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September 24, 2010


The Rand McNally Road Atlas has weight of authority. It is highly reliable, but not inerrant.

"The Rand McNally Road Atlas has weight of authority. It is highly reliable, but not inerrant."

Non-sequitur par excellence. It's great not having to deal with the substance of the post, huh?

Well done, Jonnnie.

"But to say it’s authoritative and not inerrant, I’ve never in 35 years of working with people been able to get that."

So what substance of the post did I not deal with?

Authoritative doesn't mean "reasonably accurate," it means "must be obeyed."
I challenge you to go up to any of the significant authoritarian leaders in the world and tell them you consider their orders to have the authority of a road atlas :)

From Wikipedia (which might not be "authoritative"):

"Adjective: authoritative (comparative more authoritative, superlative most authoritative)

1.Arising or originating from a figure of authority
The authoritative rules in this school come not from the headmaster but from the aged matron.
2.Highly accurate or definitive; treated or worthy of treatment as a scholarly authority
This book is the world's most authoritative guide to insect breeding habits.
3.Having a commanding style.
He instructed us in that booming, authoritative voice of his."

If there are degrees of authoritativeness, does that mean there are degrees of obligations to obey?

I don't see where you are getting "degrees of authoritativeness"
It looks like you were using definition 2 while Melinda and I were using definition 1. Since that is the case, what do you think of Melinda's point, that if Scripture is accepted as authoritative, it must also be believed to be inerrant?

If we use definition 1, I would not say that if Scripture is authoritative, it must also be inerrant. That is because authority does not have to be inerrant. In regard to obedience to authority, we obey God not because he is good, or because he is inerrant, but because he is God.

I believe it is naive to believe that anything involving human interaction can ultimately be trusted as being inerrant. However, that is not to say that truth cannot be communicated though inerrant things. If the collection of books we call The Bible contains errors, it is not to the detriment of the message. Its authority can remain solid. I like the Road Atlas analogy and do not believe it to be a non-sequitur. The Bible is considered a guide, as is a road atlas. The comparison is straight across. In both cases, small errors, should they exist, can be surmounted by the surrounding context.

The problem with believing that the Bible is not the inerrant word of God, is determining which parts are, and are not, in error.

I find likening the Bible to a Road Atlas to be troubling. For example, the Road Atlas by definition requires updates to remain accurate. And regardless of the desires of some, attempting to do the same with the Bible leads rapidly from the narrow path to the wide.

What would prevent new canons of Scripture from appearing?

"The problem with believing that the Bible is not the inerrant word of God, is determining which parts are, and are not, in error."

We already do this; for example, the last part of Mark, and several verses which appear in print in modern Bibles but which are footnoted as being spurious.

By calling it "the inerrant Word of God," we forget that it is a collection of texts for which we do not have the original copies. We can say "inerrant in the original autographs," but we are making a guess based on documents we have never seen.

I find that the quest for certainty leads to rigidity, and I prefer an ongoing dialogue whereby I am constantly learning new things and challenging my assumptions.

I'm sure Tim Keller believes in the authority of the Bible we have and read today, even though he apparently limits complete inerrancy to the original documents that were lost to time.

So, I hope he continues to work on explaining that difference between authority and inerrancy to others, since it would seem to be a distinction that he holds to as well.

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