In light of the conversation here, I’ve been planning this post for a few weeks now. Frankly, I’ve been concerned that “younger” evangelicals are bothered by the appearance of secular sourced evidence that “proves” the Bible contains errors. I’ve been there and continue to face this challenge.
I note in many of their questions and comments an underlying angst. They are frustrated, in part, because the old inspiration-inerrancy-infallibility triad seems fatally broken by unquestionable secular evidence. They try to couch this in terms of “determining how the Bible is authoritative,” all the while dismissing the intra-Biblical evidences for its inerrancy.
In reality, it seems at least to me, they are bowing before the Secular god of Objectivity. I read in them an unacknowledged (somewhat unaware) allegiance to the supremacy of rationalism over God himself. I realize they will argue differently. Still …
I simply want to remind them, or possibly introduce some of them, to the wisdom of our forefathers who already faced the challenge of the god Objectivity, and found the Bible’s own answer to slay it. It is found in the Westminster Confession’s first chapter, on the Bible:
WCF 1.5 We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture, (1Ti 3:15 1) and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole, (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God;
yet, notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the word in our hearts. (1Jh 2:20,27; Jh 16:13,14; 1Co 2:10,11,12; Isa 59:21.)
Note that we can acknowledge the “under the Sun” rational evidences for the Bible’s claim to being God’s word. Yet our only full assurance of this fact, the only objectivity we have if you will, is subjectively sourced – it is the Spirit’s own witness in our hearts that we (objectively) know these things to be true.
What this means for inerrancy (and inspiration and infallibility) is at least:
1. We will always find our convictions here fatally challenged by any system which assumes man is the ultimate authority.
2. We can only be assured in our convictions by the Spirit’s work in us as individuals.
This is a curse: Objectivity went out the window when our first parents rebelled against the Author of Objectivity. It is because of the fall that we cannot, as mere men, know for sure. It is because of the fall that Secularism will always rise up with new, seemingly insurmountable challenges to the Bible as God’s word.
And a blessing: God graces his children with the removal of the curse, and restores to us a surety that surpasses mere knowledge. No antagonist, no enemy, no person set on destroying your faith can touch such surety. You will not find comfort in trying to come up with a scheme where God uses error to speak truth – it is in the end irrational because God has said so (in the Bible in particular.) You will, however, find comfort in resting in God’s own witness.
“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible (affirmed by the Spirit) tells me so.”
- Reed DePace
Post-script: after reading some blogs of neo-errantists, I expect some will laugh at my assumption of their naivety concerning the Spirit’s inward witness. They will respond, “of course, and that’s how we know we know what we know (about the Bible) is right.”
Fair enough. The real question is not whether or not you or I say the Spirit confirms, especially that which we disagree on (inerrancy.) The question is what does the Bible say? After all, it is the only judge of who has the credible right to claim the Spirit’s amen to their convictions.
Two final thoughts I hope the neo-errantists will consider. 1) I’ve yet to see serious interaction with the biblical claims to inerrancy. Rather, you’ve offered little less than a dismissive comment or two.
2) Consider that in principle you have no basis for assuming anything in the Bible is inerrant. Or, putting aside the inerrancy angle for the sake of the discussion – your position has left you with no basis on which to affirm infallibility. Your position leaves no place for the objective work of God to authoritatively show itself. In principle, everything in the Bible, and therefore in the ministry of the Church, is left up to the autonomous opinion of the individual.
Your’s is a position which has removed the mantle of sacredness from the sacred Scriptures, and has lain it across the shoulders of the individual. Be ware the “demons” you let loose; they will not easily be re-caged.