According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, 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

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Scot McKnight's Review of "Five Views of Biblical Inerrancy," Part 6 - Scot McKnight




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 Emperor and Inerrancy
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/08/20/the-emperor-and-inerrancy/

by Scot McKnight
August 20, 2014
Comments

On the inerrancy posts I’ve had a number ask me to explain what I think. When I was a professor at TEDS inerrancy came up often; when I was at North Park, among many evangelical students and a seminary attached to the school and as I got to know Covenant pastors, inerrancy almost never came up; since I’ve been at Northern Seminary it has almost never come up other than in a powerful reconceptualizing and critique of the idea in a chapter by my colleague, David Fitch, in his book The End of Evangelicalism. At Northern I’ve not had a class session where I thought my students thought the Bible was wrong or its truth claims needed to be challenged. Yet the term inerrancy is not how our students — at least in class sessions with me — seem to think about the Bible.

So back to the question above: What do I think? Four thoughts, and I want you to know that these thoughts come after decades of listening to debates and discussions and defenses and ripostes, and after writing about the Bible for going on thirty years. I have for years said the first and leading word for Scripture needs to be truth. I stand by it and it puts the entire inerrancy discussion into a larger context.

Here’s the first: The term itself, not a big idea behind it, has become a distraction as the chps in Five Views of Biblical Inerrancy themselves clearly show: instead of pointing the church toward how to sit before the Bible and listen to the Bible, the term itself generates a debate about how best to define the term and about how to read Joshua 6 and Genesis 1-2; and many things besides. This is what inerrancy term does every time it enters the room, and in so doing deserves a good thrashing. Read the chapters and then ask yourself this question: Will this book generate light for Sunday School classes on how to read the Bible or a fight on how to assess who stands where? Does it bring light or a fight? The latter is [often] what happens.

The term, so it seems from a book like this, may have lost its value for church life. The word we ought to be fastening onto is the word truth. The Bible is true and God calls us to listen and to learn and to live what God speaks to us from the true Word of God. This posture of listen-to-the-truth before the Bible does not determine a hermeneutic but invites us to listen until we discern the hermeneutic needed for the various texts.

My second point might be controversial for some, but I believe it. There is only one real view of inerrancy because this term has been captured by Mohler and those who stand with Mohler. It is the historical hermeneutic agenda. The test cases prove this point: each of the texts chosen concerns a historical hermeneutic agenda and asks Is the Bible accurate? No one asked anyone to assess simply the violence of God in warfare in Deuteronomy. No one asked about cutting off hands in Exodus. No one asked about women taken as booty. No one asked about slavery in the Bible. No one was asked about truth but about accuracy. The only inerrancy I have ever known about is historical hermeneutic accuracy inerrancy. Any text that appears to be history-referring must be history-referring because the alternative conclusion, that it might not be accurate as we want it to be accurate, threatens the system. What Mohler, Bird and Vanhoozer won’t admit is a view that contends that since the historians and archaeologists don’t think what the text says is how things happened the interpretations have to be adjusted, out of respect for historical realities, in order to meet the evidence.

Mohler’s view, or this history-referring inerrancy, is at work in a Bible scholar, Bird, and a sophisticated hermeneutician, Vanhoozer. (Bird’s sophisticated too, at least as much as that red-headed Ozzie can be.) Read how they treat Joshua 6 — in the end, inerrancy is itself a hermeneutic that takes the face value of a text automatically to mean historicity, has an interpretive tradition along that line, and if that historicity can’t be demonstrated, cast aspersions on the scholarship of the archaeologists or hold out until the historical interpretation can be proven (even if there is no end in sight). So, Bird and Vanhoozer can finesse their hermeneutics all they want but when it comes to a historically problematic text they have already chosen on the basis of their view of inerrancy what the text has to have meant. What I saw in all three attempts was a persistent, stubborn refusal even to countenance the view of the archaeologists. The only archaeological theories permitted on the table were the ones that confirmed what they already knew from their inerrancy theory — as history-referring if the plain reading seems so – had to be the case.

