Reforming or Conforming on Scripture?

This is part 2 of my review of this excellent book. The article on Scripture and humanity is written by Paul Wells (no relation to David).

His stated purpose in general is “to apply a little ointment to the Achille’s heel of evangelicalism, the humanity of Scripture” (p. 30). There are three ways Wells attempts to do this. First, a consideration of what happens when people separate the human elements of Scripture from the divine. Secondly, an examination of how people have attempted to articulate this relationship in the past, and third, his own approach to the question.

Wells rightly points the finger at the Enlightenment for driving a wedge between the humanity and the divinity of Scripture (p. 31). However, this is a problem mantle that evangelicals have perhaps unknowingly donned. The question that the Enlightenment poses to us is “whether or not the humanity of Scripture is identical to all other expressions of humanity we might observe (pp. 32-33). The most extreme form of this duality is reader-response criticism, which “challenges the truth and the authority of Scripture” (p. 36).

Wells goes on to examine several models of the relationship of the human to the divine in Scripture. Witness, accomodation, the incarnational analogy, and the servant form of Scripture. I’m not going to do all your work for you. I’ll let you read it to find out which of these is good and which is not.

Wells then examines three authors and their views: Bloesch, Pinnock, and Enns. I will just quote his conclusion about Enns, which is probably of most interest to my readers:

Enns leaves us with the unhappy impression that by being embedded in culture, both the writers and the readers of the Bible are in some way stuck in it. If that is the case, as James Barr remarked years ago, “there is no sense in which the Bible can be ‘authoritative’ for us.” Even if we are sure that Enns does not mean that, his formulation of cultural embeddedness unfortunately suffests that cultural relativity affects the biblical writers and ourselves in much the same way (p. 54).

Lastly, he advocates four perspectives through which we should look at this question: 1. a new humanity in the old. What he means is that “the God-breathed Scripture participates in the old creation as the divine sign and presence of the new creation” (58). 2. the humanity of Scripture as a political function, in the sense of Kline’s metapolis, “the metamorphosed city, the city of God” (ibid.). 3. Christ is the conclusion of the whole historical process. This is the redemptive-historical understanding of Scripture. 4. There is a link between the humanity of Scripture and humanity in regeneration.

72 Comments

  1. October 23, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    […] October 23, 2008 in Emergent Evangelicalism, Emergent/Emerging Church, contemporary evangelicalism | Tags: emergent church, evangelicalism, post-conservative, Reforming or Conforming At GB […]

  2. October 24, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    I know we have had all sorts of debates about this before, but I would like to throw my two-cents in again before I get back to reading about the social functions of Paul’s practices (including letter writing) among and towards the Corinthians…

    Ironically, it is those of you who theoretically and functionally deny the cultural embeddedness of the writings of our Bible who are among the most radical
    “reader-response” critics. By refusing to approach the writings of the Bible for what they are from a historical point of view—completely enmeshed in and products of their contingent cultural [human!] authors and circumstances—you cut yourselves off from any historical-approach constraint on the meanings and functions of the texts.

    Thus you read them, in general willfully ignorant of the implications of your own social locations, in whatever way you choose without any constraint from the historical meanings and functions of the texts. I emphasize you own social locations as most Van Tilians and evangelicals have plenty to say about said social-locations (usually discussed in terms of abstract “presuppositions”) of others, but not their own. You/we tend to be entirely un-self-critical in the ways that really matter.

    Once you reject a historical approach to the texts, you too are simply reader-response readers (in the way you mean it). The difference is that you have decided your theological approach and framework (another set of contingent social approaches possible only under certain cultural circumstances) are “right” and you have theologically justified denying at the outset the legitimacy of anyone who might question you and your approach. It would be fascinating to see how established sociologists of religion might analyze these reading practices and pseudo-theories and how they work within various power structures in contemporary Reformed-Evangelicalism. That would be a most entertaining and refreshing book.

    Lest anyone here want to claim said anti-cultural-embeddedness approaches still are doing grammatical-historical (or redemptive-historical!) readings correctly…when you start out a historical investigation of anything (texts, persons, events, inscriptions, etc.) by creating special rules for the object(s) of your study, you have abandoned anything remotely acceptable as sound historical and social study. So, when you start out assuming and declaring that Scripture is inerrant, not culturally enmeshed, etc., (rules directly constraining on hermeneutical practices), you have lost any credibility to doing legitimate historical work. You are, now, self-consciously engaging in utter “reader-response” readings but just calling it something else. This does not mean that historical (and theological) study of Scripture may not find it to be inerrant, for example. It simply means that any helpful historical approach does not decide such historical (and hermeneutics-constraining) issues ahead of time. Such pseudo-historical approaches might be acceptable in various Reformed-Evangelical circles, but before taking that as a badge of legitimating honor, perhaps ask why. If you want to explore the really “deep” issues here, allow various levels of searching sociological analysis of social-power dynamics and structures…especially in comparison with other socially similar religious formations. Again, this would be a truly refreshing discussion.

    From my point of view standard Reformed reader-response approaches are dangerous for the church as they consciously make it off limits for God to challenge us through His Word in any substantial way. I realize the book reviewed here is about this, thus I have posted this comment with my thoughts…in this case more specifically about the usual pseudo-historical theory of most Evangelical-Reformed social-authority figures and cultural producers (“scholars,” leaders, theologians, etc.).

    Now back to reading…

  3. Darryl Hart said,

    October 24, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    FTH: so how was it that Enns was able to escape the cultural embeddedness of WTS, the Westminster Standards, or even evangelical Protestantism? It seems that only “those of us” are only embedded culturally, and those of you, the enlightened few, are able to break free. Can you please tell us how to get the get-out-of-culture-free card? It must be handy for whenever you want to show the limitations of your opponent.

  4. October 24, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    Interesting DGH. Neither myself nor Enns ever claimed “to escape the cultural embeddedness.” Would you care to address any of the points I made in my comment?

  5. its.reed said,

    October 24, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    I’ll join Darryl in his most insightful and thoroughly interactive comment to your thoughts Foolish Tar Heel (your name please?).

    How is it that you escape that which we are so unable/unwilling to escape? Or is it that only a starting point that accepts the Bible’s own definition of inerrancy is fatally attached to an utter reader-response? How is it that your hermeneutic, informed more by insights from outside of Scripture, is somehow innoculated?

    Or are you so foolish as to claim we are all equally incapable of effectively escaping our embeddedness? If so, why this discussion, why any fascination with the Scriptures beyond any other piece of human literature, why do you even believe?

  6. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 24, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    Once you reject a historical approach to the texts, you too are simply reader-response readers (in the way you mean it).

    I can understand this point. A lack of understanding the text in its historical situation opens the door to reader-response hermeneutics.

    But wouldn’t it be fair to say that this is a slippery-slope argument? I can forsee all manner of other possible exegetical outcomes than reader-response. Allegorical methods come to mind. Paul’s own exegetical method comes to mind.

    That would be a most entertaining and refreshing book.

    Why would it entertain and refresh? That seems an odd pairing; normally, entertainment, especially of the sort that criticizes others, is degrading rather than refreshing. Perhaps that’s my own personality, but I usually feel dirty after reading an entertaining disparagement of others.

    Lest anyone here want to claim said anti-cultural-embeddedness approaches still are doing grammatical-historical (or redemptive-historical!) readings correctly…when you start out a historical investigation of anything (texts, persons, events, inscriptions, etc.) by creating special rules for the object(s) of your study, you have abandoned anything remotely acceptable as sound historical and social study. So, when you start out assuming and declaring that Scripture is inerrant, not culturally enmeshed, etc., (rules directly constraining on hermeneutical practices), you have lost any credibility to doing legitimate historical work. You are, now, self-consciously engaging in utter “reader-response” readings but just calling it something else. This does not mean that historical (and theological) study of Scripture may not find it to be inerrant, for example. It simply means that any helpful historical approach does not decide such historical (and hermeneutics-constraining) issues ahead of time.

    We now create a new problem: On what stone are engraved the rules for “the sound historical study of God’s Word”?

    I don’t ask that in a flip way, as if unaware of good historical method v. bad. Rather, I want to point out that God’s communication to us might in some ways be entirely Other. If that is so, then the “rules” may not be as binding as we might wish.

    What I lose if I deny inerrancy is any ability to distinguish what parts of Scripture are normative on my belief and what parts are not. In fact, the divine character of Scripture becomes extra, superfluous — because the “rules of historical method” answer all my questions instead. If I jump into the method you suggest, I find myself unable to value Scripture as normative of itself, precisely because the norms are defined elsewhere.

    How would you suggest avoiding that problem? That is, how does the Word of God stand apart from the Word of Man, if its interpretation is dictated by man-made rules of historical interpretation?

    Jeff Cagle

  7. October 24, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    Let me try this again, Neither myself nor Enns ever claimed “to escape the cultural embeddedness.” Would you care to address any of the points I made in my comment?

    Are you denying the total cultural embeddedness of the writings of our Bible from a historical point of view? If so, again, how in the world do you claim to be doing anything other than reader-response readings of the Bible under a different name?

    If you really want to get into some messy issues, yes we are all socially and culturally situated. Indeed, all our methods of reading (creating meaning from a “text”) are culturally situated and determined by the practices of our social locations and those from whom we desire social-capital. Historical study is itself a culturally contingent methodology only possible under specific social conditions and assumptions. All this is true. What is your way of dealing with all this? Do you claim that since some sort of modernistic objectivity remains impossible (i.e., with respect to historical ways of studying) therefore we should just “give up” when it comes to the Bible and leave it to the cultural producers of “the” Reformed tradition? That does not logically follow. Do you think various acceptable Reformed reading practices are less informed by “insights from outside of Scripture”?

    See, none of us really buy the utter relativity telos of these arguments. We realize our contingent situatedness (aka, that we know in a creaturely way), and do the best we can from there. When it comes to studying the Bible, we as Reformed-Evangelicals locate authority and inspiration “in” in the text (“in” God speaking “in/through” the text). We also reject separating what God is doing from history. It would seem, therefore, that we locate authority in some way “in” the historical meanings of the text since these writings are historical writings, produced (from a historical point of view) in specific historical and cultural moments—-just like (again, from a historical point of view) all other writings. It would seem historical readings of the Bible should somehow factor into our living out (submitting to) its authority together.

    Interestingly, in most conversational contexts you completely agree. What about all the rhetoric of “exegesis is the lifeblood of Reformed systematics”? Why do so many here try to bolster their arguments with references to the Hebrew and Greek of our Bibles? Why do most of you (I realize not all) think Meredith Kline’s work on mid-2nd millennium BCE Hittite treaties helps us understand Deuteronomy? Why do many of you get excited when some scholars write books attacking people you do not like on supposedly historical grounds (i.e., part of Guy Waters’ book on the NPP, Gathercole’s book Where is Boasting?, Carson’s edited Justificiation and Variegated Nomism, etc.)? This list could go on almost endlessly…

    Again, you all implicitly, and usually explicitly depending upon the context, accept the necessity of historical study of the Bible. But, you set up “special rules” for how it is to be done. Only readings and study showing it to be inerrant and not culturally embedded (in a way that makes us uncomfortable), etc., are legitimate. So, Paul, for example, is allowed to be culturally embedded in that he wrote in Hellenistic Greek using Hellenistic rhetorical and grammatical patterns. He is allowed to be culturally embedded when such embedding bolsters a reading that supports our doctrine and/or what we want to say in the sermon—just think of how many sermons you have heard or preached wherein “it helps us if we know X about the audience/city/context/etc.” He is not, however, allowed to be culturally embedded when it comes to anything that makes him more foreign to our theology and lives than we are comfortable with. He is not allowed to be culturally embedded when it comes to his sensitivities on gender, the body, “righteousness,” cosmology, reading practices, etc. Honestly, this is ridiculous historical methodology. Whenever we usually encounter people making such special rules we usually rightly suspect “something else is going on here.”

