Absolute Perfection?… Oh My (RJS)

There is a new book just out, a collection of essays edited by James K. Hoffmeier and Dennis R. Magary Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? exploring a wide range of topics written by seminary professors from several different institutions including Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Dallas, Denver, Southwestern, and a few others. I don’t have the book and haven’t read it, so I am not commenting either positively or negatively on any of the chapters contained in the book. One of the blurbs for the book caught my eye, however.

“Few Christian convictions are of as pervasive importance as the absolute perfection of Scripture—and few convictions fall under more perennial criticism. Hence the need for this volume, which seeks to defend the evangelical doctrine of biblical inerrancy against scholars who argue that in accommodating his truth to human understanding, God has made his Word susceptible to error. Here James Hoffmeier, Dennis Magary, and a broad range of learned colleagues take seriously the self-witness of Scripture and respond to some of the latest, hardest objections to inerrancy by providing clear, comprehensive, persuasive, and charitable answers. Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? is an invaluable resource for any student of Scripture who doubts the doctrine of inerrancy or has serious questions about the historical reliability of the Bible.”

Philip Graham Ryken, President, Wheaton College

Inerrancy and infallibility are no longer sufficient? … Oh My. The ante is raised by a plea for “the absolute perfection of Scripture.” The stakes, we find, are enormous. I do think that historical matters are important to our faith. Our faith is grounded in real interactions in real time between God and his creation. But this blurb seems overstated, even over the top. It obscures the entire message of scripture, relegating it to secondary status.

To quote N. T. Wright, from the recent lecture he gave at the January Series at Calvin college:

Not for the only time swathes of evangelicals are more anxious to protect a theory of scripture than to hear what scripture actually says. (10:23-10:35)

Wright was talking about the approach of evangelicals to the gospels, but the same can apply many times over to the approach of evangelicals to the Old Testament as well.

To start us off, what do you think? I’ll give some of my thoughts below.

Is the absolute perfection of scripture a Christian conviction of pervasive importance?

Are the evangelical doctrine of inerrancy and the historical reliability of the Bible linked?

Does the evangelical preoccupation with inerrancy detract from hearing what scripture actually says?

I long had doubts about the evangelical doctrine of biblical inerrancy. These doubts and questions did not rise from the blatherings of skeptics but from the reading of scripture itself – in large chunks rather than in small bite-sized disjointed tidbits. Certainly science, archaeology, and Ancient Near Eastern studies played a role, but only as a component of a whole, not as issues driving an agenda. A proper understanding of  and respect for the nature of scripture is an essential component of the Christian witness. My questions were accompanied by a need to investigate the nature of scripture and the source of Christian doctrine more completely. The entirely inadequate, in my view, range of “evangelical” answers only increased the doubts and dissonance.

The common evangelical view – situated in the reformation idea of sola scriptura – suggests that authority is vested in scripture and our faith is founded on scripture. Scripture is the rock upon which we stand. In the context of modernist thought this foundation is only secure if scripture is inerrant. If any piece of scripture is questioned and found wanting – all is open to question and we start down the slippery slope … Our belief in the historicity of the resurrection depends on the historicity of Noah  or Exodus. No distinction is possible.

This is something of a caricature I admit, but the image I am left with is a house of cards faith.  We have a construct built by taking the pages of scripture and assembling an understanding of the faith and church.  If any page, any card, is removed the whole structure is shaky and may collapse, some would say will collapse. The foundation of faith is Scripture – but more than this, the foundation of faith is every jot and tittle of scripture. Skeptics of inerrancy, we are told, search for errors in scripture, and if we have to separate errors from God’s true words we are done for. We can make the text say anything we want. There is no way forward.

I think we are better served by a different view – our faith is founded on God alone. I have come to peace with scripture and hold a high view of scripture as the inspired word of God, a word that illuminates and informs our faith in God and his work in Christ. But the bible is not the rock on which we stand, God alone is the rock on which we stand.

In this view our questions about scripture do not shake the foundation. The idea that the story of Gen 3 tells important theological truths in mythic form; the suggestion that the story of the exodus from Egypt may (likely does) have elements that are not exactly historical in the modern sense of literal – factual reporting, even the redaction of Matthew and the authorship of 2 Timothy or 2 Peter … these are ideas, questions, suggestions that we can consider and discuss without fear, but with reverence.

In this view we require that scripture is reliable  (the lamp must give off light) -  but we do not require that scripture be inerrant in the common evangelical use of the term (it is not the foundation of knowledge). A reliable scripture is consistent with the evidence and not demolished by modern biblical scholarship. And we can use modern biblical scholarship to help us better understand the text and the message. We are not skeptics trying to separate truth from error, but believers reading the Bible for all it is worth. We can stop wasting our time defending inerrancy and start spending our time listening to what scripture actually says.

I came to peace with scripture – not through evangelical defenses of inerrancy – but through the work of faithful Christian scholars and thinkers who were and are able to demonstrate the true foundation of our faith without reliance on the foundation of the evangelical doctrine of inerrancy. The authority, inspiration, and truthfulness of scripture are important – inerrancy (as commonly understood) in the original monographs may be true, but is not necessary.

So here are some of the greatest influences on my thinking – at various times and in various situations over the last 30 or so years.

Three British Anglican thinkers.

CS Lewis. Here I can point to the classic Mere Christianity, and to many others, God in the Dock, The Problem of Pain, The Screwtape Letters, and more.

NT Wright. For me this started with mp3 recordings of lectures he gave as part of an IVCF conference January 1999, followed up by his three big books (New Testament and the People of God, Jesus and the Victory of God, and The Resurrection of the Son of God).  For the first time I encountered a scholar who was faithful and found God in scripture without starting from the evangelical credo – “because scripture is inerrant we know …” .

Wright’s three big books are not for everyone and as a general recommendation The Challenge of Jesus (which arose from the IVCF conference talks) is better. Wright’s view of scripture is outlined more completely in his book The Last Word: Scripture and the Authority of God–Getting Beyond the Bible Wars and in his revised and expanded version of this book Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today. (You can find the lectures I referred to above through the N. T. Wright Page here: Jesus and the Kingdom, Jesus and the Cross, Jesus and God, Jesus and the World’s True Light)

I have not yet had the chance to read Wright’s new books Simply Jesus or How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels but I look forward to reading them and expect that they will make a good addition to the list. The January Series lecture I mentioned above is based on How God Became King.

