Wednesday, November 22, 2006

ETS adopt Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy

My friend Jim West brought this to my attention earlier today, and though I am an evangelical myself I believe this is a deeply disturbing development.

I’ve just ranted my full frustration about this to my dear wife so I won’t repeat all that here. But while it is crucial to formulate our doctrine of Scripture so that it encourages respect for the texts and expectancy that God speaks through them, lets not pretend the texts are something they are not (and this business about perfect original manuscripts is a self defeating position, as I discussed here).

This is a step back, guys, and will only exclude those who are committed to church, Scripture and the gospel, those who are a vital, God fearing, creative and life-giving part of your own tradition. In truth this breaks my heart and is, in my opinion, a sign of immaturity.

43 Comments:

At 11/22/2006 2:19 AM, Anonymous Chris Petersen said...

Amen...disturbing indeed.

 
At 11/22/2006 4:04 AM, Anonymous Anthony Martin said...

I see what they're trying to do, but with regard to kicking people out who don't hold to it, I find it difficult to make rules about something that the Bible itself doesn't make rules about.

I mean, one could be saved yet not hold to biblical inerrancy. I believe in inerrency, but I don't see kicking someone out of a church who doesn't. I'd rather just debate it with them and see how they're wrong and leave it at that.

 
At 11/22/2006 4:13 AM, Anonymous Jon Henry said...

"Immaturity" is a good description.

 
At 11/22/2006 4:43 AM, Anonymous dan said...

I agree, Chris. Disappointing.

One of my profs (Iain Provan) devotes the final lecture of his course on hermeneutics to critiquing the Chicago Statement (which is rather interesting considering Jim Packer -- who also continues to lecture at my school -- was one of the scholars who signed off on that document... although, to be fair to Jim, he has distanced himself from that document in some other publications). If only more Evangelicals were following in the footsteps of Evangelical biblical scholars like Provan.

 
At 11/22/2006 5:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris,

I believe I understand your position on Scripture after reading your past posts on inerrancy. But my concern is about how you speak of "leaving brain at door" and other similar comments about those who accept harmonizing answers to 'apparent contradictions'.

Why do you automatically imply that one who accepts certain answers that bring two accounts of the same event into harmony is the inevitable results of leaving one's brain at the door?

I'm unclear as to why the harmonizing position does not require just as much brain power if not more.

We were not there when the author saw what he saw or heard what he heard. Two people who write about the same things have different perspectives, but they still saw and heard the same things. So, why would we not seek to harmonize first and then acknowledge that we can't know everything about the "little" details that we cannot resolve from our perspective in this part of history? I don’t see why we have to declare “error!” when it seems much more comfortable to say “we don’t have enough info” to make a call on this. Either way, I would agree that none of these ‘contradictions’ are injurious to the validity of Scripture and the fact that they are God-breathed.

Does that make sense? I'm sorry if you addressed this somewhere and I missed it. But I do feel that you should reconsider your "leave brain at the door" dogmatism. =)

Thanks for your thoughts and concerns!

 
At 11/22/2006 6:54 AM, Anonymous One of Freedom said...

Grrrrrr.

Doesn't the bible tell us that Jesus is the Word of God?

My other thought was "what a #^&&$ waste of time." I'm too close to the screwed up Eastern Church to appreciate anything like this right now. Dogmatism sucks!

 
At 11/22/2006 8:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good on em, I say! And well said, Glenn.

 
At 11/22/2006 11:40 AM, Anonymous Ben Myers said...

Yes, it's definitely a step in the wrong direction. But it was easy to see this coming -- the ETS has become obsessed about defining the exact boundaries of what it means to be "evangelical" -- not for the sake of including the right people, but so that certain people can be excluded. This unwholesome doctrinal anxiety is really the much deeper problem here.

 
At 11/22/2006 12:28 PM, Anonymous Volker said...

jYes, Glenn, I think your phrase "we don’t have enough info" expresses properly the kind of humility that is appropriate when dealing with Scripture. That bewares of both extremes: calling everything that seems contradictive an "error" (although that is not Chris' position as far as I know) on the one hand, and the doctrine of inerrancy and verbal inspiration on the other hand.

