeniable” inerrancy.

    Or maybe there was a line left off of Luke 23:43, “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise, but…you do believe in the Bible’s inerrancy, right?'” (But if that verse was left out, then the Bible is no longer inerrant.)

  17. My basic problem with inerrancy is that the Bible is not internally consistent, not by a long stretch, and therefore to insist upon every portion of scripture carrying equal weight and authority does violence to the full truth about God that is revealed in the person and work of Christ. In short, strict inerrancy as set forth in that statement makes God subject to the text, rather than the text being subject to God.

    • That’s an interesting way to look at it, too. Almost like a “Who is the Sabbath for?” in reverse. Was the Bible made by God, or was God made by the Bible?

      • Sooooo, since the subject is what the Bible says. Should churches meet on Saturdays or Sundays? PS I know the Sabbath day is the 6th day of the week

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          Depends on who you ask. When I was a Seventh-day Adventist, I would argue that it’s Saturday. When I was attending a Baptist university, I would argue Sunday, just to avoid the weird questions from my classmates.

          It also depends on when you ask. As part of the covenant between the people of Israel and Yahweh, the seventh day was the day to keep holy. The switch to Sunday has a lot of historical and cultural background that is much to convoluted to explore in a single post.

          In the end, though, I believe that the date on which churches should meet is ultimately a distinction without a difference. The emphasis I would place on this debate would be on the exhortation to meet, and the nature of that gathering, rather than the date on which it happens.

      • Exactly. I really think the CSBI makes the Bible into an idol. Some use the work “bibliolatry” to describe this.

    • +1 and it is for God to will and act according to His good purpose in us. It wasn’t a handbook it is heart book. A love poem working its way into and through our lives. A history of how and a testimony of those who were living it pointing to the One who without a shadow of a doubt declared His intention of loving His bride. Jesus didn’t write it. Sometimes I wish He would have then I might know His innermost thoughts. Being the romantic He is He gave me the Holy Spirit so he could pour into me Himself so I wouldn’t have to get it from the dry print of a page that could never contain such a love or describe it.

      • Great way to put it, w! And if I might push the boundaries of heresy a bit, our own stories and testimonies are like an addendum to His heart book. They almost become an extension of His love poem. Our faith stories weaved into His faith story. (Not that I’m claiming we should actually add them to the Bible, mind you!)

        • Yes, I almost regretted posting that. Did you ever post something and then wish you could hit delete. I think the problem with it is it so incomplete of a statement that it could be added to in so many ways. I’ve often said the page at the end of the Bible is blank because it is where our stories begin. Also I read yesterday’s comments and I must say I think the way God worked in your life with baptism and all was and is beautiful. I certainly do a love the one of a kind way the Lord works with us. I guess the statement above could be judged on it’s lack of inerrancy. Hmmmmmm

    • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

      But nobody actually does that. No one cares that Methusalech begat Jehoshebat. Heck, you’ll probably find more preaching on the Nephilim. This is one of the problems with the “inerrancy” crowd – what they say and what they do are only tangentally congruent.

  18. Lutherans, at the time of Luther, did not believe in textual inerranacy of the Bible. That some Lutherans have adopted a Southern Baptist doctrine of the Word is too bad. But that is the corner that they have painted themselves into.
    Not to say that other Lutherans haven’t thrown God’s Word under the bus altogether…because many have.

    But there is a middle ground. The Bible is infallible. God’s Word is inerrant…even if all the words in that book are not perfect in every way.

    • God’s Word is inerrant…even if all the words in that book are not perfect in every way.
      Yes and this is where Jesus always melts my heart.

  19. it helps to remember that the sacred Scriptures are a ‘collection’ of writings, that they were written by men who we believe were ‘inspired’ by God, and that we can all pretty much agree at least on the holistic viewpoint that “the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching firmly, faithfully, and without error that truth which God wanted put into the sacred writings for the sake of our salvation” (quote is from Dei Verbum)

    where agreement breaks down (and it does) is in how the sacred Scriptures are seen once people drop the holistic approach and focus on word-by-word inerrancy, or phrase-by-phrase inerrancy, so that the interpretations of men can then ‘control’ ‘what this means’ . . .

    when denominations go rogue and throw Our Lord out as the ultimate revelation of God to the world, . . . when He is no longer seen as the ‘lens’ through which all scripture can be understood better, then those who go rogue with this idea come up with some shocking ‘doctrines’, teachings, and practices that do NOT line up with the teachings of Our Lord when He was among us.