Before I get to a third point I want to offer an example of my own on how I think inerrancy operates as captured by the historical hermeneutical approach.

Open your Bible to Matthew 8:5-13. Here are the two verses (5-6) that matter:

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help.
6“Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering”

Matt 8:7 Jesus said to him,

“I will go and heal him.”

A plain reading of the text says that an actual centurion approached Jesus physically and asked him for help and Jesus told that same centurion that he would go to that man’s house and heal his servant. Every inerrantist would make these details important if you denied it.

Now look at Luke 7:1-10. Here is what we suddenly realize: the centurion himself did not in fact speak with Jesus. His elders did:

2 There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to
die. 3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to
come and heal his servant. 4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him,
“This man deserves to have you do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built
our synagogue.” 6 So Jesus went with them.

The point is this: a history-referring inerrantist hermeneutic, if we didn’t know of Luke 7:2-6, would know that it was a centurion who came to Jesus and spoke with him. If all a church knew was Matthew, an inerrantist would be up in arms if anyone suggested that No, in fact, it was some elders — not the centurion himself.

But once we have Luke 7:2-6 we realize our perception of a history-referring reading is flat-out wrong. The centurion actually sent some elders. A second text, Luke, clarified the first text, Matthew, and proved our original instincts wrong. We adjust our readings of Matt 8 to Luke 7.

So we, admirably I believe, find a convention that permits explanation: when an ambassador was sent he was the one who sent him. So, the elders are the centurion. I agree, that is what is going on here. We were only led to the convention by the interference of another text, not by the original text (Matthew 8). We let another text reshape our readings of the Matthew text.

Why can’t we let the historian’s and archaeologist’s evidence do the same for us for Joshua 6? Why can’t we at least look for a convention that explains why the archaeology says one thing and the text says another? (And Joshua 6 is but one example.) Because we have a plain-reading, history-referring inerrantist hermeneutic at work that won’t permit such adjusted reading (unless, of course, we are forced — as we are in the Matt-Luke parallel — by the Bible itself to think otherwise). Too many inerrantist hear of such things and utter out, in effect if not in these terms, “Damn the archaeologists, this is the inspired Bible and it’s right and they’re wrong.” Most inerrantists try to wiggle out of the archaeology on Joshua by tossing dust in the archaeologists’ eyes and then announce their vision is blurry. While the blurred vision settles down the inerrantists change the discussion. It’s not good scholarship.

My contention is fairly simple and straightforward: we ought to let all the evidence determine what a text is actually saying and doing and not our assumptive readings. Which means no term other than “true” ought to shape our hermeneutic. The word “true” is bigger than the word “inerrant.” In fact, “true” is the emperor of all biblical hermeneutics. The term “inerrancy” too often usurps the word “true” and the Bible loses.

Third, maybe you think it is unfair to restrict inerrancy to the history-referring, plain-meaning view of someone like Mohler. Maybe there is a second view, one that emphasizes what the Bible is affirming at the level of divine or human intention. So, we ask what was Matthew affirming, what was Matthew’s purpose in Matt 8:5-6? Was he affirming only a centurion? Or was he affirming that a centurion made contact with Jesus, however that contact was made?

I see this emphasis on intention and purpose in the essays of Enns, Bird, Vanhoozer and Franke. I believe an emphasis on intentionality or purpose in Scripture, or on the pragmatics of the text, can reshape the meaning of inerrancy. It can, but it will mean far more emphasis on hermeneutics and theology at work in the purpose of the author/God/text than is often acknowledged. A ringer: John Piper’s view of inerrancy is very much along this line, and such a view would permit Robert Gundry’s theory of midrash in Matthew, Michael Licona’s view of the resurrection of the saints, as well as some mythical and exaggerations in Old Testament stories, including Joshua 6. Here is Piper’s own statement followed by Bethlehem Baptist’s statement:

I thus gladly align myself with the long-proved tradition: perfectio respectu finis
(perfection with respect to purpose). 