However, the more pressing question for me is not in what way exactly Scripture was inspired, but in what way exactly it is authoritative for us. I.e. is it possible to argue from the bible that all the biblical statements (e.g. regarding women in ministry, homosexuality, etc.) are binding to us? 2 Timothy 3:16 says that "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness". According to the self-testimony of the Bible, then, its inspiration means that it is "USEFULL" for all these activities - but not absolutely binding as the only source for all our teaching!?!

 
At 11/22/2006 2:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that they've narrowed down inerrancy, what would they do to the trinity? Who would be left on the "wrong side" of that controversy? I hope I never find out the answers to those questions, but it's frustrating to see the ETS gradually morph into a movement that's more reactionary than they need to be as if other Christians are the problem.

 
At 11/22/2006 5:46 PM, Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White, Ph.D. said...

The ETS always had a statement affirming inerrancy and they have thrown people out before for not affirming it. This just defines it more fully so that they can throw more people out. That's why I never joined. I was happy to be part of the Evangelical Theology working group of the AAR, and of the Society of Christian Ethics (though I seldom got to go to the meeting of the Evangelical group at the SCE because, irony of ironies, they were held simultaneously with the working group on Scripture and Ethics and I always went to the latter!). I have been happy to join the Institute for Biblical Research and other evangelical groups. But not the ETS since it had far too narrow a definition of "evangelical." This move simply proved it.

 
At 11/22/2006 5:56 PM, Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White, Ph.D. said...

Let's see. With this one move, the ETS has said that the following dead dudes are not "Evangelical" enough for them: Martin Luther, John Calvin, Huldrich Zwingli, Menno Simons, John Wesley. More recently, this excludes F.F. Bruce, A. T. Robertson, Dale Moody, George R. Beasley-Murray, G. C. Berkouwer, almost everyone who taught at Fuller Seminary after Carl Henry left, Bernard Ramm, etc.

This is why I affirm my identity as evangelical, but let others worry about whether or not I am an Evangelical. The ETS believes I am not. So be it.

 
At 11/22/2006 6:30 PM, Anonymous David W. Congdon said...

Thanks for posting this, Chris. I share in your disappointment, as my rants against inerrancy make rather apparent. I grew up as a stereotypical conservative evangelical, and I still hold my heritage dear to my heart. But it is time that evangelicals recover the substance of their name: the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news for all people. This is the heart of what it means to be an evangelical, and it is precisely what has been smothered time and again by an unwarranted and unnecessary interest in biblical inerrancy.

(I say "unnecessary" because we do not need biblical inerrancy to ensure biblical authority. Unfortunately, 171 members of ETS do not understand that.)

 
At 11/22/2006 10:23 PM, Anonymous David Wilkerson said...

It seems one could play with the often flexible language of the ICBI statement and accept it until one reads silly things like Article XII:

"....We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood."

I understand the emphasis on creation since it's "truth" is important for theology generally. But why are they standing up particularly for the Flood? Why not David and Goliath or Balaam's ass too? Why not just say every story in the Bible is historical which seems to be the implication? This seems to violate the sensitivity they claimed to have to genre and historical limitations right before this.

To my mind this has always been a trojan horse wheeled in by the creation-science crowd who were still seen at that time (by some like Sproul but not anymore) as a hopefully-adequate answer to Darwin and Lyell.

If the signators grant, minimally, the objections to the creation and flood then they join the rest of us affirming the Scriptures as 'true' but not always sure what we mean. And that would just mean they'd probably all be gay soon. Completely unacceptable.

Incidentally I understand (from an insider scoop at seminary) that Packer basically composed the entire thing when no one could agree on the statement. And most weren't happy with it, but they were embarrassed not to put forth something having called a 'council' and all. So this is what they got.

 
At 11/22/2006 10:56 PM, Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White, Ph.D. said...

I said this on Jim West's blog about this, Chris, and it seems worth repeating here.

In my first year of seminary, I did a study of the phrase “Word of God” as it appears in the Protestant canon. (Someday, I’ll extend the study to the Catholic canon and see if the results change.) Summary of findings: The concept of God “speaking” or communicating is found throughout the canon, but the phrases “Word of God” or “God’s Word” are virtually unknown in the Pentateuch. It is rare in the Writings except for the Psalms. It is most common in the OT among the Prophets, especially the Latter Prophets. In the Prophets and the Psalms the meaning of “Word of God” is never a writing or book, but the living Word given to the prophet to utter.