John Polkinghorne. Many books again – Testing Scripture: A Scientist Explores the Bible, Quarks, Chaos & Christianity and Belief in God in an Age of Science provide a taste.  I will post on a new book of his Science and Religion in Quest of Truth in upcoming weeks.

Several American biblical scholars and theologians, including:

Donald Bloesch. His book Essentials of Evangelical Theology (2 Volumes in 1). One volume of this was used as the text in a systematic theology class I took in college.

Scot McKnight. One of the early books I read by Scot was Jesus and His Death, but this is not really recommended for a general audience. It was important to me at the time because I felt deeply burned by and distrustful of evangelical scholarship and scholars. Some good books for a more general audience:  The Blue Parakeet, and of course The King Jesus Gospel (for that matter anything on the sidebar is good).

Peter Enns. Inspiration and Incarnation was a breath of fresh air. I don’t care if you agree with everything he concludes, but his faithful, honest, and pastoral approach to scripture without excessive reaction against evangelical views is incredibly useful. His latest book The Evolution of Adam is likewise very good whether you agree with all of his conclusions or not.

Mark Roberts. I first happened on Mark’s blog when he was doing a series on the reliability of the gospels. These posts were afterwards expanded and published in book form Can We Trust the Gospels?: Investigating the Reliability of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Bruce M. Metzger and his books on the nature of the text of scripture: The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (4th Edition), The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance, The New Testament: Its Background Growth and Content, Bible in Translation, The: Ancient and English Versions. These books are not light reading – but I found them incredibly useful, especially the first in the list.

The phrase “absolute perfection” in a blurb like that by Ryken above is problematic. We know that there are textual issues and questions about parts of the text – any modern translation notes the most significant of these. The apparatus accompanying a Greek New Testament notes the variants in the available sources and gives a rating of the reliability of any given reading. Metzger’s books provide fascinating insight into the reliability of the text we have and the confidence we can have in the faithfulness of the transmission.

The book by Mark Roberts places this kind of scholarship at the level of lay Christian readers with respect to the reliability of the Gospels.

If the church was doing its job books like Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman would be relegated to the remainder table or trash bin where they belong. Nothing in Ehrman’s book challenges the truthfulness of scripture, although the sensationalistic way he presents it and the ignorance of most Christians makes it seem as though it does.

Some sociologists and historians including:

Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind and Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind.

George Marsden, Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism and American Culture.

James Davison Hunter. American evangelicalism: Conservative religion and the quandary of modernity and Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation.

The books by Marsden and Hunter provided an important description of historical context that helped me understand many of the driving forces at work in American evangelicalism.

I’ve read many more books – finding some helpful and some not so helpful. But the books above provide a good start.

Which Christian thinkers and scholars have most shaped your thinking about scripture and the reliability of the Christian faith?

What resources have you found most helpful?

If you wish to contact me directly, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net

If interested you can subscribe to a full text feed of my posts at Musings on Science and Theology.

  • phil_style

    I can imagine this will quickly descend into a discussion on semantics. One side will end up defending various definitions of “absolute perfection” whilst the other will dedicate its time to chasing each definition down.

    Meanwhile, as RJS/ Wright note, the content of the text itself will be all but ignored.

    Excellent.

  • Chris

    I affirm all of the above contributors to a similar understanding of Scripture. After all… “On Christ, the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” The sinking sand includes a perfectionist view of Scripture.

    I would add that Peter Rollins as a provocative theologian and Richard Beck as a teaching psychologist who addresses theological perspectives also helped me get a handle on reading the Bible for what it does and says (not what is doesn’t).

    It didn’t hurt that I also read a lot of historical and scientific material alongside of Scripture as a backdrop and context for theological reflection.

  • http://bookwi.se Adam Shields

    I spent much of last year working through my thinking on scripture. I read a number of the books you listed above in large part because I was both convinced of the importance of scripture and convinced that the traditional language of inerrancy was actually harming the faith of many (particularly young educated) friends around me. They often were not putting time into looking at issues of hermeneutics and the theology around scripture, but they have heard the traditional inerrancy debates.

    They go to school, they start looking at some of the problems of scripture, their faith community of origin is unable (and usually unwilling) to actually interact around them and they are left with a scripture-less faith because they no long trust scripture and have no examples of faith leaders that both take scripture seriously and deal with the issues that are easily identifiable to people like Christian Smith and Peter Enns. In addition, many of these people are away from their home (they moved to the big city) are in life transition (getting new jobs, getting married, having kids, etc).

    I am seminary trained, but not working in the church world. I think we need more lay people like me outside of the ministry that are mentoring and talking to those in the church and helping them to real adult understanding of faith. Just like the fact many in their 20s and early 30s are delaying marriage and ‘adulthood’, many are not really becoming adult in their faith until this time either.

    While I appreciate Scot’s work on this blog, I also really appreciate RJS and other lay people that are seriously thinking and writing here. It gives me hope for a well developed, theologically rich group of lay people that can really help the church broadly.

    So to answer the questions, Wright, Walton, Enns and Smith have been most helpful as professionals. Many others friends have been just as helpful personally helping me walk through the ideas.

  • http://www.internetmonk.com chaplain mike

    RJS, I am going to copy and save this and I know it will be extremely useful for me. One of the best summaries and personal testimonies to a saner evangelical view of Scripture that I have read. Thank you, thank you.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I am reminded of a lecture I saw given by Ben Witherington. In that lecture he discusses that the New Testament was put together because the books matched the theology rather than the theology coming from the books. In other words, the people knew the theology and they decided if a book should be included based on its consistency with the theology. This is the opposite to the way most evangelicals seem to think about it.

    It also seems I have come at this from quite a different perspective because I was raised in the RCC.

    It was quite clear to me what the bible represented. During mass they would read from Romans or Corinthians or some other epistle, but every time we would say “This a reading from Paul to the Corinthians” or similar. It was part of the bible, which is a collection of our best artifacts, but in the end these are letters and accounts and ancient stories and such. We worship Jesus, the bible is simply another of the conduits to try and learn about him and god.

    And as RJS says in the post, our job was to milk these for all they are worth. To figure out what we can take from them and know of God. The idea of inerrency never came up.

    And as I have studied the bible more and more, the single biggest pleasure I have received is that it is amazing just how well it actually does hold together. Frankly I am amazed that it is as consistent as it is.

