Who Ya Gonna Believe?!

The interaction on the previous post (Incoherent Inerrancy) has been both irenic and helpful. In my estimation, our brothers who no longer affirm the orthodox doctrine of inerrancy proved the point of my post (their assumed objections notwithstanding.)

Yesterday at breakfast my wife and I discussed this thread. Imagine what it’s like eating scrambled eggs trying to make the conversation of a bunch of eggheads palatable. That mental sweat led me to come up with a few additional posts that I hope might focus things for readers here; things they might not have the background or time to track with. This is the first of these “focusing” posts.

In my estimation the most significant issue focusing the differences between the two positions here (error-laden inerrancy, eLi, and error-free inerrancy, eFi) is that of presuppositions. In question form, what are the principles, presumed undeniably true, which function as the starting point and interpretive control for each position? These unquestioned principles are critical because they determine how each position understands the issue of inerrancy. If a presupposition is wrong, then the conclusions reached by that position will be flawed as well.

So, for each position, let me list the key presuppositions. I’m not proposing to list all of these, just the ones that focus the critical difference between both positions. I believe this will lead us to the vital question in this whole discussion, one that each of us must answer when reading our own Bibles.

eLi Presuppositions

1. Man’s knowledge challenges the veracity of some Biblical passages. There are two key sources for this knowledge: scientific knowledge and historical knowledge (historical records, archeology, etc.)
2. This knowledge is undeniably true. It is not merely rational, but this knowledge has objectively been proven to be unquestionably true.
3. Therefore the Biblical passages which disagree with this knowledge must be in error.
4. Therefore the Bible must teach some sort of error-laden inerrancy (eLi.)

Following these presuppositions, proponents of eLi argue that all they are about is letting the Bible explain for itself how it uses errors, and yet itself is still inerrant. (Some proponents have abandoned inerrancy altogether, focusing solely on showing that the (supposed) errors in the Bible do not detract from its infallibility.)

It is important to note the role played by these presuppositions, especially the first two. These are presupposed to be true; they cannot possibly be false. Given this, anything in the Bible that disagrees with any of this unquestionable knowledge is, by definition, an error.

eFi Presuppositions

1. Inspiration: the Bible claims to be written by God (2Ti 3:16 – 2Sa 23:2; Lk 1:70; 1Pt 1:19-21.) “Holy Scripture must be acknowledged as the Word of God by virtue of its divine origin.” (Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy, Part III, Section A.)

2. Inerrancy: the Bible claims to be like its Divine Author, without error (Jh 17:17 – 2Sa 22:31; Ps 12:6; 18:30; 19:7-9; 119:140-144, 151-152; Pro 30:5; Rom 7:12; Jas 3:17.) “’Inerrant’ signifies the quality of being free from all falsehood or mistake and so safeguards the truth that Holy Scripture is entirely true and trustworthy in all its assertions.” (CSBI, Part III, Section C.)

3. Infallibility: the Bible claims to be like its Sovereign Author, reliable (Mt 5:18 – Ps 119:89-91; Isa 40: 8; 46:10-11; 55:10-11; Mt 24:25; Mk 13:31; Jh 10:35; 1Pt 1:25. “’Infallible’ signifies the quality of neither misleading nor being misled and so safeguards in categorical terms the truth that Holy Scripture is a sure, safe and reliable rule and guide in all matters.” (CSBI, Part III, Section C.)

To be sure, most proponents will affirm these same presuppositions. Yet they do so in a secondary manner. That is, their commitment to these presuppositions is secondary to, and therefore dependently submissive to, the presuppositions previously listed.

They will affirm inspiration, but it is an inspiration that accommodates itself to the errors of mankind. They will affirm inerrancy (most), but as noted previously, this is an incoherent inerrancy, an error-laden inerrancy. They will affirm infallibility, but it is an infallibility merely of divine pronouncement, functioning in the presence of and contrary to rational evidence that would remove the reliability of any other document.

Thus, these are not actually presuppositions after all, merely principles to be re-defined.

In the end, it is their presupposed commitment to the authority of knowledge from men that leads them to the eLi position, not what the Bible says for itself. That is, they have given the position of final authority, the role of final judge of the Bible, to Man, not God.

In contrast, the Bible claims that God is its final judge and authority. The Bible teaches that what it says, God says; its authority is His authority, for He is its ultimate Author (paraphrase from CSBI, Part III, Section A.)

So, as you read your Bible, here is the vital question to answer: God or Man, who ya gonna believe?!

– Reed DePace


  1. art said,

    May 23, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    Probably the worst summary of an opposing position that has ever been written. Well, well off the mark. But, as the previous post on this issue has proven, discussions here are virtually worthless, no matter how pious the stated intensions.

  2. Reformed Sinner said,

    May 23, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Care to spare us a few of your valuable and brilliant time to teach us closed-minded high priests on how Reed has mispresented your position?

  3. art said,

    May 23, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    How can time be brilliant?

  4. Reed Here said,

    May 23, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    Art: so much for your good intentions. “Harumpf” is not an argument, unless it is eivdence I’ve hit something.

    You, sir, are known by your fruit, or morely like your thistles.