The phrase is rare in the Synoptic Gospels. In the Johannine Writings, it refers exclusively to the preexistant, incarnate, and/or exalted Christ. In the Pauline and deutero-Pauline writings, it is a reference to the gospel, the kerygma, the “story of Jesus.”

So, is it wrong for us to refer to the Scriptures as the “Word of God?” No, but we should know what we are doing: We are saying that these writings convey to us the presence of the Living Word, Christ, “sacramentally,” in and through the very human words of these texts. Christ as Word and the preached gospel as Word are much closer to the ways “Word of God” are actually used in the Bible.

The Scriptures do not need “inerrancy,” either in lost autographs (What would an “autograph” be of a book that had several revisions before coming to canonical form, e.g., Jeremiah, look like? Would the autograph be the copy destroyed by the King? If the documentary hypothesis of the Pentateuch is correct, what is the “autograph,” J? the final form of D?) or current copies. They need only to convey Christ and the gospel of Christ savingly to the world.

Even in the favorite text of inerrantists, 2 Timothy 3:16, there is no implication of inerrancy. “All Scripture (referring to the Hebrew canon) is breathed out by God and USEFUL for teaching, reproof, and for training in righteousness.” I.E., these texts are canon, are Scripture, because they have a norming function in the community of God. That’s all that is said.

To say further is Protestant scholasticism and a desire for a paper Pope. It denies the human nature of the words that convey to us through faith the Word. And, therefore, the ETS notwithstanding, all “inerrancy” doctrines are “un-evangelical,” un-gospel-centered.

 
At 11/22/2006 11:56 PM, Anonymous T.B. Vick said...

Well, this does not surprise me, ETS was founded by very conservative evangelicals who happen to be Inerrantists. Most who belong to ETS are the same. So any type of agreement like this never takes me by surprise. However, having said that, let me say this; I disagree with this step and the direction this will take ETS. I think it is the wrong direction and only sets bounderies that exclude other evangelicals who do not agree with the stance (As Ben Myers pointed out above) - thus being divisive as well.

 
At 11/23/2006 2:20 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Glenn,
Thanks for your wise words, and they way you presented them. You are quite right, I shouldn't have used such langauge as "leaving brain at door". Sorry for causing offence.

As Volker noted, I don't think that all harmonization is flawed. Some surely isn't. However, sometimes harmonization can, in my opinion, lead to highly dubious suggestions, most famously the harmonization of Peter's denials of Jesus.

By the way, I also think that contradictions aren't a problem for 'the validity of Scripture and the fact that they are God-breathed', as you put it. But I also don't think all contradictions need to be denied, harmonized, or explained away. If we are to be lovers of truth, we need to admit some are there.

 
At 11/23/2006 2:22 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

David wrote: "If the signators grant, minimally, the objections to the creation and flood then they join the rest of us affirming the Scriptures as 'true' but not always sure what we mean. And that would just mean they'd probably all be gay soon. Completely unacceptable."

*Laughs aloud*!

 
At 11/23/2006 2:23 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

My goodness, it's 2:14 am! I've gotta go to bed instantly ...

 
At 11/24/2006 12:05 AM, Anonymous Jim said...

My objection is much simpler than most. The ETS has replaced God with a book about God.

 
At 11/24/2006 1:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't really see what all the fuss is about. This is the Evangelical Theological Society. As I understand it, their very brief doctrinal basis has always entailed a commitment to Biblical inerrancy:

"The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory."

(From: http://www.etsjets.org/ )

 
At 11/24/2006 6:01 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Thank you for your comments, Edward. I think you are right that inerrancy is not the answer to unity issues. When will teh book you mentioned be released?

Hi Guy,
My problem with the Chicago statment is that it doesn't allow for the flexibility possible in other statments of inerancy. I refer to David Wilkerson's comment in this thread.

Michael, thanks for that list of names, btw, of those who cannot make the ETS!

