what is “safe” and “not safe” to think? (part 3 of Bovell’s review of The Lost World of Scripture)

what is “safe” and “not safe” to think? (part 3 of Bovell’s review of The Lost World of Scripture) February 10, 2014

Today’s post is the third and final part of Carlos Bovell’s review of  The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority (previous post here).

Inerrantists are indebted to Walton and Sandy for the time and care they took in their new book Lost World to explain why the doctrine of inerrancy needs to be updated in light of development in biblical scholarship and for suggesting that inerrantists should begin thinking about ways to incorporate the Bible’s oral culture into their doctrinal schemes.

Today I conclude with a few remarks on how they decided to draw their discussion to a close.

I was disappointed to see that, rather than encouraging students in their research to critically pursue the leads proposed in the book, the authors seem intent to protect them from pursing the implications of the data they just presented. I understand that the authors are not at liberty to disagree openly with the Chicago Statement, and so perhaps this should come as no surprise.

The book ends with two lists for their readers to keep in mind as they think about scriptural authority. The lists explicitly advise students as to what is “safe” and “not safe” for them to believe.

So while on the one hand Walton and Sandy are trying to alleviate some of the pressures that students face when doing biblical studies, they also feel pastorally obliged to set express limits on what students can think about the Bible, putting them, in effect, right back where they started.

Walton and Sandy include some sensible items in their list of things that are “safe” for students to believe (293–303), for example:

  • It is safe to believe there could be duplicate texts with variation.
  • It is safe to believe Old World science permeates the Old Testament.

These are important points and need to be stressed. There are some other items, however, that Walton and Sandy present as “safe” for students to believe, but without sufficiently discussing them. For example:

  • the inspiration of written texts of the New Testament is an inference based on the inspiration of the Old Testament.
  • conventions for reporting events in the Bible differ from our contemporary conventions of history writing.
  • Old Testament prophecy and New Testament identifications of fulfillment do not need to align.

On the first point, although the inspiration of the NT is hardly contested for their readership, the examination of the nature of the NT should probably have awaited a separate treatment rather than abruptly included in this list.

The second point is true, though “reporting events” already subtly privileges the evangelical assumption that events are being “reported.” I went to great lengths in my book Rehabilitating Inerrancy in a Culture of Fear to argue that nothing is restricting the biblical authors—even when they appear to us to be writing history—to be “reporting events.” They could very well have been intentionally creating a narrative, or thinking they were reporting history but weren’t, or operating under very different notions of what “reporting events” even means.

Third, the manner in which OT prophecy is “fulfilled” in the NT is also an issue that, again, most believers would agree on. But hermeneutically speaking, this “fulfillment” is a complex issue that cannot be tacked on like this, especially as it does not seem entirely germane to the topic of the book

Immediately following this list of what it is safe for students to believe, there is a list of what it is “not safe” for them to believe (303–306). And perhaps we can simply say “dangerous,” for that is the opposite of “safe.”

The following, according to Walton and Sandy, are “not safe” (i.e., dangerous) to believe:

  • the Bible is just like any other book.
  • inerrancy is falsified by the orality of Scripture.
  • the Old Testament is derivative mythology combed from the ancient world.
  • everything we find in the Bible can be explained in natural terms.
  • people and events portrayed in narrative about the real past are fictional or literary constructs.
  • biblical books have used pseudepigraphy, forgery, or false attribution.

Many students working through scholarly issues in these areas (orality, ANE mythology, documentary history of the Bible, the epic nature of some historical narratives, pseudepigraphy) will not likely be appeased by merely being told “it is not safe” to believe them.

This begs the question, “Why?” and the answer seems obvious: It is dangerous to believe them because they cause serious problems for the theory of inerrancy, and undermine particularly the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy.

I would also add that referring to these issues as “beliefs” rather than considered, intellectual conclusions aids, perhaps unwittingly, to removing them from the sphere of honest academic discussion.