    Once, I remember Our Lord’s actual words being quoted chapter and verse on a blog, and a commentator said, ‘ in other words, what He really said was _________’, and I replied, ” ‘when Our Lord has spoken, there are no ‘in other words’ ”

    I think that the practice of laying Christ aside as the authoritative ‘lens’ has opened a lot of Scripture up to the ‘in other words’ people . . . and this has made all the difference in the manipulation of sacred writings to fit doctrinal agendas, hence contributing to a lot of division among Christian people . . .

    • I like how Canadian theologian Brad Jersak puts it: “The Bible is inspired, but it’s the inspired record of our journey towards understanding a God we didn’t get.”

    • George Christiansen says:

      [Once, I remember Our Lord’s actual words being quoted chapter and verse on a blog, and a commentator said, ‘ in other words, what He really said was _________’, and I replied, ” ‘when Our Lord has spoken, there are no ‘in other words’ ”]

      Except that NOBODY has ever quoted Jesus in our lifetime. We are most likely reading a translation (Greek to English) of a translated (Aramaic or Hebrew to Greek) paraphrase (not necessarily direct quotes in the first place) when we open our Bibles.

      Even if we want to pretend that the original writers wrote quotes, there is simply no way to translate without some degree of paraphrasing.

  20. Contradictions in the Bible only point to its trustworthiness and its lack of conspiracy. I like the fact that it was from perspective that it was written. It is here that I find peace with it and the freedom that my Father has to move within it.

    • “Contradictions in the Bible” = the existence of two or more things or accounts, etc., that can’t both/all be correct. Hence, one or more is wrong. Hence, “the Bible” is not inerrant.

      Agreed.

      Any definition or explanation of inerrancy that deviates from “inerrant = without error” or adds “except” is a redefinition/deformation of the term, and hence a different word must be used for “inerrant” to continue to mean “without error.”

      • Or one could say that the Bible is largely inerrant.

        • ->”It is largely inerrant.”

          Off topic, but for humor, reminds me of a couple of lines from Ren and Stimpy:

          – Ren: “Why, you’re the biggest friend I’ve ever had.” Stimpy: “I’m your friend, and I’m big?” Ren: “Big? You kiddin’? You’re repulsively titanic.”

          -(In an episode where Ren dreams of being in a little land and meeting the littlest giant)…””He’s barely enormous! He’s merely huge. He’s no bigger than a house!”

        • “Or one could say that the Bible is largely inerrant.”

          Or that it’s damn near perfect.

          • LOL.

            It’s 99.99% inerrant, and 99.99% perfect!

            If it were any more inerrant, it’d be inerrant!

          • Faulty O-Ring says:

            Or that the errors of great men are more fruitful than the truths of little men.

          • My NASB is 1083 pages long (1085 pages minus the two blank but numbered pages between the Testaments). 99.99% is 1082.89 pages. With the contradictions and irreconcilable-with-each-other passages many of us know about, let alone the less well known ones, I think “99.99% inerrant” is way too generous.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            And so the fight begins over WHICH .01% is the “errant(?)” part.
            “DIE, HERETIC!”
            “DIE, HERETIC!”
            “DIE, HERETIC!”
            “DIE, HERETIC!”
            “DIE, HERETIC!”

    • Our problem is that we have too much Bible. E.g.:

      As someone has said: “It’s not that we don’t know enough about Jesus. It’s that we know too much!”

      If we had only one Gospel instead of four:

      * We’d know what Jesus did during the last week of His life, and the order in which He did those things.
      * We’d know what He said on the cross, how the thieves treated Him, and if He took the drink.
      * We’d know who was at the tomb.
      * We’d know if the Last Supper was a Passover meal.
      * We’d know when He gave the various parts that make up the Sermon on the Mount (or was it on the Plain?)
      * We’d know if He healed Malchus’ ear.
      * We’d know the right version of the Lord’s Prayer.
      * We’d know what the words of institution were (maybe; there’s still 1 Corinthians).
      * We’d know what He said in His Olivet Discourse, and where He said it.
      * We’d know if He had a long conversation with Pilate.
      * We’d know how many blind men He healed.
      * We’d know His genealogy.
      * We’d know how many times He cleansed the Temple.
      * We’d know if the centurion actually spoke with Him or if He started going to the centurion’s house.
      * We’d know the names of His twelve disciples.
      * We’d know how Judas died (unless that one Gospel was Matthew’s).
      * We’d know who washed His feet with her hair, and whether she anointed His feet or His head, and whose house it happened in.

