Monday, February 25, 2008

In a nutshell: the problem with inerrancy

Modern formulations of biblical inerrancy (such as the Chicago statement) are faulty because they do not correspond with the reality to which their manner of discourse makes appeal. In other words, within the genre of analytical discourse, the medium in which modern formulations are presented, appeal to inerrancy flounders on the demonstrable error its claim, and it loses sight of its strictly doxological status.


At 2/25/2008 11:14 PM, Anonymous byron smith said...

Thanks - I was just thinking about inerrancy this morning. I need to give a couple of lectures on the doctrines of Revelation and Scripture in a few weeks and this helped clarify some thoughts.

At 2/26/2008 9:34 AM, Anonymous Steven Harris said...

Spot on Chris.

I think (when I'm in one of my more cynical moods)that you could even argue that the "inerrancy" of scripture as commonly defended by Chicago et al is nothing more than a fiction that is projected onto the Bible, and that the "inerrancy" resides not in scripture itself but in the mind of the church.

At 2/26/2008 12:12 PM, Anonymous Steven Harris said...

I've offered a few thought on this post here...


At 2/26/2008 5:42 PM, Anonymous Brant Pitre said...


I keep waiting for you to interact with the Church Fathers on this topic. I think you'll agree that any reflections on this issue should reckon with what the successors to the apostles had to say about it--and they DID have things to say about it--over a thousand years before the Chicago Statement ever came out.

For a great collection of quotes, read Pope Benedict XV's encyclical, Spiritus Paraclitus, available at the Vatican website.

At 2/27/2008 3:20 AM, Anonymous Drew Tatusko said...

I am not sure it is a problem of correspondence, as I understand here, but a problem of to which authority the claim of inerrancy actually makes. The claim of inerrancy must be legitimated as a discourse outside of the scope of Scripture itself. Hence, that which legitimated inerrancy must be inerrant, that is - the human interpreter.

At 2/27/2008 9:05 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Glad it was helpful, Byron.

And Steven. Great post - I agree. I've been pondering artcile 12 of the Chicago Stat. today:


Hi Brant,
Thanks for your comment. I am presenting a paper this Friday in Tübingen, and I deal a little more with the Fathers, but you are right that I need to pay more attention to them (and not just in relation to inerrancy, I must admit). Until further study confirms this, I suspect that the manner of their discourse is more doxological, as opposed to the dry 'we affirm/deny' of the Chicago statement.

Thanks for pointing me to the Spiritus Paraclitus. I'll download a copy.

Hi Drew,
well, Chicago style inerrancy is a claim based upon a deductive usage of scripture: God cannot lie. God inspired the scriptures (they are his word), therefore ... inerrant.
It is the "therefore" that goes beyond scripture, in my view.

At 3/01/2008 3:02 AM, Anonymous John Hobbins said...

Hi Chris,

I'm glad you are keeping the conversation going on this.

However, you are creating a comfortable either/or solution to the problem which is quite unlike that of the Church Fathers, Aquinas, Luther, and so on.

It is very important to stress that theology is doxology. This goes for what we say about scripture as well. But it sounds as if you think the content of doxology is not translatable into analytical discourse. It is, just like love-language is, but only in part. Still, that part deserves attention.

At 3/06/2008 3:33 AM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...

"Infallibility" and then, "Inerrancy" appear to have their roots among Protestants during the nineteenth century when scholars were beginning to openly discuss biblical difficulties (viz., and those roots eventually grew into the "fundamentalist-modernist" controversy of the early 20th century).

At the same time, the mid-nineteenth century, Catholics were coming up with "infallibility" to counter various modernist tendencies that likewise were arising in their church.

But the dogma of the infallibility of the Bible is no more self-evident than the dogma of the infallibility of the Pope.


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