  5. Pete Myers said,

    May 24, 2009 at 12:14 am

    Reed, that is far, far clearer than anything I was able to produce over the last few days. And laying out the string of proof-texts for our eFi presuppositions is a great step forward, and will hopefully draw interaction into the right sort of field.

    #1 art (& all like-minded eLi’s)
    I actually think I understand where you’re coming from, and why you feel misrepresented. Reed did not summarise your position as you see it.

    What he did was expose your presuppositions, which I haven’t read any of the guys on your “side” of the argument manage to articulate for yourselves. But it is precisely this failure to properly understand and wrestle with your own presuppositions which has been the critique that we eFi’s have been making of you eLi’s for the last week.

    If Reed were simply trying to articulate “what you are saying”, from “your point of view as you see it”, then his post would have done a poor job. However, his post was actually articulating the part of your argument that you don’t make or express but is nevertheless there underneath what you say, whether you are aware of that or not. Reed did not summarise your position as you see it, because he was not attempting to summarise your position as you see it. He exposes the logic that underlies your argument whether you’re conscious of that or not.

    If you think Reed is wrong in his assessment of your presuppositions, then, the next step is to demonstrate that either your position can be built on different presuppositions, or try and demonstrate a Biblical foundation for your presuppositions.

    Which means opening up discussion on the list of verses Reed gives in the post.

  6. Richard said,

    May 24, 2009 at 3:52 am

    Reed: I think that your presentation of what eLi presuppositions are says more about how you understand that position than what the presuppositions actually are. I would certainly encourage you to revisit them.

    With regards to eFi presuppositions especially point two on inerrancy, I would be very interested to see some exegesis on those verses you use. I have to confess that I cannot find inerrancy in Ps. 12:6
    “The Lord’s promises are pure,
    like silver refined in a furnace,
    purified seven times over.”

  7. Richard said,

    May 24, 2009 at 4:04 am

    An interesting article by Daniel B. Wallace – “My Take on Inerrancy”

  8. Pete Myers said,

    May 24, 2009 at 6:12 am

    #6 Richard (& other eLi’s)

    Then please state your presuppositions!

    Part of our problem is you haven’t done that any where near as thoroughly as Reed has our side of the case.

  9. GLW Johnson said,

    May 24, 2009 at 6:13 am

    Art has linked Enns continuing exchange with Waltke- which is good-but why does Enns refuse to do the same with James Scott? The first part of Scott’s lengthy review of Enns appeared in the same issue of the WTJ as Waltke’s( the second will appear in the next WTJ) and, to my mind, is very devastating coming as it does from someone who was also trained in Biblical studiesbut who is equally conversant in the fields of historical and systematic theology.

  10. Reed Here said,

    May 24, 2009 at 6:18 am


    No disrespect but your response is like the schoolmaster saying, “wrong answer, try again!” I’m not in school, and you (as far as I know) are not employed by one.

    I learned my understanding first-hand.

    As to the exegesis of Ps 12:6, a few thoughts:

    The psalm is a prayer for deliverance from wicked men, who by their words plunder the poor. The context is one of contrast with words from from God vs. words from wicked men, flattering words; i.e., lies intended to deceive. The purity of God’s words are not so – His words are perfectly pure, the idea of smelting silver as the picture of purified substance, the number 7 representing completion (days of creation).

    Thus God’s words, in contrast to the lies of men, are truth, free from falsehood (and by implication mistakes.) This is rather on the surface of the Psalm.

  11. Pete Myers said,

    May 24, 2009 at 6:30 am

    #6 Richard,

    Psalms 12v6 is a picture that directly contradicts Enns’ picture of inerrancy.

    Enns is saying that what the Bible teaches is completely true and therefore inerrant, but that teaching can come wrapped up in things that are an “accomodation” to men who are errant. Therefore there are things in the scriptures that are “wrong”, which aren’t actually what the scripture is itself asserting, just, say, mentioning in passing.The problem, again, is that this ‘exception’ (of JbFA) only applies to infants *dying in infancy*, not to all infants.

    So, God can teach an important truth as the point of a story which is presented as history, but the actual history behind the story may not be “true” as such. Careful textual critical work and exegesis can uncover what the story is “teaching” and therefore what is God’s inerrant truth, which is to be separated from the errant accomodation it is admixed with.

    A very, very good picture of that would be a nugget of silver dug out from a mountain side. The silver is admixed with other metals and rocks. In Enns’ model of inerrancy, the “purifying”, or “smelting” of the ore is the work of textual criticism and exegesis, which results in purified silver.

    However, Psalm 12v6 is a picture of God’s promises where the promises are already completely free from imperfections before we read them. The promises themselves have been smelted and carefully separated from all error and impurity – it is in this way that God’s promises come to us in his Word, already separated and free from the stain of error and impurity.

    Hence, the picture of Psalm 12v6 is incompatible with the idea that the promises themselves might be true, but they could be embedded in and fused with error as their context. That is a picture of unsmelted silver ore in a mountainside, not of purified silver smelted to perfection (i.e. 7).

  12. Pete Myers said,

    May 24, 2009 at 6:32 am

    #9 Gary,

    In fact, Gary, it seems to me that almost every interaction on this topic at GB so far could be halted in it’s tracks simply by Scott’s article alone.

