Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Which Do You Chose - Justice, Justification or Jesus?

Do We Have the Gospel Wrong?
Scot is on the money here in all three categories. We have (i) the right-wing evangelical conservatives in the Justice camp, (ii) the Reformed traditionalists (or revivalists) in the Justification camp, and (iii) the Love Wins / Emergent groups in the Jesus camp. Each have a condensed version of the Gospel of Jesus - group (i) has a politically charged social gospel with an empire theology at its heart; group (ii) has a soterian gospel that preaches the sinfulness of man and the cross as its penal substitutionary remedy; and, group (iii) has a pure Jesus gospel that sees God at work through Adam, Abraham, Israel and the Church as the completing story and remedy for man's need.

Yes, "Love Wins," but love wins through Jesus' love, and this is what the "Love Wins" group has been saying all along. If you preach Jesus as the gospel you will get both justice and justification (theological camps 1 and 2). But if you preach either the justice gospel, or the justification gospel, you may only get some Jesus, but not all of Jesus, in those gospel versions.

Consequently, preaching the Jesus of Paul's gospel includes both the perspectives of justice and justification. And this third-and-last "J-Gospel" is the theologically correct gospel to place your money on as Scot will go on to explain below.*

R.E. Slater
November 3, 2011

*For additional links on this subject matter please refer to: Do We Have the Gospel Wrong?; The New Perspective of Paul; and generally, to the sidebar "Pauline Theology").


The Three “J’s” in the Gospel Debate

by Scot McKnight
November 2, 2011

Some people are a bit baffled when they hear there is a gospel debate today. Others, and this is no surprise to the readers of this blog, know that many debates actually end up discovering that at the bottom of this debate is the gospel, or how we understand the gospel. Some mainline organizations break into a rash when interviewing a candidate for ministry and discover that he or she has a traditional Reformed understanding of the gospel, while some in that more traditional Reformed movement today do the same when they hear a candidate contend for a more new perspective view of the gospel. And some in the revivalist tradition cannot comprehend how in the world anyone doesn’t think the gospel is anything but that simple four or five point gospel. Yet others, and I’ll avoid giving names here, seem to think the gospel itself can be reduced to three words: God loves you.

The gospel is at the heart today of every major theological debate, and it spills over into one ecclesiastical debate after another.

In all of this lots of folks get thoroughly confused. Take, for instance, the new perspective and the gospel. Some people think this is a fun debate but at stake for many of us is not just a curious piece of history — what was 1st Century Judaism really like? — but instead we see the gospel at stake. To be sure, if you find yourself in the middle of all of this the debate can become bewildering.

So I want to contend this morning that there are three ways of framing the gospel today. What I want to emphasize is that how we frame the gospel determines everything, and I mean everything. I contend there are three J’s that can put the whole debate today on the table in the simplest of framing categories.

First, some people frame the gospel through the category of justice. The point of the gospel is this: Jesus came to establish a kingdom marked by justice, and of course justice is the big term that includes other important ideas like peace and love and salvation. In fact, for many in the justice camp the word “salvation” is robust enough to be called “justice” or “justice” is robust enough to be called “salvation.” For these folks, Luke 4:18-19 is about as gospel as you can get, and Jesus’ death and his resurrection are all connected to this vision of justice. This means gospel work is justice work; it also means any gospel work that doesn’t entail justice is not gospel work.

Some in this camp, of course, are so justice and so “social justice” that it seems like nothing more than political activism or the worst caricature of the social gospel. But a charitable reading of justice gospelers reveals that they do believe Jesus’ death forgives sins (I find few in this camp care much for substitutionary atonement but they are not denying atonement in the death of Jesus; to be sure, some are little more than Abelard or even Girard).

Justice gospelers today tend toward political activism, the summons for more Christians to see compassion for the poor and better laws and peace in the world, and toward a kingdom language. One of the more recent developments for justice gospelers is the category of empire, and they see a conscious and consistent anti-empire agenda at work in Jesus and in the apostles. They like this expression: “Jesus is Lord, Caesar is not.”

I’m not persuaded empire is as important to gospel as many do today, though anyone who claims Jesus is Lord knows that Caesar is not. The issue for me is how conscious is this. (And I’m co-editing a book with IVP, due out next Fall, that will put this anti-empire theory to the test. We’ve got some really, really good essays in this volume.)

