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
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
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)
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

Monday, August 11, 2014

Scot McKnight's Review of "Five Views of Biblical Inerrancy," Part 2a - Peter Enns


Today continues another article by evangelics that have had a change in attitude towards the church's (creedal) confession to "biblical inerrancy." A construction created in the 1980 Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI) that poorly describes how to properly read and study the bible. Why do I say this?

It is this writer's opinion that "not holding to inerrancy is to have a more profound Bible than if holding on to inerrancy's unnecessary language and resultant dogmas." Put another way, sometimes you can say more about a subject by saying less. By attempting to further circumscribe God and His Word by adding additional words and languages of the church's religious expectations is to approach the biblical text with more philosophic boundary layers that distance the reader from God and His Word.

In essence, inerrancy would create boundaries of discussions that lead to false inferences and suppositions about God and His Word. More pointedly, it betrays us as fallible readers by causing us to feel infallibly about subjects that need better questions, not less. It prevents valuable insights that can be too easily covered up by a more "layered" approach to biblical studies such as that presented to the theologian when approaching the Bible as "inerrant" rather than as "authoritative and infallible but not inerrant." Peter Enns is one such theologian who says the 1980 CSBI confession would be better off stricken from the evangelic records. With him I say, eh verily, Amen and Amen.

R.E. Slater
August 11, 2014

* * * * * * * * *

There is little doubt that the inerrancy of the Bible is a current and often contentious topic among evangelicals. Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy represents a timely contribution by showcasing the spectrum of evangelical positions on inerrancy, facilitating understanding of these perspectives, particularly where and why they diverge.

Each essay in Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy considers:

  • the present context and the viability and relevance for the contemporary evangelical Christian witness;
  • whether and to what extent Scripture teaches its own inerrancy;
  • the position’s assumed/implied understandings of the nature of Scripture, God, and truth; and
  • three difficult biblical texts, one that concerns intra-canonical contradictions, one that raises questions of theological plurality, and one that concerns historicity.

Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy serves not only as a single-volume resource for surveying the current debate, but also as a catalyst both for understanding and advancing the conversation further. Contributors include Al Mohler, Kevin Vanhoozer, Michael Bird, Peter Enns, and John Franke.

* * * * * * * * *

Scott McKnight begins a discussion of Inerrancy to which I will add

occasional emendation, notes, links, and resources. R.E. Slater, August 4, 2014

The Inadequacy of the Inerrancy Model (Pete Enns)

by Scot McKnight
Aug 6, 2014

I was at Tyndale House in the early 80s when a well-known evangelical theologian came by to speak about the importance of inerrancy. It was a good and encouraging address, but after the paper a veteran NT scholar leaned over to me and said something like this: “It is easy for systematicians to claim inerrancy because they don’t have to live with critical scholarship on the Bible.” The veteran scholar here was not an Old Testament scholar but a NT scholar, and he didn’t specialize in the Gospels either. I have since appreciated any view of Scripture that works from the ground of the texts up.

Peter Enns, in the volume Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy, has a chapter with a descriptive title: “Inerrancy, however defined, does not describe what the Bible does” (I deleted the upper case letters for a chp title). And that is what the chapter is all about.

Enns’ essay is largely critical of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI), which he chooses as a paradigm of how inerrancy is understood and preached about, though the essay by Paul Feinberg on the “Meaning of Inerrancy” in N. Geisler (ed.), Inerrancy, would have been a better paradigm — even if one might say most haven’t read him and many do tend to parrot the rougher edges of the CSBI statement. I could have wished for a more positive constructive theory of Scripture. Further, he [Enns] seems intent on pressing "how inerrancy is used for ill" in interpretive moves rather than defining what inerrancy means and how his approach to the Bible frames a doctrine of Scripture and its authority in the church. I can’t see that the tradition of inerrancy requires how to interpret a text but only that, when interpreted aright, it is true.

Enns’ own model of Scripture is called the “incarnational” view, a view he articulated in a book called Inspiration and Incarnation, a book that more or less got him onto the hot seat at Westminster Theological Seminary and he was eventually pushed off the hotseat to find another job. (That’s another conversation.) Enns also has a book about to come out with the cheeky title The Bible Tells Me So . This essay reflects his continuing reaction to his WTS days. But, once again, he wants to press us all to let the Bible be what it is. I applaud any effort to do just that.

OK, now to his essay. Other than to say it is jarring to move from Mohler’s overly a priori approach to Enns’ overt reaction to inerrancy. In fact, it is indeed odd that Enns has a chapter here — he doesn’t embrace inerrancy — but he does keep the other essayists a bit more on their toes.