    To be clear, I do not in any way see the total cultural, historical, social, etc., “embeddedness” of the Bible militating against its character as divinely inspired and authoritative Scripture. If I may, in my opinion approaches that do play those (cultural situatedness and divinity of Scripture) off each other are actually lower views of Scripture. They have decided ahead of time how God was allowed to behave in giving us his Word.

    Stephen, PCA; under care Eastern Carolina Presbytery.

  8. October 24, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    Jeff,

    Thanks for your thoughts and questions. I posted my last comment before seeing your questions. If you do not mind, I am going to get back to reading for now, ponder your questions, and reply tomorrow?

    Thanks.

  9. Kyle said,

    October 24, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    Foolish Tar Heel, re: 2 & 7,

    So, when you start out assuming and declaring that Scripture is inerrant, not culturally enmeshed, etc., (rules directly constraining on hermeneutical practices), you have lost any credibility to doing legitimate historical work.

    Again, you all implicitly, and usually explicitly depending upon the context, accept the necessity of historical study of the Bible. But, you set up “special rules” for how it is to be done. Only readings and study showing it to be inerrant and not culturally embedded (in a way that makes us uncomfortable), etc., are legitimate.

    What is legitimate historical work, in this context? To confess that Scripture is inerrant is simply to confess that, if the Scripture is His word, God does not lie. If we begin by assuming that the Scripture may or may not be inerrant, then we confess from the start that it may or may not be His word; or if we say that it is His word, and still assume that it may or may not be inerrant, we confess from the start that God may or may not be truthful. Isn’t that already to disbelieve the Word of God when He says, “I am the truth”?

    Now an unbeliever may approach the text from a position of unbelief and be moved, by the power of the Spirit testifying therein, to belief. But how can a believer approach the text from a position of functional unbelief?

    To be clear, I do not in any way see the total cultural, historical, social, etc., “embeddedness” of the Bible militating against its character as divinely inspired and authoritative Scripture.

    Can you expand on this?

  10. Darryl Hart said,

    October 25, 2008 at 9:05 am

    FTH: the very idea of cultural embeddedness (i.e. historicism) implies that the person asserting it has been able to extricate herself enough from culture to see that others are culturally embedded. This has been the great tactic of the Enlightenment and its liberal Protestant descendents, always to charge dogma with historical blindness and an inability to rise above it all and see things whole or universally, free from prejudice and provincialism. (BTW, I know you and others have long asserted that I&I is free from liberalism. But the use of historicism is a dead give away. All the best historical literature on fundamentalism and liberalism argues that historicism was the tell-tale marker of Protestant liberalism. I’ve yet to hear from Enns defenders the upside of historicism.)

    So why do you argue with “you people” if we are so culturally embedded? How would it ever be possible for us to take the blinders off and see the brilliance of your side? (Would Enns ever become a Phillies’ fan?)

    What you seem to propose then is that we exchange one way of reconciling the human features of Scripture with the one the you and I&I propose. Not going to happen because I think both sides have different assessments of the divine quality of Scripture and what the Bible was given to teach. The Bible teaches what man is to believe concerning God and what duties God requires of man. I understand not every Christian or person sees it that way. And I understand it would take a long time to back up that understanding of the Bible. But that is what Reformed Christians teach and believe. We don’t believe that the Bible was given to reveal affinities with ANE languages and literature.

    That doesn’t mean that we can’t see those affinities. No Reformed exegete since 1870 has been oblivious to the humanity of the Bible. But we harmonize the human and the divine differently from you. We harmonize it to affirm the revealed truths about God and man’s duty.

    Also, I wonder if you have really seen the hole in your own argument. You write that it is invalide to create “special rules for the object(s) of your study,” and that if you do “you have abandoned anything remotely acceptable as sound historical and social study.” So tell me, don’t you go to the sixty-six books of the canon as canon, as the Word of God? And don’t you start with certain rules governing your study of how this book (who ever put these different texts together?) is the same as other texts from the period? Or do you start with Numbers over here and then find that Hosea sort of belongs over they with these poems (the Psalms) and then you finally construct the object of study free from any “special rules?” Of course, you don’t. You start with the same books that we do. The issue of canonicity hangs over the academic study of the Bible like a specter of George W. Bush. Biblical scholars in the academy use a lot of assumptions about the Bible. Without some special rules, you don’t have the Bible; you just have a bunch of disparate writings from semetic people groups.

  11. October 25, 2008 at 9:21 am

    Kyle, I appreciate your questions. If I may, they point up some differing assumptions we have about what it means that the Bible is God’s Word. If I understand you correctly, thinking the Bible might have errors in it means thinking it possible Scripture is not God’s Word. Scripture being God’s Word is inherently opposed to Scripture possibly having “errors” in it. Simply entertaining this possibility, even implicitly through a hermeneutical methodology that might allow for “errors,” is to start out from a non-Christian and unbelieving position with respect to Scripture? Have I understood you? This is a classic American Reformed-Evangelical position, given its most conscious and consistent expression (I think) in certain parts of the Van Tilian Reformed tradition (i.e., what I was taught by some of my professors at WTS).

    Again, I think we have some differing assumptions about what it means that the Bible is God’s Word. I do not think the Bible being God’s Word means it must be inerrant in the traditional American Evangelical-Reformed senses (see below). I hold the Bible to be God’s fully inspired Word, with everything in it inspiredly doing exactly what God wants it to be doing, even the “errors.” Furthermore, I often find our movement from “God does not lie” to inerrancy and our notions of coherency and “truth” to be wrongheaded. Perhaps we should look at what God actually did in giving His Word and see what it itself does before we decide what it means for God to be truthful and not lie in giving his Word? What if the Bible behaves in ways cutting across our notions of what it means that “God does not lie”? Is that just not allowed because we already know it could not possibly do that? My larger point here is that I do not see my position, allowing the possibility of “error” (just as any legitimate historical approach to anything allows), to be at odds with approaching the Bible as God’s Word. In fact, (surprise surprise) I think this approach stems from a higher view of Scripture as it allows God to be God and, perhaps, to have done things in His Word that might challenge some of our notions of how he must have behaved.

    Even though we probably disagree on this, I would appreciate interaction in which my intentions are recognized rather than it simply being declared that I have abandoned a believing approach to the text. Even if you others disagree with me, it seems more conducive to conversation and interaction to understand me on my own terms at some point. BTW, this comment here may not be fair to you Kyle. I more have in view the numerous other interactions I have had here (and elsewhere) in which I do not think this has been done.

    As you are probably well aware, many Christians, even many Evangelicals (especially British Evangelicals!), do not think Scripture inerrant. They think it fully inspired, authoritative, God’ Word that does not lie, etc. They do not think, however, the Bible being God’s Word means it must be inerrant in the way most North American Evangelical-Reformed mean it. Though understandings of inerrancy vary across American Evangelical-Reformed circles (i.e., compare Norman Giesler to Inerrancy and Hermeneutic), it is generally thought that everything the Bible actually says must be factually, scientifically, historically, etc., “true.” Scripture must also have a systematic-theological inerrant unity: all the propositional teachings-assumptions of Scripture must cohere in a logical-systematic way without “contradiction.” Now, some recognize greater nuance and the place of hermeneutics in all this, realizing that determining what the Bible says is not as straightforward as Funamentalists-Evangelicals often assumed. Inerrancy and Hermeneutic along with the Foundations of Contemporary Interpretation volume (ed. Moises Silva) stand as an excellent examples of this recognition and more nuanced understanding of inerrancy. But, again, many Christians, including Evangelicals (especially British and many Canadian Evangelicals), do not hold to inerrancy. For them the Bible is inspired, authoritative, God’s Word from God who does not lie, etc., but not necessarily inerrant.
     
    Interestingly, many of the authors often held up in our circles for doing great work, including in defense of our faith, are such British Evangelicals. Take, for example, Richard Bauckham’s massive Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. I lost count long ago at how many Reformed-Evangelicals praised this book, especially for its supposedly apologetics value. Fascinatingly, however, Bauckham is not an inerrantist and throughout the book he engages in readings and comes to conclusions at odds with inerrancy in princple and hermeneutical practice.

    Why this long detour about British evangelicals and inerrancy? It should provide us with some perspective here…

    Also, I can certainly expand on how “I do not in any way see the total cultural, historical, social, etc., ’embeddedness’ of the Bible militating against its character as divinely inspired and authoritative Scripture.” If you do not mind, for now I will not as this comment is already too long and because Peter Enns has already written a very helpful book on this : ). If you have not already read it, I highly recommend Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  12. Richard said,

    October 25, 2008 at 10:43 am

    It should also be borne in mind that Warfield, that great champion of inerrancy, defended evolution….but I digress.

  13. greenbaggins said,

    October 25, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Richard, you need to read Gary Johnson’s new book, where it is clearly proven from the original sources that Warfield did NOT believe in evolution. That is a very common myth that has nothing to do with reality.

  14. E.C. Hock said,

    October 25, 2008 at 11:27 am

    So far, this discussion on degrees of historical and cultural embeddedness, their implications, and who can claim where cultural factors can be applied or not applied (i.e., Paul on this aspect but not on that), reminds me a little of what Ben Stein is pointing out in his documentary, “Expelled.” The US scientific community has determined that the dogma of Darwinism (like the wall built to separate East and West Berlin to “protect” East Germans from foreign ideas) cannot be questioned though it cannot explain in scientific exploration life’s intricate patterns (like the cell) that so reasonably point to “intelligent design” or a designer. It seems Peter Enns, for good or ill, is wondering why a wall may exist in how we guide people to exegete and evaluate and appy cultural influences either honestly or artificially. Have we understood the radical implications of true incarnation? Do we treat the humanity of Scripture as something artificial or inconsistent in one place but not another? Whether Enns is potentially undermining inerrancy I cannot at this point determine. I hope not. I do see him warning us against an inerrancy that allows for a kind of docetic approach to Scripture. Debate within the faith community here will invariably tease this matter out to an acceptable level.

  15. greenbaggins said,

    October 25, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    And the very authors of Reforming or Conforming do not deny that the Scriptures were given to us at a particular time and a particular place. That simply isn’t the issue at stake. Paul’s letters are occasional. Of course they are. But what people are drawing is the illegitimate inference from this to saying that therefore there is no timeless truth in Scripture, when what is happening is in fact timeless truth being applied to particular situations in Scripture. This is FAR FAR FAR FAR FAR more of a problem than a supposed docetic Christianity which supposedly ignores the humanity of Scripture. I feel like advocates of the humanity of Scripture are picking at the speck in their fundamentalist brother’s eye and ignoring the log in their own postmodern no-truth-at-all eye.

  16. K. H. Acton said,

    October 25, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    I think this discussion could be helped if the understanding of what is considered in these discussions to be THE Reformed approach were clarified as a Westminster Seminary approach (with all the antecedents that that implies). It always struck me that the advocates of Van Til’s method generally loose site of self criticism and tend to make philosophy the arbiter of theology and even exposition (instead of making use of philosophy as a hand maid). Now, I understand that what was just written is a gross over-simplification; I do find Van Til to be quite helpful. But it seems to me that most Reformed expositors and theologians are not really bothered by the question of historicity or culture or humaness BECAUSE of a more fundamental Reformed starting point: mankind’s corruption (the great presupposition that must always come first). It puts all methods under judgment and requires that all human endeavors be undertaken with the utmost humility and openness to see error in our own understanding. It is why we leave our confessions open to amendment and why we should be ever seeking to be reformed (on God’s terms, not our own). It is why we, though having infallible writ from God, cannot claim infallibility for ourselves. And yet we are not left aimless. We have the Spirit to guide us in all truth, but only the papists claim that he guides infallibly. So we pray, we wade into the task, we test, we compare, we “sin boldly” and commit it all unto our Lord. We’ll take what was helpful from the Enlightenment, we’ll weigh what seems helpful from historical-criticism, we will listen to tradition, ours and others, and by the Spirit we will do our work for the good of the bride of Christ. But we will warn her that we are fallible men and direct her to stand only upon Christ as he is revealed in the prophets and apostles. It seems to me that issues of history, culture, presupposition, etc. are all bound up together and Tar Heel ends up having to engage in exactly what he claims his opponents are doing if he is going recognize any authority at all.

