A nuclear, apocalyptic, smackdown, world-ending book on biblical inerrancy is [not] coming soon

A nuclear, apocalyptic, smackdown, world-ending book on biblical inerrancy is [not] coming soon September 8, 2013

I’ve begun seeing some ads online and in catalogs on an upcoming book I contributed to, Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy, part of Zondervan’s Counterpoints genre (see my earlier announcement here).

I’ve also seen some posts by eager beavers anticipating the end of the space-time universe within a day or two of it’s release date (November 2013).

The five contributors (Al Mohler, Kevin Vanhoozer, Michael Bird, John Franke, and moi) have at this point only seen each other’s essay and written our responses, but there is nothing that I have seen that would indicate the sort of mudslinging or knock-down-drag-out bar brawl some are assuming (i.e., hoping for).

Now, make no mistake, we all have our own opinions on the matter, and you’re going to see some sharp differences at some key points that I think many readers will find interesting, confirming, and controversial, but don’t think of it as a final episode of “Survivor” with one resilient voice left standing (unless you imagine that voice to be mine).

A strength of this volume is that all five of us had to include in our essays an explanation of how inerrancy works (or doesn’t) by engaging the same three issues:

  1. The historicity of the fall of Jericho;
  2. The conflicting accounts of Paul’s conversion in Acts;
  3. Canaanite genocide vis-a-vis Jesus’ teaching.

Alert readers among you will notice that 1 and 3 deal with the same historical issue: the historicity of the conquest of Canaan (though #3 addresses the moral/theological implications).

Alert readers will also note that there is one Old Testament scholar in the group of five, but I digress.

Unlike, say, the the Exodus, for which there is no direct affirmative evidence, only a curious, deafening archaeological silence, for the conquest there is significant–most would say incontrovertible –evidence to the contrary.

Douglas Knight and Amy-Jill Levine summarize the 100+ years of archaeological investigation: Archaeologists have long tested the evidence for the sweeping military campaign portrayed in the book of Joshua, and their results are not encouraging for a Late Bronze Age setting. (The Meaning of the Bible: What the Jewish Scriptures and Christian Old Testament Can Teach Usp. 20)

The conquest is a good test case for considering the viability of an inerrantist model of Scripture, and I think readers will be interested in how the various authors handle it.

In any event, like I said, don’t expect a pistols-at-dawn moment. Some may find moments to first-pump about, but the volume’s editors (James Merrick and Stephen M. Garrett) intended to lay out where things stand and what needs to happen at this stage of the game.


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  • I still look forward very much to reading it!

  • B

    Ditto. Coming out just in time to make Xmas wish list! Will it be available on blu-ray?

  • James

    I wonder if there is something significant about our difficulty in proving or disproving early biblical markers like the Exodus. Sometimes there is a hint of correspondence between text and confirmed historical event/context, sometimes there is apparent contradiction “as we wait for more light,” but most often…silence. Maybe we should learn that historical accuracy, though important, is not the most important thing.

  • Hello Peter, this seems to be a very important book and I will order it as soon as it becomes available in Europe.
    I certainly agree with you that the described divine genocides in the Bible are atrocities and things we should only feel horrified about.
    I do believe it’s possible that there was a Moses who led a SMALL group of slaves of Egypt, as William Dever said, archeology cannot rule such a singular event out.

    However I do believe that the events having given birth to the Conquest narratives could be partially historical and traced back to the massive collapse of the Canaanite cities around 1550 BC.
    The Egyptians and Hyksos could be responsible for the massacres, but it cannot be ruled out that the perpetrators were a group of Semitic having fled from an Egypt ruled by Hyksos.

    Either way, (parts of) the Bible is wrong.
    For helping Christians struggling with the consequences of giving up inerrancy, I’ve written two posts on my blog:

    I hope this is helpful for showing to people one can be a true follower of the risen Jesus without holding fast on Biblical inerrancy.

    Lovely greetings from France and Germany.
    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

  • brianleport

    Looking forward to reading this one!

  • Hey Pete, have you heard of Glenn Miller, at christianthinktank.com ? He wrote the article How could a God of Love order the massacre/annihilation of the Canaanites?, in which he argued that God’s intent was actually to drive out all the inhabitants of the very clearly defined Promised Land (Num 34). That’s quite the compelling argument to me. Add to this that people started attacking the Israelites right after they left Egypt and it seems to me that God meant for a string of awesome military victories would make the inhabitants want to flee instead of face an unstoppable force. Now, the Hebrews screwed up (e.g. Achan), messing up the plan. That being said, it seems like there was the option for the Israelites to not kill a single person who didn’t attack them first.

    The above might not be too relevant, given that genocide was commanded and recorded as being done, but I do find the above very interesting. It puts a very different spin on Yahweh. In Deut 9, God makes it very clear that he has a dual purpose: to start a new nation, and deal with the incredible wickedness of the then-inhabitants of the Promised Land. The goal didn’t have to be killing of the people—or at least, Glenn Miller argues that God would have been happy with ‘culture destruction’.

  • Scott Caulley

    good thing the world won’t end when the book appears in November– I probably won’t get to it until after that (SBL discount and all). To me this is a critical discussion for conservatives. The problem includes a serious disconnect between conservative doctrines of Scripture and historical evidence. It seems to me that a basic problem in the way inerrancy is held by some is not just this disconnect (the facts as we understand them don’t support the dogma), but is more importantly in the way those conservatives conceptualize the role of history in biblical faith / faith in the Bible.

    If there is not some concession to the role of the historical– especially evidence that doesn’t fit the dogmatic paradigm, then “faith in search of understanding” will never get there. We have seen this in recent history– conservative “push back” against Westcott and Hort’s text replacing the Majority Text and the Textus Receptus (1881); conservative insistance that the Masoretic text is THE original, and God’s miraculously preserved [dictated] Word (so Merrill Unger in the 1950’s); the growing awareness (finally) that the first Christians not only knew about, but happily exploited the differences between the LXX and other Greek texts, over against the Greek translations of the proto-Masoretic text. What people are learning (I hope), includes the realization that the first Christians were not interested in the “inerrant autographs.” This fixation on the part of conservatives misunderstands early Christian attitudes about their (pre-canonical) Bible, the “Old Testament,” and places ultimate value on something that was not a concern. The fixation, a modern idea, earns the (in my opinion usually deserved) judgment by outsiders of “conservative evangelical scholasticism.”

  • Jim

    How cool were the five contributors with the idea that good chunks of the Bible (all four gospels for example) were not written by eyewitnesses? (or is this question considered poking around for spoilers)

  • I’m reminded of Roger Olson’s stance:

    Let’s take “inerrancy,” for example. When I joined the faculty of the second Christian university it had (and has) a statement of faith that includes affirmation of biblical inerrancy. Before accepting the position I asked for clarification. That was when I was shown the statement about inerrancy by John Piper that I posted here earlier (and that is at his web site). It basically defines inerrancy as “perfection with respect to purpose.” I could gladly sign on to that!

    “Perfection with respect to purpose.” Neat! And what is that purpose? I’m reminded of:

    … making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

    For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

    Sounds pretty similar to the kinds of stuff you say in I&I, Pete!

  • rvs

    Is there a useful essay to read on competing definitions of inerrancy–an essay for a person who dabbles in theology?

  • I’m looking forward to reading this book as well.