 
At 11/24/2006 6:11 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

David wrote: "If the signators grant, minimally, the objections to the creation and flood then they join the rest of us affirming the Scriptures as 'true' but not always sure what we mean."

That has been a most helpful comment and provoked my thinking a lot. I think I need to adjust my views as expressed in my inerrancy series. The worst part of the whole series was teh last, and this I need to reconsider.

 
At 11/25/2006 12:15 AM, Anonymous Looney said...

The entire problem with this discussion is that "inerrancy" was in response to the doctrine of "errancy" which dominated scholarly discussions for more than a century. To us Fundamentalists, this is something just as real and significant as the Reformation - an era of scholarly madness that covered the entire 19th century and much of the 20th. The scholars conveniently deleted this from the histories (for obvious reasons), which makes Christian Fundamentalism look like something bizarre that just appeared for no reason. It is a bit like trying to explain the early reformation while systematically refusing to acknoledge the existence of a Catholic church and any of its abuses. Exactly nothing can be understood.

 
At 11/25/2006 12:31 AM, Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White, Ph.D. said...

Looney, you are one of the few fundamentalists/conservative evangelicals who admit that the entire movement is a modern reaction (to the 18th C. Deists, philosophs, & neologians, and the 19th C. liberals and modernists) rather than a simple continuation of the Reformation. I congratulate you for that.
I deny that there was any unified doctrine of "errancy," such as you have been trying to explicate on your blog. Rather, the rise of modern science, critical biblical studies, and rationalist philosophies, combined to unleash a large amount of historical skepticism about Scripture and traditional Christianity. But this was also a reaction to 17th C. Protestant Scholasticism which hardened the Reformation's sola Scriptura into the first inerrancy doctrine.

While this conservative reaction is understandable, it is also wrong and misguided. Reactions tend to go overboard and inerrancy doctrines did in the 17th C. and in the Princeton School (Hodge, Warfield, etc.) and in the ETS. They affirm far more than Scripture does about itself and far more than the evidence supports.
As Barth and many others (including, pre-Barth, folks like P.T. Forsyth and others) have shown, it is very possible to affirm a robust doctrine of Scripture that still fits the facts--unlike the fiction called "inerrancy."

 
At 11/25/2006 4:45 AM, Anonymous Looney said...

Thanks Michael.

Perhaps I should have referred to it as a "attitude of errancy" or "spirit of errancy". In any case, there was a large movement which had an amazing ability to find errors in the Bible with minimal knowledge and proclaimed itself to be "modern science" and/or "critical Biblical studies". Working in high-tech, I am more than used to intelligent people collectively engaging in intellectual malpractice. We are always surprised when it appears not to have occurred. It is the steadfast refusal of scholars to even admit the possibility of such that guarantees the continuation of the Fundamentalist / Scholar split.

 
At 11/25/2006 5:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris, thank you for your reply. I do hope and pray that we will all be lovers of the truth and that we will not simply settle with explaining away contradictions (be they apparent or real) to be 'more comfortable' (i.e. - keeping Him in a box) with our awesome God who is true even if every man, woman, or child is a liar. =)

Hope you have a blessed weekend!

 
At 11/25/2006 12:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re the point that inerrancy was a response to attacks on the Bible by rationalist scholarship:

Is it not the case that doctrines are often clarified in response to error and heresy? Would we have Nicaea without Arianism? Would we have Chalcedon without Appolonarianism etc.

The doctrine of Scripture was under unprecedented attack from Enlightenment inspired scholarship in the 18th - 20th Centuries. Should we not expect that orthodox thinkers would respond to this challenge by giving fresh attention to the accuracy of the Bible? To remain faithful to the historic Christian doctrine of the reliability of Scripture, Warfield, Hodge and others had to use the innovative language of Biblical inerrancy.

On innovating to remain faithful to the gospel in new settings see Vanhoozer's The Drama of Doctrine. If using fresh words to describe and clarify old doctrines is wrong, was Athanasius mistaken to speak of Christ as homoousios with the Father?

 
At 11/25/2006 4:35 PM, Anonymous Looney said...

"Re the point that inerrancy was a response to attacks on the Bible by rationalist scholarship:"

The thesis on my blog was that it was entirely "irrationalist scholarship", for which documentation abounds. It was very different from Today's scholarship. The lesson the Fundamentalists learned is that scholars can never be trusted, although I must admit to being at least a dilettante scholar.