  • http://radref.blogspot.com/ Phil Wood

    A thoroughly helpful post and much appreciated. As a former Evangelical I’m glad that Evangelicals are willing to ponder whether Father, Son and Holy Scripture might be a touch heretical. I can recall hundreds of sometimes bruising conversations around inerrancy. What saddens me most is the way in which the theory is frequently used to short-circuit dialogue. The biblical killer argument is rarely a conversation starter. It’s more often a put-down aimed at pacification.

  • J.L. Schafer

    RJS, thanks again for a wonderful post.

    One observation that has really helped me is the fact that Jesus himself didn’t leave us a book. When he ascended into heaven, he left behind a Spirit-filled community of witnesses who had seen him and who would testify to his death and resurrection. The NT (including its then-revolutionary interpretation of the OT) is a key part of that. For those of us living in later generations, the NT is our most immediate connection to the apostolic witness. But all of earliest Christians believed without a compiled NT to serve as the foundation of their faith. If they could thrive without this “absolutely perfect” book, then at what point did a dogma of absolute perfection supposedly become the bedrock of our faith? And if it’s so important, why isn’t it mentioned in the ancient creeds?

  • holdon

    “Hath God not said?” Gen. 3:1. And from there it became clear that man doesn’t listen to God very well, and therefore will fail/fall.

    Eve’s reproduction of it was:
    “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, God has said, Ye shall not eat of it, and ye shall not touch it, lest ye die.”

    Not knowing God’s word (out of disrespect) she makes the following mistakes: 1. God had said “you may eat of ALL the trees”. She is limiting God’s express abundant goodness. 2. She does not mention the name of forbidden tree. Thereby she avoids the word “evil”. 3. She confuses the location of the tree with that of the tree of life. Thereby she shows she is not fascinated with the tree of life, but with the forbidden tree. 4. She goes beyond what God had said: God had not said that the tree couldn’t be touched, only that its fruit shouldn’t be eaten. 5. She puts it as if there was a risk of “dying”, but was not certain, while it was said “you shall surely die”.

    And of course the serpent strikes immediately with its deadly venom. He lies and he kills.

    Take God’s word for what it is.

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    Our faith is founded on God, but that does not mean that God can be divorced from what He says. Faith in God also implies faith in His Word.

    Ancient Jews associated God with His Word to the extent that they even used the word Memra, which is Aramaic for “word,” as a name for God.

    Jesus Himself affirmed that man does not live by bread alone but by every word the proceeds from the mouth of God. Even the word of God inscripturated is identified as being inspired by God — God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). Peter likewise speaks of the prophets as being moved by the Holy Spirit and speaking in accordance with that.

    So I think we need to be careful the we do not treat Scripture in a lesser way than we treat God Himself, for God has revealed Himself by His Word. I would rather risk attributing to it too much than too little, just as I do not wish to risk slighting God in any way.

  • http://www.gordonhackman.blogspot.com Gordon Hackman

    I’ve been thinking about this issue some lately, and though I am far from completely settled on it, there are two things that seem clear to me at this point for my own peace of mind: 1.) I need to believe that scripture is reliable in what it reports about who God is and His activity in the world, however that is expressed (inerrancy, infallibility, etc.) 2.) In order to fully see and understand the truth of scripture and it’s reliability I have to experience it by being willing to submit to it and live it out. I think this second point is an indispensable component of any true understanding of scripture and it’s reliability. I think, too often, what we want is to believe in the reliability of scripture as a kind of intellectual abstraction, but the living and the understanding are inseperable.

    I once defended C.S. Lewis from a student who suggested that evangelicals should avoid his writings because he had an inferior view of innerancy. My response was to point out that everything we know about Lewis’ life suggested that he took scripture seriously by attempting to submit to it’s authority and to obey it in his personal life, but that he was still honest about his intellectual struggles with certain issues surrounding it.

  • Joe Canner

    In addition to RJS’ well-stated concerns, the thing I can’t understand is why people insist on attributing to Scripture that which Scripture doesn’t attribute to itself. The words inerrant and infallible are not used in Scripture and the word “perfect” is usually used in reference to God. The only exception (based on a quick keyword search) is Psalm 19:7 which refers to the “law of the Lord”. As Christian Smith points out, laws cannot be objectively measured as perfect or inerrant, so what this must refer to is the effect of obeying the laws, which is a quite different proposition.

    Are their other verses which support perfection? The only others I can think of are those which say that the Word of God is “pure” (e.g., Prov. 30:5) which still seems a bit of a stretch to get to perfection/inerrancy.

  • http://renewing-your-mind.blogspot.com Kelly

    Thank you for that! I especially liked this part:

    “I have come to peace with scripture and hold a high view of scripture as the inspired word of God, a word that illuminates and informs our faith in God and his work in Christ. But the bible is not the rock on which we stand, God alone is the rock on which we stand.”

    I have had multiple discussions in the last few months where I have expressed the same sentiment and it seems it is just not understood. In my own faith journey, I have come to love the Bible, but I have grown to love it so much more as I have grown to understand how complex it is, not that it is inerrant.

  • phil_style

    @Jeff, #9, as you identify, therein lies the rub. God himself is reflected by his actions and his words. So, if God’s “words” are not reliable or true, then that very strongly insinuates (if not proves) that God is not reliable or true.

    So, then, do we accurately speak of the bible (i.e. that canonised collection of texts) as being, in it’s entirety (every jot and tittle), “god’s word”? And on what basis?

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    Joe Canner, reference to the “law of the LORD” was not merely to individual commandments or even a collection of the commandments. It would be understood as a reference to the Torah as a whole. I do not think you will find any ancient Jews who considered it to be fallible or in error in any way. Nor do we see Jesus treating it as fallible or in error in any way. What I find in the OT and NT is quite the opposite — the Scriptures are treated with the same respect given God Himself.

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    phil_style @13, Jesus seems to take the collection of Scriptures (at least the Torah and the Prophets) as God’s Word (and, of course, He is the one who introduce most of us to the idea of every “jot and tittle” of the Torah being significant). Paul also seems to take the Scriptures as a whole (at least the OT ones, since the NT canon was not yet complete). “All Scripture,” he says, which does not, it seems to me, leave any of it out.

    With the testimony of Jesus and Paul, I think I have a very good basis for calling the collection of Scriptures in the Old and New Testaments, “God’s Word.” That is, of course, a matter of faith.

