A Theology of the Bible?

Tony SigOne of the first threads that we collaborated on here on the site was one about “Authority” in Christianity.  It is something that all non-Roman Catholics need to think about.  We went over some bible and sola scriptura stuff.   But a few recent comment threads have begged the question again of what Scripture is by it’s nature.

The exchange is usually in agreement that Scripture is authoritative, and even inspired, but how it is and what that means is what we tend to disagree about.  So I thought I’d give this another stab, though, as always, I make no claims to being infallable (or is it inerrant?) on this.

I want to start first with some apophaticism (or ‘negative’ theology).  It might be easier to begin by asking what is Scripture not?

The Bible is NOT:

  • A ‘pure’ reproduction of “God’s words” – That is, the writers were not transcribers.  Our understanding of God’s Words in the bible are absolutely different than an Islamic understanding of Allah’s words in the Quran.
  • A list of propositional truths about God’s actions or nature – There are two ways I mean this.  A) I do not support the “univocity” of God’s “being” and our “being.”  And so, even if we took a certain  statement from Scripture concerning God to be “true”, it is to us only analagous to what God is in his essence.  B) ‘A “proof-text” does not a proposition make’
  • Inspired in the same way throughout the wholeAd hoc pastoral direction in pseudo-pauline letters are not as authoritative as sustained theological reflection in, say, Romans or the Gospel of St. John
  • A single massive book – It is a collection of books which where shaped canonically and which underwent a canonical history (btw, I happen to think the Hebrew Bible order makes the most sense theologically)
  • In any way shape or form; Inerrant OR Infallable – The two are, after all, exactly the same thing.  One for the ballsy fundamentalist, the other for the conservative Evangelical who wants to read the scholars.  *more comments on this below*
  • Authoritative – WHAT!?  That is to say, the book, lying on a coffee table, does not in itself have authority.  God exerts his authority through Scripture upon the reading community.  The unread text has no authority.

I imagine that is enough of a bee’s nest to get me in trouble around here (with some).  But I want to explore some other things which I feel must be accounted for in a theology of Scripture.  I myself do not know how to reconcile them all together, nonetheless I feel that they all contribute to what Scripture IS.  Though, it seems to me that what Scripture IS is not quite as important as what it DOES.

A theology of Scripture must include…

  • The reality of the history of individual texts  – To understand how God reveals himself to his people, and how Scripture is itself a “revelation” of God, then the idea of God’s inspiration of the biblical texts must be open to the embodied, political, checkered history of individual texts and texts as they relate to one another.  For instance:  It is standard scholarly opinion that the prophetic book of Isaiah is a redacted collection of three distinct books, written at three distinct times, collected, elaborated upon, and redacted together at a point in the late exilic/early post-exilic period.  This is not to say that they do not contain a fair amount of the real words and trajectories of the prophet Isaiah, nor is it to say that as it stands it does not provide a coherent piece of “prophetic imagination,” nor is it to say that it should be interpreted chopped up to bits.  It is to say that the complex history of the text as it came to it’s final shape as a unity, and as a book in the canon, must be accounted for in a theory of its “inspiration.”  This is one example why I place the work of the Holy Spirit in the believing Community at the forefront of my understanding of what Scripture is.
  • The relation of texts to one another – There are times, within the Scripture themselves, when one text purposely aims to alter the theological and/or historical claims of other Scriptural texts.  A paradigmatic example of this is the history of Israel given to us by the Chronicler over and against many parts of the “deuteronimistic” history of Kings or the other related historical texts.  Or the tensions in the NT between the chronology/theology of Acts and Paul’s own picture in his letters, or the corrective of the letter of James to the writings of St. Paul.
  • The comparison of the hard texts themselves, via Textual Criticism – I am well aware that the vast majority of textual variants are minor and irrelevant.  But not all are, and the method can only bring us “back” to the “earliest texts available” and not necessarily the “original text.”  What does it mean to say that the book of Acts in Codex Bezae is inspired?
  • The reality of “borrowing” from other texts/cultures/myths – What does it mean to say that Genesis is both inspired and that it is a creative and subversive retelling of other creation myths from other peoples?
  • The ad hoc nature of certain parts of Scripture – As for instance in certain parts of St. Paul
  • etc…

So far, this is all to say that what Scripture IS cannot be separated from where it has come from and how it came to be.  Because, it seems to me, that what is of greatest importance in all this is how God reveals himself, and only secondarily how he does this in/through Scripture.

For a variety of complex reasons, most of which are probably beyond my comprehension, I have slowly come to place Holy Scripture into a larger framework of God’s revelation.  Karl Barth’s 3-fold understanding of the Word of God has been helpful for me in reflection:

  • The Word of God in/as Christ… – Jesus Christ himself is the logos of the Father.  Especially in his death and resurrection, we get a the supreme picture of what God is and what his will for us is.
  • …Witnessed to in Scripture… – If we want to use Scripture to understand God, it must be read through a Paschal lens
  • …Preached in the community of faith – It comes to us as something handed down which transforms us and re-imagines us and the world.

So there it is.  My completely unsystematic understanding of what it means to say that Scripture is inspired.  It’s not pretty but it’s where I’m at.  It is still the primary source of theological reflection for us as Christians, it is functions authoritatively in the Church, and when used faithfully can be counted on to unveil the God whom we worship.  To use Anglican terminology, it is “sufficient unto salvation”

*epilogue* – If someone can give me a thorough and clear way to differentiate inerrancy and infallability I’ll give them $5.  Adding qualifiers like “in matters of faith” as opposed to “matters of history” do not count since they can and have applied to both terms.  As far as I can tell, these terms are used to safeguard the authority of Scripture in a community and are not actually relevant or true in regards to the nature of Scripture.  Hence why a 5-fold Pentecostal can be fully recognized by a conservative Baptist. They are tied into the agreed formula of authority in Scripture, despite their wildly varying readings of Scripture.  Their differences are no less wide than they are to Mainline understandings of Scripture, but as long as they have the “secret handshake” of “inerrancy” or “infallability”  they get along.  The more Evangelicals do exegesis, the more qualifiers they add to the terms.  Just get rid of them!!!

** This post plays off of this one and it’s discussion**

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61 Comments

  1. .adhunt wrote:
    One of the first threads that we collaborated on here on the site was one about “Authority” in Christianity . . . I want to start first with some apophaticism (or ‘negative’ theology). It might be easier to begin by asking what is Scripture not?

    RESPONSE:
    Are you claiming that these are the conclusions held by all of the “Theophiliacs”? If so, it seems that you are overstating your case when I compare your statements above to the statements made by others elsewhere on this blog.

    Reply

  2. Not at all. Between the Theophiliacs, toward the beginning of the blog, we all played off each other in a larger discussion about authority.

    I never make claims to speak for all or any other writers unless I designate it so in a post.