Overall I am utterly convinced as I can be that Jesus intended to create a just society, and I’ve written about this in most of my books: but I am just as convinced that the gospel is not justice per se. Justice is the inevitable result and implication of the gospel but not the same as the gospel.

Second, some people frame the gospel through the category of justification. This is the traditional Reformation category, and Luther famously said that the church stands or falls with justification by faith. (Ahem, Jesus spoke to this and he said it stood or fell with the confession of Peter, namely, that Jesus was Messiah/King. [But] I digress.) For justification gospelers, the gospel is soterian and that soteriology, or doctrine of salvation, can all be summed up in and through the term justification. The essence is that we are sinners and guilty before God and God must deal in a legal courtroom kind of way with our status. The good news is that God forgives us through Jesus and we can become justified, or declared in the right, through the death and resurrection of Christ. (Justification gospelers don’t emphasize resurrection enough, sometimes revealing almost no interest. Most emphasize a penal substitution theory of atonement and see divine satisfaction as the primary act of God at work in making justification possible. Many are also double imputation folks. Not all, as others emphasize union with Christ.)

Justification gospelers preach a soterian gospel, and I’ve said enough about this on this blog and in my book (linked below). They tend to be at odds with justice gospelers, just as justice gospelers are at odds with justification gospelers. Tim Keller is on record saying justification leads to justice, but I don’t think the logic is necessary and it is too obvious to me that far too many justification gospelers inherently react to the justice gospelers because they don’t think justification leads inevitably to justice. More of that some other time. [Thus, though they say it they don't believe it. - re slater]

The issue I’m talking about is how to frame the gospel. The justice gospelers frame the gospel through systemic injustice that needs to be undone and justice established; the justification gospelers frame the gospel through the systematic theology of creation, fall, sinfulness, God’s just judgment of humans as sinners, and the remedy of justice in the cross (and resurrection) of Christ where God is both just and justifier.

But I want to contend once again that justification, like justice, is the implication or result of the gospel and not the gospel itself. The proof is in the absence of justification language (especially as the “driver”) in 1 Corinthians 15, the almost total absence of justification in the gospel sermons in Acts, and the same almost total absence of the category/term of justification in the Gospels (which are the gospel). Again, we are talking here about how to frame the gospel.

The gospel, I contend, is not properly framed as injustice becoming justice (though clearly this happens) or as the unjust becoming just/justified (though clearly this happens too). And the debate between these two folks proves an inability to convince one leads to the other compellingly. There’s a better way. Instead…

Third, some people frame the gospel through the category of Jesus. As I argue in The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited, fundamental category for the gospel in Jesus and the apostles is the Story of Jesus. Just look at 1 Corinthians 15, just look at the gospeling sermons in Acts, and then just take a good look at why the first four books are called THE GOSPEL according to (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John).

What drove them was the Story of Jesus as the completing/fulfilling Story of God’s work in this world, beginning with Adam and then taken up into Abraham.

There are three J’s in the gospel debate. The right J is Jesus.

If you preach Jesus as the gospel you will get both justification and justice.

If you preach justification you may get Jesus (but I see only some of Jesus and not the whole of Jesus) and you may get some justice (I’m skeptical on this one).

 If you preach justice you may get some justification (but I’m skeptical on enough justice gospelers ever getting to justification) and you get Jesus, but again only some of Jesus (often only his teachings, his life, and his life as an example).

If you preach the Jesus of Paul’s gospel (1 Cor 15) or the apostolic sermons in Acts or the gospel of the Gospels, you get all of Jesus and all of Jesus creates both justice and justification.

As for me and my house, we take the third J.


Comment by Russ — November 3, 2011 @ 6:47 am

Hi Scot. I made a second reading of your article this morning and came to the conclusion that the third-and-last J-Gospel speaks to the “Love Wins / Emergent Church groups” that are unmentioned in your opening paragraph.

Not that other Christian church groups don’t fit into this, but for me (at least my version of the Love Wins/Emergent groups) places this group squarely into the center of the New Perspective of Paul understanding of the Gospel.

And this is the version that I wish to support and to push onto any "Emergent / Love Wins" groups floundering around for direction in their theology. As does the Rob Bell version of the gospel that I am acquainted with. Rob is all about “Jesus” 24 x 7, and goes on to show how Jesus relates to every other thing in societal structures.

