Should Systematic Theology Influence Biblical Theology?

This subject is much vexed in the scholarly world today. There is practical unanimity on the question of whether biblical theology (and I include in this exegesis) should have an influence on our systematic theology. But whether the road is two-way is a very controversial question. I believe that it is. And I believe that there is biblical support for this assertion. 2 Timothy 1:13 is an indication. Here it is in Greek and then in English.

ὑποτύπωσιν ἔχε ὑγιαινόντων λόγων ὧν παρ’ ἐμοῦ ἤκουσας ἐν πίστει καὶ ἀγάπῃ τῇ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ:

In English translation: Hold to the pattern of healthy words which you have heard from me in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.

The operative word here is ὑποτύπωσιν. Thayer’s lexicon defines it as “the pattern placed before one to be held fast and copied, model.” EDNT simply translates it “the pattern of sound words.” Moulton and Milligan say “sketch in outline,” “the outline without the substance.” It seems clear that there is a pattern of words to follow. Especially if MM are correct in the lack of full content, it seems that there is here the beginning of systematic theology right in the Bible itself. The context confirms this with the “good thing” (τὴν καλὴν παραθήκην) that was committed to Timothy is certainly the same thing as the testimony in verse 8 about Christ Jesus.

Jude 3 is also important in this regard. There is a faith once for all delivered to the saints. It is not continually being delivered. It was once for all (ἅπαξ) delivered. The nature of the heresy described in verse 4 is that of someone coming in to change the message into something else. There is a stability to the faith once for all delivered. It does not change, however freshly new generations might be able to articulate it. There is a difference, however, between new articulation, and new content. We must learn to distinguish the two. If it is once for all delivered, then it is able to be analyzed as to its content. Something that is continually changing is not able to be analyzed. This probably explains why those who prefer the content of ST always to be changing are less than generous with the claims of systematic theology. Especially in Jude, we see the principle that anything new must be compared with what has been once for all delivered. In other words, how do we know whether something is heretical or not? We compare it to what we have received. Since systematic theology can be described quite fairly as a summary of exegetical findings on various topics, it is quite legitimate, then, to say that exegesis must be compared to what we have received once for all.

Of course there are dangers. Of course systematicians can abuse their position of power (whatever that means) and twist the text to fit their own theories (the figure that is always used is the by-now-clicheish Procrustean bed metaphor). Equally problematic, and in my opinion yet more sinister since it is all in the dark, is the equal twisting that happens when an unidentified systematic theology (which everyone has, despite his own naysaying) twists the text under the guise of saying that he is “just letting the text speak for itself.” People love to claim this position, as if it were inherently possible. It isn’t. The old Dutch proverb is quite true and ought to be resurrected (just found this in Carl Trueman’s essay in this Barth volume, p. 7): “Every heretic has his text.” Indeed. Throughout history, every heretic has claimed to “just read the text,” “just let the text speak for itself.” Without the analogy of faith (which is another way of saying systematic theology), there is no way to counter heretics. One could wish that modern day naysayers of systematic theology would remember this before bashing systematic theology.



  1. Andrew Voelkel said,

    May 12, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Theological concepts of systematic theology are good and necessary. But don’t you think it would be helpful to tweak some of our “technical terms” of Systematics so that biblical words are not confused with doctrinal concepts?
    For instance, it is common for a catechized person to assume that the bible is talking about our Doctrine of “Sanctification” when they read the word “sanctified” in the bible. But we know that in the bible the word “sanctified” rarely refers to our doctrine of Sanctification. The bible often uses the word in a definitive sense, whereas our concept of Sanctification refers to something that is progressive in the life of a believer. In this instance, maybe it would be helpful to tweak our technical term to “Progressive Sanctification” to help avoid confusion. Other “technical terms” that easily cause confusion seem to be “Justification”, “Election”, “Glorification”, etc. Without changing any of our theological concepts, I think we could improve our Systematic Theologies simply by modifying our “Technical Terms”. What do you think?

  2. tim prussic said,

    May 12, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    One issue that comes to mind is that ST is the fruit of vast amounts of exegesis. At any given point, that exegesis could be wrong, thus perverting the final product, our ST. If that ST is our standard, against which we weigh our exegesis, that is, if it’s supposed to be synonymous with the faith once for all delivered to the saints, we’ve set up our most fallible product as our standard.

  3. rfwhite said,

    May 12, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    Rom 6.17 is also relevant: But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed” (χάρις δὲ τῷ θεῷ ὅτι ἦτε δοῦλοι τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὑπηκούσατε δὲ ἐκ καρδίας εἰς ὃν παρεδόθητε τύπον διδαχῆς.)

    Evidently, apostolic teaching had a defining pattern or form to it.

  4. May 12, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    I do not believe there should be a priority of one over the other. I personally do not care for the division between systematic and biblical theology, though I know that the division is necessary. I am convinced that if biblical theology is done properly in its context (and not as a proof text), then the supposed tension between the two will disappear.

  5. Vern Crisler said,

    May 12, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Lane said: “just letting the text speak for itself.” People love to claim this position, as if it were inherently possible. It isn’t.

    I think you are attempting to counter one error with another. If the text did not speak for itself, systematic theology would not be possible. The problem with heretics is that they CLAIM to let the text speak for itself, but they don’t in reality. The obscure the actual text, refuse to let it speak for itself, overlay it with their alien categories. Orthodoxy is a RECOVERY of the text, i.e., letting the text speak for itself in truth. Systematic theology, in principle at least, is not an imposition of categories upon the text, but allows the text to have full meaning, to speak for itself.


  6. ReformedSinner said,

    May 12, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    I think Vern Poythress has done enough in his Hermeneutics class to show the relationship between Theology – Exegesis – Hermeneutics is a circular cause-effect, and not a linear cause-effect. We love to say our theology is driven by exegesis, but in reality, as Poythress has pointed out, nobody can approach a text without a pre-commitment to some kind of theological system (however elementary and imperfect as they may be), even a newly converted Christian who barely reads the Bible has his own theological conceptions on God, Christ, Faith, Eschatology, etc.

    Take even the apostles: their Christocentric theology comes not from their own exegesis of the OT text, but their eye-witness to the climatic event of the cross, and the result of Jesus’ reappearance and re-teaching them about Scripture in Spirit.

    Theology is foundational to sound exegesis is only half-right, even sound exegesis is bounded by good theology (otherwise how can you know if your exegesis is sound, how do you judge your end product?)

    Hence the circle: Theology Exegesis Hermeneutics (back to Theology, can’t draw a circle on the blog)

    Moises Silva had a good article on this: he also reached the conclusion that all Christians should have a solid theology before they train themselves to be solid exegetes.

  7. May 12, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    Systematic theology is still Queen of the Sciences. And biblical theology is just one of her many handmaidens.

  8. john k said,

    May 12, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    I read this provocative quote online, but I don’t have my copy of L. Berkhof’s Principles handy to check and see if it really says in context what it sounds like. Since the confessions are the most important conclusions of systematics, it would appear that Berkhof denied that systematics can be the analogy of faith.

    “It is perfectly ridiculous to raise the confessions of the Church to the
    dignity of Regulae Veritatus, for it makes that which is derived from
    Scripture a test of the truth of Scripture. This cannot be so for the
    Analogy of Faith, if it were rightly understood, is found in the Bible itself. To posit otherwise obviously leads to circular reasoning and gross
    –Berkhof, Principles of Biblical Interpretation. [no page given, unfortunately]

  9. greenbaggins said,

    May 13, 2009 at 7:43 am

    I agree with Reformed Sinner, and I believe that is the answer to Tim’s query.

  10. Ken Pierce said,

    May 13, 2009 at 8:17 am

    Systematic theology is Biblical theology. The “biblical theologians” like to argue that systematicians impose on the text. Of course, anyone can be guilty of that. But, systematic theology takes a whole Bible approach to truth, using Scripture to delineate the many facets of any given doctrine. Biblical theology that is worthy of the name shows how a doctrine unfolds in history. Many modern Biblical theologians, however, highlight contradictions, not continuity.

    Sanctification has been mentioned above. I do not find systematics to have any other definition of sanctification than is used in Scripture. Systematics always highlight the variegated nature of sanctification.

    The whole idea that systematics is deductive and BT is inductive is flawed, too. Systematics finds a truth in Scripture and then sees where else it is addressed. It pulls them all together, and presents a complete whole, also reflecting on the history of interpretation and church controversy. Deductive reasoning is a hypothesis in search of reasons. Nothing could be farther from the goal of a good systematician.

  11. westportexperiment said,

    May 13, 2009 at 9:06 am

    Haven’t read all the comments, but the post was right on. I do believe that the best ST is one that is inductive, vigorously working with the classic ‘common places’ and building the finished product from the ground up. And yet, the finished product is a hermeneutical controller. We cannot interpret various texts appropriately if we fail to ask the input of the entire system, otherwise texts will jar against each other.

    I really like Irenaeus here. He has been hailed as the first post-Pauline Biblical Theologian, and I think his doctrine of recapitulation is profound (and as I understand it, a precursor to the Federal Theology of the post-Reformation era). Yet at the same time, his ‘rule of faith’ – something like the Apostle’s Creed – was a major interpretive key. In short, he replied to the Gnostics that if they idiosyncratic interpretation of a passage doesn’t mesh with the rule of faith, then it is discordant with the whole of Scripture and ought to be scrapped. So to speak anachronistically, Irenaeus seems to an early model here for the ‘two-way’ interpretive model you suggest.

  12. Rick Phillips said,

    May 13, 2009 at 9:40 am

    Systematic Theology is properly canonical theology, that is, the reflection of the entirety of Scripture on a given matter. The validity of ST/canonical theology is based on the unity of Scripture, which is a function of divine authorship. So the place given to ST in exegesis is a methodological reflection on the divine authorship of Scripture. Likewise, the repudiation of ST in exegesis is a function of a) overreactions to past abuses, and b) the academy’s wrong-headed emphasis on human authorship over divine authorship, so that exegetical method reflects exactly the opposite emphasis as that of the Scriptures, that is, the divine authorship over the human authorship. This is not to deny or dismiss human authorship. But the Bible emphasizes that “God spoke… through the prophets” (Heb. 1:1).

    Years ago, when I and others lodged formal complaints against the Enns camp at WTS, this was our complaint: the exegetical method did not reflect a commitment to divine authorship. This resulted in loud objections: “You can’t say that we deny divine authorship!” We answered, “At the level of method you do marginalize divine authorship, by refusing the analogy of faith and the role of ST.” For instance, in a doctoral class on Paul’s theology that was promoting the NPP view of justification, I argued that the clear teaching of Luke 18 and the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector should be considered. The professor’s answer: “You can’t use Luke to interpret Paul.” My answer was that a) Luke was after all one of Paul’s associates, so even on a human level you would expect doctrinal correlations, and b) more importantly, Paul teaches that “all Scripture is God-breathed,” and therefore the clear teaching of one passage must be incorporated into our understanding of another passage, since the same divine author spoke them both. This was dismissed out of hand (I am pleased to be confident that this could not presently happen at our beloved WTS — praise the Lord).

    This is what we rightly mean by giving a role to ST in exegesis: not for a text to defer to Berkhof but to other biblical texts that speak clearly to the same issue.

  13. TurretinFan said,

    May 13, 2009 at 9:59 am

    rfwhite wrote:

    Rom 6.17 is also relevant: But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed” (χάρις δὲ τῷ θεῷ ὅτι ἦτε δοῦλοι τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὑπηκούσατε δὲ ἐκ καρδίας εἰς ὃν παρεδόθητε τύπον διδαχῆς.)

    Evidently, apostolic teaching had a defining pattern or form to it.

    I think that perhaps what is being said here is that way of life of righteousness is a pattern informed by doctrine, i.e. the pattern is orthopraxy, which is informed by orthodoxy.

    Notice that the context is a contrast. It is not a contrast between disorganized doctrine and formalized doctrine but between a life of sin vs. a system of righteousness. This has to do with the third use of the law.


    P.S. Lest anyone should (despite my nick) think otherwise, I concur with those who believe that Systematic Theology should inform Biblical Theology and vice versa.

  14. Andrew Voelkel said,

    May 13, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Ken said — “Sanctification has been mentioned above. I do not find systematics to have any other definition of sanctification than is used in Scripture.”

    Ken… If you look at any bible dictionary or simply look in scripture I think you will agree with me. More often than not, “sanctified” refers to something other than our Doctrine of Sanctification. That doesn’t mean our doctrine of Sanctification is incorrect. It simply means we must not confuse our “Technical Terms” with Biblical Words. If we use our Systematic Theologies as a “Glossary of Terms” for bible reading, we are certainly going to misunderstand the text. Systematic Theologians understand this; but many people in reformed churches do not.
    Problems arise in our reformed churches when we catechize people using the technical terms of our systematic theology without explaining the nature of technical terms. This results in many unnecessary fights over semantics. My point is that we could improve our Systematic Theologies simply by improving the Technical Terms we use to identify theological concepts.

    When a biblical word can have multiple meanings in scripture, I think we should not harvest it for use as a technical term, unless we modify the term in some way or unless the doctrine being identified allows for all the uses of the corresponding biblical word. Since our Doctrine of “Sanctification” is limited to the progressive work of God in the life of the believer, it would be nice to modify the our technical term for that concept calling it something like “Progressive Sanctification”. That would free us up to formulate a helpful statement on “Definitive Sanctification”.

    “By sanctification is ordinarily meant that hallowing of the Christian believer by which he is freed from sin and enabled to realize the will of God in his life. This is not, however, the first or common meaning in the Scriptures. To sanctify means commonly to make holy, that is, to separate from the world and consecrate to God.”

    1 Corinthians 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband

  15. Vern Crisler said,

    May 13, 2009 at 11:57 am

    I think Poythress’s claims are self-referentially incoherent. Again, just another example of Wittgenstein’s baneful influence on Reformed people (by way of John Frame, too).


  16. rfwhite said,

    May 13, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    TurretinFan, to be sure, the context of Rom 6.17 is concerned to contrast two “ways of life”–one of which is, in truth, anything but. We can agree too that the teaching in view was on the topic of standards (rules) of Christian behavior as distinct from standards (articles) of Christian belief. My point is that τυπον διδαχης in Rom 6.17 implies that the teaching, whatever its topic, left its distinguishing mark on those entrusted to it. Whether behavior or belief is under consideration, it was teaching that was properly formative of belief and behavior because it conformed to the pre-set, apostolic pattern.

  17. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 13, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Vern (#14):

    Where is the incoherence?

    Sorry to be dense, but it seems reasonable to acknowledge that some kind of inductive method will be needed to build our theology, since we are dealing with the data of Scripture. So a hermeneutical spiral seems to be the inductive method that pays closest attention to the textual data while preserving connection with systematic theology.

    Calvin also proceeded in a similar fashion, building his Institutes in parallel with the Commentaries, while keeping a firm eye fixed on how the Church Fathers had interpreted, yet taking issue with them at this point or that. Sounds like the hermeneutical spiral to me.

    Put another way, what method would you propose in its place?

    Jeff Cagle

  18. tim prussic said,

    May 13, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    The circular notion of ST, Herm, Exeg is far from in coherent… it’s they way things HAVE to happen in this world. (Sorry, Vern, I guess that consigns you to some other world… hope it’s nice.) It’s that great Wittgensteinian *cough* er, Augustinian notion: “I write as I learn and I learn as I write.” (I had always suspected that Augustine was a closet reader of Wittgenstein!) As redeemed creatures, we are in via, and our theology is necessarily so, too. Our theology and our method work on each other perpetually in this world.

    Ken Pierce (#10) seems a little on the idealistic and simplistic side. ST is but is not only what you say, Ken. Historically, ST tends to swing between the inductive method you espouse and the more deductive of men like, say, Turretin and Aquinas. Thus, maybe Pr. Lane’s definition of ST is deficient, as it doesn’t take into account the method of deduction from Biblical premises, which is so prevalent in a lot of ST.

  19. tim prussic said,

    May 13, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Is incoherent one word. I’ll be hornswaggled… is that two words?!

  20. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 13, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Just one word. incoherent = “not coherent.”

    Self-referential incoherence is related to being “self-defeating.” It’s the idea that if we accept the premises of a system, we turn out unable to understand the system.

    The classic example is the case of relativism.

    If we accept R: all truths are relative to some reference frame, then we quickly melt down when Alice says that in her reference frame, the law of non-contradiction is false; and Bill says that in his reference frame, there is no such thing as a “reference frame”, and Charlie retorts that in his reference frame, Bill doesn’t exist.

    So relativism is not merely self-defeating, it becomes incomprehensible if we truly accept its premise.

    Jeff Cagle

  21. TurretinFan said,

    May 13, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    rfwhite wrote: “Whether behavior or belief is under consideration, it was teaching that was properly formative of belief and behavior because it conformed to the pre-set, apostolic pattern.”

    Agreed, bearing in mind (as I am sure you do) that it was a pattern received by the apostles not created by them.


  22. rfwhite said,

    May 13, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    TurretinFan: Yes, I’m with you: the apostles’ teaching exhibited a pattern that was received, not created, by them.

  23. rfwhite said,

    May 13, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    11 Rick Phillips: your comments drill down very helpfully to a fundamental issue: the hermeneutical implications of belief in Scripture’s divine authorship and its correlary, the notion of canon as a divine construct. The professor’s answer [that] “You can’t use Luke to interpret Paul” was presumably meant as a plea to protect the individual voices of the many human authors, but the price of that protection, for that prof’s statement anyway, was a denial of the individuality of the divine voice speaking through their many voices. Either that, or the divine author is not speaking through Scripture’s many human authors, or it is impossible for us to recognize the divine voice in the texts of multiple human authors.

  24. Roberto G said,

    May 13, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Bringing this down to the level of the average Christian in our churches… We live our lives, read and hear the Word, struggle with doubt, thirst for truth, and feed on what spiritual food we have. What would keep us malnourished would be inconsistent premises…a settled set of propositions (as opposed to a system or something systematic). The disciples on the road to Emmaus were nourished by our Lord not with a mere set of disconnected propositions, but with a validly reached conclusion of true premises. Some may see this as an example of a seemingly more BT approach, but I believe this “Bible Study” resulted in the fruit of all subsequent ST in the early church. Whether one approach has priority over the other, all believers will be fed through the rational, systematic fortunes of both studies.

  25. rfwhite said,

    May 13, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Correction to 23 — … belief in Scripture’s divine authorship and its corellary corollary, the notion of canon … — Sheesh. Weary makes sloppy again.

  26. Vern Crisler said,

    May 13, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    Lane had said, “We love to say our theology is driven by exegesis, but in reality, as Poythress has pointed out, nobody can approach a text without a pre-commitment to some kind of theological system.”

    Let us call Poythress’s teaching P.

    P = Nobody can approach a text without a pre-commitment to some kind of theological system.

    Now what theological system do we use when we approach P? None? System X? System Y? Which?

    If P cannot be just read apart from a system, what is the criterion for determining which system it has to fit into? If there is no text-of-the-matter (or fact-of-the-matter), then it’s just competing systems bumping into each other in the darkness, with no authoritative standard that isn’t relative to a system.

    Jeff pointed to some of the incoherency problems with relativism, but he left out the killer problem — namely that if relativism is true and there’s no truth, then the statement that relativism is true is also relative and untrue.

    Framework relativism suffers the same fate, namely relativity to a framework.

    Frame and Poythress have been teaching a subtle version of framework relativism for many years now, and it’s sad that it filters down among their students, who don’t really recognize the source of it all – Wittgenstein.

    Wittgenstein’s philosophy was an overreaction to positivism, but one can recognize the dangers in positivism without throwing out the necessity of empirical confirmation and testing. If the text of the Bible is not our empirical standard for determining our theology, then in effect we have no theology.

    I suspect that part of the motivation for this Wittgensteinian approach among Reformed people is to make Reformed systematic theology, or confessionalism, into a castle that cannot be overthrown.

