do inerrantist biblical scholars employ “protective strategies” and “privilege insider claims”? — a new article you’ll want to read.

do inerrantist biblical scholars employ “protective strategies” and “privilege insider claims”? — a new article you’ll want to read. March 12, 2015

BIStephen L. Young (ABD doctoral student, Brown University, Religions in the Ancient Mediterranean), recently published and article (the first of two) “exposing” inerrantist biblical scholarship: “Protective Strategies and the Prestige of the ‘Academic’: A Religious Studies and Practice Theory Redescription of Evangelical Inerrantist Scholarship.” (the entire article can be accessed here.)

“Exposing” is my word, since Young does not employ that rhetoric. In fact, he is quite clinical and…well…scholarly about describing inerrantist scholarship “positively” (as in, assessing it academically) along sociological Study of Religions lines.

As a sociological analysis of evangelicalism, I would pair this article with Christian Smith’s more popular book The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture snd Kent Sparks’s God’s Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship, although Young’s article, being an article in an academic journal, is more focused.

Like Smith and Sparks, Young is deeply familiar with the world of inerrantist scholarship, and I have to say, I resonated strongly with this article, in that some of his observations are confirmed in my own experience.

Below is the abstract of the article (p. 1), to give you some ideas of where he is going (my emphasis).

This article examines how Evangelical Christian inerrantist scholars theorize their biblical scholarship and its relation to the broader academy, highlighting (1) their self-representation as true academics, and (2) the ways they modulate historical methods to prefer interpretive options that keep the Bible inerrant. Using these characteristics of inerrantist theorizing, the article redescribes their scholarship in terms of the religious studies rubrics of “protective strategies” and “privileging” insider claims. It then exploits this redescription to explore various characteristics of inerrantist religiosity from a Practice Theory vantage point, noting especially inerrantist religiosity’s highly intellectualized nature as well as features of its fields of discourse production and consumption, and their participants, that differentiate them from broader academic fields focused on the Bible. Overall the article thus provides a detailed positive account of inerrantist scholarship and introduces scholars to the utility of this data set for studying contemporary religiosity and religious “protectionism.”

Later (p. 4) Y0ung summarizes the heart of the article as follows (my emphasis):

I will identify two characteristic ways that producers of inerrantist discourse situate their products in relation to broader non-inerrantist scholarship: They energetically represent their work as sophisticated and superior academically legitimate scholarship, and they methodologically enshrine within their discourses a preference for interpretive options that uphold the Bible’s inerrancy. I then redescribe these characteristics of inerrantist discourse in terms of “protective strategies” and the privileging of insider claims, rubrics used more broadly by scholars of religion.

Here is a brief excerpt from pp. 9-10. I have found these observations to be particularly true (my emphasis):

Whether or not inerrantists consider a biblical writing to carry meanings beyond that of the original historical context, most insist on the inerrancy of the historical or original contextual meaning of biblical passages. Thus a proper method of interpreting the Bible and ascertaining its inerrant claims is historical study to determine biblical passages’ meanings in their original historical, linguistic, and literary contexts, often termed by inerrantists “grammatical-historical exegesis.” Inerrantists thus situate their projects within the arena of historical investigation. Accordingly, they commonly emphasize that proper academic-historical study of the Bible upholds inerrancy. Far from rejecting historical-criticism, inerrantists represent themselves as practicing true, honest, and legitimate historical scholarship . . . .  Inerrantists theorize the legitimate historical-investigative nature of their work in a variety of interrelated ways. Of note, they commonly contrast (true) inerrantist historical scholarship with the (pseudo-) scholarship of non-inerrantists and, furthermore, often deploy the rhetoric of science, criticism, or the legitimate-academic in their representations of this contrast.

The opening quote might also shed some light on the vibe of the article (p. 2):

It seems to me that the resistance of many intellectuals to sociological analysis, which is always suspected of crude reductionism, and which is found particularly odious when applied to their own universe, is rooted in a sort of ill-placed (spiritualist) point of honor which impedes them from accepting the realist representation of human action which is the first condition for scientific knowledge of the social world. More precisely, it is grounded in an entirely inadequate idea of their own dignity as “subjects,” which makes them see scientific analysis of practices as an attack on their “freedom” or their “disinterestedness.” Pierre Bourdieu (Practical Reason: On the Theory of Action,  viii-ix)

Young’s analysis does not reside on an abstract level. He cites chapter and verse from the works of a veritable who’s who of inerrantist biblical scholars. These include:

Gleason Archer, Richard Averbeck, G, K, Beale, Dan Block, Craig Blomberg, Darrell Bock, D. A. Carson, Paul Copan, Raymond Dillard, Richard Gaffin, Norman Geisler, Wayne Grudem, Carl F. H. Henry, James Hoffmeier, Walter Kaiser, John Oswalt, Vern Poythress, Richard Schultz, John Walton, E. J. Young.

Despite Young’s “Study of Religion” descriptive approach to his topic, I think it is safe to say–as might also be signaled by the above list of scholars–that his assessment of inerrantist scholarship as employing “protective strategies” and “privileging insider claims” will ruffle some feathers.

Yet still, the ball will be in their court to demonstrate why Young’s analysis is wrong without engaging in the very protective and self-affirming strategies Young details.

As I see it, the good news is that the scholarly world may be beginning to look more carefully at inerrantist biblical scholarship.

The bad news is that the scholarly world may be beginning to look more carefully at inerrantist biblical scholarship.


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  • newenglandsun

    “Far from rejecting historical-criticism, inerrantists represent themselves as practicing true, honest, and legitimate historical scholarship”
    I find it odd how someone can claim to be an inerrantist and yet uphold historical-criticism. Historical criticism was unknown in the Church’s tradition until a bunch of Germans came around in the 18th-19th centuries which challenged the mystical interpretations that had previously been given to the Bible.

    • Andrew Dowling

      “mystical interpretations”

      There was much “non-mystical” biblical interpretation prior to the 18th century.

      • newenglandsun

        Yes, from people like Baruch de Spinoza (17th c.) and what-not but very rarely did churchmen conduct non-mystical interpretation focusing on historical criticism. Historical criticism was much more popularized in the 18th to 19th centuries though in Germany.

        • Andrew Dowling

          I agree that’s when HC came into vogue. I guess I don’t consider much of traditional interpretation ie straight allegories to be necessarily mystical at all.

          • Have you read any Richard M. Weaver? You might like his Ideas Have Consequences:

            It was William of Occam who propounded the fateful doctrine of nominalism, which denies that universals have a real existence. His triumph tended to leave universal terms mere names serving our convenience. The issue ultimately involved is whether there is a source of truth higher than, and independent of, man; and the answer to the question is decisive for one’s view of the nature and destiny of humankind. The practical result of nominalist philosophy is to banish the reality which is perceived by the intellect and to posit as reality that which is perceived by the senses. With this change in the affirmation of what is real, the whole orientation of culture takes a turn, and we are on the road to modern empiricism. (3)

                The opposition here indicated brings us necessarily to the important topic of symbolism. The attack upon the symbolic operations of language by positivists is only part of the general attack upon symbolism under way ever since it was widely agreed that there is but one world and that it is the world which is apparent to the senses. The logic is unexceptionable; since the symbol is a bridge to the other, the “ideational” world, those who wish to confine themselves to experience must oppose symbolism. In fact, the whole tendency of empiricism and democracy in speech, dress, and manners has been toward a plainness which is without symbolic significance. The power of symbolism is greatly feared by those who wish to expel from life all that is nonrational in the sense of being nonutilitarian, as witness the attack of Jacobins upon crowns, cassocks, and flags. (159–160)

            I’ve long wondered about the use of the word ‘mystical’ as you have, about the layered interpretations of any given biblical text, etc. I wonder if there’s any helpful compare & contrast you could do between what some would call a “mystical interpretation” and what Weaver says, above.

  • Nate Sparks

    Walton is an inerrantist? I always knew his work seemed to go to a certain line then pull the punch, I guess I see why now. I still find it hard to see him openly endorsing the Chicago Statement, especially given his position of Genesis 1-3, though perhaps I just don’t know enough of him. Is this a very strongly held and argued position or are there institutional politics at play? Dr. Enns, I know you have worked with Dr. Walton on a few books, is he on the same level as a Carsons or Beale? Or does he hold a more nuanced and moderate position?

    • James

      Did you read the CT (March 2015) interview with John Walton? Having read his 2009 book but not his newest (I hope Pete reviews it–The Lost World of Adam and Eve), my first reaction to the article was, how convenient to believe in the historicity of a human whose world is largely lost to human investigation. My second reaction is, you are a gentleman (diplomat) and a scholar. You are tiptoeing as best you can “through the tulips (minefield)” of divergent views.

      • peteenns

        I have to agree with you, James. I read the book (advanced copy) and I see what he is doing for an inerrantist readership–trying to push them out of fundamentalism–but there is a fair amount of tiptoeing. Wheaton has a “historical Adam” clause in its statement, which is a factor, of course.

        • Gary

          Historical Adam? Higher Ed? I’ve only got BS. Please help me understand how I can respect such commitments. Sure, I can understand theological claims that are unverifiable there there is whole lot of evidence indicating that the Biblical Adam’s story just doesn’t get really any meaningful support across the fields of biology, geology, and more. Does Wheaton have to teach alternative history and science to comply? Or is it a wink-wink nod-nod that seems to be more under the banner of face-saving than relentless pursuit of truth. If Higher Ed isn’t pursuing truth, what the heck are yawl doing?

