Ken Schenck on The Chicago Declaration on Biblical Inerrancy

I was simply going to give a quote of the day from Ken: “When push comes to shove, those of the Chicago Statement approach consistently trump the most obvious meaning of the Bible with evangelical tradition, in my opinion.” But I really think the whole post and his series as a whole is worth a look, for those readers of this blog (you know who you are) who are interested in the subject of Biblical inerrancy.

The fuller context of the aforementioned quote provides a powerful insight, and so I thought I’d provide it in full:

2. Scriptures are supreme. The authority of the Church is subordinate. Creeds, councils, declarations are of lesser authority.

Given the assumptions of the authors, I agree. I think the “Church” here is understood in a political sense–the political bodies of church history, not least the “Catholic church.” I certainly do not think any political church holds such authority, and the creeds and councils are still political statements. In my opinion, however, when these authors say “Scriptures,” they really mean the Bible read Christianly, the Bible read as Christian Scripture. They would disagree that they meant this, but in my opinion they cannot see their own glasses and how those glasses color their perspective.

From my point of view, these sorts of statements involve such subtle but significant misunderstandings of language that I almost don’t know what to say. It poses as contradictory options things that, on deeper examination, I believe are virtually the same. I’ll agree to it in the same way I agree when my son says something like, “So it’s better to score a touchdown than strike out, right Dad?” What I’m thinking, though, is that he’s a little confused.

In my opinion, so many of the meanings these signatories themselves found so authoritative in the text of Scripture were themselves products of their own Christian tradition. The signatories would deny that this is the case, but they do not properly see themselves, in my opinion.

The NIV is a wonderful example of the “say one thing, do another” dynamic I see necessary for this hermeneutic to sustain itself.

Say: We are listening to the Bible. Our interpretations come from the plain sense of the text. We are under the authority of the text and not letting the Church have a higher authority.

Do: Let’s translate “form of God” as “very nature God” so the full divinity of Christ is not in question (Phil. 2:6)–is “shape” really the same as “very nature”?! Let’s translate “firstborn of creation” with “firstborn over creation” (Col. 1:15) so there is no question of whether Jesus is created or not. Let’s add a word out of nowhere to “did not give” so it reads “did not just give” (Jer. 7:22), even though there is no such word in the Hebrew–we don’t want to leave any question about whether Leviticus was written at the time of the exodus. Let’s add another word out of the blue so that “to the dead” reads “to those now dead” so there is no room for the dead being saved (1 Pet. 4:6)–Protestants don’t believe such Catholic ideas. Again, let’s add another word that isn’t there in the original so that “is not concerned” reads “is not just concerned” so we give no room for allegorical interpretation in 1 Cor 9:9-10.

Most of these moves have no clear basis in the text and seems in each case to be motivated overwhelmingly to maintain the perspective of the neo-evangelical tradition, thus deconstructing the fundamental claims of this hermeneutic. When push comes to shove, those of the Chicago Statement approach consistently trump the most obvious meaning of the Bible with evangelical tradition, in my opinion.

This will also be relevant to readers who have an interest in Bible translation.

You know you want to – pay Ken’s blog a visit.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09745548537303356655 Ken Schenck

    Thanks for the plug. Looking forward to reading Only True God… it's in the mail right now!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17011346264727684917 John Hobbins

    I think Ken Schenck has discovered warm water, as we say in Italian.Of course the exegesis of evangelicals tends to be forced here and there, in terms of providing a basis for doctrine. It has been ever so. Nonetheless, one of the great joys of historical theology involves the realization that, no matter how much the Church Fathers might force individual passages into a particular pattern, that hardly disqualifies their take on things, or the development of Nicene Christianity. That's because Nicene Christianity has to be compared with the alternatives on the ground. Once that is done, Nicene christology begins to look pretty good, with a better foundation overall in scripture than the live alternatives.And that is the strength of classical forms of Christianity to this day, evangelical Christianity included. They have plenty of blind spots and weaknesses. But, compared to liberal Christianity, which seems to dissolve at soon as any pressure is put on it at all, they look pretty good, not least in terms of their organic connection with the tradition of scripture. The problem with liberal Christianity is simple. If all it amounts to is an affirmation of the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God (the great Harnack) or similar, why not just become a Buddhist, for God's sake? That's what Lisa does on Homer Simpson. I'm with her, that is, with the logic of her choice, though I remain a Ned Flanders myself.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    John, I don't think liberal Christianity dissolves when you put pressure on it, but I think you have that impression because you are defining Christianity in doctrinal terms. I suspect that if you were to look at Martin Luther King Jr.'s doctrines from your perspective, you might find them guilty of seeming to "dissolve" at times, but I daresay that doesn't mean that his Christianity would have dissolved!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03089281236217906531 Scott F

