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July 24, 2014

Comments

Well said. I agree with all three points. In fact, I basically said them all in my comment on the challenge introduction post :)

Check out my recent blog post on what the bible has to say about what it means to be inspired:

http://pairopatetics.blogspot.com/2014/06/by-whos-authority.html

Great response as usual Brett.

Austin, nice blog post.

The argument for inerrancy is deductive.

  1. God inspired the writing of Scripture.
  2. God is omniscient.
  3. God is omnipotent.
  4. The human writers and readers of scripture have no way to correct any errors than may have occurred in the verbalization of Scripture from the initial inspiration.
  5. God is not a deceiver.
    SO
  6. Whatever the exact mechanism, God foreknew how every word of Scripture would ultimately be verbalized from the initial inspiration. (1,2)
    SO
  7. God, and only God, has the capability to correct any errors than may have occurred in the verbalization of Scripture from the initial inspiration. (3,4)
    SO
  8. God is wholly responsible for any errors that exist in the verbalization of Scripture during the initial inspiration. (6,7)
    SO
  9. There are no errors in the verbalization of Scripture during the initial inspiration. (5,8)
The conclusion of this argument is the claim that the doctrine of inerrancy (in the autographs) is true.

This argument is valid (that is, its premises do imply its conclusion). And I think the premises are all true.

Notice that premises 6-8 are derived premises. They each illustrate a link in the reasoning that gets you from the basic premises (1-5) to the conclusion (9), but they are really not needed. You could jump straight from 1-5 to 9 validly.

Now, like any valid deductive argument, you may construct a different valid deductive argument from this one by denying the conclusion, denying a basic premise and swapping. So you could, for example, validly argue that God is a deceiver given 1-4 plus the additional premise that the Bible autographs contain errors.

What this means is that if you choose to deny inerrancy, you're in the position of having to deny one of the basic premises in the deductive argument above.

So which premise will it be?

  1. God inspired the writing of Scripture.
  2. God is omniscient.
  3. God is omnipotent.
  4. The human writers and readers of scripture have no way to correct any errors than may have occurred in the verbalization of Scripture from the initial inspiration.
  5. God is not a deceiver.
I think that, at a minimum, 2, 3 and 5, if denied mean that the jig is up for Christianity. Christianity cannot be true if any of those are false.

So really, if, as a Christian, you are going to deny inerrancy, I think you have to be prepared to deny either 1 or 4.

While I don't view it as a doctrine of Christianity, I just don't see how 4 could be false.

There's a weird technical reason that if there is a married bachelor, then Christianity is false. To wit, if there is a married bachelor, then anything goes, so Christianity is false (though it is also true in that case...anything goes).

And for the same kind of reason, I think if 4 is false, then anything goes, and Christianity is false (and also true).

So now, really, if, as a Christian, you are going to deny inerrancy, I think you need to deny item 1. You need to deny inspiration.

Notice that the argument above is completely agnostic on the specific mechanism of inspiration. Maybe God physically moved the hand of the author of scripture. Maybe He arranged things in the life of the author so that what just made sense to the author is what got written. Or maybe He inspired the writing of Scripture in a way somewhere between these extremes.

It really doesn't matter. As omniscient and omnipotent, God knew and was in absolute control of how His inspiration would ultimately be verbalized. No human could have corrected any error that crept in to that initial writing, so God alone could have made any needed correction. So God alone is responsible for the initial writing and any errors it might contain.

Can Christianity be true if inspiration is false?

I'm not so sure.

I guess it could be true that Christ is God and that He died for the sins of the world and so on. But it seems to me that there is something deeply important about the idea that God reveals Himself to us. If it's not God telling us that Christ is God, that He died for us and so on, then, however reliable the document that says so may be, why should we believe it?

I suppose the last point goes to the authority of Scripture, something that Brett mentioned in his answer.