      Or would we?

  21. “The Holy Spirit, Scripture’s divine Author, both authenticates it to us by His inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning.”

    This sounds like the enlightenment philosophy of the universal law of reason, where autonomous individuals are guided to the same majority conclusion by the law of reason, i.e. the inner light. How else can protestants establish a foundation for truth free of heteronomous authority of a majesterium? The problem is that while protestants affirm enlightenment ideals, they also reject the authority of human reason; instead, the Holy Spirit replaces universal human reason. Without an infallible text as the basis for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, the basis for truth becomes subjective.

    • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

      Which of course leads to the inexorable – who gets to tell everyone else what the Holy Spirit is saying?

      • Joseph (the original) says:

        so it’s the Holy Spirit’s fault! I had an inkling of such, but now I know the HS has been slacking on the job of teaching everyone the same truth regarding all things about faith and practice!

        that rascally HS is either schizophrenic or simply a prankster deity. somehow the consistency of even who the HS is and how He interacts with the saints here on earth is a contentious topic. oh boy…what an ecumenical mess!

        • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

          Well, the Holy Spirit was a lot better about it for the first millennium or so, but then he became post-modern, and the whole project has gone to pot.

      • Then come the self-appointed Protestant popes, who threaten to break the noses of those who don’t tow the line.

        • Camus was an absurdist, NOT an existentialist. The notion of Sisyphus as happy was not a leap; rather, it was portrayed by Camus as an act of rebellion or revolt against the absurdity of his condition.

          The point is that inerrancy is a leap; without the autographed manuscripts, there is no proof the scriptures are without error. The alternative may be to uphold the truth of scripture IN SPITE OF but not in ignorance of potential errors.

          • Didn’t say that Camus was an existentialist. Said he made an existential leap, which absurdists are perfectly capable of, as are evangelists. Rebellion against the absurdity of one’s condition involves the leap of believing, against all evidence, that rebellion leads anywhere but back into the absurdity of one’s condition. One need not imagine Sisyphus happy.

            For the record, Sartre wasn’t happy with being labeled an existentialist in the beginning, either, until he learned that he could use the label to brand himself, and attain a level of notoriety that he seemed to enjoy. But Sartre was as much an absurdist, and as much in rebellion, as Camus, though his philosophy was far more systematic. It doesn’t get more absurd than “Man is a useless passion.”

  22. That the Word creates faith in it’s hearing (reading) is it’s own authority.

    Infallible…yes. Without error…not necessary.

    • I agree with reading and there it is giving life for me to live it out and work it out. The Word to me is Jesus and alive and not just words on a page. Life is experiencing and this is where our words always fall incomplete of true revelation. We must partake of the daily bread.

    • So what should I say the kingdom of Heaven is like. We are so limited in our own vocabulary but the Living Word is not.

  23. “Faith comes by hearing, and the word of God.”

    And that includes preaching, reading, eating and drinking, and the consolation of the brethren. All in the name of Christ and by His authority.

    • +1 Trustworthy statement. I am tired and it is late here. My physical presence is required tomorrow. I wonder if we put twelve together and asked them to write a complete statement on what they believe love to be. We might then have an idea of what the spirit of God has to deal with in love and compassion not wanting to leave one of His loved ones out. I have to quit now or my mind won’t shut down and lack of sleep isn’t going to do for tomorrow. All here have me loving in a way that goes further than I have been before and I am grateful.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “Faith comes by hearing, and the word of God.”

      And that includes preaching, reading, eating and drinking, and the consolation of the brethren. All in the name of Christ and by His authority.

      NOT spending 24/7/365 in Church or in Devotions. I’ve been on the fringe of cases where Prayer and Devotions and Church was used to run away from adult responsibilities and put a Corban spin on it.