  • Rob

    RJS,

    I agree with Chaplain Mike. Thank you for this post! I wish more church leaders would have ears to hear this perspective.

    And, I too am indebted to N.T. Wright and others on your list.

  • Luke Allison

    Jeff Doles # 14 – “What I find in the OT and NT is quite the opposite — the Scriptures are treated with the same respect given God Himself.”

    Sort of. But I’m studying Hebrews right now, and if I were to treat the Old Testament the way the author does, I’d most likely be kicked out of any major evangelical seminary. (the same goes for Paul)

    So “respect” looks quite different from the set-in-stone hermeneutic of many apologists for inerrancy.

    Anyway, RJS isn’t saying that we shouldn’t treat Scripture like it’s God’s Word. She’s wondering what that means. Defending a doctrine of inerrancy at every turn sets up boundary markers that just aren’t there in the Bible. So it becomes a “who’s in” and “who’s out” game measurable by your particular understanding of a particular doctrine.

    By the definition of inerrancy put forth by many today, most of the church fathers are false teachers and heretics.

  • CGC

    Wow, it seems like RJS usually touches on issues I am interested in. I am looking forward to reading “Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith” with already two things in mind. A book written from multi-authors is typically uneven. Some articles may be very good and others may be much weaker. I would also hope that Scrpture itself be the guiding light and not some theory about scripture. It will be interesting to see how that shapes the discussion? I would also hope that people let the chips fall where they may. If somebody for example is challenging another more progressive scholar, I would hope that people really listen to the arguments on both sides rather than theology becoming like politics and “our side” is against “their side.” I would also hope that just because people don’t believe in inerrancy (like myself for example) that does not mean that someone’s exegesis is therefore faullty or agenda driven. Each contributer and arguments should be evaluted on their own merit and not because they don’t hold other views we don’t like.

    As far as inerrancy becoming a stumbling block to hearing what scripture actually says, I believe it don’t have to be but too often unfortunately that is what happens. I mean, how many forced harmonizations, historical reconstructions, and relying on an original text we don’t have to solve the ambiguities of the text do we need?

    Lastly, in regards to people who have shaped my faith:

    Lesslie Newbigin, Karl Barth, N. T. Wright, Stanley Hauerwas, Tom Oden, Craig Blomberg, John H. Yoder, Soren Kierkegaard, Markus Bockmeuhl, and Kenneth Bailey.

    Probably the best book I have read on this topic of Scripture who sees it as an “icon” is Telford Work “Living and Active: Scripture in the Economy of Salvation.”

  • phil_style

    @Jeff, #15 Jeff, I would agree with you with respect to Jesus and Paul very strongly indicate that they had extreme reverence for a series of Jewish texts, and indeed I think there is a strong argument to be made that they thought these texts were considered to be “the word of God” by those actors. However, some points need to be addressed before we can jump all the way to our modern formulation that “the bible is the word of god”.

    How do we know exactly which texts Jesus and/ or Paul thought fit into the category “scripture”? Certainly one would be hard pressed to say they did not AT LEAST include the Torah in this. But the entire OT/ Tanakah as we have it today? And it is certainly not unlikely that they included more texts in their idea of “scripture” to what is included in the final protestant OT.

    We are still left in a wee bit of a conundrum with respect to the NT, which not a single NT author ever claims to be “scripture” in the Jewish sense. As I’m sure you know, we must turn to 2nd and 3rd century theological debates in order to get a stear with respect to how and why these materials were formally canonised.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Jeff Doles, I hear you and your arguments. But why is it necessary to say that the bible is innerrent of infallible or perfect? Why do we have to go that far?

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    Maybe we may not all agree on every jot and tittle on this list but I would hope we would see Jesus use of this phrase was not every vowell and puntuation mark but it was over the proper meaning of the Mosaic law. The context was over Jesus intepretation versus the religious leaders interpretation. It was not about our modern understandings of inerrancy or non-inerrancy!

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    Well, phil_style, I have indicated my basis for calling the Bible the Word of God, and I have also indicated that it is a matter of faith. No doubt, there are certain discussions to be had about that and the canon of the OT and of the NT.

    I think it is clear, in regard to Torah (which has been the most significant portion in regard to RJS’ regular posts), that Jesus and Paul took it as Word of God. It also seems clear to me that “all Scripture,” whatever the nuances of the canon might be, was treated as the word of God. I take the OT as that, and also the NT.

    Agree or disagree as you like. I merely offer my perspective.

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    DRT #20, I have given my view that faith in God cannot be separate from what God says and made a brief case for how the ancients Jews, and Jesus and Paul viewed the word of God (in general) and the Scriptures (in particular). With that, I have only suggested that we be careful not to treat the word that comes from God with any less respect than we ought to give God Himself. I have not addressed what infallibility or inerrancy, or even perfection, mean or ought to mean.

    But if God is inerrant, infallible and perfect (whatever those terms mean or ought to mean), I don’t think we can treat the word that comes from God (whatever it is or whatever form it takes) as anything less.

    Then, of course, there is the whole question of how it ought to be interpreted.

  • Jon G

    RJS, thank you so much for this post! This has been a real struggle for me too over the last couple of years and I’ve landed in the same place as you. The links are very helpful and I’m sure to follow some of them up, but I just wanted to let you know that your summary of the problem (house of cards vs. illuminating lamp) really hits home.

    Thanks again!

    Jon G

  • Jon G

    Jeff Doles –

    I think we need to make a distinction between “The Word of God”, “A word of [from] God”, and “God’s words through human mouths[authorship]“.

    THE Word of God= Jesus. I don’t think we’re going to dispute this.

    I believe what you are describing as Scriptures, you should describe as A word from God…as if God is directly handing knowledge or dictation down to NT writers to put on paper (or paparys or whatever).

    Rather, I see it as, and this is what you keep omitting in your discussion about Paul’s endorsement of Scripture, God INSPIRING the author’s of the NT. Much like Lisa Gherardini inspired DaVinci to paint the Mona Lisa. The painting is not created BY Lisa, but by DaVinci in her presence. And because he was in her very presence – in a position to know what she was like and with the artistic skills to depict what he saw, he was a reliable witness to describe her to us.

    The NT authors were in God’s physical presence when they encountered Jesus. And what we have in the NT is their reflections on that encounter. But they are still imperfect people and we should expect those imperfections to come through…but that doesn’t mean we can’t trust them to give us truths about Jesus.