Walton and Sandy end the book with one last list, a list of questions that they regard as safe for students to ask (306–309):

It is safe to ask

  • whether our doctrine of the authority of Scripture has become too enmeshed in apologetics.
  • whether some formulations of biblical inerrancy are faithful to biblical revelation itself in the historic understandings of the church.
  • whether doctrinal discussions regarding the authority of Scripture should focus exclusively on written texts.
  • about variants because they do not necessarily constitute errors as understood in the cultural context of the original communication.
  • how the body of Christ would be best served by our formulations of biblical authority.
  • what constitutes a robust evangelical doctrine of biblical authority.

These are all very good questions to ask. We should note, though, that not a few items in the “safe to believe” category would, just a few years ago, have appeared in most evangelicals’ “not safe to believe” category.

To take just one example, it has not long been acceptable for an evangelical to declare to fellow evangelical believers that the OT is permeated by Old World science. What drove that shift, which I can say without fear of contradiction, is the irony of the impact of critical biblical scholarship that showed evangelicals that not only was it safe to ask but also safe to believe in such things.

Without critical scholars doing the work that evangelicals have prematurely refused to do, evangelicals would not likely have learned what they have learned about the Bible. In Inerrancy and the Spiritual Formation of Younger Evangelicals, I suggest that critical scholars are owed an “I’m sorry” and a “Thank you” from evangelical scholars.

It would certainly seem wiser, then, especially for the sake of students to not tell them in advance what “it is not safe to believe.” Much rather, we would better serve them by encouraging them that it is always safe to ask and to test whether the Bible might turn out to be this or that.

Evangelicals need to get out in front of what’s happening in biblical studies instead of lagging a generation or two behind and waiting to see what critical scholarship discovers before deciding what sorts of things are safe or dangerous.

The problem, as many of us know, is that this has proved exceedingly difficult for evangelicalism to pull off.


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  • JL Schafer

    Shouldn’t church be THE safe place for sincere and thoughtful people to converse and work out a faith that they can truly call their own? But many church environments are far from safe. I’m weary of being told that I ought to overcome the fear of sharing my faith with nonbelievers. Because, truth be told, I’m often more afraid of sharing my faith with believers.

    With all due respect to these scholars (and much is due), what are they actually afraid of? I seem to recall that a very trustworthy OT scholar once wrote, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

    • Carlos Bovell

      That’s right, the church should encourage believers to work out the problems they encounter patiently and honestly. Then more people would see that a life of faith really is a journey. It’s an intellectual, emotional, spiritual and social journey that we are all on, both communally and individually.

      It’s the administrative part that seems to get especially tricky, the political part. Some evangelicals insist that their concerns are theological, but there’s a heavy political component that has come into play and evangelicalism as a culture has to find ways of handling it better.

      • RedWell

        This administrative and political response (articulated in more detail above in reply to Aceofspades25) is an adroit answer because it accounts for the real inertia of institutional and community life.

        Nevertheless, I have to agree with JL Shafer that this approach eats its own tail. The Church rightly conditioned me to not be afraid of “truth,” yet that pursuit has taken me increasingly further afield from mainstream evangelicalism. I’ve seen other, brighter people than me have the same experience.

        The problem is that by protecting the large center where most evangelicals feel comfortable, people further from that center are alienated or driven out. Evangelicalism is a massive force in the US, but it remains an intellectual pygmy. That’s not sustainable. The fact that so many Evangelicals cling to CS Lewis (neither evangelical nor alive for the past half century) is a strong testament to this.

        Also, in the end, I don’t find the policy or administrative argument compelling because it sounds a lot like code for incrementalism: just let people get used to the idea and all will be well. As pointed out in the article, that’s not good enough if Evangelicals are always a generation or two behind everyone else.

        If something is true or not true, we above all others have a responsibility to point it out. Jesus has made me uncomfortable quite often throughout my life, I don’t see why status quo pastors, university trustees and lay people should be treated with kid gloves by the intellectuals among them.