    Reply

  3. Inerrancy is a hot button among evangelical Christians. There are some contributors on this blog that have invested many years and thousands of dollars in gaining legitimate degrees from evangelical institutions of higher education. All of that time, all of that money, and those degrees hanging on their walls will be virtually as worthless as toilet paper if they deny inerrancy. So, perhaps it would be a good idea to let them trash their own reputations rather than allowing someone else to do it for them.
    In my opinion, denying inerrancy is not a sign of intellectual power or intellectual integrity. It is a sign of lazy scholarship. It is a sign of not having the will power to pursue the answers in biblical studies.
    I will try to explain this in the simplest way I can. There is always room for doubt in every decision we make about everything. We generally cover that doubt with faith and call it “the benefit of the doubt.” In terms of biblical inerrancy, it works like this. If a man like Dr. Norman Geisler, Dr. Gordon Fee, Dr. D.A. Carson, or Dr. J.I. Packer looks at a passage of Scripture he begins with the knowledge that the passage is part of a greater set of writings that were chosen by biblical scholars to be part of the canon. These men understand that agreement with the rest of the canon was one of the tests for canonicity. He then gives the passage the benefit of the doubt that it is in agreement with the rest of the canon. If the passage seems to have a discrepancy, then he will usually continue studying to determine why it is not a discrepancy.
    On the other hand, a man who is lazy in his scholarship will forget that these books were ever debated by biblical scholars in the early church. He will forget that those debates were won in favor of these books. When a lazy scholar finds what he supposes to be a discrepancy, he tosses away all semblances of humility and thinks he is a better scholar than the men who determined the canon. He is too lazy and too proud to fully work through the passage.
    The preunderstandings and the presuppositions we bring to the text are going to effect our study. We all have a body of assumptions and attitudes which we bring to the perception and interpretation of reality or any aspect of it.
    How can we test these things to see if they are adequate or appropriate? What can be done to change preunderstandings?
    Proper hermeneutics will lead us to place ourselves under God’s Word and humbly seek to understand it through proper research and study. Preunderstandings will cause us to hastily interpret the biblical text based solely on our own personal experiences, culture, etc. rather than patiently studying the text and mining it for the truth that can be found there. Using observation tools to discover the details of the text can correct many of our preunderstandings. A proper study of the context can help discover the meaning of the text and overcome preunderstandings. Finding the “Historical-Cultural context” of the text will help us to avoid filling in the gaps with our own cultural viewpoints. Understanding the literary types of the biblical era will help us to avoid projecting the rules of modern literary types upon the Scriptures.
    Nobody is ever entirely neutral or entirely objective when he reads the Bible. We all have preunderstandings and presuppositions.
    Preunderstandings come from our personal experiences, our culture, our family, our church, our race, our nationality, etc. We need to recognize our preunderstandings because they are not always biblical or correct. Preunderstandings are temporary and changeable.
    On the other hand, our presuppositions are usually permanent and based on our faith. The presuppositions of evangelical Christianity are:
    1. The Bible is the Word of God.
    2. The Bible is trustworthy and true.
    3. God has entered into human history; thus the supernatural does occur.
    4. The Bible is not contradictory

    Reply

  4. Roger,

    I did not aim to make a fool of anybody or trash anyones reputation. If you haven’t noticed by now, this site is dedicated to hyperbole, satire, and all around poking fun. I poke just as much fun and put just as much fire to liberal errors as I do to Evangelical ones. In as much as I try to make the arguments solid, I make no attempt to keep things dry or subtle. Part of that is my big personality, probably a big part of it is my immaturity, and certainly part of it is light-heartedness that we aren’t going to solve the world’s problems on a blog. So lighten up a bit please?

    What is really frustrating to me about your entire comment is that it engages 0% with my arguments. Most of which are not entirely controversial and are there plain as day in the texts themselves.

    (I did not even use the words “contradictory” in my entire post. Though I have said them before with George and am trying to re-examine that because it might be too dogmatic and misunderstand what “contradictory” and “paradoxical” might be.)

    Essentially all you did was tell me a traditional Evangelical understanding of Scripture. I already know that and was trying to engage critically with that. So if you want to engage with my arguments, disagree all you want!, but engage.

    On your pre-suppositional propositions…I would change some and leave some.
    1 – John 1:1 – Jesus Christ is the Word of God
    2 – The Bible is indeed trustworthy when read in light of Christ and by the believing community
    3 – Not sure what this has to do with a theology of Scripture. Wasn’t talking about miracles or supernatural
    4 – The Bible, in my opinion, contains contradictory elements; but that does not mean I throw out parts of the Bible that don’t suit me or my theory. But it does mean that I understand them differently. I can elaborate further on this if you would like.

    Peace,
    tony

    Reply

  5. Tony,

    “Though, it seems to me that what Scripture IS is not quite as important as what it DOES.”

    I would almost swear that this is what Luther was getting at with sola scriptura, but it got hijacked somewhere along the way. Additionally, I find it interesting that some (as I think you are about to find out – as if you didn’t already know, is there a contest going on between you and James as to who can write the most controversial threads?) are not going to be able to tolerate any language that deviates away from what Scripture “is” when we aren’t talking about the words printed on the page. This is a phenomenon that has baffled me for a long time.

    “The relation of texts to one another, et al”

    To be fair, you are not reacting to just an evangelical understanding of inerrancy with all of your points in this section. At least one of them, “The reality of “borrowing” from other texts/cultures/myths” has not been denied by a great majority of Evangelical scholarship (within the paradigm of inerrancy), rather it has been a hot button for some (fundamentalists for instance) who want to utilize a hyper-literalistic hermeneutic. In fact, one of the great triumphs against the overly critical early version of Redaction criticism was the archaeological discoveries placing the advent of written codes in the Ancient Near Eastern traditions which preceded Judaism. I have a number of books that work off the same presuppositions that Roger offered in his response (themselves taken from “Grasping God’s Word” by Duvall and Hays), which enumerate all of the many places that the Deuteronomic Code barrowed (lifted word for word) from the codes of Hammurabi (Hammurapi in some texts) – I am thinking of this one in particular. http://www.amazon.com/Readings-Ancient-Near-East-Encountering/dp/0801022924/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1248826107&sr=8-1

    Roger,

    “Inerrancy is a hot button among evangelical Christians. There are some contributors on this blog that have invested many years and thousands of dollars in gaining legitimate degrees from evangelical institutions of higher education. All of that time, all of that money, and those degrees hanging on their walls will be virtually as worthless as toilet paper if they deny inerrancy. So, perhaps it would be a good idea to let them trash their own reputations rather than allowing someone else to do it for them.”

    I think you might be reacting a little harshly, here. Also, I think you might be overreacting to how desperate you feel evangelicalism is to defend any certain brand of inerrancy. I am one of those folks that have spent thousands of dollars and hours in conservative schools, and, actually, Tony has not presented any information that was not presented at any of the numerous evangelical institutions I have attended. If anyone is surreptitiously “trashing” anyone else’s chances within evangelicalism due to a standard deviation within the school of inerrancy it’s the evangelical institutions themselves (now, that would be ironic, wouldn’t it?).
    “Nobody is ever entirely neutral or entirely objective when he reads the Bible. We all have preunderstandings and presuppositions.”

    I think all that Tony is wanting to discuss is the fact that scholarship itself has softened their language about inerrancy because of the things he has stated (again, all stuff I was taught at evangelical institutions). If nothing else I see Tony’s statements about “what Scripture does versus what it is” in exactly the same light as evangelical scholars saying things like, “Inspiration is an attribute of the autographs, and not of the manuscripts, critical texts, translations, or interpretations to which we have access.” In other words, most within the inerrancy camp have themselves given caveats to their arguments on the basis of such observations. In fact, in your own post, your language softens quite a bit toward the end as you give more careful consideration to what a defensible hermeneutic really turns out to be.