  17. Kyle said,

    October 25, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Foolish Tar Heel, re: 11,

    Kyle, I appreciate your questions. If I may, they point up some differing assumptions we have about what it means that the Bible is God’s Word. If I understand you correctly, thinking the Bible might have errors in it means thinking it possible Scripture is not God’s Word. Scripture being God’s Word is inherently opposed to Scripture possibly having “errors” in it. Simply entertaining this possibility, even implicitly through a hermeneutical methodology that might allow for “errors,” is to start out from a non-Christian and unbelieving position with respect to Scripture? Have I understood you?

    Yes, I think so. As a Presbyterian I confess, “The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man, or church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.” And also, “We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. 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.”

    I hold the Bible to be God’s fully inspired Word, with everything in it inspiredly doing exactly what God wants it to be doing, even the “errors.” Furthermore, I often find our movement from “God does not lie” to inerrancy and our notions of coherency and “truth” to be wrongheaded. Perhaps we should look at what God actually did in giving His Word and see what it itself does before we decide what it means for God to be truthful and not lie in giving his Word? What if the Bible behaves in ways cutting across our notions of what it means that “God does not lie”? Is that just not allowed because we already know it could not possibly do that?

    Can you point me to an example of a factual, historical, or theological error in God’s Word that is presented in the text as true or good & explain how it does not impugn either God’s truthfulness or His omniscience?

  18. E.C. Hock said,

    October 25, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Lane, I appreciate your concern on this particular line of argument, and though I be fundamental myself in many respects, I am not as alarmed at such probing, if we have an active plumbline in place. You write:

    “But what people are drawing is the illegitimate inference from this to saying that therefore there is no timeless truth in Scripture, when what is happening is in fact timeless truth being applied to particular situations in Scripture.”

    Perhaps I am reading different folks here, but I do not see Enns or others sounding so drastic. thagt is, wanting to jettison the principle of timeless truth. I think they are trying to follow where they think truth (or a perspective on truth) should lead. I, too, want to guard what is canonical as much as you do. But I think they want more honesty, or clarity, in how we evaluate and transfer the cultural limits of a text and situation from one age to another. In light of the rising and fading of Theonomy in our own day, regarding culture and law and what is transferable, this is a vibrant issue in the Reformed world. If the “people” are denying the legitimacy of Spirit insured “timeless truths” (without which we have no message of good news), then frankly the nature of their faith as authentically Christian is in doubt.

    But as far as I can tell, they all still affirm the validity of Jude’s word: “…to contend for the faith that once for all delivered to the saints” (3). That passage affirms the reality and expectation of timeless truth for the gospel.

    I rathersee them probing as to what we traditonally have always inferred to be timeless truth, but perhaps can be appreciated or revised in different ways, perhaps in more accurate ways. This, in part, is what’s behind Frame’s fresh approach in his multi-perspectivalism. We, too, share in that limitation of the “occasional” as do our theological forefathers. That is what makes the doing of theology such a humbling as well as careful process. How do we determine more accurately in our day what is occasional and what is not with Paul, or with the Reformed Tradition over the last five hundred years? How does being a pragmatic American impact our understanding of men’s theology who have been European? What of those bright lights now arising from within an African or Asian context of doing exegesis and theology, with the same commitment to orthodoxy as any of us? What timeless truth may they elevate, by the Spirit, in Paul’s letters that we have not properly appreciated or rightly addressed?

    We presently have a superb confessional base of tested truth to work with, and own and declare, but we have not arrived. The gospel is still going out to all nations. It will produce new men of faith and new scholars of faith rooted, built up and established in the faith – but with the lens of different cultures. Jesus after all did not return at the end of the 17th century. The Book of Acts, in a sense, is still unfolding in this church age.

    Every generation must tackle that vital question as they apply afresh the accumulated fruits of their biblical research. Some is just more dross, other aspects are silver and gold. Much of it is hermeneutical. But it’s the application of that kind of fruit in our day (literary, historical, structural, cultural wisdom of the text) that saved me from becoming a wooden-minded dispensationalist. It is also that kind of research that saves me from being a mere idealist with the text, not a biblical realist that must acknowledge the power of God amidst human limitation, prejudice, sin, weakness and brokenness in every culture. That, too, is the work of timeless truth.

  19. October 25, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Lane, thanks for pointing that out about BB Warfield. Has Gary Johnson’s book been released?

  20. greenbaggins said,

    October 25, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    Yes, Daniel, it’s B.B. Warfield: Essays on His Life and Thought. It should be noted that there is a difference of opinion on this. Mark Noll thinks that Warfield believed in evolution. Gary Johnson says that Warfield believed in micro-evolution (the adaptation of species), but NOT in macro-evolution. Gary also said to me (just called him to talk about this) that Warfield believed in the historical Adam, and that Adam was the biological father of the human race, a position that certainly rules out macro-evolution. The evidence does not appear to me to be exceptionally clear (except the evidence of his beliefs concerning Ada,) in Warfield’s own writings. The piece in volume 2 of the Shorter Writings on Darwin’s arguments against Christianity does not settle the issue, in my opinion.

  21. October 26, 2008 at 5:35 am

    Thanks Lane, I had Mark Noll’s book “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind” in which he seemed to argue for a Christian form of evolution, so I would suspect he is reading BB Warfield in light of his presuppositions.

  22. October 26, 2008 at 11:41 am

    DGH and others,

    So, the “real issues” are, those of our cultural situatedness…even though I focused more explicitly on the situatedness of the writings of our Bible? Still, I agree in many ways and certainly at least implied as much in my comments. On the other hand, for some reason you are contesting our cultural “embeddedness”?

    Darryl, what are you reaching for with your comment? That we are not all socially, contextually, and culturally, located people and thus our practices (thoughts, communications, social-interactions, etc.) do not have significance and “meaning” within and derived from said contexts? We are not people shaped by (and shaping) our practical-social locations? It may be the case that many did and do use this as a charge against others, implying that while “others” are blinded by their cultural enmeshing, “they” are not. This is not the only thing I am after here. That said, do you think being socially located somehow removes one’s ability to observe when “others” are blind to the social-practical implications of their social-locations and, more than that, being socially/culturally-located creatures?

    If you think these things you have lost the ability to do historical analysis (or any substantive analysis for that matter) of anything. Quickly DGH, how do I understand you? We are socially-located creatures who are both socialized into similar enough communication practices and cultural-thought-patterns that we can (sometimes) understand each other. Approaching this from another way, are we not to understand people, events, texts, things, etc., within and as products of (and producing of) their various social and cultural locations? Do we not ask questions of what social, cultural, political, intellectual, etc., conditions must obtain in order for certain things we are studying to be socially and historically possible and understandable? We should approach the writings of our Bible and understanding each other amidst our differences (and all things!) in these ways when wanting to understand them.

    Please get over your obsession with claiming Enns and others seem to think they escape being culturally situated and/or your jabbing at notions of “cultural embeddedness.” You use this time and again to avoid the issues we put on the table (i.e., the questions I have raised here). These attempts at obfuscation (of everything!) look like legitimating strategies designed for consumption by those who already agree with you, at least against “the other.” Do you think we somehow imply that because people and things are culturally situated they cannot also be “true” or correct as well?

    You are correct that what I (quote from DGH) “seem to propose then is that we exchange one way of reconciling the human features of Scripture with the one the [I] and I&I propose. Not going to happen because I think both sides have different assessments of the divine quality of Scripture and what the Bible was given to teach.” The issue for me is that I think many of the Reformed-Evangelical powers-that-be have mobilized to do anything but have a discussion about this exact point. Rather it is treated as though there just cannot be any discussion here. We simply disagree and never will agree. Also, since people who disagree with me (or Enns), for example, are “in power,” people such as myself must go.

    You see this dynamic in the dysfunctional interactions at WTS, and elsewhere, over Enns and his book. Those against him simply aimed at bringing up disagreements in this area, and maximalizing them while ignoring nuance rather than attempting to understand sympathetically. Once accomplished, discussion was “over” because, clearly, you just can’t disagree and have discussions at this level. All you have to do is associate Enns with this level of disagreement (and then throw in some notorious “bad people” such as Barth with whom we also disagreed, supposedly, at this level…but for different reasons), act as though no reasonable Reformed Christian could have issues at this level, and abracadabra! This allows ridiculous caricatures to enter into the picture. For example, see Keister on this very thread suggesting we do not think the writings of our Bible can teach authoritative truth while being contextually situated writings—and the marginalizing rhetorical function of Keister’s point. Again, we may disagree on what “timeless truth” means and what culturally-determined notions of epistemology must be in place to discuss such things in the way Lane means them. But, why must discussion cease here? Why must “we” be lumped in with radical relativists and dismissed at this point? Why not instead pursue a Spirit-filled interaction within the body over deep disagreements keeping in mind our more fundamentally deep agreements and instincts? Again, the dynamics of social power structures in our Reformed world explain why things tend to work out this way more than the notion of one side simply being “right.”

    Now, again, please answer whether or not you think the writings of our Bible are, from a historical point of view, completely culturally enmeshed writings of their ancient social locations? If you say yes, then Reformed seminaries may continue to require Hebrew, Greek, and knowledge of the ancient world for reading the Bible. It would be nice if they ceased constraining their hermeneutical methodologies with “special rules” for historically reading the Bible, unless they recognize the theological motivation for such rules, are willing to more honest about the historical implications of them, and are willing to let the Bible itself challenge said theological motivations. If you say no, please use your influence to have any Reformed seminary throw out its lexicons, books on the history and culture of the ancient Mediterranean world, and probably also its historically-trained Bible professors. I am going overboard a bit here, but I think you (hopefully) get my point.

  23. Darryl Hart said,

    October 26, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    FTH: when did I ever reject the idea that we are culturally embedded? It is impossible to do so. There are two problems though with your appeal to it. One, you seem to accuse others of being embedded, and that your knowledge of this some how gives you leverage to see what is “really” going on. But if we are all embedded, then you are too, and maybe what you think is really going on is not.

    This relates to the other problem of appealing to embeddedness. It relies upon the Enlightement idea that truth to be true needs to transcend embeddedness — it must be univeral or transcendent or objective truth. Then came along biblical criticism and comparative religions and people began to see that the Bible was as much a product of human cultures as of divine inspiration. In which case, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Bible lost its authority to teach doctrinal truth. It might tap religious sentiment of extraordinary proportion. But its ideas were time bound and so unreliable for modern men and women. (For some reason, the ethics of Jesus were not so situated in the liberal Protestant mind.)

    So the problem of relating the human and the divine is one of trying to affirm its humanity while still retaining its authority to teach what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of man. Warfield and Bavinck figured out a way to do that. Warfield was especially good in appealing to concursus. The divinity of the Bible makes it authoritative and infallible, the humanity of the Bible makes it intelligible. So Warfield could still see how the Bible’s embeddedness gave us Reformed theology and practice.

    What I&I seems to do, and where you also seem to go, is to say the Bible is embedded, and so is Reformed theology and practice, and so it’s all a bundle of paradoxes and inconsistencies — it’s messy — but God rules over it all and makes it all add up. So in your version of embeddedness, I have yet to hear an affirmation of Reformed doctrine and practice. Instead, not only does I&I not pretend to be a Reformed book — it’s not written for that audience, but its understanding of embeddedness makes the Reformed faith no better and no worse than any other interpretation of revealed truth. And the reason I’m supposed to find comfort in such Christian egalitarianism is because the Bible itself is embedded.