Now, pulling these threads together, if you deny inerrancy, then either you deny Christianity (by denying premises 2, 3 or 5 in the argument above), or you make a claim (by denying premise 4) so absurd that anything goes even the claim that Christianity is both true and false, or you deny the inspiration of Scripture (premise 1). And if you deny the inspiration of Scripture, it seems that you deny the authority of Scripture.

Yes, I suppose that something like Christianity might still be true, even with an uninspired, unauthoritative Scripture, but there seems little reason, in that case, to think that Christianity is true.

So, bottom line, if inerrancy is false, then it seems either that Christianity is false, or it is both true and false, or there is very little reason to believe that it is true. In no case is there any reason to think Christianity is true.

I don't think the denial of inerrancy is really a very wise move for Christians to make. It's not even good to offer it as a 'fallback' position as Brett implicitly does above.

I think the message gets lost in the music. Not everyone needs to have music playing in the background while they study something...it is distracting, even annoying and places some folks in a wrong frame of mind for study and learning. We have enough technological distractions as it is and this imposed intellectual multitasking just makes one less efficient in soaking up a good lesson. Just my take.

"Doing without is what America is all about."
(Anon Knee Muse)

It’s interesting how the same book will produce faith in some and doubt in others. It is no doubt dependent on whether or not God makes himself known to whom he chooses, and unknown to the rest. Just as Jesus spoke in parables so that those hearing would NOT understand, except for a select few.

Dave--
I'd say there is plenty of doubt about that. E.g., Romans 1:20.

@Tom;

Rom. 1:20 “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse”

This is not speaking about a saving knowledge of scripture, which takes Divine revelation to understand (1Co 2:14). It is speaking of people being without excuse concerning God’s existence and their responsibility, since, or because of the created order. The point being made by Paul extends only to that; that it is enough to leave even atheists without any excuse for their sins.

1Co 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Also; Jesus says; (Joh 10:27) “ My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”.

At 0:49, Brett quotes II Timothy 3 and applies it to the entire Bible. How can one verse in II Timothy, which was not the last book written in the NT canon (many scholars believe II Peter was), be used to apply to books the author of II Timothy had no knowledge about?

I believe this is a big mistake many Christians make, in that they speak of the Bible as existing in its present form even at the time the individual books were being written. I know Brett knows this isn't the case, but it sure sounds like a logical impossibility.

I am glad, however, that he sees inerrancy as not a deal-breaker.

Perry-

Adam might have uttered II Timothy 3:16, and it would still have implied that the Book of Revelation is inspired and profitable for teaching etc.

The passage makes a claim about what is true of all Scripture, not all Scripture up until the time at which II Timothy 3:16 was written.

The question is not "Which Scriptures are inspired and profitable for teaching etc?" II Timothy 3:16 settles that. All Scriptures are.

The only question is "Which writings are Scriptures?" Is Genesis? Is Tobit? Is John? Is Revelation? Is James? Is Thomas?

For NT books, apostolicity determines the answer to that question. Was the book under investigation written by an apostle or by someone under the supervision of an apostle?

And the reason apostolicity is the criterion for inclusion is that Jesus authorized the teaching of the the eleven. The eleven, in turn, authorized the teaching of the the other apostles, like Paul. And the authorized apostles referred to each other's writings as Scripture.

Perry,

Paul speaking to Timothy says; II Tim. 3:15, And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures (Old Testament), which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

And in the next verse (16) he refers to ALL Scripture as being inspired, suggesting there are more to come, since it would be unnecessary for him to say “the Holy Scriptures” of V15 are inspired since this was already assumed.

All Scripture hadn't been written at this time and became circulated and compiled as a fuller revelation, on the fly, so to speak.

Paul, in speaking of a fuller revelation than that provided by tongues said; 1Co 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

The whole controversy of this challenge hinges on understanding what Brett says from 1:30 onward. The last two points, 2) the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy are not essential and 3) The doctrines of inerrancy and inspiration are important. While they seem to be contradictions (what is important must be essential), seeing through Brett's whole argument is fundamentally important. What Brett has here is a wondrous paradox, much the same as Luther's "A Christian is the most free person, subject to no man. A Christian is the most subservient of people, a servant to all men." (The Freedom of a Christian).