    But the danger in appealing to a framework approach is that others can play that game too, namely Catholics, Mormons, Old Earthers, and whoever else may not wish to be governed by the text of the Bible.


  27. Ken Pierce said,

    May 13, 2009 at 6:48 pm


    You are, quite simply, wrong. I have never read a systematic theology that did not explain the difference between positional and ethical, between accomplished, and progressive, sanctification.

    Where did the term arise? Scripture? From whence come the definitions? Scripture. It is a canard to suggest that ST uses theological terms in any way different from their Biblical usage, or that it denies the fullness of Biblical understanding of terms, when the entire enterprise is devoted to unpacking the richness of these terms in the Scriptures

  28. Andrew Voelkel said,

    May 13, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    Thanks for responding Ken. I agree with your point; and I have failed to communicate mine. I was making no complaint with the discipline of ST; I was simply suggesting that we could improve the technical terms we select to label our doctrines in our reformed standards. Maybe that discussion does not belong on this particular thread.

  29. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 13, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    Vern (#25):

    I don’t think this thread would bear the weight of a full-blown discussion of Frame and Poythress, so I’ll make two brief points and sign off.

    (1) Frame is by no means a “framework relativist.” For Frame and Poythress, God’s point of view (or reference frame) defines truth, period. All other reference frames are true only insofar as they comport with God’s point of view. This fact alone is incompatible with relativism.

    If they appear to some to be relativistic, it is because they distinguish between God’s point of view and our knowledge of God’s point of view. But that distinction has a rather distinguished Reformed heritage.

    (2) Your point about P compares apples and oranges. The proposition P makes no claims about which system *should* be used; merely that we all *do* have a system. It is a statement about what is, not about what ought to be.

    P simply claims that as a point of fact, none of us approaches a text as a blank slate. Would you dispute this? Or do we need a uniquely particular system in order to understand P? I think not; a wide variety of theological systems are capable of understanding P. Atheists are capable of understanding P.

    So the alleged incoherence disappears, IMO.

    I’ll leave this here, lest it disrupt things (and I don’t want to pick a dispute with you, either! :) ). I just felt that Frame and Poythress deserved a modicum of defense.

    Jeff Cagle

  30. tim prussic said,

    May 13, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    I think it’s quite foolish to think that two thousand years of highly technical study of a small document (the Bible) wouldn’t produce a jargon that is slightly detached at points from the original object of study. One only needs to glance at the glossary a book on, say, the doctrine of the Trinity to see what Andrew’s talking about. Are all the concepts of our refined Trinitarianism in the Bible? Yes, I think so (if we utilize the power of deduction.) Has our terminology both exceeded the biblical terminology and also (sometimes) used biblical terms in strict technical ways, more narrow than the biblical usage? Without any doubt. Does a good ST try to cover all the various usages of biblical words, even if it uses different terminology? Certainly. Can theological jargon be troubling, especially to new comers? Of course, just like any jargon.

  31. curate said,

    May 14, 2009 at 12:38 am

    What is the form of the teaching that has been handed down and that must be transmitted unchanged? Is a ST? No! Thus it is not ST that must be received and transmitted.

    What is the form of doctrine that we have received? is it BT? Yes it is. That is, a covenantal history.

    The Bible itself is a finished work of theology, not a source of raw materials for ST professors.

    Are ST’s useful? Without a doubt,as long as they remain subordinate in practice as well as theory.

  32. Vern Crisler said,

    May 14, 2009 at 12:43 am

    Jeff said, “P simply claims that as a point of fact, none of us approaches a text as a blank slate. Would you dispute this?”

    Don’t know Jeff. I’d have to run the sentence fragment “none of us approaches a text as a blank slate” through a theological system first before I could understand it’s meaning. ;-)


  33. curate said,

    May 14, 2009 at 12:52 am

    The organising principle of the Bible is history, which is the basic assumption of BT.

    The organising principle of ST is topical. Why not organise your theology by imitating the Bible?

    For example, the texts where we find sola fide do not occur in the section headed Justification by Faith Alone. They occur in a letter addressed to an actual church, that addresses the burning issue of the day – how must the receiving Jewish believers treat the new boys on the block, the incoming Gentiles? Must they be circumcised and take the yoke of Moses, or has the new thing that God has done in the revelation of the Messiah by means of death and resurrection changed the Jewish and Gentile relationship or not? Are Gentiles accepted and justified by mens of law or by means of the cross and resurrection? What about the Jews? Are they justified by law or by grace alone?

    So then, sola fide is embedded within that context in the actual Bible.

    Exegesis must have as its goal the better opening up of the Bible so that we are enabled to read the biblical text as it is.

  34. May 14, 2009 at 6:00 am

    […] Baggins has a helpful post on the relationship of the disciplines of systematic and Biblical theology, and another on the demand for the practical, the relationship between faith and life, doctrine and […]

  35. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 14, 2009 at 6:33 am

    Vern (#31):

    Yes, but pretty much any theological system would do. Hence, P is comprehensible for the vast, vast majority of systems. Can you think of a real-live, not artificially constructed system in which P is confusing?


  36. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 14, 2009 at 6:35 am

    The organising principle of the Bible is history, which is the basic assumption of BT.

    The organising principle of ST is topical. Why not organise your theology by imitating the Bible?

    Curate, I have sympathies for this view. The structure of Scripture was one of the early features that drew me out of dispensationalism (along with absolutely no Scripture backing for pre-trib eschatology!).

    But there’s more. We find Paul and Jesus doing a whole lot of reasoning from Scripture. So should not their example also be a part of our method? Hence, some kind of ST is inevitable.

    Jeff Cagle

  37. GLW Johnson said,

    May 14, 2009 at 6:59 am

    I find it most interesting that when Biblical Theology became all the rage towards the end of the 19th. cent., it’s leading advocate here in the states was Charles Briggs- and he loathed not only ST but creeds and confessions as well, esp. the Reformed confessions which he eagerly pointed out were produced before the rise of BT and were entirely too much influenced by dogmatics. Briggs on this and many of points stands in sharp contrast to G. Vos, who occuppied the first chair of BT in Princeton theological seminary ( it should be pointed out that Vos taught ST at what became Calvin theological seminary).Makes one wonder if some of the contemporary zealots for BT do not habor similar views to those of Briggs,doesn’t it?

  38. May 14, 2009 at 6:59 am

    Rick Phillips,

    You put your finger on the primary authorization for ST (and, more significantly and getting to the heart of the matter, its functional dominance) in our Reformed worlds, “The validity of ST/canonical theology is based on the unity of Scripture, which is a function of divine authorship. So the place given to ST in exegesis is a methodological reflection on the divine authorship of Scripture.”

    You succinctly and lucidly state the very moves many in the Reformed world make that I started struggling with years back. Gaffin also said essentially the same thing in Acts and Paul. If I may bring up some of the conversations I had with him, here you reveal one of several assumptions about God: logical-systematic coherence and propositional unity as a property of God himself, and thus His Word. Your primary justification for so-construing the nature of Scripture stems ultimately from this assumption, the same goes for inerrancy (obviously you would say these assumptions come from Scripture). You move from Scripture being God’s Word to filling out that “God’s” part with content derived from these assumptions about God and “unity” and logical-systematic coherence. This always forms the bread-and-butter of Evangelical-Reformed arguments for these things.

    If I may ask some related questions, which no Reformed person has ever answered, what if God’s “definitions” of “unity” and “coherence” differ from our common intellectualist discourse-producer sensitivities concerning them? What if coherence and unity for God involve things we would consider “errors,” contradictions, and (most of all) a unity in His Word that does not conform to our systematic-theological notions of unity? What if the Bible itself (the place we Reformed folk go to learn about God and His ways) behaves in ways cutting across our notions of “unity” that we project back on God? Humorously, far from simply not answering my questions, some Reformed folk have even told me that to ask such questions is to already have conceded non-Christian presuppositions and to have rejected the divinity of the Bible, etc. This, by the way, is the essence of “begging-the-question,” which such Reformed folk have turned into a theological virtue at this point. With this particular move people render their doctrine of their doctrines (if you will) immune from any criticism by Scripture…

    Of course, I and many others (within the Evangelical orbit) contend that the Bible most certainly behaves in ways cutting across these common notions of unity and systematic-logical coherence. Our move at that point, however, is not to throw out divine authorship, but to seek to allow the Bible itself to tweak our notions of (doctrines of) divine authorship and what unity is to God. This approach seems to us, at least, to follow from a commitment to sola-scriptura and from a commitment to the authority of the Bible as God’s Word. This approach also should address your point about our supposed denial of divine authorship by our method. Can you at least admit that we are not doing? Rather, we try to allow the Bible itself to better inform our notions of what “divine authorship” actually entails when it comes to methodology? Of course, you and others might disagree with us. But at least you are doing so in ways that still recognize the similarities of our fundamental commitments here to your commitments, thus keeping open a space from dialogue and interaction as brothers and sisters in Christ.

    This whole situation (from my point of view) makes Lane’s interests of great importance for us as a church. How do we work out the working-communal relationships between the disciplinary concerns of and people who specialize more in ST and those who specialize more in “BT” (and those who specialize more in other areas, etc.) when it comes to us seeking to follow where the Lord leads us by His Word? My problem, as I have voiced many times here, is that (as best I can tell), Lane’s approach and that of most here functionally and theoretically renders “BT” the servant of ST. It requires people who focus more on historical study of the Bible fundamentally to constrain their work by ST if they want to be considered to be doing their work “as part of the church.” For me this proves untenable. Over the years I have found that this type of hierarchy cripples my ability to read the Bible, as I constantly find myself engaged in historical-exegetical gymnastics, contortions, and “special-pleading” to find a Bible that so fits with the assumptions and constrained-methodology of ST the way you and others seem to conceive of it. Put more simply, I find it difficult to be faithful to the Scriptures and to remain within this specific Reformed orbit.

    So, Rick (and anyone else here), would you care to take a stab at my questions and concerns, especially as you can see the significant pastoral implications of them for myself and my family? Thanks. I (sincerely) look forward to your reply if/when you have time.

  39. May 14, 2009 at 7:00 am

    Jeff Cagle,

    I owe you an apology. I never got back to you on an earlier thread when you made a serious attempt to reach out to my concerns. I am sorry. I simply forgot while in the midst of preparing for a Latin reading exam. I will go back and look at your comment and either post there or email you privately. Feel free to send me your email address at Foolish.Tar.Heel (at) gmail (dot) com. I can the reply from my own real email address : )…

  40. GLW Johnson said,

    May 14, 2009 at 7:08 am

    What FTH is saying in his own unique way is that Peter Enns should serve as our guide out of the Reformed wilderness we find ourselves in.

  41. Ken Pierce said,

    May 14, 2009 at 7:48 am

    BT is not the servant of ST, and nothing Lane has said indicates that it is. Since we generally preach serially, in context, and doctrinally, by loci, we must say, functionally, in the pulpit, ST serves BT.

    As far as God and logical coherence. If God is illogical and incoherent, then we, of course, have no sound footing for trusting him at all. IF his word to us is “yes” and “no”, if he does indeed have shadow of turning, if he indeed changeth and not changeth not, then where do we find our footing? Like so much else going on in Biblical studies, this makes God out to be a liar, obscures and obfuscates the very Scriptures it intends to make clear, and utterly destroys the unified message of redemptive history that finds its culmination in the crucified, risen, and returning Christ.

    Moreover, it is positively Gnostic, assuming that the Holy Spirit has been inactive in the church for two millennia, and that each generation must re-make Scripture out for itself, rather than building off (and yes occasionally correcting) the insights of former generations. It builds biblical scholarship into a pseudo-intellectual clique with its own secret code, and positively obscures its accessibility to the average Christian in the pew.

    The sum effect of this will be, like neo-orthodoxy, absolutely devastating to preaching and to the church. If the trumpet sounds an uncertain note, who will gird himself for battle?

    Mark my words, if some in the Reformed community continue down this path, the end result will be a denial of Trinitarianism (this is not without historic precedent, witness the 1740’s), and a host of other errors.

  42. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 14, 2009 at 8:03 am

    FTH (#37):

    No harm done. Hope the Latin exam went well. Shall we continue on from here?


    If I may ask some related questions, which no Reformed person has ever answered, what if God’s “definitions” of “unity” and “coherence” differ from our common intellectualist discourse-producer sensitivities concerning them? What if coherence and unity for God involve things we would consider “errors,” contradictions, and (most of all) a unity in His Word that does not conform to our systematic-theological notions of unity? What if the Bible itself (the place we Reformed folk go to learn about God and His ways) behaves in ways cutting across our notions of “unity” that we project back on God?

    This is possible and worth considering. For example, Job gives us an example of God’s ways being partially incomprehensible to us. And as always, our understanding of Scripture does not carry a mathematical guarantee of being identical with the intent of the Holy Spirit. So perhaps, you suggest, much more of Scripture is not entirely comprehensible to us. We have been too quick to impose a modernistic framework onto the text, treating it as a textbook of theology that simply lacks a bit of organization. :)

    However, the stated purpose of Scripture puts a large boundary-stone in our path. According to the Psalms, God’s Word is a lamp and light for us. “Thy Word is truth” and so on. I could multiply examples from Paul and Peter and Jesus, but the core is this: in order to function as a guide, a norm, a light, a reliable source of truth, the Scripture has to be comprehensible. Else, God is speaking truth, but His people can’t understand it; and the Scripture is then no longer a guide or lamp or light, or as truth. The notion of good and necessary inference disappears, because you have essentially banished the Law of NonContradiction from our method.

    If we were to develop a theology along the lines you suggest, you would have to qualify it heavily in order to preserve the comprehensibility (I would say, “perspicuity”) of Scripture.

    To my mind, this boundary stone forces me back to a more traditional exegetical method, allowing for some overtones of variation. To my mind, the method suggested in works such as “Foundations of Contemporary Interpretation” (ed. Silva) addresses the concerns of variation without sacrificing comprehensibility.

    Jeff Cagle

  43. Roberto G said,

    May 14, 2009 at 8:04 am

    I would say that the organizing principle of the Bible is the “consent of all the parts”. Our Lord’s BT approach to the disciples on the Emmaus road was not simply history. His disciples knew Biblical history well enough. What they did not know was that the various threads of His person, office, and work found in revelation would take the form that it did. He presented the propositions of the sections of the Bible to make a valid case for a suffering Savior. At the heart of a Christian BT lies “system”.

  44. Ken Pierce said,

    May 14, 2009 at 8:23 am

    Oops, meant to say we preach serially by texts and NOT doctrinally by loci…

  45. Manlius said,

    May 14, 2009 at 8:37 am

    Good points, FTH. Even scientists willing to accept heliocentrism balked at Johannes Kepler when he proposed his laws of planetary motion. They just couldn’t believe that God would establish elliptical orbits over circular ones. It offended their theological and rational assumption that God did everything in perfect order (according to humanistic standards), and that only circular orbits could reflect this. It took someone like Kepler to dislodge this common assumption.

    So it is biblical and theological study. Sometimes we need Luthers and Calvins to challenge our well-established patterns of thought. Contemporary evangelical and Reformed theological thinking needs such an overhaul. We shouldn’t fear it. In fact, I think we’ll be delighted how it will refresh our categories and return us to the true core of the gospel message.

  46. Reed Here said,

    May 14, 2009 at 10:17 am

    FTH, Manilus:

    It is so easy to say “yes” to your query, “what if our notions of ______ are not God’s?,” (fill in the blank with unity, inerrancy, etc.) as a mere hypothetical.

    The problems arise when y’all are asked to explain how you think this is, how the Bible cuts across, as it were, the traditional orthodox understanding of inerrancy, etc.. When asked to do that, the best you come up with (ala Enns) are notions that we believe contradict the statements of Scripture and rational thought.

    In the end, you (generalized you) can only offer a coherent answer by redifining terms in ways neither the Scripture nor logic agrees with. We can argue whose position is more this or more thatall day long. In the end we need to recognize that your position is the new and novel, and if accepted would effectively throw out the last two thousand years of exegesis in the Orthodox Church.

    I am convinced y’all are more beholden to post-modern constructs than you are letting the Bible itself redefine our terms. This is not to anethematize you. It is to warn a brother that his “new” insight is just an old error dressed up in new arguments.

    So, FTH, to answer your question, yes we (at least some of us) recognize the validity of the claim by you (ala Enns) that all you are trying to do is let the Bible “tweak” our understanding, of our bringing into submission to the Bible itself our doctrine of inerrancy, etc. And no, we do not see that this is what you’ve actually accomplished.

    I sat through Enns’ lectures and profited greatly from the challenges he brought up. As I listened to his proposals for addressing those challenges, I was convinced that his position flowed not from what the Bible itself said, but rather from his own submission to higher-critical/post-modernist critiques. He had adopted presuppositions, a system if you will, that he was then forced to try and prove upon the Bible.

    So, with a smile, let me end by saying, nope brother, that ain’t gonna fly.

  47. Reed Here said,

    May 14, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Manilus: the Luther/Calvin example is just another canard. As we all recognize, they were restoring what had been lost. Do you sincerely believe that what Enns is doing is a restoration of the lost hermeneutic?

    Everym single time appeal has been made to Church fathers (Bavinck and Warfield especially) it has been show here that this is at best a selective reading of these men. You cannot with integrity make the argument that Luther and Calvin are examples of bringing in new thought, because that is not the genius of what they did.

  48. curate said,

    May 14, 2009 at 11:56 am

    no 36

    Jeff, yes reasoning is necessary, without a doubt. But the scriptures demonstrate a different kind of reasoning from what we often get. The biblical reasoning is not from first principles, but from the historical covenants, and what God has done to honour and fulfill his promises.

    It is reasoning based upon covenantal events. It is reasoning from sacred history.

    When Paul explains why so many Jews have not been saved by the greatest salvific event of all time, the cross, he explains that the unbelieving Jews were never in the inheritors of the promises, because they were not elect.

    What is the proof that he presents? The history of Abraham’s son and grandchildren.


  49. May 14, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    I have observed a curious theme in these discussions: In order for Scripture (and by extension, God it’s author) to be “profitable” and “a light unto our feet” and “perspicuous,” it is said that it must adhere to “accepted principles” of logic, historical verification, and coherence of truth.

    I have a philosophical question (being posed by a very non-philosopher): If God MUST adhere to rules of logic and historicity fully discoverable and definable by us, would it not follow that those rules then are higher than God himself, indeed that they pre-exist him?

  50. Ken Pierce said,

    May 14, 2009 at 2:37 pm


    Of course not. They arise from God’s character itself. Why get all epistemological? It only obscures the discussion.

    God has spoken. God means to be understood. God is as good as his word. God does not lie or change.

  51. Reed Here said,

    May 14, 2009 at 2:49 pm


    I remember well this discussion at seminary. Ken has summarized things well. God has revealed himself to us, we can know him, including that it is of his nature to be rational.

  52. GLW Johnson said,

    May 14, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Are you suggesting that God must be subject to internal contradictions and things that are by definition non-historical in order for Him to be free of from such things as the laws of logic?

  53. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 14, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Lane, since you’ve brought this subject up, can you finally comment on Mike Horton’s article here:

    I’ve asked couple times but haven’t gotten a reply. Here’s a key, juicy quote:

    “Systematic theology can never stand still. Just as with any science, new discoveries must be consolidated and incorporated into theological systems. Revolutionary periods in science (such as when Einstein’s relativity theories replaced Newtonian physics) are always followed by periods of precise systematization-and this is just as true for theology.”

  54. Reed Here said,

    May 14, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    Joshua: permit me an initial answer which Lane can qualify as he sees fit in time.

    This is a rather lengthy article. Might you be able to focus some more on what you want comment upon? I.e. what in Lane’s post here do you want comparison or juxtaposition with Horton’s article?

    If you’ve already specified this previous, thanks for refreshing our memory by re-posting here.