    As I’ve said repeatedly, I’m not all that upset by the ANE findings of I&I. Since 1870 Reformed biblical scholars have been dealing with the humanity of the Bible. To find out that the OT was like other ancient writings was not a surprise (and I was surprised that others in Reformed circles were surprsied). What is troubling about I&I is its attitude toward Reformed theology and practice, and its not seeming to care that its statement of embeddedness turns the uniqueness of the Reformed faith into just one more “whatever.”

  24. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 26, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    I’ll take myself as one of the “others” in #22, although I am certainly not a power-that-is. :)

    FTH, you asked

    That said, do you think being socially located somehow removes one’s ability to observe when “others” are blind to the social-practical implications of their social-locations and, more than that, being socially/culturally-located creatures?

    I think being socially located makes such observations hard. I recall for example the Sermon on the Mount: “first remove the log from your own eye…” On the task of observing others’ blindness, I have to first locate my own. And again, “Who are you to judge another’s servant?” from 1 Cor. The Scripture seems to indicate that our creatureliness and sin nature place boundaries on our ability to see other people clearly.

    As a brotherly challenge and an invitation to real dialog, what blindnesses are you prone to?

    For my part, I admit that my position on inerrancy is influenced by the history of Neo-orthodoxy in the 20th century.

    While I have tremendous respect for Barth and Bonhoeffer, I see their theological heirs in the PCUSA struggling in a situation where the median theology is anti-credal and anti-scriptural. Not only in the PCUSA, but also in the CRC and other denoms, I see the notion of “cultural embeddedness” being used to legitimize ordination of women, normativization of homosexuality, acceptance of pagan worship, denial that Jesus is the only Savior of mankind.

    Because I cannot foretell the future, I have to make estimates about where an Ennsian program will lead the church. In my estimate, I think, “If we go to the Enns point, nothing will stop us from going to the Barth point, and we already know that nothing stops that from going to the PCUSA point.” That’s my creaturely limitation; when confronted with an unknown, I try to make conservative estimates. So it’s entirely possible that my reaction to Enns is falsely colored by the history of others who use similar language.

    Here’s another area where I’m culturally bound. In academia, there is a certain pressure to be “respectable.” I feel that pressure every time one of my colleagues (not at my own school, but elsewhere) makes disparaging remarks about “ignorant fundamentalists.” My first reaction is to want to assure them that there are non-ignorant, Bible-believing Christians — NOT because I want to glorify God, but because I want to avoid the shame of being lumped in with “ignorant fundamentalists.”

    So, I tend to read comments like yours through that lens. I see phrases like “…you have lost the ability to do historical analysis (or any substantive analysis for that matter) of anything” and I think, “Ah. There’s another one who wants to be academically respectable.”

    It might be an unfair thought (I’ll let you be the judge). I have three purposes in expressing it. One is to admit, Yes, my judgments are culturally bound. Not only my judgments about the proper way to read Scripture, but also my judgments about your own comments as I receive them.

    Second, I hope that we all here could begin to examine and admit our own cultural bindings instead of “confessing the sins” of others in that regard. Your analysis of the motives of “the powers-that-be” contains strong criticism of their blindness, but no acknowledgment of your own. That fact doesn’t nullify your points, but it puts the conversation on a trajectory that is likely to lead to shouting instead of repentance. (I realize that this might come across as a criticism, but I mean it as a kind of course-correction for the discussion, a counter-plea: “Can we identify our own issues first?”)

    And third, I think it’s worth asking whether some kinds of cultural embeddedness should perhaps be privileged over others. Here’s what I have in mind: Keith Mathison’s Shape of Sola Scriptura makes the valuable point that the Reformers did not go back to the Bible from scratch, but instead relied heavily on the hermeneutics of the Patristics. He argues that this is both beneficial and necessary. If God has truly guided His church through time, then a genuinely novel interpretation should be viewed with a strong negative bias simply because it is unlikely that God would have withheld such knowledge from the Church until now.

    But in academia, starting from scratch is considered a fundamental method. It is anathema to view a hypothesis negatively simply because it is new. In fact, novelty is prized as the sign of a creative mind. Throw out the old, skeptically examine our assumptions, let the data drive the discussion.

    In the church, throwing out the old as a methodology is to implicitly deny that God guided His church in the past.

    So we have a conflict of cultures between the church and academia in our method. That conflict comes about because of an assumption: that God has guided His church into truth. Should we now privilege one culture over the other?

    I would say Yes. What do you think?

    Grace and peace,
    Jeff Cagle

  25. its.reed said,

    October 26, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    Stephen (Foolish Tar Heel):

    In most of your posts here I sense both an anger and an attitude of superiority. I suspect the latter is not really there, rather it reflects a frustration on your part that you believe yourself (Enns) are not being heard and in some way are being ostracized by others who do not agree with your take on the nature of Scripture. If I’m right in my sense here, please let me be one (as I’m sure others here will agree) to urge you: let not the significance of this issue cause you to doubt brotherly love on the part of the rest of us.

    By way of illustration, as a WTS graduate and one who disagrees with Enns, let me explain. I am sad that things reached the point where he needed to move on from WTS. I am saddened by the rancor and bitterness in the behavior of many in these circumstances. I count Pete as a brother and I am grateful for his part in my seminary education. I wish him well and hope for his future usefulness in the Church.

    In spite, I believe Enn’s position is wrong-headed (Jeff Cagle has given a good summary). I reached that conclusion after both study, interaction and prayer.

    Now, while I may have arrogantly reached a wrong conclusion, my heart does not convict me so. I suspect Enns would say the same for himself, as I expect you do the same. Yet we disagree and strongly. We do so at least in part because the subject is so important. (As well, I’m sure our flesh is involved somewhat). Yet we need to be honest to our convictions.

    Stephen your first exchange here came off strongly smacking of arrogance and condescension. Again, I suspect anger at your feeling of not being heard had more to do with this than real arrogance. Yet, that is how you came across. Even more, you missed Darryl’s simple point (which he has clarified), to wit, that you write in a way that it appears you assume you have somehow recognized your cultural embeddedness and have adjusted your hermeneutic for this fact, whereas those of us who disagree with you have willfully and ignorantly not only failed to recognize our cultural-embeddedness, we somehow are guilty of arguing for a comprehensize trascendant hermeneutic.

    Stephen, it is you who are assuming things here, not us. This point should be established by now (in this last series of posts). The problem is not a failure to recognize and deal with cultural-embeddeness, the problem is with the difference in how the traditional Reformed hermeneutic and I&I (you) deal with cultural-embeddedness.

    If I may simplify without intending to be simplistic I believe that I&I gives a wrong answer. The Reformed hermeneutic (in its simplicity) is Scripture interprets Scripture. You will agree, and then ask, but how does Scripture interpret Scripture? At this point you (I&I) will turn to sources outside of Scripture to determine the answer. The Reformed hermeneutic, however, turns back to Scripture and asks how does the Bible itself answer this question. Man’s insights can, indeed should, inform. Yet they must never determine.

    This I believe is I&I’s cardinal error; it proposes to determine the nature of Scripture from sources outside of Scripture. I.e., man not God determines how the Bible is to be interpreted.

    Less pounding of the chest Stephen and more dealing with real differences. Please, consider that I am smiling as I offer this chiding :)

    reed

  26. Vern Crisler said,

    October 26, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    In actuality, the point Darryl and Reed are making can be made even stronger. Stephen accused believers in the Bible as truth of not recognizing their “embeddedness.” Darryl rightly challenged Stephen’s assumption that he had somehow escaped embeddedness.

    In fact the point Stephen is making is incoherent, and is typical of those influenced by the framework relativism of our times. In fact, if Stephen’s claim, call it S, were true, S itself would be a product of embeddedness. It would suffer whatever fate Stephen means for all other “embedded” claims.

    No form of framework relativism can escape the problem of self-referential inconsistency.

    Vern

  27. Darryl Hart said,

    October 27, 2008 at 7:32 am

    Vern: you may be making Stephen’s point plausible. You appear to be embedded in your own phrases in a way that borders on incoherence (at least to the uninitiated). Could you please define “framework relativism” and “self-referential inconsistency”?

  28. Paul M. said,

    October 27, 2008 at 9:04 am

    Darryl,

    I’ll try for Vern:

    “framework relativism” = something like Wittgenstein’s language games. All people have a perspective, every thing is releative to that perspective, and there is no authoritative perspective for looking at anything, just various frameworks.

    “self-referential inconsistency” = usually some belief that, if applied to itself, makes that belief unintelligible. Example: “I cannot write a word in English.”

  29. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 27, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    Vern, you’re spot on with the observation about framework relativism — FR is in fact incoherent. That said, Stephen has a plausible escape:

    In fact the point Stephen is making is incoherent, and is typical of those influenced by the framework relativism of our times. In fact, if Stephen’s claim, call it S, were true, S itself would be a product of embeddedness. It would suffer whatever fate Stephen means for all other “embedded” claims.

    It may be that unrecognized embeddedness leads to unrecognized errors, while recognized embeddedness leads to recognized errors (which can be avoided since they are recognized).

    In other words, cultural embeddedness need not be logically equivalent to framework relativism.

    But again the appeal: It’s important that we all not gang up on Stephen as if he were the only one with hidden presuppositions. The important question before the Lord is how our own beliefs are influenced by culture.

    Jeff Cagle

  30. Mark Traphagen said,

    October 27, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Looks like Stephen is busy with his studies, so let me venture a brief reply in his defense. The most current line of attack on Stephen’s arguments seems to be an accusation of either hypocrisy or (more charitably) inconsistency in that he accuses others of being culturally/sociologically embedded but excuses himself, i.e, he appears to believe that he can have objective insight into these matters unattainable by others.

    I don’t believe Stephen himself has ever made that claim. If I can be shown otherwise, I would be quite surprised, as I know him personally and have never heard him claim anything remotely like that.

    It is for the very reason that he knows he is just as susceptible to his socio-cultural embeddedness that he appeals not to himself as the judge of matters but to the use (carefully) of the established tools of historical investigation as a partner in helping us to best understand biblical texts. He argues that we must employ such tools or we are in danger of allowing our own time-place situatedness become the final and sole arbiter of meaning in a text.

    You may disagree to what degree (if any) such historical investigation is useful, but to characterize Stephen as setting himself up as independent and final judge is unfair and inconsistent with what he has actually argued, as well as what he has claimed for himself. Indeed, his appeal is for hermeneutical humility, as much for himself as for anyone else.

  31. Mark Traphagen said,

    October 27, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    I think I should add since many here know me in my professional life as an employee of Westminster Bookstore, that any opinions I voice here are my own entirely and not necessarily those of Westminster Bookstore or Westminster Theological Seminary.

    And I wrote these comments on my lunch break ;-)

  32. October 27, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Wow, lots to interact with here. Since I am swamped at the moment I am only giving myself a short time right now to comment before I must get back to work. I will try to make more time later.

    Kyle, see the following blog post from the Connversation blog for some examples: http://connversation.wordpress.com/2008/01/15/tim-challies-on-inerrancy-my-attempt-at-conn-versation/ . Several paragraphs near the beginning discuss some issues in Daniel. Towards the end I bring up some other issues. Perhaps also see this post, http://connversation.wordpress.com/2008/04/14/nine-marks-of-inerrancy-a-repost/ (unfortunately the spacing is messed up due to a mishap we had on the blog a while back), which has been discussed here on Greenbaggins before. Looking over these will be of more help than anything I can type out quickly.

    DGH,

    Glad to see we are on the same page when it comes to understanding people, texts, things, etc., as fully socially and culturally-contingently located entities. Perhaps you can understand how I took your earlier comments as though you somehow were challenging this? I had trouble really thinking you were, however, since you are a historian and do excellent historical work in your areas of concentration. Perhaps I can clarify a bit on something else, I too have a problem with what you describe as “…the Enlightement idea that truth to be true needs to transcend embeddedness — it must be universal or transcendent or objective truth.” I also appreciate your humorous jab at “Liberal Protestantism” that rejoices in the “embeddedness” of just about everything concerning Jesus and Scripture except, somehow, his supposed (Liberal-Protestant) ethics!

