Blomberg’s Can We Still Believe the Bible?– Part Six

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First of all, I am on record as to my views on the inerrancy controversies in Evangelicalism. You may check out my article in the Spring issue of JETS of this year entitled ‘The Truth Will Out’. You may also read what I say about the doctrine of Scripture at length in my The Living Word of God. Here I will simply interact with Craig’s presentation. Sadly, a good deal of what he honestly chronicles is the story of Evangelicals behaving badly, especially in the Robert Gundry cause celebre when he was kicked out of the ETS. If you read Craig’s footnotes to Chapter 4 (pp. 119-45) you will see what I mean. As for me, I much prefer to use positive language, namely the truthfulness and trustworthiness of Scripture, because the term inerrancy leaves itself wide open to as many definitions of what counts as an error as there are persons debating the issue. I don’t see that as helpful. You know something has gone terribly wrong with the writings of such conservative Evangelicals as Blomberg, Don Carson, Craig Keener, and Darrell Bock are lambasted as too liberal, or too weak on their doctrine of Scripture. Seriously?? On p. 121 Craig asks an apt question— Is belief in inerrancy more like believing in a heliocentric solar system or like believing in a flat earth?

As Craig lays out, one’s view of inerrancy presupposes a certain view of the inspiration of Scripture, namely that it is all God-breathed, can all be called the Word of and from God to humanity (see 2 Tim. 3.16) whether one takes a deductive or inductive approach to inerrancy. The discussion is in part based on the older statement on inerrancy from 1979— the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy. It argues “Inerrancy means that when all the facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine, or morality, or with the social, physical, or life-sciences.” (quoted on p. 123). It is not clear to me at least why social, physical, and life sciences are added to the list when historically statements about Scripture have talked about ‘all matters of faith and practice’, but be that as it may, this statement makes clear we are not talking about the state of the Hebrew and Greek texts as we now have them. We are talking about what was originally written by the inspired writers, but here’s the kicker—-we don’t have those texts to examine or compare. So in essence, this is a faith statement about something that no one at present can examine or confirm. There is another problem with the statement above as well, namely that it doesn’t mention history!!! The sciences yes, but history no. This is very odd indeed. Perhaps they thought history could be assumed under the heading of doctrine. Anyway, in my new book just out this fall Reading and Understanding the Bible (OUP, 2014), I point out that the subject matter that the authors of the Bible intended to write about was history, theology, and ethics (and praxis based on these three). The Bible was not intended to be a scientific textbook downloaded on a befuddled audience in a pre-scientific age. It was written in a way, and about subjects that would have been intelligible and words on target to the first recipients of God’s Word, as well as later ones.

I quite agree with Craig’s various qualifications, including that we must not expect modern levels of precision of an ancient document when they did not intend to give us such precision. And he is right, and will say more in the next chapter, about how we must interpret the text according to the ancient genre of literature being used to express God’s truth. Absolutely right. A high view of Scripture involves interpreting the text in the ways the authors intended for them to be interpreted, whether they were using more literal or more figurative genre of literature, whether they were writing in historical modes, or in fictional modes (i.e. the parables), and so on. Truth can be expressed in a myriad of different types of literature– prose, poetry, law, proverbs, songs,sagas, history, apocalyptic and prophecy and even myth (e.g. the tales about Leviathan).

On pp. 130-31 Craig makes clear that an affirmation of inerrancy does not imply that every word of the Bible was dictated directly without a mediator by God. He points to Lk. 1.1-4 which shows that sometimes research, and consulting eyewitnesses was involved. The writers did not merely sit in their study and wait for inspiration from above to strike them.

There is a helpful discussion about the value and also the problems with harmonization (pp. 136ff). He clearly dismisses forced or false harmonizations like the hilarious example of Osiander (p. 138) in the 16th century who harmonized the Matthean and Markan accounts of the raising of Jairus’ daughter (which have minor differences in them) by concluding that Jesus raised the girl twice!!! On the spot! This is as bad as the Harold Lindsell famous six denials of Christ by Peter in The Battle for the Bible. The problem with those kinds of harmonizations is that they make the Bible say what NO account says— all four Gospels say Peter denied Jesus 3 times only. And both Matthew and Mark say Jesus raised Jairus’s daughter exactly once. What was Osiander thinking???

Towards the end of the chapter (pp. 142ff.), having outlined some differences he would have with someone like Kenton Sparks, he then shows what differences he has with Norm Geisler and his uber-rigid approaches to Scripture and inerrancy. This is a painful part of the book, especially if you also read the notes as well. It does not put Evangelicals in a very pretty light, but this side of things needs to be set forth. As Pogo once said: ‘I have seen the enemy, the enemy is me’.