    I would add to what Jim says and point out that doctrinally non-liberal (shall we say) Christianity stands firm in all situations… like a lifeless chunk of rock. There is so much that is wantonly false and dead in conservative forms of Christianity. Ken's example of touchdown/strike-out captures the quality of some evangelical thinking (I'm looking at you, Bishop Wright). Personally I think the hair-splitting over inerrancy is kind of absurd. To deny "strong" inerrancy while defending the "spiritual" inerrancy of the Bible bends the meaning of the word beyond all recognition. There seems to be a great desire to cling to the term inerrant while turning it into something else entirely. What would happen if the so-called liberals abandoned the word altogether? Would their flocks abandon them? Would they be stripped of their Christianness? Jim can attest to the experience of having one's position questioned (mea culpa). It is a phenomenon I don't understand. As in so many things, I may be missing the point, awaiting intellectual enlightenment, Jim's sermon explanation of the full meaning of "the Word" in John's Prologue being merely the latest example of this experience. BTW – thanks, Jim.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17011346264727684917 John Hobbins

    Have you guys read James P. Carse's "The Religious Case against Belief"? I think it sums up brilliantly the liberal case against doctrine. On this view, dogma is worse than a lifeless chunk of rock. It is positively the anti-Christ.But a study of the history of Christianity, or the history of any religion for that matter, reveals how little things actually unfold according to the wishes of those who think of religion as a nice container of smells and bells the content of which ought to vary completely from person to person and age to age.I freely admit that liberal Christianity produces movements and individuals of great value to the entire religious politic. Per se, however, I remain convinced that liberal Christianity is parasitic in nature. It feeds off of and reacts against "popular" religion whose doctrine, worship, ethos, and practice reinforce each other and are more tightly interwoven. There are no liberal St. Pauls, George Whitefields, John Wesleys or Billy Grahams. Though each of these were progressive in their own way, neither they nor missionaries and church planters in general, were or are indifferent to doctrine.Neither are many liberals. They just pretend to be. It's just the way they like to frame the debate. Their own doctrinal choices somehow don't count as doctrine.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07725829998119648772 Matt Kelley

    Doctrines like biblical inerrancy work as long as one only listens to what the "correct" interpreters say about the text and don't actually read it. Christianity would be a whole lot easier for me if I just hadn't read the Bible. Darn it all…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    John, I love your metaphors, but will protest that the organism of which I am a component cell or organ (i.e. Liberal Christianity) is not a parasite, but a symbiotic organism. We live in mutual dependence on the cultural context we live in and the knowledge of the time."Conservative Christianity" does the same thing. That's the whole point of Ken's post. There are things that conservative Evangelicals know must be true, and they "know" they are seeking to be Biblical, and so somehow a way is found to get the two to seem to overlap. But tradition, and cultural and historical context, shape their thinking in a way that is far more dangerous precisely because they are usually not willing to acknowledge what is going on.I wouldn't say that Liberals are necessarily indifferent to doctrine. sometimes when it comes to doctrines about things that are unknowable, we emphasize our uncertainty and the metaphorical nature of our language. But metaphors guide our lives, and so they are not matters of utter indifference. But at any rate, you seem to be defining a Liberal as someone for whom doctrine is utterly unimportant. But surely even for Liberals the notion that God is not limited to one tradition or group's understanding is a doctrinal belief. And so there is a spectrum, as always, and your generalizations about "liberals" inevitably accurately hit only a small target standing under the umbrella of that label, much as when I generalize about "fundamentalists", or say things about conservative Christians' views of the afterlife that leave Nick Norelli baffled. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    P.S. Here's a post I wrote about Carse's book that John mentioned:http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com/2008/12/religious-case-against-belief.html

  • Antonio Jerez

    I actually think John Hobbins has a point. Reading people like Dominic Crossan or Dale Allison always make me wonder why they go on calling themselves Christian. Allison is by far the most intellectually honest of them, but I still think he hasn´t taken the concequences of what his demolition job of his own religion should logically lead to. My own guess is that many people cling to their religion no-matter-what because if not they will go the same way as that german professor (forgot his namn) who lost his job at the theology department.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13036816926421936940 Edward T. Babinski

    What does a liberal Christian say to someone with this view: What is the best book in the world? I'd say that even the best book remains a mere book, and not life itself. Even the best book is one that can eventually bore you, if only through repetition. Be open to the best in every person, every experience and every book, and use your better judgment, built upon a lifetime of your own experiences. Books are not life, and cannot lead your life for you. You must decide. Even Bible believers have to decide for an by themselves which passages in Scripture deserve greater emphasis than others. And if an action commends itself to your conscience you don't need a book to also tell you whether it is "good" or not.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17011346264727684917 John Hobbins