    I largely agree with Warfield’s notion of concursus. I would differ with him, however, in seeing the Scriptures teaching Reformed Theology and Practice in the ways both he and you (it seems) think. This is not because I think (and I do) that the cultural embeddedness of Scripture extends much deeper than Warfield and most contemporary reformed-Evangelicals realize (though this does bring up some profound issues of how the Bible is authoritative) and/or because I think (and I DO NOT) if something is “cultural” it cannot be true. Quite the opposite, especially since we are only capable of thinking and understanding in “cultural” (culturally-bound and specific socially-located) ways—but again, this does not mean things cannot be true. This is what it means to know in a creaturely way as God made us, to borrow phrasing from Van Til that he never really developed. In order for truth to be expressed and to be understandable to us it must be communicated in such creaturely (contextually located and bound) ways. This certainly brings up issues for our notions of truth, what it is, and the possibility of some context-transcending ultimate truth system that could even be intelligible to any of us…but it need not cause us to jettison the possibility (reality!) of God speaking authoritatively and truly to us. Again, for Evangelical-Reformed folk, this all brings up questions of how is the Bible authoritative.

    On top of all this, a main reason I disagree with Warfield on the Bible and Reformed Theology and Practice (at least in the way he and most contemporary Reformed folk want to see the Bible teaching such things) is that I do not think its various writings “teach” and reflect said theology and practice, or even that its various writings use the conceptual and implied-practical categories necessary for it to “teach” our theology in the way we need it to. This is a much larger discussion than can be had in this one comment, or perhaps even on a blog. I will say that I still find much of Reformed Theology to be a faithful and edifying contextualization of Christ and the Scriptures for many settings. Obviously the things I bring up here show up some of the main areas of our disagreements.

    Jeff,

    I am sorry that I will basically be blowing you off again right now. Thank you for your insightful and helpful questions. Quickly, you are right on in at least implying the relevance of an academic setting for understanding where I am coming from, and probably the desire on my part to be respectable (in some way) in such settings coming through even when I am not writing directly to people in those settings. If I went back and looked at my posts, comments, and various writings over the last year even, I suspect I would find obvious shifts in the emphases within my discussions and the types of questions I ask—and much of this would probably correspond to my shift into an ivy league doctoral program and preparation for it. This is something I must reflect upon more, and at the same time embrace wisely in order to serve the Kingdom in a way fitting for how God made me and where he has put me. Unfortunately, I imagine I often do not do this wisely.

    As an aside, I did not know Mathison interacted a bit with patristic sources in his book. I think studying the reception histories, uses, and re-workings of the writings of our New Testament crucial to studying them historically (and theologically!), even though such study focuses on periods subsequent to their initial composition. Thus I do much of my work focusing not simply on various NT writings and early “Christians” in their initial 1st and early 2nd century settings, but also focusing on early Christians, their writings and uses of other previous writings, and practices, in their 2nd through 4th and 5th Mediterranean Greco-Roman (including Judaic) settings. Early Christians, their diversity, and how they constructed their identities (often using writings and various discursive practices) all fascinate me. Relating to your comment, however, most serious “academic” NT and Christian Origins scholars now quite consciously study the early use, interpretation, handling, adapting, etc., of the various NT writings along with the social functions of said things. Being conscious of issues of text, context, and shifting hermeneutical and social-practice horizons in the reception-history(ies) of various texts and memories (legends) is all the rage right now…as is paying attention to such things for ways they might help understanding the various texts in their earlier social settings. This all said, I get your point about “academia” and “starting from scratch.” Perhaps it helps to know some of this positivistic tendency is being reversed now?

    Reed,

    I am definitely blowing you off here : ), since I must get back to work. You are correct that I did not mean to come across arrogantly and that various frustrations of mine probably factored into how I wrote. Nevertheless, please forgive me for not being as sensitive as I should have been. Also, me being arrogant is not unheard-of. Please forgive me. Thanks for your encouragement. I will try to ponder your points and comment later. Perhaps I addressed some of them above in comments to DGH?

    Vern (and Paul.M?),

    I agree with DGH (again!). You appear to be providing an example on this thread of my points. Perhaps I am wrong, but you are functionally denying our cultural situatedness and its implications for how we only know, think, and do in culturally and socially contingent practices—shaped by (and shaping of) our specific social settings? This all beyond DGH’s specific comment to you…

    OK, back to work. I hope everyone is having a productive day.

  33. October 27, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Mark,

    I posted before I saw your comments. Thanks.

    Everyone, what Mark said…though he appears to have a higher view of me than I would ever admit to ; )

  34. its.reed said,

    October 27, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Ref. 30 (Mark): at least for me, your comments do not reflect what I am trying to get at. Its not that I read Stephen saying that he is not just as culturally-embedded as those who may disagree with him. Rather, its that Stephen seems(ed) to be (has been) saying that he has somehow found a means of better accomodating his hermeneutic to this fact than is found in (his understanding) of the traditional reformed hermeneutic.

    In simpler terms that hopefully don’t do unjustice, it sounds(ed) as if Stephen is (was) saying: I see the problem better than you and thus can resolve it better than you.

    I’ve included the parenthetical references here because I think Stephen’s last post offers much helpful clarification. While there is a sense in which Stephen is still arguing for a “better” solution, his response offers valuable clarification that causes me at least to eliminate some of my concerns.

  35. its.reed said,

    October 27, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Ref. 32 (Stephen):

    Thanks for your gracious comments and consider these things behind and gone.

    Your comments to Darryl actually do help quite a bit. While I am not as up to date as you and Darryl are, let me try to focus my concern and hopefully get to the nub.

    > All sides of the conversation agree that our cultural-embeddedness impacts our interpretation of Scripture (whether we agree exactly how/to what degree).

    > All sides of the conversation agree that the cultural-historical setting of a given text must place a necessarily role in the interpretations of that text.

    > It appears however, that we disagree on the nature of the role that this latter issue is to play.

    My greatest concern is the propensity to answer this last question by an essential reliance on the opinions of men, not the express statement of God.

    Consider, whether you answer the question from the direction you appear to be taking, or in the opposite direction, from say a reliance on Warfield, both are on the dangerous ground of appealing to Man as the authority.

    This essential reliance on the opinions of men is no different than what is found in either the fundamentalist who relies on an exaggerated application of rationalism to come to a literalist hermeneutic that results in obvious interpretive errors, or the HC liberal whose hermeneutic is equally based on Man’s opinions but results in exactly opposite interpretive errors. The same essential reliance on men’s opinions can be said for feminist-theology, black-theology, and liberation-theology hermeneutics.

    An example: how are we to answer the question we struggled with on a previous post, Old Earth vs. Young Earth? (No digging into it again, please). Ultimately this question can only be answered by the Bible itself AND its Author. The extent to which either side in such a debate authoritatively relies on men’s opinions is the extent to which we must distrust their conclusions.

    The Scripture itself is clear that the correct hermeneutic is Scripture interpreting Scripture. Further, the Spirit affirms the validity of this approach in His ministry of illumination. This is as good as it gets.

    The role to be played by the insights from, for example, ANE sources, cannot be determined by reliance on men’s debates. Consider the history of higher critical interpretation; it reads as one generation following upon another, trying to correct the errors and improve upon the opinions of their predecessors. Yet, no settled results are found, just continual fracturing.

    My take is that Enn’s approach follows this same principal error. No, I’m not equating him with higher critical hermeneutics and liberals. Rather, I believe he gives too significant a role to of ANE sources, to the extent of authoritatively determining interpretation. Conversely I believe, while he acknowledges Scripture-interprets-Scripture + illumination, I believe he gives too little value (and therefore authority) to this in his hermeneutic.

    In the end Stephen, I am not opposed at all the idea of ANE sources playing a role in our interpretation of Scripture. Your example of Kline’s sovereignty treaty work is a good example. Yet, using this example, the reason I am comfortable with the insights this provides to the text’s meaning is because I see these insights confirmed in the rest of Scripture.

    Conversely, the reason why I reject much of Enn’s insights is because I see the rest of Scripture contradicting these insights. I may very well be letting my own cultural-embeddedness stop me from seeing that Enn’s is right. Yet my only hope is that the Spirit will enable me to see this.

    I’d say the same for you. You may be wrong. Our only hope in determining the answer is by vetting our opinions with Scripture.

    [FWIW, I’m still not sure what the appeal is. I understand Enns’ claim that many Evangelicals are struggling with these issues. In my experience, the only ones who seem to be struggling with it are young men who appear to give too much weight to the opinions of men.

    I don’t know how old you are. I don’t know your background. I do suspect that the average believer out there is not troubled by these kinds of issues. Why do you think these issues are so significant?]

  36. ReformedSinner said,

    October 27, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    #35,

    Reed. Good points on who is really bothered by those issues. Not saying those issues don’t exist, but Dr. Enns and other made it seem like if we don’t deal with these issues the church might not exist tomorrow, or at least we will lose many young men and women. Rather, my ministry experiences (which concentrates on young men and women) tell me most people simply believe that the Bible is God’s Word, it’s perfect, and anything against it must be man’s fault and not God’s. Now, they might not be able to defend their views with such articulations as we have found in greenbaggins blog, but nonetheless their faith is secure and solid.

  37. D G Hart said,

    October 27, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    Paul M.: thanks for the definitions.

    FTH: you wrote: “On top of all this, a main reason I disagree with Warfield on the Bible and Reformed Theology and Practice (at least in the way he and most contemporary Reformed folk want to see the Bible teaching such things) is that I do not think its various writings “teach” and reflect said theology and practice, or even that its various writings use the conceptual and implied-practical categories necessary for it to “teach” our theology in the way we need it to.”

    Not to put too fine a point on it, you seem to be saying that the Bible does not teach “what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.” In other words, if the Bible doesn’t “teach,” then the enterprises of exegetical, biblical, and systematic theology are anachronistic. In which case, saying the Reformed faith is biblical is equally difficult to maintain.

    These are the implications I read in I&I during my first encounter with the book. I have been criticized for reading the book that way. But now you seem to demonstrate that this is a plausible interpretation. Weren’t you a critic of the HTFC report, and Lillback’s response? But if the Bible doesn’t even teach theology and practice, what did you expect the WTS faculty to do?

  38. Vern Crisler said,

    October 27, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Darryl, haven’t you ever read any philosophy? What I’m talking about — framework relativism, self-referential inconsistency — is basic stuff. Paul tried to explain it but Stephen still doesn’t get it. One of the first principles of philosophy, it seems to me, is that when you argue for a claim, you need to make sure your claim doesn’t carry its own falsification. (See Paul’s example for instance.)

    Why is that so hard to understand?

    Vern

  39. Kyle said,

    October 27, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    Foolish Tar Heel,

    Thanks for pointing me to those links. I will take some time to read through them & will hopefully come back with some thoughts.

  40. D G Hart said,

    October 28, 2008 at 5:03 am

    Vern: I believe you’ve used the word “framework” in other contexts and it wasn’t exactly favorable.

  41. October 28, 2008 at 9:05 am

    DGH,

    I see how I can come across in my previous comment as saying what you suggest (or ask about), especially as I put quotes around “teach” as though I placed my emphasis on (against) the idea of the Bible teaching.

    This is not, however, what I meant and I am sorry for being unclear. Especially in the part of my comment you quote, I mean to take issue with the content of what Warfield, for example, thought the Bible taught; i.e., Reformed Theology and Practice. I did not mean to take issue with the idea of the Bible teaching.

    This said, you are probably aware that my understanding of how the Bible “teaches” differs from your understanding—and that of the HTFC and PAL for that matter. However, I would prefer not to get into this right now.

    Vern,

    A little punchy there? Is this the most productive way to carry on a discussion or argument?

    Reed (and ReformedSinner),

    Sorry, but I must run to class now and will try to get back to you later. Thanks for your thoughts.