        • Carlos Bovell

          The administrative description wasn’t intended as an argument or a defense. Just an honest attempt to partially account for why things are the way they are. I don’t know how quick your workplace is to react to changes, but some institutions are slower than others, and church institutions have to be among the slowest.

          I am not advocating protecting the center. If you’ve read any of my work, you will see that I have never said anything positive about maintaining status quo within evangelicalism. All along, I have been a consistent advocate for letting scholars, students and others to freely explore what they need to explore in their capacity as faithful researchers. We have to let them be who they are, let them go where they have to go in their thinking, and trust Christ to oversee his churches.

          I have continually indicated that the instinct to protect the center is a failure to trust Christ; it’s a lack of faith to want to control the flock, particularly the creative impetus that students and young scholars bring to Christian thinking.

          • RedWell

            Apologies if I misinterpreted your comment. Sadly, I have not read any of your work. To me, your great insight here, anyway, is that churches and networks take on an independent life and most of their members don’t even realize that they are enmeshed not in orthodoxy but in pragmatic dogma. I suppose I was reacting in frustration to that fact more than your own positions.

        • It’s refreshing and encouraging to me, as a former Evangelical, now Progressive/Process X’n, to hear discussions like this and many similar ones. They probably involve only less than 5-10% of Evangelicals but I do think it’s spreading. If the boundaries (defining of “us” vs “them”) are indeed breaking down some, espec. as seen in the “Emerging” movement, that is at least as important as the specifics of theological systems.

          I really can’t attribute my slow transition from Evangelical to Progressive (not just on peripheral issues) to any one or two issues, but I doubt it would have happened had I not been academically involved (via Claremont Sch. of Theol.) with a mix of conservatives to liberals (more the latter on the professor side, for sure). I came in, somewhat informed re. “liberal” theology, but still with caricatures of “those liberals”. That broke down by contact, academic exposure, deep discussions, relationships and such. I think that may have been key in freeing me to explore more deeply and openly so that, soon AFTER leaving 4 part-time years there, I had made the “paradigm switch”. I’ve not doubted it at all since… see it as a complex growth stage transition (and since written about spiritual growth stages).

          My process was deeply-informed enough (and backed by much prior education and professional experience in psych/counseling) that it wasn’t really traumatic or gut-wrenching, but also NOT easy in terms of family and friend relationships. It IS sad that there are so many “community”, institutional, etc. barriers to people making such a step of growth. My view is that for spiritually-oriented people (e.g., “dedicated to Christ”), such a transition should be natural and normal during one’s 20s or so, or by 30-something. I’m a bit unusual in making it around 45 (19 yrs. ago)… if one doesn’t by mid-30s or so, often one will never do it… at least in days past. Maybe that is changing some as the whole of Evangelical society is being forced to adjust more than for a long time.

          I can’t resist an “amen” about your comment on C.S. Lewis! I like his work in certain ways yet myself, especially his story-telling, but as an apologist for “orthodoxy”? No longer at all. Your comment on being dated is right on… when he originally composed the “Mere Christianity” material, the Nag Hammadi and Dead Sea Scrolls libraries had not even been found! And by the time he died, the Scrolls had only partially been released to the broader academic community and just begun to be analyzed and incorporated into biblical scholarship. Much of that, which has made massive impact, was yet to come. If they like things of that era, why won’t Evangelicals dive into a wonderful book like “The Kingdom of God and Primitive Christianity” by Schweitzer (1951/1968)? What an “undiscovered” gem!

          I also object to Lewis’ two-option view of religious worldviews. If we were forced into binary choices, he might be right. Fortunately, we are not. I took on this issue by Lewis, offering at least a third robust option, here: http://wp.me/p5oBn-lt.

  • JL Schafer

    If the views of Scripture held by C.S. Lewis put him in an unsafe place, then I say, let danger abound.

  • DMH

    Do they actually use the words safe and unsafe?

    • Rick

      I am not doubting Carlos’ account of this, but I would like to see the context in which it was said. I also am surprised no reason was given, if that is in fact correct.