  55. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 14, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    Mark (#49):

    Fair question. I wouldn’t accept your extension. God has no reason to be profitable to me. :)

    But the Scripture is a little different; it is communication from God to us (agreed?). While I could imagine that God might not have to obey the law of Non-Contradiction, I can’t quite wrap my mind around how we could understand His communications if they were so alien to our thinking.

    Not that I expect that I have to understand everything, but I would want to know how, in FTH’s theory, I could understand anything.

    Does that make sense? It’s not that God has to obey my thoughts; it’s that I want to know how to understand what He’s saying.

    Jeff Cagle

  56. May 14, 2009 at 6:34 pm


    “It’s not that God has to obey my thoughts; it’s that I want to know how to understand what He’s saying.”

    That’s a worthy goal, and mine as well (and FTH’s – I know; he’s a friend).

    That says as well as anything what those of us who are no longer satisfied with “ignore epistemology / ignore scholarship” answers like I got before yours are afer. We want to understand what God is saying to us in he way he intended for us to understand it, not in the way that our a priori commitment to what post-Enlightenment Rationalism says we have to think that means.

    We think that exploring the historical situatedness of the writing, compiling, and development of the Scriptures is a useful tool toward that goal.

    When critics say that we don’t care to know what God wants us to know or that we think “no one can know anything,” I don’t even answer any more, because they just proved they don’t know what I’m after at all; they just know slogans.

  57. Reed Here said,

    May 14, 2009 at 8:49 pm


    Are you labeling my comment to you (#51) nothing more than slogan? Ken Pierce’s (#50)? Gary’s question (#52)?

    We hear what you’re saying. We’re tracking with what you want to, to wit, “We want to understand what God is saying to us in he way he intended for us to understand it, not in the way that our a priori commitment to what post-Enlightenment Rationalism says we have to think that means.” After all, you have spoken rationally, have you not?

    So what will be your source of authority? The Bible? But that is exactly the source of authority Ken’s and my comment, and Gary’s question is based upon – not an a priori committment to what Post-Enlightenment Rationalism says we have to think that it means; but a sincere examination of the subject.

    The debate here is not between one side (yours) reading the Bible better because they have removed their a-priori-Post-Enlightenment-rationalism- glasses, whereas the other side (ours) is willfully pulling the blinders down tighter. Frankly Mark, such comments invariably come across with a condescending arrogance, whether that is your intention or not.

    If you are referring to my or Ken’s comment, Gary’s question, how are we not to conclude that you are doing nothing more than what you’ve accused those who’ve given slogans to you? If you are not referring to me/Ken/Gary, might I ask you to be more careful with your brush?

    You’ve been honestly engaged. Engagement back that neither brushes off or slogans is appreciated. Thanks.

  58. Ken Pierce said,

    May 14, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    What I find so amusing about this is how pre-Enlightenment divines (Calvin, the Puritans) could be influenced by post-enlightenment rationalism. They really were ahead of their time!

    CAn it really be that we are at such a place in the Reformed world where we have to debate that God speaks to people in intelligible propositions, reveals what he is really like (accurately but not completely), and whose word to us is not yes and no, but yes and amen?

    Who is calling anyone to ignore scholarship? Rather, the Scripture must serve as the filter for all scholarship.

    IF someone could put forth any epistemological alternative to the laws of logic, I would surely be all ears. Anyone game?

  59. Manlius said,

    May 14, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    Reed: I would say that in theology, it’s often true that it takes creative energy and fresh ideas to recover the heart of the gospel and the core of our Christian tradition. By peeling back layers of encrusted thinking, we can be truly be most faithful to that which has been handed down to us.

    I’m a staunch, conservative traditionalist. Luther and Calvin were traditionalists, too, in that they trusted the Bible and the Fathers over the late Medieval obfuscation of the gospel. That was indeed their particular genius, and it’s one that we should emulate. In my view, much of the conservative Reformed world has allowed a narrowly defined Reformed orthodoxy to overshadow the the biblical, traditional and ecumenical spirit to which we should aspire.

  60. Reed Here said,

    May 14, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    Manilus: you’ve probably outlined this here before, but so that I might track better with you, what are the contours of the overshadowing narrowly defined Reformed orthodoxy? Or, what are the seminal issues that result in this harm?

    Second question: what is the biblical-traditional-ecumenical spirit to which we should aspire?

    Sincere questions. I think I’ve heard similar critiques to yours in the past, but I may be misunderstanding, or you may have something I haven’t considered.

    Said critiques in my view did not hold much water. They just became a debating technique used by some with non-traditional, less than biblical positions to claim some source of (historical) legitimacy.

    I’m open to understanding if what you are proposing is what I’m doing in my understanding of Enns. As it stands now, I’ve concluded that his is a novel, non-traditional, less-than-orthodox response to modernist/post-modernist challenges using modernist/post-modernist presuppositions – and one not supported by Scripture.

    I have listened to and studied claims that his position is consistent with any number of Church Fathers. It all seems to me so much specious appealing.

    Again, I’m open to laid out arguments. I’m kind of tired of anything else. From your response, I suspect you are too.

  61. dgh said,

    May 15, 2009 at 4:19 am

    FTH, I would suggest your comments about allowing the Bible itself to “tweak our notions of divine authorship” has its own quetion-begging built in. That is, the “Bible itself” has no table of contents. You beg the question of these sixty-six books (sixty-eight if you count three Isaiahs) being the Bible. I’d argue that the very nature of putting together a canon, the human intellection involved in finding coherence in God’s revelation, is the kind of work that ST does, and that BT is in the end ultimately dependent on ST. With ST you get a Bible, with BT cut loose from ST you get ancient near eastern theology that sometimes is Jewish, sometimes Christian in the latter phases, but you know these are arbitrary categories after all.

  62. Richard said,

    May 15, 2009 at 8:25 am

    The analogy of faith is essential when engaging in ST or BT. Have you read Barr’s The Concept of Biblical Theology: An Old Testament Perspective? I would also commend Brevard Childs’ Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments: Theological Reflection on the Christian Bible.

  63. Pete Myers said,

    May 15, 2009 at 8:30 am

    Helpful post, Lane, thanks,

    Maybe you could help me with a little quandary…

    James Scott touches on this issue in his critique of Enn’s in the latest WTJ (vol 71, no 1). He argues that,

    “Nonetheless, we must always bear in mind that the human writer’s understanding of what he was writing under inspiration was never the complete meaning, in all of its depth and implications, as understood by God.” (p. 170)

    Which sounds fair enough, but then I’m struggling slightly when he applies this to exegesis, this is from his conclusion (p182)

    “If Scripture is truly the word of God, then the meaning of the text is God’s intended meaning, his full understanding of the text as originally inspired. The writer’s understanding of the text was ordinarily approximately the same, but it could never have been exactly the same. In the effort to understand the text, it is misguided to ask either what the writer could have known in his circumstances or what the first hearers would have understood. Grammatical-historical exegesis yields a good first approximation of God’s intended meaning, but the full meaning may only become evident in the context of the rest of Scripture.”

    While Scott makes a good robust defence of allowing our systematic to place limits on our exegesis (which is what Enns is trying to avoid when it comes to the doctrine of scripture), it feels to me like this conclusion in particular almost tips the balance too far the other way. I can see how it’s a logical product of his reasoning, and his reasoning seems sound, however, my understanding has always been that if a meaning can’t be shown exegetically from a text, then it’s not valid. Without this condition, then, we would end up reading our systematic theology – even where it’s right – into the wrong places.

    The systematician’s “abuse of power” would – I contend – essentially be placing a burden of meaning on a text that is greater than it’s exegetical legs can carry. Whether that burden of meaning is right or wrong. But, is Scott not opening the door to this? There is a qualification that he states a few times, but the qualification seems meaningless to me, this from the conclusion again, (p182),

    “While Enns correctly recognizes that the meaning of the OT sometimes goes beyond what ordinary grammatical-historical exegesis reveals, he errs in thinking that that meaning is not in the text itself.”

    But if exegesis is no longer the yardstick, then, who decides exactly what is and is not “in the text itself”??

    I’m with the systematicians who say that exegesis should be limited by our systematic. Our systematic warns us when our exegesis is off, and we need to re-evaluate it. Furthermore, when exegesis gives us a range of possible meanings, our systematic can be used to narrow the field. But, I’m also with the biblicists who say that exegesis limits the systematic inferences that can be drawn from a particular text (even if the doctrine in question is actually true). And ultimately, exegesis “trumps” systematic theology, no matter how ingrained that systematic theology is – otherwise I’d still be a baptist.

    My problem is this… given Scott’s argument that God is the author of scripture, and that the human authors never truly understood their own words (or even their own thoughts?), what is the yardstick of meaning for a text. In his stated aims for part two of his article, it seems that Scott would, in practice, make exegesis the final yardstick of meaning. Perhaps the answer is that God so inspired scripture that the limits of what God intended to convey are what the human author understood as he wrote. But I don’t know? Any help?

  64. Reformed Sinner said,

    May 15, 2009 at 9:15 am

    #63 Pete,

    James is arguing from the BT tradition of Vos – there’s an organic growth in Redemptive History and the same is said for God’s revelation in history. When God told Eve that her descendent will crush the serpent’s head, God already knows that true fulfillment of that prophecy is His own son, Jesus Christ, our LORD. However, that is something Eve, Moses, and at that time the serpent, do not know. That is what James is saying in making the comparison between the author’s understanding of revelation is not the same as God’s own understanding of His revelation.

  65. GLW Johnson said,

    May 15, 2009 at 9:40 am

    The late S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. who had the privilege of serving as his research assistant at T.E.D.S in 1983-84, served for many years as a NT professor (he also did post grad work in Hebrew under James Barr at the univ. of Edinburgh as well as studying theology under Karl Barth at Basle) later occupied the chair of Biblical and Systematic theology.. He published very little during his life time but one of the things he did publish was an article that appeared in the book,’New Dimensions In New Testament Study’ eds. Richard Longennecker and Merrill Tenny ( Zonervan, 1976) entitled ,”Romans 5:12-An Exercise in Exegesis and Theology”. Being fully versed in both fields ,he made this observation about the state of theology at the time-“This divorce of theology from exegesis is frequently represented as primarily an impoverishment of theology, which, of course, it is. But it is sometimes forgotten that contemporary exegesis as well has lost its grip on systematics, with dire results for interpretation. We are quite willing to grant that theology cannot really be done well without exegesis, but we are not as willing, it seems to me, to grant that exegsis cannot be done well without systematic theology”. (p.299). Dr. Johnson then proceded to analysis Rom.5:12 with this objective in mind carefully covering the various interpretations that had been offered over the centuries, ever mindful that ” th terrain is wild, rugged, infested with exegetical booby traps, and dotted with the graves of interpreters who fall into them.” (p.300). The end result was that he produced
    what D.A. Carson called the finest handling of that passage he had ever seen.

  66. greenbaggins said,

    May 15, 2009 at 9:42 am

    Joshua, if you read the entirety of the article, you will find that he and I agree precisely on these issues. Beware of cherry-picking Michael Horton, whose thoughts suffer more than many others when this is done to him.

    Pete, I would say that exegesis ultimately has to take all authorial intent into account, including God’s. If you agree that meaning is not limited to the human author, then you also have to agree that in order to draw out the full meaning (which is the very definition of exegesis), the authorial intent of God has to be taken into account.

  67. Pete Myers said,

    May 15, 2009 at 9:53 am

    #64 Reformed Sinner,

    Thanks for the response. Yes, I think Scott mentions that example in his article. In that particular case, however, it doesn’t seem to me that the “meaning” of the statement is outside of what can be discovered through grammatical-historical exegesis.

    So, if Scott means that as Moses wrote down the prophecy about the serpent crusher, he had some vague idea that it was connected to Abraham, and the sceptre of Judah, but obviously God knew very specifically that it referred to Jesus… then I get that. However, the “fuller meaning” that is “in the text” here isn’t “beyond” the exegesis.

    In fact I’d argue that in the case of a prophecy like that, the “fuller meaning” could be said to “lie behind” the text, or be “external to” the text… but that it is not “in the text” itself.

    That the text is obviously pointing to some (as yet) unknown referent can be clearly determined from exegesis. When we discover, due to later revelation, that the referent is the death of Christ, then it is true that this is what the prophecy was about all along… however… the referent itself is not “in” the text as such, is it? The “fuller meaning” (the referent, the death of Christ) is something outside of the text, to which the text points.

    However, and it could just be hyperbole, Scott, in the quotations above, has stated that,
    There is meaning that the original human author did not fully understandTherefore, this meaning “sometimes goes beyond what ordinary grammatical-historical exegesis reveals”Yet, this meaning is “in the text”
    My understanding of Vos’ BT (and I’m far less educated than people I discuss with on this blog, so forgive me if I’m wrong) is that future revelation brings clarity to older revelation where the older revelation does not express/articulate something clearly. In this case, the newer revelation is consonant with, read within the context of, and brings precision to the older revelation.

    In this case, the fuller meaning may lie behind the text, or may be something toward which the text points, and in some cases, the meaning may be what the text actually said all along (which would have been discoverable through normal exegesis), but men were blinded to it until further revelation “opened their eyes”.

    But what I’m struggling to see is how there could be meaning which is both in the Old Testament text itself, and yet not accessible via exegesis (meaning that goes “beyond” exegesis).

    If, in actual fact, that is Vos’ position, I’d appreciate being pointed to an article or book by him. Scott’s article is first rate, btw, I’m just picking up on this point that I’m confused on ‘cos it’s relevant to the above post.

  68. Pete Myers said,

    May 15, 2009 at 10:01 am

    #66 Lane,

    I agree with you… I suppose that in training/church context so far, I’ve been given training to discern the intent of human authorship… but don’t really know what it would look like to discern the intent of divine authorship of the scriptures. What do I actually do differently? (other than read systematic truth into texts where “it appears to fit”).

    Also… I don’t know why, but, there’s some instincts inside me that get very prickly when we start to break those two asunder. Perhaps – and I’m not suggesting this is true of Scott in any shape or form – it’s because when people start talking about divine authorship and human authorship as being separate phenomena, my mind begins to hark back to the attempts to define the “historical Jesus” behind the gospels, etc. etc.

    Anyway, in my last comment I clarified my question a little.

  69. Richard said,

    May 15, 2009 at 10:58 am

    In his Introduction to the Hebrew Bible John Collins notes:

    the words of God to the snake have been invested with theological meaning in Christianity: “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head and you will strike his heel.” Catholic Christianity has traditionally identified the woman as Mary, her seed as Jesus, and the snake as Satan. The passage is then read as a prophecy of the crushing of Satan and has inspired countless statues of Mary with a snake under her feet. Such allegorical interpretation has its place in a religious tradition, but we should be aware that it is not implied by the Hebrew text. Like the preceding verse, about the snake crawling on its belly and eating dust, this one is an etiology, meant to explain a fact of experience—snakes bite people, and people kill snakes.

    In light of the Christ-event we re-read the text and find a greater spiritual meaning, one that is not its literal meaning but nonetheless authentic. Hence the importance of H. U. von Balthasar’s explanation concerning the literal and spiritual senses of Scripture:

    This concept illustrates how the much discussed relationship between the literal and spiritual senses of scripture is a christological problem, one soluable only on the basis that the two senses are to each other what the two natures of Christ are to each other. The human nature we come into contact with first; it is the medium covering yet revealing the divine element, becoming transparent in the resurrection, but never, in all eternity, to be disregarded or disparaged. The spiritual sense is never to be sought “behind” the letter but within it, just as the Father is not to be found behind the Son but in and through him. And to stick to the literal sense while spurning the spiritual would be to view the Son as man and nothing more. All that is human in Christ is a revelation of God and speaks to us of him.

  70. GLW Johnson said,

    May 15, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Horsefeathers. To take the most obvious example :If the ‘authentic’ meaning of Christ’s resurrection is not grounded in historical reality-its literal meaning- we of all men are most to be pitied ( 1 Cor.15:19). Don’t jump ship here and tell me that Christ’s resurrection is the exception. On what basis? Once you to go down that path , as Bultmann illustrates, there is no turning back.

  71. Richard said,

    May 15, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Gary: As far as I am concerned the only historically necessary event that is without doubt is the resurrection of Jesus but that does not mean the biblical narration of that event needs to be historically accurate. Within the NT we find short confessions of faith that preceed the NT and these witness to the truth of Christ’s resurrection:

    “He who was revealed in the flesh,
    Was vindicated in the Spirit,
    Seen by angels,
    Proclaimed among the nations,
    Believed on in the world,
    Taken up in glory.”

    What is the difference between this and the exodus? Well This was seen by those who wrote the NT whilst the composer of Exodus 1-15 was not contemporaneous to the event.

    We need to differentiate between the OT and the NT for both have vastly different tradition histories.

  72. GLW Johnson said,

    May 15, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    In all seriousness, you are standing on a banana peel halfway down an extremely slippery slope that goes off a cliff. How long you can keep your footing is the pressing question.

  73. Richard said,

    May 15, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    I understand your concern and I thank you for your concern.

  74. Reformed Sinner said,

    May 15, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    #67 Pete,

    I will go back and re-read but I think what Scott’s saying is that you cannot just stare at Genesis, without a view of the rest of the Bible, and do enough “exegesis” to say “aha, I got it, it points to Jesus Christ”, the only reason we can say that is that we have the whole Bible in mind. I.e., the exegesis that one does to connect Genesis to Jesus to Consummation is only possible if we consider the whole Bible, and with God as the ultimate author.

  75. David said,

    May 15, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Pete & Co.,
    I am curious as to your thoughts on the other direction in which Scott takes his distinction between what the human author may have understood to mean or meant by his words and what God meant by those same words. Scott writes:
    “The human writers held many views, some of them quite erroneous, but hte significance of inspiration is that out of the mix of ideas in their minds, only true statements were written down. And because of their limited knowledge, misunderstandings, and sin, what they understood of those statements may not always have been correct. For example it may be that when the psalmist wrote about the earth not moving (e.g., Pss 93:1; 104:4), he thought he was expressing a geocentric view of the universe (as Calvin took it). However, we know today that that view is wrong and therefore could not have been God’s intended meaning…. Thus we see that we would not have an infallible and inerrant Scripture if we equated it with the meaning understood by its human writers….” (p. 170)
    Now, I was quite surprised to read this in Scott’s piece. He seems to be saying that the human authors could have meant a lots of mistaken things by what they wrote and that inerrancy does not at all depend upon what the human authors meant.
    This idea strikes me as being of great consequence. Could the author of Genesis 1 have meant to say world was formed from a watery, primordial chaos and inerrancy still stand? Could Paul have meant to say in 1 Corinthians 7 that Jesus would return within his lifetime and inerrancy still stand? Could Paul have really meant to say that a water dispensing rock rolled along behind the wandering Israelites and inerrancy still stand? It seems that on Scott’s account, the human authors could have meant all of these mistaken things and more, and, yet, if God meant something else by those words, inerrancy in Scott’s sense is unscathed.
    I can understand why Scott would say something like this. He is trying to engage Enns and not to get backed into a corner. But it seems to me that Scott here advocates a view that is atypical of inerrantists. What’s more, theoretically, it’s a bit hard to see how Scott’s construal is ultimately different from that of, dare I say, Kenton Sparks.
    Am I missing something here?

  76. David said,

    May 15, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    p.s., Conceptually, Scott’s construal seems very close to Nick Wolterstorff’s too (upon which Sparks depends). Wolterstorff’s account is compatible with inerrancy or non-inerrancy.

  77. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 15, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Lane, beware of attributing motives and methodologies to people–it makes you look like an ass. I did in fact read the entire article, several times at various points. My point was not that that quote was the only position he takes, but that he does have pretty strong things to say about the growth and even progress of theology. Since your post was mostly about how ST doesn’t change, I was wondering what you thought of that particular part of his argument.

  78. GLW Johnson said,

    May 15, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    ” Makes you look like an ass” ? My, oh my, but that sounds a a little bit out of bounds. Go sit in the corner,asininus, until you can behave yourself .