  42. D G Hart said,

    October 31, 2008 at 9:58 am

    FTH: so am I still supposed to read I&I as part of the Reformed tradition?

  43. Todd said,

    October 31, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Darryl,

    Why aren’t you at the parade?

  44. Darryl Hart said,

    October 31, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    Todd, the trains were full. It was impossible to pass those ten miles between our house and City Hall unless you left at 7:00 this morning.

  45. its.reed said,

    October 31, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    Daryll:

    You’re still in Philly? I thought you were out CA way.

    P.S. as a life-long “just 15 minutes south of the staduim” Delaware resident (now in the great south), let me say congrats! I wish I was one of those die hard fans who could take some pride and satisfaction. Instead all I’m left with is amazement. Sure hope it lasts for another 28 years :-)

  46. Benjamin P. Glaser said,

    October 31, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    Going to delete all comments of mine?

  47. Richard said,

    November 1, 2008 at 5:57 am

    Reed,

    You said; The Scripture itself is clear that the correct hermeneutic is Scripture interpreting Scripture.

    Where?

  48. its.reed said,

    November 1, 2008 at 7:54 am

    Richard:

    Here is an example from the mouth of James at the “first” Synod:

    Acts 15:12-21 12 And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13 After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, 16 “‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, 17 that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things 18 known from of old.’ 19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. 21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.” [emphasis added]

    Surely you are familiar with the multitude of NT passages that fit this exact pattern. Surely you recognize such passages as Luke 24:44-45, and Jesus’ teaching.

    Richard, you have studied under Enns, yes? Coming out of the confused hermeneutic of dispensationalism, I remember that moment of clarity when I heard Enns relate the fact that the there is 1.5 direct references, implicit references, or allusions to OT passages for every 1 NT passage. In a nutshell, the NT is giving us God’s interpretation of the OT.

    Surely you’re familiar with the ministry of the OT. Are they not interpreting, explaining the meaning and application, of the Torah, ultimately focusing it on Christ?

    I get the sense Richard that you are asking a question in order to take it to the next level. I suspect there is a possibility that a simple answer here might be leveraged by you into a conundrum for me. :-)

    I could be wrong, but this seems so basic to a reformed understanding of Scripture (which, I hold, is the Bible’s own understanding).

    Or are you not coming at this from a reformed understanding?

  49. Darryl Hart said,

    November 1, 2008 at 8:40 am

    its.reed: no, I’ve been back in Phila. for five years, not at WTS, but working for a non-profit in Wilmington. (I’m not evangelical enough for WTS.)

    Some of us die hard fans who are proud and satisfied are also amazed. After the way the AL beat up on the Phils in inter-league play, no Phillies fan in his right mind thought a victory in the WS was possible, not to mention the thought of getting there was pretty unthinkable. I’m still pinching myself.

  50. Richard said,

    November 1, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Reed,

    I have not studied under Enns’ but I am mildly familiar with his work.

    To set the record straight, I have no problem with St. Augustine’s maxim (I think it was his at any rate) that ‘the old is the new concealed and the new is the Old revealed’ or something along those lines nor do I doubt that the NT writers are interpreting and explaining the meaning and application of the Tanakh focusing it upon Jesus as its fulfilment or goal.

    That said, I fail to see how St. James’ appeal to Amos to explain the ingathering of Gentiles is a proof that the correct hermeneutic is Scripture interpreting Scripture.

    I don’t deny that in order to find out what the NT teaches on x we should look at what it teaches about x in all places where it speaks of x but the Scripture interpreting Scripture rule didn’t help the Ethiopian eunuch much:

    “Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.”

    Granted the NT often explains the OT but this is not extensive, i.e. some things are unclear “he went and preached to the spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:19) and “baptized for the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:29) where we just have to hold up our hands and confess that “I don’t understand what this means”.

    By admitting that you are not opposed at all the idea of ANE sources playing a role in our interpretation of Scripture it seems that you are undercutting your argument.

    Ultimately my goal is to make use of the discoveries of critical scholarship and use them to develop a solid biblical theology faithfully acknowledging that Jesus has become King! Try this. ;-)

    One thing that has struck me is that the evangelical reaction to critical methods stems from the misuse of them by certain individuals. But because they have been abused does not mean that they cannot be helpful. Just consider the following quotes by Klaus Koch from his The Growth of the Biblical Tradition:

    A.

    It is hoped that the use of the tern saga in connection with biblical narratives, which are regarded by the church as the word of God, will not shock some theologians, or horrify the more devout. But the reader must not make the crude mistake of dismissing the saga as a fantastical, primitive, and therefore ‘untrue’ phenomenon. The next but one paragraph will show that on the contrary biblical sagas conceal much that is true, and are of vital importance for the preaching of Christianity.

    B.

    The Old and New Testament claim to be the revelation of a god whose word and deed are fundamental to true human existence. For two milenia Christian theology has repeatedly reinterpreted this claim, checked it, and found it to be right. Form criticism provides the means for a more accurate interpretation and examination thatn has been possible before. If the thesis is right that form criticism culminates in a language history (literary history, transmission history) involving all manifestations of life then that claim cannot be justified by appealing merely to isolated texts, but to a complete history of all the biblical writings, to which each Old and New Testament book would contribute, and in which each would gain the recognition due to them, and this history would be carried further by church history. Within an overall historical framework of this kind it is possible to see why the early Christians (and Christians even now) recognise in Jesus the Christ. I do not believe that such a large historical enquiry will lead to our being less convinced than our fathers in the church were that Scripture is of God’s making and prompting. On the contrary, we have clearer grounds for sharing their conviction, for careful historical analysis enables us to see each stage of the biblical compilation as a living response to God.

    God bless!

  51. E.C.Hock said,

    November 1, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Richard in #50 said, “Ultimately my goal is to make use of the discoveries of critical scholarship and use them to develop a solid biblical theology faithfully acknowledging that Jesus has become King!”

    Sounds good to me, how can we do otherwise given the accumulated knowledge we have been given as a result. The analogy of Scripoture is an important principle, but it is most effective when working in conjunction with other principles.

    New and better translations have arisen, like the ESV, as a result. That is what the church has done all throughout the ages one way or another. The OT was opened up and and given a eschatological trajectory by the greater light of Christ in the NT. The church resisted an over-played allegorical method of interpretation by the same spirit of critical discovery and inquiry. G. Vos applied it to draw out rich and progressive themes from the historic sweep of the text. Terms and metaphors are understood more accurately. Dispensationalism is fading as a system novelty due to the application of solid critical tools as language and its usage for giving us meaning is better understood.

  52. ReformedSinner said,

    November 1, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    #50,

    Luke 24:44-48 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

    So, Jesus certainly didn’t need the help of modern critical methods nor historical criticisms to teach the disciples how to understand the Scriptures. Jesus shown them the meaning of Scriptures through Scripture itself.

    Also, I don’t know why you think us admiting that historical background (such as ANE) has a role in interpretation is some kind of “gotcha” moment. Orthodox church never denied this. I think why we need to learn Greek or Hebrew instead of relying on translations is pretty clear, we need to understand to the best of our abilities what the Bible says, and language investigation is impossible without background investigation. However, what we disagree on is the function of such an investigation in the realm of hermeneutics. Again, you think critical methods play a role in the ultimate meaning, meanwhile, there are others that sides with the tradition that ultimate meaning can only come from Scripture itself. Why is this claim necessary (and true), because fundamentally the Bible is different than any other human book.

    I have read most of the critical studies done on the Bible since the 18th centuries to the latest scholars of the day, and they all made the same fundamental mistake: Bible is nothing special in its form (and thus needs to be critically judged like any other literature) and the only special part about it is the “faith” of the readers.

  53. ReformedSinner said,

    November 1, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    #51,

    Yes, but you have only identify how they act as tools, which is fine. But ultimately they cannot be the judge of meaning, as Scripture itself can only be the ultimate judge on meaning. Also, some of your assertions are over the top.

    1) “New and better translations” – there is no single translation that can claim to 100% faithfully translate out the original meaning of the text. Each version’s philosophy will have their own “give-n-take” on benefits and flaws. Many critical reviews have been given to ESV to illustrate that. At the end translations reflects more to the preference of the Church and scholarship of the day.

    2) The Church resisted allegory not based on scholarship, but ironically based on the method of Scripture interpret Scripture. It is wrong to say “critical methods” prompted the church to abandon the allegorical method.

    3) Again what prompted G. Vos to be convinced that Bible is a “History of revelation” is his conviction that Scripture is the ultimate fulfillment of its own promises.

    Once again yes the Church has always have some kind of investigation to fully understand the text, nobody ever denies that, but once again the Church has always made such advancements based on the ultimate conviction that Scripture is its own ultimate judge, not academia.

  54. its.reed said,

    November 1, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Ref. 50:

    Richard: the caveat, as I expressed early, in the role of ANE sources, is a question of authority.

    We cannot allow any source outside of Scripture to authoritatively determine the meaning of a text (to have the deciding role if you will), as this subjects us to the autonomy of man in interpretation and only leads to continual debate and argument without ever coming to a settled understanding of the text.

    It seems (I could be wrong) you are missing a plain and simple observation flowing from SiS, to wit: that when all the information is gathered on the meaning of a text, it is what the Scripture itself says the text means that is determinative.

    This is why the Acts example (James’ use of Amos) is appropriate. Of course there are a number of details to work out (such as “how” do NT authors “use” OT authors). Yet we must accept a basic premise: the NT authors use the OT authors authoritatively.

    I will not make any apologies for the “circularity” of the proof involved here. I fully recognize that “under the sun” this hermeneutic is unprovable. This is why I made the reference to the second necessity, that of the Spirit’s illumination.

    In the end Richard, I think it is safe to say that I see your efforts (and those of the sources you quote) as being appropriate, helpful, and valid, … to a degree. My persuasion is that you have a problem with this issue of authoritative, and that you give, in principle, the ultimate authority to sources outside the Bible itself.

    Now don’t read too far into that comment. Yes I am speaking in general, so yes there will be insights you make which are appropriate. Yet I find that when the last observation is made, and a question still lingers you (and those following the same approach) end up relying on sources outside the Bible for the “determining” factor.

    This, to me, results in errors.

    Thanks for the peaceful exchange Richard.

  55. Richard said,

    November 1, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    RS,

    I don’t know why you think us admiting that historical background (such as ANE) has a role in interpretation is some kind of “gotcha” moment.

    I always try to seer clear of “gotcha” moments, as if we are simply playing a game of oneupmanship.

    In terms of what you are saying, the big thing to note about the text is that Jesus says “everything written about me…must be fulfilled”. The context is not that Jesus explained to the disciples the NT form of Church government &c. but rather he showed them how he was in the OT.

    Whilst you are correct that Jesus didn’t need the help of modern critical methods nor historical criticisms to teach the disciples how to understand the Scriptures, that does not mean we don’t need to make use of them.

    Reed,

    You are correct that it is what the Scripture itself says the text means that is determinative but that is not what I understand the hermenutical rule of SiS to be, so WCF 1.9 “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly” and yet WCF 1.7 “All things in Scripture are not alike in plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all”.

    Let’s take the issue of baptism, a classic is Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology and in the chapter on baptism the first argument he looks at is to see the use of the words βάπτω and βαπτίζω in the classics, how they were used in the Septuagint and Apocrypha then the New Testament documents and finally in the Patristics. Ultimately he takes a look at as much evidence both biblical and non-biblical to see how the Bible is to be understood.

    You are of course correct, there are a number of details to work out (such as “how” do NT authors “use” OT authors). Yet we must accept a basic premise: the NT authors use the OT authors authoritatively. I don’t deny that.

    As I have noted elsewhere:

    To what degree does one need to subscribe to the Reformed confessions in order to be Reformed? Is it “all or nothing”? Are there legitimate expressions of difference within the Reformed community? If so who decides what is legitimate or and what is not?