      • Carlos Bovell

        You can judge for yourself, but it seemed to me that with one hand they were inviting others to think through what implications to draw from the evidence; then with the other, they went ahead and outlined for students what is safe and not safe for them to believe.

        But safe for what? For biblical authority/for a healthy faith (which at evangelical schools like Wheaton is too closely entangled with accepting the Chicago Statement)?

        “In conclusion, then, we would
        like to offer a briefly annotated list of what we propose is safe to believe
        within a robust doctrine of biblical authority. But if there are things safe to
        believe, then there are things not safe to believe. So we will also list a
        number of items that we consider inimical to biblical authority. Last we will
        raise questions that we are still
        pondering. We certainly don’t want to claim too much in these conclusions
        or think more highly of what we have accomplished than we ought. We want to be
        virtuous readers, and we want our conclusions to be faithful. We will be
        pleased if these concluding thoughts become talking points and encouragement
        for further research and reflection” (292–3).

        • Rick

          Thank you for that clarification. Interesting.

  • Aceofspades25

    How can it be possible to acknowledge that “old world science permeates the Old Testament” and that there are internal contradictions (“It is safe to believe there could be duplicate texts with variation”) and yet still affirm the Chicago statement of inerrancy?

    The Chicago statement would deny both of these “safe to believe” points.

    • JL Schafer

      By applying creative Pauline-style exegesis to the Chicago statement?

      • Aceofspades25

        It seems to be simply a way of affirming one thing when talking to one crowd and then affirming the opposite when talking to another crowd.

        I imagine people like this thinking: “I can feel like I’m not lying to myself and be taken seriously by other scholars if I tweak my definition of inerrancy and my conservative friends won’t know what’s up if I still use the word inerrant to describe my views on scripture”

        Here’s a better idea: How about we just be honest with ourselves and others regarding our doubts and beliefs?

        I guess I’m just sick of a Christian culture that puts pressure on people to pretend to have no doubts and be on the same page with regards to various beliefs.

        I’m starting to sound like Peter Rollins.

        • Carlos Bovell

          Inerrancy like every other doctrine is in a state of constant development, meaning that there always needs to be some leeway for interpretation/expansion within the overall project of trying to articulate evangelical doctrine in edifying ways. This is where Walton and Sandy’s list of “safe to ask” questions is actually quite helpful.

          Rather than focusing on who’s “lying” and who’s not, we would be better off understanding that everyone is trying their best to answer the same question, “What constitutes a robust evangelical doctrine of biblical authority?”

          Thankfully, little by little, more evangelicals seem to be realizing that scholars and students (along with everyone else) need more room to genuinely ask this question.

          • Aceofspades25

            Well why call it inerrant if the refined definition effectively allows it to be considered errant in places? We’re simply adopting a label now and redefining it in a way that is

            Why not drop the word inerrant and adopt the more biblical terms “inspired” or “God breathed”?

          • Carlos Bovell

            I would be happy to drop “inerrant.” But others are not solely dealing with personal faith, the rather have entire institutions, denominations or traditions that they want to hold together. This is where a convoluted political process comes to the fore. This will take some time to work through (or maybe things will not work out and the denomination/institution in question will simply phase out of existence as inerrancy becomes more and more irrelevant).

            Personally, I have come to see inerrancy as more like an antiquated policy than as a contemporary doctrine. Policies, once implemented, take a lot of time to change, even though a change may be long overdue. What people are actually doing will be more of an indication of where people are than what a policy officially says. So I think for a number of evangelical scholars it’s a little more complicated than adopting a label, it’s more like trying to get a policy to change while always remaining an employee of the company, so to speak, so that they can still act as agents of change for the overall good of the organization(s).

          • Bev Mitchell

            Or like changing a flat tire on an eighteen wheeler while running full tilt down the interstate – if one can still do that on an interstate. 🙂

            Seriously, I think you are spot on. Ultimately, the people in the pew pay the bills, though a good number of well heeled people pay a lot of them. Evangelical outfits are democratic entities that hope the Spirit is allowed a good chance to influence the outcome. So it seems that prayer, patience, tolerance and other good things will be needed in abundance.