    Matt, I agree with you that Scripture is full of unpleasant surprises if one has been raised within a fundamentalist world view.However, there is a long tradition of intellectually engaged Christianity with a commitment to receiving knowledge from whatever source with gratefulness, and, at the same time, to scripture as light, mirror, and compass, containing within it everything we need for healing and salvation. Clement of Alexandria is a model in this sense. So is Augustine and whole platonic Christian stream, with its emphasis on fides quarens intellectum (faith seeks understanding). In short, it's possible to have a very high view of scripture without being an intellectual idiot.Edward,I am not a liberal Christian, but a conservative one. Still, I agree with you if you are saying that it's necessary to approach a book as diverse and heterogeneous as the Bible with a hermeneutic principle in hand. Augustine spoke of a hermeneutics of love. Others have spoken of the analogy of faith. Both are helpful. Both are derived from scripture itself, so are not external criteria. From the point of view of religious epistemology, everyone has four sources: scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. It is useless to suggest otherwise. However, what sets classical Christianity and the Reformation in particular apart from, say, liberal Christianity, is the willingness (in principle, not always in practice) to give scripture the first and final word on things.There would be no reason to do that unless scripture were a very special library indeed. I believe that it is.

  • stephen

    It is impossible to separate scripture from reason, tradition and experience. When you read scripture, you read it through 2000 years of (your) tradition, reason and experience. So it is impossible to place scripture above the others. And where pray tell is the Spirit in all this? Locked up in the canon of the tradition of your choice? Are we to place scripture above the power of the Spirit, active in the world today?I don't think so. I think the end of slavery and the role of women in ministry are to example of how the Spirit has been at work in the past 2000 years, contrary to what some passages in scripture may say about owning slaves and telling women to shut up in church. If anyone wants to label that 'liberal' and put me in a box go right ahead. You are the one with the problem, not me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17011346264727684917 John Hobbins

    Stephen,The fact that every Christian, Jew, and Moslem proceeds on the basis of an epistemology that takes advantage of a quadrilateral, does not yet say anything about how knowledge flows from one corner to the other. The direction of the flow and things like that still have to be determined.It is not that difficult to show how the abolition of slavery and the ordination of women are compatible with the witness of scripture as a whole. An evangelical, William Webb, has a famous book in which he goes so far as to say that one can trace a trajectory from scripture to the abolition of slavery and the equality of women.But that is not the same thing as saying that anyone who held that scripture does not teach the abolition of slavery, or anyone who holds today that scripture does not teach the ordination of women, or at least points in that direction, such that non-abolitionists and rejecters of the ordination of women are without excuse, is bereft of the Holy Spirit.Is that what you wish to say? Either way, it appears that scripture trumps the Holy Spirit historically in that things that are not clearly taught in scripture take forever to come to pass in history.Or perhaps the premises are wrong. Perhaps scripture and the Holy Spirit are on the same page in terms of longsuffering accommodation to human culture, inclusive of culture that is not as progressive as you or I would like. Perhaps wisdom is on the side of that accommodation. I am an American, too. We always we think we know best. We are full of ideas for self-improvement. But maybe we need to step back a little from our cultural certainties.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08132483361614162693 TOTtomdora

    I don't know whether this makes me a liberal, I have to start out with facts, and one of them is that the Bible is not literally true in hundreds of ways. No God tells people to kill each other, for example.To me that means faith has to be more than trying to force illogical meanings onto passages that say things different from what modern people believe.So, John, to me it is conservatives who should form a different religion. Because what they believe would not be recognized by the authors of the bible, any of them. Particularly Jesus.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08132483361614162693 TOTtomdora

    I didn't mean to say Jesus was an "author" per se, but in particular his teachings almost certainly are the polar opposite of what christians believe about him.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17011346264727684917 John Hobbins