    Peter Enns’ whole point (well a major point anyway) in Inspiration and Incarnation, is that God walks amongst us and let’s us tell our story about what we see…and what we see may look differently from each person’s point of view (hence 4 different Gospels). But those differing viewpoints don’t negate the truth, rather they give us a fuller picture.

  • Luke Allison

    Jeff Doles
    “But if God is inerrant, infallible and perfect (whatever those terms mean or ought to mean), I don’t think we can treat the word that comes from God (whatever it is or whatever form it takes) as anything less.

    Then, of course, there is the whole question of how it ought to be interpreted”

    I think that’s a good point, and I’m not sure that’s completely different than what RJS is saying in this post.

    Our definition of “perfection”, however, is largely arrived at by means of a particular tradition or interpretation. RC Sproul saying the word of God is perfect is very different than, say, Eugene Peterson saying the same thing.

    I’ll throw out my working definition: “Perfect” means that it is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”. Perfect may also mean that it can not be easily thrown aside by those who notice “imperfections” in the text. “Perfect” means that folks like Bart Ehrman (fine disciple of Walter Bauer that he is) don’t get to dismiss it off hand due to preconceived notions derived from their own radically skeptical worldview.

    That’s barely scratching the surface. But perfect also can’t mean that all interpretation is settled and all that can be said has been said. That’s ludicrous.

    Maybe that’s the difference between a conservative hermeneutic and a liberal one. The conservative looks to past interpretation and says, “that settles it”. The liberal looks forward to future interpretation and says “that will settle it”.

    Both are wrong in some sense, and right in another. That’s my Rodney King hermeneutic.

  • TJJ

    So we are discussing and debating comments on the dust cover, that are made by the book publisher?

    I will reverse my comments for what is written in the actual book.

  • RJS

    TJJ (#27),

    I explicitly said I am not discussing the contents of the book. As CGC said in #18, I expect that some chapters will be good, some not so good – and most will contain something we can learn from. I expect that a number of readers of this blog will read the book itself.

    The blurb, though, is a different matter. It was selected by the publisher but the comment was not made by the publisher. The comment reflects an attitude that I think worth discussion and that alone is the subject of this post.

  • Joe Canner

    Jeff #14, Even if “the law of the Lord” refers to the entire Torah (I don’t have enough expertise to weigh in on that), what does it mean to be “perfect”? In the case of the actual laws and commandments, to be perfect means to be effective in bringing about good behavior, order, prosperity, etc. An entirely different definition of “perfect” would have to be used to say that the history found in the Torah is totally accurate and inerrant. It would be a lot more consistent to use the same definition of “perfect” throughout, such as that suggested by RJS and expanded upon by Luke in #26, namely that it brings about the desired results. This requires that we understand the purpose and teaching of the writing, not that we doggedly uphold it inerrancy.

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    Jon G, I don’t think the Theoneustos, the word for “inspiration of God” in 2 Timothy 3:16 is like the inspiration DaVinci felt in painting the Mona Lisa. Nor do I think that Jesus thought of the Torah in that way. Nor do I think that any of the ancient Jews would have have seen the Torah as merely that touchy-feely kind of inspiration. I think they took the Scriptures as something much more than human sentiment. Though Moses was a flawed and fallible human being, I don’t Jesus or Paul or any of the ancient Jews therefore took the Torah to be flawed and fallible.

    Now doubt, our point of view has much to do with how we see things. You’ve given me yours; I’ve given you mine.

  • http://twocoppercoins.blogspot.com Jake Ulasich

    I would have to disagree with those who equate the Biblical canon with the phrase “Word of God,” especially in the sense of perfect, complete Word of God. I view the Bible as yet another perception of God’s Word, the word that proceeds from his mouth, and not the thing itself, and I do not think anyone can say for sure what Jesus or Paul thought on this topic. No question they treated the Torah and the Prophets with authority and seriousness, and they seem to acknowladge a certain quality of life in the scriptures, so that the words found therein are powerful and active, but we can’t say authoritatively what the principle was behind that view.

    If we see scripture as a perception of God’s word, rather than the thing itself (which I think we should), then we have to question a lot of what evangelicals say about it. I often here that if one little bit of the Scriptures is mistaken, then none of it is reliable, or that if Sciprutre is not God’s perfect word, then we’re standing on shaky ground and don’t have a firm foundation. This kind of mentality I find a little insulting to us and even more so to God.

    First, God has created us to be in communion with him. To suggest that we would fall apart without the strictures of the Bible holding us up is to suggest that we do not have access to God without some words on a page, even though those words have told us that God gave us access to him through Christ.

    Second, if God is capable of living, breathing, and moving in and through imperfect people and making himself known to the world through imperfect followers, then he is more than capable of making himself known through an imperfect text.

    Of course, to many this all seems very difficult. It is much easier to feel you can know God if you believe there is a perfect text in front of you which will practically make it happen by itself, and you can feel much more secure in your “knowledge” of God if you have these words to hold you up. It is a much scarier thing (and more suspicious to other?) to have to listen to the voice of God itself.

    IN the past couple decades, a lot of Christians have been pushing the envelope on this issue. It is understandable and even predictable that evangelicals would feel pushed to even more extreme language about inerrancy. It is a safety net, and the more unsafe the world of faith seems, the firmer and stronger they’re going to make that safety net. If that is what some people need, I respect that, but I think God calls us to an even more active kind of faith, one that is truly dependent on constant communion with him, one that walks a narrow difficult road and can only do so with faith.

  • phil_style

    @TJJ, yes we are discussing comments written on the book’s cover. It is precisely those comments that are controversial in some respects and warrant some discussion.

    We are not judging the book by its cover though. Which would be another matter.

  • steve jung

    Question:
    When did “inerrant” become a teaching? Was it with the Fundamentals or how much earlier?

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    Luke Allison #26,

    I consider myself theologically conservative, and I have some training in hermeneutics. But I don’t think that looking to past interpretation “settles it.” For one thing, there has been some diversity of interpretation, even among the early Church Fathers. For another, as one who comes from the Reformation tradition, I recognize that the Reformers disagree not only with prior theology but also with prior interpretation, and even prior hermeneutics. I appreciate the interpretive history of the Scriptures and the traditions of interpretation that have endured, but I do not think that none may be nuanced or altered or set aside for a different interpretation. But for me, there must be a strong hermeneutical reason to change. So, for me, the burden of proof is on those who would bring a new and different interpretation.