            As for antiquated policies, a Swedish friend once told me that in Sweden it’s still illegal to feed your servants salmon for dinner more than three times a week.

            Given the long timeline likely still involved here as well, perhaps a stronger plea for Christian understanding and openness to diversity will be a necessary short term strategy (or long term). It’s interesting, and instructive, to consider how much easier it is to get general agreement on a wide variety of issues regarding what Christian behaviour looks like than on what Christian belief should be. Or is it? Now I’m doubting myself, so I’ll stop typing before the hole gets any deeper.

          • Carlos Bovell

            Yes, there’s the very important financial aspect to it, too. It’s good, old-fashioned politics we’re talking about here, but it keeps getting mixed up with our search for the deepest kind of “truth” so it’s easy to get confused.

            I don’t think the goal is that we arrive at a general agreement, but rather that we constantly work toward fostering an interpersonal outlook that emphasizes good will toward others and the genuine wish for God’s peace upon one another. This is where the Church’s sense of unity should manifest itself, not in doctrine or rituals or on specific positions in the culture wars.

          • The institutional/political aspects are certainly important factors. And these interplay with individuals’ beliefs about salvation. In other words, if things like apostolic authority are called into question and the canon becomes indefinite, it will (rightly in my mind) shake up and potentially break the chain of theological formulations developed in the NT era.

          • Carlos Bovell

            In my book, By Good and Necessary Consequence, I chide evangelicals for making inerrancy a central part of their salvation schema. One’s existential sense of salvation should not be tied to some precarious dogmatic chain that we’ve been taught in school. It is silly to suppose that our being saved directly depends on whether at any given moment we happen to be holding the right combination of theological cards.

            It’s no wonder ex-fundamentalists have described their experience of leaving fundamentalism as recovering from a serious drug problem!

  • Brian P.

    It has been exceedingly difficult to pull off. It may become exceedingly difficult to put off. Thus, a crisis and opportunity for a theology of the Word that can be integrated with a theology of Christ and integrated with a theology of the Body and integrated with a theology of the Church. Would suggest that the Western Enlightenment piecemealed things that shall be need to be reintegrated in Postmodernity.

  • AHH

    Pseudepigraphy is “unsafe”?
    Do faculty at Wheaton (for example) really have to affirm that the Apostle Peter wrote 2 Peter?? Are there any competent NT scholars who deny pseudepigraphy there?

    • Good question! I wonder the same thing about my alma maters, Biola U. and Talbot Sch. of Theol. I don’t keep much touch because of issues like these. I have a feeling that Talbot may still be in a place like that of these authors.

      As to no admission of possible forgeries in the NT: huh?? On just what basis? Even in the canon, 2 Thes. 2:2, “Paul” (?) mentions a forged letter. Either the book itself is a forgery (likely, it seems) or Paul validates that forgeries were already in existence. The book “Forged” by Bart Ehrman is highly recommended… plows some new ground in this area.

      • Rick

        Regarding “Forged”, keep in mind that scholars such as Darrell Bock, Dan Wallace, and Ben Witherington have written and talked at length about the weaknesses in Ehrman’s argument. For example, Bock writes: “Ehrman has shown that there are cases of forgery, both among opponents and supporters of what became orthodoxy. But not all the claimed cases are as strong, nor are some of them persuasive. To make the case for the biblical works placed in this category, Ehrman argues for models of Christian activity both in writing and in the age of certain theological positions that cannot be sustained (or at least are severely in doubt as to how clearly they can establish the view Ehrman is defending in reference to those biblical books). In other words, the treatment is a mixed bag with important holes in the argument when it comes to works like Colossians, 1 and 2 Peter, James, Jude, and Acts.”