    Thomas,I appreciate your respect for life. I assume you extend that respect to unborn children, to the sick, and to the dying. Christians down through the ages have set themselves apart in this sense, insofar as they have extended care and love to those who are useless and even a hindrance to society. Rodney Stark, in a brilliant book, has shown how the rise of Christianity is attributable in large part to the practices of mercy. In the last decade, one branch of Christianity has gone from zero to several thousands in Senegal, the United Methodist Church. How so? First of all, by invitation of the government. A Muslim colonel in the army (Senegal is a nation with a Muslim majority, just as the United States is a nation with a Christian majority). How the did the missionaries, a couple from the Congo, spread the gospel? By taking meals to women prisoners. If you are in prison in Senegal, and you are male, you are provided with three meals. If you are a woman, one meal is thought to suffice. The missionaries visited those in prison, and fed the hungry. They have changed the lives of thousands of people now, turning entire lineages upside down, as first one and then another converts from (usually nominal) Islam to Christianity.Are the missionaries conservative? By all means. Are they raising up conservatives? Yes, by all means. Just an example. It is very hard to find liberals who do this kind of work. The liberals I know who do this are working out of a pietist heritage which was and is, even if they aren't, profoundly conservative in its ethos.Notice that I am not using to "conservative" in the ridiculous sense of the media. People like Limbaugh and O'Reilly are liberals through and through, as true conservatives know. Their lifestyles do not pass the simplest of smell tests.Liberals, correct me if I'm wrong, tend to invest in politics. If only the liberals (or the conservative liberals) were in charge of things, there would be no more war, and probably no religion too, except that of peace on earth and goodwill to men, or of the free market, probably both. Imagine all the people . . . no more killing . . . no more dying. And/or: if only everyone took a scientific view of things, accepted evolution, saw all religions as equally valid, voted for Obama and people like him, that would do it.(For the record, I am a theistic evolutionist, do not believe that all religions are created equal, but respect them all and believe that God is at work, in different degrees, in all of them; I am not a Republican).The only political party I was ever a member of was the Italian Communist Party. Not that I was ever a Marxist (though I think we can learn from him). But I know what my Marxist comrades think about liberalism. They see it as class-determined self-justification, false consciousness. That sounds about right to me.For the rest, I do not think you are the right track when you set a liberal Jesus up as a criterion by which to dismiss the Old Testament that went before and the New Testament that went after. The liberal Jesus does not stand up to critical scrutiny. Indeed, the liberal Jesus makes the fundamentalist Jesus look accurate by comparison. Now that takes work.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18239379955876245197 Stephen C. Carlson

    Antonio, were you thinking of Gerd Luedemann?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08132483361614162693 TOTtomdora

    john:You talkin' to me? Politics? What …..?????

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17011346264727684917 John Hobbins

    Thomas,I thought I was. Do you have an apolitical Jesus?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08132483361614162693 TOTtomdora

    Jesus was political but in the context of his time it had nothing to do with Republican-Democratic issues. I'm talking about things like Jesus as a member of the godhead and personal savior and justification by faith. If anybody said anything like that to him, or started babbling about hermaneutics or exegesis, he probably would have rescinded his teaching about turning the other cheek and slapped them upside the head himself.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17011346264727684917 John Hobbins

    Thomas,Now I understand you better. However, I still disagree. Perhaps you know the story in the Talmud in which Moses gets to sit in on a class with Rabbi Akiva. According to one version, Moses cannot make heads or tails of Akiva's exegesis of Moses' Torah. According to another version, Moses is rather upset. But God reprimands Moses, telling him to get with the program.The historical Jesus who was fully human in the sense also of not knowing everything (neither the day nor the hour) would, I'm sure you're right, have wondered mightily about Nicene Christology. But I venture to think that the resurrected Jesus now see things differently, and understands Nicene Christology as a means of grace in the life of the Church universal. If God did not raise your Jesus from the dead, I admit this is a moot point. Even in that case, however, one has to understand how canonical literature functions. It is like the Constitution. The framers thereof would scratch their heads enormously at the sight of some of the things the Supreme Court has derived from their words. But within a particular tradition of reception, constitutional law makes sense (this is not to defend every single interpretation), and, furthermore, has served to anchor an entire nation for more than 200 years.The biblical canon has served and continues to serve a similar function. Those who suggest we should now set it aside have not thought through carefully enough, it seems to me, what they are suggesting.BTW, Jaroslav Pelikan's slender volume comparing biblical and constitutional exegesis is a fabulous read. I highly recommend it.

  • Anonymous

    John:The US constitution was written by one set of people. We know who they are and why they wrote what they did, even if the relevance to today is debated.The bible was written by unknown people at unknown times and edited by yet other unknowns for reasons anybody can only guess. It contains a wildly divergent view of god and morality.At one point, people believed in an anthromorphic god who apparently talked to people and got mad a lot. He was sated by the smell of burning flesh. He was picky about oddball things like clothing and hygiene. He ordered people to do things that we would consider abhorrent today, such as kill their own children, commit genocide and take women as sex slaves.Over time that god changed. He became more distant, and thus more rational and peaceful. So in the NT times, the attitude toward women and slaves was much nicer. They were still second-class, to be sure, but the idea was to be nice to them.Today we don't think it is OK to kill or enslave civilians. Women have equal rights. But the bible doesn't teach any of those things.I don't think God changed. People changed and they imputed God's will into their own changing morals. Trying to find a consistent ethic between the books is a fools game.That's why the only position that biblical literalists can fall back on is that well, if God did it, it must be OK. Otherwise we have to confront the fact that God in the bible more often than not is an evil tyrant whose behavior is indefensible except on the ground that "I am who I am."tom

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14847912389789698622 Rod

    I have some political questions about the Chicago statement anyway. For example, there seems to be, oh, an exclusion of women and people of color among the signatories. And that is just the beginning.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17011346264727684917 John Hobbins