    Blessings,

    Shawn

    Reply

  6. Shawn,

    I’m not sure that you are taking my post as ‘controversially’ as I intended it to be. I know that most Evangelical scholars who still operate in an “inerrancy” paradigm will not object to most of my observations. But that is just what I don’t understand. It’s like they take the “finalized” product as the inerrant part and then take to understanding it critically. But there are so many historical and philosophical problems with this (at least in my own head) that I just don’t get it.

    Reply

  7. Tony,

    My understanding is that they work in both directions. The final product, as I understand it, is that we cannot assert the inspiration, inerrancy, infallibility, et al of anything but the autographs – however, we have a reasonable facsimile of the autographs, so by faith (as Roger mentions) we accept that the end product is rife with human tampering but has been preserved by God in tradition, reason, and experience (now, you’re getting an idea why I can function in Anglicanism :0), right?).

    I know this does not answer the question directly, but I want to make sure we are talking about the same thing before I get into it.

    Shawn

    Reply

  8. I apologize for giving a quick answer. Let me try again.

    We might wish we could be totally objective with no predetermined approach to the Bible, but it is an impossibility. We all come with our preunderstandings and our presuppositions. The goal is to engage in an inductive study of the literature so that it may yield its own results under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

    Adhunt wrote:
    The Bible is NOT A ‘pure’ reproduction of “God’s words” – That is, the writers were not transcribers. Our understanding of God’s Words in the bible are absolutely different than an Islamic understanding of Allah’s words in the Quran.

    RESPONSE:
    I do not follow the dictation theory of inspiration, but I do believe in the inspiration of Scripture and the illumination of the readers. Let me explain…

    Unless one concedes the existence of God, then the Bible is little more than a history of Israel and a history of the church. If one does concede the existence of God and further concedes that the Bible is a revelation of God from God, then it follows that this revelation must be comprehensible at some level of human understanding. I do not assume that all of God’s purposes are comprehensible to man or that they were all communicated to man. But, I confidently assume that those purposes that are incumbent upon man have been communicated, and that they are comprehensible.

    Adhunt wrote:
    The Bible is NOT A list of propositional truths about God’s actions or nature – There are two ways I mean this. A) I do not support the “univocity” of God’s “being” and our “being.” And so, even if we took a certain statement from Scripture concerning God to be “true”, it is to us only analagous to what God is in his essence. B) ‘A “proof-text” does not a proposition make’

    RESPONSE:
    I am not saying you deny this, but as a point of reference I want to state that it would be absurd to think that God has requirements for human beings that He would not reveal in meaningful terms. Furthermore, if theology is to be done, it must be done with data revealed by God for it to claim any authenticity and authority. God’s self-revelation (the Bible) was given in human terms communicated through human thought processes and human verbal formulations. My own assumption is that God exists and is unified. He is self-consistent and ordered. If the God described in the Bible does exist, then His purposes and his revelation of Himself must be unified, self-consistent, and ordered.
    In “Approaches to Old Testament Interpretation” John Goldingway wrote:
    Revelation must express the purpose of God propositionally. If all that is in view is the noun (i.e., God), it may be that one could glean something by general revelation alone, for “the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Ps. 19:1; Rom. 1:18–23). If, however, verbs (i.e., God’s purposes) are to be revealed, they must be clarified in verbal statements, for mere isolated acts and events—or even patterns of events in a historical continuum—are at worst meaningless and at best ambiguous. “Event” must be accompanied and interpreted by “word” if it is to be revelatory.

    The revelation of purpose may be derived either inductively from the text (by abstraction of a principle or a theme) or deductively (from a purpose statement) or both. In fact, the two are mutually informing and must continually be held in tension. A purpose statement that cannot be sustained in light of the total biblical witness is of course an invalid theological starting point.

    Adhunt wrote:
    The Bible is NOT In any way shape or form; Inerrant OR Infallable – The two are, after all, exactly the same thing. One for the ballsy fundamentalist, the other for the conservative Evangelical who wants to read the scholars. *more comments on this below*

    RESPONSE:
    It is my assumption that God has revealed Himself in Scripture. Since God is unified, I believe His revelation is unified and consistent with Himself. If I have difficulty finding that unity in the Scriptures, then I assume that it is my problem and not God’s problem.

    Reply

    1. Roger,

      Before I respond more fully, what are your feelings on how the Bible fits into the whole revelation of God? Do you believe that the only source of true knowledge about God is the Bible? is there room for natural or philosophical theology in your understanding of revelation?

      Reply

  9. Tony:

    There are four possible sources of authority in Christian theology: Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience.

    Your view of Scripture does not arise from what Scripture says about itself. Your view of Scripture does not arise from what tradition says about Scripture. Your view of Scripture’s fallibility, errancy, culture-boundness, etc., does arise from the modern “critical” reading of the Bible, a reading which is based on a combination of reason and human experience.

    Hence, it seems to me, that the ultimate authority in your theological methodology is either reason or experience.

    Now, you could go all Barthian on me and talk about Christ being your authority, but where do we learn about Christ? In Scripture and tradition, which as I asserted above, do not support your view of Scripture. And how do you separate out the kernel of Christ to which Scripture witnesses from the chaff of human fallibility and errancy which reason points to without elevating reason and experience above all other forms of authority?

    Obviously, this is a broad-stroke criticism badly in need of some fine-tuning, but broadly speaking, I think it gets at something missing from your points above.

    George

    Reply

    1. George,

      First I want to address your statement, and any future ones like it, that “my view of Scripture does not arise from what Scripture says about itself”
      There is no individual statement of the bible which relates to the bible as a whole since none of Holy Scripture was written after the final canonical shape. So what Scripture says about itself is pluriform and refers only to different parts. If we want those parts to refer to the larger whole then it needs to be admitted that the original meaning of the text is being extended beyond its initial intent. If we are to do that then you must demonstrate how it is that God is mandating such a thing to be done in order to promote the propositional truth that Scriptural passages referring to other parts of Scripture demonstrate the unity and entire truthfulness of Scripture conceived of as a whole. In addition, as a Protestant, you must demonstrate why it is that you have found it acceptable to reject the status of several books which for the majority of Christian history were at the very least semi-authoritative and were allowed to speak truthfully about God.

      You also say that “my view of Scripture does not arise from what Tradition says about Scripture
      I will admit to not knowing fully the extent of Tradition in regards to its understanding of what Scripture is. I have read several, and for most, Scripture can only be read as a whole in light of Christ and as pointing to Christ, which is essentially what I argue. Scripture, Old and New, must refer to Christ in order to have any claim to being unified, which places the revelation of Christ at the center of God’s self-revealing and not Scripture.