We believe that God’s intentions, revealed in the Bible, are the supreme and final
authority in testing all claims about what is true and what is right. In matters not
addressed by the Bible, what is true and right is assessed by criteria consistent with
the teachings of Scripture.

I very respect this emphasis on purpose and intention; it admits into the door the messy world of hermeneutics; it permits at the table some voices that today are simply now welcome by many; it means hermeneutics decides genre. The strident strong voices of inerrancy, however, do not permit the purpose/intention dimension unless it already conforms to the history-referring theory already at work. I have on good word that some of the historic major framers of how inerrancy was understood among evangelicals saw the purpose theory of inerrancy as totally inadequate.

Fourth, inerrancy without an ecclesiology or an ecclesial confession/creed leads inevitably to pervasive interpretive pluralism and therefore it diminishes the authority of the Bible to the strongest or most compelling voice on the platform. I am referring here to the important study of Christian Smith, The Bible Made Impossible.

I can open up the floodgates here by suggesting that there is a notable absence of Spirit in the chapters: and I don’t mean just inspiration, but the Spirit as at work, the Spirit at work in people and in the people of God, guiding, leading, inspiring so that Scripture is the effect of God’s communicative action to the people of God through the Spirit in Christ with the result of Scripture. Instead of asking “What” is authoritative?, maybe we need to ask “Who” is authoritative? Scripture is authoritative in that it mediates the authority of God in Christ through the Spirit. Our authority then is God.

Maybe the history-referring, accuracy-oriented inerrancy has to focus on the original autographs while the purpose-oriented framing of the issues might have an opportunity to focus on the Spirit — the Spirit at work through Scripture — instead of the original autographs, which we don’t have and God didn’t seem to think we needed. Why? The Spirit and the church and the gifts.

Having now shown my cards of the church in the plan of God’s communicative action, I can cite an ecclesial statement to which I subscribe:

Here is the Anglican Church of North America’s wise statement on its view of Scripture:

We confess the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments to be the
inspired Word of God, containing all things necessary for salvation, and to
be the final authority and unchangeable standard for Christian faith and life.

I think Mike Bird would see this as part of the infallibilist tradition, and I would see it that way too. But notice the positive terms. Inerrancy means “not in error.” At any rate, I affirm the ACNA’s orientation and it can guide Bible reading for me.

At the core of Bible reading is knowing what the Bible is doing, and the essays had something like this going on. Vanhoozer was the most explicit though Franke was close. What ought to be going on is a gospel hermeneutic that will render meaning for us as we encounter texts through the truth about Jesus, the gospel. Pete Enns calls this a christotelic reading and this sort of approach governed the earliest Christians (Jesus and the apostles) when they read (what we call) the Old Testament. Perfect example from Jesus in Luke 24


Luke 24:44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything
must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He
told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the
third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all
nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to
send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed
with power from on high.”

Open to Matthew 1-2; to Paul in most any of his letters, to the Book of Hebrews or to Revelation. Over and over they are reading the Bible through the lens of the gospel, the truth, which as you may know I take to be the story of Israel fulfilled in the story of Jesus so that christology (not soteriology) gets the first word. If Jesus was raised from the dead your hermeneutic is transformed into a gospel hermeneutic.

Vanhoozer’s essay wanted to back off for the big theme: God’s promise to give the Land to the children of Israel is what this text is about. He’s right. Now guide us from there to Jesus and the gospel and we’ll be reading the Bible the way Jesus and the apostles did, we will be reading the Bible in a way that brings the sun’s true light of life to the church, and in a way that avoids the wrangling that inerrancy inevitably creates. I could say this of the others.

Inerrancy is a disruptive child in the theological classroom. He or she gets all the attention of teacher and students. A biblical view of inerrancy demotes it under the word true, all as part of God’s choice to communicate efficiently and sufficiently. When the word “true” governs the game it’s a brand new, healthy game. Good teachers know how to handle disruptive children.