        • Andrew Dowling

          To say the apologetic attempts at NT scholarship by Wallace and Bock strains credibility is being generous. Wallace’s attempts, for example, to declare 1 and 2 Peter as both being products of the Apostle is enmeshed in absurdity.

          • Rick

            Would have to agree to disagree on those two scholars. but ok.

        • First, I’m wondering if YOU have read “Forged” and if so, just where you would cite faulty “facts” or improper reasoning. And in the quote you cite by Bock, there is nothing specific shown where he is supposedly wrong, just general charges and objections. I realize he probably does make his contrary case, but I’d sure need to see such specifics to give any weight to what he’s saying (or the others, similarly). I EXPECT orthodox scholars to defend their conclusions, but I’m only impressed if/when they give specifics and they prove to be valid and of substance.

          And, just in general terms, having read several of Ehrman’s books and heard well over a dozen recorded lectures, I have consistently found him to be careful and well-documented in what he claims… restraining himself from speculations. I find it real tough to be able to find a good counter-argument or contrary observation, or catch him in an error. And that’s partly because, as a former Evangelical, he KNOWS the conservative positions and is careful NOT to create caricatures or exaggerations. I’d put his scholarship and general believability up against all you’ve mentioned, as well as anyone else I know.

          And even if you don’t end up agreeing with some conclusions from “Forged”, there is a lot to be learned from it! (I say as someone with lots of formal and informal education in this and related areas).

          • Rick

            I was simply pointing out that there is another side of the story. If you don’t agree with them, and others that disagree with Ehrman, then so be it. Have a great remainder of the day.

          • Andrew Dowling

            That’s fine Rick and I personally don’t mean to be overly combative, but I find guys like Wallace so frustrating because they are smart . . they have the “toolkit” to really do some great work, but their insistence on coming to traditional conservative apologetic answers ensures their work is marred in fantastical conclusions and logical pretzel making. They also do critiques of other scholars often based on overt generalizations and caricatures of their work.
            I recall in the late 90s basically a whole cottage industry of articles and books slamming the Jesus Seminar came out of the conservative woodworks; some of their critiques had merit, but overall their products ended up being not much more than apologetic kindle by them not honestly interacting with who they were critiquing and also making false and misleading generalizations.

          • Rick

            Andrew- I hear you. I think we need weigh each scholar on his own merit, and in his own discipline (one reason I think the apologetics industry took a hit, since many were speaking beyond there expertise). I think the cottage industry problem, though, works on both sides. But again, scholars should be weighed by what each brings to the table, and that includes not disregarding conservative scholars just because they come to conservative conclusions.

          • Rick, I guess I may have been overly confrontive… at the least I didn’t need to “shout” by using caps… sorry. But I get frustrated on two levels: One, what Andrew says above about the apologetic “agenda” (where I once was also, and try hard not to just be the flip side now, but be a genuine truth-seeker) by smart people who “should” know better. Two, that so many Christians read and easily swallow their shallow critiques, and often without even reading the author being criticized… they never see or openly consider the perspective and points of the objectionable scholar. And I think Ehrman has drawn a disproportionate share, not for poor work but because he knows the thinking and the weak points in the orthodox system (and probably does have an “agenda” to make people look deeper, more carefully, at the least); also because if his work goes un-responded-to, it may well convince more of the people sincere opposing scholars don’t want to see “lost”.

          • Andrew Dowling

            “Two, that so many Christians read and easily swallow their shallow
            critiques, and often without even reading the author being criticized.”

            This kills me also. My brother in law has read “Reinventing Jesus” by Wallace and Bock’s “:Dethroning Jesus” but has he read Ehrman? No. Crossan? No Borg? No? Allison? No, Brown? No. He knows why all those guys and/or their findings are wrong, although he has actually never read any of them. Drives me crazy.

  • A list of “unsafe” questions! One has to wonder:

    Is academic freedom even possible in a “university” that espouses such a limitation on investigation and thought?

  • James

    Everything about the Bible should be safe “to think.” To believe, that’s a bit different. I am safe believing it is good news. I’m not safe believing it is garbage–or trash where you live.