      You say that “my view of Scriptures fallibility, errancy, culture-boundedness, etc… does arise from the modern “critical” reading of the Bible”
      Everything revealed to us of God is “culture-bound.” I have no problem with this. God took a 1st C. Jewish peasant, despised by his people and mocked by the powers to radically alter the world so that any talk of God must take reference to this narrative. Without trying to sound especially pious so as to artificially bolster my position, this seems to me to be the “foolishness of the Gospel” and is central to all Christian belief and proclamation.
      And several of the things which you seem to relegate to “critical” method are nothing but close reads of Scripture and do not require modern methods of historical criticism.
      In regards to “infallibility” and “inerrancy” – I just don’t know what to say. Indeed, you have never come down hard on where you stand. This could be because you had no need to. It might be because you don’t buy either of them in their traditional entirety, but being a licensed AG minister this could cost you your credentials if you revealed this information. For may sake it would be helpful, if possible, to understand where you are coming from. As I have said many times, I grant the authority of Scripture and its “God-breathedness” (to extend a passage), but I believe that the doctrine of inerrancy/infallibility only continue to preserve the authoritative place of Scripture and do not say anything truthful about the Scriptures themselves without a slew of qualifiers.

      I haven’t read enough Barth to go “all Barth” on you, but in regards to his understanding of Revelation, as far as I have knowledge of it, it seems to be very truthful.

      This is something I am quite passionate about as I think that theological integrity is massively important to spreading the Gospel to a questioning culture, so please don’t give up on me unless you get disinterested.
      Tony

      Reply

      1. Mark: You contributed a lot to this list.Bobby: I can see where it could go that diiectron, but don’t forget we have Wright, Bauckham, Hurtado, Evans and dozens of evangelical scholars who don’t affirm inerrancy who are actually taken more serious than those who affirm inerrancy in debates with movements like The Jesus Seminar. Also, there is a slippery slope the other way. Some comments on women, race, and history that I have seen on this blog are evidence of the danger of not reading any Scripture with a critical eye.

        Reply

  10. Shawn,

    I have no problem with things that need to be accepted by faith. I accept plenty of silly things by faith. But what I don’t see is how belief in inerrancy says something A) necessary or B) true about the nature of Scripture.

    As I’ve mentioned many times before. It seems to me that belief in inerrancy is really about safeguarding Scripture, or God, or whatever. It’s about authority and safety, not about truth or necessity. If I say that Scripture is inspired then how is that less true or necessary than saying it is inerrant?

    Reply

  11. Tony,
    I was so surprised by this post.
    I just beat my head against the wall arguing your epilogue challenge on this Christian site

    If someone can give me a thorough and clear way to differentiate inerrancy and infallability I’ll give them $5.

    Obviously YOUR Christianity is very different from their Christianity. Or maybe not. Words are so tricky when they are tied in knots. Of course, I could clearly tell they were in defense mode because I was an atheist, but maybe you will have more luck. Do I get the $5 if they convert you to agreeing that inerrancy is NOT the same as infallibility.
    BTW, I loved your explanations.

    Reply

  12. Adhunt wrote:
    Before I respond more fully, what are your feelings on how the Bible fits into the whole revelation of God? Do you believe that the only source of true knowledge about God is the Bible? is there room for natural or philosophical theology in your understanding of revelation?

    RESPONSE:
    I believe Scripture should be the dominant and primary source of our theology. Our theology should be faithful to the meaning of Scripture. However, saying that the Bible should be the dominant and primary source does not mean that there are no other sources. I believe there are primary sources and secondary sources of theology. I believe the Bible and nature are primary sources with the Bible taking precedent over nature. I believe creeds, doctrinal confessions, church tradition, church teachings, and reason are secondary sources of theology.

    I agree with Dr. Millard Erickson’s Degrees of Authority. It goes as follows:
    1. “Direct statements of Scripture” are given the greatest weight, followed by
    2. “Direct implications of Scripture”
    3. “Probable implications of Scripture”
    4. “Inductive conclusions from Scripture”
    5. “Conclusions inferred from the general revelation (nature)”
    6. “Outright speculations” (Erickson, Christian Theology, 83-84)

    Reply

  13. Tony:

    Let’s start with what Scripture says about itself.

    While there may be no Scriptures that properly speaking refer to all of Scripture, since Scripture was neither completed nor canonized when the apostles and their proteges were writing it, those New Testament authors do have a lot to say about the Old Testament, which was both completed and canonized.

    So, as a simple test case, how does your view of Scripture stack up against the New Testament view of the Old Testament? Start with 2 Timothy 3:14-17 or 2 Peter 1:19-21.

    Then, go back to what the individual writers of individual Old Testament books (especially the Law and the Prophets) said about their own works. Forget what Isaiah did or didn’t say about Jeremiah or “Moses.” Ask what he said about his own words. How did he understand them? How does your view of Scripture stack up against those prophetic self-understandings?

    Then turn to Paul and ask how he understood both his personal authority and the authority of his own writings. For that matter, ask how Peter viewed Paul’s writings, since we actually have a statement to that effect in 2 Peter. (Whether Peter wrote it, an ammanuensis, or some unnamed writer, that particular verse is indicative of the Christian community’s intepretation of Paul’s authority in the late 1st Century A.D.)

    Now that you’ve completed this little exercise, ask whether the writers of these various books understand Scripture or their own prophecies more in line with a “traditional” doctrine of Scripture or with yours.

    George

    Reply

  14. And with regard to tradition, I’d go through a similar list of questions. Does the tradition of the church, as expressed in its doctrinal statements, confessions, and canon laws reflect a more “traditional” doctrine of Scripture or one more in line with what you’re affirming?

    I’m not writing this to be a pain in the neck, although it’s probably coming across that way. I’m trying to do several things: (1) I’m trying to draw you out on your theological method. Since Theophiliacs is concerned with the question of religious authority, and since so many of you are Episcopal, the Quadrilateral seems a good place to start. But several of your assertions about what Scripture is NOT don’t line up with the Quadrilateral, at least not in my position. (2) I’m also trying to point out (in an admittedly clumsy way) that “traditional” doctrines of Scripture often arose because of a detailed examination of what Scripture said about itself. That was certainly the case with the Reformation, which paid minute attention to the authority of Scripture precisely in order to deconstruct the doctrinal authority of the Roman Magisterium. (3) I’m trying to draw you out on how you arrived at your conclusions on what Scripture is and is not, more precisely, on your reasons for these conclusions.

    It seems to me that, at some point, when faced with some fairly strong claims that the Scriptures make about their own divine inspiration and authority; and when further faced with diametrically opposite claims made about Scripture by modern critical writers; Christians have to make a choice about whether Scripture is what its writers say it is (the “oracles of God,” “word of God,” “theopneustos,” etc.) or whether it’s really a collection of human documents that claim to be inspired by God but in fact are not.

    George

    Reply

    1. George,

      I’m unsure as to how vastly I really differ from traditional understandings of the Inspiration of Holy Scripture. I’m certainly no crude liberal protestant.

