Andrew McGowan of Highland Theological College has written a book on the same subject, albeit with differing conclusions. I forget the name, but a google search will take care of that if anyone is interested. I haven’t read either, but I would trust Gaffin with the primary sources more than McGowan.
TG, the infallibility not inerrancy thing is a funny one. I did my MTS thesis on Calvin and Turretin on the doct. of Scripture. The Neo-Os love Calvin and hate Turretin. I found that T’s doctrine was VERY similar to C’s. There’s a whole trajectory of folks that are embarrassed by the doctrine of inerrancy, but like the Bible and want it to work in people’s lives. You might remember the Rogers/McKim Proposal. They screwed me up good and for a while. I ended up writing that MTS thesis, in part, to research their “proposal,” and found it wanting.
What I find interesting is that two theologians (I don’t call McGowan a scholar) who know each other (Gaffin has spoken at HTC) are writing a book on the same subject (inerrancy vs. infallibility) with the same men in question (Kuyper and Bavinck) at the same time (2008). Something really strange is going on. McGowan isn’t a full-blooded Neo-O, so what’s his purpose? Are you talking about Donald McKim?
Gaffin was the second reader (Clair Davis was the first) on my ThM thesis- ‘ Briggs vs. Warfield: Rogers/Mckim Revisited’ (WTS,1987) . Rogers/ Mckim tried to link Briggs with Kuyper and Bavinck against Warfield-but I was able to document in the Dutchmen’s own words their abhorrence of Briggs- and both Gaffin and John Woodbridge produced devastating critiques that have put the Rogers/ Mckim thesis on the scrap pile-where it belongs.
Just a thought – I have only seen a few excerpts from Enn’s book, secondhand from others quoting it. People are treating it as if it were some sort of fresh and highly-nuanced tertium quid that is worthy of consideration by the Reformed and evangelical community. I don’t see (at least, yet) how Enns’ ideas are any different from the old, dusty stuff (like the Rogers/McKim-types) that was already addressed and refuted by the work of the Chicago Statement folks way back in the ’70’s (gosh, I wasn’t even born until ’79, one year after the Statement was signed). Or am I missing something here about Enns’ teaching?
You should read Greg Beale’s review article, Enn’s response, and then Beale’s surrejoinder. All three are available at Between Two Worlds. And to be fair it would be worth borrowing the book from a library, or a friend, and reading it through.
…. and don’t forget Paul Helm- he and Enns have also engaged in a back and forth exchanged. I also madean attemot at showing how Enns’ proposals were a departure from the Old Princeton/Westminster tradition in my chapter of the Warfield book that Lane has been reviewing… very slowly.
It is interesting in this whole conversation that American scholars of the Rogers/McKim stripe look to the Dutch for a way out of the Old Princetonian paradigm. They make Kuyper/Bavinck’s “organic inspiration” a lifeboat from the “troubled waters” of inerrancy. And yet, the Dutch have recognized that it was Charles Hodge who tipped Kuyper and Bavinck off to it in the first place:
“Though they no doubt served in popularizing [the idea of organic inspiration], it is possible that even Kuyper and Bavinck were not totally original in this respect. They took their development from the American theologian by the name of Charles Hodge who had already built and carried out a valuable plan for an organic view of Scripture (organische Schriftbeschouwing), which the mechanical view of post-Reformation Reformed theology (nareformatorische theologie) could blur.”
— Jan Veenhof, “Revelatie en Inspiratie” pg. 251 (1968)
A.G. Honig’s article on Illumination (“Ingeving”) in the 1926-29 Dutch Christelijke Encyclopedie and Ralph Danhof’s 1929 dissertation from the VU in Amsterdam (“Charles Hodge as a Dogmatician”) make the same point 40 years before even Veenhof did.
As a colleague who works with McGowan I thought I might point out a few of things:
(1) He is a scholar and a fine one at that. He is an Honorary Professor at Aberdeen University and has just been made a full Professor by the UHI Millennium Institute. He’s the author of a number of books like “Always Reforming” (IVP, 2006) and a contributor to the recent IVP book on Karl Barth (2007). He’s also Vice-Chairman of the World Reformed Fellowship and that includes its doctrinal commission. His scholarly credentials out do what you find in most American Seminaries.
(2) Several of the comments above seem to imply a certain negative perspective of McGowan’s theological position. It is an act of Christian generosity and good scholarship to establish what someone has actually said before critiquing them or implying things about their lack of orthodoxy. The book is available from Amazon.com.uk, read it and then, by all means, feel free to criticize.
(3) When it comes to the Scripture debate let us keep in mind that Rodgers/McKim and the Chicago Statement are not the only two games playing in town. For the last 500 years the Reformed tradition has used the term “infallible” to assert the veracity and complete authority of the Christian Scriptures. You can either assert (a) the Reformed tradition of “infallibility” is sub-orthodox, or (b) suppose that God gave Calvin and the Westminster divines a private revelation of the complete works of B.B. Warfield so although they said “infallible” they really meant “inerrant”. I wonder how it is that one can suddenly become liberal by standing still in the tradition.