  • phil_style

    Steve (#33), the most accepted history would say that the explicit teaching of “inerrancy” is only a couple of hundred years old. However, the flip side of this, is the argument that prior to the enlightenment, explicit reference to “inerrancy” were never needed, because the “truth” (seen as error free nature) of the bible was always assumed.

  • Jon G

    Jeff #30 –

    I respect your opinion and I thank you for respecting mine. I do take issue, though with the phrase “touchy-feely” as if what I’m describing in my Mona Lisa example is just a ‘feeling’ or unreliable ‘daydreamery’ (new word!). No, I think DaVinci gave us a pretty reliable and trustworthy depiction of his subject. It is not impressionistic or surrealistic, etc…but realistic – it is a portrait with much “more than just human sentiment”. It is a good, reliable depiction of what Lisa looked like even though the background was imaginary. In it, he conveyed truths about the subject that weren’t limited to the painting being inerrant.

    In the same way, the NT authors are painting for us a picture of God that we can treat as reliable, without placing on their work the labels “infallible” or “inerrant”.

    Truth be told, I believe in a certain form of inerrancy. I believe that the Bible gives us “perfectly” what God wants it to give us. However, when we restrict it to a certain type of genre (like 21st centurey historical document), we are ‘taking’ from it something that can easily be shown to be errant.

  • Jon G

    dang it…”century”.

  • Norman

    It’s humorous how we venerate “scripture” but refuse to recognize what those under the guidance of the Holy Spirit; namely the Apostles understood as “scripture”. They quote books that we don’t accept consistently in the NT as scripture, so it’s hardly true that we actually have a handle on the ancient definition of “scripture”. If we can’t define the ancient concept accurately it stands to reason that we are going to be all over the place concerning our thinking about what constitutes scripture. Also we have to keep in mind that the Protestant movement wanted to one-up the Catholics by attempting to propagate the idea that they were more righteous in revering Scripture and became zealots in the matter. We are still under that spell of competition today.
    Here is a good example of Paul quoting from the Enoch literature and so does Jude who actually equates the Enoch literature as prophecy. But don’t ask an evangelical inerrant scriptural purest to grasp these concepts. IMHO

    Eph 4:8 This is why it[a] says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.” 9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that HE ALSO DESCENDED TO THE LOWER, EARTHLY REGIONS? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

    Jude 14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15 to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

  • http://joshburnett.org Josh Burnett

    Because God is Creator of all, He defines.
    We can argue inerrancy til we turn blue or we can believe that God’s Truth will not change even when imperfects translate.

    God’s Word cannot afford to remain in pages, they must reside in our heart. Translations definitely matter but living the words are paramount.

  • AHH

    The house of cards cartoon captures well a big problem in the modern conservative Evangelical church.

    Does anybody remember the “Whither Wheaton” controversy of a couple years ago? Where an alum was hoping his school would not pick a new President who would push them toward insular fundamentalism? Looks like he didn’t get his wish.

    On books, I’d also nominate Lesslie Newbigen. As I recall, his Proper Confidence had a nice section on the futility of “inerrancy” as an imposition on the Bible of foreign categories derived from the Enlightenment. I’m told Pinnock’s The Scripture Principle is good on this front, but it is still on my “to read” list.

    “Absolute Perfection” is pretty extreme. Most defenders of inerrancy at least nuance it — for example the venerable B.B. Warfield allowed that mistaken notions held by the writers as a result of their cultural setting could be reflected in the text on peripheral matters. One would hope a university President would appreciate such nuance rather than advocating an indefensible extreme, but apparently not in this case.

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    Jon G #36

    The problem with your example of “inspiration” is that, though DaVinci was perhaps “inspired” by Lisa Gherardini, we have only his perspective and none of hers. But I don’t think Jesus and Paul and the ancient Jews took the Scriptures to be only the human perspective and not also the divine perspective. Jesus speaks of the Torah as more enduring than the heavens and the earth — I don’t think He would say that about something that was merely human in origin. The psalm writer said that God exalted His word above His name. Again, I don’t think ancients Jews would have said that about anything that was merely human.

    I agree that the Bible gives us “perfectly” what God wants it to give us. But I certainly don’t restrict it to any 21st century genre. Quite the opposite, I think we need to understand the literary genres on their own terms and in their own contexts.

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    Wheaton is an “insular fundamentalist” school?

  • Percival

    Jeff #9

    This quote bothers me. I know it’s just an off the cuff comment on a blog, but it is actually idolatrous if taken at face value. Maybe the catholics are sometimes right when they accuse protestants of bibliolatry.

    You said:
    “So I think we need to be careful the we do not treat Scripture in a lesser way than we treat God Himself, for God has revealed Himself by His Word.”

    You might want to rethink this. First of all, God revealed himself in Jesus, the Living Word, a person of the Godhead. Scripture is not and will never be part of the Godhead.

    Secondly, human language has severe limits, but God has no limits. His holiness is absolute, but the holiness of Holy Bible is because God has set it apart for His service. God has no beginning, but the scriptures are anchored to historical events. God responds to us and our prayers. He loves us. No book can approach this. I accept the scriptures as His gift to us, but to treat the gift as the giver is just wrong. Sorry if that offends, but your comment stirred something zealous in me.

  • AHH

    Jeff @42,
    Please read more carefully what I wrote, which was about the school potentially being pushed in that direction, not about it being there. I would say the “absolute perfection” blurb, which I expect many current Wheaton faculty would not agree with, expresses sentiment that is a defining element of fundamentalism.

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    Even to say Wheaton is being pushed (or potentially pushed) in the direction of “insular fundamentalism” seems to be an extreme sort of statement. I live in Tampa, FL, and if I step outside and head east to the drugstore at the corner, I am in no danger of ending up in California, though California is directionally east of Florida.

    Though you may disagree with the position Wheaton takes, I don’t think it is in any danger of becoming an “insular fundamentalist” school.

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    Percival #43,

    Nothing I said should be taken to mean that Scripture is to be identified as part of the Godhead. In fact, I was careful with my language to make distinction between the enscripturated word of God from God Himself.

    The ancient Jews treated the Scriptures with the same respect they had for God, and the psalm writer said that God had exalted His word above His name (or with His name), but I don’t think either the psalm writer or the ancient Jews were thereby idolators. So I will not accept any accusation of bibliolatry.