    Tom,Your thumbnail sketch of the history of religion and culture leaves me cold. It's natural for people to think that their culture represents the pinnacle of enlightenment. Americans are especially good at not seeing anything wrong with their culture. We aren't that different from Germans and the Japanese of less than a century ago in that sense.It's a good thing that slavery is gone and women have equal rights. But is the average African American young man or young woman better off now than their ancestors under slavery? I would hope so, but I am not so sure. What percentage of young black males are currently rotting in prison? What percentage of black children are borne out of wedlock, with all that often means? At the very least, it has to be said that the abolition of slavery solved some problems, created new ones, and left many others unresolved.The victories of feminism are also a bit hollow, too, as clearer-eyed feminists are the first to point out.I imagine you have a great life and are a contented soul, in America the Disneyland. But many others know that "we are the hollow men," as T. S. Eliot put it. Many others know about about what Luther called Anfechtungen, the temptations of the soul; others think of it in terms of the immense abyss that is within us of which Freud spoke; others still see a hurting, crazy world, and are looking for resources to transform it, perhaps even a God who is alpha and omega. God, I assure you, even if he were just a figment of the imagination (I believe quite otherwise), is not going away anytime soon. That is obvious from a purely historical and evolutionary biological point of view (I am a theist who sees no conflict between that and the theory of evolution). All this anti-theism is so white male, a sort of fundamentalism in reverse.Rod,The majority of Christians around the world are not white males. Far from it. See Mark Noll's latest book, The New Shape of World Christianity. Or read one of Philip Jenkins books, or David Martin on global Pentecostalism.Global Christians generally speaking have a *less* nuanced view of Scripture than is found in the Chicago Statement, which reeks of pious rationalism. Global Christians generally speaking read the Bible raw, as if they were drinking straight from a cow's teat. Are their miracles in the Bible? There are, and they expect them to occur in their lives. And miracles in the phenomenological sense occur for them all the time.After a few days with Pentecostals just about any place in the world, you may well be wishing for the white male pleasantries of the Chicago Statement.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13036816926421936940 Edward T. Babinski

    John,You don't strike me as being as "conservative" as some other "conservative" Christians on the web. Where would you say that you stand along the spectrum of "conservative" Christians?Certainly you're not an inerrantist?Certainly not a young-earth creationist, perhaps not a creationist at all?Certainly not a believer in the soon rapture of the church? Perhaps you believe in a literal bodily resurrection of Jesus, and a literal bodily ascension of Jesus into the sky? Or maybe you meant that you agree with a lot of politically conservative agendas? In short, I'm unsure what your present beliefs are (I'm also interested in just which beliefs of yours may have changed from your youth throughout your years of higher education).

  • Anonymous

    John:I don't know why you keep turning my philosophical questions into personal attacks and rambling about politics. This isn't about me or you. Maybe because you can't answer the question satisfactorily.Edward:John can spout big words, but his crazy can't help but pop out. Anyone who can type "But is the average African American young man or young woman better off now than their ancestors under slavery?" in utter seriousness is a sad excuse for a human being. Unfortunately, all too common for a conservative.tom

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17011346264727684917 John Hobbins

    Edward,I am an inerrantist, in the same sense as Augustine, Aquinas, and Luther were, not in the sense of an anti-intellectual. Nicene Christianity suits me fine. I am a creationist in that sense, and affirm the resurrection and the ascension in that sense. The "bodily" – "spiritual" distinction is a non-starter, a rationalist misunderstanding. Through study over the years, my faith has grown through constant questioning, a return to the sources, and a discovery of the classic Christian authors. I don't know as if I have a fundamentalist bone in my body, but I'm happy to defend fundamentalist believers from one-sided attacks from fundamentalist atheists. I was raised as a liberal, joined the Italian Communist Party in my youth, have read widely in Marxism, and am unaffiliated politically. Crooks one and all, of course, but still, I am not indifferent to ideology.Tom,I really had no desire to get you so excited. You yourself make all sorts of broad brush claims. I merely returned the favor. What I said about the situation of African Americans today and what the abolition of slavery accomplished I have heard from African American pulpits. If you want to call these people sorry human beings, that's your business. You might want to think again about calling into question critical and self-critical thinking of this kind.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14847912389789698622 Rod

    To John Hobbins,Your comments do not deserve commenting. I will just go with the facts,as stated by Ken Schenck in his post, who happens to be a white male. "In a theme I will no doubt express throughout this series, the problem with the Chicago Statement is neither its spirit nor its basic affirmations. It is that it underestimates the profundity and complexity of God's Truth. God is smarter than it accounts for, in my opinion. It is a statement of arithmetic in a glorious God-created world of calculus. It was a group of faithful white men (I spotted maybe 5 women in the 360 signatories and of course Edwin Yamauchi represented non-North Americans ;-) doing their best to keep faith in a world where things which at one time had been assumed, were being seriously undermined by the scholars of various fields."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17011346264727684917 John Hobbins