          • James

            If you believe in an ultimate reality known fully only to God, then you can place both biblical revelation and scientific investigation under that large umbrella. Obviously, there remains unresolvable conflict between Christian theism and atheistic materialism. I doubt Wheaton teaches “alternative” liberal arts and sciences, but perhaps they blink when it comes to theologically laden Adam. They may blink again. I venture complete academic freedom is a mirage in most institutions of higher learning both Christian and secular. “Relentless pursuit of truth” under the large umbrella should be our goal.

      • Nate Sparks

        I have not read the interview. I did read The Lost World of Genesis One. There, I found his ideas helpful, but felt he was pulling punches – I assumed it was for institutional concerns – by not taking his proposals to their full conclusions (in my opinion, of course). I was aware he believed in something of a historical Adam, though I didn’t get the impression from that book’s brief coverage that he took all of Genesis 2-3 literally as the Chicago statement would require. I guess I can see him holding to a nuanced notion of inerrancy; he wouldn’t be the first to hold to a modified definition while wanting to hold on to the title itself. I just don’t see how his over all views fit well with the strict biblicist view of Scripture embraced by some of the other names on the list.

        • newenglandsun

          “I just don’t see how his over all views fit well with the strict biblicist view of Scripture embraced by some of the other names on the list.”
          He might not fit the “let’s take all of the Bible literally” paradigm but biblicism is a bit more nuanced. I’ve had one Evangelical friend of mine tell me it’s the belief that the Bible is the final trump card in theological debate. The overall biblicist position seems a bit circular to me.

          • Nate Sparks

            I find your definition of biblicism a bit nebulous at best. If by that you mean the tendency of some to resort to a “well the Bible doesn’t say that, so…” hermeneutic, I agree. For instance, I once argued against a literalist reading of Genesis 1 based on ANE parallels and such. The response of my dialogue partner was “The Bible doesn’t mention other cultures in Genesis 1, so I’m not going to read it that way.” That is biblicism.

            However, if you simply mean to say that using Scripture as the basis for our theology, recognizing that its authority is rooted in God, then I disagree. The fullest understanding we can have of God is through the full revelation of Jesus and the fullest understanding of Jesus is offered through Scripture. We ought to study Scripture in accordance with the culture and time in which it was written, for sure. But it is a fine line to say that the appeal to Scripture as final theological authority is always equated to biblicism.

            For instance, without Scripture, I cannot arrive at a fully divine Jesus and it is only in appealing to Scripture as final authority that my theology can truly embrace that idea. I also takr Jesus literally when he says blessed are the peacemakers and actually try to live the Sermon of the Mount instead of just spiritualizing it. I hardly think that means I am a biblicist, but perhaps we disagree.

            Either way, God bless!

          • newenglandsun

            Yes, I would say that if you contend that only via scripture you can arrive at Jesus being divine than you are a biblicist. Ironically, Christian Smith’s book “Bible Made Impossible” references David Hart’s summary of the Arian heresy in his own “Atheist Delusions” where Hart basically states that both sides in the Arian controversy could appeal to scripture but it was ultimately the soteriological view of the church that dominated. Without tradition, Christians would not believe Jesus is fully divine today.

            I’m confused with what you mean by “blessed are the peacemaker”. I don’t spiritualize the Sermon on the Mount away but I’m not entirely certain picking and choosing where and when to take Jesus literally works. He also says in one place “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34) and in another “let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one” (Luke 22:36). I think blessed are the peacemakers refer to those who try to settle disputes to prevent unnecessary damage but I cannot see Jesus as someone who was a radical pacifist completely adverse to war.

          • Nate Sparks

            I could do the exegetical Olympics with you all day. I could show you how you just took an ironically literalist approach to show me how Jesus wasn’t non-violent, given the context of the quoted passages. It is well worn territory, and I didn’t come here to debate for days. We can disagree, though I would caution calling anyone who recognizes that Church tradition us rooted in Scripture and thus you are still appealing to Scripture a biblicist. My hermeneutic is not that varied from Peter Enns’. I don’t consider doctrines like the perpetual virginity of Mary or her sinlessness rooted in Scripture (no offense to any Catholics in the room) because they didn’t come from Scripture or from historical tradition but from much later tradition of papal origin only. Nothing against the papacy, I’m not anit-Catholic- I don’t consider them non-Christian- but I don’t put it on par with Scripture when it comes to authority.

            Also, I’m not sure how you read the Gospels or Paul or Hebrews without arriving at a divine Jesus. We clearly see things differently, I can accept that. Peace to you in Christ.

          • newenglandsun

            “Also, I’m not sure how you read the Gospels or Paul or Hebrews without arriving at a divine Jesus.”
            I actually read the Gospels and Paul and Hebrews and ended up ultimately arriving at the notion that Jesus was a creature. Verses such as Col. 1:15 and Rev. 3:14 seemed to me to indicate that he was.

            “We can disagree, though I would caution calling anyone who recognizes that Church tradition us rooted in Scripture and thus you are still appealing to Scripture a biblicist.”
            It honestly wasn’t my definition of a biblicist. It was my Evangelical friend’s “defense” of biblicism after I had accused him of bibliolatry.

            “I could show you how you just took an ironically literalist approach to show me how Jesus wasn’t non-violent, given the context of the quoted passages.”
            Of course I take a literalist approach. A literalist approach holds that everything in the Bible which could be taken literally is taken literally. Everyone take a literalist approach to some extent. Literalism is not biblicism. I’m not trying to engage in Biblical hermeneutics here, honestly. You were the one who claimed to take the “blessed are the peacemakers” verse from Jesus seriously. I am simply asking why you don’t take either Matt. 10:34 or Luke 22:36 literally as well.

            For the record, I’m not Catholic. I’m a Continuing Anglican. Closer in theology to a Catholic of course than a Protestant. No, I’m not necessarily a Christian pacifist though I don’t see that as a heresy that needs to be stamped on. I actually admire Christian pacifists. If not for Tolstoy, I’d still be a Luciferian. But I don’t see Christian pacifism as binding on Christian orthodoxy either. Our parish priest fought in Desert Storm and he is quite a peacemaker.

          • newenglandsun

            RE: Perpetual virginity–yes, I believe in the perpetual virginity. That is defined in the seventh ecumenical council (the Eastern Orthodox also hold to it). But it did not come “from much later tradition of papal origin only”. The only ancient theologian I’m aware of who flat-out rejected it was Tertullian and he was heterodox at best on the Trinity. St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome, St. Athanasius and numerous others accepted it (4th-5th century) way before the Papacy was in its current position in Western Rite Catholicism. The Syriac Orthodox (in the Oriental Orthodox Church) have a tradition that claims Mary wasn’t even married and that she and Joseph broke off the engagement before-hand. Having given birth to God, he deemed her too holy to even touch. As the NT type Ark of God (how Catholics, Orthodox, et al) defend the ever-virginity typically, she is too holy to even touch. So there is Biblical reason and Traditional reason to accept this doctrine. If you were in my church, it’d be binding doctrine.

          • Nate Sparks

            Okay, I’m going to attempt to wrap this up on my end. We could honestly do this ad nauseum, and probably get precisely nowhere in the process. I will begin by apologizing for being overly general by placing Mary’s perpetual virginity and immaculate nature in the same historical category. I was aware of the antiquity of perpetual virginity in relation, it was an oversight of rhetoric and one I should have been more careful with.

            That having been said, I feel some things need to be clarified here. I am not aiming at offense, I respect your tradition and really have no desire to debate it. It would certainly make for an interesting dialogue in another setting, but this is hardly the time or place. We are brothers in Christ, that trumps the rest. So please do not feel as if I am attacking here, just laying my cards on the table.

            1) You seem to be under the impression that the working definition of the word inerrancy is simply the assertion that the Bible is “without error”. On the surface, that may be well and good. But since 1978, when a group of evangelical/fundamentalist Protestant leaders (very fine line there sometimes) met in Chicago to hash the definition out, that is reductionistic at best. Catholics believe the Bible is without error because a papal decree says so (because the Pope is infallible) and that ” without error” it will fully support the truth of all their traditions (perpetual virginity and so forth). The protestant definition, as widely accepted, means nothing of the sort. It has to do with a rather difficult working out of science and history and such and whether truth in Scripture is contextually bound. While I could discuss where I perceive shortcomings in both approaches, I will simply say that you can say Catholics have A doctrine of inerrancy, as they have chosen to define it via the Dei Verbum, but not that they believe in inerrancy proper as defined by the Chicago Statement.

            2) Biblicism is a shorthand term for biblical literalism. I don’t know where your evangelical friend got his definition, he certainly isn’t using it according to its common definition. Biblical Literalism is the hermeneutical commitment to taking the Bible literally even when there are other concerns at hand. It is often connected to concerns for preserving inerrancy becaude biblicists operate under the assumption that the truth of Scripture is a once, for all deal and not bound (ultimately) by context or culture.

            A couple examples of how this often plays out: (a) they believe Jesus is predicted by the OT without any necessarily anachronistic reading of the text (think Jesus teaching the men on the Emmaus road as a counterpoint) and (b) that the Genesis 1 account depicts the only possible way in which the world could have been created and that the Israelites did not compose their creation myth in the theater of Ancient Near Eastern thought (see Ps. 74 or Job 26 for an interesting consideration here).

            I could possibly see John Walton (the person this whole thread was about originally) agreeing with the first, but not the second. He has written several books on the Ancient Near Eastern parallels to Genesis 1-11. He certainly pulls punches, but he is hardly literal in his reading. Thus why I was perplexed and wondered how much institutional politics are at play. You brought Catholicism into this, I simply respected your comments and engaged you.