 
At 11/25/2006 7:05 PM, Anonymous gras duibh said...

I think Exiled Preacher has said something worthwhile, that doctrine is often clarified under the fire of adversity and heresy.

On the basic understanding of inerrancy, the Scriptures themselves clearly say that "All Scripture is inspired by God (theopneustos -- God breathed) and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If they are breathed out by God, how can there be errors in the original autographs unless God be subject to error? But of course, to the one who rejects inerrancy of Scripture, how can one really know if 2 Tim. 3:16 not contain errors?

If the Scriptures are not inerrant, then we can open up a Pandora's Box of arbitrarily accepting this or that as being true and this or that as being not true. Are we really to be left to our own selves as the arbitrators of truth?

 
At 11/25/2006 7:18 PM, Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White, Ph.D. said...

Yes, doctrine is often clarified through heresy and controversy. But inerrancy doctrines, not limited to the Chicago statement, are not the clarification you seek. They are heretical, too. To use a christological analogy, inerrantists are docetists reacting to ebionites.

 
At 11/25/2006 11:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael,

You must have been reading some very wierd inerrantist writings if you believe that we who hold to inerrancy deny the humanity of Scripture.

I gladly affirm that Scripture is the product of human as well as divine activity. The Bible does not just seem to have been written by human beings it was written by human beings. Paul's style and interests are quite different from John's etc.

But is not God capable of so working through the human authors of Scripture that what they wrote is accurate and true? After all, with God nothing shall be impossible!

 
At 11/26/2006 12:47 AM, Anonymous Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

In the various discussions o inerrancy here I have yet to see a consideration of the negative consequences such a belief has had on Christianity. (Perhaps, as an atheist I should celebrate this, but as a humanist in the true sense of the term, I cannot be all that happy that such an important part of human activity has been wounded, or rejoice in the pain that losing one's faith causes -- even if I think the result is, in the long run a positive one.)

One consequence is Looney's incredible statement above: "The lesson the Fundamentalists learned is that scholars can never be trusted."
Can you imagine the disrespect such a statement of anti-intellectual paranoia causes -- and it is often made more explicit in claims that 'scholars' are really part of an 'atheist cabal' scheming to 'destroy Christianity.'

More explicitly are the claims of the Creationists who would throw out all we know of science because it does not fit their Genesis-schemes. (And how frequently have the supporters of this, as at the Dover trial, been shown to be not just intellectually dishonest but factually so. Does this desperate dishonesty help Christianity?)

The 'end days' madness that so often springs from a too literal approach to Revelations has been a constant problem -- and it seems like every change in the world produces a new group of proofs that 'the end days are now.' (And then the time goes on, the prediction is forgotten, and new ones occur.)

But has this ever spawned so malevolent a fruit as the "Left Behind" stories that revel in violence in ways that can best be called disgusting?

And include in the horrors the ugliness of the "Christian Child Rearing" manuals that use inerrancy to portray what can only be described as "Bible-based baby beating." (To refer to myself, here's an article that I wrote on the subject.
http://saltosobrius.blogspot.com/2006/10/jim-benton-on-bible-based-baby-beating.html) This is what the community of fundamentalists comes to in its most malign incarnation.

But, for you who are Christians, perhaps the worst consequence of inerrancy is atheism. In my experience, a large percentage, i would guess a majority, of the ex-Christian atheists I know of came from a fundamentalist/inerrant background. (I should say that my background was different.) And once they were exposed to the scholarship that shows conclusively that there are errors, contradictions, scientific and historical absurdities in the Bible, they did not move to a more 'liberal' Christianity but instead began to question all the ideas of religion. From my vantage point, I would argue that they came to a correct conclusion in rejecting all of religion, but I doubt if many of you would agree, and as i have said, even though my own 'deconversion' came almost 45 years ago, I remember the pain it caused, and I cannot find any joy in knowing what they have suffered.

 
At 11/26/2006 1:43 AM, Anonymous Looney said...

" ... are the claims of the Creationists who would throw out all we know of science ..."