  13. Reed Here said,

    May 24, 2009 at 6:33 am


    Did a quick review of Wallace article. And?

    Note he affirms Warfield. Have you read him on this subject yet?

    P.S. are you married? kids? You seem to have an awful lot of time.

  14. cbovell said,

    May 24, 2009 at 6:59 am

    I don’t know if these are “presuppositions” but I think I would be inclined to (rather hastily, I’m afraid) articulate the several observations that I personally am acting upon:

    We have all been taught that scripture is the inspired, inerrant word of God such that no errors of any kind can appear in it once genre, etc. have been taken into account. This means that in every thing that scripture touches on, when all the facts are in, what scripture says will be accurate (have happened, be the actual state of affairs, be “true”). Yet through our studies of scripture and our exposure to how people have come to regard scripture as authoritative throughout church history we have made the following observations:

    1. Contemporary knowledge challenges on several fronts our understanding of what it might mean for biblical passages to be “true.” Several areas of research converge to cumulatively warrant a critical reassessment of how scripture might still be regarded as authoritative. Some have been affected by scientific knowledgle, but others have been affected by biblical studies and how the cultural milieu within which scripture was first conceived can be heard loud and clear in scripture itself.

    2. This knowledge is not undeniably true, but in the present instance there is enough convincing research to this effect that if it were any other area than theology under consideration, we would easily grant its validity.

    3. There is a reason for this critical reassessment in which we are engaged and is not adequately explained by reference to our putative “sin,” “rebelliousness,” “pride,” etc. Much rather, the main reason we are engaged in criticial reflection is that there is a bona fide need for revision.

    4. We have considered ways to initally defend inerrantist bibliology but these do not appear adequate to to the task. In some instances, these defenses seem to us to functionally shield inerrantist theology from sustained criticism. By shielding theology, I have in mind responses of the type that say: If the evidence says one thing and our theology says another, so much worse for the evidence.

    5. The biblical passages which disagree with contemporary knowledge MAY be in error. Among other reasons are that we have misunderstood scripture or perhaps don’t have the right reading, etc. The main thing here is that there is nothing necessarily unbelieving about admitting that scripture MIGHT be in error. In some cases, scripture is PERHAPS best seen as committing error (as in FTH’s reconstruction of Daniel).

    6. In our view, the particular biblical passages that most likely have been misunderstood, whether in terms of their meaning or in terms of how they should be regarded as “true,” are the ones that treat the topic of scripture’s own authority. This seems due to our lack of appreciation of background cultural issues regarding the times when scripture was conceived, transmitted, etc. or to historical, cultural and philosophical influences on the churches’ part over the course of its history. Although it could be something else as well.

    7. We are obligated to use every research tool available to us during the course of this undertaking. This includes those when we are considering what scripture appears to say about its own authority.

    8. In our present judgment, the most promising theory of scriptural authority is one that allows for some category of error in scripture.

    There’s no God vs. Humans here. It’s humans trying to know God better and serve him more authentically. (I should close by saying that we think that inerrantists (who are humans) are saying that the Bible is/must be inerrant and not God so that we might both have gotten it wrong and God might be saying something else entirely. The post should then have the title, “Who Ya Gonna Believe, Humans or Humans?)

  15. cbovell said,

    May 24, 2009 at 7:07 am

    In #14 above, I close by saying that Humans, not God, say that the Bible is/must be inerrant. (I don’t mean to say that the Bible must be inerrant and not God…)

  16. Pete Myers said,

    May 24, 2009 at 7:16 am


    Thanks for that, though I don’t really understand how you’ve stated your presuppositions to be remarkably different from Reeds, other than stating them in a more sympathetic light.

    Let me make a couple of quick observations, and then draw the lines between Reed’s statement of your presuppositions and then your own.

    Observation number 1
    On 3, you create a false antithesis between “something which has been reached from a motive of pride” and “something which causes need for bona fide revision”. The excluded middle is “something which appears to be the case with the limited information we have at the moment. Which can still be just as incorrect, though not need to be explained using false motives.”

    Observation number 2
    On point 4 The phrase “If the evidence says one thing and our theology says another, so much worse for the evidence.” Is not “shielding” theology. It is stating the stand-off between what we observe and what the Bible claims for itself.

    The crucial presupposition is this: If the evidence says something contrary to what the Bible claims about itself, then, we go with the evidence.

    You have tried to recast that like this: The evidence says something contrary to what the Bible claims about itself, which has forced us to reflect on the Bible’s claims about itself, and made us realise they don’t necessarily claim what we all thought they did.

    However… the problem for us eFi’s is that in the course of this debate so far very, very, very little has been put forward in terms of argument about the Bible’s claims for itself, but lots, and lots and lots has been put forward in terms of observed evidence.

    The challenge
    The challenge is very simple. Putting down the evidence for a moment, if you can show convincingly that the Bible’s statements about itself do not necessitate inerrancy (i.e. in the way it’s always been understood until now, rather than some slippery redefinition), then, we would be more than happy to be open minded on the issue and think through what the evidence then tells us within such a redefined theological context.

    But until that is the primary work being done, I’m afraid that practically, the presuppositions being used are that the evidence trumps the Bible’s claims about itself… as can be demonstrated by the constant appeal to evidence over against being presented with the Bible’s claims that prove classical inerrancy.