    Indeed, there are distinctions that can be made between God and the words that come from Him, and between the giver and the gift. But if God is to be respected and honored, how can we respect and honor what He says any less?

  • tom

    Jeff #42
    It’s not that Wheaton is an insular fundamentalist school but that its new President is pushing them in that direction.

  • tom

    forget my last comment I didn’t see it was already addressed by the way i think AHH is right

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    Tom #47-48, if I walk out my door and head east, I will be going in the direction of California. But I will have to travel 2800 miles to get there. It is not merely direction that counts but also the distance. If I drive to downtown Tampa, 10 miles east of here, it would be silly of my wife to fret that I was heading in the direction of Modesto, CA. Likewise, I think it is silly to fret that Wheaton is in any danger of becoming an “insular fundamentalist” school.

  • tom

    Jeff #49
    I like your analogy but with Wheaton’s statement of faith (inerrant bible, historical Adam) I would start them off somewhere in Texas not Florida. It also depends on your method of transport on foot, by car, etc. That reminds me of a joke (off topic ) have you heard the one about the Texan who took all day to drive across his ranch.

  • Bev Mitchell

    RJS. Thanks so much for sharing this. I couldn’t agree more, and as for your book list, I’ve read a number of these carefully and recommend them highly. Wright’s new one ” Simply Jesus” is outstanding and clear enough to give to serious seekers. I think it will be especially helpful for seeking academics. It has none of the usual ‘pat answer’ ‘take it or leave it’ stuff that is so offensive to so many. 

    In my young adult life as a fairly conservative Christian, and an experimental biologist with an early and sound introduction to evolutionary biology, I would have wept to discover the resources that well grounded people like Enns, Wright and others now make so easily available – on Kindle no less! However, even back then (way back then, actually) there were good books.  “The Wisdom of Evolution” by a Dominican priest named Raymond Nogar was an early God send, and works by Jacques Ellul such as “Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes”, “The Pervision of Christianity”, “Living Faith: Belief and Doubt in a Perilous World” were a great help. Of course, as for most of us of a certain age, there was C.S. Lewis. One final name from those days that is mostly among the missing now,  but who should be talked about and read more is Helmut Thielicke. His “How to Believe Again” and “How the World Began: Man in the First Chapters of the Bible” were, to me, a much needed word in season.

  • RJS

    I really would rather stick to the topic of our understanding of scripture rather than a categorization of Wheaton. I know some very good people there and have no idea if this statement says anything about Wheaton as an institution or not. Likely it does not. Ryken is a conservative Calvinist I believe, and this language of “absolute perfection” may not have quite the same “sting” in these circles. It isn’t so common in the remainder of evangelicalism.

    And I still think we need to have careful conversations about the nature of scripture because it is an issue that causes problems for many – as noted in a number of comments above and in my original post.

  • RJS

    Thanks Bev.

    I went and looked up Thielicke. Perhaps I’ll have to pick one of these up – several copies are available used.

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    Well, if we are going to talk fairly about the question of inerrancy, I think we shall have to leave by the wayside any sort of suggestion that those who hold to inerrancy or such are on the road to fundamentalism. It is no better than the fundamentalist assertion that those who do not agree with a particular form of inerrancy are on the road to liberalism.

  • Luke Allison

    As for books which have formed my viewpoint of Scripture, I will list those that provided pivotal ground-shaking moments for, wherein I was left with no foundation and had to redefine most things I believed…

    Starting off, CS Lewis: The Problem of Pain, God in the Dock, Mere Christianity, The Weight of Glory

    A helpful look at various “evangelical issues” is Greg Boyd and Paul Eddy’s “Across the Spectrum”

    Greg Boyd: God at War (changed my entire view of Scripture)

    David Bentley Hart: The Beauty of the Infinite, The Doors of the Sea, and Atheist Delusions (this last one sounds like an apologetic work, but its really a critique of a particularly non-nuanced view of history)

    NT Wright’s stuff: Surprised by Hope is the book I recommend to everybody, but his scholarly work has been the most transformative for me.

    Soren Kierkegaard: Specifically “Attack Upon Christendom”
    Definitely not for everybody…

    Richard Bauckham: Specifically Jesus and the Eyewitnesses and Jesus and the God of Israel

    Jon Levenson: The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son (not specifically a Christian work, but very significant contextually)

    Nicholas Wolterstorff: Divine Discourse

    Kevin Vanhoozer: Is There a Meaning in this Text? (this is recent and seems to have been somewhat unheralded)

    And of course, Scot Mcknight: The King Jesus Gospel, A Community Called Atonement, and everything else….

    This is scattershot and varied, but it’s hard to think of those works that completely upended you and left you panting and empty on the wayside, ready to stand up and begin again. I have Polkinghorne in my wishlist (one of about 300), and I’m looking forward to reading more Enns soon.

  • RJS

    Luke,

    I thought about putting Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses on my list, although I have not read all of it yet. Another book that was important for me, but also isn’t for everyone as it is a scholarly tome is Larry Hurtado’s Lord Jesus Christ.

  • Luke Allison

    RJS,

    I read Hurtado’s blog…does that count? :)

    I know he’s frequently mentioned as the go-to-guy for early Christian worship and the notion of “orthodoxy preceding heresy”. I have that book in my wish-list as well. Oh the wish list. “Wishful thinking” list would probably be a better title.

    Have you ever written anything, RJS? I would most likely fast-track it if you did….

  • http://Likeachildscience.blogspot.com Lac

    I’ve read a few of the authors on your list, but in the end I found that I was unable to separate inerrancy from faith. This is not meant to be a critique…but just my personal experience as I embarked on a journey to learn more about biblical studies and try to make sense of evolution, etc.. I respect Christians like youself that have been able to maintain faith while shedding inerrancy. However, my hope is that christians that have undergone this transition might have more empathy for those of us that loose our faith. I’m sure I’m not alone in transitioning to uncertainty/agnosticism…there is a difference between my beliefs (or lack thereof) and that of the new atheist movement.

  • http://abcwesterville.org Mark Farmer

    Thom Stark’s The Human Faces of God was a decisive work for me in dismantling the concept of inerrancy.

    Nancey Murphy’s Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism was invaluable in revealing the philosophical roots of the inerrancy teaching.

    Thank you, RJS, for your relentless pursuit of truth.

  • Dennis

    It’s so much easier to be told what the bible says, then to read what the bible says.