    Who gets to define what being Reformed is? Are we to take a snapshot of the Reformed in the 17th century and say that these men are Reformed and unless you agree with them you are not Reformed? Or are we to allow for doctrinal developments within the Reformed community building upon what our forefathers said and taught?

    If we are to allow for doctrinal developments within the Reformed community building upon what our forefathers said and taught what happens if we realise that they got some fundamental things wrong owing to the historical circumstances they lived in and the information they had available to them? Are we still remaining true to the Reformed faith if we rework what they said in the light of modern scholarship which changes beyond recognition what they said?

    To say that the Spririt of God will lead the Church into all truth but stopped doing so from the 17th century seems to me to be a little, well…odd.

    Have a good Lord’s day!

  56. its.reed said,

    November 1, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    And you Richard.

  57. its.reed said,

    November 1, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    G.C.,

    Might you contact me privately? reedhere at gmail dot com.

  58. its.reed said,

    November 1, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    Richard:

    The word baptizo is an interesting choice. Again, it comes down to whether or not the external sources (external to the Scriptures that is) have a determinative role in the meaning of this word in any given text.

    Your reference to Hodge sounds as if you are using him as an example of someone who allowed external sources to play the deciding role, the determinative factor in the meaning of baptizo. If I am reading you wrong, please correct me.

    At the very least, your quote, while it may be accurate, is not all Hodge said. While I do not have the time at present to read him in context, I suspect in the end he maintains that the meaning of baptizo in any given text is the meaning assigned to it by Scripture. The external sources help us understand that. Yet they are not determinative.

    A better example, from the perspective of genre, might be the question of what kind of literary genre are the Gospels? First, this is clearly a question that needs some light from the outside to answer. Yet, as you probably know, information from such sources is insufficient, as the Gospels refuse pigeon-holing. In the end, the contemporary “hero-biographies” literary style is not sufficient to explain the literary genre of the Gospels. There are some insights due to some apparent similarities. Yet the Gospels’ literary style is unique and can only be defined adequately by the Gospels themselves.

    The same can be said for the genre of the book of Revelation.

    Note my key concern Richard, and how it is reflected in the interplay between the external sources and the question at hand. In both cases, the external sources offer some insight. Yet only the Scriptures themselve can determinatively explain.

    I sense we are now feeling out where we each draw the boundary line in this discussion. Please do not let my concern that maybe you draw the boundary line too far offer unnecessary offense. Rather, please engage my arguments as you can.

  59. Richard said,

    November 2, 2008 at 6:53 am

    Reed,

    I am using Hodge as an example of how we can look to extra-biblical sources to aid our understanding of Scripture and yet remain a stalwart of the Reformed faith. It is interesting that his son’s commentary on the WCF states

    The evidence of the truth of the view entertained by the vast majority of Christ’s Church is as follows: —

    (1.) The word baptizo, in its classical usage, means to dip, to moisten, to wet, to purify, to wash.

    That is, the first argument he makes is to reference non-biblical sources.

    I would argue that the reason both Hodges did this was because they recognised that the NT was not written in an historical vacuum, that is it was written in the ‘classical age’ hence the classical usage of the word baptizo is relevant.

    In regards to the question of what kind of literary genre are the Gospels? As a passing note I would say that this is starting to broadly, I would much prefer to begin to look at what literary genres are contained within Gospel x and then work out from that.

    I think that Joseph A. Fitzmyer’s point is well made,

    we have learned through this method [historical criticism] that not everything narrated in the past tense necessarily corresponds to ancient reality, and that not everything put on the lips of Jesus of Nazareth by evangelists was necessarily so uttered by him. In regard to the historical criticism of the Synoptic Gospels, we have learned through this method to distinguish three stages of the gospel tradition: (I) what Jesus of Nazareth did and said (corresponding roughly to A.D. 1-33); (II) what apostles of Jesus preached about him, his words, and his deeds (corresponding roughly to A.D. 33-65); and (III) what evangelists wrote about him, having culled, synthesized, and explicated the tradition that preceded them, each in his own way (corresponding to A.D. 65-95). The relationship of Stage III to Stages I and II is the problem for modern readers of these Gospels, and therein lies the crucial need of the historical-critical method of Gospel interpretation.

    Have a read of this.

    Take St. Mark for example, are we to understand that the only message Jesus said was “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” or should we understand this as a summary of what he said? I am sure we would both say the latter.

    In regards to the OT, the external sources help us to determine how we should understand the text. So for example, discovering the Canaanite Baal Cycle in Ugarit helped shed light on the following

    Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
    extol him who rides on the clouds ;
    rejoice before him—his name is YHWH. (Ps. 68.4)

    Calvin was of course to note that “His infinite power is commended, when it is said that he rides upon the clouds, or the heavens, for this proves that he sits superior over all things” but owing to modern discoveries our understanding should be some what richer as we recognise that Baal’s title is applied to Yahweh by the psalmist implying that the rider of the clouds is Yahweh not Baal.

    Can this help our understanding of Gen. 1-2? Well try this if you haven’t already.

  60. Richard said,

    November 2, 2008 at 7:00 am

    * second to last para should start “Calvin was of course CORRECT to note that…”

  61. its.reed said,

    November 2, 2008 at 8:09 am

    Richard:

    Having read Futato’s piece, just a few comments. Remember, my concern here is not with the use of external sources to inform, but their use to determine. Using Futato only to illustrate (not to debate the particulars of his piece):

    > He ends by noting that the reason for the vegetative-cultivator parallel, and the Day 1 – 4 overlap flow from the need to offset YHWH from Baal in the thinking of Israel as they are being established as the covenant community under Moses.

    > This idea he introduces from external sources (whether he got the idea directly from the sources, or looked for evidence to support a hypothese seems immaterial to me).

    > He then offers some proof from Scripture that this indeed is the point of the text.

    It appears that Futato is following a right hermeneutic.

    Having said that, I am not persuaded by his conclusion. For example, he only notes one reference, at the end of Deut., to establish a Baal underlayment for the whole Torah. I recognize the other references to the Baal factor (most notably 1Kings and Mt Carmel-Elijah). Yet that event, and its recording in the Canon, is substantially after the event of the Torah, early or late.

    If Baal is incipient in the beginning of Genesis, and is of foundational significance to understanding the meaning of Genesis, then I would expect to see more in Genesis, and not so hidden that only scholars working at it some 25+ centuries later are the only ones to finally “get” such a critical factor in the right interpretation of Genesis.

    Still, I expect I could be persuaded of the “literary” implications of Gen 1-2, and even Futato’s argument here. This still does not eliminate the possibility of historicity for Gen 1-2. The choices are not either/or. We also have the both/and. God could have created in the order we find in Gen 1-2 AND he could have done with the purpose of representing in history the very “literary” lessons we see in the symmatries between Day 1 and 4, etc.

    This is obviously possible for God. Nor is such a scenario outside the realm of scientific, read ordinary providence if you wish, soundness. E.g., Futato’s dilemma between light separation on Day 1 and Day 4 is not a fait accompli as he seems to makes it out to be. The idea of further development, an idea expressly seen in Days 1-3 vs. 4-6, is just as reasonable. All that is required “scientifically” is for the establishment of standards for light/darkness that are operationally consistent with ordinary providence and at the same time unique in their structuring. As we are talking about the “beginning” of things, it should not surprise us to see such a “further development” pattern.

    All this, and it does not get to the heart of the problem for me. Give all the insights into Gen 1-2 from external sources you want Richard, and I believe you are still facing a failure in the issue of whether or not the external sources are determinative.

    Are we to understand Gen 1-2 as merely rhetorical, a literary structuring with only pedagogical purposes, and no necessary roots in history? Or are we to understand Gen 1-2 as a writing in history of redemptive acts, a literary usage of the cosmos itself?

    Acceding to modern scientific theory the determinative role leads us to conclude the first.

    Acceding to the Bible itself the determinative role may also lead us to concluding the first. Yet it could just as easily lead to the latter. It all depends on what the Scripture (not external sources) teaches.

    For me, I must disgree with the literary only conclusion. I truly am persuaded that those who hold to such a view do so because they have given the external sources, read modern scientific theory, the determinative role in the Bible’s meaning. I really do listen to all the arguments to the contrary, such as Futato’s here, and find the the necessity of the “therefore” is still not required. Even more important, I believe that giving this uncalled for “therefore” does fundamental damage to the soundness of the Bible’s message.

    I find that the pattern of Scripture is not for God to act in writing only. The Bible does not present itself as a story in which the author has carefully picked and chosen what pieces of history serve the purposes of his story and has conveniently ignored the rest. No, the Bible presents itself as a recording of the specific actions of God, actions which he explains fit his specific redemptive plan.

    The OT and the NT, in their use of elements of Gn 1 and 2 do so with a presupposition to the historicity of these events. To ignore that is to irrepairably fracture the Bible.

    To suppose that Adam, for example is merely rhetorical, or that the Fall itself is an idea placed on top of a world already filled with the degradation of nature is to make God out to be nothing more than a good story-teller, one who is exceptionally adept at borrowing from his own history, yet with no intentionality in the underlying history itself.

    Again, the Bible presents itself as the written record of history whose sole purpose has been to bring about the redemption of God’s people. No a single part of it is “merely” a literary structuring without consistency to the historical backdrop.

    It is only all

  62. Richard said,

    November 2, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Reed,

    You raise some important points and I understand your concerns however I don’t wish to turn this thread into a repeat of our previous creation discussion. What I will say however is that if Futato is correct that puts to bed the late origin of the account, which I never held but which earlier critics did (e.g. Gunkel).

    Back to the trust of our discussion, could you explain what “Day of Yahweh” means using the principle of SiS?

    As an aside, I would be interested to hear your explanation for why we read coming from Moses speaks of “the place which he shall choose” (Deut 31.11) which is later identified as Jerusalem and yet this is not occupied by the Israelites until the time of David a full two centuries after Moses. i.e. was the centralisation of the Yahwistic cult in Jerusalem was a Mosaic concern?

  63. its.reed said,

    November 2, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Richard:

    I am neither intelligent enough to remember all I need to seriously engage the “Day of Yahweh” discussion, nor do I have the time to refresh. I’m sorry.

    As to your latter question, again I have not enough at hand, nor the time to refresh. My take, from what little my weak mind has retained of such studies, would be to argue for an incipient to an explicit development. I’d say that the notion of a central place where God would reside was indeed a concern of the Mosaic covenant (although not as explicit as later developed). I seem to remember (you might look up?) a Mosaic reference to the eventual transition from a temporary tabernacle to a permanent location.

    As well, I would expand this concern and say that it is not simply a Mosaic concern, but is seminal to the whole plan of redemption. E.g., I think the New Jerusalem of Revelation is not incidental, but a deliberate restoration, albeit in a more perfect form, of the original home of Man first introduced in Gn 2. A home for God the Father where he can gather and bless his family seems fundamental to the redemptive story God is authoring in history.

    I’m probably just being slow, but how does this dovetail into our discussion of the relative role of external sources? (Thanks for not wanting to rehash ground we’ve already covered. I only referenced Gn 1-2 to the degree it was the specific subject matter of Futato’s argument. Hopefully my discussion appropriately focused this back in the sources’ role issue).

  64. its.reed said,

    November 2, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    P.S.

    My convictions about the role of Jerusalem are expressly based on what I see the Scriptures doing with the concept. I am aware, more or less generally of ANE concepts revolving around the “king” and his capital. Yet these are merely incidental to me. They serve more as reflections of General Revelation echoing what is true expressly of Special Revelation.

    (We could discuss this more from the dual avenues of Satan’s continual counterfeit plan of redemption and man’s autonomous plan of redemption, and how these elements reflect the Scriptural pattern, as in the creature by necessity reflecting/supressing in rebellion his knowledge of his Creator. These however, would merely serve here to demonstrate how external sources reflect and echo, not determine, what Scripture means.)

  65. November 3, 2008 at 11:26 am

    If I may jump in for a second…about using James’ use of Scripture in Acts 15 to define how Scripture interprets Scripture.