  17. Pete Myers said,

    May 24, 2009 at 7:19 am


    Oh, and one more thing… on the God vs Humans thing…

    The eLi’s motives are not in question… it is the logic of the argument the eLi’s put forward. The eFi’s have said that your logic pits God vs Human reasoning, and that human reasoning wins. You have said this is not the case with an appeal to your motives.

    You can have very godly motives, and yet the form of your argument pit yourself in opposition to God, and that is actually the accusation that’s been made.

    This has been unfairly read as an attempt to attribute poor motives by many eLi’s it seems to me.

  18. Reed Here said,

    May 24, 2009 at 7:31 am

    Carlos: thanks for the thoughtful interaction.

    Pete: thanks for the beginning of thinking through what Carlos has said. My initial responses are like your’s.

    Carlos: I echo Pete’s observation of motives. Never have questioned that. Rather my key beef is the way the evidence ALWAYS necessitates the re-thinking of what inerrancy must mean.

    I’ll provide more later, but I still like the example from Stephen on Dan 9:1. Nothing he said to critique the possible solutions offered by eFI, reqiures “by the weight of the evidence to the contrary” that we must re-define inerrancy. There are many plausible alternatives – none which necesssarily can be discounted at this point. It is not the weight of the evidence then that leads you to redefine, but rather a presupposition that gives the evidence more credence than it deserves.

  19. GLW Johnson said,

    May 24, 2009 at 8:42 am

    To those who differ with us on this sensitive subject, let me ask-when our Lord reprimanded the Sadducees over the concept of resurrection He did so by declaring that thet were in error because they did not know the Scpriture nor the power of God.(Mark 12:24). The error is said to tracable to ignorance. Quite literally, they had ‘wandered’ from the truth.The Latin text reads ‘erratis’ and the KJV reads “Do you not therefore err…” So , tell me did Jesus think the Scripture could also err in like fashion? As I have mentioned, Kenton Sparks thinks Jesus could in fact wrongly conclude that the OT was without err because the incarnation placed limitations on Him and if you disagree -well then you have lapsed in Docetism- which is downright absurd and would make Augustine him,self a flaming docetist. So please tell us knuckle dragging neanderthals how you would address this?

  20. Richard said,

    May 24, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Reed: I don’t have plenty of spare time I just decided to spend some time here discussing this issue with yourself and others, it’s an important issue and iron sharpens iron. That said, I will be cutting back as I am pretty sure we have said all there is to say and we certainly don’t see eye to eye and I very much doubt that we are going to change our minds through this type of exchange.

    Pete: Good luck at Oak Hill, perhaps our paths will cross in the future.

  21. rfwhite said,

    May 24, 2009 at 11:21 am

    20 Richard: I’d welcome hearing what you would like us to take from Dan Wallace’s essay. For example, I accept his exhortation, echoing Warfield, that the case for inerrancy be made by dealing not just with deductive argument but with the inductive evidence. I appreciate his point about Metzger’s stance, his exploration of the priority of inerrancy, among other things. What would you urge us to take from Wallace?

  22. Richard said,

    May 24, 2009 at 11:29 am

    rfwhite: I just found it interesting, that’s all.

  23. Reed Here said,

    May 24, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Richard: understand completely. I commend you to putting as much energy into Warfield as you do the other things you find fascinating on this topic.

    One of the false assumptions our errantist brethren make is that modern inerrancy is more beholden to modern philosophical influences than it is the statement of Scripture. As you can possibly read in my critique here, I believe it is exactly the opposite. They are the ones who are letting unbelief shape inerrancy into an easily destroyed characticture.

    Warfield is one of the best is removing such silliness and allowing us to biblically put the mockers in the only place from which they can hope tp hear; the place of humility.

  24. Nathan said,

    May 24, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    For eli presupposition #1, you said that the two key sources of “man’s knowledge” that challenge scripture are scientific and historical. For me, however, the primary evidences that led me away from traditional inerrancy were examples of inner-biblical contradiction. I suspect recognizing such things has been important for others as well.

  25. Reed Here said,

    May 24, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Nathan, no. 24:

    I can appreciate that. I’m aware of such issues. However, I’ve never seen the need to say that this requires an adjustment of our doctrine of inerrancy.

    E.g., on another post Ron Henzel observed that some of the numerical differences between Kings and Chronicles are not contradictions. One number (usually Chronicles) is an approximation of the more precise number(usually Kings.) This is an example of rounding, an accepted method in mathematics and writing, which still constitutes accuracy, and therefore inerrancy.

    If you’d care, what inter-textual “contradictions” do you have in mind?

  26. cbovell said,

    May 24, 2009 at 5:13 pm


    “Putting down the evidence for a moment, if you can show convincingly that the Bible’s statements about itself do not necessitate inerrancy (i.e. in the way it’s always been understood until now, rather than some slippery redefinition), then, we would be more than happy to be open minded on the issue and think through what the evidence then tells us within such a redefined theological context.”

    I’m afraid I have to end my latest stint here at greenbaggins with this final remark.