Brett calls this an "in-house" argument Christians have over the authority of Scriptures. Thus, I was finally struck by the wording of the challenge: Christians fight too hard for inerrancy and inspiration. It is purest opinion, much the same as its converse: Christians need to fight harder for inerrancy and inspiration. In general, asserting inerrancy leads to critics of the Bible to find discrepancies and "errors" to discredit the concept of inerrancy. This leads to resolutions of discrepancies and rebuttals of all claims of "errors." Important as this is, it becomes a tedious game of "pitch and catch" between critic and apologete. Greater issues need to be discussed.

Those apologetes of the fideism school should take time to consider those positions of the propositional and evidentialist schools of apologetics. It is too easy to get sidetracked on the lesser issues. The authority of Scriptures is the foundation the Christian accepts, but this foundation is lacking in the people with whom we need to converse.

That is why I like the psalms of Asaph, the second psalmist behind David. He sought the vindication of God against all that would discredit Him. From insincerity in worship, to injustice, to crass materialism that trumps up against godly living, Asaph sought that God be understood in the most difficult of times. And that's all an apologete can expect.

Of course His Written Word is inerrant.

Ultimately His Word is Himself, His Pen is Himself. Ultimately speaking what else did we expect from that which is ontology’s Necessary Being? Perpetual paper parchment? Incessant ink? How small the goal of the critic’s aim. There is only one genre on planet Earth wherein all lines painlessly amalgamate Logos/Word in unity with Physicality/Corporeal. All lesser statements speak only toward some fraction of a complete Metaphysic/TOE, ever unable to find singularity.


As we look back through time the parchment and ink critics and their supposed scriptural “errors” seem to always – in time – fall of the edge of the universe as new discoveries widen our sightlines, as reason progresses, as fresh perspectives ever sharpen our focus. What was supposed to be the fatal blow of 1914 becomes 2014’s latest twist stationing integrity atop scripture. It just keeps happening. Time is on the Immaterialist’s side. Or, from another direction: The stuffy Pharisee telling the many and the varied that “You” were created by God for the express purpose of damming you – such old-school minds read with eyes too-small of David’s census and cling either to God or to Man or to Satan as the end of regress, unable to navigate the triune geography beneath their too-small feet.


To speak coherently here we must be willing to house something larger than ourselves. A theology which coherently houses every-verse rather than a subset of verses is not easy to hold and even harder to write of - word count and all that. None of us are good at it and perhaps that is why C.S. Lewis reminded us to keep our eyes between two seeming perpendicular trajectories and – in passing through the middle of their alleged divergence – that precious commodity we call truth breaks through and what was to our less experienced eye a contradiction becomes now that junction of contours within something larger, wider, well able to house both edifices.


Perhaps an example or two:


David’s census: David/Man did it. God/Heaven did it. Satan/Hell did it. In scripture we find all three described in motion, in play. The pattern never changes: The Inside/Outside which any contingent Self faces – necessarily – amid all that is its own created Self, all that is the uncreated Other, and all that must be therein either Unity/Us – or – Privation. Those three. That is all possible worlds. Self. Other. Us. Mind, Knowing, Uttering, Being, has no other sightlines. How could they? Such motions are found within the immutable love of ontology’s Necessary Being Who fashions a world – perhaps all possible worlds – in that enigmatic image and yet in scriptural geographies such as these the one-verse folks build entire theologies atop some emphasis weighted heavier on one of the three, less on the other two – ever careful to assure us that those other two are “real” as they also assure us that the third – their particular theological brand – is somehow “more real” (whatever that means). A singular theology wholly subsuming all of the above seems too heavy a burden for too many of us. The price paid for “settling” for a mere subset of verses is high – both for us within the Church and for those on the outside looking in. All the while within Scripture’s A to Z we find such triune silhouettes within the very contours of the Necessary Being Himself, within Eden, within Man fashioned in the Image of the Triune God. Within worlds.