            3) In regards to interpreting the Bible literally: that’s rarely a helpful hermeneutical commitment in and of itself. For instance, the passage from Matthew about Jesus bringing the sword makes your point well enough by itself. In context, it is speaking to a Jewish audience of how the words Christ is speaking will divide families against each other, a metaphor/foreshadowing for how the Jewish community will persecute Christian. It has nothing to do with literal warfare. Likewise, the Luke passage has a context deeply rooted in Isaiah 53 and in Christ’s previous command to the disciples to carry nothing for their own welfare earlier in the book in Luke 10. They were told to “buy a sword” so he could “be counted among the lawless”. Notice they didn’t have to sell anything, they had already disobeyed Jesus previous command and carried the swords. Jesus “it is enough” is hardly a condoning statement, as he tells Peter later not to use his sword when he strikes out at Jesus captors.

            In Colossians the term firstborn of all creation is a direct play on God’s reference to the Hebrews as his “firstborn son” from among the nations, an idea introduced first in Exodus 4 and echoed throughout the OT. It is also related to the notion of being “firstborn from the dead” just three verses later after he is described as containing “the fullness of God” and “from which all things comecome”/”in which all things are held together”. For Paul, a Jew’s Jew by his own claimclaim, no one was the sustainer of creation but Yahweh himself. Furthermoe, in Philippians 2 he even says Jesus was “in very nature God” and that upon his resurrection he was given the “name above all names”. That name, by the way…Yahweh.

            Lastly, I’m not sure how you’re reading Revelation 3:14. It says that Jesus is the “origin of God’s creation”. The beginning point (i.e. origin) of creation is God himself, its an encyclical for proclaiming his deity. For another statement on this, read John 1:1-18. If ever there was a direct claim of Jesus divinity in the Gospels, it is there.

            Like I said before, I can do exegetical olympics all night. I could – and in some cases have – generate 20 pages on any one of these passages and we could go in circles. That doesn’t really accomplish anything though, except to further entrench and divide. That would defeat my purpose. My point here is, the Bible isn’t meant to be read literally but literarily. Sometimes, as a literary work, it can be taken literally, with regards to context on a number of levels (not even just historical-grammatical). Often, it needs to be understood with a great deal more nuance than a mere literalist approach will allow.

            3) There no such thing as avoiding hermeneutics. The claim to read the Bible literally is a hermeneutic, as a hermeneutic is the framework by which you decide how Scripture ought to be interpreted. You have chosen to read literally whenever it seems appropriate and to consider church tradition as equal in authority to Scripture. Whether or not you wanted to discuss hermeneutics, you already have.

            4) I’m going to just throw this out there, please understand I respect and have read the Fathers. However, they were deeply rooted in and dependent upon Greek metaphysics and biology for conceiving how God worked. The divine, that which is pure, could (in their minds) be contaminated if combined with the finite, impure. Thus Mary’s perpetual virginity is an outpouring of the fact that she was blameless before God and (for them) relations with a man would be a carnal act by which sin would enter her via the semen of Joseph (see for instance the Augustinian reading of Romans 5 for the notion of seminal transference). They believed that all genetic information came from the male, and thus Sin through Adam (as Augustine’s read it, in the tradition of others as well) is a way of explaining Christ’s sinlessness. It extends to Mary if she was chosen for being blameless before God and a virgin. Sex would be sin entering her body by that metaphysical/ biological understanding.

            Also, the Ark of God from the OT didn’t contain God, it was his judgment seat amongst his people and eventually inside the tabernacle/temple. It was the placeplace,symbolically or literally, from which he ruled his people. The metaphor applied to Mary then seems odd to me, but I understand it is used. Like I said before, I’m not trying to launch a full-scale attack here. I’m not even trying to debate the doctrine. The point is, both rationales are a particular interpretation of Scripture, assuming the authority of tradition, not a literal, surface level reading of it. You have to do some gymnastics with Jewish metaphysics and temple imagery to arrive where you want to be.

            If you choose to accept the doctrine, or any of the doctrines, of the Catholic church, I do not hold that against you. I find many of the teachings of Catholicism a beautiful form of the Christian faith and I assume you have thought it out and reasoned it for yourself. However, the blanket assumption that all tradition is simply based on Scripture as a literal reading – you also have to creatively render some passages in Matthew to keep Mary a Virgin, not to mention the tradition from the earliest centuries of the Church of James the elder of Jerusalem being Jesus brother – is misplaced. Interpretation is always taking place, you can accept that interpretation as your own or not. We all do interpretation and thus we must return to Scripture as the thing being interpreted to determine if it is being properly treated.

            You assume a constant, I assume a variable. I am fine by that, just trying to clarify the point that is all. As I said before, I have no desire to actually hold that debate with you. It makes no real difference to me.

            I hope you have seen respect here. I sincerely intend it. If I may be so bold, without sounding condescending (I hope) I would perhaps suggest, if you have the time and will, reading the Sacra Pagina commentary series. It is a New Testament commentary series entirely by Catholic scholars. You seem to have high respect for Catholic belief, though not a Catholic yourself. You might find it interesting to see how they wrestle with the same ideas you present when reading the various texts.

            Anyway, I wish you peace in Christ. I apoligize for the length of the post. I look forward to any response you have.

          • newenglandsun

            I’m not saying I hold strictly to everything in the Bible is literal. No one does. I wrote a post on a LIGHTS method of Biblical interpretation recently.


            I also don’t see anything wrong with the Church fathers and their teachings on Greek metaphysics and why we should reject them just because of that. This could go on forever but there were numerous Protestant theologians who accepted the perpetual virginity as well–John Wesley and Martin Luther for instance.

            Also, for more information on Biblicism, you might want to look into Michael Bird’s “Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction”. I honestly know of very few Evangelicals who hold to such rampant literalism. Literalism to some degree, yes. I don’t think any one can completely throw out some level of literalism. But that it’s scientifically and historically accurate necessarily, that was never taught to me as an Evangelical. So I don’t know where you’re getting your information on what Biblicism is.

          • Nate Sparks

            In response to both your responses, briefly, you are right to point out a plurality within evangelicalism. However, conservatives have long been part and parcel of the “public persona” of the evangelical movement. See the controversies that have taken place as Bryan College or Westminster Theological Seminary involving issues of inerrancy recently. It may sound absurd, but these lines are being drawn. For another example, try reading the blog of John MacArthur or the writings of many from The Gospel Coalition. These are the people many evangelicals turn to and they insist the Bible is entirely historically and scientifically accurate in the most literal of senses. Ken Hamm is on even the extreme end, yet I have plenty of friends who take him seriously and have visited his museum.

            I was raised in the fundamentalist and evangelical churches, I was educated in an evangelical high school, trust me they take this stuff seriously. I once tried to apply to teach at a Christian high school but stopped half way through filling out the application because they required all staff to fully uphold the Chicago Statement. Most evangelical churches work language from the Chicago Statement directly into their churches core beliefs. I would say read The Chicago Statement then go website searching for churches in the evangelical realm. You may find some more ecumenical, you will find a lot of them that have wording borrowed directly from TCSBI in their core beliefs. I’m glad you were spared the nasty side of evangelicalism, you have been truly lucky. Don’t assume your experience is normative, take the testimony of so many others that it really does happen.

            Lastly, I never said you read the Bible literally always, I demonstrated that the notion of a literal reading at all is misleading. The very idea assumes the text is plain enough for a person to grasp it without bringing anything them self to the text. It doesn’t happen, we are always interpreting so the task should be to interpret well based on the evidence. You take certain evidence, I take other. I imagine we agree on a lot, disagree on others. Honestly I’m not that concerned with it.

            If you see no issue with a particular framework, that is up to you to evaluate. I don’t see it being a major issue whether the Greek metaphysics of the Fathers is an issue. I see the Fathers as important and informative for the history of the Church. They provide authority on how the Church has believed and how certain issues have been resolved historically. I do not see their authority as superceding Scripture, but they can provide a helpful interpretive framework. I happen to think they get it wrong sometimes, but like I said: let’s agree to disagree. There isn’t much at stake here other than the opinions of two people at this point. Even if we spent days hashing this out, I’m not sure what we would really have accomplished.

            I would say, if you want an interesting history of inerrancy as an outworking of modernist epistemology from an evangelical perspective, try reading Stanley Grenz’s Beyond Foundationalism. He speaks a great deal about the notion of biblical literalism. It is enlightening and very thought provoking, in my opinion. It might help you see what I am talking about.

            If you have further thoughts, by all means. At this point, I feel it wise to focus my attention elsewhere. I am perfectly happy arriving in separate places here, my faith is big enough for plurality. Peace to you in Christ, brother.

          • newenglandsun

            “I happen to think they get it wrong sometimes, but like I said: let’s agree to disagree.”
            I wish it could be as simple as that. If you wish to continue though this discussion, please feel free to browse around my blog. I am pluralist in some senses–that is, I don’t believe one goes to Hell for getting a few things wrong here and there but I am no relativist at all.

            Do the Church fathers get things wrong? I’ve yet to see a scholarly refutation of something they’ve gotten wrong. If they do, no more than us. But at the same time, these guys gave us the Bible. They knew more about it than we do. So I’m not going to just simply dismiss their insight.

            Back to Evangelicalism for a second–I have an Evangelical background myself. My first church showed us a series once called the Truth Project from Focus on the Family. Of course, it taught young earth creationism. But not everyone at my first church agreed with young earth creationism. Yet we were definitely Evangelical. Non-fundamentalist. My paternal grandparents who are Baptists are much more strict on what we are to watch and what-not. They won’t do things like Pokemon or looking at things that have to do with promoting witchcraft like Harry Potter. I’d say my first church I practically was raised in was quite diverse on a lot of non-important issues. My family was less strict than others–I’ve known families that wouldn’t let their children read Harry Potter but we weren’t all that way.