I firmly believe the Emergent Church Movement can help revive the Gospel to our pluralistic, postmodern world, and can appeal to all groups, both evangelical and non-evangelical, to denominations and to sub-sectarian groups, to Judaism, Muslimism, Hinduism, and so on. And it can do so in re-righting the understanding of how God loves us through his son Jesus. And as you have said, "Jesus is the center and nothing else," including one of God’s attributes known as divine love. But the “Love Wins” crowd knows and understands this most central of all truths (again, at least in my first-hand experience of this through Rob Bell’s ministry).

And lest I stand wrong in these statements than please correct those gaps and oversights. The Emergent Church movement needs direction (and not backwards) and I believe to the degree it is given that direction, to that degree Christianity can again become relevant to the world rather than hung-up in its factions and “isms.”

Thank you.

Why Inerrancy Doesn't Matter

Dr. Olson relates in this article the difference between the use of the word "inerrancy" v. "infallibility" in strict definitions of the terms. Overall, he concludes, inerrancy is a manufactured word by latter day evangelicals (1980s forward) intent on "removing biblical inconsistencies" found on the pages of Scripture. Olson contends that the word "infallible" is good enough and not in need of any further help through additional definitions and added nuances.

Moreover, believers are better able to maintain an "authoritative" bible when using the word "infallible" as pertaining to the revelation of God to man and all things related to man's sin and salvation. But to insist that the bible does not have inconsistencies within its records and then place the word inerrancy into this definition will do harm to the authority of the bible. It is better to admit that there are inconsistencies found within the bible while knowing that those discovered errors of history, science, etc, do no harm to the authority of Scriptures pertaining to God and salvation.

Thus, this is the complaint and false help (or misdirection) of the word inerrancy. In other articles on this blog we have discussed how the bible is authoritative. Please refer to the "Bible - Authority & Interpretation" sidebar. Additionally let me reference one of the first articles I had placed within that section by NT Wright, The Authority of the Bible.

We take the bible seriously here, all the more so because it is an authoritative and infallible revelatory revelation regarding its teaching on God and salvation. What is not needed are additional qualifications to God's word by dogmatically-bound, well-meaning, believers (of whatever sort and stripe they are). The temptation to over-define (via an hyper-conservatist theology) God's words are as dangerous as to under-define (liberalism) God's words to us. As theologians and students of the Word, let us hear and speak the Word of God aright, in all of its authority and spiritual empowerment, given to us by Almighty God.

R.E. Slater
November 2011

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Why Inerrancy Doesn't Matter

by Roger Olson
posted August 19, 2010

I know I promised more about postconservative evangelicalism today. Even though it may not seem directly related to a delineation of that, this post does help explicate how most postconservatives think about the inspiration and authority of the Bible.

First, a strong affirmation. As evangelicals, we postconservatives DO believe the Bible is our (and should be every Christian’s) norming norm for life and belief. Tradition is our normed norm–a secondary guide or compass that is not infallible. Scripture, we all agree, is infallible in all that it teaches regarding God and salvation.

Second, however, for most of us the word “inerrancy” has become too problematic uncritically to embrace and use. To the untrained and untutored ear “inerrant” always and necessarily implies absolute flawless perfection even with regard to numbers and chronologies and quotations from sources, etc. But even the strictest scholarly adherents of inerrancy kill that definition with the death of a thousand qualifications. Some who insist that you must be evangelical to be faithful to Scripture’s authority say inerrancy is consistent with biblical authors’ use of errant sources. In other words, they say, the Bible is nevertheless inerrant if it contains an error so long as the author used an errant source inerrantly!?!

How many people in the pews know about these qualifications held by many, if not all, scholarly conservative evangelicals? When I teach these qualifications to my students (as I have done over almost 30 years) the reaction is almost uniformly the same: “That’s not what ‘inerrancy’ means!” I have them read the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy and most of them laugh at the twists and turns it makes in order to qualify inerrancy to make it fit with the undeniable phenomena of Scripture.

The biggest qualification [by inerrantists] is that only the original autographs were inerrant. Think about this. The claim made by most conservative evangelicals (and, of course fundamentalists) is that biblical authority stands or falls with inerrancy. If the Bible contains any real errors it cannot be trusted. Then they admit every Bible that exists probably contains errors. Only the original manuscripts on which the inspired authors wrote can be considered perfectly inerrant.

