In the comments section of my previous post, blog-lurker extraordinaire Tim Keller called me out for my duplicity regarding inerrancy. He’s right, I find inerrancy not merely to be “insufficient,” but actually deeply lacking theologically.
In brief, I think that the doctrine of “inerrancy” — made up by evangelicals during the second half of the 20th century (the word, itself, is an invention) — uses an extrabiblical superimposition to prop up the authority of the Scripture. That is, inerrancy appeals to the themes of logical positivism and empiricism and is thus a modernistic misstep.
Instead, I think that the biblical narrative is authoritative and truthful because of, among other things, its aesthetic and holistic truth. Thus, I proposed to my new friends at Southern Seminary, that I have a “higher” view of Scripture than an inerrantist. I believe that the Bible does not require external, foundational supports. The narrative truth of the Bible is ultimately sufficient and authoritative, thus trumping any extrabiblical theory. That is, the Bible is cogent, coherent, and existentially truthful — and, I would argue, moreso than any competing sacred text.
1) I mean no disrespect in referring to Tim Keller as a “lurker.” I’ve said it here before: I am greatly honored that a pastor-theologian of his caliber reads and comments on my blog. I am, likewise, a lurker on many blogs. Sorry if it came off as an insult, Tim.
2) I am fully aware that by appealing to post-foundational rationalities that I am open to the accusation of hypocrisy: i.e., that I am using non-biblical arguments to refute non-biblical arrguments. But I find appeals to holism and aesthetic truth to be arguments about the internal consistency and cogency of the Scripture.
3) Tim’s right, that I wasn’t entirely duplicitous in my “lukewarm” attitude toward inerrancy at Southern. The fact is, “inerrancy” bends a lot of ways — once it’s qualified by phrases like “in the original manuscripts” (which we don’t have), “when read faithfully,” and “when interpreted within the orthodox Christian community,” then “inerrancy” starts to sound a lot like “infallibility.” That’s why I think there are all kinds of inerrantists, some of whom are probably very close to my position.
4) Tim, if you think my hermeneutic is difficult to explain to lay people, you should try it with high school students! That’s what I tried (with limited success) for 7 years!
5) Dear Anonymous, first of all, sign your posts if you want anyone to take you seriously. Secondly, if you think the fact that I have a position (n.b., my position, not Emergent’s position) on Scriptural interpretation precludes my ability to have open, respectful, challenging conversations with inerrantists, then you don’t know much about conversation. And if you don’t like big words, find another blog to read — I make no apologies for who I am.]