Actually, this fundamentalist, approximately inerrantist, creationist is an engineer who makes a living doing science. I will be joining a Mormon physicist friend tonight on my business trip to teach some scientific simulation software next week.

Now you might want to ponder how it is that Fundys function just fine in high tech science careers (along with people from every other religious whacko group), but the scholars have claimed that this is impossible because Fundys reject Darwin! Rejecting a scholar's opinion on a particular subject ain't the same as rejecting science.

 
At 11/26/2006 4:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here are a couple of statements from the Baptist Press regarding the issue:

"Adoption of the Chicago Statement is aimed at allowing the organization to exclude members or potential members who hold aberrant theological positions, such as “open theism,” that undermine biblical inerrancy."

Craig Blaising said, "The Chicago Statement merely clarifies what ETS means by the term “inerrancy"

"ETS initially considered writing its own definition of inerrancy, but the existence of the Chicago Statement made it unnecessary," Blaising states.


Bruce Ware states, "the adoption is a positive step, but will not likely eliminate all issues related to the Bible and ETS.."

Roger Nicole, a co-founder of ETS states, “In my judgment [adoption of the Chicago Statement] eliminates the claim by anyone that inerrancy is a vague term,” Nicole said in 2004. “The meaning of inerrancy is clarified and if there is any member who does not agree with that definition he should resign ... or be disciplined.”

In closing Ware described ETS’ adoption of the Chicago Statement as “a significant help but I don’t think it is a panacea. That is, it won’t preclude all problems that come up in terms of claimed violations of the doctrinal statement of ETS. It’s not as though you could take one look at the Chicago Statement and say, ‘Of course, they are in or out.’

“What it does is provide greater specificity. All we had was the term ‘inerrancy,’ which was to be defined, I suppose, as each person chooses,” Ware said. “This provides a specific, widely accepted definition of inerrancy.... I think it is a good move, one that is altogether constructive, but one that will by no means solve every problem that arises.”

 
At 11/26/2006 9:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim,

I enjoyed your comment from an atheist perspective. You raise some interesting points.

I have often seen a 'crisis of faith' arise in my friends who have a fundamentalist interpretation of scripture and begin to look at it critically for the first time.

Simon

 
At 11/26/2006 8:08 PM, Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White, Ph.D. said...

Exiled, I know that most inerrantists, including the Chicago Statement, verbally affirm the humanity of the Scriptures. What they want is a result--inerrancy--that ignores that humanity they affirm.

The question is not whether God COULD HAVE given us an inerrant scripture despite humans, but whether God HAS--and the evidence won't support that. The Chicago Statement shows that the only way to come close to an inerrancy statement that acknowleges the phenomena of Scripture is the death of a thousand qualifications. By the time its done, one is so far from any dictionary definition of "without error" as to be calling red blue.

That's why folk like Clark Pinnock can still affirm the statement--he has said he bets everything on article 13. He also says, rightly, that one could drive a mack truck (a lorrie) through article 13. The most skeptical of critics could probably fit that. But other parts of the statement take back much of the qualifications--the statement is incredibly full of contradictions.

Of what use is a term "inerrancy," that must be so qualified as to be actually misleading if one uses it?

 
At 11/26/2006 9:38 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Gras,

You write: "If the Scriptures are not inerrant, then we can open up a Pandora's Box of arbitrarily accepting this or that as being true and this or that as being not true. Are we really to be left to our own selves as the arbitrators of truth?"

I understand your argument, but I don't think it quite works. Are we left to ourselves? No, we are cast upon the Holy Spirit - even if we had a perfect Bible, it still needs to be understood and applied. We could never have autonomous reliance on a book, God is needed. Besides, the usual argument runs that only the original manuscripts were inerrant, so your argument would disqualify most inerrantists too.

 
At 11/26/2006 9:41 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Jim (Benton),
Thanks so much for your mail and your comments.
You write: "But, for you who are Christians, perhaps the worst consequence of inerrancy is atheism."

Yes, absolutely. I personally think this fact is a real pity as I see it as throwing away the baby with the bathwater. I'll rtry to respond to you via e-mail later.

 
At 11/27/2006 2:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. I'm never sure how to engage positions like this. A good part of me wants simply to ignore it as hardly worth a response.