Again, for almost 30 years I’ve presented this to my students and allowed them to react. The reaction is almost always the same: Huh? Then no Bible we have is inerrant and therefore no Bible we have is authoritative. Right. You can’t make authority depend on inerrancy and then say no existing Bible is inerrant without calling every Bible’s authority into question. It’s a hole in inerrantists’ logic so huge even a sophomore can drive a truck through it.

My experience teaching theology has been that more students give up belief in the Bible’s authority because they were taught that it depended on [the concept of] absolute inerrancy (even in matters of cosmology and history) than because they are taught [that the bible] isn’t inerrant. In other words, they discover for themselves the problems with inerrancy once they face the problems. Wouldn’t it be better to be totally honest with young people about the Bible so that they do not face a crisis of faith when they finally have to face up to its factual flaws (that even inerrantists admit but rarely tell people in the pews)?

What’s ironic is that many strong inerrantists who insist belief in the Bible’s inerrancy is necessary for authentic evangelical faith define inerrancy in highly questionable ways. In other words, “inerrancy” has become a shibboleth. So long as you affirm the word you can go on to define it however you want to and you’re still “in.”

Here’s an example.  A leading inerrantist wrote his own definition of inerrancy for a college where he applied to teach. I taught at that same college later and his statement about inerrancy fell into my hands. His definition was “perfection with respect to purpose.” He admitted that many statements of Scripture, taken at face value, are wrong, but so long as they do not touch on matters of the Bible’s main purpose which is to identify God for us and lead us into salvation, these do not matter. This scholar has emerged as a leading defender of biblical inerrancy and has spoken out very publicly about it (without explaining his own definition). I confirmed at least twice over the years that he still believes in his definition of inerrancy.

I sent his two page definition and description of “inerrancy” to Carl F. H. Henry and asked him for an analysis and evaluation of the statement (without naming its author). All I told Henry was that this person wrote the statement for the college as an applicant for a teaching position. I didn’t mention that it was years earlier. My purpose was an experiment about how the word “inerrancy” functions in evangelical circles.

Henry wrote back a two page, handwritten letter blasting the statement as totally inadequate. He said “This person means well but needs help [understanding inerrancy].” The thrust of his response was that the college should not hire this person. And yet, the person who wrote the statement is widely considered an influential conservative evangelical who has publicly criticized others for allegedly not truly believing in biblical inerrancy.

Not too long ago I had a debate with another leading conservative evangelical inerrantist. This one was an officer of the Evangelical Theological Society which requires affirmation of inerrancy for membership. I have never joined because I don’t think inerrancy is the right word for what we evangelicals believe–including those who hold to the term. This person is also an officer of a leading evangelical seminary. After much communication back and forth we realized that we differ hardly at all about the Bible. Given his qualifications of inerrancy and my high view of Scripture (supernatural inspiration and highest authority for life and faith) our accounts of the Bible were nearly identical. So I asked him if I could join the ETS without affirming the word “inerrancy.” He said no. To me that proves it is just a shibboleth.

The theologian I referred to earlier who defines inerrancy as “perfection with respect to purpose” and whose expanded definition was deemed totally “inadequate” by Carl F. H. Henry still is and has been for many years an influential member of the ETS!

I have to conclude that within evangelical circles “inerrancy” has developed into a mere shibboleth because a person (such as I) can affirm everything many leading inerrantists believe about the Bible and yet be rejected and even criticized. I fear they have elevated a word into an idol.

So how would I describe my own and many inerrantists’ view of Scripture’s accuracy? I think “infallible” does a better job than “inerrant” so long as I can explain what it means. “Infallible,” to me, means the Bible never fails in its main purpose which is to identify God for us, to communicate his love and his will to us, and to lead us into salvation and a right relationship with our Creator, Savior and Lord.

I like theologian Emil Brunner’s illustration. (I don’t necessarily agree with everything he wrote about the Bible.) In his little book, Our Faith, Brunner wrote about the old RCA Victrola advertisement that showed a dog listening to the megaphone of a record player. Under the picture the caption read “His master’s voice.” We recognize our master’s voice in Scripture in spite of its inevitable flaws, just as the dog in the illustration recognized his master’s voice in spite of the inevitable flaws on the record.