  79. tim prussic said,

    May 15, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Said like Austin Powers: “Oh, behave.”

  80. greenbaggins said,

    May 15, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    Joshua, what I meant was this: the rest of the article proves beyond any reasonable doubt that Horton is advocating not a sideways motion in theological advancement, but a depth-wise motion. No one here is advocating the infallibility of the confessions. We merely deny that confessions become outdated.

    Plus, I was not impugning your motives. I was pointing out that the statements you refer to occur in a context which you didn’t seem to be taking into account. You will not use the word ass to refer to me, or you will be banned.

  81. Pete Myers said,

    May 16, 2009 at 3:03 am

    #74 Reformed Sinner,

    That is the thrust of Scott’s argument, yes. My confusion is simply over the particular strength of the statements he makes about the relationship of systematic theology to exegesis. As a whole, as I’ve pointed out, he doesn’t really seem to mean quite as much as what those particular statements say, certainly by the way he’s set up part 2. Which means that, either the statements are just a little too strong and it’s not biggy, or they’re hyperbole which are to be taken with further clarifications and qualifications that he adds, or he’s saying something a bit more profound that I’m unable to grasp, or I’ve misunderstood him.

    If it’s the second to last one, I’m just particularly keen to understand exactly what he means.

    #71, Richard,

    I am slightly confused by the corner you seem to got painted into… are you intentionally there? Sometimes, I know from experience, these kinds of comment discussions can lead you down an alley, and you take stock a day later and say “Wow! That’s actually not what I think at all!”

    Take the “confession of faith” that I imagine you and I are most familiar with from our context, the UCCF doctrinal basis… point 3 says,

    The Bible, as originally given, is the inspired and infallible Word of God. It is the supreme authority in all matters of belief and behaviour.

    I know that Enns is trying to clarify what inerrancy is… but just wondered what you mean by your own words that the Bible’s narration of the resurrection doesn’t need to be “historically accurate”?

    Do you mean to say, A: “can lack historical precision”, or B: “can represent something to be historically true, when it is in actuality historically false (or vice versa)”? Given that the UCCF Doctrinal Basis was updated only a couple of years ago, it seems to me, that, it’s definition of “infallible” can be fairly said to be what the vast majority of evangelicals consider to be “infallible” – i.e. that it excludes B.

  82. Richard said,

    May 16, 2009 at 3:30 am

    Hi Pete,

    To clarify; I mean, in the case of the resurrection, A – “can lack historical precision”.

    With regards to the UCCF statement, what are we going to do about two versions of Exodus (MT vs. 4QpaleoExod[m])? Ulrich has also noted that “For the book of Jeremiah, 4QJer^b provides in Hebrew an exemplar of the shorter text tradition of which the LXX is a faithful translation, while 4QJer^a and 4QJer^c present Hebrew texts that agree with the secondary edition found in the MT.” These types of issues calls into question the accuracy of the UCCf statement, i.e. what is the originally given Bible?

    Now I don’t want to derail this thread so I’ve set up this so you can respond.

  83. David said,

    May 16, 2009 at 5:21 am

    Pete & Co.,
    I am curious as to your thoughts on the other direction in which Scott takes his distinction between what the human author may have understood to mean or meant by his words and what God meant by those same words. Scott writes:
    “The human writers held many views, some of them quite erroneous, but hte significance of inspiration is that out of the mix of ideas in their minds, only true statements were written down. And because of their limited knowledge, misunderstandings, and sin, what they understood of those statements may not always have been correct. For example it may be that when the psalmist wrote about the earth not moving (e.g., Pss 93:1; 104:4), he thought he was expressing a geocentric view of the universe (as Calvin took it). However, we know today that that view is wrong and therefore could not have been God’s intended meaning…. Thus we see that we would not have an infallible and inerrant Scripture if we equated it with the meaning understood by its human writers….” (p. 170)
    Now, I was quite surprised to read this in Scott’s piece. He seems to be saying that the human authors could have meant a lots of mistaken things by what they wrote and that inerrancy does not at all depend upon what the human authors meant.
    This idea strikes me as being of great consequence. Could the author of Genesis 1 have meant to say world was formed from a watery, primordial chaos and inerrancy still stand? Could Paul have meant to say in 1 Corinthians 7 that Jesus would return within his lifetime and inerrancy still stand? Could Paul have really meant to say that a water dispensing rock rolled along behind the wandering Israelites and inerrancy still stand? It seems that on Scott’s account, the human authors could have meant all of these mistaken things and more, and, yet, if God meant something else by those words, inerrancy in Scott’s sense is unscathed.
    I can understand why Scott would say something like this. He is trying to engage Enns and not to get backed into a corner. But it seems to me that Scott here advocates a view that is atypical of inerrantists. What’s more, theoretically, it’s a bit hard to see how Scott’s construal is ultimately different from that of, dare I say, Kenton Sparks.
    Am I missing something here?

  84. May 16, 2009 at 7:34 am

    Wow, a lot has been said here since my comment the other day. Where to start…

    Jeff, I had forgotten about the Foundations of Contemporary Interpretation volumes. One of the best investments of reading time I made back in college. To my mind it and Inerrancy and Hermeneutic represent the most nuanced examples and articulations of inerrancy and hermeneutical-theological issues from within the roughly traditional positions of American Evangelicalism. I still highly recommend those volumes to every seminarian in the Reformed world I come across.
    That said, I obviously no longer occupy such “traditional” ground as I think many things in the Bible to be in error and that recognizing this and removing the related hermeneutical constraints allows us to be better readers of God’s Word. We can, for example, explore how source theories on the Pentateuch (e.g., looking at H as opposed to P’s emphases, etc.) allow us to better understand the versions of the texts we have now and what they were doing and how they functioned in their historical contexts where God inspired them. We need not, for example, be forbidden at the outset from understanding Paul’s talk about the resurrection body in 1 Corinthians 15 within parts of the varied matrix of ancient Hellenistic-philosophical cosmological and physics sensitivities concerning bodies and substances (e.g., pneuma). We are able to read Daniel within its actual 3rd and 2nd century Hellenistic and Jewish-Apocalyptic horizons, bringing to bear tons of relevant contextual data from that time that breathes the same air as Daniel and helps us better grapple with what God was trying to do and say through that text to his people at that time, etc.

    Now (perhaps finally I get to your questions!), how can this position remain committed to the Bible as God’s true, “light,” comprehensible Word? Perhaps I misunderstand you, but I fail to see how inerrancy and lack-of-contradictions are pre-conditions for God’s communications to be intelligible. People make mistakes and contradict themselves all the time and that does not render us incapable of understanding each other. Confusion generally arises from other factors relates to “merging of horizon” and expectation (implicit and explicit) issues more than from errors. So, in this case, might the problems you raise derive more from your (well, our) notions of how the Bible is comprehensible; i.e., we have bound up its perspicuity and comprehensibility with its inerrancy and ability to-be-read through theological grids emphasizing non-contradiction and the like?

    As to your other (or implicit?) related and well-stated point, I can say this. (1) I agree with you that God is Truth, His Word is True, and that everything God does bears the imprint of his truthfulness, etc. Here my systematic-theological (and exegetical) instincts fire similarly to yours. I fully believe this. (2) God’s Word does things and behaves in ways (ALL OVER THE PLACE!) cutting across some of our usual notions (and/or implications deriving from them) of “truth” and God.

    From here I am have several options. I could decide to throw out all my “evidence” from the Bible’s behavior, labeling it as tainted by some faulty interpretive method and un-Christian presuppositions and instead adopt some interpretive methodology that can only produce readings of the Bible in-line-with our notions of God and truth and the usually drawn implications. The cluster of so-advocated methodologies within most American-Reformed/Evangelical circles remains a bizarre arbitrary selection of some basic historical methodology ruled over and constantly (selectively) distorted by various confessional constraints…with a resulting methodology-inconsistent use of historical methods for reading the writings of the Bible. I could keep my “evidence” from reading the Bible AND my conflicting notions of truth and related implications and from there decide something is wrong with the Bible…and come up with positions of lesser inspiration and/or decide the Bible is no longer God’s Word and True. Thus I come to the Bible with some pre-set criteria for what it must be in order to be God’s Word, judge the Bible accordingly, and thus render a verdict on it (and God?). I could keep my “evidence” and decide that it suggests rethinking some of our notions of God, truth, and God’s Word being a light…thus holding onto both of the things I claim to hold in the previous paragraph. This final option (sure there are many others) seems most in line with SOME of the Systematic-Theological instincts instilled in me through reading the luminaries of our Reformed tradition(s)…wherein I always seek to allow God (especially through His Word) to determine and to define my notions (doctrines) of truth, himself, his Word, etc.

    Thanks for bearing with my long comment here, in which I probably say many things I have written many times before. My point is to sketch the only way I know how to approach the excellent issues you raise. I do not have a cogent theoretically-sketched (from above) reply to your questions, about how my approach squares with us understanding the Bible’s own statements about it being “truth” and a light. All I can suggest is that I agree with your points there, and that we must be open to allowing the Bible itself to challenge our notions of how it is true and is a light to us. As I mention above, I do not see how something containing errors or contradictions militates against its comprehensibility. Rather, in this case, it militates against our explicit and implicit theories about how the Bible is comprehensible to us.

    LASTLY (congrats to everyone who has endured this long!), these issues I raise continue (hopefully) to point us back to how we all need each other in the church. I do not think the way forward from here is to have me start preaching and teaching raw academic historical-critical readings of the Bible at my church, simply saying “well, let them all wrestle on their own…” BT, ST, AP, CH, “pastoral theology,” Lay-people, etc.,…we all need each other and somehow to work together with these issues so that the insights and wisdom of each can be brought together (in mutual submission) to edify the church. As I have said before, I do not know exactly what that looks like. BUT, I do know that (1) we seem to be failing pretty miserably, at times, in doing this…especially as we often come up with theological justifications for excluding others from this communal wrestling. (2) God has called us towards this seemingly impossible goal and given us His Spirit to help us towards it.

    Jeff, feel free to slap me around for not actually answering your question…if I did not. I will try to be more prompt replying next time!

    Also, yes, the Latin exam went well. Thanks.

  85. May 16, 2009 at 7:35 am


    Interesting points there. I have not read Scott’s piece (as you know). That is surprising that he says those things. I am curious to see if others here understood him in that way.

  86. May 16, 2009 at 7:42 am

    Manlius (#45), what a great comparison. I think we often downplay such analogies in church history. Let me chew on that a bit more…great point.

  87. May 16, 2009 at 7:45 am

    Reed (46, 47, and others), dgh, and Ken…I will try to get back to you soon. For now I must go run some errands my wife requested (Farmer’s Market, picking up the milk, etc.). Perhaps we can all theologically agree that errands for my wife take priority over blogging right now…especially since I am probably just spouting heresy here anyway? : )…

  88. May 16, 2009 at 7:47 am

    …if Mark wants he can explain to you how strange my wife and I are about food (e.g., why I have to go “pick up” the milk). Come to think of it, he can explain how I am just strange…

  89. David said,

    May 16, 2009 at 8:15 am

    FTH (#86),
    You know, the funny thing is that I am not entirely sure that Scott has really understood the entailments of what he has said. I suspect that Scott intended that paragraph to provide him with an escape hatch should the evidence for an error (on the part of the human author) in the Biblical writings become overwhelming.

  90. May 16, 2009 at 10:05 am

    “…[Mark] can explain how I am just strange…”

    That, FTH, would be a blog in itself ;-)

  91. Pete Myers said,

    May 16, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    #82, Richard,

    Thanks for the response, and the opportunity to take the discussion further in another forum. I’m going to decline to take the discussion to that kind of level, I’m afraid (i.e. quoting manuscript numbers)! Two reasons are, that, I’ve deliberately decided to cut down the amount of time I spend on the web talking to people about things… it can really suck my time away. The other reason is, that, I’m nowhere near as well versed in the issues as you clearly are, I wouldn’t have anything helpful to say without far more reading I’m afraid.

    Unfortunately I can’t comment on the specifics that you raise, as, I’m not read up on them. I appreciate your candidness about your opinion on section 3 of the UCCF doctrinal basis. Though, if I could speak as a fellow Reformed Christian brother in the UK for a moment – could I recommend that you chat that through with your pastor/tutor at the North West Training course quite carefully. I find that when my thinking takes me down a relatively unusual line (and I’m sure you’ll agree that thinking the UCCF DB is inaccurate is unusual!), then I’m the most helpful to God’s people when I leave the web and my private study alone for a few days, and chat the issue through with someone else I’m close to.

    #83, David,

    You are putting your finger on the issue here. While much of what Scott says is helpful, I had a sense of discomfort at points that is similar to the discomfort I feel when preachers rebuke Nehemiah for being “arrogant” because of his comments about his own faithfulness (e.g. 13v31!).

    If the “test” for the sense or meaning in a passage doesn’t ultimately (i.e. finally) lie in exegesis, then it lies in men. It either lies in my reason, my experience, or my institution. While I do believe that systematic theology has things to say to my exegesis, once we have established that there is meaning in scripture that cannot be discerned exegetically, but by some other method, I am opening the door (fair enough – the back door) to making myself the ultimate arbiter of what is true.

    I guess it is these kinds of (on one level innocent) statements that Scott makes, that causes people like myself to have our hackles raised and become a touch “systematic-wary” (interestingly, among my peers, I’m considered to place far too much emphasis on systematics).

  92. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 16, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Pete M (#91):

    If the “test” for the sense or meaning in a passage doesn’t ultimately (i.e. finally) lie in exegesis, then it lies in men. It either lies in my reason, my experience, or my institution.

    Pete, I think you’ve put your finger on one of the real, but perhaps misplaced, arguments here. What I’m hearing is “it’s either exegesis or the reasoning of man.” And when we put it like that, who would want to be on the side of the reasoning of man? :) Away with systematics! (That’s irony — no one should take me seriously there…)

    But in fact, both exegesis and systematics are fraught with the reasoning of man. We can’t help it. We have in front of us the Word of God, and we have no direct line to heaven (since Sproul was not elected the Protestant Pope), so we cannot bypass the human element in trying to understand the text.

    So what you see then is two groups of people: those who basically trust deductive reasoning, which is the primary tool of ST, and those who basically trust inductive reasoning, which is the primary tool of BT.

    But neither one is fool-proof, and therefore we need, I think, both tools in our belt as we seek to understand the text. By all means, let ST and BT have a two-way street between them, and let neither banish the other one.

    So in particular, I would question your statement, “once we have established that there is meaning in scripture that cannot be discerned exegetically, but by some other method, I am opening the door to making myself the ultimate arbiter of what is true.”

    I would never be able by exegesis alone to explain what’s going through Abraham’s mind as he raises the knife. Only in the light of the explanation in Heb. 11 can I do so. That’sa systematicsa for ya.

    Jeff Cagle

  93. GLW Johnson said,

    May 16, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Deductive reasoning is the primary tool of ST while inductive reasoning is primary tool of BT ? That is an extremely broad generalisation.In fact it is one big pothole in the middle of the road. It certainly didn’t characterise the Princetonians . Take a look at B.B.Warfield’s review of R.A.Torry’s ‘What The Bible Teaches’ in Mark Noll’s ‘The Princeton Theology:1812-1921’ (Baker,1983) where Noll correctly observed the Princetionians ” rose and fell with their commitment to induction”. (p.299).

  94. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 16, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    Yes, I would agree that I was pretty broad there. I found myself arguing with the post after I wrote it. :)

  95. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 16, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    FTH (#84):

    Thank you for your response. I think I understand where you are coming from and why. Reading your post reminds me of Barth. You wish to affirm the basic truthfulness of Scripture and above all the authority of Scripture, while still admitting what seems obvious to you: the Scripture as we have it contains errors.

    Two factors compel me to sit on the Silva side of the fence.

    First, I feel more constrained than you (I think?) by the interpretive history of the Church. Sola scriptura for me means testing my own reading of Scripture against the collective wisdom of the teachers of the Church, and so I’m located more conservatively by nature.

    Second, as a non-specialist, I am confronted less by research that surrounds the text and more by the text itself. As a result, my exegeses for better or worse are informed only by the little information I glean from available commentaries. You can imagine that this makes me focus more on structure and words than on comparisons to 2nd and 3rd c. BC apocalyptic literature.

    I’ll develop this idea in a response to Pete M. below; but in short: it *is* possible that both you and I could approach the text thinking that we have an open mind, while actually importing alien assumptions to the text. You allege that Evangelical scholars have done this unconsciously (ring any Beales?), and Evangelical scholars allege that you have done this unconsciously.

    Where do we go from here?

    Also: why stop with small errors? What prevents you from arguing, as Bart Ehrman does, that the resurrection itself was not intended to be what we think it is: an actual, physical resurrection?

    Jeff Cagle

  96. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 16, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Pete M., I’d like to develop something further, hopefully without making overly broad generalizations. ;)

    Let’s take what you said and examine it in light of the comments made here:

    If the “test” for the sense or meaning in a passage doesn’t ultimately (i.e. finally) lie in exegesis, then it lies in men. It either lies in my reason, my experience, or my institution. While I do believe that systematic theology has things to say to my exegesis, once we have established that there is meaning in scripture that cannot be discerned exegetically, but by some other method, I am opening the door (fair enough – the back door) to making myself the ultimate arbiter of what is true.

    I guess it is these kinds of (on one level innocent) statements that Scott makes, that causes people like myself to have our hackles raised and become a touch “systematic-wary” (interestingly, among my peers, I’m considered to place far too much emphasis on systematics).

    Let’s take a critical stance for a moment wrt the types of exegetical suggestions made by FTH and Richard and others.

    Consider the book of Daniel. It claims that “Daniel” lived during the reign of Neb. during the captivity; this would locate the book in the 6th c. BC. (Oops — used outside knowledge instead of the text on that one!).

    However, various factors have led many scholars, including FTH, to conclude that Daniel was written in the 2nd or 3rd c. BC.

    Now on FTH’s account (#84), this allows us to do better exegesis:

    We are able to read Daniel within its actual 3rd and 2nd century Hellenistic and Jewish-Apocalyptic horizons, bringing to bear tons of relevant contextual data from that time that breathes the same air as Daniel and helps us better grapple with what God was trying to do and say through that text to his people at that time, etc.

    My critical question: is this actually “exegesis”? Is it allowing the text to speak, or is it dictating to the text?

    The text says that it was written by Daniel; but the scholarly research informs the text that it is actually incorrect about itself — it was written pseudonymously.

    The text says that it is a prophecy about things to come; but the scholarly research informs the text that it is actually a retrospective on the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes.

    At this point, I find myself thinking, “Isn’t this exactly what Pete didn’t want — the use of human ideas to dictate to the text what it should mean?”

    Likewise, Exodus presents itself as a single entity (written by Moses, if Jesus is to be believed: “What did Moses command you?”). But on Richard’s account, Exodus is not a single entity but a multilayered pastiche.

    Is that “letting the text speak?” Or, is it dictating to the text?

    What do you think? I realize I’m taking a kind of Childsean critique here, but I want to bring into focus the “human reasoning” side of scholarly exegesis.

    Richard and FTH, feel free to jump in on this also. I realize I’ve taken a pessimistic view of your endeavors in this post.

    Jeff Cagle

  97. rfwhite said,

    May 16, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    It’s clear from reading this string of posts that some have a higher regard for historical and systematic (canonical) theology in exegesis than others. What interests me is the caricatures that have emerged.