 
At 11/27/2006 6:52 PM, Anonymous Richard H said...

At the Word Made Fresh gathering Friday night at AAR, Bruce Ware seemed mystified by Roger Olsen's description of too many evangelicals as narrow minded (I don't have my notes here, so the quotes are inexact), ready to pick fights, and come up with tighted rules to maintain "membership" within the evangelical tradition. He said it was the evangelical tradition he knew. Thus I find his endorsement of the adoption of the Chicago statement especially ironic.

Though I'm from the Wesleyan theological tradition, I consider myself an evangelical. I have long mourned the ascendancy of liberalism in my United Methodist Church. But it has been a long time since I thought I needed a theory of inerrancy to give me the right epistemological foundations for theology. Since I don't have a theory of errancy either, many of my positions are quite similar to the ETS.

 
At 11/27/2006 9:41 PM, Anonymous Sharad Yadav said...

Even for those who hold to inerrancy as represented by the Chicago Statement this can only be a bad thing. At best, it’s using inerrancy as an interpretive strategy, which is totally wrongheaded. At worst it weakens a doctrine about the NATURE of Scripture by turning it into a club, with the primary function of intimidation (viz. the characterization of all opposing views as “violating the plain meaning of Scripture”). If “open theism” can be ruled out on the basis of inerrancy, any doctrine can - and inerrancy is completely emptied of meaning.

 
At 1/06/2007 9:04 AM, Anonymous kd5det said...

I'm probably getting in on this too late to be of any interest but here goes:

I am a beginning student of theology, though I do have 48 years of membership in "Reformed" churchs. I am also an Engineer of 20 years.

Over the years I have been taught that God's revelation can be viewed as two types, General and Special revelation.

General Revelation is God revealing Himself through His works, which can be seen in the creation around us by any person at any time in history.

Special Revelation would include God speaking to mankind through "special" efforts on His part. This, in my view, (which is a little different from most reformed references I have seen) includes,theophanies, prophesies, scripture and most profoundly, Jesus Christ himself as he walked the earth.

For Reformed people, Special Revelation has been a synonym for "scripture". Scripture is a written record of the items above (theophanies, Jesus time on earth, etc.)

When there is disagreement between what is said in the general revelation (science, archaeolgical finds, etc.) and what is said in scripture, how do we reconcile the two? Many of these disagreements are mutually exclusive. They cannot both be true. What do we do?

John Calvin said something to the effect that "the scripture [special revelation] are the spectacles through we can see and rightly understand the world [general revelation].

Although there are a few exceptions, the church, up until the mid 1800's, read the first chapters of genesis as being the literary genre of historical record. It was read as a true record of true history.

Science, a systematic study of the general revelation, has, since the mid 1800's or so, said that the earth was millions or years old.

Since that time the church has been under tremendous pressure, to change its method of interpreting scripture to conform with science's interpretation of the general revelation.

The scriptures speak of walking by faith not by sight. They also speak of the gospel as being foolishness to the wise. This appears to be consistant with Calvin's assertion that you should try to understand the "sight" information of general revelation through the faith glasses of scripture.

In other words, why should the church change its methods of scripture interpretation, to match the truth claims of science, history, archaeology etc. Should it not be that christians scrutinize the truth claims of science, history, etc.

The philosophical underpinings of the truth claims of science and history are being successfully assulted by secular postmodernist philosphers. The Enlightenment view of science is passing away from our culture. This deserves a lot more attention than I am able to give it here, but what is happening is that postmodern philosophy is saying that, contrary to the Enlightenment view, Science does not have the tools necesary to find truth.

Why do christians need to change the traditional view of scripture that has, until recent history, been the foundation of faith and practice, merely to accomodate the temporarily fashionable Enlightenment view of the natural sciences?

I won't argue that the "inerrency" terminology has risen in a reactionary way. The view of scripture that is being described by the recent term "inerrency" is an old view. Had not the "Enlightenment" happened it would still be the predominant view with little challenge.

So in a sense, "inerrency" is reactionary, but in another sense merely a new term used to define and defend an old and traditional view.

To shorten this up, I feel that if science and scripture disagree, look for the error in science, not for the error in scripture.

 

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