  27. cbovell said,

    May 24, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    It sent before I finished. To me, the above quote reads as if one is saying, “If you can bring yourself to become closeminded, then we will be happy to be open-minded with you.” The evidence bears upon theology at every point, even when constructing bibliology. One should not wait and construct bibliology first (which here would mean accept the received inerrant formulation first) and THEN consider how the evidence fits. That is one sure way of being closed-minded in my view.

    Grace and peace.

  28. Reed Here said,

    May 24, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Well, y’all blow in and blow out. Thanks for the interaction.

    I for one still wonder at the horrible crisis of faith you and (apparently) so many of your friends and family have experienced. Me and mine have been exposed to the same threats from unbelievers and God has seen fit to keep us secure.

    Or maybe we’re just dull-witted? If so, I sure do like the company I’m in (both current and historical ;-))

  29. Reed Here said,

    May 24, 2009 at 6:11 pm


    Your last comment echos a common assumption y’all make about us who disagree with you. I know you do not mean it offensively, but it is.

    We’re not close-minded. The procedure you outline is not, in my experience, how any of us have gone about constructing our bibliology.

    Y’all need to get off the talking point that only y’all are really willing to pay attention to all the evidence, while the rest of us only pretend to do so. It is merely an unfair assumption you make – and is one of the chief reasons for your failure to seem to get anywhere with us in such conversations as these.

    If you begin with assumptions that are not true, how can you help but to do anything other than talk past us, and then accuse us of not listening, understanding, etc.?

    Again, arrogance is an invidious quality.

  30. Nathan said,

    May 24, 2009 at 6:57 pm


    Here’s an example of what I mean:

    Exod 12:21-27 describes the ritual of applying the blood of the passover lamb to the doorposts and lintel. Verse 24 says that this rite is a statute “forever,” which they will observe when they enter into the land (v. 25). Based on these verses, combined with the rest of Exod 12:1-27, I understand the yearly Passover festival commanded here as one that is celebrated at home and involves a ritual daubing of the doors of the home with the blood of the passover lamb.

    Dtr 16:1-7 has a very different command for the observance of Passover. Now it is to be a pilgrimage festival to the central sanctuary (v. 2). That this is not to be done anywhere else is emphasized (v. 5). Notice that there is not a word about the ritual of applying the blood to doorposts and lintels. Since Deuteronomy’s Passover takes place in the central sanctuary (v. 6), such a ritual cannot be carried out as it requires the doorposts and lintels of the houses of each family. As such, Dtr 16 simply makes no mention of the rite and in so doing suppresses its practice.

    The “contradiction” is that these texts present mutually exclusive ways of celebrating the passover (again, note Exod 12:24; there is nothing in this text that permits construing it as a temporary practice). One is practiced at home, and involves a ritual daubing of blood on the doorposts of the home; the other is a pilgrimage festival and involves no such ritual. The fairly simple explanation for this is that Exod 12 and Dtr 16 present different ways of practicing Passover that reflect the practice of different periods in Israel history. This explanation, however, would not seem to fit with a classic inerrantist position.

    Such examples in the legal corpora could be multiplied. I’d be interested in discussing other examples, but since I have a paper and a final this week; a paper, two presentation and a final next week; and two finals the following week, I can’t promise I will be able to devote too much time to this discussion.

  31. rfwhite said,

    May 24, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Nathan: “This explanation” — “Exod 12 and Dtr 16 present different ways of practicing Passover that reflect the practice of different periods in Israel history” — “does not seem to fit a classic inerrantist position.” For our mutual understanding, please clarify what you believe a classic inerrantist position would say about these two texts, so far as you understand it.

  32. ReformedSinner said,

    May 25, 2009 at 1:40 am


    I look forward to an answer to that as well, but I doubt you’ll get any. Because they really believe we are close-minded high priests that shy away from “tough passages” like the ones he’s given in #30. And any attempt to explain the phenomenon as he points out in Ex. 12 and Dtr. 16 (no matter if it’s your answer that was given, or any other answer) they will charge that you’re only “twisting the Bible” to fit your a priori commitment to inerranist doctrine, which is unbiblical.

    You see, in their minds those texts are contradictory by self-evidence and any attempt to make them not contradictory is us exposing our high priesthood a priori attachment to an unbiblical doctrine of inerrancy.

  33. Pete Myers said,

    May 25, 2009 at 4:08 am

    #27 cbovell,

    I see… so the best eFi defence of their presuppositions so far consists in “Well not to see things from my perspective is close-minded. And, I’m so open-minded, that I don’t even need to prove that. Bye!”

    I’m open minded enough to read what reasons you have for arguing that my position is close-minded, and to interact with them. Particularly since my position is, very simply, that the Bible’s claims about itself are more authoritative than any other evidence on the table.

  34. Richard said,

    May 25, 2009 at 5:31 am

    Pete: You may find this article interesting. Enjoy! :-)

  35. Nathan said,

    May 25, 2009 at 6:04 am

    rfwhite: a classic inerrantist, so far I understand, would be constrained to view these texts as somehow compatible or supplementary rather than presenting as lasting statutes mutually exclusive practices of passover.

  36. Reed Here said,

    May 25, 2009 at 1:20 pm


    Some examples of classic inerrantists might be helpful. As it stands, I fail to see the contradiction you see. Like you, time is short for me, so my comments here will be by necessity short and focused.