  24. The following story about Billy Graham comes to mind, where he overcame doubt concerning the Bible and its alleged contradictions.

    http://billygraham.org/story/the-tree-stump-prayer-where-billy-graham-overcame-doubt/

    “And then, my grandfather fell to his knees and the Holy Spirit moved in him as he said, ‘Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word—by faith! I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word!’…The next day my granddaddy spoke at Forest Home, and 400 people made a commitment to Christ. Henrietta Mears remarked that he ‘preached with authority’ that she hadn’t seen before from him.”

    This is a great story, but I think it defines neo-evangelicalism. The answer to the allegations raised by academic criticism was an existential leap. Reason took the back seat to faith. The results for Graham’s preaching are compelling. Albert Camus considered such existential leaps philosophical suicide. I think this leap has resulted in unintended consequences; doubt and questioning of irrational “biblical” teaching are considered signs of weakness and worldliness.

    • I see what you are getting at Ox and really I don’t have a great intellectual answer for you. I can’t give you a good reason why I spent 2 thousand dollars on a cat to save its life from the trap it was stuck in after it chewed its foot off. Maybe because someone spent more than that to save me from the ones I was stuck in. I can’t tell you why I visited a small calico kitten on the mountain for 3 months just to pick her up. A year and half later bring her home after never missing a day to see her. I can’t even tell you why I love her I only know that I do and I don’t want to live without her. If I told you all the things God poured into my heart over these things would you believe me. Be blessed my friend and good night. Reason is good and sometimes love is the reason.

    • ” Albert Camus considered such existential leaps philosophical suicide.”

      I’m not terribly fond of Billy Graham, and I love Albert Camus, but Camus made just such an existential leap when at the end of his essay “The Myth of Sisyphus,” the defining essay of his book of the same name, he wrote, “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” While some may be more and others less responsible or sober, there is no way to avoid taking existential leaps in philosophy or life or religion; I’ve never been able, or really wanted, to take the leap that Graham did, but I’d be even less likely to take the leap that Camus did in his words about Sisyphus.

  25. “The Bible communicates God’s mind and heart to me. The Bible is a reliable witness to God’s character and works in history, culminating in Jesus Christ.”

    CM, When you make the above statement, does it mean that you believe that those parts of the Bible which depict God ordering Israel to conduct the war of herem (let’s leave aside the question whether they ever really did this or not, or whether he ever really ordered them to do so, because these issues are not germane to the question I’m asking) against other peoples are a reliable witness to God’s character and works?

    I don’t believe that God ever ordered Israel to do such a thing. Neither do I believe that these texts can be made to say anything even vaguely palatable or true about the character of God without a lot of unconvincing special pleading and hermeneutic gymnastics that in effect neutralizes their meaning and sets them aside. For me, these texts are a disturbing cognitive dissonance that throw a disorienting shadow across the light of Jesus Christ as depicted in the New Testament, and there is no way I can meaningfully work them into the landscape revealed by that light.

    For this reason, I can’t make a statement as all-inclusive as you do above about the reliability of the entire Bible as a witness to the character and works of God. I would be curious to hear your perspective on this, and how you are able to make such a statement given the troubling character of such texts.

    • Patrick Kyle says:

      If those texts you find distasteful aren’t really an accurate guide to the character of God, how are we sure the Gospels are? Jesus seems to say a lot of people are going to be condemned to hell. In fact, probably the majority of people are going there, and he doesn’t make it sound like a pleasant place. Her speaks more about hell than he does heaven or the “Kingdom of God.’ Add to that the apparent discrepancies in the Gospel narratives, and it leaves some big questions. And when we move to the writings of the Apostle’s, they are absolutely misogynistic and homophobic in the face of our enlightened sensibilities…

      In the end our consciences become the ultimate arbiter of what God says and who He is when we start the process of picking and choosing which parts of the Bible are accurate portrayals of God and which ones aren’t. We are reduced to making God in our own image.

      • Jesus, not our conscience, is the ultimate “arbiter” (though semantically the word is problematic here) to us of what God says and who he is. That much should be beyond question. If it isn’t, we have a problem. And Jesus was quite happy to edit, cherry-pick and even flat-out contradict parts of the Hebrew scriptures. The other NT writers, and especially Paul, followed his lead in their use of OT texts.

        • @ Rob Grayson, I agree that Jesus edited, cherry-picked and contradicted parts of the Hebrew scriptures, as did the other NT writers. But I don’t see how one can square that with the kind of statement of confidence in the accuracy of the entire Biblical witness that Chaplain Mike expresses. Not only are there texts in the Bible, including the NT, that (in my strongly held opinion) do not accurately express the character and work of God, there are also texts that distort and falsify the character and work of God, and that must be corrected and reversed by other texts. This is what I’m asking CM to clarify.