            The second church I explored was a little bit more on the left-end of the Evangelical spectrum. Yeah, we’d read guys like John Piper and Francis Chan and what-not but it was a church that ordained women and was also influenced by N.T. Wright.

            Like I said, feel free to pop a question on my blog if you have one and I’ll try to get back to you.

          • Nate Sparks

            To help clarify definition confusion over biblicism, on the cover of Christian Smith’s The Bible Made Impossible it offers his definition as such:

            Biblicism, an approach to the Bible common among some American evangelicals, emphasizes together the Bible’s exclusive authority, infallibility, clarity, self-sufficiency, internal consistency, self-evident meaning, and universal applicability.

            Exclusive authority is derived from TCSBI meaning that if the “truth” of the biblical text is challenged by science or history, we choose science. Self-sufficiency and self-evident meaning both point to the fact that you don’t need interpretive frameworks, it is all literally there on the page. Internal consistency means that regardless of genre or any other considerations the Bible never tells a contradictory story…even in the Gospels, all the facts line up if you try hard enough. And Universal Applicability circles back around with the rest in mind to the idea that the Bible simply means what it means and no one needs to interpret it. It can be preached the same in Iraq, Colombia, and China because it transcends cultural considerations.

            The language there is quite literally derived from TCSBI. Since you have referenced Smith a few times, I thought that might be helpful since I didn’t even have to actually crack the book open to get a definition provided for me. I would actually be interested in reading further. I perused what Amazon would allow for free and it seems like an interesting read. Thanks for suggesting his work.

            Sorry for the addition. I was looking up the book and saw that and figured it might be helpful. I bid you adieu for real this time. Peace in Christ.

          • Chris Falter

            “TCSBI”? TC Spann Bible Institute? I seem to be missing some context and I want to understand what you wrote, Nate.

          • Nate Sparks

            The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Got sick of typing it longhand. Thanks for clarifying

          • Nate Sparks

            Quick addition for a point of aggreance: many evangelicals gakl into bibliolatry, whether they want to admit it or not. In my opinion that is a big weakness of the Chicago Statement, it assumes God is limited by Scripture, thus taking the authority of Scripture from sources other than God. I believe we ought to worship the God Scripture points to not worship a book we claim contains our God. I don’t know your friend, but as someone who exists within the evangelical church, your criticism there is fair of how evangelical inerrancy/biblicism functions.

          • newenglandsun

            I would highly doubt my friend accepts the definitions of the Chicago Statement either. Evangelicalism is honestly so complex. There are Methodists, Nazarenes, Baptists, Anglicans, etc., all within the Evangelical movement. Honestly, from my own Evangelical experience, I’ve found some of the paintings of Evangelicalism on this blog here quite odd…I feel like I’ve entered The Twilight Zone and am trying to figure out the language.

    • newenglandsun

      I would imagine that Christian Smith, the author of aforesaid “Bible Made Impossible” is also an inerrantist. As he himself is a convert to Catholicism, Catholics require a belief in Biblical inerrancy (as far as what the Church has given them about the Bible is inerrant).

      Dei Verbum reads that “since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the sake of salvation” (Ch. III, paragraph 11)

      • Andrew Dowling

        Are you a convert? The Catechism itself isn’t “inerrant” in the fundamentalist Protestant sense. Trust me inerrantism a la the Chicago Statement is very foreign to Catholic theology, even on the conservative end.

        • newenglandsun

          “inerrantism a la the Chicago Statement is very foreign to Catholic theology”
          Never said that Catholics understood inerrantism a la the Chicago Statement.

          “The Catechism itself isn’t “inerrant” in the fundamentalist Protestant sense.”
          I never said the Catechism was inerrant. I said they viewed Scriptures as inerrant. The Catechism undergoes changes once in a while but still expresses the beliefs of the Catholic Church. Also, I never cited the CCC. I cited Dei Verbum which explains the official position on scriptural inspiration.

          “Are you a convert?”
          I had thought about converting and have received quite thorough instruction in Catholic theology, have attended Catholic liturgies so I’m fairly certain I know more about Catholic theology than you do.

          • Andrew Dowling

            That question wasn’t mean as a snipe and I’m not sure why you took it that way. And since I was born and raised Catholic with 8 years of Jesuit schooling I would venture to say you do not know more than me, but really I’m not interested in a lame debate about who is more informed about Catholic theology.

          • newenglandsun

            e-communication is terrible.

          • gimel

            I should say that Catholic doctrine does not teach ‘inerrancy’ of Scriptures as much as ‘infallibility’. That is Bible is, in Catholic view, never wrong on the matters of salvation, so that we can trust its contents in that regard. It is not to be taken as always and perfectly right about everything else. Augustine has had much to say about this, especially in relation to his view on Creation.

          • newenglandsun

   defines inerrant as an adjective meaning “free from error; infallible.”

          • gimel

            There sometimes comes a point in a discussion where online dictionaries quite simply are not subtle and/or precise enough. I think we crossed that barrier the moment official Catholic doctrine was invoked.

          • newenglandsun

            I just don’t see a difference between “infallibility” and “inerrancy”.

          • gimel

            And here I hoped my comment would be enough to show this difference…

            Very well, inerrancy: Bible is “infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches”, emphasis on all, “without error or fault in all its teaching”, again, emphasis on all.

            Compare and contrast infallibility: Bible is never wrong on matters of faith, morality and salvation in specific. Read words of Dei Verbum you quoted and I’m certain you’ll understand. I also invite you to take a look at CCC, points 105-108 and 135-136. As Compendium puts it, Scriptures “teach without error those truths which are necessary
            for our salvation”. But it is understood that, eg., they might not be without error on matters of science (shape of Earth etc.) and/or history (what conquest of Canaan?).

            Thus, inerrancy assumes infallibility and much, much more, thus it’s a much stronger position. Hope I clarified things a bit.

          • newenglandsun

            Yeah…I still don’t see a difference between infallibility over inerrancy. I feel it’s more just an alternative definition of inerrancy and nothing more.

          • gimel

            Once again in other terms then. Inerrancy > infallibility. Those that believe in inerrant Scriptures (“Bible NEVER teaches us wrong”) by necessity believe in infallibility (“Bible never teaches us wrong about FAITH AND SALVATION”), not the other way round. Thus it’s possible for someone to believe in infallibility of Scriptures while not believing in their inerrancy (“Bible never teaches us wrong about faith and salvation, NOTHING MORE”).

            In context it means infallibility crowd readily admits that sometimes Bible is wrong but never where it really matters ie. it fullfills its primary mission: tell us about God, His nature, His will, His plan for humanity as a whole and each and every one of us.

            From this point of view inerrantists put too much faith in Bible, namely they tend to disregard external sources in order to protect their belief that all the little details (historical, scientific, linguistic etc.) are right. Even when (especially when) these details are not secondary but tertiary to what really (according to ‘infallible Bible’ view) matters: relations between God, world, humanity as such and single people.

            How inerrantists regard infallibles (?) is better left to someone who holds that particular belief. Ask your local IFB preacher and you’ll get the picture. From what I gather, most tend to put up a slippery slope, positing that if we can’t trust every part of word of God, we can’t trust any of it, including prophecies/mentions/descriptions concerning Resurrection of God’s Word.

            At any rate, once again, inerrancy is not equal to infallibility. I’m afraid that’s the most comprehensive explanation I can come up with.

          • newenglandsun

            No. I see inerrancy as the same as infallibility. Inerrancy=infallibility. So I think we’re just going to be talking past each other.

          • peteenns

            Just adding a thought, NES: YOU might not see a difference, and that is fine, but evangelicalism is very keen on the difference.

            Infallibility is usually a reference to scripture being true on spiritual/doctrinal issues. Inerrancy is extended to matters of science and history. The argument they make is that if inerrancy is not true then infallibility falters also. hence, believing in biblical infallibility isn’t good enough.

          • newenglandsun

            Yes…I just don’t understand that. It’s just such a word-game to me.

          • gimel

            Alas, I fear we are talking on a level where certain precision is needed in order to go on. If you can’t make any distinction between these two terms, at the very least you need to acknowledge that there is a difference between two modes of thinking I showed you, no matter how we call them. I will continue to name them ‘inerrancy’ and ‘infallibility’, and while you’re free to call them however you wish, most people ‘in the know’ label them just this way. By refusing to understand difference between them and to apply commonly used names, you are making it harder for yourself to understand the discourse. But hey, if you wanna talk past your interlocutors whenever these issues are mentioned, you’re free to do so.

            (Edit: changed ‘applying’. Stupid English grammar…)

          • newenglandsun

            It’s not so much I think that those “in the know” are wrong in labeling the terms but that grammatically, to most lay people like myself, there isn’t a difference between the words “inerrant” and “infallible”. Fallible, by definition, is to be prone to error. Infallible, by definition, is to be free from error. Errant, by definition, means to be prone to error. Inerrant, by definition, is to be free from error.

            Whether people “in the know” label the two this way honestly hardly matters to me. It’s a deceptive tactic to assert that the words mean essentially two different things but alas, theologians like to go all froo-froo these days over the tiniest things, don’t they? Maybe people you can tell these magicians who are supposedly “in the know” how to use a dictionary in the future so it’s less confusing on the rest of us laity?