    Rod,Sorry to confuse you with information that contradicts your control beliefs. If you are unaware of the fact the vast majority of Christians around the world, who are not, it goes without saying, either white or male, have a *less* nuanced reading strategy vis-a-vis Scripture than does the Chicago Statement, I don't know what to say. I am fine and dandy with all attempts at honest exegesis. The results of that kind of exegesis show conclusively that, yes, many evangelicals find more in the text than is warranted, have blind spots toward a number of the text's emphases, and seem unaware of how one-sided and exploitative their exegesis sometimes is. But that just makes evangelicals *like* other people, not unlike them. That just makes evangelicals like you, who bend the Bible to your agenda.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07033350578895908993 Suzanne McCarthy

    John, You write, "If you are unaware of the fact the vast majority of Christians around the world, who are not, it goes without saying, either white or male, have a *less* nuanced reading strategy vis-a-vis Scripture than does the Chicago Statement, I don't know what to say."Let me remind you of your words in leaving complegalitarian, where the forum was not "white male," "It also isn’t possible to talk about exegetical questions in the way I was trained to do. My teachers include quite a few flaming feminists, but they are also uncompromising historical exegetes."It sounds as if you had two opinions of those in compegal. First that their (our) exegesis was not uncompromising, and second that it should have been. Your comment about compegal sounds like a value judgment on compegal exegetes. Yes, exegesis was less nuanced than you might have liked. But the point is that it was exegesis by women badly damaged both physically and emotionally, by violence and fundamentalism in consort. There are at least two (among many) trends among fundamentalist women in this circumstance. The one position is to recognise that the text is not sufficient – it has not been a light or compass for the abused married woman. The other is to go back and read the text in a way that is not male. There are articles now which mention the new woman friendly literalist reading of the text by women wishing to remain in fundamentalism. Here is a quote from Kathryn Joyce, "In the face of prominent leaders who claim helplessness in the face of biblical tradition, Andersen and a small but growing cadre of like-minded abuse survivors are fighting this established conservative wisdom on domestic violence not with secular or feminist domestic violence tactics, but with new theological arguments arguing for abused wives’ rights within a biblically literalist, and in some cases even complementarian, framework."This is what was happening in complegalitarian.In an aside, I worked with a theological training school for a First Nations group for some time. I also published on First Nations linguistic material. But I lost the desire to talk out about what "they" think about things. In a former stage on my blog I linked to the stories of non-white leaders, and felt comfortable doing that if I was letting them speak and not using their plight to express my own opinions.I also learned a lot about non "white male" exegesis from the FN context. Frankly, I am happy to hold differently nuanced styles of exegesis in tension.

  • elbogz

    Inerrancy is far more than being true or false. Inerrancy requires something to be incapable of being untrue. Look at the statement 2+2=4. It really doesn’t matter that you translate it from Greek to German to English to Spanish to Chinese. It remains true. The fact that we are here arguing whether the bible is inerrant or not proves the fact that it is not inerrant. If it were, it would be incapable of being untrue, and we would not be inclined to argue the point any more than we argue 2+2=4.With that said, I am certain that some commenter will say that it’s not the bible that is in error, it’s man’s interpretation. But by definition, something that is inerrant, is incapable of being in error. We don’t argue the interpretation that 2+2=5. Baptist mathematicians don’t argue with Catholic mathematicians. It is an inerrant statement and can not be wrong. The bible simple can not meet the definition of inerrancy.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17011346264727684917 John Hobbins

    Suzanne,Thanks for linking to my farewell speech from compegal. Interested readers may learn more about my views in that post. For the rest, if you remain a fundamentalist, it's possible to work within fundamentalist assumptions and fight domestic violence. There are many that do. In particular, there are prominent complementarians who do serious ministry in this sense. Beyond that, they are aware of people-hurting distortions in their camp, but because of people-hurting distortions they identify in egalism, they remain comps. But if you are an ex-fundamentalist, it is only honest to come right out and say so. If you have given up on fundamentalism, such that you hold different styles of exegesis in tension (something fundamentalists by definition do not do), then I think it is disrespectful to pretend otherwise. By putting on a mask, you play mind games with fundamentalists. Elbogz, If you understand inerrancy on the analogy of math, you are right, the Bible is not inerrant. This is not what Luther meant when he taught inerrancy (building on Augustine). When people asked whether the discrepancies in numbers between 1-2 Kings and Chronicles had to be resolved in the name of inerrancy, he said, "Let it pass." This isn't what inerrancy is about. The teaching of inerrancy, except in rationalist distortions thereof, is love-language. When you are completely taken by another person, a book, or a movie, you will say, "she is flawless. I wouldn't change one thing about her." "That movie is perfect."At some other level of analysis, that same person may have a number of flaws, and probably does. At an another level of analysis, the movie might easily be improved.So what. The love-language has its place. You can hear it loud and clear in such passages as Psalm 19, 119, and Isa 55.