      I feel as if you are only looking at the “finished text” (there really is no such thing) as the proper or only way to read these terms “word of God” etc…. I’m picturing the whole process. In order to say the book of Isaiah is “inspired” then we are in reality affirming the following
      A) There was a historical man named Isaiah who went around Jerusalem preaching and prophecying.
      B) His words were remembered and/or written down by students/disciples/hearers etc…
      C) Those words were interacted with for the better part of almost 100 yrs (or so, I don’t have my intro handy) by the Community which came into and through exile. They related their experience to the words of Isaiah and composed more works based off of his words and the previous “Isaiah” texts already in circulation
      D) It was all placed together into our unified book of Isaiah, which operates authoritatively for us as Christians

      A crude reading of what seems to be your position is that D is all that really matters and A,B, and C were magical lands far away through which God preserved his intent from human hands (despite passing through a whole bunch of human hands). This “Revelation of the gaps” is used only to bolster the “authority” of Scripture. What it does is fail to account for the real, on the ground way that God reveals himself through and despite human struggle.

      So the prophet Isaiah preaching to Jerusalem the “word of the Lord” has nothing to do with calling “The Bible” or even the finished book of Isaiah the “word of the Lord” except in as much as they contain strong elements of those original prophecies. The phrase signifies two different things.

      Peace,
      Tony

      Reply

  15. Adhunt wrote:
    There is no individual statement of the bible which relates to the bible as a whole since none of Holy Scripture was written after the final canonical shape.
    RESPONSE:
    It is not necessary to have a statement after the canon in order to address the fabric of the canon. Does a sports announcer have to wait until after the football game before he can discuss the basics of football? No. Neither did the prophets have to wait until the completion of the canon before discussing the nature of Scripture.
    Adhunt wrote:
    In addition, as a Protestant, you must demonstrate why it is that you have found it acceptable to reject the status of several books which for the majority of Christian history were at the very least semi-authoritative and were allowed to speak truthfully about God.
    RESPONSE:
    I would find it much more entertaining to see you present your arguments as to why you believe each of those books should have been included.
    Adhunt wrote:
    Everything revealed to us of God is “culture-bound.”
    RESPONSE:
    I have to disagree. There are many things that remain consistent across different cultures. Sacrificial atonement is an example. Furthermore, some things are universal based on the language of supporting passages. For instance, Baptism is set forth as being cross cultural because of Matthew 28:19-20. Consider the phrases “all authority,” “all nations,” and “with you always.” Marriage is another example based on the permanent factor that God made male and female.” Paul states that our salvation is essentially linked to the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus, the literal resurrection is not bound to any specific culture.
    Adhunt wrote:
    This is something I am quite passionate about as I think that theological integrity is massively important to spreading the Gospel to a questioning culture, so please don’t give up on me unless you get disinterested.
    RESPONSE:
    There are two ways that theologians respond to culture. Some are translators and others are transformers. The translators reexpress the message in a more intelligible form, but retain the content, as one does when translating from one language to another. The transformers make serious changes in the content of the message in their attempts to relate it to the modern world.

    Just fyi, according to Elwell’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, there are three “typical” approaches to culture taken by Christians through the ages:
    1) ANABAPTISTS view Christianity as opposed to culture and encourage Christians to avoid the culture in which they live.
    2) ANGLICAN/CATHOLICS view Christianity as indifferent to culture and encourage Christians to ignore the culture unless it somehow interferes with serving God.
    3) REFORMED views Christianity as a conqueror of culture and encourages Christians to see God’s handiwork in culture. They have generally tried to use it to benefit the cause of Christ.

    Reply

    1. Roger,

      1 – In looking at “Scripture talking about Scripture” passages I would exegete them like I would any other. What is the authorial intent? – Since the authors original intent could not have been addressing books not yet written or compiled canonically then this is out. Is there a “sensus plenior” to the passage that is common to consistent historical readings of the passages in question? Perhaps. I dislike speaking too broadly, so if you wanted to pursue this further we could maybe discuss a few individual passages?

      2 – I do not have an theory as to how to understand the deutero-canonical books. I do know that they are essential reading for understanding the NT as several of it’s writers used them and the “world of the text” helps to understand the theological worldview of the early Jews and Christians. Plus we sing a portion in the Prayer Book.

      3 – Anything that happened ‘within history’ is culturally conditioned. Plenty of things ‘transcend’ cultures in that they are believed or performed through time. But take baptism for instance. It was already in use in Judaism for the initiation of the “God-fearers” and it was used by John the Baptist and Jesus (and many “other” messiahs) to signify a “return from exile” or “re-making” of Israel. As it went out into the Church, it was shifted to signify a dying and rising in Christ. These early ways are all certainly “culturally Jewish”

      4 – I find your response to be too broadstroked. There are many ways theologians (and all Christians are theologians) interact with culture and making the Gospel intelligible does not mean it needs to be “seriously changed”

      Reply

  16. I would like to share a recent experience concerning inerrancy. I am presently teaching through the book of Hebrews on Sunday mornings. This past Sunday I preached from Hebrews 9. As I was preparing myself throughout the week, I kept going back to Hebrews 9:4. This passage states that the altar of incense was inside of the Holy of Holies. Anyone who is familiar with the OT description of the tabernacle knows that the altar of incense was actually in the Holy Place and not in the Holy of Holies. It seemed like a discrepancy. I continued to pray and ask God for guidance. I studied various biblical passages concerning the tabernacle attempting to see if there was a different way of looking at the placement of the altar of incense. I looked at the Greek text and considered the possibility that Hebrews 9:4 might refer to a scepter of incense instead of the altar of incense. I noticed that the KJV and a few other translations follow that interpretation.
    But, it still did not seem like the right answer to me. So, I continued to work on this passage for hours and hours. It was very difficult work interpreting this passage. Often times, biblical interpretation is hard work. It does not come easy, and those who have no mental endurance will give up too quickly.
    Finally, after hours and days of study, things began to come together. Eventually, I could see what Hebrews 9:4 was about. Normally the altar of incense was placed in the Holy Place, outside the curtain. It was used daily by the priests in the Holy Place. It stood next to the entry to the Holy of Holies as though it guarded the door.
    However, the altar also had a special function on the Day of Atonement, once each year. This fact is rather obscure. It is not widely taught or referenced in Scripture. On that one day (the day of Atonment), the Altar of Incense was used to cleanse the Holy of Holies. It seems that the altar of incense was actually moved there on that single occasion one day each year. Rev. 8:3 says this Altar of Incense is right next to the Throne in heaven (symbolic of the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies). Rev. 9:13 says it is right next to God, Himself. 1 Kings 6:22 says this Altar belonged to the inner sanctuary.
    Hebrews 9 deals with the blood of Jesus and how Jesus fulfilled the events that were pictured in the Day of Atonement. That was the one day out of the year when the altar of incense would be moved into the Holy of Holies. So, it made sense that the altar of incense would be mentioned as being inside the Holy of Holies when describing the events of that one day.
    If I approached Scripture from the standpoint that there are discrepancies, then I would have given up on Hebrews 9:4 on Monday when I began my sermon prep. It would have been the easy way out. It would have been the lazy man’s exegesis of the passage. Perhaps, on Sunday morning I would have simply read over the passage and ignored verse 4. However, because I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture I kept working on this passage until I found an answer that satisfied my need for truth.
    There have been hundreds of times that I have had to put extra hours into a passage to find the answers to similar problems. I have learned over the years that God always gives me an answer if I am diligent. I wonder why such intricacies are included in God’s revelation of Himself. I am not sure, but I know in my own life it keeps me focused on Him. It requires me to spend more time with Him and less time with the more boring things of this world.