I think it is time we evangelicals matured enough to get over our obsession with a word and care more about our common belief in the Bible’s authority in all matters pertaining to faith and practice. We used to be able to do this. After all, the statement of faith of the National Association of Evangelicals has never included inerrancy. And leading evangelicals of the past who were universally considered authentically evangelical denied inerrancy. (For example Scottish evangelical theologian James Orr who wrote chapters for The Fundamentals and was a good friend of B. B. Warfield!)

When I deny inerrancy I am not necessarily denying anything many inerrantists believe. It may be, and I think is the case, that I am only denying that the word “inerrancy” is the most helpful or accurate term for what they and I believe in common.

The Infallibility and Multi-Vocality of Scripture

Part of reading and understanding the Bible is the acknowledgement to the fact that the Bible is inconsistent within itself - not unified, as it were - as we have been led to believe by well-meaning pastors and theologians. We find numerous mistakes, inaccurate witness, historic revisions, and irreconcilable passages within its pages. But rather than framing this truth in terms of a "fallible" Bible (a common knee-jerk reaction by scholars, the media, and wise-cracking friends) I would rather like to understand this as giving to us an "infinitely wider" Bible. One coloured by the perceptions of multiple authors, their real-life experiences, their accumulated knowledge gathered through training, perception, and life in general. One pitted with the veracity of time and tradition through the many ages of paganism, Judaism and the Church itself. A testimony which I understand to be the multiple voices (or, multi-vocality) of Scriptures.

As such, we now have in our possession a Bible that is replete with the Word of God through an infinite number of sources, viewpoints, and historic arguments both studied and pedestrian. Ranging from wise-fools to corrupt Kings, humble shepherds to hoary sagas, imperfect leaders to willful prophets, faithless priests to wicked scribes. From exasperated housewives to diligent fishermen, hardy camel drivers to orphaned girls lost and alone; from uncertain guards to irreligious jailers, doubting tax gathers to besotted wine-bibbers. From believing crooks to repentant murderers, incorrigible thieves to clear-sighted virgins, from endearing boys and girls to children of faith.

Within the testimony of Scriptures comes to us an infinite parade of beggars, clowns, fools, and ignoble. As well as the honorable, studious, faithful, and spiritual. We see the depressed, the destitute, the harmed and the hurting. We see the determined, the persevering, the blessed and the rewarded. We see repentants and the sinful; the disbelieving and the believing; the confessing and the wicked. The testimony of the Bible shouts to one-and-all its testimony to our fallibleness, making known to us that we are in good company with the residents of its historic pages down through time immemorial.

So then, the misnomer of ascribing the Bible's pages and integrity as "fallible" should be corrected and understood as "faithful and accurate" in its revelatory depiction of man's fallenness and his need for redemption, for guidance, for humility and graciousness. The Bible ascribes to us its "earthy testimony of a heavenly God's revelation to fallen men and women." A testimony as large-and-wide as God is wise-and-deep. A testimony both plain and mysterious. A testimony that can lend doubt, on the one hand, to our "too-well constructed versions" of who we think God is, what He is doing, who we are, and where all this is going. As well as lend certitude (as versus certainty), on the other hand, to those very same questions when constructed correctly, using a broader hermeneutic, a more balanced theology, a wiser understanding of what exactly the Scriptures actually are as redemptive revelation. In this regard we then have an "infallible" Bible in perfect testimony to the Divine.

Lastly, we must add to the revelatory vocality of the Bible the very revelatory voice of God himself in the wisdom, depth, and infinity of his divine personage and the Triune fellowship of Father, Spirit, Son. Whose voice rumbles through its earthy pages with the divine life and breath of our Savior-Redeemer who is the Creator-God and everlasting I AM. Who makes those who are dead, alive through His Spirit. Who empowers sinful men and women with a spiritual renewal to re-embrace life with the thunderous voices of the resurrected. Whose people rumble forth on the storms of His embrace on the troubling sounds of crucifixion - to death, to sin, flesh, and world - to dead men everywhere listening. Who hear in the storms of heavenly redemption the further sounds of lives reaped-and-harvested from emptiness, vanity, ego and pride. It is the sound of Love spoken down through the ages in grace and mercy. A sound more troubling to our soul than any other sound can ever be heard. For it is the voice of God heard in the revelation of Scriptures. A voice valiant and courageous, willing to seek, to find, to embrace all who hear his voice, seek and submit. It is the voice of everlasting Love.