    First, some with a lower regard for historical and systematic theology have become fond of making the point that those with a high regard for historical and systematic theology hold their views, not because of their study of Scripture, but because they are slaves to tradition and have not studied Scripture as they ought. The whole endeavor of historical and systematic theologians is, according to these “lower regard” folks, a failure to “face facts.” Is it not unfair and untrue, however, to imply that only those indebted to historical and systematic theology are unable to break free from the tyranny into which they have been squeezed unawares by the influences of their interpretive community? Isn’t it the case that all interpretive communities who study the Bible depend for their conclusions on constellations of group commitments, on networks of shared assumptions, methods, standards, sources, and sanctions? Consequently, shouldn’t we all beware of developing and exhibiting a fortress mentality of triumphalism and elitism in holding our views? Left to ourselves, we are all unable to break free from the tyranny of our interpretive communities. As I see it, we should all concede that, as we study Scripture, we reach conclusions about what we see in the Bible based on our pre- and post-conversion environment, on our pre- and post-conversion theological tradition and spiritual instruction (if any), and on our pre- and post-conversion study habits. When all is said and done, we can and should agree that such “global” factors figure in everyone’s interpretation of the Bible, and that we should all develop a greater awareness of their influence on us.

    On the other hand, a higher regard for historical and systematic theology is ordinarily born of one’s conviction of both a unity of divine revelatory purpose transcending the testaments and a consistency of canonical (prophetic and apostolic) interpretation of that purpose. Those with such higher regard for historical and systematic theology well know that these presuppositions are generally denied by higher criticism, yet they cannot deny the evidence in the text itself. In that evidence they discover the unity and consistency of God’s actions in their different circumstances. By induction, then, as well as deduction, those with a higher regard for historical and systematic theology recognize, if you will, a DNA patterning in the Bible’s presentation of God’s work in history (the past is repeated in the present and in the future). They see that patterning in recurring stock vocabulary, pictures (image, motif, design, “textual geography”), and plots (script, sequence of action). Together these disclose the unity in God’s purpose in revelation and the consistency in God’s governance of history. These particulars form the basis of the belief that there is a metanarrative, an organic system to the Bible into which all the narrative and prophetic particulars of the Bible fit, and that the entirety of the Bible reflects the signature of its Divine Author, transcending the particular contributions of the individual human authors.

    It’s not only bibliology that is at work in reaching these conclusions, however. They do not emerge just anywhere; they emerge in an interpretive community where the Spirit and his gifts are at work. It seems to me that we all have to be alert to the reality that there are interpretive communities that quench the Spirit. We all have to be alert to the reality that the locus of the Spirit’s works of conviction and illumination is ordinarily a certain historic environment formed as God’s people and regulative of their belief and behavior.

    As I see it, then, one’s regard for the influence of historical and systematic theology puts on display not merely one’s bibliology but also one’s pneumatology and ecclesiology. Where am I wrong?

  98. Richard said,

    May 17, 2009 at 3:26 am

    Pete: A wise choice, if I may suggest a few books on this issue:

    1. Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible by Emanuel Tov
    2. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Origins of the Bible by Eugene Ulrich
    3. The Canon Debate edited by Lee Martin McDonald & James A. Sanders

    You offer some sage advice regarding section 3 of the UCCF doctrinal basis. Having discussed this with those on our ministry team who understand this type of thing my questions were not answered, i.e. does the LXX edition of Jeremiah (Edition I) reflect the original autographs or does the MT edition of Jeremiah (Edition II) reflect them? If we find Qumran scrolls for both editions this implies both were authoritative, i.e. both are ‘original’ but then we need to allow for reworking of materials by unnamed editors which means that we should not speak of an original text but rather various authoritative texts which differ radically hence the UCCF statement is too simplistic. I wonder how many OT scholars helped to write section 3?

    God bless you in your studies!

  99. Richard said,

    May 17, 2009 at 3:48 am

    Jeff: I will leave Daniel alone as it is not an area I have looked into much. Regarding Exodus, it is quite clear that Exodus is not a single entity but is rather multilayered from various sources, you may be engaging in a “Childsean critique” but you should probably have read Childs’ Commentary on Exodus and then your critique would be much improved. In his discussion of chapter one verses 1-7 Childs divides it between J and P.

    Nowhere does Exodus present itself as written by Moses and your interpretation of Jesus’ words is exactly that, an interpretation, and one that owes more to Jewish tradition than to biblical evidence.

    One of my favourite reads on Exodus is here (pp. 79ff.)

  100. Richard said,

    May 17, 2009 at 5:45 am

    Jeff, apologies if that comes across as too blunt, it wasn’t intended to do so. If I may quote Childs from his Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture pp. 176-7:

    The book of Exodus, no less than Genesis, has undergone a complex history of development. The final stage still reflects tensions and friction from this prehistory. Yet once again, the combined narrative is far more than the sum of its parts. Indeed, the decisive canonical witness is often found in the manner by which the parts have been combined. A literary analysis of sources in frequently of great help inhearing precisely the different witnesses within a passage. However, when the attempt is made to treat the sources as separate theological entities, an assumption of an isolation between sources is at work which runs counter to the canonical traditioning process and which disregards the way the material was used authoritatively within a community of faith and practice.

  101. rfwhite said,

    May 17, 2009 at 6:41 am


    A few thoughts on Jeremiah. For those who don’t remember the substance of the question, MT Jeremiah differs from LXX Jeremiah in length and arrangement: the latter is shorter than the former by about one-eighth, and the “oracles against the nations” section, which appears in the MT as chs. 46-51, appears in the LXX after 25:13. One can share the great respect that scholars have for the character of the Hebrew text as transmitted and found in the MT generally and in MT Jeremiah particularly. In addition to this argument from the quality of the traditional text, one can also appeal to a literary consideration, namely, that if MT Jeremiah can be shown to have a thoroughgoing chiastic structure, then this structure constitutes internal evidence against LXX Jeremiah’s relocation of chs. 46-51, which has its chiastic counterpoint in chs. 1-12.

    Though one might consider the Hebrew text found in MT Jeremiah to be the original version of Jeremiah, there remain rare and problematic places in the MT where scholars must turn to other sources such as LXX Jeremiah (or Qumran MSS) for help. They seek help from these sources because they find in them reflections of either a pre-Masoretic Hebrew text (as is generally the case in LXX Jeremiah) or an independent Hebrew text (as is occasionally the case in Qumran MSS). Overall, however, such findings have not been sufficient to establish a better claim to originality for LXX Jeremiah (or, for that matter, Qumran MSS) over MT Jeremiah. Except for rare and problematic instances, then, one can take MT Jeremiah to be the original Hebrew text.

  102. May 17, 2009 at 7:00 am

    Richard and Jeff have made comments about books in the Pentateuch and who the present themselves as having been written by. I thought it might be fun just to make a quick list here:

    Genesis: At no point presents itself as having been written by Moses. Never, not once!

    Exodus: Never presents itself as having been written by Moses. In fact, when it mentions his writing activities (Ex 24.4) they are circumscribed to the “Book of the Covenant” (Ex 21-24ish). Now, it makes sense why someone reading the book might think Moses wrote it, since he is the central revelation-receiver in the book and the book contains many laws he received privately. But this argument does not really help since Evangelicals often argue for authorship of writings by people who simply had information revealed to them to which they would not have been privy in their life experiences apart from direct revelation from God. Exodus also has at least two passages (14.31, 19.9) that could imply one of the purposes of the narrative is legitimating Moses’ authority, perhaps embodied in the writing itself. But, AGAIN, the book does not “present itself as” written by Moses.

    Leviticus: Though not presenting itself as a writing by Moses, it presents itself entirely as words and laws revealed to Moses and to Israel through him. So, it makes sense to see it implying a claim to some sort of Mosaic authorship. Interestingly, the book has two endings (26.46; 27.34), but we will not go into all the fun source issues of Leviticus here (P and H, etc.).

    Numbers: Similar to Leviticus, but a bit more complicated.

    Deuteronomy: This is the very interesting one to me. It EXPLICITLY presents itself as a writing written NOT BY MOSES, but by someone else already in the promised land and after Moses’ death. As such a writing it claims to present revelation to and speeches by Moses. As many of you know, Deuteronomy refers to Moses’ writing activities (e.g. 31.24), but does not identify them with the writing as it is…despite how much of the content of the book those passages might represent Moses as having written down.

    As everyone here probably knows, conviction of Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch in our circles rests primarily on claims in the New Testament…which also “claims” (“presents that”) Enoch wrote The Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36) and that said writing is a sacred-inspired writing. Hmmm… As Richard mentions, said claims about Moses are the same claims made throughout Early Judean literature.

    For the record, I do not think Moses wrote ANY of the Pentateuch. OK, digression comment over. Jeff, I will soon get back to your interesting points.

  103. May 17, 2009 at 7:07 am

    RF White,

    How do I put this nicely, you misrepresent contemporary scholarship in your comment. While some Evangelical scholars (and perhaps a few others) might think, “Overall, however, such findings have not been sufficient to establish a better claim to originality for LXX Jeremiah (or, for that matter, Qumran MSS) over MT Jeremiah. Except for rare and problematic instances, then, one can take MT Jeremiah to be the original Hebrew text,” in general, no one else agrees.

    The broader world of scholarship, while still in much discussion, generally agrees that the LXX stems from an earlier Hebrew text of Jeremiah…and that the MT is a conscious and ideologically-theologically driven redaction of that earlier Hebrew text. As you indicate awareness of, we have manuscripts-copies of parts of the earlier Hebrew text. For everyone here, WE KNOW that an earlier Hebrew version of Jeremiah existed and that our MT is a theologically-ideologically motivated reworking of it. Evangelical denials or softenings of this all stand upon incredibly selective and (frankly) distorting uses of the evidence.

  104. Reformed Sinner said,

    May 17, 2009 at 7:22 am

    #103, FTH

    You demonstrated the problems of academic scholarship.

    1) It’s (misfounded) confidence in its methodology and theories. It is right to say archaeologically the earliest Jeremiah text we found agrees with LXX, but that is a far stretch to say conclusively that what we have found is the earliest text of Jeremiah, and hence it proves without a doubt (very doubtful) the MT is a pure redacted text based on theology.

    2) The idea that MT is theologically-driven and redacted is simply too haste of a conclusion. As your beloved Pete Enns shows OT/MT is “messy.” Unless you are also confident to say the MT redactors are a bunch of stupid semites (another theory thanks to our brilliant academic scholars), I would think if the MT would really be theologically-driven redacted work that OT/MT would be “better” that its current form.

  105. GLW Johnson said,

    May 17, 2009 at 7:29 am

    The really terrible thing about FTH comments is they come from someone who has a WTS degree. E.J. Young would have been appalled, as I am.

  106. Reformed Sinner said,

    May 17, 2009 at 7:31 am

    Interesting comment by #102. While I believe a thorough rejection of his “foolish” claims is beyond the scope of this blog, but I just want to make an observation his slippery slope is exactly what Bible-believing people have predicted.

    1) Let’s question the Mosaic Authorship in parts

    I would have to say step 1, as EJ Young says even if it’s true, does not replace Mosaic authorship. For further argument read Old Testament Introduction by EJ Young.

    2) Let’s question the Mosaic Authorship in most
    3) Let’s totally reject the Mosaic Authorship

    I really think based on this slope, and I know the foolish one is not there yet, but I don’t know how can they avoid this slope if they remain honest and consistent to their paradigm.

    4) Let’s reject the Bible as God’s Word but merely man’s own words and witness to God

    And then really it’s only a matter of time until 5 arrives

    5) Since we have no credible infallible way to know God (what we have are man’s flawed interpretations), we can never truly know Him, and everything we do is futile. Church is merely artificial man-made institution, faith is subjective, Bible is one’s own take with no bounds and standards, at the end the only difference between “people of God” and “non-people of God” is one’s artificial boundaries.

  107. May 17, 2009 at 7:40 am

    ReformedSinner (#104),

    I do not think the Hebrew text corresponding to the LXX is the earliest version, I say it is AN earlier version. I suspect there might have been many other Hebrew versions of Jeremiah as well.

    Also, I do not think the MT being an ideologically-theologically driven redaction to be a bad thing somehow militating against inspiration or unworthy of divine authorship. How would that make the authors/editors of the MT version “stupid semites”?

    My point is that the situation with Jeremiah’s textual history causes some issues for typical Evangelical doctrines of Scripture…as is evident by the zeal of many evangelicals to “clean up” the Jeremiah situation.

  108. Reformed Sinner said,

    May 17, 2009 at 7:42 am


    Are you appalled? I’m not. When I was a student there that there are plenty of Enns lovers that says the same thing. That the only historically accurate event is the cross, and everything else is fair game. The apostles believe in historical characters and events doesn’t equal actual history, it’s simply a product of their Second Temple beliefs. Moses did not write anything or it’s questionable what he has and hasn’t write. Everything in the Bible is a myth in the best definition of the term, etc.

    I have to say, when Enns taught his courses I really once believed that is the Reformed orthodox position because I did not come from a Reformed background and I wasn’t as well-trained in the Reformed tradition.

    By the grace of God I’m a reader and I read about many alternative views of Reformed scholarship, and realized what Enns says is not only not the main-view, but is not even the Reformed view.

    Then it hit me, Enns spend a lot of time in his OTI class defending himself on why he didn’t assign any of the EJ Young readings in his class. Simply making a claim that whatever he is teaching is in the same “trajectory” as Young and they are doing OT scholarship at different times. I still remember his infamous saying: “EJ Young spend his life on what the Bible did NOT say, but now we should spend time on what the Bible DID say. EJ Young sees enemy everywhere in defending Reformed orthodoxy, but now we should be building bridges.” Needless to say with marketing like that most of the students don’t bother to read EJ Young at all, but being the radical that I am it especially made me want to read EJ Young and that’s when I realized “trajectory” to Enns means “contradiction”

  109. May 17, 2009 at 7:45 am

    ReformedSinner (#106),

    As you and GLW will probably know, the “slippery slope” argument is a logical fallacy. But that can be for another day…

    I have read all of EJ Young’s Introduction, very carefully.

    Also, I do not see how my specific points about each book of the Pentateuch are problematic…I figured most here would agree. Years ago I took the same information and held an “Essential Mosaic Authorship” position: whatever Moses did not write himself came very much from him (for example, I would have said Deuteronomy may have been framed by a later editor, Joshua?, but that most of it was simply what Moses wrote, etc.).

    Now I just no longer think that…and have not lost any confidence in the Bible as the Word of God. We (as is clear) have different models for what it means that the Bible is the Word of God…and perhaps this gets us back to this thread after the rabbit-trails in which I participated : )…

  110. GLW Johnson said,

    May 17, 2009 at 7:55 am

    Pointing you to the NT, where not only Paul but Christ Himself attributes the pentateuch to Moses ,obviously doesn’t bother you, given your rejection of the doctrine of inerrancy as defended by Old Princeton and the faculty that helped to establish WTS, i.e. Machen, Van Til, Young this is to be expected. I am grateful, however ,that the necessary steps were taken by the powers that be at WTS to root out the baleful influence that lead you to your present position.

  111. ReformedSinner said,

    May 17, 2009 at 8:38 am

    #109, FTH,

    Thanks, I am not going to argue with you here. As this blog (and many others) have spill enough arguments that it’s clear we both hold specific paradigms, and really I’ve heard enough from your side (as you’ve probably heard enough from us) that there’s really nothing new under the sun for me to learn, or in honesty, interests me.

    I’m merely commenting a few observations of mine, and also pointing out in reality your views (be it academic scholarship or whatever catch-phrase you wanted to use to describe your paradigm such as “let the Bible speak for itself” or what-nots) are, at the end of the day, making the same “mistake” that you claim Evangelical scholarship are making – and that is defending your own “a priori”. In reality, no matter how “smart” or “correct” or “honest” that you think you are, at the end of the day we are both not doing different things. But the only difference is we are convinced we have a fully divine revelation that guides us and helps our scholarship, while you’re convinced the best we have is man’s depravity and yet somehow that’s also the Word of God.

  112. Richard said,

    May 17, 2009 at 8:49 am


    You say that Except for rare and problematic instances, then, one can take MT Jeremiah to be the original Hebrew text. Your analysis is somewhat oversimplistic and your argument suffers as a result.

    The LXX is a Greek translation of an Hebrew text, the Hebrew vorlage. As the Jeremiah LXX differs from the Jeremiah MT we know that the vorlarge and the proto-MT differed substantially. Hence we conclude from this that there existed two authoritative Hebrew texts of Jeremiah. Now as I noted above (quoting Ulrich), “4QJer^b provides in Hebrew an exemplar of the shorter text tradition of which the LXX is a faithful translation, while 4QJer^a and 4QJer^c present Hebrew texts that agree with the secondary edition found in the MT.”

    So at time n we had a Hebrew text represented by 4QJer^b and the LXX called ‘Edition I’, and at time n+1 we find a Hebrew text represented by 4QJer^a, 4QJer^c and MT called ‘Edition II’. These are two divergent final forms and so to say that MT Jeremiah is the original Hebrew text is simply not borne out by the textual evidence. That said, it is possible to argue that MT Jeremiah reflects the original Hebrew text provided that we allow for it to be an updated and improved version of LXX Jeremiah and its vorlage.

    As you can probably see, when the discussion concerns canon the issues become even more complex.

  113. Pete Myers said,

    May 17, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Jeff, & others,

    I’m yet to read through the posts since #91 carefully enough to respond in a more helpful/specific way… but I’d just like to point out that I am very pro systematic theology. In fact, in answer to the question that the title of the post asks, I would answer heartily with a big, loud, YES!!!!

    However… while ST does speak to BT and E, I believe there is a right order of authority between them, I don’t feel that expresses my thought very well.

    Ok, here goes an attempt to make a carefully worded statement that includes the relevant kinds of subtleties and caveats I’d want to be heard:

    Whenever we come to a text there is a hermeneutical spiraling that takes place. We attempt to exegete a passage by aligning ourselves as closely to the author’s POV as we can, we exegete a text by looking at it’s context within the book it is written, and within the Bible.

    The most immediate context is the book itself, the next level of context is our Biblical Theology, and the final level of context is our Systematic Theology. In one sense, therefore, there is no such thing as pure and simple exegesis, and there is no such thing as pure Systematic Theology. Every time I exegete a passage, by Systematic Theology is playing a part, and every time I do Systematic Theology, I am making exegetical assumptions and statements.

    It is unhealthy to do my exegesis without considering the context of Biblical Theology or Systematic Theology. Actually, it’s impossible to do that, if I think I am, all I’m doing is just being blind to the BT and ST I’m applying (and therefore probably doing context incorrectly).

    But, it is also unhealthy to place the weight of my opinions on ST or BT over exegesis.

    My only question (and it is just a question) with Scott’s article is that the strength with which he puts a few statements possibly opens the door (note my use of language here…) to that second unhealthy way of reading scripture.

    The particular heart of the matter is that he goes so far as to suggest that a meaning is in a text even if it cannot be demonstrated exegetically from that text.

    But struggling with that doesn’t stop me being someone with a very high regard for systematics.

    #98 Richard,

    Here’s a couple of ideas I’d like to string together, package up, and invite your response to:

    1)There are lots of things we all believe that we can’t back up biblically. In his Prolegomena, Bavinck makes that case very persuasively. While the Bible is our “final” authority in matters of life and godliness, in actual fact the faith community we emerge from is our “first” authority… almost everything we believe (well, the essential shape of it) is derived from our immediate surroundings and peers. We then later become more able to assess this kind of stuff properly against scripture. However… in the vast majority of areas, all of us will not be able to do that work ourselves. We can’t all be OT scholars, for example, so most of us (i.e. pastors) will be simply “believing what we’re told” on points of OT scholarship. So… if your ministry team couldn’t answer your questions on the specific issues, then it’s not a surprise, I don’t expect people to be well-versed in the things that I personally get excited about.

    2) The analogy of faith, remember, is use clearer passages to throw light on tougher ones. This is what is so helpful about Scott’s article in the WTJ (despite my question above, and perhaps concerns about tone – but I’m a big softie). Scott’s point is very simple: The Bible speaks clearly and unambiguously about itself when it comes to inerrancy and infallibility in straightforward didactic statements in the New Testament. For this reason, there did not need to be any OT scholars help draft the UCCF doctrinal basis – simply someone who could read and make sense of the clearer statements of scripture directly about the issue.