    I think you get more than you bargain for if you go there. You will note the author of Luke-Acts (we will say Luke) has James using a Greek version of Amos, certainly not the Masoretic Text (the Hebrew base text of our Hebrew Bibles, which was not likely even the dominant text-type in the first century…but I digress). Furthermore, the cogency of James’ scriptural argument, if you will, depends upon him NOT using what we have in the MT. The MT (Hebrew) version of Amos affords James no help in his argument: In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old, that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by name,” declares the LORD who does this.

    This would in no way aid James in an argument against those who think Gentiles becoming God’s people means they must be circumcised (and keep the Torah). The MT version of Amos, if anything, reinforces the points of James’ opponents. It would easily be read by those who do not already agree with James as presenting a typical Hebrew Bible eschatological topos: Israel centered with the Gentiles being possessed and ruled by Israel. If anything, James’ opponents might argue, one would assume said nations in Amos would have to keep Torah if you think Amos is talking about said nations becoming YHWH’s people.

    James, however, quotes some other form of Amos, most think a greek version of it. The form Amos uses has eliminated the Israel-centered imperial thrust of the MT (Hebrew). Instead the version James uses reads: After this I will return and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.

    So, sure, Luke shows James appealing to Scripture authoritatively. At the same time, however, arguably Luke shows James’ argument only carrying any force because Peter has already given an argument from experience: God gave Gentiles the Spirit apart from them being circumcised. Then James chimes in with his “scriptural” argument, dependent upon his using a non-MT form of the text.

    It seems Acts 15 shows up a process much more complicated than the simplistic forms of the Reformed hermeneutic I usually see here, generally polemically articulated against Enns. Sure Scripture interprets Scripture. But, until you study each scripture in a rigorous historical manner you have no idea how one passage actually handles another passage! In this case you see how drawing on Acts 15 does not really help. It establishes that Luke has James appealing to a different “Old Testament” than we use. While some NT authors working from greek translations of the Hebrew Bible should not be new to anyone here, the fact that James’ argument depends upon him NOT USING the MT-Hebrew should be somewhat striking. It appears Scripture itself inscribes a messier and more complicated hermeneutic than most want to admit…

  66. its.reed said,

    November 3, 2008 at 11:52 am

    No Stephen, respectfully I think you are wrong.

    Your are right to bring this issue up, for indeed it must be accounted for in our understanding. Simple consistency with rationality demands. Yet I believe you make the historical context determinative (of course I could be wrong, but that is how I read you).

    The fact that James uses the MT vs. a Greek text is in the end not a critical issue simply because James wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit. The meaning of the text, the meaning God assigns to the Amos text through James, is relatively clear (it is not an example of perspicuity failure).

    Agreed, how to account for such different usages of the OT is not a simple question. Yet the answer to that question itself will grow out of the Scripture’s own demonstrated pattern. Again, the historical context merely provides insights. It does not determine.

    Even further, at least in this example, what James says Amos means for the NT Christian is what it means. This is not a majpr conundrum, as this kind of interpretive perculiarity is not systemic in Scripture. It is present in some regularity. Yet not so much that it requires us to abandon the broader and clearer Biblical definitions of inerrancy.

    P.S. you are aware that this is a standard “proof” text in the WCF. While I share (from what I understand of it) the Westminster Divine’s uncomfortableness with the how proof-texting can be abused, we must observe that when required to demonstrate what they mean (provide an examnple from the Bible), they thought this was a good one for demonstrating SiS. It was not a problem for them.

    If you want to go the end of saying, “yes, but they didn’t know what we know now,” might I gently suggest that such a direction of thought will present problems for you in a ministry affirming the usefulness of the Westminster Standards. I’m not trying to be provocative here Stephen, just hopefully asking you to consider broader where your convictions may be taking you.

  67. November 3, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    Reed,

    Another thought… I still have trouble with this distinction of normative versus informative use of extra-biblical material. Well, mainly I have a problem with the way people around here use it. You mention this distinction above: “Remember, my concern here is not with the use of external sources to inform, but their use to determine.” I agree that this is sometimes a problem. Some of the older approaches to Early Christianity, wherein distant “parallels” in various Classical Greek sources were used to determine what the NT must have been talking about (including full religious-system significance) come to mind as obvious examples. Though, to be fair, we evangelicals usually overplay and caricature such approaches way too much.

    In my experience, however, every time someone here busts out this distinction it is quite arbitrary. Any use of extra-biblical material that supports some reading or doctrine we really like (or only “challenges” in a way that is really not that much of a challenge to us) is an “informative” use. Any us of extra-biblical material that challenges and/or calls for re-thinking of some reading of Scripture or doctrine that is off-limits…such a use is “normative.” Thus, for most here Kline’s use of 2nd mil. Hittite treaties is “informative” while Enns’ use of various ANE cosmological constructions to elucidate the Biblical writings is an improper “normative” use. If we press you on this, generally people start providing sophisticated-sounding rhetorical flourishes that lack any real content. This is just my humble opinion : ).

    Let’s hash this out in terms of historical methodology. When you study something historically you must situate it in its historical context. We all agree, right? Thus all contemporary materials become relevant for aiding the researcher in understanding the relevant social practices (i.e., thought patterns, symbolic world, languages and broader semantic fields, relevant cultural memory, etc.) within which you historically contextualize a document. Some materials are certainly more relevant and close than others.

    So, here is my thesis, if it is relevant to know broader Hellenistic Greek (extra-biblical social-practices) in order to read the various shades of Hellenistic greek our NT writings are written in, it is just as relevant to know other things about the social world in order to understand the writings of our NT. If knowing the relevant linguistic context of a biblical writing is necessary for understanding the specific and “different” meanings a biblical writer makes with said extra-biblical languages, so too is knowing, for example, the relevant and contemporary anthropological and cosmological sensitivities. If you do not you know the relevant social-practical context within which, for example, Paul’s and his audience’s thoughts on anthropology and cosmology operate, you cannot know the (possibly) distinctive things he is doing with respect to those things. This is hermeneutics 101.

    When you do situate Paul within such social-practical contexts, however, we often find that the “distinctive” things he does are still predicated upon his accepting/assuming the folk (or possibly philosophical…or both) “physics” (anthropology and cosmology) of his day. If this is an illegitimate “normative” use of extra-biblical material then so too is using your Greek-English lexicon and Greek grammars to read the Hellenistic-Greek New Testament.

    Does this make sense? Again, I believe in sola-Scriptura. I just think that for us in our contexts it demands that at least part of the church’s engagement with the Scriptures include people engaging scripture in as serious, sustained, and rigorous historical ways as possible…without labeling their readings as making unacceptable “normative” use of extra-biblical materials when they historically contextualize parts of the Bible in ways that cut across some of our cherished readings and doctrines.

  68. November 3, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    Reed,

    Thanks for your reply. I will ponder it, but for now I must finish writing a paper…ironically enough, on James and what we understand as the early Jerusalem Church (the paper does not really have anything to do with our specific discussion here).

    I agree with you that when we see a NT author handling an OT text, the NT thus gives us a/the Christian reading, to which we are to submit. At the same time, I do not consider the Christian reading to determine the historical meaning(s) of said OT texts. To what extent do you agree with that approach?

    Also, I do appreciate your suggestion that I reflect on how my thought squares with a ministry affirming the usefulness of the Westminster Standards. When I have time I continue to wrestle with this…primarily because I know my understanding of their usefulness diverges with how many in the PCA would approach the issue on one level, but on another level I think my understanding converges with others’ in a deep and significant way. As you can imagine this leads me to great wrestling (again, when I time) with how to be faithful and honest in these areas. Unfortunately (well, probably fortunately) my ideas of what is edifying for the church are not the final court of appeal : ). Does this make sense?

  69. its.reed said,

    November 3, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Stephen:

    I appreciate your take on things. Indeed, I can see how such conversations easily lend themselves to this opinion. In some case, it may be fair. Most of the time however, I suspect that those of us who disagree with Enns are not as clear as we should be. It may also prove in time that Enns is not as clear as he should be. Continuing humility with each other will give us the time to remove these unnecessary offenses.

    I don’t disagree with the general principles as you’ve laid them out. My main concern is with the issue of giving to such external sources a determinative role. I think Enns does this. Its not that he is not bringing to light helpful insisghts (ala Kline). Its that I hear him saying something akin to, “given what these external sources demonstrate, this must mean that our understanding of inerrancy is wrong.” If my hearing is right, Enns is giving to these external sources an authority that they do not have.

    Now an appropriate response is, “no Enns, is saying that in light of these external insights our definition of inerrancy needs to be adjusted.” I believe this is tatamount to the same thing. The external sources are allowed to determine how we interpret Scripture.

    Now if he said, “these insights present some conundrums for our definition of inerrancy. Let’s first check whether or not there is a problem with these insights. Then let’s check the Scriptures themselves to see if we’ve got it wrong.”, then I’d be a little more comforted.

    Yes, I expect he (and possibly) yourself would say, “but that’s exactly what he is saying.”, I must disagree. I studied under Enns, I’ve carefully read him since. I am persuaded that he adjusts the definition of inerrancy to the extent that his definition is not that of the Scriptures. I am also persuaded that the reason he does so is because he gives to these external considerations a determinative role, an authority they do not have.

    To be simplistic (and not to start up the Days of Creation argument), as a minister in the PCA I am willing to submit to the conclusions of our Creation Study Committee on the following considerations:

    > I believe the Bible demands a 6 literal day interpretation.
    > If a fellow minister believes, on the basis of what he sees the Bible itself teaching, that this question is not answerable, then I must give him my peace.
    > If however, said fellow minister believes, on the basis of what modern scientific theory requires that these cannot be 6 literal days, then I have a problem.

    As you can see, the issue is what is your determinative basis.

    Stephen, I admit that as with many such discussions, the principles are easier to establish and agree with than the relative merits of differing parties’ claim to consistency with those principles. I read such articles as the one Richard suggested with (hopefully) a substantial degree of humility, as I recognize the author is seeking to root his argument in what the Scripture teaches, and not allowing external sources to influence him to the degree he gives away the farm.

    I truly to think that Enns has given himself to a valid question, and one which might prove to be a blessing in time. Yet I believe he has a fatal flaw in his starting point, one that until he corrects it, his efforts will continue to be directed in the wrong direction.

    Just one illustration of this “wrong” direction, is his focus on seeking to meet the needs of challenged evangelicals by helping them find accomodation with the surrounding unbelieving cultures challenges. He believes he is removing unnecessary disagreements between Christians and the world. While commendable, I think he is wrongly focused.

  70. Richard said,

    November 3, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Reed, my question regarding Moses etc was not relevant but I thought I would pick your brain on an issue that has been bothering me. I was pondering this last night, I think the solution is that Deut. 12 is refering to the Tabernacle which was moved from Siloah to Jerusalem by David all of which is recorded in the DtrH. Problem saolved ;-)

    In terms of the rest of our discussion, I have gone as far as I can, I have many pressures during the week, i.e. work, learning Hebrew and reading, currently I am going through Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible by Emanuel Tov, Unfolding the Deuteronomistic History by Antony F. Campbell, Mark A. O’Brien, He Gave Us Stories by Richard Pratt and The Changing Face of Form Criticism for the Twenty-First Century edited by Marvin Sweeney and Ehud Ben Zvi. The latter I am sure you would enjoy!!

    God bless!!

  71. its.reed said,

    November 3, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Good studying richard. Thanks for the interaction.

  72. Darryl Hart said,

    November 4, 2008 at 6:47 am

    FTH: you may have missed it above, but I asked if given your understanding that the Bible does not teach Reformed faith and practice the way Warfield thought it did, if you think I&I is a Reformed book. If you don’t care to answer, that’s okay. But I think this is a pretty important perspective on the matter. It suggests that at work in the controversy were not only two ways of reading the Bible, but also two views on the Reformed faith, one convinced of its truth, the other dubious.


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