  • elbogz

    It is easy to debate if one is allowed to change the rules of what words mean. We could argue the bible is pink with purple polka-dots, as long as we say, well, by pink I mean it’s filled with love-language and by purple polka-dots I mean it was written in English. The bible is inerrant as long as we don’t say inerrant means, Adjective: free from error, infallible. Ornoun 1. lack of error, infallibility 2. The belief that the Bible is free from error in matters of science and faith.We could say the bible was written in Portuguese, as long as “written in Poruguese” means it was written in the love-language. You can hear it loud and clear in such passages as Psalm 19, 119, and Isa 55.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07033350578895908993 Suzanne McCarthy

    John,You write,"In particular, there are prominent complementarians who do serious ministry in this sense. Beyond that, they are aware of people-hurting distortions in their camp, but because of people-hurting distortions they identify in egalism, they remain comps."You have mentioned the Tracy's as a complemenatarian couple, because they self-identify as such, and you wrote on your blog, "The other couple, Steve and Celestia Tracy, is complementarian." However, from a representative of CBMW we can read, "These three posts are only looking specifically at Tracy’s idea of headship in his new upcoming book Marriage at the Crossroads, not his entire understanding of Complementarianism. Yet, looking specifically at his understanding of male headship, I would say he is no Complementarian."I respect the fact that this is only a personal opinion, but in my view it represents mainstream complementarian views. You write, "By putting on a mask, you play mind games with fundamentalists."It is more appropriate to let fundamentalists speak for themselves in this respect.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17011346264727684917 John Hobbins

    Elbogz,It is a very common mistake to turn to the dictionary and define a word not according to context, but according to a book-definition that is meant to exemplify, not exhaust, the meanings a particular word may have.The Bible has always been read by believers, long before fundamentalism and anti-fundamentalism were ever invented, along the lines Zwingli sketched out in the 16th century:“It is certain, it cannot err, it is clear, it does not let us go errant in the darkness, it is its own interpreter and enlightens the human soul with all salvation and all grace, makes it confident in God, humbles it, so that it abandons and throws away its pretensions, and places itself in God's hands.” The focus of inerrancy language in reference to Scripture properly understood has been and remains that indicated by Zwingli. You misconstrue matters gravely when you define Zwingli's language in your terms, not his. In reality, you are falling into the same hole your fundamentalist friends have fallen into, those who think they have to reconcile all the numbers in the Bible before it can be understood an inerrant.As Inigo Montoya once said: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.Suzanne,Have you read Steve and Celestia Tracy in the book you refer to? I have my doubts. If you had, you would see that they define specific the role of the husband in terms of initiating, providing, and empowering. Husband and wife are king and queen of their castle, with the husband having "over-arching responsibility for the well-being of the family" (p. 124), whereas the wife is "the queen of hearts," "who often sees, hears and feels the needs of her citizens long before he does" (123). Both exercise "authority over" in terms of "authority on behalf of." The Tracys are strong believers in gender complementation. At the same time, they are strong believers in the criterion of love by which the godliness of all actions are judged. On this account, their complementarianism is not an excuse for prevarication. In the traditional "love-obey" framework and the newer complementarian framework – I have examples of both around me and in my family – it turns out that the criterion of love is determinative, not the framework. That is the case for egals as well. Without agape-love, an egal marriage is also full of violence and manipulation, either subtle or overt, no less than a traditional or a comp marriage.I am an egal, but am quite uncomfortable with the emphases and polemics of the CBE camp. Too many CBEers make mincemeat of those who do not tow the party line. Likewise, traditionals and comps I know well do not have the same spirit that too many in the CBMW camp have. It does not surprise me at all that there are CBMWers who make mincemeat of the Tracys. A curse on extremists of both houses! Mainstream egalism and mainstream compism bear little resemblance to the ideological versions of the same advocated by organizations that fund-raise by emphasizing the dangers of the opposing camp. It is a grave error to think of the more virulent CBMW and CBE reps as representing mainstream realities of any kind.That's why David Lang and Marilyn Johnson, two complementarians who contributed to complegal until they withdrew, are careful to note agreements and disagreements with CBMW positions. On the other hand, though they are not CBMWers, they also strive to clarify, in the face of those (and you fall into this category in their opinion and mine, as you know) who distort CBMW's positions, the significant common ground they share with CBMW's emphases.All of this is a matter of public record.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07033350578895908993 Suzanne McCarthy

    You must be referring back to this post.The issue at stake was this phrase."male-headship is a part of the very constitution of the woman being created in the image of God." Bruce Ware

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07033350578895908993 Suzanne McCarthy