    3) Finding passages of scripture that appear to be errant does not disprove inerrancy, in fact it is actually a straw man! This flows logically from Scott’s argument. The inerrantist “position” is based, and founded, on clear didactic statements that scripture makes, that are claimed to support it. It is not a theory drawn consequentially from observing data. Therefore to cite such examples isn’t actually addressing the true foundations of the inerrantist position, and is therefore a straw man.

    In actual fact, there are loads of things we believe that are counter to institution, reason and experience. While I believe that the Bible will be seen from eternity to be totally inerrant in every respect, right now mankind has neither all the information necessary, nor the ability to interpret it correctly to demonstrate that. And so, like in every other area of knowledge, because I am limited and sinful, I don’t put together all the data, and then build up my doctrine from it. What if the brilliant answer to your question about Exodus regarding MT vs. 4QpaleoExod[m] wasn’t to be discovered for another 100 years? The church has always lived with these sorts of problems – over time more and more of them resolve themselves in favour of scriptures clear statements on the issues. But none of the questions will be fully resolved until the New Creation. Because of this… nobody is an inerrantist primarily because of their extensive surveying of the manuscript evidence. Take Wayne Grudem’s ST for example…

    There [in ch4] it was argued that all the words in the Bible are God’s words, and that therefore to disbelieve or disobey any word in Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God. It was argued further that the Bible clearly teaches that God cannot lie or speak falsely (2 Sam. 7v28; Titus 1v2; Heb. 6v18). Therefore, all the words in Scripture are claimed to be completely true and without error in any part (Num. 23v19; Pss. 12v6; 199v89, 96; Prov. 30v5; Matt 24v35). God’s words are, in fact, the ultimate standard of truth (John 17v17).

    The standard evangelical doctrine of infallibility is based on arguments like these, and NOT on a claim to have surveyed all the evidence… then to introduce manuscript evidence that appears to show errancy in the scriptures in the claim that it therefore disproves inerrancy is – as I said – a straw man.

    In a nutshell: there is data inerrantists can’t explain… there always has been, there always will be (in this creation) because we won’t always have all the info. Many inerrantists don’t deny this (Bavinck for e.g.). But the inerrantist position is based on an argument from didactic passages of scripture about itself, not from a theory built up from observed data.

    That is probably why your ministry team couldn’t answer your questions, but most of them probably weren’t as bothered by that as you felt they should be.

    #102 Foolish,

    Just on your conclusion… since Jesus in a few places ascribes Mosaic authorship to parts of the Pentateuch (Luke 20v37), I think we have to concede that some of it was authored by Moses, even if you don’t believe he was the final editor to fiddle with the text under the inspiration of the Spirit.

  114. Richard said,

    May 17, 2009 at 8:55 am


    Two simple questions:

    1. Who wrote “At that time the Canaanites were in the land” found in Gen 12:6?

    2. Who wrote “At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were dwelling in the land” found in Gen 13:7?

    3. Who wrote “before any king reigned over the Israelites” found in Gen 36:31?

    To my mind 1 & 2 imply a post-conquest composition and 3 implies a monarchical composition at the very least.

  115. Richard said,

    May 17, 2009 at 8:55 am


    Three simple questions:

    1. Who wrote “At that time the Canaanites were in the land” found in Gen 12:6?

    2. Who wrote “At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were dwelling in the land” found in Gen 13:7?

    3. Who wrote “before any king reigned over the Israelites” found in Gen 36:31?

    To my mind 1 & 2 imply a post-conquest composition and 3 implies a monarchical composition at the very least.

  116. Pete Myers said,

    May 17, 2009 at 8:56 am


    Major error with Block quote above.

    There’s some stuff that I say to Richard, and Foolish there that’s inadvertantly made to look like it’s part of a quote. Woops!

  117. GLW Johnson said,

    May 17, 2009 at 9:10 am

    I will direct you and FTH to Gleason Archer, my late professor at T.E.D.S.,’A Survey Of Old Testament Introduction’ and the section “The Authorship of The Pentateuch” where Archer deals extensively with the positive evidences for Mosaic authorship, particularly the witness of the Scripture to Mose’s authorship ( contra the claims made by FTH, the Torah bears ample witness to Mosaic authorship .(pp. 109-118). Archer went into much greater detail in class. I should point out once again that Archer had a B.A., M.A.and a PhD from Harvard Univ. as well as a B.D. from Princeton seminary along with a law degree from Suffolk Law School.

  118. Richard said,

    May 17, 2009 at 9:18 am


    According to the UCCF statement only the originals are inerrant hence what you hold in your hand is errant. So in reality you are defending the inerrancy of something that doesn’t exist. Now you may believe they did but that is why there was a need for OT scholars to ask as they could explain the difficulties about taking such a position.

    Where in the NT does it claim that it is without error?

    I don’t quite follow your argument that introducing textual evidence is a strawman.

  119. May 17, 2009 at 9:24 am


    “I’m not going to argue with you anymore [to FTH]”


    “You are coming from an i priori context too!” [FTH has never denied that and often affirmed it.]


    same old “we think the Bible is more divine than you do”

    …but you’re not going to argue any more….just assert that you are better and right.


    And GLWJ:

    We get it. You walked down the sawdust trail as a young man and gave your heart to Machen and Old Princeton. Your side won in a very political, orchestrated coup at WTS. We get it. And we yawn.

  120. May 17, 2009 at 9:25 am

    Typo, of course “just assert that you are better…” should have been “just assert that WE are better..”

  121. Richard said,

    May 17, 2009 at 9:29 am

    According to Gleason Archer,

    The Pentateuch itself testifies to Moses as having composed it. We find these explicit statements (ASV): Exodus 17:14: “And Jehovah said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book . . . that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek.” Exodus 24:4: “And Moses wrote all the words of Jehovah”; and verse 7′: “And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people.” Exodus 34:27′: “And Jehovah said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.” Numbers 33:1-2: “These are the journeys of the children of Israel. . . . And Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys.” Deuteronomy 31:9: “And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests”; and verse 11: “When all Israel is come to appear before Jehovah thy God . . . thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing.”

    The problem with this is that none of these imply Mosaic authorship. Gleason Archer was a great polemicist but his texts just do not prove his argument for Mosaic authorship. Archer is assuming that the law in Deut 31 is the Pentateuch but there is no evidence for that, even Waltke rubbishes that argument in his An Old Testament Theology.

  122. GLW Johnson said,

    May 17, 2009 at 9:33 am

    It is a question of integrity. People who lack it yawn alot.

  123. Pete Myers said,

    May 17, 2009 at 9:38 am


    I’m not arguing for the inerrancy of an English translation, nor for a any manuscript copy, I take the (surely fairly widely held) position that the original manuscript was inerrant. What you’re doing, is, hearing an argument that isn’t being made.

    The case for why introducing textual evidence being a straw man, is the perennial issue here in my opinion. What I’m suggesting you need to think through is not the manuscript evidence, but your view of epistemology, more specifically people have used the word “bibliology”. Let me put a simplified version in a syllogism:

    A: Inerrantists are inerrantists because of didactic passages where the Bible claims inerrancy for itself.
    B: Inerrantists in the history of the church have always faced passages of scripture that seem to contradict this claim one way or another, and waited patiently until more evidence comes to light that vindicates scriptures claims about itself. This evidence, slowly but surely, eventually always proves scripture’s claims to be true.
    C: So, simply producing a passage of scripture that appears to be errant doesn’t actually refute the inerrantist position, and is therefore a straw man.

    Let me demonstrate the same logic on a subject we’re agreed on: I believe that miracles are possible.

    A: Scripture says miracles are possible. I believe this simply because scripture says it.
    B: All of the evidence I’ve seen in my lifetime (even when I used to be a serious going charismatic) actually tells me that miracles don’t happen, but that people are far more gullible than they realise.
    C: Therefore, offering me evidence that miracles doesn’t happen, scientific reasons, etc. won’t actually refute my belief that miracles are possible. Therefore doing so is a straw man.

    Presenting evidence of inerrancy is talking past the Evangelical argument. Either scripture is wrong about itself being inerrant, or I’m wrong about the didactic passages that teach inerrancy. Quoting Wayne Grudem was simply a way to try and demonstrate that a cursory reading of a populist Systematic Theology is all that’s necessary to see where the Evangelical doctrine of inerrancy comes from.

  124. Pete Myers said,

    May 17, 2009 at 9:41 am


    Gary… I think on the issues I’m totally with you on this one…


    …is calling his integrity into question the smart move?

  125. GLW Johnson said,

    May 17, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Yes, and this element ( the S.O.S crowd ) lacks honesty as well.

  126. Pete Myers said,

    May 17, 2009 at 9:51 am


    Well… I suppose that’s your call. (SOS?)

  127. Richard said,

    May 17, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Pete: I know that you’re not arguing for the inerrancy of an English translation, my point is that you are defending the inerrancy of something that doesn’t exist, the originals. Just in case you are not aware, by the term “originals” we are talking about that which, for arguments sake, Moses wrote not the MT.

    Now to the fun stuff, in your syllogism point B is actually quite problematic because you are ascribing inerrancy to MSS that are not the originals.

    All of the textual material I have advanced is to refute the concept of an original text, not inerrancy. I agree with inerrancy, I disagree with the concept of original texts.

  128. GLW Johnson said,

    May 17, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Let me be specific. If the ‘Save Our Seminary’ crowd had gotten their way we could have said good-bye to the Westminster that Machen founded. As is evident from the kind of things that they advocate ( simply look at the comments of FTH) WTS would have ended up looking like the Princeton seminary Machen & co. left! So , yes, it is a question of integrity and honesty. They did not ,then and they do not now share the vision of the seminary founders -and nothing could be plainer. It is sheer hypocrisy to even adopt as their banner ‘Save Our Seminary’-from what? From people determined to preserve the school from suffering the same fate as Old Princeton.

  129. Pete Myers said,

    May 17, 2009 at 9:56 am


    Richard… your first paragraph is just correcting me be re-asserting your position on whether there are any “originals”. That’s not an argument. I am defending the originals, because I believe there were originals.

    What, exactly, do you believe in the inerrancy of? If you believe in the inerrancy of a scripture, what is this thing you believe is inerrant?

  130. Ken Pierce said,

    May 17, 2009 at 10:02 am

    Professor Johnson, you are precisely right, and the parallel is most helpful.

    It is good to be reminded that it is not the liberals that sold old Princeton and Machen down the river, but the so-called moderates, just as it was the Moderates that destroyed Southern Seminary in Louisville.

    This is not slippery-slopism, but an argument from foundational presuppositions. It either is a presupposition that the Word of God is that, or else it is something less than that. If it is God’s book, it cannot therefore err. If it is less than that, it is a human document, maybe a record about God, but man must sit in judgment of it and determine which parts of it are God’s and which aren’t (Jesus seminar stuff, that).

    I do not possess the original Sgt. Pepper’s Album. I imagine it exists somewhere in Michael JAckson’s vaults –but that is faith, not sight. I do, howver, believe that what I have is a reliable copy of it, and trust that it is the original material.

    Similarly, the Word of God. “Modern” Bible scholarship has given us at least this: what we have is very close to the original text. No reason to rehearse all the arguments for it here.

    The other amazing thing is how close the substance of the critical text is to that of the received text –differing on no point of doctrine.

    Thanks for standing for truth and righteousness.

  131. Ken Pierce said,

    May 17, 2009 at 10:03 am

    I should say “nearly” destroyed Southern Seminary.

  132. Pete Myers said,

    May 17, 2009 at 10:03 am

    #128, Gary,

    Thanks, I have enough cultural hooks to “tune in” to what you’re saying now :)

    Incidentally, slightly random question for you – I’m perplexed by Coxhead’s article in the latest WTJ… what did you make of it, and can you suggest any further reading? I’ve got to admit to never having read Calvin like that before, and have tried in vain to find anything in print on double justification in Calvin (either pro or anti).

  133. Richard said,

    May 17, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Pete: A couple of points:

    (1) Do the originals exist now?
    (2) If not why defend the inerrancy of things that no longer exist?
    (3) What is your evidence that originals existed?

    I believe that the textual witnesses we have are without error in that they teach exactly what God wishes them to teach.

  134. GLW Johnson said,

    May 17, 2009 at 10:06 am

    See Daryl Hart’ post over at the Old Life Theological Society on the Coxhead piece.

  135. Pete Myers said,

    May 17, 2009 at 10:12 am

    #134, Gary,

    Thanks, yeah I read that, I was just looking for something with a bit more depth/detail.

    #133, Richard,

    Richard – if you don’t understand how I would answer 2, I think that demonstrates that you’re not engaging with the classical inerrantist position.

    This statement…

    I believe that the textual witnesses we have are without error in that they teach exactly what God wishes them to teach.

    …doesn’t get the heart of the issue at all.

    Do you agree with inerrancy as it has been classically defined? It’s not helpful to either of us for you to affirm your belief in inerrancy, and then so construe your presentation of it, that, I don’t recognise the inerrancy you’re affirming.

    Perhaps you can at least now see why I have suggested that your arguments are at points with straw men?

  136. Richard said,

    May 17, 2009 at 10:44 am


    From my perspective you seem to want to defend the inerrancy of something that does not exist and can offer no arguments to demonstrate that they ever existed.

    No, I do not agree with inerrancy as it has been classically defined for the very simple reason that the classical definition fails at the most basic of places, its starting point for it assumes an original text for which there is no evidence and the data which we do possess implies a contrary position. Hence I believe that the concept of inerrancy taught in the UCCF statement needs re-working taking into account the biblical data we have at our disposal.

  137. Richard said,

    May 17, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Oh and you may find the top two talks here helpful Pete.

  138. GLW Johnson said,

    May 17, 2009 at 10:52 am

    I find it most revealing that (1) you reject the ‘classical definition’of inerrancy and (2) while admitting you havn’t bothered to read the most recognizable name associated with the doctrine -B.B.Warfield -on the subject.

  139. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 17, 2009 at 11:13 am

    No way that I can keep up with the slipstream here.

    I just want to make a technical point:

    A slippery slope argument is called a “logical fallacy” because the conclusion does not follow from the premises.

    However, a slippery slope argument can be a sound inductive argument if two conditions are met:

    (1) A mechanism can be produced that pushes one down the slippery slope, and

    (2) Any likely stopping points can be shown ineffective.

    If those two conditions are met, then the slippery slope argument successfully shows that starting on the slope will likely end at the bottom.

    Richard, what I was asking way back in #95 was, what keeps you or your spiritual descendants (i.e., those who sit under your teaching) from moving on to denying the resurrection, as Bart Ehrman has done?

    In other words, can you produce a stopping point in your theology that does not undermine your own arguments?

    Jeff Cagle

  140. Richard said,

    May 17, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Gary: Having read E. J. Young, Charles Hodge and A. A. Hodge as well as other more modern advocates of inerrancy and seeing that all operate under the assumption of original texts my criticism above is valid.

    Correct me if I am wrong but didn’t Warfield believe the ending of Mark was inauthentic?

    Jeff: As I noted in #71 the type of literature we have in the NT is vastly different from the OT hence we should be wary of oversimplifying. Whilst the main focus of my interest is the OT I am of the opinion that form criticism of the gospels supports the historicity of the resurrection; overall the NT is vastly more simple than the OT to deal with. I haven’t read any of Bart Ehrman’s books.

  141. rfwhite said,

    May 17, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    103 FTH, thanks for putting things so nicely. May I say that I had no intention of representing the broader world of scholarship in my comments nor did I intend to deny that, while still in much discussion, that scholarship generally agrees that the LXX stems from an earlier Hebrew text of Jeremiah.

    112 Richard, I don’t doubt that my comments were overly simplistic or, at least, could be read as such. Either way, I certainly would concede that an argument that MT Jeremiah reflects the original Hebrew text would have to have provisos attached, such as those you mention.

    To both FTH and Richard: In general, with regard to issues in text criticism and their bearing on the matter of canonicity, I am more than happy to revisit these questions and others.

  142. Richard said,

    May 17, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    rfwhite: If we both accept my comments in #112 then this bears out issues for canonicity. Now, I find this fascinating but I am still thinking through it so I haven’t come to any hard and fast conclusions as of yet.

    If the early Church used the LXX as their OT with “Edition I” of Jeremiah how can we legitimately claim that the MT with “Edition II” is the true canon?

    As an aside, for anyone who is reading this and finding themselves interested do check out Richard Muller’s Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Scripture – The Cognitive Foundation of Theology for an historical overview of the Reformed approach to canonical issues until circa 1725.

  143. May 17, 2009 at 12:52 pm


    I take back my yawn. You are now officially my #1 best source of entertainment on the Internet. Please, please don’t ever stop.

  144. Vern Crisler said,

    May 17, 2009 at 1:29 pm


    There are plenty of examples in the Bible of updating, editorial comment, explanation of name changes, and so on. These show that Moses was not the ONLY writer of the five books of Moses. He wrote, or dictated to scribes, or edited material that makes up the main bulk of the five books. I know of know mainstream inerrantist who holds to a pedantic conception that Moses had to write everything (even about his death).

    Inerrantists do not deny a process of editorship. For instance, the editor of the Genesis material (Moses, Solomon, Ezra?) has amended Gen. 1:27 to include Eve in the original creation narrative. This is not a contradiction. It’s because the sacred writer knew what had happened in the next part, where the creation of Eve is described. He wants to make it plain that Eve was just as much a creation of God as was Adam. Probably by adding the comment “male and female He created them,” he was attacking an early form of hyper-patriarchalism, where Eve was thought to be the creation of the devil.

    Genesis 1 uses Elohim exclusively, whereas Gen. 2 adds Yahweh. There is no need to posit two sources or two creation narratives. The earliest writer used God in Gen 1 in order to establish the role of the Creator. Then, Moses probably, added Lord to God in the next part in order to identify Yahweh with Elohim. From that point on, Lord and God could be used interchangeably in the rest of the Bible to refer to the same Individual.

    Genesis 2:5 says “before any plant of the field was in the earth,” etc. This is not in contradiction to the creation narrative, which says plants were brought forth on the third day. Rather, it’s a post-Flood editorial perspective, when planting, tilling, and gardening were commonplace, and could be used as an illustration of pre-Edenic times.

    In addition, there are plenty of instances of after-the-fact descriptions. For instance, Genesis describes the location of Eden in terms of various post-Flood lands, i.e., Havilah, Cush, Assyria (Gen. 2:11-14).

    And of course, there are a number extra-Mosaic comments, along with the usual errors that creep into a text from copying. These sorts of things can show up in just about any historical narrative.

    Anachronistic references might tell us when the editorial or explanatory comment was added to the text. However, they tell us nothing as to when the bulk of the text was written. Apparently, those who advocate late compositional dates do not understand this basic logical distinction.

    Remember, the biblical writers did not have our scholarly apparatus or procedures (footnotes, brackets, addendums, etc.), so they editorialized, paraphrased, or glossed whenever they believed it would serve to make the text more understandable. That is not at all out of accord with an inerrantist view of the Bible, and it makes a lot more sense than the puerile JEDP business.


  145. Pete Myers said,

    May 17, 2009 at 2:42 pm


    its [classical inerrancy’s] starting point for it assumes an original text for which there is no evidence and the data which we do possess implies a contrary position.

    This snippet gives me an opportunity to try and clarify the case I’m putting forward to you. You are building your theology of scripture from your assessment of the manuscript evidence, and scripture as a passive “object”. The classical inerrantist position builds it’s theology of scripture from the didactic statements scripture makes about itself.

    Step back from your position for a second – I’ve not even attempted to answer one of your specific technical points about the manuscripts head on, because there’s a bigger and more fundamental epistemological sense in which we’re talking past each other.

    Again, I simply point you to Grudem. His first paragraph on inerrancy. He gives a slew of passages (which I’ve listed above for convenience) that are the foundation of his position. Attacking his position without proper consideration of the passages he’s listed is attacking a straw man. Grudem never sat down and looked at all the manuscript evidence and decided he was inerrantist. He sat down, looked at the didactic statements scripture makes about itself, and then worked out his model with which to approach the manuscript evidence from there.