    It seems to me that your reading of these texts involved some key eisegesis errors on your part. Briefly:

    > Ex 12:1-13 gives instructions particular to the first celebration of Passover.
    > Ex 12: 14-20 gives instructions for the ongoing celebration, i.e., after this first one.
    > Ex 12:21-27 is Moses giving the specfic instructions for the Passover immediately in front of them to the elders of captive-Israel; he’s instructing them in regard to 12:1-13.

    Nothing in the text reads “perpetuate every single one of these details in future celebrations.” The reader must bring that into the text. There are two ways of doing this:

    > Eisegesis: the reader reads into the text his own assumptions, insights, etc.
    > Exegesis: the reader reads into the text the rest of the Bible, what it says that relates to the topic at hand.

    Much simpler, and more consistent with the Bible itself to see this initial Passover giving some detials for perpetuation (dates, sacrifice, absence of leaven; i.e., 12:14-20.) The Deuternomy passages then fleshes out the practices; i.e., now that the transition exodus period is coming to an end, God provides his people with details to flesh out Ex 12, in a stable situation.

    A critical part of this understanding is to note in Ex 12:16, all future passovers are to be held in the context of a holy assembly. I think you will be hard pressed by Scripture to understand this as anything than an actual “assembly” of the people, exactly a fit with the Deuteronomy details.

    Further, it appears from the details of Dt 16 that the assembly involved the public participation in the worship centered around the sacrifice of the Passover lamb. Like other sacrifices, after this corporate (holy assembly) worhip, the sacrifice was taken home to be eaten by one’s family.

    Thus, your “contradiction” boils down to the question of blood on the doorposts and lintels. Two things occurr to me:

    1. It is possible that this was no longer practiced after the first Passover. This would be completely consistent with what Ex 12 and Dt 16 say, although nothing in either text requires this.
    2. It is more likely that the Dt 16 Passover regulations assume the details of Ex 12:after the holy assembly sacrifice, each family takes the lamb home, puts some of its blood in the appropriate spots as dictated by Ex 12, and then eats it as per those same details.

    In other words, Dt 16 gives further details about how to apply Ex 12, but now in a situation dramatically different than that first Passover. Nothing in either text is in explicit contradiction. One must assume some things that are not in the text to reach that conclusion.

    I’ve run into similar misunderstandings before. I know a brother who insists that Jesus was in the tomb for an exact 72 hour period (3 – 24 hour days.) He pushes the crucifixtion back to Wed. to make the resurrection on Sunday.

    This is an error of reading into the text a “precision” assumption. It is rather common in our culture (and I dare say all cultures ) to use time references both in precise formats and general formats. When the Naval Observatory tells me what time it is, I know from its context (an atomic clock) that this is a precision reference.

    When a friend tells me, “in a couple of days, ” I understand this as a general reference. Sometime within the next 48 hours, closer to 48 than 24, the thing in view will occur. He’d laugh at me (rightly so) if I accused him of contradicting himself if it happened in 42.27.34 hours, or even 46.34.60 hours, as the general format is consistent with either (and a whole lot more “precise” references).

    No disrespect Nathan, but what you are describing as the classic inerrantist position sounds like a characture, not what has been taught by any reformed scholars. Do you come from a dispensational background? (I do.) I have seen such “contradictions” arise from the dispensational hyper-literalism error. But again, it is not accurate to call that the classic inerrantist position.

  37. Reed Here said,

    May 25, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Richard, no. 34:

    I fail to see how this article intersects with the point I’m making here. (Same with the Wallace article.)


  38. Nathan said,

    May 25, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    Thanks for the lengthy response, Reed. I have to disagree with your reading of the text. You say “Ex 12:21-27 is Moses giving the specfic [sic] instructions for the Passover immediately in front of them to the elders of captive-Israel” and that nothing in the text says to perpetuate the details of this rite in the future. Within that very section, however, immediately after the description of the blood ritual, v. 24 says “you shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever” (ESV).

    It seems to me that claiming that v. 24 does not envision the continual practice of the blood ritual described in 21-23 is against the grain of the passage. According you to, this is eisegesis. Others can read the passage for themselves and see whether they agree with me or you that v. 24 envisions a continual practice of the blood ritual.

    If I’m right that this chapter envisions the continual practice of this ritual, I find your suggestion that “It is more likely that the Dt 16 Passover regulations assume the details of Ex 12:after the holy assembly sacrifice, each family takes the lamb home, puts some of its blood in the appropriate spots as dictated by Ex 12, and then eats it as per those same details” impossible. In Dtr 16, the Passover is a pilgrimage festival to the central sanctuary. Most of the pilgrims will therefore be more than a day’s journey from home; it is simply not possible for them to bring the blood home to their doorposts and lintels. Instead, the feast must be eaten at the place of the pilgrimage (dtr 16:8). Perhaps you envision them throwing the blood on their tent-flaps?

  39. Reed Here said,

    May 25, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Perhapps you’re assuming details not given in the text? Where do you get “tent-flaps”? Why do you assume they all stayed in tents during the Passover? What about Jesus – was he violating this with his upper room meal?

    It is possible that 12:21-27 should be understood this way:

    > 21-23 – as God told me in 1-13, do this for the immediate Passover, and
    > 24-27 – as God told me on 14-20, do this (in general) for all future Passovers.