R.E. Slater
November 2, 2011

I think “infallible” does a better job than “inerrant” so long as I can explain what it means. “Infallible,” to me, means the Bible never fails in its main purpose which is to identify God for us, to communicate his love and his will to us, and to lead us into salvation and a right relationship with our Creator, Savior and Lord. - Dr. Roger Olson, Why inerrancy doesn't matter

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On Not Harmonizing (the Gospels)

J.R.Daniel Kirk
October 31, 2011

I’ve just wrapped up teaching the Synoptic Gospels part of my Gospels and Acts course. Going through the individual books, looking over proposed solutions to the Synoptic Problem, and seeing how the seemingly harmonious stories portray Jesus’ ministry in quite different lights, we are left with a few conclusion that are surprising to many of us. Here are a couple:
  • The Gospel writers have different ideas about how Jesus’ death works, which means they have different ideas about how God brings salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
  • The Gospels we have used sources, including, probably, Mark as a source for Matthew and Luke, and yet they felt free to change this source for various reasons, including: style, making a somewhat different point, causing the story to more clearly echo an OT antecedent, eliminating theological claims that they did not want to make, or including new theological claims that are somewhat at odds with the theological claims of the original story.

This means that there is not only a plurality of voices in the NT, there is an irreducible theological diversity.

But more importantly, this theological diversity is no accident of history but, on the human level, has been intentionally introduced into the texts we have in front of us. Luke intentionally modifies Mark (and Matthew?) to increase the continuity between the OT narrative and the work of Jesus, and to eliminate the idea of Jesus’ death procuring salvation for people as such.

Two questions came up that I think are important for us to keep working through, especially as evangelicals for whom such conclusions seem to push against our prior conception of what it means to call the Bible the word of God.

First, what does this mean for “scripture interpreting scripture”? This rule became quite popular at the time of the Reformation, or at least, if you Google “scripture interprets scripture the people who are the most fierce advocates for the view are likely to be appealing to the Reformation traditions in their defense.

But what do we do when Luke says, “Blessed are the poor,” and Matthew says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”? Is Matthew clear here where Luke is ambiguous, thereby telling us what Jesus really meant? Or are we to hear in Luke’s version his special concern for the socially marginalized?

What are we to do when Mark says that you don’t put new wine in old wineskins, but Luke feels compelled to add, “No one wants new wine, old is better!”? Do we let Mark’s apparent meaning stand, where Jesus is the new wine that cannot be contained by the older Jewish practices? Or do we allow the “more clear” Lucan conclusion to change our reading?

  1. Matthew 9:17
    Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved."
  2. Mark 2:22
    And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins."
  3. Luke 5:37-38
    37And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, 'The old is good/better.'"


[There can be two responses:] (1) [Do we] allow the scripture one author wrote help interpret that author’s other passages; [or] (2) allow the NT’s example of rereading the OT in light of Christ to train us to reread the OT as a witness to the saving life, death, resurrection, and reign of Jesus.

Question 1 -

If we insist on giving the one meaning made clear by the other texts, we start to force the Bible into our preconception of what kind of Bible would be good for us, what kind of Bible would qualify as “word of God,” and in so doing we spurn the actual Bible that God did give us, and that God thought was adequate for conveying God’s word.

Question 2 - What do we do with this stuff as pastors?

My answer here: it is your pastoral responsibility to help people recognize the Bible we actually have, rather than the Bible of our imaginations, is the word of God.

If you don’t give your people a category for this kind of diverse Bible being the word of God, then you will create a false sense of connection between a supposedly uniform, univocal Bible and the Christian faith as such. So what happens when they go off to college and take a Bible class at State University? What happens when they get bored one Saturday and map out (or try, anyway) the last week of Jesus’ life in each of the four Gospels?

Uh oh.

That’s when they discover that the Bible isn’t what you led them to believe. And if that imagined Bible is necessary for believing what God has to say about Jesus and the Christian faith in general, then the latter are apt to crumble as well.

Make no mistake, there are tremendous pastoral issues at stake in affirming correctly what the Bible is. But one of the worst mistakes we can make, especially in a day and age where media will tell people the truth if we don’t, is to affirm a vision of a single-voiced scripture that fails to correspond to the text we have actually been given.