          • gimel

            I’m terribly sorry, but you cannot barge into a field of discussion with established terminology and declare said terminology null and void with ‘common-sense’ definitions, all in the name of “avoiding confusion in the rest of laity”. Theology, from the very day humans started to contemplate the divine, tends to focus on the tiniest things because sometimes, just sometimes, details matter. If you do not believe me, ask a chemist about subtleties of their jargon. Or a physicist, or an engineer, or a mathematician… This language arose out of necessity, in order to avoid confusion. It’s not ‘deceptive’ to acknowledge two different views on Scriptures and come up with names that, while synonymous, are not exactly the same. On the contrary, it’s only natural.

            If you insist on willfull ignorance and magical thinking (“names are pretty much the same therefore there is no difference between named objects”), I’m afraid this conversation literally can not advance and we’re stuck at the same point. I ask you to accept, for the sake of discourse, that there is an appreciable difference between ‘infallible’ and ‘inerrant’ AS POSITIONS re. Bible, not necessarily AS WORDS. Feel free to call these positions however you like, but until you raise a number of disciples that dominate discourse with your ‘common-sense friendly’ terminology (or until you do it on your own, why not? So, how do you call these two, quite different views?), names that are already assigned and internalized by experts are here to stay.

            Long story short: stop focusing on names, start thinking about substance.

          • newenglandsun

            Well I personally don’t differentiate infallible from inerrant. I think if one says they believe the Bible is inerrant, then they also mean it’s infallible. And if one says the Bible is infallible, they also mean it’s inerrant. I do not accept that a bunch of theologians can essentially tell me what I do and do not believe about the Bible’s inerrancy. I do not believe it is historically/scientifically accurate all of the time but I consider myself a Biblical inerrantist because that seems to be the accepted position of my church. Whether or not someone thinks of me as an actual inerrantist or just one who thinks the Bible is just infallible makes no difference to me because I, being “in the know” know that the dictionary does not differentiate between inerrant and infallible. So I happily accept the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy and could care less whether a grammatically incorrect being who thinks they are somehow “in the know” thinks there actually is a “difference” between the words “inerrant” and “infallible”.

            No, there will be no conversational advancement I’m afraid if you keep telling me that there is a difference between the words inerrant and infallible. Both mean “without error”. So whether or not a theologian who is “in the know” thinks there is a difference between the two terms does not matter to me. Instead, crack open a dictionary, look at the two words, notice that they mean THE SAME EXACT THING and stop telling people like me who are in the know about words who think there is no difference between Biblical inerrancy and Biblical infallibility that we are wrong for thinking so. I say if you deny Biblical inerrancy and accept Biblical infallibility you are simply suffering cognitive dissonance disorder and EVERYONE WITH A BRAIN WOULD AGREE WITH ME!

            Get “in the know” and STOP telling me there’s a difference between inerrancy and infallibility.

            Here you go:

            Wait…is infallible REALLY defined as ABSOLUTELY trustworthy or sure? WOW! Unless you mean to tell me that there’s now somehow a meaning of absolutely that does not mean totally or wholly, that sounds like “Biblical infallibility” means “the Bible is free from scientific and historical errors”. Tell these so-called theologians who are supposedly “in the know” to use a dictionary in the future.

          • newenglandsun

            Note what they state in the article:
            “The actual interpretation of these questions further depends on the various denominations and theological schools of thought.”

            WOW! So it sounds like those supposedly “in the know” can’t even agree on how to define their own goddamn terms!

          • gimel

            I’m done here. You win, gg, keep thinking Catholics believe in inerrancy of Bible (especially defined as in the article you quote).

          • newenglandsun

            Dei Verbum states that the Bible is WITHOUT ERROR (chapter III). Tell you what–I will quit thinking that the official Catholic position is Biblical inerrancy when “without error” stops meaning “inerrant”. Sound good? Now, can you tell me that there is a difference between Biblical infallibility and Biblical inerrancy? No, you cannot because those in the know (who have read a dictionary) know that there is no distinction between inerrancy and infallibility.

            We can continue this conversation again when we have agreed on what inerrant and infallible mean. Until you accept my definition though, you will always be wrong. My advice–LEARN how to use a dictionary. Sure, you might disagree with the mainstream “Evangelical” theologians’ definitions of “inerrant” vs. “infallible” but guess what, I don’t take authority from the Evangelicals. My church accepts Biblical inerrancy and how we define it is what you would call Biblical infallibility. We don’t see a difference and honestly, I think Evangelicals who do see a difference belong in a loony bin.

          • gimel

            FYI I am Catholic, friend. And I will, sadly, continue to be wrong, for you gave no definitions re. theological POSITIONS. And if you don’t see any difference between two POSITIONS I described, you’re not very good at theology. (Or else I am simply terrible at explaining, true. But then, so must be rationalwiki)
            If you see the difference between POSITIONS I NAMED ‘infallibility’ and ‘inerracy’ but refuse to apply said LABELS, feel free to assign them new ones. Don’t forget to inform me when you’re done.
            Alas, I have not read Dei Verbum in its entirety, but the paragraph you quoted states that Bible teaches us without error that which God wanted us to know for the sake of our salvation. In other words, Scriptures are always right when it comes to faith and morality. Not necessarily when they deal with other matters, or at least so I infer. This POSITION I choose to name ‘infallibility’ rather than ‘inerrancy’ because, while these WORDS are synonymous, ‘inerrant’ was already used to NAME another POSITION and these two POSITIONS are appreciably different. No matter how many dictionaries you throw at me, as long as this WORDING dominates the discourse (ie. these NAMES are assigned to these POSITIONS by most participants), I will continue to use it.
            Once again, I fear you have let similarity between LABELS (which is regrettable but anavoidable) obscure differences between SUBSTANCE. Long story short, no, ‘inerrancy’ as defined in rationalwiki article you quoted (or, for that matter, as related by me a few posts up) does not really fit official teaching of Catholic Church. ‘Infallibility’ (as defined etc.) is much closer.
            It’s good that you believe in infallibility of Scriptures, as does your church. And if you call it ‘inerrancy’, that’s your choice. But please, pretty please with cherry on top, do remember that you are entering a discourse with established rules, wording and definitions. You may choose to disregard them, but that makes all our lives more difficult.

          • newenglandsun
          • gimel

            You never addressed my other points.

          • newenglandsun


            Wanted to make clear my point with the rationalwiki article. If you’ll note, after giving definitions, they EXPLICITLY state the following:
            “The *actual* interpretation of these questions *further depends* on the *various denominations* and theological schools of thought.”

            THIS is what is referred to as a “disclaimer”. They’re initial definition of each term MIGHT seem to agree with you at first–that is, if you take away the disclaimer. From what I have read of Catholic theology, their position on the Bible they seem to define as inerrancy but not in the sense you refer to it as.

            “But this state of things is no reason why the Catholic commentator, inspired by an active and ardent love of his subject and sincerely devoted to Holy Mother Church, should in any way be deterred from grappling again and again with these difficult problems, hitherto unsolved, not only that he may refute the objections of the adversaries, but also may attempt to find a satisfactory solution, which will be in full accord with the doctrine of the Church, in particular with the traditional teaching regarding the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture, and which will at the same time satisfy the indubitable conclusion of profane sciences.” (Divino Afflante Spiritu (Encyclical of Pope Pius XII), 46)

          • 8 years of Jesuit schooling

            I’ve been wondering about whether something like this might be the case. 🙂 If I were Catholic instead of Protestant, I have to believe I would be a Jesuit. I appreciate the attitude by the way, of caring more about heading toward the truth with others than who knows more by some human standard. I wish more would hold it…

      • Nate Sparks

        You assume a lot between what a Catholic doctrine states and what a Catholic scholar believes. Most lay Catholics technically believe the Pope is infallible yet many I know question Francis and take great offense at the directions he is taking the Catholic Church – personally I like the guy. Also, the Catholics don’t take this doctrine in the same direction as the Chicago Statement does. They are thinking spiritual truth, not historical/scientific truth so they see no contradiction with secular science and things of that nature.

        • newenglandsun

          “Most lay Catholics technically believe the Pope is infallible yet many I know question Francis and take great offense at the directions he is taking the Catholic Church – personally I like the guy.”
          That is certainly true but based on another book of Christian Smith’s, I’d say he’s a little bit more orthodox than most Catholic theologians these days.

          “Also, the Catholics don’t take this doctrine in the same direction as the Chicago Statement does.”
          I never said that their position on inerrancy was the same.

          • Nate Sparks

            You assumed the word inerrancy would mean anything to most Catholics not versed in Protestant politics. It wouldn’t. Most Catholics outside the academic realms and clergy are not well versed in these kinds of things, nor is there a singular approach to how they read their Scriptures. You are reading one author and a doctrinal statement and projecting a static belief onto a fairly pluralistic tradition. I mean no insult here, I’m not even looking to keep up this debate. But you keep talking about Tradition being needed for theology – I don’t actually disagree – the Catholics embrace that more than probably any other church. You can’t get the perpetual virginity of Mary or her sinlessness from Scripture – at least not from an inerrantist view of it.

          • newenglandsun

            “You assumed the word inerrancy would mean anything to most Catholics not versed in Protestant politics.”
            No, I did not. I simply stated Dei Verbum and reiterated that Catholic belief does hold to Biblical inerrancy. I’m not certain that most Catholics care much about Protestant politics.

            Dei Verbum is a papal encyclical which expresses infallible beliefs of the Catholic Church. Catholics take the papal encyclicals as expressing infallible statements and something to wrestle with much like Anglicans do with the XXXIX Articles.

            My only point is that if you state Catholics do not believe in an inerrant Bible, you are simply wrong.