What is clear in Enns in comparison with Mohler is that focus Enns gives to the problem passages assigned. Enns, in fact, builds his view of Scripture on such passages.

CSBI is not the best example (I think Feinberg’s essay is, to repeat the point). A friend of mine, however, once told me you can drive the standard Errancy Mack Truck through Article XIII, which reads:

WE AFFIRM the propriety of using inerrancy as a theological term with reference to the complete truthfulness of Scripture.

WE DENY that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose. We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.

And notice this clarification by the CSBI members:

We affirm that canonical Scripture should always be interpreted on the basis that it is infallible and inerrant. However, in determining what the God-taught writer is asserting in each passage, we must pay the most careful attention to its claims and character as a human production. In inspiration, God utilized the culture and conventions of His penman’s milieu, a milieu that God controls in His sovereign providence; it is misinterpretation to imagine otherwise.

In other words, common accusations against inerrancy are bracketed as not constituting error. In particular, most issues can fit inside the “according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose” — and one would then have to bring in historical context. Which leads Enns precisely to the point Mohler doesn’t want: using ancient standards to assess “purpose” or “intent” in the text. Maybe I’m attributing to much to Enns, but that’s how I read this one. The text, they are claiming, is true when interpreted properly.

This post could get long easily and I’ll do my best to stay within normal boundaries for my posts. Enns thinks “inerrancy” has become rhetorical and political, a term used to assess others and to draw lines. He’s right in how many have used it. The term has value if one is doing some disinterested theology.

More important to Enns is this: the tensions over inerrancy are created by “the distance between a priori theological assertions about God and how his book should behave and the Bible we meet once we get down to the uncooperative details of the text itself” (84). In other words, “God” is understood to have composed the Bible in a way that conforms to how God is understood. God is perfect, therefore God’s Word is perfect. Simple a fortiori logic. The problem is that there is no reason to assume if God is perfect God had to have a perfect Bible. There are other views of inerrancy and many are not so deductive in logic. I suspect Bird and Vanhoozer will move in these categories.

Enns focuses on the CSBI and presses it hard for the image of the Bible it creates, though I’m not so sure Article 13 is as inflexible as Pete suggests. He wants more on “the manner in which God speaks truth, namely, through the idioms, attitudes, assumptions, and general worldviews of the ancient authors” (87). Again, maybe Article 13 does this? I have always read it that way.

Literalism is the default mode of interpretation; very true. Joshua 6 says the walls fell; therefore the walls fell. And he points to the common slippery slope logic often used in connection with inerrancy. He sees “emotional blackmail” (89). Inerrancy, he thinks cannot be nuanced to cover the problems.

His study on Joshua 6 places on the table the well-known conclusions: an early date for the exodus (15th Century BC) is not confirmed by the evidence of Jericho, and a later date (13th Century) is strained too much. So he suggest the moderate inerrantists say there is a historical core that may have been mythologized. At the time of the exodus Jericho was “at most a small settlement and without walls” (93). So he thinks the approach of folks like James Hoffmeier of mythological features in the exodus is used to give possible help to Joshua 6. If a core is history with some mythologization is within inerrancy’s boundaries, would he embrace the term?

In my judgment, the only way to counter this is for the inerrantists to prove that the historical and archaeological evidence supports that account as it is in Joshua 6. So folks like Richard Hess have proposed erosion, which is probably a step forward in that it affirms more the archaeological evidence.

Here is [Enn's] pungent conclusion: “A defense of inerrancy that rests on the impossibility of disproving the possibility of historicity, in my view, is entirely circular and therefore demonstrates the implausibility of the premise and is its own refutation” (95).

Another one: “For inerrantists [at least some], an ‘errant’ Bible is a greater theological threat than a God who orders the extermination of an entire people, since an entire theological system rests on the former” (105).

I will avoid fuller descriptions… read the essay yourself. But I have a methodological approach I’d like to toss out. We should be historically responsible in assessing the archaeology and go with the evidence; if it proves our interpretative history of Joshua 6 untenable, can we not at that point reconsider our interpretation? What’s wrong with that?

Sometimes those who defend inerrantist interpretations, however ironic, make the Bible flat-out wrong. In other words, a text that appears to be teaching one thing (a parrot bird) might actually be something else.

Enns says inerrancy can function as a good term if it is descriptive of what one might find in the Bible but not prescriptive of what must be there. Bird and Vanhoozer will probe this.

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