    Let me say this as clearly as I can – I think some others have been saying it to you as well, but I haven’t seen you address it properly yet:

    Your problem is first and foremost methodological.

  146. Pete Myers said,

    May 17, 2009 at 2:47 pm


    Also as an aside, I would heartily recommend Bavinck’s Prolegomena (vol 1 of his Reformed Dogmatics) for a historical overview of the doctrines of Revelation and Scripture through the early church, eastern orthodox, Roman Catholic, Reformed, other Protestant denominations, and particularly as it touches on modernism/rationalism, and liberalism.

    Bavinck is also eerily prophetic about the direction epistemology and revelation would take in the 20th century with post-modernism as the logical child of modernism.

  147. GLW Johnson said,

    May 17, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    You’re from Crete, right?

  148. May 17, 2009 at 3:28 pm


    I remain in awe of your best arguments…insulting people and the like. Did you learn these on your debate team?

  149. Pete Myers said,

    May 17, 2009 at 3:31 pm


    Off topic

    Please take this as concern from a friend.

    – everything you write on these comment threads is public.
    – everything you write on someone elses blog/forum/website is out of your control, and is now available to the world at the discretion of other people.

    You’re obviously well read, and a “bright spark”. Be aware that many of the places where you could be most useful to the evangelical world in the future (e.g. UCCF staff; Oak Hill lecturer; Reform, etc. etc.) take a radically different view to the one you’re currently putting forward on this issue.

    Being sympathetic to a particular point of view (like the anti-inerrantist position) for a little while as you grapple with the issues, is the sign of a good independent mind. However, you want to be careful what you might publish yourself saying that you may regret later when you’ve reflected more on the issues, and rubbed shoulders with evangelical scholars (rather than having to engage with them through books and web alone).

    Inadvertently being painted into a corner by a web discussion is one thing (web is rubbish for godliness, clarity and charity). But you seem pretty clear, and what you seem pretty clear on is out of the ordinary for evanglicals, and could land you in serious trouble in our circles… conservative evangelicalism can be a hard boat to get back into… just think it through before you publish too much.

    Remember… as a friend, etc. etc.

    Ok… off topic comment over…

  150. GLW Johnson said,

    May 17, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    A question is not an argument little foolish one. But I am not surprised that you cannot tell the difference.

  151. May 17, 2009 at 4:01 pm


    Thanks for not letting me down!

  152. GLW Johnson said,

    May 17, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    FTH and MT
    Would you two mind coming out from behind your masks and being candid?
    MT claims that the dismissal of Peter Enns was a ‘political coup’. The S.O.S. crowd, that you two were part of, claimed that the seminary was being taken over by people with sinister motives-but can you in all seriousness really claim to stand in the noble tradition of the founding faculty? Your comments here and elsewhere demonstrate that you loath the Westminster tradition. You have nothing in common with Machen,Van Til and E.J.Young. Had Enns appeared before that group of men and sought a teaching position on the faculty do you really think he would have been confirmed based on the things in his book I&I ? What about you FTH, do you think E.J. Young would have welcomed you on to the faculty given the things you have stated on this blog? The fact is that guys like FTH, MT, Art Boulet, Carlos Bovell-all devoted disciples of Enns, despise what the founding faculty members Westminster seminary historically stood for. Ask any of them their assessment of Van Til or E. J. Young -they mock those men ( oh, yes I have heard about the way the ‘Van Tillian light sabre’ was used to dismiss that great man-and this in classes at WTS!). I hold the lot you in contempt for your pretentious scholarship and arrogance.

  153. GLW Johnson said,

    May 17, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    My apologies for the last statement- too harsh- but I dislike the way you have tried to portray yourselves as being victims of th heavy-handed meanies at WTS, while knowing full well that it you who have departed from the Old Princeton/Westminster tradition.

  154. Nathan said,

    May 17, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    Re: Vern 144. What is the reason for seeing the inclusion of the female (nqebah) in Gen 1:27 as a redaction and not an original part of the story?

    Even stranger is your claim that Gen 2:5 gives a “post-Flood editorial perspective, when planting, tilling, and gardening were commonplace.” ‘eseb hasadeh likely does refer to cultivated plant life, but there is no way of construing siach hasadeh (shrub of the field) as having anything to do with the human activity of planting, tilling, and gardening. The two terms are a merism for all plant life. Note the two reasons for this lack of plant life: both no man to work the ground (covering the realm of cultivated plant life, ‘eseb hasadeh) AND no rain (covering all plant life including the siach hasadeh). Gen 2:4b-7 state that YHWH God formed the man before any plants existed. I fail to see how invoking a post-flood perspective somehow harmonizes this to the creation order in ch. 1.

  155. May 17, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    No apology needed in #153 Gary. If you weren’t being harsh, we wouldn’t know it was you ;-)

  156. Reed Here said,

    May 17, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    So Gary’s point of comparsion/contrast stands Mark?

  157. GLW Johnson said,

    May 17, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    Thanks Mark, I knew you would understand. Hey, did anyone ever tell you that you bear an uncanny resemblance to Oil-Can Harry and Snydely Whip-lash?

  158. May 17, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    Again, GLW, you do not disappoint! : )

  159. Vern Crisler said,

    May 17, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    Nathan, it’s easy to multiply contradictions and disharmonies in the Bible if you leave out the author’s perspective and to whom he’s writing.

    I don’t know what you mean by “redaction.” That has a JEDP ring to it. I’m talking about editorial gloss, commentary, elaboration, clarification, paraphrase — something that’s done all the time nowadays (usually in footnotes though).


  160. May 17, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    Perhaps I can try a semi-serious interaction with GLW (#152) here. We need to make some further distinctions and points.

    It is possible both that (1) Enns’ work (decontextualized) stands contrary to the vision of Machen/Van Til/EJ Young (somewhat decontextualized as well) and that they would never have hired Enns and that (2) the administration handled the situation in a way accurately described as a (Machiavellian) “political coup.” So I both agree and disagree with you here GLW. That said, I do not get the impression that you really care how the administration handled things; how sinful, under-handed, unhumble, etc., they might have been…as long as “the truth” won out. Put another way, you have often dismissed such behavioral (righteousness!) concerns of mine and others (SOS) as “Liberal whining.” It is possible that the administration pursued a course in line with the (decontextualized) founders of the school through sinister motives and means. In such a hypothetical scenario, behavioral failures would bother and concern me much more than the theological-direction issues (with which I would also disagree).

    Also, you seem to have a very decontextualized all-or-nothing approach to assessing us in relation to Machen, EJ Young, Van Til, etc. I have never claimed to represent the same (i.e., comparing my specific views to their views…all decontextualized) positions as EJ Young, Van Til, and Murray. I emphatically disagree with them on many points. BTW, I emphasize “decontextualized” not because I think you and others do not study these figures in their contexts, but because you ultimately use them and their views as decontextualized talking-heads (perhaps I could elaborate on this later if our conversation goes well).

    I do not evaluate through such an all-or-nothing approach. I would argue that a “trajectory” involving nuanced WTS ways of viewing (and instinctive attitudes towards) the Bible, God, and theology arcs from those founders through Stonehouse, (earlier) Gaffin, Dillard, Longman, Silva, Conn, Groves, Ferguson (!), McCartney, Enns, Taylor, etc. Thus the decontextualized views on specific issues of Dillard/Enns and EJ Young, for example, might not match…but a continuity in trajectory exists. I would be happy to flesh this out in greater detail if you and others would like. I hesitate to spend time on it in this post as I have seen your pointed denunciations of such trajectory arguments.

    Again, allow me to make clear, these trajectory arguments DO NOT claim an all-or-nothing identity in keeping with your preferred approach. They, instead, focus on trajectories only discernable through examining all these WTS figures and their views (founders included) in their respective contexts, understanding them and their views’ significances therein.

    So, again, I fully agree that if you decontextualize my views and compare them to decontextualized views of Machen and Young (using that as the WTS touchstone), sure…I am not of WTS. Dillard is not of WTS. Groves, Enns, Taylor, McCartney, Conn, etc., are not of WTS (btw, all these people differ from each other on many things too). But this focuses a main area wherein we differ. I do not place value on such decontextualized comparisons and theology. Our views, their significance, their real meaning, etc., only make sense as part of our contexts. As Westminster’s context and those of its students have changed (we are no longer in the early 20th century), I think it fitting that its specific views change, constantly bringing forth different fitting manifestations of a core WTS trajectory-identity. You and others, however, reject this notion of Westminster’s identity and what it “is.” Thus we differ.

    Perhaps you can at least admit that in our way of viewing what WTS “is” and its identity, it is reasonable (and not sinister and duplicitous) for us to view ourselves as representing something of Westminster and what made it special. Again, obviously we disagree, but can you at least understand this way we approach the situation? We, or at least I, do not “despise what the founding faculty members Westminster seminary historically stood for.” I simply understand them from a different point of view, the validity of which you reject (just as I reject yours).

    As for mocking Van Til and EJ Young…I have certainly mocked aspects of Van Til, and especially how some current Van Tilians embody him. To my knowledge, however, I have never mocked EJ Young. I disagree with many specific things he wrote. At the same time, I have long argued that EJ’s honesty with and commitments to the Scriptures differs in some fundamental ways from much of contemporary American Reformed-Evangelicaldom. Perhaps I will flesh this out later…for now I want to wrap up this comment and go to sleep.

    This all said, I no longer have a dog in this fight. “My side” lost. The current administration (though still somewhat diverse) seeks to roll back the WTS clock and to redefine what WTS “is” more in line with your all-or-nothing approach and less in line with the trajectory approach. They are rolling back the WTS of Stonehouse(you and others might dispute this name here), Dillard, Conn, Groves, Inerrancy and Hermeneutic, etc., and redefining the school (or you might say, recovering) in such a way that those figures and that writing reside outside of Westminster’s identity. They are in the process of stripping away from Westminster much of what made Westminster special and Westminster to me…and, THEY CAN do this if they want. I do not like it. I wish this had not happened. I think this makes Westminster less useful to the Kingdom, etc. But this is, again, where we disagree. Many of my frustrations concern how the administration accomplished this normalization of Westminster. Even here, however, what I think no longer matters. “We” lost. I am no longer at Westminster and the administration does not care what I think and I no longer care what any of the administration thinks of me. My functional interests in the situation are now restricted to (1) friends of mine still at WTS, (2) WTS communicating clearly its new identity and where it is going so that prospective students know what they are getting, and (3) times when, for whatever reason (latent frustration, sin, residual interests in view of my long prior active commitments, etc.), I feel the urge to devote mental and emotional energy to discussing WTS in various settings.

    I hope all this makes sense. Now, time for me to go to sleep. I have a long day tomorrow of reading Cicero and Apuleius.

  161. Nathan said,

    May 18, 2009 at 5:37 am


    You haven’t answered my question. How does the fact that the society of the author and audience was agricultural make gen 2:5 mean something other than that the man was formed before there was any plant life? How does the author’s “post-flood perspective” make 2:5 mean only that there was no gardening/human plant-cultivation before the man was created?

    Parenthetically, it is interesting that this verse lists the lack of rainfall as one of the reasons for the lack of plant life. If you want to claim Mosaic authorship here, how does this lack of rain function as a reason for lack of plant life for an audience that had come out of Egypt where rainfall had nothing to do with the cultivation or natural growth of plants? For that hypothetical audience, claiming that there was no plant life because there was no rain would make little sense.

  162. GLW Johnson said,

    May 18, 2009 at 6:08 am

    I take back the aforementioned apology FTH-I really do hold you in contempt not only for your pretentious claims to scholarship and your arrogance but for your continue ” Liberal whining”. Pathetic.

  163. GLW Johnson said,

    May 18, 2009 at 6:30 am

    Pardon me but I just saw your comment # 140. Your remark about BBW and the ending of Mark is, incredibly ,more telling than ever that you simply do understand the Old Princeton doctrine of inerrancy.

  164. GLW Johnson said,

    May 18, 2009 at 6:31 am

    correction: that should red ” you do NOT understand…”

  165. GLW Johnson said,

    May 18, 2009 at 6:33 am

    hhmm… not red but ‘read’. It’s Monday.

  166. Pete Myers said,

    May 18, 2009 at 7:03 am


    As a UK conservative evangelical whom has just been selected by the Church England for training for ministry… what would you make of the UK evangelical theological colleges, such as Oak Hill, Ridley, Wycliffe, etc. etc. (from what you know of them).

  167. GLW Johnson said,

    May 18, 2009 at 7:07 am

    I would refer you to my Welsh friend Martin Downes .His blog, ‘Against Heresies’ is stellar.

  168. Reformed Sinner said,

    May 18, 2009 at 8:21 am

    #160 FTH:

    I am sadden that I keep hearing Pro-Enns people saying how WTS behaved line Canaanites in their handling of Enns situation. That is simply and absolutely not true at all, and I really urge repentance on whoever is still saying this as they are making false accusations on fellow brothers in Christ.

    As a concerned party that has been informed about the whole controversy, I know the following are facts:

    1) WTS has been concerned about Enns’ teachings for a long time, and there were constant dialogues for a good 2 years leading up to Enns dismissal. Enns was given plenty of time to explain, articulate, formulate, and show himself to be consistent with the WTS tradition and belief system.

    2) While Enns has been voted favorably by the faculty votes, but the face of the matter is the “weight” of the dissenting voices are too great for the board to not consider that seriously. I know pro-Enns gangs don’t like to hear why Gaffin’s vote should be “weighted” more than say a PT professor’s vote, but the fact of the matter is anyone should be worried when most of the big theological professors voted unfavorably to Enns.

    3) The Board has given Enns ample time to explain himself to them. However, pro-Enns people seem to accept Enns snubbing of the board too easily citing “scheduling conflict.” The fact of the matter is the Board has given Enns months in advance to schedule and Enns has AGREED to the appointment time, but Enns pulled out in the last second and somehow it’s the Board’s fault that they didn’t hear Enns out.

    Finally, there’s a lot of under the table unofficial interactions that different people are extending to Enns, as far as I’m concerned, WTS has shown Enns all the charity expected of Christian men and more.

    So I do not understand why pro-Enns people not only believe, but convinced, that WTS has back-stabbed Enns and handle the whole thing like KGB.

  169. Reformed Sinner said,

    May 18, 2009 at 8:29 am

    #140 Richard:

    “….. its starting point for it assumes an original text for which there is no evidence and the data which we do possess implies a contrary position. Hence I believe that the concept of inerrancy taught in the UCCF statement needs re-working taking into account the biblical data we have at our disposal.”

    Having been someone who is clearly a scholar, shouldn’t recent developments in textual criticism answered this for you already?

  170. Reformed Sinner said,

    May 18, 2009 at 8:39 am


    Just want to echo what you said about Prof. Johnson’s take. I’ve seem it everywhere too, and not just the institutions. When “moderates” open the door a bit, no matter how little, the end result is always the same, a downward slippery slope to some-other tradition that is no longer Biblical.

    I’m sure most of PCUSA pastors meant well when they wanted to end conflicts, and get rid of hateful radicals like Machen that kept on insisting it’s all or nothing. I am really sure that most of them are rolling over in their graves when they see how PCUSA has progress after their good intentions to be a little bit inclusive.

    Just like I have no doubt Enns meant well, and his supporters meant well too. I never doubted their faith in Christ and their heart for expansion of God’s kingdom. But unfortunately I can already predict the end result: something other than the Bible. It’s really interesting that FTH is pretty much saying the same things Charles Briggs and PCUSA moderates were saying before: why does it always have to be all or nothing, why not expand our confessions/beliefs/etc a little bit to include other possibilities for the sake of expansion of God’s kingdom?

    It’s also interesting that they firmly believed Enns represents the true spirit of WTS, when WTS is built on the banner it’s all or nothing. Machen’s classic book “Christianity and Liberalism” pretty much spelled that out. Don’t know how much more Machen needed to express himself on that. For Machen and his WTS colleagues it is always about all-or-nothing. He meant it so much he established his own Mission Board and discouraged people to work with PCUSA’s mission board (which is what really got PCUSA mad.)

  171. GLW Johnson said,

    May 18, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Reformed Sinner
    Say, Kindred spirit,how would I go about getting in touch with you ?

  172. May 18, 2009 at 9:20 am

    GLW (162),

    Thank you for continuing to use your best arguments here.

    The true disappointment in all this is that the Westminster administration has not offered you an administrative or faculty position. I think you fit perfectly, in all ways exemplifying the new Westminster. Honestly, you should apply for one of the still-open Biblical Studies positions. Presumably those taking these positions need not operate as academically (i.e., secular academy) creative contributors to the field, but as Confessionalist-Reformed preservers of tradition. With your expertise in Old Princeton Biblical Studies (and what it endeavored not to be: Briggs) you fit the ideal here perfectly. If I had a vote, I would vote for you GLW.

    You would fit right in with where the administration desires to lead WTS. In fact, no doubt you would help them refine and clarify their visions faster and communicate more clearly the true-desired nature of WTS to current and prospective students.

    Again, you perfectly embody and represent the new-old Westminster. Hopefully you can take your place there soon.

  173. GLW Johnson said,

    May 18, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Thankfully, FTH, you have zero influence at WTS. Time will tell the kind of path you will end up traveling. I wpould hope however you don’t continue in the bitterness that you have displayed in your attitude towards the individuals and the seminary that you have vivilfied repeatedly.

  174. Pete Myers said,

    May 18, 2009 at 9:41 am


    …how does this kind of discussion honour Christ?

    It’s just painful to read.

  175. GLW Johnson said,

    May 18, 2009 at 9:48 am

    Titus 1:13 for starters. FTH has ,through out thread, merited just such a rebuke.

  176. Pete Myers said,

    May 18, 2009 at 9:56 am

    The rights and wrongs of the theology is not what I had in mind…

  177. Reed Here said,

    May 18, 2009 at 11:43 am

    All: no further posts in which anyone characterizes the private motives, goals and actions of others as sinful, sinister, etc. This is not the place for such talk, and can only be engaged in here sinfully.

    This is not directed against any discussion/debate of a doctrinal and/or exegetical opinion expressed here. Nor is it against any opinions of where such opinions may lead.

    It is to squelch unkind, unfair, unrighteous discussion of others and their actions that are not in view here.

  178. Reformed Sinner said,

    May 18, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Dear GLW,

    I think you have my email, or at least Lane would. I prefer not to give them out in public as I’m getting my fair share of junk mails.

  179. Richard said,

    May 18, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Pete: My comment # 136 sums up where I am at currently. You cite Grudem, he can produce manifold arguments for the inerrancy of the original autographs but until he can prove that they existed…you know the drill by now.

    I really hope you enjoy your time at seminary…make sure you pay attention during your classes on textual criticism! ;-)

  180. May 18, 2009 at 2:19 pm


    Where are you going to seminary?

  181. Reformed Sinner said,

    May 18, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    #179 Richard,

    I am merely pointing out how, on the one hand, you cherish the brilliance of academia, and on the other hand, you reject a very matured developed area of academia, namely, the textual critical field.

    As for your claim that “data shows contrary position” are more driven by your a priori that the Bible is a mess rather than careful research in the area of Biblical criticisms. An area not started by the Church but by the academia, and yet when the Church successfully reclaimed that area as their own to defend the Bible we are now seeing scholars jump ship and claim it’s all but a fantasy. How nice.

  182. May 18, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    ReformedSinner (181),

    “…Biblical criticisms. An area not started by the Church but by the academia, and yet when the Church successfully reclaimed that area as their own to defend the Bible we are now seeing scholars jump ship and claim it’s all but a fantasy…”


  183. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 18, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    So, way, if I say it in Latin, then I can say it, Gary? And I meant it in the purely Lewisian sense.