(4) Paul Helm teaches adjunct at HTC. As does Gerald Bray. The inaugural John Murray lecture was given by Richard Gaffin and last year by Sinclair Ferguson. No webs were weaved by their invitation.
No, I didn’t comment on Waugh’s chapter, not because it was valueless, but because it was a bibliographical study. It is an excellent piece, no doubt about that. However, I didn’t really feel the need to comment on it.
Dr. Bird, welcome to my blog. I just approved your comment, and you shouldn’t have any further trouble in commenting (if you should so desire, of course). I am just about to read your book on the NPP, especially since I am interested in doing a Ph.D. at HTC, and your book will be directly relevant. So far, I have not had too much to quibble with Dr. McGowan about, although there are some issues with the Always Reforming book that I do not like, mostly having to do with theological encyclopedia (the area in which I wish to do my Ph.D. in connection with a study of the Federal Vision).
I don’t think the comments ‘imply a certain negative perspective of McGowan’s theological position’ as you suggest. On his scholarship, perhaps! But if you read his book on Boston’s covenant theology, which I am sure you have, you may see my point (shared by a number of scholars I’ve spoken with). That is *not* a negative perspective of his theological position.
Why I did find interesting was that two books are coming out at the same time on the same subject by two individuals who know each other and their conclusions appear to be different.
I don’t think this debate has any reference to whether McGowan or Gaffin are orthodox … it has to do with who has (better) understood Bavinck and Kuyper.
Please do forgive me if any of my remarks against HTC or even Dr. McGowan were seen as calumnious. That was by no means anywhere close to my authorial intent. My point was that in the American sector, the Dutch approach (a la Bavinck and Kuyper) is strongly favored over the Old Princetonian approach when in reality, they aren’t very different, according to the sources above.
I have a great respect for Dr. McGowan….he is my own beloved PhD supervisor and I chose him for his thoughts and expertise on this very topic. His “Always Reforming” was quite good and the article by Vanhoozer sparked a lively debate between Vanhoozer and Paul Helm. That was my initial reference via the HTC connection.
Though I have not read his book (nor Gaffin’s…..though it will be probably be similar to his WTJ article on Amsterdam and Inerrancy), I have talked with him about it and his argument does not seem to be the same as what I referred to above….”in the stripe of Rogers/McKim.” I have recommended both of these forthcoming books to readers on my blog. Personally, I eagerly await the contributions of both.
However, thanks for the input and the chance to clarify.
Dr. Gaffin’s “God’s Word in Servant Form” is basically the same as his “Old Amsterdam and Inerrancy?” that appeared in nos. 44 (1982): 250-89 and 45 (1983): 239-72 of the Westminster Theological Journal.
When it comes to the Scripture debate let us keep in mind that Rodgers/McKim and the Chicago Statement are not the only two games playing in town.
Finally! Someone admits that all this is all just a game!
For the last 500 years the Reformed tradition has used the term “infallible” to assert the veracity and complete authority of the Christian Scriptures. You can either assert (a) the Reformed tradition of “infallibility” is sub-orthodox, or (b) suppose that God gave Calvin and the Westminster divines a private revelation of the complete works of B.B. Warfield so although they said “infallible” they really meant “inerrant”. I wonder how it is that one can suddenly become liberal by standing still in the tradition.
Or we could assert (c) since, according to our good friends at Merriam-Webster, the English word “inerrant” was not coined until 1837, it is unreasonable to demand that it be present in any literature anywhere prior to that time, (d) it is even more unreasonable (not to mention absurd) to insist that the concepts conveyed by the words “inerrant” and “inerrancy” did not exist prior to the words that came to represent them, and (e) it’s exceedingly difficult to read the what the Reformers and Reformed scholastics—yea, even the medieval scholastics and those before them!—wrote concerning Scripture without constantly tripping over the concept referred to in (d).