    It is a grave error to think of the more virulent CBMW and CBE reps as representing mainstream realities of any kind.You imply that the largest Anglican church is not a mainstream reality. (Gee, thanks!) And don't those of us who have been affected by the more 'virulent' types have the right to free ourselves from this bondage and listen to each others stories and identify the creeds which bound us?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17011346264727684917 John Hobbins

    Ex-complementarians are free to "organize" in whatever they want. In the meantime, people who grew up in egal households with too little structure appreciate greatly the soft complementarianism of a Gary Thomas, an Emerson Eggerichs, or a Steve and Celestia Tracy. Or they find the non-egal approach of Jim and Sarah Sumner helpful. As Mark Noll notes in his recent important work, "The New Shape of World Christianity,""This past Sunday more Anglicans attended church in each of Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda than did Anglicans in Britain, Canada, and Episcopalians in the United States combined – and the number of Anglicans in church in Nigeria was several times the number in those other African countries." (p. 20)But it would be wrong to characterize African Anglicans as complementarian. They are traditional. Indeed, a version of the "love-obey" framework is taken for granted. Any attempt to make them into egalitarians in the feminist sense would backfire. Indeed, it already has. An unpleasant truth: the polarization within the Anglican communion, in the name of the rights of the GLBT community, reaps victims among Africans on a daily basis. These consequences are not intended in the least. Far from it. But they are not less real for that reason.Paul and Peter in the NT took a different, non-antagonistic path. They gave a qualified endorsement to patriarchal structures of their day, but made a concept of self-sacrificing love the criterion of them, thereby hollowing them out from the inside.It follows that it is that is extremely important to show how a plain-sense reading of the New Testament leads to understanding Christ's sacrifice on the cross and 1 Cor 13 as the criteria of headship no matter how traditionally understood. In this sense, the approaches of David and Celestia Tracy and Jim and Sarah Sumner are far more promising than those of Christian feminists.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07033350578895908993 Suzanne McCarthy

    John,I have my reasons for fighting the authority of the male over the female in marriage and you have your reasons for promoting it. Let's leave it at that.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17011346264727684917 John Hobbins

    Suzanne,It's just that your approach seems counter-productive to me. Let me state my stance in my own words:I have my reasons for arguing on behalf of 1 Cor 13 as the criterion of the quality of married life irrespective of framework.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07033350578895908993 Suzanne McCarthy

    My stance is that the framework is important.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14847912389789698622 Rod

    John Hobbins,You wrote:'But that just makes evangelicals *like* other people, not unlike them. That just makes evangelicals like you, who bend the Bible to your agenda.'So what exactly is my agenda, John?Can you read my thoughts? Or are you trying to make a racist statement? What exactly is an evangelical like me? And what do I believe? I love it when conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists try to tell me what I believe. I believe I can speak for myself. And like Daniel and his three friends, I refuse to perform the idolatry of today's Christian paganism, which includes submitting to white Western supremacy.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    I wonder if Paul could ever have imagined that 1 Corinthians 13, which so directly relates to the Corinthian church's fascination with spiritual gifts, would become a passage to be read at weddings…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17011346264727684917 John Hobbins

    James,I think Paul would be like Moses in the Talmud who, given the chance to attend a class on Moses taught by Akiva, was totally bewildered. That is, a "canonical" reading of a text really throws it for a loop. It is a very productive form of reading, with its own rules, but the rules are not those of authorial intent sic et simpliciter.BTW, I'm sure the framers of the Constitution would express the same bewilderment in the face of constitutional law and the style of argument that establishes it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17011346264727684917 John Hobbins

    Hi Rod,Calm down already. I refer everyone on this thread to your tanks to tractors blog, which I think is well-written and provocative. I was trying to point out one thing, which apparently got your goat. You subscribe to a well-argued version of Christianity and you draw support for that version from the Bible. But are you really so sure that your version of Christianity, which is pacifist-lite I take it, is better grounded in scripture than the alternatives? That would be a very bold claim. Personally, I think the non-pacifism of former SecState Powell is just as compatible with Scripture as is your pacifism-lite. He has Rom 13 on his side. You have what exactly on your side?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14847912389789698622 Rod

    John Hobbins,I apologize for my excitement; I was just confused by what what you meant by "my agenda."Powell has his interpretation of Romans 13, and I agree with John Howard Yoder's interpretation of Romans 13.I know this is off topic from the inerrancy/infallibility debate. I guess I have no qualms with the inerrancy of scripture, just the interpretation of the Bible.But here is my series that addresses Romans 13.http://hope-theologian.blogspot.com/2009/05/gift-of-powerlessness-counter-to-nt_5867.htmlMay need to scroll down to the first 2 parts of the series befre reading the 3rd.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17011346264727684917 John Hobbins

    Rod,Thanks for your great blogging. I will be checking in from time to time.


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