Another example of seemingly divergent verses:


A peculiarly bent coin, its two sides being that of the errors of Universalism on the one side and of Grace-Withheld on the other, is an odd coin issued by a bank offering something less than the [A through Z] approach to Scripture’s far wider, far more robust currency. Each side is easily set right if one wishes to chase a particular discussion. On the Grace-Withheld side of that paltry coin we come to a kind of massaging of this or that verse as God commands all men to repent – though of course there and elsewhere all men does not mean all men, or as God loves the world in such a fashion that He gave....poured into.... but the world does not mean the world, and so on with other verses/concepts. The massaging of scripture goes on. A proof text war is held in vain because both Grace and Truth – the one-verse (rather than all-verses) folks will assure us – cannot both be cashed out in any singular exemplar. That wide and robust A to Z just cannot exist as a singularity (they will tell us) and therein the Gospel - Christ and Christ Crucified – is made into what can only be called (there is no other word for its end of regress) a Lie atop one’s tongue as one preaches to many and various “You-s” of that glorious Hope, of that beautifully Good News, for as one utters such to the many and varied "You-s" it is God Who withholds Grace, but not Truth, from those very same “You-s”. The massaging of scripture goes on as it truly is a challenge to house all verses in one’s theology. Real progress with that subset of commentators here who hold to a subset of verses (rather than to all-verses) on this particular topic is difficult at best for the Gospel is – again – held by them to be a Lie should we preach it to this “You” or to that "You". In the case of that small subset of commentators here the fuller revelation of the NT is ever interpreted through the smaller lens of the OT rather than the Old through the larger lens of the New.


Fortunately the Gospel is – in every You-s ear – never a Lie. Instead, the Gospel is always that singular descriptive-prescriptive which expresses the actualized state of affairs wherein the contingent self we call Man discovers quite another set of worlds within Eden, within Gethsemane - within Christ in Whom we find Word's Corporeal moving within the thing we call time as He subsumes the thing we call physicality to its outermost ends – Full of Grace, full of Truth. All corridors seamlessly converge as the One epistemological-ontological Exemplar Himself writes not with “this or that” (how could He?) but through and through (how could He not?) all that is actual amid, in, and through all that is Logos/Corporeal as such just is the ceaseless grammar of an immutable and timeless language. His Pen is Himself and high atop His Throne He spreads His arms wide and He pours Himself out for All-Men – for His beloved – and thereby He pens exactly what He thinks of us – permanently. He is the Pen whereby we all find our all-sufficient Means – which is Himself. He is the Pen whereby we all find our Ends – our final felicity – which is Himself. He is that Pen – our Means, our Ends, our A to Z. In all worlds such just is how the Necessary Being writes as it seems on all fronts that such a Being cannot speak some lesser language. It is peculiar but it is the fact of the matter that it is Christ’s “Metaphysic” – and no other – which takes us to such ends. In all possible worlds, whether we speak of those housed within Eden or elsewhere, the Necessary Being – it seems – can say no less.


In Christ we find a cogent Metaphysic painlessly – effortlessly – tracking all material, scientific, philosophical, spiritual, and intellectual lines in regress to their seamless convergence within the Triune geography of the immutable love of the Necessary Being. That and far, far more just is the Gospel of Christ – and such is found presented to the contingent Self – the beloved – whom the One True God calls You.

Correction:

First:

Let us change 'of' to 'off' with:

"As we look back through time the parchment and ink critics and their supposed scriptural “errors” seem to always – in time – fall off the edge of the universe as new discoveries widen our sightlines, as reason progresses, as fresh perspectives ever sharpen our focus."

Second:

The part which read as follows should have been a new (stand alone) paragraph:

In all worlds such just is how the Necessary Being writes as it seems on all fronts that such a Being cannot speak some lesser language. It is peculiar but it is the fact of the matter that it is Christ’s “Metaphysic” – and no other – which takes us to such ends. In all possible worlds, whether we speak of those housed within Eden or elsewhere, the Necessary Being – it seems – can say no less.

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