    • Joey

      Nate, I sensed this after reading his book, “Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible.” I thought it was a good read in regards to background, history, and how cultures and peoples in a similar environment will, most likely, hold similar view points of the world, life, life after death, etc. However, when I came across the same info you did- endorsing the Chicago Statement- I thought, “Wait a minute. You have every right to believe what you believe and write what you want; but, why bother writing a book that gives the reader this much insight to then say, ‘oh, by the way, they [Hebrews] were much different than their neighbors and their message does not have much to do with their neighbors’ message or neighbors’ worldview, but is instead an error free transmission'”? To borrow your phrase; it sounds like “institutional politics at play.”

  • hoosier_bob

    I was recently reading Molly Worthen’s superb book on evangelicalism as part of my recovery from 15 years in the movement.

    As much as evangelicals resist sociological analyses of their movement, it’s impossible to understand evangelical theology without looking at its sociology. It’s no accident that the movement emerged in the late 1940s amid a period of rapid technological and social change. Inerrancy emerged as a defense a way of preserving “truth” in a world where patriarchy and hierarchy were giving way to the uncertainty of a democratic meritocracy.

    I think that partly explains why evangelicalism has proven so incapable of reform. Despite what its proponents may say, the truth is more of a secondary concern. First and foremost, evangelical scholars are expected to arrive at conclusions that give credence to evangelicals’ socio-cultural defensiveness. The attractiveness of inerrancy is that it seems to lend support to the kind of patriarchal and hierarchical social order that most evangelicals would prefer.

    • James

      I agree the basic issue is crisis of authority. Does our idea of it reside in God himself by means of scripture (NT Wright) or the analogy of incarnation (I forget who)? I’m not knocking these or other positive attempts to clarify the nature of the divine-human relation written or otherwise. I even find gaping holes in my own epistemology. Now I’m talking too much…

      • Gary

        It is a crisis of authority. Given the failed ecclesiological experiment of the Reformation, the major competitors for authority nowadays compete with information, shaming, and control. It’s not kenotic. Watch it fail.

  • “As I see it, the good news is that the scholarly world may be beginning to look more carefully at inerrantist biblical scholarship.

    The bad news is that the scholarly world may be beginning to look more carefully at inerrantist biblical scholarship.”

    That cracked me up right there Pete!

  • I find it more than a bit ironic that as you post this item this week, and in light of the past several months of your posts about divisions over the doctrine of inerrancy, that Al Mohler’s latest blog post:

    is a full on attack against those who are not signing the confessions, especially pointing to the importance of inerrancy for : “… theological disaster usually comes by means of drift and evasion, shading and equivocation. Eventually, the drift accumulates into momentum and the school abandons doctrine after doctrine, truth claim after truth claim, until the pattern of sound words, and often the sound words themselves, are mocked, denied, and cast aside in the spirit of theological embarrassment…”

    It seems the more some (such as yourself) highlight the problems of fundamentalists’ teachings, and even more so how you illustrate how dishonest is their whole approach to determining what is either important or true, the more they are circling the wagons.

    Mohler appears to be doubling down regarding theological instruction and seminaries, openly wanting to fight an us-vs-them war. No academic niceties such as discussions over “privilege” and “strategies”, just old-fashioned heretic hunting.

    As an aside note – it doesn’t surprise me that Mohler reaches back into the pro-slavery foundation of his denomination to find heroes of inerrancy and the centrality of what to him is pure doctrine.

    • I was surprised and confused to see Dr. Mohler quote Rusty Reno in support of confessions. Reno is a Catholic convert and, therefore to Mohler, outside of the faith.

      • peteenns

        Good point, but he would no doubt chalk this up to “co-belligernece”: fight alongside anyone against the common enemy (until that enemy is defeated and then turn on each other). Mohler’s reference to Reno is also an attempt to give his screed greater intellectual respectability.

        • Your comment reminds me of Evangelicals And Catholics Together who recently came together to fight against acceptance of gay relationships. What better “common enemy” than the “homosexuals with their agenda of destroying civilization”?

          • Joey

            Ford, your comment reminds me of a “You Tube” clip I recently saw (the debate was from about 7 years ago) where Christopher Hitchens is debating Dinesh D’Souza and Dennis Prager. It was interesting seeing D’Souza (a Christian) partner with Prager (a Jew) to take on an atheist. Prager believes that Christianity has been great for America, though he remains Jewish. D’Souza, like many Christians, believes that only the Christians have the right message. When it came time for D’Souza to ask Prager questions, he asked him softball questions. It was comical to see these 2 come together and pretend they don’t have an issue with the theology they hold to take on Hitchens. Elephant in the room: Prager does not believe what D’Souza does in regards to Jesus; but, it’s ok. At the end of the day they felt good because they believed they were doing God’s work.

          • Andrew Dowling

            D’Souza should never be the representative Christian for anything . . .

          • Gary

            D’Souza’s apologetic: Christianity is better because it results in better outcomes for ourselves. It standards in marked contrast to such as this: Self-surrender and service enable better outcomes for others. D’Souza’s style of faith is self-serving at its core. It will die like a fig tree.

          • Al Cruise

            “D’Souza’s apologetic: Christianity is better because it results in better outcomes for ourselves.” A different argument can be made that gives some truth to that statement. Christianity allowed democracy to come into being which produced the many secular institutions that we have today. These institutions are the things that have really allowed us to better ourselves and move closer to the Kingdom of God. Legal systems, opening up educational systems to the masses, free enterprise, freedom of speech and freedom of press, rights of women, abolishing of slavery, civil rights, law enforcement, military, which are all separate from Church authority have improved the lives of more people in a shorter period of time than anything else. Religions most often can give only lip service to solving real world problems. It takes secular institutions within a free democracy to create real world change in individual lives. Christianity that facilitates this process has truth in it.

          • Gary


          • hoosier_bob

            I talked with D’Souza briefly when he spoke at my law school a few years back. It struck me that he doesn’t necessarily believe that Christianity is right in an unconditional sense. Rather. he seems to see the Christian narrative as the best available narrative for generating economically efficient outcomes. In other words, he seems to believe that most people are too dumb to make good choices consistently, and that the Christian narrative serves a necessary paternalistic function in cudgeling the masses toward making better decisions than they may make if left to their own devices.

            It wasn’t clear to me that D’Souza believed that it was necessary for elites to abide by the same rules. His subsequent actions suggest that that he likely has no intention of requiring elites to submit to the same moral restrictions that Christianity would impose on the masses.

            I didn’t even get the sense that he was all too bothered by homosexuality, as long as its practice was kept reasonably discreet and participation was limited to elites.

          • Andrew Dowling

            Yikes. Well that confirms my thought that he’s a man with pretty much no real moral compass whatsoever.

          • hoosier_bob

            I wouldn’t say that he lacks a moral compass. His moral compass is economic in nature, i.e., maximizing utility, minimizing transaction costs, etc. In many ways, I would argue that such principles provide a much more reliable moral compass for fallen individuals because they allow us to judge validity by whether efficiency is actually achieved. In my view, the idealist (deontological) moralism of many evangelicals is far more dangerous because it rejects the possibility of and need for correction.

            That being said, it’s unclear to me that he has any abiding belief in salvation through faith in Christ. If Christianity is merely a myth that helps ignorant people make economically efficient decisions, then it’s hard to grant any kind of uniqueness to Christ.

            The problem with D’Souza isn’t that he lacks a coherent moral compass. To the contrary, the problem may be that he lacks a robust faith in Christ. Frankly, I’d much rather stand before a secular judge who acknowledges the limits of knowledge and reasons from pragmatic principles than I would stand before an evangelical judge who believes that his knowledge has no limits and reasons from a self-assurance in the inerrancy of everything he believes.

          • Gary

            Fewer and fewer are going to find meaning in religion that finds its alliances through shared disdain. It simply does not fulfill. It is a trail that ends nowhere. Watch.

          • This is a really important observation. One that should resonate with all of us – left, right or center. It’s not just shared disdain. Religious meaning isn’t, ultimately, found in thwarting the threat to the promise; meaning is found in the promise itself.

        • Jeff Y

          That kind of mentality drives me crazy. I know many ultra-conservative folks who laud Chick-Fil-A but then, when it comes right down to it, they don’t think Stuart Cathey is actually a Christian, believe it or not!

    • Andrew Dowling

      Mohler also has to consistently attack perceived outside enemies to deflect internal dissension within his own cohort.

      • Gary

        He’s open thwarting externalized internal dissension. Rest assured, people are reading, getting exposed and having their own internal thoughts. When people have the intrinsic need to reconcile internal thoughts with external interactions, this kind of thought-control doesn’t work any longer. Watch: fear-based information-hoarding controls are working less and less.

    • Joey

      “Mohler appears to be doubling down regarding theological instruction and seminaries, openly wanting to fight an us-vs-them war.” Good point here, freetoken. As you are well aware of, this is part of the deal with religion, but especially fundamentalist religions: to create a culture where it’s always “us vs. them.” The fear is that if this is not taking place, then that particular religion (or religious view) is not doing it’s job. In this case, in wanting to be so right, Mohler does not just take on other religious groups or secularists, but instead starts from within. The reasoning reminds me of people who want to argue for one, true church in the NT when, in reality, there have always been diverse points of views and beliefs from the moment churches started to spring up all the way through the present.

      • Gary

        Watch. This war will be won in the upcoming decades / centuries by nobody really caring. Soon, the fight of us-vs-them will be angst-vs-thin-air. Maybe it significantly is already.