  • AT

    I am okay with using the words, ‘inerrancy’ and ‘absolute perfection’ in relation to scripture (but I have nuanced definitions).

    I believe that accepting inerrancy (a nuanced definition of it) will help to keep the ‘evangelical ship’ together rather than cause more divisions. I also feel it will foster healthy conversation rather than one side just dismissing the others’ arguments from word go…

    My definition of ‘inerrancy’ is this –
    The Bible is ‘absolutely perfect’ and ‘without error’ in everything that it intends to communicate.

    I understand that this deviates from the definition some have for the term but no one would judge any book’s content by something that it never intended to communicate.

  • tom

    Dennis #60
    I think your comment was a bit unkind to say the least, although I had thought of writing that the book that was decisive for me in dismantling the concept of inerrancy was the Bible. I can’t understand how anybody could read the Bible and think it’s inerrant, but I wasn’t brought up thinking it was inerrant. I don’t know what growing up as a fundamentalist/evangelical is like so reading some good books to help is fine. RJS and others have listed some good books. I’ve read some of Lewis, Wright, Enns, Noll, and Marsedn. They did not influence my view of Scripture though. I never thought it to be inerrant
    By the way Pete Enns has a guest blogger Carlos Bovell writing about inerrancy.

  • RJS

    Dennis (#60),

    Reading the bible should go without saying. In fact, though, the personal part of my post started with the statement that some of the issues arise from reading the bible in large chunks rather than isolated tidbits.

    It is also important to know something of the context and language and culture to really understand the structure and intent of the Bible. We can just read it and gain a great deal. We can learn from those who study culture and language and understand a great deal more.

  • RJS

    Lac (#58),

    Thanks for your input here. I am also sure you are not alone.

    I don’t know your story in great detail, so I am going to make a general observation that may or may not apply to you in particular. One of the worst things we can do as a church is sell a strong view of inerrancy because it is “easier”, accompanied by a simple view of the Christian faith. When people find that they have outgrown this view, or that the evidence does not match what they have been taught, the house of cards falls – and it is a long, hard, and uncertain process to reconstruct.

  • CGC

    Hi Lac,
    Have you ever thought about a spiritual retreat? Maybe there is a monestary by you? (monestaries often welcome all people no matter what their faith tradition). I find making space and time for the sacred can lead to moments of spiritual refreshing and renewal. God wants our hearts and our hearts can deal with the mind. The mind is where spiritual warfare happens. Doubts can lead us to search more for God and make one spiritually stronger or they can operate like weeds that choke out our faith (or more often is the case, our intellectual ideas about faith). May God open new doors for you than seem closed at the moment.

  • Joey Elliott

    Sorry I haven’t be in this conversation, I would have very much liked to be. And I did not get through the comments but wanted to mention G.K. Beale’s The Errosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism as an influential work for me, and one that I think needs to be contended with in any dialogue on the Inerrancy of Scripture.

  • CGC

    Hi Joey,
    I love some of G. K. Beales stuff on the book of revelation, second temple Judaism, and the like. I also think some of his critique of Enn’s book “Inspiration and Incarnation” are right. But after saying all that, I find this particular book a kind of paste and glue back and forth between Enns and Beale which I for one thought was unhelpful dealing with the deeper issues. Maybe Vern Poythress new book may give Enn’s a better critique but overall, I just didn’t like Beale’s book on this topic (and most of his books I actually like). So what did you find as the most convincing arguments?

    PS – Beale’s book on Idolatry is tremendous!

  • Bev Mitchell

    Hi Lac,
    Thanks for you honest summery of where you are presently at. Don’t forget the center of it all. It is Christ who saves and keeps you, not your theology or your understanding, or even the Bible! Doubts are allowed. You can even question God – just check out Moses and Abraham. In Gethsemane, even Jesus wondered about the divine decision to go to the cross. If you hold to Christ, then you are on firm ground, the firmest ground, to enquire about the nature of Scripture, the relation between Scripture and scientific discoveries, theological points of view re a myriad of important subjects. Just hold to the centre and press on.

    As for books to help, there are many and you can easily get snowed under. At this stage you may need an author who writes with a pastor’s heart and gifts. Many years ago, Helmut Thielicke’s “How to Believe Again” was a great help to me. I hadn’t stopped believing, but I did need help to continue believing. You can find the book on the used market, through Amazon. Unfortunately it’s a little pricey.

    God bless

  • http://littlegreenfootballs.com/pages/freetoken freetoken

    I am reminded of Dr. Enns recent writings on how this argument over the Bible is really about tribalism (my term), which some people here in the comments have picked up also, in regards to the underlying issue with the subject of an inerrant/”perfect” Bible.

    This isn’t surprising as the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura itself served this function, in being one differentiation with Rome. Thus it is not unreasonable that the followers of the Reformers are still entwined with this issue.

    It is a bit surprising that RJS tries to bury Bart Ehrman, though. While that specific book in question may not be up to the highest scholastic standards, the problem still remains that any critical analysis of the Bible comes up with all sorts of problems, not the least of which are the contradictions in the Gospels. Indeed, more so than with science (evolution, cosmology, geology), fundamentalist/literalists fear the scholars of ancient writings like the Bible, I gather. If people like Ehrman take away the magic-ness of The Book, then straining on the gnat of “inerrancy” vs. “perfection” fades into irrelevancy.

  • RJS

    freetoken,

    I read Ehrman’s book “Misquoting Jesus” and the 4th edition by Metzger and Ehrman of “The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration“. There is nothing Ehrman adds to the discussion in Misquoting that is not in the longer more rigorous book. Not only this, he is too good a scholar to distort the data itself beyond what it says, so if one can overlook his sensationalism including for example his sensationalistic (and rather ridiculous) statistical statements, the book is interesting.

    What I said in the post was that if the church was doing its job the book with its sensationalistic spin would have no audience. This is because the underlying claims would not be threatening and his rhetoric would show his motive. The kind of inerrancy Ehrman’s book challenges needs to be debunked, but from within not from without.

  • Alan K

    Have the guts to read Karl Barth, folks. In Church Dogmatics I.1 and I.2 (The Doctrine of the Word of God) the question of Jesus Christ as the Word of God and the words of the prophet and apostles as the Word of God and the words of Church proclamation as the Word of God is dealt with in considerable detail and in such a fashion that the debate over inerrancy is rendered moot. Trust me when I say you’ll be forever grateful that you did.


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