    Again, you are requiring a precision reading of the text that is not there (on the surface at least). If you can show this from an exegesis of further passages, this would make your precision reading accurate.

    As it is, I’m not inclined to assume contradictions, or a re-definition of inerrancy that renders it “truth via error.”

  40. Reed Here said,

    May 25, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    One final observation Nathan:

    Assume you are correct that Ex 12 assumes the precision in perpetuation you are arguing for. Does this mean we are violating God’s law since we no longer perpetuate it?

    I think you agree with the NT emphasis:

    > On the typological nature of the OT rituals,
    > That Jesus in his life/death/resurrection/ascension fulfills these rituals,
    > That the Church, in the Lord’s Supper, perpetuates the Passover, under different rituals.

    If this is so, then the principle here is that God, the source of the perpetuation command, is free to adjust as he sees fit. Accordingly, why cannot Deuteronomy be nothing more than God’s adjustment?

    Your insistence on contradiction here ignores the developmental nature of Scripture, and puts God in a box he himself refuses.

  41. Nathan said,

    May 26, 2009 at 6:47 am

    The remark about the tent flaps was meant as a (poor) quip. The point was that in Dtr’s passover there is no place for the Exod 12 blood ritual, and this is why Dtr 16 passes over it in silence.

    It is interesting that you accuse me of relying on a “precision reading” of exod 12, since it is your proposed reading in post # 39 that requires a precise dividing of the text so that hadabar hazeh (this matter) in v. 24 refers to 14-20 rather than the immediately preceding verses.

    Your precision reading cuts against the grammar of the text. This is highly artificial for two reasons:

    1. The proximity of v. 24’s hadabar hazeh to what immediately precedes makes it far more likely that it refers to what precedes in 21-23, or at least that it includes it. The ESV recognizes this in its translation of hadabar hazeh as “this rite.”

    2. Your proposed reading proposes a major discourse break (v. 24) in the middle of a verbal sequence that begins in v. 21. Actually, as I look at this, the verbal sequence in 21ff is pretty interesting. It commences with impv + waw + impv + waw +impv (v. 21); continues with waw consecutive + suffix conjugation with volitive meaning (3 of these; v. 22a); followed by waw disjunctive plus prefix conjugation with apparently also a volitive meaning (v. 22b); all of this is continued with waw consecutive + suffix conjugation forms in v. 23 a (3 of these) all with a imperfective/future time sense (not volitional) followed by disjunctive waw + imperfective prefix conjugation, again with a future time sense (v. 23 b). Finally, v. 24 begins with a waw consecutive suffix conjugation with a volitional sense! It seems like the best analysis is to take the waw consecutive suffix conjugation in v 24 as related to the previous volitional forms, which had an embedded imperfective/future sequence in v. 23. However you analyze this sequence, however, it is clear that v. 24 is grammatically connected to the series of imperatives in vv. 21-22 regarding the practice of the blood ritual. Trying to make it refer specifically to material preceding v. 21 and to the exclusion of 21-23 is, to this student’s mind, an exegetical stretch.

    Comment #40 is beside the point. I think Exod 12 and Dtr 16 present two mutually exclusive forms of the Passover festival. This, among other things, leads me to reject the theory that these were spoken/written by the same person (Moses) within 40 years of each other.

  42. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    May 26, 2009 at 11:20 am

    #7, Richard: “An interesting article by Daniel B. Wallace – “My Take on Inerrancy”

    Here’s Daniel Wallace again today: “Before I ever went to an SBL conference, it was easy for me to define [a liberal] as someone who did not embrace inerrancy. That’s because my world of discourse was rather tiny, almost microscopic. Shucks, when some DTS spin-off schools started, there would be those associated with these new schools who said that DTS had gone liberal because it didn’t define dispensational the way it used to! Those who think this way are stunningly naive and unhealthily cloistered. The more I went to SBL the more I realized that there were friends out there—people who believed in Christ earnestly and could even embrace the bulk of the ancient creeds, often all of them—who did not utter inerrancy, infallibility, or any other shibboleth that the modern church has too often used to draw a line in the sand. These were people that I had considered enemies of the gospel because they did not regard the less important doctrines as of equal importance with the person and work of Christ. I don’t want to suggest that I’ve completely changed my stance on these issues, that I had made a mountain out of a mole hill. No, I don’t think that. Rather, I think that I had made a mountain out of a mound. Perhaps an important mound in its own right, a safeguard of some sacred tenet of orthodoxy, but not a mountain. And sometimes even a hill, but just a hill. There is but one mountain, Christ.

    I submit that those who define evangelicalism significantly further to the right of Christ are typically those who are unaware or at least unengaged in the most crucial battles over the Christian faith today. And, sadly, they are sometimes even taking pot shots several yards back at their own front-line troops. After all, the Christian army is the only army in the world that shoots its wounded.”

    From here.

  43. Gianni said,

    May 27, 2009 at 2:17 am

    (I have just posted this comment at the end of the previous discussion. I’ll add it here as well since this is a newer entry and even more apropos.)

    Pete, regarding your comment #47 of the previous thread,

    I am on your side.

    But when you write . . .