You imply towards the end that the early Reformed tradition was perfectly content to use the word ‘infallible’ and then you leave the impression that the tradition that takes it cue from Old Princeton would have us believe that “although they said ‘infallible’ they really meant ‘inerrant’ “- which, if I read you correctly, you think is a highly unlikely and not deserving of serious consideration. Actually it is. An examination of Samuel Johnson and his first dictionary available in English (my copy is the second edtion,1755) will show that those who used the word infallible, understood it to mean ‘without error’. Under the entry for ‘infallible’ we read ‘priviledged from errors: incapable of mistake: not mislead or deceived: certain’. The term ‘infallibility’ was defined as ‘without danger of deceit: with security from errors, certainly. Words like ‘inerrant ‘ and ‘inerrancy’ had not been coined-but we do find ‘inerrability’ and ‘inerrably’ are listed. These terms are declared to be synonymous with ‘infallility’ and ‘infallibly’. The highly respected puritan Richard Sibbes(1577-1635) is an example that confirms Johnson’s definitions. Sibbes is considered one of the most influential figures on English puritainism. He was converted under the ministry of Paul Baynes ( who succeded Wm. Perkins at Christ’s College). Sibbes, in controversy with the papists, argued that ” The Word of God therefore is the judge of all divine truths , because it is most certain, even as God Himself. What are the properties of a chief judge? He must be true, without error: authentical,without appeal,such as can from himself without a higher determine. He must be infallible,without peril of error. All these belong to God’s truth.It is yea, it is true without error, it is always yea.” (‘Collected Works’ vol. III, pp.364-365). Sibbes stature is most significant in English Puritanism . He exercised a tremendous influence on such noteble members of the Westminster Assembly as Thomas Goowin, Philip Nye , Thomas Manton and Thomas Gataker as well as the well-known New England puritan John Cotton. On top of all of this his collected works were endorsed and highly recommended by a number of Westminster divines: Henry Scudder, Obadiah Sedgewick, Cornelius Burgess, Jeremiah Burroughes, Lazarus Seaman, John Arrowsmith and John Lightfoot as well as by the great John Owen. It is , therefore extremely far fetched to suppose that the word ‘infallible’ carried a different connotation than the one Sibbes an his fellow puritans had in mind when they used it-which, as it turns out, is in fact much like the way Warfield and co. used ‘inerrant.For futher examples of this kind of thing ,consult Warfield’s ‘The Westminster Assembly and It’s Work’ in vol.VI of his Works.
Along the same lines, Richard Muller has stated, “I have used the term ‘infallibility’ rather than the term frequently used in modern conservative or evangelical discussion of Scripture, ‘inerrancy,’ because the Reformers and the Protestant orthodox typically used the noun infallibilitas as the attribute of Scripture, indicating that Scripture does not err (non errat). I have not encountered any attempt on their part to construct a noun out of the verb errare.”
Thanks for that GLW. I am constantly in argument with those who would contend that “innerency” is a fabrication of Old Princeton and therefore not applicable to Reformation thinkers. I will have to pick up the Sibbes work. Thank you very much.
I can prove easily that though the Reformed Orthodox did not use the term ‘inerrant’, the concept was definitely present in their writings. But, again, my initial point had more to do with McGowan and Gaffin coming to different conclusions …
I’ve been watching your blog for a few months. Very helpful. On ‘infallibility’, I always thought it meant ‘no ability to fall’. In Latin dictionaries, though, it is said to come from a word, fallere, meaning primarily, ‘to deceive, to be mistaken’. So it is difficult to remove ‘infallible’ too far from the idea of truthfulness, even though it can be used of asbstract things to mean, ‘to disappoint, fail in’. Is part of the problem that it’s not always clear what ‘infallible’ is modifying? The WCF has the ‘infallible truth’ truth of Scripture – truth that is not mistaken (or that doesn’t fail to be truth). McGowan wants to focus not on infallible truth but the infallible purpose of God in the Scriptures. It can be conceived that Scripture hypothetically has error, but God still uses it to achieve His purpose.
Re the difference b/w McGowan and Gaffin, Gaffin is reading Bavinck, whereas McGowan is reading Bavinck via Berkhouwer (ie Bavinck with a Barthian twist). Note that McGowan, at a critical juncture, misquotes Bavinck (p. 158. Details on my web site), so if you only read McGowan’s book, you’ll probably think Bavinck was Barthian, too, emphasising Divine action despite possible Scriptural errors.
Addressing the comment above “I don’t see (at least, yet) how Enns’ ideas are any different from the old, dusty stuff (like the Rogers/McKim-types) that was already addressed and refuted by the work of the Chicago Statement…”
I have not read Rogers/McKim but have just read Gaffin’s “God’s Word in Servant Form.” I have also recently read Enns I&I.
I’ll say this:
If Gaffin is correct that Rogers/McKim say that the SAVING CONTENT of Scripture RATHER than its FORM is what matters, then Enns and Rogers/McKim have nothing in common. Enns’s whole argument is that we have to take every bit of Scripture seriously (form and content) and even let it inform our doctrine of Scripture, knowledge of God and how he communicates with us. That is nearly the opposite of what Gaffin says Rogers/McKim wish to do.
Enns, incidentally, really hasn’t said anything new; he applies a hermeneutic used by many early Church Fathers to modern questions of Biblical interpretation. The method isn’t different, the questions are. The two sides in the debate at Westminster can’t seem to understand each other because there are two very different epistemologies at play — one a typical “faith/reason” epistemology and the other and “incarnational” epistemology.
Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens; Justification, by John Fesko; The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan; Recovering the Reformed Confessions, by Scott Clark; Brief Outline of Theology, by Friedrich Schleiermacher; Principles of Sacred Theology, by Abraham Kuyper
Books I am now reading
Exodus commentaries; Matthew commentaries; Turretin's Institutes of Elenctic Theology; Baker's new history of the church
Books for future reading
Turretin's Institutes; Joseph Caryl on Job, German encyclopedias of theology