    Reply

    1. Roger and George,

      To set the ground let me start by saying this. Inerrancy isn’t really the main part of my post. I know that you have your Lee Strobel books on standby for such occasions as this comment thread, but I’m not too interested in arguing this single article. If statements can be factually harmonized by close readings of Scripture, then that really doesn’t count as what i am getting on about. I am all about close readings of Scripture.

      I don’t think the Bible is a merely “human” product, which frankly I think some mentioning it is simply frustrating. I consistently say that the Holy Spirit was at work in the whole process, but that doesn’t change the reality of human involvement and even human error. Nor do I believe it to be rife with “errors.” Nor do I believe it to be “unreliable,” or any other such descriptors. I believe that God’s purposes can be known from Scripture. We all agree on the effects of Scripture on the believing Community. It seems to me that you feel that in order for those effects to take place then we need some positivistic view of revelation in the Bible, I do not agree.

      Reply

  17. How do you know your are going to Heaven” is a page on Roger’s A/G website. Tony, do you really buy this version? I am guessing you don’t. But that is the thing about Christians arguing theology, they don’t seem brave enough to come out and admit they believe such different things from each other that it is weird to keep using the word “Christian” to describe each other. I see this in other fields too. When arguing, people are trying to win the argument, instead of just admitting they believe very different things. But since Christianity is in large part a “believism” religion, then you guys are still under the idyllic illusion that you all really believe the same thing and only need to dialogue to fix it up. (that is an exaggeration of course to make a point.)

    Reply

  18. Sabio,

    Undoubtedly Roger and I would disagree on plenty of things. Some of them are probably pretty substantive. But Christians aren’t united, ultimately, by every “jot and tittle” of our respective theologies and biblical readings. We are united by belief in the Gospel (which undoubtedly we agree on, that is, Christs atoning death and glorious Resurrection) and by the fact that we have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son and HS, and that we still perform the sacrament of Communion.

    I know what you mean though. Often the honest path is “agreeing to disagree,” and I do that plenty with people, but usually only after some healthy discussion. I’d like to be naive enough to believe that I am open to being corrected, and I’ve been known to change my mind.

    I think that Christianity is a “believism” religion when it gets backed into a corner. Either the by “threat” of other Christianities, or the challenge of naturalism. But it can be much more about trust in the previous act of God united by the Sacraments – but only at its best moments.

    Reply

  19. Sabio,

    When you make these comments, are you also (in your mind/opinion) holding in tension the fact that this is a phenomenon that is evident in most human endeavors?

    “When arguing, people are trying to win the argument, instead of just admitting they believe very different things.”

    I believe the first part of this statement is true in most cases; however, the second point needs to be qualified. I have seen (even participated) in many, many conversations where experience was the road block to agreement, not belief. Some people experience life (including religion and the supernatural) in ways that are quite different from others. Consequently, they need different language to describe their experience. All of this discussion about language, terminology, and history is a matter of unpacking the baggage that is associated with terms – not a matter of convincing each other that we really do believe the same things.

    What Tony is really contending here (correct me if I am wrong, Tony) is that when he interacts with the Word of God he is content to draw the line at identifying it as “inspired,” because inspiration carries all of the necessary implications of truthfulness and accuracy needed in his experience. Consequently, he sees going back and arguing inerrancy over the text as an attempt to manipulate people into a certain hermeneutical style or interpretive framework. Others, in their experience, see inerrancy as the natural conclusion to draw about something that cites God as its source. This conversation says nothing about whether either party affirms orthodox belief (indeed, there is no “bibliology” in the Nicene Creed except to say that the Holy Spirit spoke “through the Law, prophets, and Gospels”).

    Blessings,

    Shawn

    Reply

  20. Sabio,

    I’d really like the $5, but I think I can only get 50 cents so let me see if I can help. Let’s simply define differentiate: I like this definition:

    5. Mathematics. to obtain the differential or the derivative of.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/differentiate

    Calculus tries to define the ability to approach something such as how do we define the volume of an odd shape. try this definition:

    integral calculus
    The study of integration and its uses, such as in calculating areas bounded by curves, volumes bounded by surfaces, and solutions to differential equations.

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/integral+calculus

    There’s a great picture of it on the site, if you need the actual equation it will take time to find it. I tried getting one of my MD bosses to understand this equation to use in calculating volume in some tissue samples we were studying. She didn’t understand either so we kept to the algebra equation she was using. I think we finally did publish, but it wasn’t a very good journal…if you want the journal that too will take time, because I did the research almost 10yrs ago and I don’t even think I got a thank you for doing the work which was quite tedious and boring, gave me much time to think about calculus and better applications for the need for people to understand.

    Oh yeah, sorry seem to start dialoging in my own head to answer your question I can’t but I hope someone else can because I too cannot differentiate between the two; which was inerrancy and infallability. So, if I could I too would give someone 50 cents to help me understand this debate.

    By the way Sabio my spell check says they are spelled wrong and God only knows if I may lose my job over all this blogging.

    I do hope this makes someone smile or at least laugh, sometimes that is the only thing that keeps me sane. Good luck and since most of you use it :).

    Reply

  21. Tony:

    Where in the tradition of the church do you find anything like C? Indeed, where in Isaiah do you find anything like C? This is a scholarly reconstuction of the textual history of Isaiah that may (or may not) be correct. Whatever the case, the scholarly reconstruction is not how Isaiah presents itself nor how the tradition has understood it.

    In a sense, D is all that matters since D is all we’ve got, unless you have copies of 2nd and 3rd Isaiah that are independent of the canonical form of the prophet.

    I understand what you’re getting at it when you write, “What it does is fail to account for the real, on the ground way that God reveals himself through and despite human struggle.” Certainly crude dictation theories fail to do so, or theories that don’t take into account the use of editors and ammanuenses. But my theory isn’t dictation and I’m fine with editors and ammanuenses, although I’ll have to admit to being skeptical of some of the editorial theories circulating about some of the books.

    What strikes me about your comment, though, is the failure to see an implication that trends toward conservative orthodoxy. If God can reveal himself through the editorial process by which the canonical form of Isaiah came together, is the canonical form of Isaiah any less the word of God? Any less authoritative? Any less, uh, infallible? Your operating assumption seems to be that if a book of the Bible came into being over a long period of editing, then it is necessarily fallible and not necessarily the word of God. But why? Can’t God have guided the editorial process? Can’t that be inspired? And can’t the results of an inspired editorial process be authoritative and infallible?

    I guess my question boils down to this: Why do you assume that process introduces fallibility into the result, along with the need to distinguish the word of God from the text of Scripture?

    George

    Reply

  22. Interesting post, I’ll refrain from commentary on it, but I would like to ask would you be willing to accept additional books with the bible be it the Deuterocanonical books of the OT or say if we discover an actual copy of the Epistle to the Laodiceans?

    Reply

  23. While reading Shawn’s thread on the hypostatic union of Christ, I was reminded of a couple of first century heresies that denied the hypostatic union of Christ. These heresies seem to be analogous to this thread on errancy/inerrancy. One was Docetism. It taught that Christ did not actually become flesh but only appeared to be a man with human flesh. Docetism robbed Christ of genuine humanity. An analogy can be made between this error and those that perhaps overemphasize divine authorship of the Scriptures to the neglect of its “humanness.” Karl Barth made this type of charge against the mechanical dictation view of inspiration.