  • Hello Carlos.

    I think we really need to SAVE the Bible from fundamentalism, and you seem to be on the right way for achieving that goal.

    According to my experience, many militant atheists were raised as fundies and were deeply traumatized by the irrational and evil things they were taught to believe without question.

    “The second point is true, though “reporting events” already subtly privileges the evangelical assumption that events are being “reported.” I went to great lengths in my book Rehabilitating Inerrancy in a Culture of Fear to argue that nothing is restricting the biblical authors—even when they appear to us to be writing history—to be “reporting events.” They could very well have been intentionally creating a narrative, or thinking they were reporting history but weren’t, or operating under very different notions of what “reporting events” even means.”

    I explained why the book of Joshua must either be mythological or an erroneous report of events.

    Which hypothesis seems to you to be the most likely and HOW can you either way consider the terror text to be inspired by God?

    The main argument against God’s involvements in specific situations is the fact that He seems to be inactive in a far greater number of other ones, thereby allowing a terrible amount of suffering.

    This has led many people to conclude that deism or atheism must be true.

    While I believe that many arguments for atheism are flawed, I find this one to be the most challenging.

    A related question is: “is it not extremely selfish to thank God for having found one’s keys whereas countless children are starving and dying in the third world?”

    • Carlos Bovell

      Yes, save kids from being raised with fundamentalist views of the Bible. Indeed, that would cover a multitude of sins.

  • ctrace

    Your obsession with Evangelicalism and what they believe gives you away. You want to downgrade what Bible-believing Christians believe. You don’t merely want to ‘dialogue’ or have ‘conversation’ with already liberal Christians. You are targeting and attacking.

    • Carlos Bovell

      I’m not sure how to take this comment. I write on inerrancy. I am openly critical of inerrancy. I am constantly thinking about how to replace inerrancy with an alternative theory of biblical inspiration and authority. Being on a faith journey myself, I’m actually trying to help!

      Evangelicalism has made inerrancy a central feature of Christianity, emphasizing it as a “fundamental” of faith. Therefore, anytime someone is critical of inerrancy it can come across as if they are “targeting and attacking.” But surely that says more about how vulnerable Bible-believing Christians, as you call them, are than about a sustained conspiracy or agenda against them.

      • ctrace

        Even God’s elect are vulnerable to being fooled or dissuaded from the truth by false teachers at some point. Not forever. But woe to the false teachers who attempt it. The Devil can’t defeat God’s plan, he can only annoy God’s plan and play for time. Time has an end though. Until then it is battle.

        This pomo language of conversation and story and journey is not Christian language. Supernaturalism for a Christian is not something you find a way to get around or get beyond, for instance. The word of God is not just any book. It is living, quickening language. Academics who are embarrassed by such things as inerrancy tend to be shallow regarding literature in general. You simply don’t have the experience with literature to be able to *see* how the word of God is different. I won’t mention the Holy Spirit, I’ll leave that between you and God…

        • Carlos Bovell

          whoa! hold on a second! You are making a lot of connections here that aren’t all connected. Who said anything about disallowing supernatural? You can have supernatural without inerrancy. You can have the Bible as God’s word without it being inerrant. You can have the Bible as quickening and have the Bible as a vehicle of the Holy Spirit to teach people and to save people without having inerrancy. You can eliminate inerrancy from someone’s faith without having them lose faith and definitely without having to see the devil behind it as some kind of surreptitious attack on Jesus’ church.

          Do you see how you are making a huge jump from saying something like: “Carlos, I think you’re wrong there when you conclude that inerrancy is not the best way to get at the Bible’s authority. Even so, I wish Christ’s peace on you as a fellow journeyer in faith” to saying “Carlos, you are a false teacher–don’t you realize you are doing the work of the devil and that if you were REALLY a believer you’d either still be holding to inerrancy or, since that’s not the case, you’ll sooner or later come back around to seeing how inerrancy is the right way…”?