        • Joey

          I agree Gary. One of the fascinating things of the “us vs them” mindset is the energy consumed to create and sustain this type of thinking. (On a side note, it’s also black and white thinking and enters the realm of the either/or fallacy.) I can sort of understand this mentality if Mohler were in a country were Christianity was not the majority and a person could literally die for having this belief system. But, “us vs them,” here? In this country? As you said, it just “angst-vs-thin-air.”

    • Craig Wright

      It is hard to take someone like Al Mohler seriously when he believes that the earth is only 10,000 years old.

      • newenglandsun

        why does someone’s view of the age of the earth prevent them from being taken seriously on theological topics? i mean i don’t agree with mohler’s position that yec should be turned into binding doctrine but neither would i say someone who is yec shouldn’t be taken seriously. i knew someone who was yec and never enforced this doctrine other than to express it as his own personal interpretation of the bible and always told people to major on the majors, not the minors.

        • Gary

          Good question. I think, for me, it’s in part because people who deny reality might be able to believe about anything as truthful.

          • newenglandsun

            But that’s assuming that science is the reality. YEC’s could be correct in asserting that science is wrong. I used to be more militantly opposed to YECism but after some conversations with my own father, I realized that Christianity asserted much things that were far beyond the realm of science–the existence of the soul, life after death, angels and demons, God himself, the resurrection, etc. I essentially stopped caring. Of course, I take Christians from the LCMS and WELS more seriously than I do other Protestant denominations (mostly because there’s more theological agreement between these two churches and my own) but both of them are YEC.

          • Gary

            Science can’t be reality. That would be confusing the study of the thing with the thing itself. Plus, given the procedural naturalism of the scientific method, science only studies the material thing. When I said reality, I was referring to material reality: Things and the history of things. Non-material things? You mention one for sure: caring. That’s immaterial. God, demons, angels, souls? Those seem to be immaterial as they are beyond science’s realm of measure. But… death isn’t. If you mean the stopping of metabolism, that’s as natural as can be. If you’re refer to death of God, demons, angels, and souls? Then that’s beyond science’s realms grasp. Resurrection? That’s a mater of physical history. That’s science’s fair study. What happened or didn’t in Heavenly and Hellish realms because if it? What causes it? Why it matters? Those matters aren’t for science’s concern. So I guess I was saying when folks can’t get their physics and history right and deny what is shared understand (“science”) of *physical and historical reality (what did and didn’t happen in the real physical world), if you ask me they have a dubious foundation for a immaterial, supernatural, or other such realm of claim making. When we get to that, we get out of the space of who, where, when, and how, and into the space of why. That’s the realm of meaning-making. Meaning-making, to make meaning itself, needs to be making meaning of what we see, hear, smell, touch, and otherwise know and experience of the real physical world. When someone offers explanations of the metaphysical based upon an alternative reality of the physical, it simply doesn’t offer any meaning making for me. Otherwise, it’s a matter of literature and why did God have to kill Jesus is a question in the same category as why did Hamlet kill Polonius. Historical Adam is a scientific claim. What it meant is a theological claim. If there wasn’t a historical physical reality to the story, it’s literary at its core and it’s theology is lucidly mythological. Theological agreement is mater of interpretive agreement. It can happen with or without agreement of evidences outside human thought. LCMS and WELS can have highly refined and agreed theologies. But the processes by which they have created and retain these agreements are centered in literature only, not literature and its ability to explain the real physical world. It’s not necessarily a bad worldview either. One kind of worldview takes what is and extends hope and meaning from there. Another one starts with meaning and hope and then tries to fit and make physical reality conform to that meaning and hope.

        • hoosier_bob

          I find it utterly impossible to take anyone seriously who asserts that the earth is a mere 10,000 years old. Sure, the available evidence may leave room for doubt regarding some aspects of modern biology’s take on evolution. Even so, the evidence against a “young” earth is so overwhelming that accepting such a view is akin to doubting whether the sun will rise tomorrow morning.

          Again, I think this gives credence to Christian Smith’s project of examining evangelicalism as primarily a sociological phenomenon rather than as primarily a religious phenomenon. Mohler is smart enough to know that the earth isn’t a mere 10,000 years old. But he also understands that evangelicalism is more interested in “truthiness” than in actual truth, more interested in being cohesive than in being right. In that sense, evangelicalism is largely fueled by the same relativism to which it accuses the rest of us as having succumbed.

          Mohler likely believes that evangelicalism is right on the things that he believes matter (e.g., gender roles, sexuality, and the like), so he’s willing to be wrong on things like the age of the earth as part of the price of membership. And, even on the things that he believes matter, he doesn’t care if evangelicalism is right for the right reasons; it just matters that evangelicalism’s cultural vision is closer to what he wants for the culture as a whole.

          After 15 years in evangelicalism, I’ve concluded that Harold Bloom was right: Evangelicalism is much closer to Mormonism than it is to historic Christianity.

          After all, as Worthen notes in her book, inerrancy was never about merely protecting the reliability of the Bible from skeptical assaults; rather, it was about defending the inerrancy of fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible.

          • newenglandsun

            “I think this gives credence to Christian Smith’s project of examining evangelicalism as primarily a sociological phenomenon rather than as primarily a religious phenomenon. Mohler is smart enough to know that the earth isn’t a mere 10,000 years old. But he also understands that evangelicalism is more interested in “truthiness” than in actual truth, more interested in being cohesive than in being right.”
            I particularly don’t. First off, Christian Smith is a Catholic and there are many Catholics who would assert a belief in YECism (despite the fact that evolutionary theory isn’t actually condemned). Second, from what I have read of Evangelicalism, Mohler represents the strong right wing of The Evangelical Movement. Most Evangelicals I know accept old Earth creationism. In fact, from my past two Evangelical Churches, the first one had the most YEC’s but the only person I really got to know at my first Evangelical church (non-denominational) was actually an old Earth creationist. My previous Evangelical church was called the Evangelical Covenant Church–most there were old Earth creationists. I actually stumbled across an article a while ago that was actually talking about Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics in the Church of England and it was actually stating that the Evangelicals were more aware of how science worked than the Anglo-Catholics. The Anglo-Catholics mostly didn’t really pay much attention to scientific views on the age of the Earth because they didn’t really care. I mean in all honesty, I stopped caring about the old Earth-young Earth debate probably about a year ago. We have more things to worry about than how God created the Earth. Let’s cover those things instead.

          • hoosier_bob

            Christian Smith was an evangelical at the time when he first proffered that thesis. He only converted to Catholicism a few years ago.

            Mohler is widely known as the “pope of evangelicalism.” He is not a marginal character who’s on the far right. His views are likely to the left of many in his own denomination. And, from my years in the PCA, I would guess that Mohler’s views are fairly representative of the mainstream.

            Lastly, I’m not aware of anyone who would consider the Evangelical Covenant (or the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) to be evangelical. Those denominations are using the term “evangelical” to mean Protestant, not to indicate any affiliation with the neo-evangelical movement and the Evangelical Theological Society, which is what commenters here mean by the term “evangelical.”

          • newenglandsun

            I’m not certain that most self-identifying Evangelicals would consider Mohler to be that big in their field. Most of the Evangelicals I know always reference N.T. Wright. As for the Evangelical Covenant Church, when I was taking a membership course there, we stated that the ELCA was not truly “Evangelical”. I’m not certain that most Lutherans would consider themselves part of The Evangelical Movement (on a sociological level) either.

          • hoosier_bob


            When commenters on this blog refer to “evangelicalism,” we are generally referring to the theological “tradition” that emerged out of the neo-evangelical movement of the 1940s and 1950s. That may be the cause of the misunderstanding. If the “evangelicals” you’re interacting with have no familiarity with Mohler, then it’s quite likely that they are using the term differently than those of us commenting here.

          • newenglandsun

            In addition, my Evangelical upbrining never really reference Mohler once. I do recall a lot of Focus on the Family stuff though.

          • Dean

            It seems to me this is an impossible tension to maintain. The age of the earth is undoubtedly ancient, there is simply no question about it, it is literally akin to flat earth belief. What I find extremely difficult to understand is Mohler’s reaction to this fact that he himself admits puts Christians in a difficult position. I think Peter Enns primary criticism of folks like these is that they refuse to do the hard work of trying to reconcile theology with reality. Mohler in a talk on this issue implicitly states that it is more theologically “convenient” for him to adopt old earth and therefore, that’s what he is going to do and that is what he is going to enforce for his tribe. He absolutely thinks he is the pope of the Evangelicals, I wonder when he’s going to start wearing the funny hat.

          • Dean

            Love your comparison to Mormonism btw, I have never heard that and will explore that analogy.

      • Gary

        For me, the metaphysics are impenetrable. This leaves me with just kinda assessing credibility on the physics. Whether or not Mohler knows what he’s talking about metaphysically, I really can’t judge. But in the physical world, he’s beyond gullible. That’s kinda the problem. Are people gullible in little things even more gullible in big things?

        • Andrew Dowling

          I would venture yes.

        • Preston Garrison

          The trouble is that that is the impression they give to non-believers. They see a great capacity for self deception about science and about the Bible, and conclude the message about Jesus must be more of the same self deception. We human beings are decidedly weird. 🙂

          • Gary

            Yup. Along similar lines, if these kinds of processes and institutions can create needful belief about historical Adam, they also can for historical Resurrection. From the outsiders perspective, both are similarly tenable.

      • Dean

        The funny thing is he doesn’t really believe it’s 10,000 year old. I’ve heard him speak and write on this. He believes the Bible says it is 10,000 years old and therefore, feels he must submit to that “teaching”. It’s even more bizarre than you have stated.