* * * * * * * * * * *


Addendum by R.E. Slater

Scot brings a practical mindedness to the discussion of biblical interpretation by leveling out the field stating that the Bible is, in principle, true - fully, infallibly, and with the inspiration from God's Holy Spirit. So that generally, when reading the Bible, it is us who must discern God's word and as such, it is us that must continually seek after discovering what in the Bible is true of God and of this life we live. More particularly, whenever the Bible speaks of salvation, of God, of the church, and so forth, it is true in these areas.

For myself, this is good general guidance and a fundamental rule to observe, but nevertheless I cannot help but ask in what sense is Scripture true if its very verse(s) seems to speak against its own veracity.When it conflicts with science or archaeology. Or when it conflicts with basic human ethics and morality that we know defeat civil rights and responsibility (homosexuality, gender equality, violence, oppression, etc). And so, to say the Word of God is true is a statement I wish to believe but I also wish to know in what sense the Word of God is true when it conflicts with Jesus' statements to love one another when His servants like Joshua or David created violence and injustice upon civilizations different from themselves. It is a fair question to ask.

And so, yes, the Bible is true. It is a good approach, but it brings us back to the very folds of inerrancy whose wooden - or literalistic - interpretations of the Bible has done so much harm within the many arms and branches of Evangelical and Catholic thinking in the church. Can there be another word to use alongside the word "true" or should we abandon description altogether and simply move forward in biblical studies reduced to ourselves as the only measure to God's Word?

I think not.

To use ourselves as a measure to God's holy Word is to no longer allow God to superintend over His revelation to us but to allow ourselves to superintend over its pages. We do not wish this. But nor do we wish to unquestioningly study its scripts without asking profound questions of God and His Word. In essence I think we must do both in a tightrope balancing act of probing its pages while also probing our own hearts for its violence and sin, evils and wickedness. To unbalance God's Word with our own preferred readings may imbalance the revelation it seeks to bring.

Hence, somewhere on its pages is the heart of a biblical author seeking to reveal God against all that he or she is as a sinner saved by grace. Who is filled with the Holy Spirit to move and speak God's Word to his or her's community using their intellect, emotions, personality, and developing beliefs. Beliefs that are not mature but searching. That are not the final light of God's speech when inquiring of God of His speech into their own predicaments of life and its hardships, joys, blessings, and agonies.

That we, too, are not unlike that biblical author who are filled with the Spirit of God to speak His Word as truly and accurately as we can without getting in the way of God, His will, and plans for the generations about us. That we too are maturing from the violence in our hearts, the sin in our minds and heart, the injustices that we carry with us as we attempt to discern God's word and speak its heart.

The task of the theologian is difficult. S/he must at all times be aware of many things while speaking, ministering, or serving with the heart and mind of Jesus. In essence, all Christians are imperfect, fraught with sin, and must humble themselves before the Lord when speaking His Word powerfully, with authority, and directly into the heart of human events that require a wisdom not of this earth. To form as rightful a judgment of Scripture as is possible and yet, within that judgment always be open to a further Word from the Spirit of God who lives, and moves, and has His holy being within our lives, thoughts, judgments, and services.

It is we who now are the open Book of God and no longer those ancient dusty pages we can no longer perceive or understand as they are now composed without doing a herculean amount of work to sort out its truths and wonts. We are the people of God who give allegiance to a Savior who shows to us God Himself in His weakness, His humility, His service to others both weak and strong.

That we are a people to be moved by the Spirit as the stylus of God through our communities, businesses, church, families and friends. We are the iron tip that strikes. The gliding tip that shows mercy, peace, and forgiveness. The graphite tip that is blurred and in need or an occasional erasure. The artist's brush that paints the colors that are not exact but a blurry picture of the very Christ to whom we represent as ambassadors to His Holy Kingdom. Whose reign is forever and forever. And ever, and forthwith, proceeding from the pens of men and women's lives as we write God's living Word throughout our journey in this short life we are given.

So go out then and be the pen, the pencil, the artist's brush, the font and script of God's Holy Word which speaks revelation into the hearts of those men, women, and children about us hungry for the Spirit's guidance, the Savior's redemption, the Father's healing hands of mercy and grace. Amen.

R.E. Slater
August 23, 2014