      • @ Patrick Kyle, I’m not a fundamentalist or inerrantist. I have never been able to force myself to believe that the Biblical texts depicting God as a genocidal tyrant are accurate expressions of his character or work. I’m perfectly aware of what the traditional position is, which is the one you restate. My opinion is that it would be a cowardly, dangerous and lying retreat from the voice of my own conscience to defer to the position you express for the sake of securing certainty that the Gospels are an accurate guide to the character of God. When any of the Biblical texts depict God as genocidal tyrant or homophobe or misogynist, it seems to me that they have reduced God to an image in the likeness of their writers and redactors imperfections and sins.

  26. Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

    Frankly, I’m non-plussed that a group of conservative chicken-littles thought that it was a good idea to encode modernist epistemology as the foundation of theological truth in CSBI. And I’m tired of the way that some people (lookin’ at you, Al!) conflate a specific epistemology with faith, or truth claims, or Christianity. It’s just silly. I don’t see how anyone with a liberal arts education can even take the rhetoric seriously.

  27. The idea that the Bible is inerrant is insupportable. Read as a whole and with the Christian community, the Bible is authoritative and inspired, but some parts of it are necessarily far more authoritative and inspired than others. Some texts not only are mistaken, but are false guides to what we should do and believe, and the kind of people we should be or become. In addition, the kind of authority and inspiration that the Bible has is also that of the Church: partial, graded and not a guarantee against the possibility of erring.

    • In the words of Biblical scholar James Barr, from his book Biblical Faith and Natural Theology, “The Bible has as much infallibility as the Church has (in Protestant terms, not too much). It is inspired in much the same way as the Church is inspired by the presence of the Spirit within it.”

  28. One can trust in God’s Word (the Bible)…ALL of it…without making it into a ‘Christian Koran’.

    We don’t need to believe that every jot and tittle in the book floated down from Heaven with a bow tied around it to understand it is the Word of God.

    The way some view the Bible, you could rightly conclude that it (the Bible) takes precedence over Christ Himself….and that one doesn’t even need ANY faith. The Bible says it…so that’s it.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      We don’t need to believe that every jot and tittle in the book floated down from Heaven with a bow tied around it to understand it is the Word of God.

      That’s the same type of Verbal Plenary Inspiration(TM) and Infallibility(TM) you find among Extreme Muslims. Where there is no need to think, only Rewordgitate.

      The way some view the Bible, you could rightly conclude that it (the Bible) takes precedence over Christ Himself….and that one doesn’t even need ANY faith. The Bible says it…so that’s it.

      In Marxspeak, this is called “Ees Party Line, Comrade.”

  29. Maybe this has been said already, but I find it astonishing when people like Mohler explicitly or implicitly say that the church or christians in general can’t survive without an “inerrant” view of scripture – because – that then begs the question: How in the world did the early church “survive” let alone grow exponentially? There was no canon for, what a few hundred years? There were bits and pieces, oral stuff, memory, you name it – yet the church flourished without “our” Bible… (heresies flourished too but still…)

    • Yes, indeed. As I said somewhere else, it’s a good thing those guys weren’t born pre-Bible. Their heads would’ve exploded.

  30. “In the beginning was the Bible. And the Bible was with God. And the Bible was God.”

    Some Christians actually believe that God’s Word means ‘the Bible’…and that’s it. The Bible is God’s Word. But it is Christ Himself…in preaching and teaching…and in the sacraments.

  31. George Christiansen says:

    I am more and more coming to the conclusion that the problem with various views of the Bible and of tradition are so screwed up because they are asking the wrong question.

    We ask “How do you teach, preach, ect. with authority?” because we want to pretend that they are justified in having the same confidence as the original disciples. We are not and it is sheer lunacy to pretend otherwise. Too many Christians want to equate reading a book on miracles with having performed one, with weighing the evidences for why Christ may or may not have risen from the dead with putting their fingers in the nail holes, and reading the NT with hearing Jesus give the original lessons.

    God has left us in, what to some is a clearly unbearable position, where we can tell people what we believe and why we believe it and leave the rest in His hands. I see no hope for people who cannot accept such things.