    Honestly, Lane, I simply asked you to interact with that particular part of Horton’s article. What are the discoveries of BT? How does ST develop? That’s all. I wasn’t presently him as opposing you, but just as a different perspective in the discussion (at least in the first part of the article). In reply, you implied that I hadn’t read the entire article (“if you had read the entire article”) and that I was somehow “cherry-picking” Horton for my own purposes that did not reflect Horton’s own thought. Remember the little grade-school proverb about assuming?

    So, a non-answer combined with a rebuke and a warning seemed a little arrogant to me. If I replaced the “makes you look like an” with “you are an arrogant,” a la Scott Clark, would that have been okay? Or, alternatively, I could have said it (and a lot more) in Latin, like Gary.

    Perhaps you could start another thread, in which we could actually discuss what development in ST would look like, since the much of the commentary on this post seems to have gone in a different direction. I also didn’t see Reed’s question, since there were so many other comments. I’d be happy to specify what I was asking comment on, but not if you’re just going to assume that because I asked about A I had failed or refused to read B.

  184. Pete Myers said,

    May 18, 2009 at 4:49 pm


    Hello Reed, good to see you again. Thanks brother.

    #179 Richard,

    I’ve got to say, I’m almost dumbfounded by your comment, to be honest:

    You cite Grudem, he can produce manifold arguments for the inerrancy of the original autographs but until he can prove that they existed…you know the drill by now.

    Read my typing: you are missing the point. I won’t state the point again, but, as politely (but as clearly) as I can… you don’t know the drill by now it seems. You don’t even seem to have addressed the fact that I’ve repeatedly told you that you’re missing the point.

    You’re citing what you consider to be evidence (or lack of it). I’m retorting with the issue of presuppositions (or the lack of awareness of them). I feel a bit like Jeremy Paxman here brother :)

    #180 FTH,

    I’m not sure yet. I’ve been chosen by the Church of England for training (I’m UK based). I have a final conversation with my DDO in a fortnight.

    I’ve been encouraged toward Oxbridge, as my selectors said I had potential as a possible theological lecturer someday. However, the Oak Hill faculty is probably far closer to where I am theologically. I’m tending towards Oak Hill for my undergraduate degree, and then if in God’s grace I do get the opportunity for further study (which would suit my temperament, but I need to discover if it would suit my gifts), then Cambridge would be a great place to do a postgraduate research degree of some kind.

    This is all getting way ahead of myself, however. Reading lots and being able to talk fast is a far cry from cutting your teeth in the real academic world, I recognise that.

  185. Ron Henzel said,

    May 18, 2009 at 5:28 pm


    You just don’t get it. You’re the one who came off looking the way you assumed Lane made himself look.

  186. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 19, 2009 at 8:31 am

    Actually, I didn’t assume that’s how he made himself look. Since I’m an observer, he did in fact look that way to me. Perhaps I should have said: “Lane, I find your reply arrogant and condescending, particularly in the way you assume that a) I have not read the full article and b) I need your rebuke and warning about proper contextual understanding, when all I did was ask for comments on a particular part of the article.” Or, again, I could have called him names in Latin.

    Do you think that Scott Clark comes off looking like that when he calls people that sort of name on his blog?

  187. Richard said,

    May 19, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Pete, let’s take a step back to the UCCf statement:

    “The Bible, as originally given, is the inspired and infallible Word of God. It is the supreme authority in all matters of belief and behaviour.”

    Question; What, according to this statement, is “the inspired and infallible Word of God”?
    Answer; The Bible as it was originally given.

    Now, if by this is meant the final form of each book and by infallible we mean something other than inerrant (cf. Chicago Statement definitions) then I can agree with it.

    But if by “as it was originally given” it means the “original autographs” then I can’t.

    Of course the UCCF statement does not clarify its terms, and does not mention inerrancy.

    You say I am missing the point, well am I correct that the classical definition of inerrancy ran along the lines of “The original autographs are inerrant”?

  188. Pete Myers said,

    May 19, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    #187, Richard,

    You are missing the point, yes. I’ll break this down in a bit more detail.

    Firstly infallibility = inerrancy. I’m using the terms in the “normal”, “classical”, “popular” way they are used by mainstream evangelicals across the board. If you want that normal mainstream definition – just glance at one page of Grudem’s ST. I don’t even like Grudem’s ST, however, it is on the shelf of every UCCF Staff Worker’s study. So I’m referring to him simply to demonstrate to you that I’m not working with quirky redefinitions.

    Secondly – and this is the bit I don’t feel you’re understanding – why do people believe in infallibility/inerrancy? Again, simply by reading a popular level ST such as Grudem’s, you should be able to see, that, the reasons why he believes in inerrancy are not the reasons you are addressing.

    A) Here is the reasoning behind inerrancy unpacked:
    1) Scripture makes statements about itself.
    2) Those statements, understood rightly, tell us that scripture is infallible and inerrant.

    B) Here is the reasoning behind what you’re arguing unpacked:
    1) There is manuscript evidence, and scriptural detail that I can observe
    2) By analysing those, I can assemble a view of scripture
    3) As I look at that data, it appears to me that scripture isn’t inerrant (in the classical sense, i.e. there was no original autograph, the texts contain things that aren’t objectively true, etc. etc.)

    Look at Grudem, and you will see that he reasons from what Scripture says about itself… and builds his doctrinal position from that. He then secondarily looks at the manuscript evidence, not to build a doctrinal position, but in order to try and defend the view he has already come to.

    This is why, Richard, many, many people believe in inerrancy without ever looking at the documentary data. They (and I) don’t believe in inerrancy because someone looked at all the manuscripts and told me “hey, when you look at these manuscripts, and you look at all the information in scripture, you can see that none of it makes a mistake at any point – therefore scripture is inerrant.” Instead, I believe in inerrancy because someone told me “Hey, when you look at what the Bible says about itself, inerrancy is something you have to believe, because the Bible tells you to believe it.”

    In every case where the Bible says something about itself, there are unresolved tensions where that doesn’t bear itself out in what I observe… at which point I believe the Bible for the Bible’s sake, and wait for my experience/knowledge to catch up.

    The Bible tells me miracles happen… I believe it because it says so, and not because I’ve seen solid evidence of miracles. The Bible tells me God is sovereign and he is also completely good… I believe it because it says so, despite all of what I observe to the contrary on the news.

    So… the point is this, Richard. You are “fighting the battle” on the wrong front. For the Evangelical Christian, the question of whether scripture is inerrant is not decided in the carefully study of form criticism… it is decided by the careful exegesis of the statements scripture makes about itself.

    Bavinck, Hodge, Warfield, Grudem, and I may all be wrong about what those verses are saying…. but the problem here is that you’re not even addressing them to demonstrate that to me. For convenience, I will re-quote that passage from Grudem again, so that you can see some of the verses I’m talking about,

    There [in ch4] it was argued that all the words in the Bible are God’s words, and that therefore to disbelieve or disobey any word in Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God. It was argued further that the Bible clearly teaches that God cannot lie or speak falsely (2 Sam. 7v28; Titus 1v2; Heb. 6v18). Therefore, all the words in Scripture are claimed to be completely true and without error in any part (Num. 23v19; Pss. 12v6; 199v89, 96; Prov. 30v5; Matt 24v35). God’s words are, in fact, the ultimate standard of truth (John 17v17).

    Finally… the challenge that Scott makes in his WTJ essay applies here in this discussion. If you have no alternative explanation to what these verses mean (the verses where scripture claims inerrancy for itself), and yet you don’t believe such inerrancy to be true, then, the situation you are in, is that Scripture says A, but you believe non-A… in other words you are not submitting to the Bible in those circumstances.

    Every response that comes back to me with “but I don’t believe in original autographs”, or “but the manscript evidence says” is further demonstration that you’re not reading what scripture says about itself, and privileging that above your own personal opinion. Which is why I keep saying “you’re missing the point”

  189. Richard said,

    May 19, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Pete: All I am doing is testing what Grudem is saying, he is defending the inerrancy of the original autographs. If the original autographs never existed then inerrancy is refuted. As I see no evidence whatsoever for original autographs I find no reason to accept inerrancy.

    Your method seems to be using errant texts (what we have) to prove the inerrancy of that which we don’t. Perhaps you can see the irony of this, but I digress. Does the OT claim itself is inerrant? I do not argue that God can lie nor am I arguing that the Bible is not trustworthy, so the only verses that remain of Gruden’s list are:

    Ps. 119:89, 96 “Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless.”

    This is great poetry but is it really teaching inerrancy? The term “prooftexting” springs to mind.

    Matt 24:35 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

    Not sure what relevance this verse has.

    John 17:17 “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”

    Is this referring to the Bible? Calvin writes, “for the word here denotes the doctrine of the Gospel, which the apostles had already heard from the mouth of their Master, and which they were afterwards to preach to others”.

  190. Pete Myers said,

    May 19, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    #189 Richard,

    Is there a case to answer for that the Biblical claims inerrancy for itself? Or are you claiming that the case is sooo weak it can be simply dismissed that quickly?

    And, yes, I do believe John 17v17 has implications on scripture, since scripture is God’s Word written. I do not believe you can draw such a sharp distinction between the information which makes up the gospel, and the scriptures. Which information in the scriptures, exactly, is the gospel? And how can you justify that Jesus is only refering to this canon with a canon here?

  191. Richard said,

    May 19, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Pete: Let’s try an wrap this issue up, what practical impications does your accepting inerrancy have? i.e. Is the Bible version in your hand inerrant? No, I agree. Are the MSS those versions were translated from inerrant? No, I agree. Do we have the originals? No, I agree. Ultimately then, when you sit down to prepare your sermon, what lies before you is an errant translation of errant MSS and that is the exact same situation I am in. So practically speaking this issue is rather moot. Even if you can prove that the Bible teaches that God’s word is inerrant, then either you must conclude that (1) the Bible you hold is God’s word and so inerrant, or (2) the Bible you hold in your hand is not inerrant and so is not God’s word.

    As an aside, do read Waltke’s “Aims of OT Textual Criticism”.

  192. Pete Myers said,

    May 19, 2009 at 2:50 pm


    Richard, if you want to wrap up, fine. If so, I’m not gonna try and score points on the issues… but I am going to say something big.

    If you want to say the issue is moot – I totally disagree. You seem like such a well read guy, however, if you’re so well read, then how can you possibly not understand why the issue is important?? Why do you think I keep pushing you to Grudem? He thinks it’s important… and he’s just a popular-level systematician. The bigger hitters like Bavinck have even more reasons. Whether they’re right or not, it’s just incredible to hear you waft the importance of this aside so nonchalently, as though you really don’t “get” how big a deal this is.

    It’s almost as though you’ve not really paid any attention to the people you disagree with whom you’ve read, other than to see the position that you’ve taken vindicated, because they don’t deal with the specific arguments about autographs that you want them to.

    Brother… in all seriousness you should speak to both your pastor, and your tutors at the North West training course. Don’t throw them a load of stuff about manuscript evidence, which is just well too specialist for them to have any immediate working knowledge of. Come absolutely clean with them and say “I disagree with the UCCF Doctrinal Basis, I disagree with the North West Gospel Partnership Doctrinal Basis, I disagree with the classical doctrine that scripture is inerrant.”

    I appeal to you, brother, to do so in an honest and open way with them, and not to fudge the issues in a way that doesn’t help them understand where you are on the issues that they and the vast majority of Conservative Evangelicals consider to be important… not just the issues you consider to be important. Not to be clear with them about your position on this kind of stuff wouldn’t be honest. Not to understand why it’s important feels – well – naive. But to not appreciate that it will be very important to Conservative Evangelicals that you deny inerrancy is potentially culpable.

    Inerrancy is obviously crucially important to those you work for and with, whose congregations you are being given a privilege to teach in. The North West Gospel Partnership Doctrinal Basis goes even further than the UCCF one:

    The Bible, as originally given, is the inspired, inerrant and infallible word of God. Christians must therefore submit to its supreme authority and sufficiency, both individually and corporately, in every matter of belief and conduct.

    Can you see that this DB considers inerrancy to underpin authority?

    I’m not telling you to quit, brother… I’m simply telling you that even if you don’t think this issue is important, you can’t pretend that it isn’t very, very important to the people you work for… and so absolute, clear, up front and total honesty with them is what you owe them.

    I did the East Anglia Partnership equivalent of the North West Training Course, and I also trained as an associate at St Helen’s, Bishopsgate. In both of those places, if I had disagreed with the UCCF Doctrinal basis, then neither of the posts I was in would have been happy with me doing ministry, and the route of integrity would have been to get a secular job. Whether I thought the issue of disagreement was important or not… something like inerrancy is jolly important to everyone else.

    In both training courses, the absolute bare minimum definition of an Evangelical was: (a) Soteriology, and (b) Doctrine of Scripture (i.e. authority/infalibility/inerrancy, etc.). We’d like to define an Evangelical far more narrowly than that… but those were the two things that, consistently, when pushed for the absolute bare essentials of what an Evangelical is, were always the rock bottom… in both EAGP, and at my time in St Helen’s and Cornhill.

    I would love to continue to discuss the issue of inerrancy with you more, brother. The web is a bad place to do it, but currently it’s the only place we’ve been able to do it.

    If you want to end the discussion, that’s ok… but if we’re ending it where we’re ending it, I feel responsible/bound to make the above statements clear to you. Both for your sake, and for the sake of my brothers in the NWGP.

    Yours in Christ

  193. Richard said,

    May 20, 2009 at 7:03 am

    Pete: Thanks for that, you repeatedly say that ‘inerrancy is very important to evangelicals’ however you did not really explain why. Nor did you really interact with #191, i.e. the logic of your own argument irrespective of the original autographs.

    You may want to try How the Bible Became a Book: The Textualization of Ancient Israel by William M. Schniedewind.

    I am happy to discuss inerrancy but to be told repeatedly by yourself that I can’t use manuscript evidence is somewhat self-defeating from my point of view. Now I understand if you do not understand the evidence from the manuscripts and their implications, hence I would suggest you start there. Try, The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls by James C. VanderKam and Peter W. Flint

    You are simply asserting the existence of original autographs and then appealing to verses to justify claiming that they were inerrant. I, on the other hand, stand back and say…”Hold on a second, are you sure to want to be ascribing inerrancy to things that don’t exist (if they ever did) and then spend hours definding that claim?”

  194. Pete Myers said,

    May 20, 2009 at 8:42 am

    Richard, I deliberately said at the top of that comment that I wasn’t going to address the issues directly this was because you had called the conversation to a close. Since you decry me not doing that, I will do so now…

    but to be told repeatedly by yourself that I can’t use manuscript evidence is somewhat self-defeating from my point of view

    That’s what happens when you rub up to a presuppositionalist argument, but you’re not prepared for it.

    The very thing you are not doing is “standing back”. You are citing what you consider to be “evidence” but you haven’t first considered what is and isn’t admissible evidence in building the doctrine of inerrancy. The fact that you repeated come back to me with manuscript evidence, seemingly frustrated by why I’m not prepared to deal with the “obvious” just goes to show the problem you have.

    I will show you this logical error again in different words:

    1) Every doctrine we hold to is undermined by some of our experience and reasoning.
    2) But we don’t hold to those doctrines because of our experience and reasoning.
    3) Therefore we keep believing those doctrines, in the face of experience and reasoning that tells us the contrary.

    If you spend long enough thinking about it, and are intellectually honest, you will see this applies to every single doctrine, not just inerrancy.

    If the Bible said “elephants literally have 5 legs”, then no matter how many elephantologists told me elephants had 4 legs, I would still believe elephants have 5 legs. I would hold this belief by faith, waiting for the day when science would suddenly discover that man had been wrong all along, elephants do have 5 legs, there was a leg hidden behind it’s stomach. That would be the faithful thing to do. Please bear in mind, that, every time you talk to a congregation member about the autographs of scripture, you are forcing them to make a similar choice – do I believe this clever guy who sounds like he’s being very reasonable, or do I believe this crazy thing the Bible tells me to believe?

    Even then, when I do go to Oak Hill and learn about manuscript evidence, I suspect the situation to be far, far more complex, and nowhere near as clear cut as you seem to think it is. I don’t claim to be an expert now, because, despite the fact that I have read widely on the subject (well.. more widely than you seem to give me credit for), I haven’t been trained in it (and especially because the manuscript evidence is not the issue anyway).

    On a more serious note… I have spoken to a couple of pastors in the East Anglia Gospel Partnership. They have all counselled that they would like me to speak to your pastor, just to let him know what is going on. Let me just explain why:
    1) You believe stuff that is out of accord with the common Evangelical Doctrinal Bases we all use… and you have explicitly said you disagree with them.
    2) You’ve now repeatedly said that you fail to understand why the issue is important to everyone else. But it is… very.
    3) You are very, very, very active in pushing your views it seems to me.

    I am not a heresy hunter. But I now feel obliged and responsible (people have asked me) to send your pastor an email, inviting him to read through our conversations here, and making sure that he understands exactly what your position on these issues is. You have been a charitable guy, and this has not turned personal between us, this is simply to make sure that he is clear on what your view actually is. Please let me know what church you work for.

    Brother, if you are young, I would counsel you to reflect on the words of Thielicke: “every theological idea which makes an impression upon you must be regarded as a challenge to your faith. Do not assume as a matter of course that you believe whatever impresses you theologically and enlightens you intellectually.”

    Yours in Christ

  195. Richard said,

    May 20, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Pete: I disagree that “Every doctrine we hold to is undermined by some of our experience and reasoning” and I am no Van Tillian, i.e. I don’t agree with presuppositionalism.

    If you want to report me for denying the existence of original autographs then that is up to you, I am sure my pastor has more important things to deal with.

  196. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 20, 2009 at 10:03 am

    Richard, let’s say that all of Scripture comes to us in the same process that the Psalms did: multiple authors, collated into a single canonical book at some point (perhaps quite late).

    Would you agree or disagree with this statement:

    “The original sources are the words intended by the Holy Spirit, and as such are free from error.”

    If No, then perhaps the textual issue is a red herring here.

    If Yes, then would you agree with this statement:

    “The canonical books contain relatively few deviations from the original sources.”

    In other words, I’m trying to understand whether your primary dispute is with inerrancy proper, textual corruption, or the mere fact (theory?) of redaction.

    Jeff Cagle

  197. Richard said,

    May 20, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Hi Jeff,

    I could affirm “The final form are the words intended by the Holy Spirit, and as such are free from error when understood in accordance with its genre.”

    I am not sure what you meant by “original sources”.

    Does that clarify things?

  198. Pete Myers said,

    May 20, 2009 at 10:16 am

    #195, Richard,

    Well, if I’m going to “report you” I need to know what church you’re from.

    And the way you downplay this whole issue is the reason why those whom I have sought counsel from, and myself, feel that I should speak to your pastor.

    This is not some minor scholarly decision about “whether there is an original autograph or not”, you make it sound like that’s the only thing you’ve asserted with which we disagree.

    I have made it very clear to you that you disagree directly with the North West Gospel Partnership Doctrinal Basis, and you yourself have stated that you disagree with the UCCF Doctrinal Basis.

    I just find it incredible that you still have such a blaze attitude about this.

    Tell me what church you are from, please.

  199. greenbaggins said,

    May 20, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Please forgive me Josh. It merely seemed to me that your quotation of Horton, taken all by itself, was out of context. I didn’t know how to take that except as a challenge to my position. However, I have answered what I think about it by saying that I think Horton means depth development, not breadth development (or shifting position).

  200. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 21, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    No problem, Lane. I was just hoping for a little more depth in the discussion of Horton’s article. What would depth look like? Can we deepen our understanding of justification or sanctification, and, if so, what would that look like? Or, are there certain thing that are now immutable, and, if so, what are those? How do we hold to the confessions and yet seem to go beyond them (in a deepening sense)?

    And I apologize as well. I should really have just said that your response seemed to misunderstand me. Could you do another post on development in ST based upon BT, so that some more focused discussion could happen? This one’s gotten carried away on the inerrancy debate…

  201. January 29, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    […] not less. These boundaries are not hurtful things, but helpful things. See here, here, here, and here for some other thoughts related to […]

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