        • Joey

          This may be a faulty analogy, but based on that logic (Mohler believing that the earth is 10,000 years old, since he believes the bible says so), then I might as well believe that women do not have ovaries and it is only the man’s seed that creates a child, since the bible, at least last time I looked at it carefully, never mentioned anything about women having ovaries.

      • Do you have a list of beliefs which ought to completely discredit everything else a person might say? We can call such beliefs ‘Fatal Beliefs’. Consider, for example, the rejection of person-as-machine which is implied by the following:

            The time seems ripe, even overdue, to announce that there is not going to be an age of paradigm in the social sciences. We contend that the failure to achieve paradigm takeoff is not merely the result of methodological immaturity, but reflects something fundamental about the human world. If we are correct, the crisis of social science concerns the nature of social investigation itself. The conception of the human sciences as somehow necessarily destined to follow the path of the modern investigation of nature is at the root of this crisis. Preoccupation with that ruling expectation is chronic in social science; that idée fixe has often driven investigators away from a serious concern with the human world into the sterility of purely formal argument and debate. As in development theory, one can only wait so long for the takeoff. The cargo-cult view of the “about to arrive science” just won’t do. (Interpretive Social Science: A Second Look, 5)

        See, if people were merely machines, they could be studied just like the natural sciences study nature. So, should we dismiss anything and everything a person says, if he/she models humans as ‘merely’ machines? Would such a stated belief reach the same level as the belief “that the earth is only 10,000 years old”? Is the belief expressed in the above paragraph a ‘Fatal Belief’?

    • Thanks for the Al Mohler quotation; here’s the entire paragraph:

      Al Mohler: How does this happen? Rarely does an institution decide, in one comprehensive moment of decision, to abandon the faith and seek after another. The process is far more dangerous and subtle. A direct institutional evasion would be instantly recognized and corrected, if announced honestly at the onset. Instead, theological disaster usually comes by means of drift and evasion, shading and equivocation. Eventually, the drift accumulates into momentum and the school abandons doctrine after doctrine, truth claim after truth claim, until the pattern of sound words, and often the sound words themselves, are mocked, denied, and cast aside in the spirit of theological embarrassment.

      I wonder: do you think that anything in what he has said is valid? Take, for example, the erosion of the belief that slavery is 100% evil—espoused by Gregory of Nyssa in his Homilies on Ecclesiastes (WP: Gregory of Nyssa § Anthropology)—such that the kind of slavery we saw in the New World could be legitimated. Note that this belief hadn’t completely disappeared by the time colonization arose; for example we have Pope Paul III’s Sublimus Deus: “on June 2, 1537, which forbids the enslavement of the indigenous peoples of the Americas (called Indians of the West and the South) and all other people.” Sadly, “scholars point out that Paul sanctioned slavery elsewhere after the issuing of Sublimis Deus.” (more at Pope Paul III § Pope Paul III and slavery)

      So, is it the case that no truth should require the protection that Al Mohler advocates, that it should be protected differently, or something else? Given that you have harshly critiqued Al Mohler (I’m take issue with some of his views myself), would you be willing to offer a firm alternative? For example, I’m not sure we want “academic niceties” for those who would advocate a return to slavery—do you?

  • Thanks for sharing this Pete. It seems to me that no inerrantist should be afraid of criticisms. If our view is right, these can only help us formulate our views better. I do think a more interesting question would be whether any book attendant with claims of divine authorship can be approached without some kind of “protective strategies” involved? It’s time inerrantists owned their s but maybe also time others did as well.

    • Gary

      As a layperson I can’t help but wonder, how many degrees does it take to get that divine authorship can neither be evidenced or denied through evidence. If your view is right (or wrong), there’s no way of knowing. It’s simply a matter of the humble “dunno” category. Why everyone gets worked up about this is becoming more and more alien for me.

      • Andrew Dowling

        “ow many degrees does it take to get that divine authorship can neither be evidenced or denied through evidence. ”

        -The traditional notion of being “divinely inspired” does not equate to “authorship by God” . . that idea didn’t really come around until the Reformers and more assertively since the 19th century

        -Scholarship can’t necessarily “disprove divine authorship” but it can render it highly improbable via inconsistencies in the text, historical usage, comparisons to other works etc.

        • Gary

          I don’t see the causation. Why could a god not create inconsistencies? Why would textual consistency be associated with a divinity? While this has been a traditional emphasis, it just doesn’t follow for me. It only presupposes.

          • Andrew Dowling

            To me that argument is a long the same lines of God putting fossils that “appear” millions of years old to test the faithful. If it looks and quacks like a duck (looks like it was written by humans complete with their own cultural biases and subjective aims) it’s probably a duck. Add the rather late contention of direct divine authorship as I noted, and those who make the inerrancy/authored by God claim are the ones who have the burden of proof. The onus is on them. Saying “well God can be inconsistent” is to me a throw away argument that if you wanted to take and run with it would venture into the realms of absurdity.

          • Gary

            Presuppositions about God are about that absurd to me.

          • Andrew Dowling

            Ok, well we are talking about religious claims . .all religions have presuppositions about God

          • Gary

            Not sure all do but certainly popular Christian and other Western religions do.

  • Norman

    Interesting discussion, and of course everyone thinks the other fellow is laden with baggage of some kind. Which is true even though its hidden from ourselves concerning our own baggage. I have learned a lot from G. K. Beale and Walton and thank them for their research but I learned a long time ago to expect to have to sift through scholars work and always keep one eye open, especially if they work for someone else that is paying them. It’s frustrating but one eventually gets over it and realizes that it comes with the current cultural territory.

    Why I even believe Pete carries cultural religious artifacts that influence his work and if he didn’t he would be extraordinary indeed.

    People tend to work within the space they are given and breaking out of it is such a challenge on so many different fronts.

    I would also venture that even when one escapes the clutches of Institutionalized factions and denominations that we will still put restraints
    upon ourselves as we attempt to walk the tightrope of cognitive dissonance that
    invariably biblical scholarship presents us all with.

    • hoosier_bob

      I agree wholeheartedly. On the other hand, evangelical institutions seem to have much more difficulty admitting to this kind of institutional captivity than other institutions.

      Ultimately, I feel that that’s what will doom evangelicalism: It’s inability to acknowledge expressly to its sociological commitments. It’s fundamentally a movement committed to promoting a morally conventional worldview suitable for middle-class life.

      I could much more readily make peace with my experience in evangelicalism if its proponents would simply admit that nuance and ambiguity, while having their place, are not relevant to the constituency that evangelicalism is intending to serve. The nuanced social libertarianism of the cognitive elite works well for those who possess the self-discipline to avoid big mistakes. That same social ideology has been a disaster for the middle and lower classes. See “Coming Apart” by Charles Murray.

      I hitched my wagon to the evangelical movement in the mid-1990s after reading “Scandal of the Evangelical Mind” and coming across Tim Keller. I thought that evangelicalism had finally matured and that it was starting to become a safer place for those of us with a commitment to Christian orthodoxy but whose social outlook was decidedly mainline and somewhat elitist. But the evangelical overreaction to the Lewinsky affair and the 9/11 attacks probably killed off that nascent movement before it ever got started. I stuck around for another 10 years waiting for “mainline evangelicalism” to resurface. Instead, I found myself amidst an evangelical movement that was becoming increasingly populist and anti-intellectual, as it grew ever more frustrated by its inability to “take back America.” So, I left.

      Evangelicalism has its merits. But if it can’t own its middle-class roots and its pragmatic commitment to conventional, middle-class values, then it is doomed to fail.

    • Bev Mitchell

      I agree Norman. And while we are being pragmatic, let’s consider that any significant, long-standing group, such as conservative evangelicalism of the American variety, have approved lines of thinking and approved spokespeople. Speaking generally, at some future point, fully approved spokespersons for such a group discover a number of ‘new’ points of view, hermeneutical approaches, interpretations etc. These will bear remarkable resemblances to what was formerly being rejected. The faithful will be allowed to read and debate this exciting, enlightened, new material and the majority will move, with approval, to the new position. In the re-telling, the jargon will be somewhat different, because it cannot be exactly what was said by others earlier. But, when the jargon is adjusted ………

  • GeeJohn

    If an inerrant, young earth, complementarian, etc. doctrine hinders the spread of the Gospel, we must, like the sinful hand, cut off such foolishness. Not literally, of course.

  • The problem as I see it is that modulating historical methods to prefer one’s own interpretive options is not something that inerrantists have a monopoly on. Too often other scholars stray into this area with sloppy methodology. The Alands’ manuscript categories are the absolute classic of this: it would be one thing to have a statistical measure of how conformant to the majority text a manuscript was, but by creating a dubious statistic along a single line between the majority text and one’s own edition, then creating an ad hoc category for a particularly inconvenient non-majority manuscript, the result is bad statistical and bad historical method, for which they should have been thoroughly pilloried in the journals years ago.

  • Jeff Y

    I look forward to reading that article, thanks for the link. A few thoughts come to my mind in reading the above. It is certainly true in several instances. But, I am also reminded of an observation from I. Howard Marshall, who noted that “inerrancy is dying the death of a thousand qualifications” (in Biblical Inspiration). Second, this sword cuts in every direction (even the sociological perspective of Stephen Young itself has a sociological perspective. No one has a “God’s eye view” of others – or even themselves. I am also reminded of C.S. Lewis in Piligrim’s Regress: “You say that 2+2=4 because you are a mathematician.” It seems to me those on either side of controverted issues tend to see the other side as full of preconceived biases – unlike their own ideas, which are “just about the honorable search for truth.”

    Analysis such as the above linked article may be of some usefulness in these discussions in exposing deeply embedded undercurrents but they have to be turned on one’s self as well.