          Inerrancy has become to important to you here. It’s almost as if you can’t see Jesus without inerrancy. This doctrine, it seems to me, is being puffed up way beyond what it could ever possibly accomplish for believers, can’t you see that?

          • ctrace

            Inerrancy is not as you portray it to a Christian like myself. It’s not something that I’m all up in arms about. It is something a Bible-believing regenerated Christian takes as a matter of course. It’s how we come to see the Bible based on our own reading and studying and all the rest of it. If the Bible has error in one place then who’s to say it doesn’t have error in any other place. And we’ve been through all the back and forths with atheists regarding so-called contradictions and error in the Bible, and they aren’t and have never been impressive charges. One atheist will say the Bible is all Chinese myth and Apollo astronaut transcripts. If that doesn’t work they then say something like, “Well, but what about where it says so and so went against many and killed them all, but in a parallel passage it says the same so and so went against three hundred, but it doesn’t say he killed them? Huh? What about that?” That’s basically the only type of thing they’ve got. Everything else involved matters of biblical doctrine or language or figures of speech they are too ignorant to see.

            We believe in a God-man who died and rose from the dead. That’s a 12 on a scale of 1 to 10 of error in the eyes of the world. We don’t have to get up in arms defending the Bible as inerrant. Anybody who wants to insist the Bible is inerrant has a wide open field and a target rich environment in the Book called the Holy Bible to find proof of their belief.

          • ctrace

            Should always proofread… Last sentence should have ‘errant’…

          • Carlos Bovell

            “It is something a Bible-believing regenerated Christian takes as a matter of course.”

            Can this be re-stated as follows?

            If a person is a Bible-believing, regenerated Christian, she will take inerrancy as a matter of course.

            Because if so, then this follows:

            If a person does not take inerrancy as a matter of course, then she is not a Bible-believing, regenerated Christian.

            Now the question I am posing is:

            Can a Christ-believing regenerated Christian be someone who is not a Bible-believing (understood here as an inerrantist), regenerated Christian?

          • ctrace

            Where do you get your knowledge of Jesus Christ?

          • Carlos Bovell

            Why are you hitting the reset button on our discussion and assuming your apologetics stance now? Is this little more than a game of chess to you?

            I was trying to understand whether you think a regenerated Christian can be a genuinely regenerated Christian without accepting inerrancy–ever. If one doesn’t think so, it doesn’t matter whether they are up in arms about it or not, it will eventually lead to some serious problems.

            If non-inerrantists end up asking similar questions to those asked by atheists, then the forthcoming answers had better be versatile enough to allow non-inerrantists to still be believers and not get lumped in with the atheists by default, don’t you think?

          • ctrace

            Again, where do you get your knowledge of Jesus Christ. You’re the one being shifty. Answer that question. If it’s from an errant source it’s not very reliable knowledge.

            As for regeneration as related to this subject, you’ll notice in my first comment above I said I’d leave the subject of the Holy Spirit (i.e. the Holy Spirit being in you) between you and God.

            Regeneration is always the third rail in Christian discussion, and I’ve always noticed the ones who get upset over it’s mention are the ones defending notions such as an errant Bible.

          • Tim

            I highly doubt that “It’s how we come to see the Bible based on our own reading and studying and all the rest of it” is how all people who believe in inerrancy come to that position. When I believed in inerrancy, as well as other untenable doctrinal positions, it was because I was taught to do so. Thomas Jefferson had some interesting and choice words to say about religious freedom, and I think they apply here:

            “Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free;

            That all
            attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil
            incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and
            therefore are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who
            being Lord, both of body and mind yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on
            either, as was in his Almighty power to do,

            That the
            impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and
            uninspired men have assumed dominion over
            the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the
            only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on
            others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part
            of the world and through all time; …” -Thomas Jefferson

        • peteenns

          Please tone done the rhetoric or use you own name when making comments like this. Implying that Carlos is an instrument of Satan, besides ridiculous, is simply bad form when done anonymously.