    If that extreme can be charged with being analogous to Docetism then the other extreme can certainly be charged with resembling Ebionism. The Ebionites denied the deity of Christ, regarding Him simply as the natural son of Joseph and Mary who was later chosen to be the Son of God at His baptism. They viewed Jesus as a great prophet and Messiah that was higher than the archangels, but not divine.

    Neither of these views was orthodox. Neither of these views was acceptable to the early church. I believe the same can be said today concerning the extremes on either side of the issue of inerrancy.

    The Bible is the product of God inspiring human authors to communicate His will and purpose to man. This does not mean that God took control of their hands and caused them to write every letter according to His will. Neither does it mean that it includes erroneous statements. Men used their own research (Luke 1:1–4), they expressed their God given feelings (Rom 9:1–3), they transmitting direct revelation (Deut 9:10), they gave direct commands (1 Cor 7:10), they made inspired recordings of men’s opinions (1 Cor 7:40), but they were guided by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet 1:21 ) and the end result is a God inspired revelation of Himself that is unified, self-consistent, and ordered (2 Tim 3:16).

    Reply

  24. George has tossed down the gauntlet challenging the Theophiliacs to consult church history on their view of errancy/inerrancy.

    I think we all know why the challenge has not been accepted. Although some on this forum have expressed the idea that inerrancy is an innovation of Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism, the facts tell a different story.

    For the record:
    Augustinian tradition had at its core the idea that if an error were found in Scripture, scriptural authority would be shaken. Augustine wrote, “For it seems to me that the most disastrous consequences must follow upon our believing that anything false is found in the sacred books….” (Augustine Letters 28. 3. See also Letters 40.1 and 4.)

    Eck cited a similar passage from Augustine as he criticized Erasmus for potentially allowing an error in Scripture.

    The Anglican William Whitaker cited the same passage as Eck in his Disputation on Holy Scripture (1588), a volume that was probably the most thorough analysis of scriptural authority during the reign of Elizabeth I. (Biblical Authority: A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1982), pp. 74-76)

    Reply

  25. Tony,
    Thank you for reading and responding to my comments a few posts above. I am working on a response to your post, but I wanted to post these last two statements above before I forgot what I wanted to write.

    Reply

  26. Quickbeam,

    The fact that some of the Apostles took certain deuterocanonical books as “authoritative” seems to me to give them a sort of auxiliary authority. Especially the narratives from the Maccabee’s and the Wisdom of Solomon. In the BCP, for a song of repentance we sing from the Wisdom of Solomon.

    And if we found the letter to the Laodicians? Man, how would we prove it? But that would be something else huh?

    Reply

  27. Roger,

    There is only one Theophiliac to whom George has “thrown the gaunlet” and that’s me.

    I’m formulating another post to address some issues. Some others I might respond to here. Others I might pass over in indignant silence, such as the suggestion that what I am here suggesting is analagous to early Church heresies.

    Reply

  28. Adhunt wrote:
    In looking at “Scripture talking about Scripture” passages I would exegete them like I would any other. What is the authorial intent? – Since the authors original intent could not have been addressing books not yet written or compiled canonically then this is out.
    RESPONSE:
    Not necessarily so. If I write an essay about the genre of poetry, it does not mean that my essay cannot refer to future poems written after my essay. If Paul wrote a statement concerning the characteristics of Scripture, that does not mean that the canon had to be complete for all Scripture to have those characteristics. God is ultimately the source of canonicity. He used several different things to finalize the recognition of the canon. There were practical, theological, and political factors involved in the process of collecting and finalizing the recognition of the canon. However, the canon was actually completed when the last New Testament book was written. The New Testament itself bears signs of the process. It provides windows into the history of the prophetic and apostolic writings. It provides details of how these writings were circulated, collected, and quoted. The apostolic Fathers were quoting the New Testament books before there was ever a council to recognize the canon. So, it seems that passages such as 2Timothy 3:16 can refer to “all Scripture” including the parts that had not yet been written when Paul wrote those words.

    Adhunt wrote:
    I do not have an theory as to how to understand the deutero-canonical books. I do know that they are essential reading for understanding the NT as several of it’s writers used them and the “world of the text” helps to understand the theological worldview of the early Jews and Christians. Plus we sing a portion in the Prayer Book.
    RESPONSE:
    There are many Jewish writings that will help us to gain a better understanding of the world in which the New Testament was written. I would include Josephus and Philo in this group. But, I Josephus and Philo are obviously not deutero-canonical writings.

    Adhunt wrote:
    Anything that happened ‘within history’ is culturally conditioned.
    RESPONSE:
    Hmmm… How are we defining “culturally conditioned”? Some things change the culture rather than being changed or effected by the culture.

    Adhunt wrote:
    I find your response to be too broadstroked. There are many ways theologians (and all Christians are theologians) interact with culture and making the Gospel intelligible does not mean it needs to be “seriously changed”
    RESPONSE:
    My point was that there are two ways that theologians respond to culture. I definitely agree with you that translation is preferable to transformation.

    Reply

  29. Adhunt wrote:
    I’m formulating another post to address some issues. Some others I might respond to here. Others I might pass over in indignant silence, such as the suggestion that what I am here suggesting is analagous to early Church heresies.

    Tony,
    That was not meant to be a personal poke at you. However, I have been poked with that stick myself… (not by you) I have been told that belief in inerrancy is idol worship. We need to understand that there are different views of inerrancy and evidently there are different views of errancy. Both have their extremes.

    I have read your statements, and I understand that you do not hold to the extreme views of liberal protestantism.

    Reply

  30. Tony, you said, “It’s like they take the “finalized” product as the inerrant part and then take to understanding it critically. But there are so many historical and philosophical problems with this (at least in my own head) that I just don’t get it.”

    I feel you, dogg. Both my professors AND my classmates in seminary (except for my wife and some assorted riff raff) manage to reconcile this same sort of cognitive dissonance, or dualism. “The WHOLE is perfect but the pieces are folklore.” WHAT?!?

    It reminds me of the sorts of arguments my Mormon friends’ theologians have constructed to validate Mormonism as an “evangelical denomination.”

    “Yes, we believe such-and-such, but we agree with everything you just said.” Even the things in direct contradiction.

    The “Intelligent Design” movement does this same thing: seeking to legitimize opposing concepts by simply answering “yes.”

    Reply

  31. We did mention Gen 1-3. Though ‘myth’ is probably a different category than ‘folklore’ such as some of the other narratives.

    I don’t think Peter wanted to go down a rabbit hole.

    Reply

  32. Sorry that I’m so late getting here, but I do like how our beloved Greek teacher defines inerrancy vs. infallibility. She says that inerrancy is the belief that the Bible has no errors, while infallibility is the belief that God will not allow His message to fail. She redefines these words, but they are definitions I am fond of. So that I can wholly and in my mind uncontroversially say that the Bible in not innerant (all mss. have errors of some sort in them; there are literally thousands of errors though most of them unconsequential), but that I believe in the infallibility of the God’s message to humaninity there-in contained. *Please note that while I mentioned my former Greek teacher’s definitions of infallibility and inerrancy I am by no means insunating anything about her personal beliefs on those subjects.*

    I also assent with you, Tony, that the Bible needs to be read in the context of a believing community. I have come to realize that that is one of the things I appreciate most about the liturgy.

