Scot McKnight on Inerrancy

Scot McKnight on Inerrancy August 26, 2014

Scot concludes his review of Biblical Inerrancy: Five Views by offering his own assessment about inerrancy as a tradition and as a hermeneutic.

He raises some big issues about whether inerrancy brings light or simply creates a fight. Is inerrancy as historical referential precision really going to hold up against a lot of historical and archaeological studies? Is it not better to look at the phenomenon of scripture – citing Matt 8:5-11/Luke 7:1-10 – to construct our view of biblical truthfulness? Shouldn’t the divine intention of scripture be the overarching principle to control hermeneutics about history?

My favourite part was where Scot argues that we need more on the Spirit and the Church in a doctrine of Scripture. Ironically, this is precisely what I argue for in EvTh and in my essay in the book, and precisely what Scot chides me for in his review of my chapter!

He’s got some zingers too:

At Northern I’ve not had a class session where I thought my students thought the Bible was wrong or its truth claims needed to be challenged. Yet the term inerrancy is not how our students — at least in class sessions with me — seem to think about the Bible.

John Piper’s view of inerrancy is very much along this line, and such a view would permit Robert Gundry’s theory of midrash in Matthew, Michael Licona’s view of the resurrection of the saints, as well as some mythical and exaggerations in Old Testament stories, including Joshua 6

Bird’s sophisticated too, at least as much as that red-headed Ozzie can be.

Putting his cards on the table, Scot upholds the ACNA statement about scriptural authority:

We confess the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments to be the inspired Word of God, containing all things necessary for salvation, and to be the final authority and unchangeable standard for Christian faith and life.

And he concludes with this:

Inerrancy is a disruptive child in the theological classroom. He or she gets all the attention of teacher and students. A biblical view of inerrancy demotes it under the word true, all as part of God’s choice to communicate efficiently and sufficiently. When the word “true” governs the game it’s a brand new, healthy game. Good teachers know how to handle disruptive children.

An interesting word form Scot. As I read it, I found myself nodding my head in agreement, sometimes licking my lips in pensive thought, and other times grinding my teeth about some of the possible implications. In the least Scot has given us something to ruffle everyone’s features while also putting forward a constructive way of framing inerrancy/infallibilitly/veracity! A lot of questions are running through my mind about history, hermeneutics, and veracity. Maybe I’ll write a response one day. I wonder what Enns, Mohler, Vanhoozer, and Franke would say to McKnight? I’d pay good money to find out!

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  • Benjamin Martin

    McKnight’s “true” gambit is a bit hackneyed.

    “…true and without error…”
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_infallibility

  • scotmcknight

    Thanks Mike. I just looked through your essay (not EvTh) again to see if I had misdescribed your view. Yes, you talk about Spirit and Church in the third point (pp. 164-165) but not a word about Spirit in the second point about inspiration — not sure how inspiration can be spoken of apart from a centrality of Spirit (eh?). My point is not that you don’t believe in Spirit and church but that they are not prominent enough in your piece for me. I like that you put Scripture between Spirit and church, though I’d put Spirit-church-Scripture.

    I like how you use Spirit on p. 165 with authority.

    I have a colleague, Cherith Fee Nordling, for whom Spirit comes up far more often and it is that kind of pneumatological richness and depth that I see missing in these pieces in the book, and not just yours.

  • David Lindsay

    I’ll bet that Peter Enns will offer his response free of charge !

  • Bill Burns

    One of the more influential reads for me in thinking about the “true”-ness of Scripture was Tremper Longman’s chapter in Inerrancy and Hermeneutic entitled “Storytellers and Poets in the Bible: Can Literary Artifice Be True?” It’s a great read.