    Roger,

    Your statement concerning the worth of degrees earned from evangelical institutions for those who do not believe in innerrancy, while uncharitable is probably true in my case. The education behind the degree is invaluable to me, but the degree itself is almost worthless outside the context of being an AG children’s pastor, and it just may be the case that you cannot be one of those unless you believe in inerrancy.

    Reply

  33. jstambaugh: The classical inerrantist would point out that of course all MSS have errors of some sort in them and she/he would accept that there are literally thousands of errors though most of them unconsequential however they would point out that the doctrine of inerrancy pertains only to the original autographs. They would suggest that the errors in the MSS are copyist and were not present in the originals. The problem as I see it is that this classical defence rests upon a very specific understanding of textual criticism, in text critical speak the inerrantist is claiming the inerrancy of the Urtext alone. The goal for TC in their mind is to reconstruct the Urtext which is assumed to exist in the MSS we have. Of course there is a logical minefield in this way of thinking, hence I am not aware of any textual critics that aim to reconstruct an Urtext.

    However, I still agree with inerrancy, cf. here.

    Reply

  34. @ Richard
    You quote Spark’s buy in to Calvin’s rationale.

    the Holy Spirit would rather speak childishly than unintelligibly to the humble and unlearned.
    Calvin’s Commentary on Psalm 136:7

    Now, imagine that being the reply a Muslim, a Hindu or a Mormon (who I imagine you all consider highly mistaken) if asked to explain the mistaken notions in their scriptures. You would just shake your head, like I am.

    @ JStambough
    I imagine you agree with many textual techniques to determine errors. But by quoting your Greek teacher, you seem to imply that though you hold to some measure of errancy, you want to cling to infallibility under this new definition. OK, so let’s grant the definition. How will you know when God allows His message to fail. For if you have no measure of this, then the statement is meaningless. If you can’t tell me what counts as a failed message, your infallibility is empty talk.

    As above with Richard. Let’s say a Muslim admits to errors in the Koran but claims in is infallible by saying “Allah will not allow His message to fail”. Wouldn’t you want an explanation of what counts as “fails”? Otherwise it is just simple empty believer-speak. It makes believers all feel good about themselves while those outside just shake their heads.

    Note: Questions intended only stated authors.

    Reply

  35. @ James

    the Bible needs to be read in the context of a believing community

    Same here, as far as believer-speak goes. Substitute for Bible the words:
    Qur’an
    Bhagavadgita
    Peril of Great Price
    And you statement would still be true. So the statement, being “believer speak” (Christian-speak, in this case) means the same for any religions, correct?

    Reply

  36. Sabio,

    How do I get saved again? I went to your site and all I got was a message that my outlook inbox was disabled….agh I guess it will never happen and for whatever it is worth I am going to bed. How do I get those stupid winkey things in here?

    Reply

  37. Sabio, we have over 24,000 different manuscripts (partial and complete) of the Greek New Testament to compare. We have more than 86,000 quotes of New Testament documents from the Patristic Fathers. Only one half of one percent (that is 0.5%) of the New Testament is seriously questioned. The portions that are in question are not essential to maintain any foundational doctrine of the church. So, you are obviously making much more out of this question than it deserves. To compare the New Testament to the Book of Mormon is ridiculous. There is absolutely no manuscript evidence (no reformed hieroglyphic copies) of the Book of Mormon. The Koran suffers similar deficiencies, but Islam is so afraid of the truth that they don’t discuss it. http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/199901/koran

    Reply

  38. Sabio, your bible is the scientific method. You should know that the scientific method does not provide absolute proof of anything, it merely points to probabilities. You have to add some faith to this probability in order to move from experimentation to action. Sometimes, a medicine that has been tested and approved can still cause horrible side effects in a patient. That is because you placed your faith in a possible solution that you thought was a probable solution. Perhaps you have faith that you are prescribing the right medication with the proper dosage, but your scientific method lets you down and someone dies because of it. That is because science of medicine is not nearly as exact as the science of textual criticism. Nobody dies when a mistake is made in textual criticism. In fact, nobody even misses the truth about an important Christian doctrine when a mistake is made in textual criticism. So, I have no problem with the science of textual criticism. However, when it comes to prescribing statins, beta-blockers, or anti-coagulants I recommend caution.

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  39. This is not an apples to apples comparison, textual criticism with medical treatment.

    But… We can textually criticize medical textbooks throughout the ages in similar ways that we textually criticize religious documents; however for both arenas one must put that knowledge or that faith, or whatever term is deemed appropriate, into practice before we see any result, good or bad.

    Criticism of religious documents is to criticism of medical documents as medical treatment is to prayer/faith/healing.

    The former is theory while the latter is practice. The former predicts results while the latter can have fantastic or devastating results, in both arenas.

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  40. @ Reed
    Yes, as I wrote at the end of my note, I had intended the question only for the authors (who have not had a chance to respond). I am trying to avoid having the conversation confused by their fellow Christians jumping in to answer.

    That said, perhaps James agrees with you and has a modern view of other faiths and feels that reading the Koran or Bhagavad Gita in church would be another way for God to speak to the congregants. I know they do that at Unitarian Universalist services. But I suspected that was not what James would encourage.

    I was just trying to make practical sense out of what James wrote. The sentences sounded like James meant them to have actually factual meaning and not just emotional meaning. But I was trying to show that it seems like only believer-speak and thus just has emotional content without substance. And that is fine, of course, but it seemed to imply content and I was trying to fish out that content.

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  41. Sabio: I wouldn’t know whethera Muslim, a Hindu or a Mormon would claim such a thing for their own sacred texts, re mistaken notions in their scriptures. In that what mistaken notions in their scriptures would they use such a defence for?

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  42. further, I think the point is to analyse the claim I made within the sphere it was made, i.e. if you wish to claim there are errors in the Bible fine but let us approach them rationally.

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  43. Sabio wrote:
    I had intended the question only for the authors…

    RESPONSE:
    Yep, there is no empirical evidence that any “EN” “vibrant and resonant connectedness“
    exists between Sabio and some of the other visitors to this blog.

    Hmm… empirical tests of other’s truth… uhm… EN… ??? What am I missing here?

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  44. For whatever it is worth Men.

    Thanks!

    I have a new blog to hoover over, he seems to be a little more 2D and who knows we will probably reach a really good dimension someday, but as you all wrote that too will take time.

    For the first time in my life I can actually laugh at how the source made me, wait I forgot to put the shift button down on one of those words….and for the first time I think it actually might be good.

    As I usually say to my friends, but since I’m blogging I’ll write instead. I will be thinking of you.

    Oh yeah, back to what I wanted to write.

    Simply thanks!

    BTW: Thursday the 13th, please think of me, important decisions need to be made.

    I really don’t like that number, in science it is really hard to work with something to do with mathematics and cytospins not having 26 spots to put tubes, but only 24….I really need to go get ready for the day…I tend to ramble.

    I told one blog to please feel free to delete anything I write, most people don’t understand.

    Reply

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