    “I work on the paradigm: authoritative means therefore infallible means therefore inerrant. Reed very helpfully pointed out, that, this “errantist” position contains points that appear to be in conflict. The questions I still have are: . . . 2) How can scripture be authoritative, yet contain errors?”

    . . . that is not helpful.

    Many God-ordained institutions are genuinely authoritative in spite of being errant and often mistaken: parents, pastors, kings. Also soccer team coaches.

    You need to say explicitly what I believe you mean all along: “ultimately authoritative”.

    This would be helpful because it would keep on raising the crucial question of what is the ultimate authority of those who disagree with us.

  44. Reed Here said,

    May 27, 2009 at 9:12 am

    Gianni, no. 43:

    Does this help:

    Pastoral (et.al.) authority is a delegated, derivative authority, secondary in function in that it is only authoritative to the degree it is consistent with the Bible.

    The Bible’s authority is original in that it is directly God speaking, and primary in function in that it is the essential means through which God carries out redemption.

  45. Reed Here said,

    May 27, 2009 at 9:17 am

    Truth, no. 42: I’m sorry if I missed this, but would you mind introducing yourself again? Lane does not allow annonymous posting.

    Also, I don’t see how the lengthy quote from Dan Wallace is relevant to the point I make in this thread. (Has nothing to do with it as far as I can see.)

    Rather than lengthy quotes, instead please make a point, support itwith a pithy quote, explain why you think the full context of the quote would add to our conversation here, and then give the link.

    Thanks for appreciating these things.

  46. May 27, 2009 at 9:25 am

    […] in things that matter to the exegesis of the doctrines of Scripture. (See Incoherent Inerrancy and Who Ya Gonna Believe for further explanation on these […]

  47. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    May 27, 2009 at 9:49 am

    Hi Reed,

    Comment #236 on the Incoherent Inerrancy thread.

    As to my earlier comment, I was just following up Richard’s comment in #7 with additional subsequent information.


  48. Reed Here said,

    May 27, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Truth: thanks. Yes, I understand. It seems you might have missed my follow up to one of Richard’s references to Wallace, in which I hasked him the relevance question. No big deal, just keep my advice in mind for the future.

    Again, please (re)introduce yourself. Thanks!

  49. Dave Rogel said,

    May 27, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Hello all–let me introduce myself. I am a musician by training (music theory, specifically), but as a Christian with a strong thirst for understanding the world I live in, I have unavoidably become an amateur philosopher/theologian. Furthermore, I belong to a church with an outspoken and firmly inerrantist pastor (whom I will not identify unless he wishes to chime in and take responsibility for me :) That said….

    I have been following this debate for some time, and have seen the two sides, at their most conciliatory moments, stop to question their own presuppositions. That has certainly been fruitful, at least for the sake of clarifying some of the fundamental differences between the two arguments.

    However, I see the divide as being far deeper. In particular, I have never seen a discussion of how we identify, define, and test (or choose not to test) what is true. The times when I have seen these debates hit a brick wall have been precisely the times when coherence and correspondence theories of truth have been the true source of impasse.

    Inerrantists seem to hold to coherence theory (which makes possible the argument of self-attestation) whereas errantists seem to hold to correspondence theory (which justifies–and perhaps necessitates–their attempts to test the Bible by external measures). Is it inappropriate for me to request that we address truth theories in this discussion? How we define truth is deeper than tradition, deeper than specific doctrines, and even deeper than (or, perhaps, foundational to) our presuppositions. Beneath all the quoted verses, beneath all the rhetoric–beneath it all, our very definitions of truth are in battle, and to bring them to the surface seems like a potentially valuable endeavor.

    As noted above, I do not have very many letters after my name (BMus, which qualifies me to flip burgers for a living and listen to Bach in my free time); therefore I would not take personal offense to being told that my comments, while earnest, to not point the discussion in the right direction. I have read many hundreds fewer books on the subject than many here, so my dismissal would be taken graciously, however disappointed I might be that the issues I raised would not be addressed.


  50. Pete Myers said,

    May 27, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    #43 Gianni,

    A helpful pointer about making sure we use words in a way that can’t be misunderstood, I think Reed’s answer in #44 is exactly the sort of response I would have made.

    I’m sure there’s other people I need to respond to, but, we’re in the middle of a Children’s Holiday Club at church this week, which I’m heading up, and have a friend staying, so I haven’t been able to get to the web.

  51. Gianni said,

    May 27, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Reed #44,

    “Does this help . . .”

    No, I am afraid it doesn’t. I agree with what you say, but you miss my point. Look, Pete plays in my team, and he is doing a great job. But when he argues that Scripture needs to be free from error in order to be authoritative, as he has done, he is wrong, and he is framing the discussion in the wrong way.

  52. Gianni said,

    May 27, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Pete #49,

    I think we all agree with what Reed says at #44, and that’s fine. However that doesn’t tell me whether or not you also missed my point like he did.

  53. Gianni said,

    May 27, 2009 at 1:24 pm


    Okay, I just read your comment #507 in the previous thread, and you do get my point, kind of, I think.

    As I said to Reed, what actually worried me was to hear that X needs to be inerrant in order to be authoritative.

    Yeah, your opponents have not tackled you on that one, but they could have and should have. You have slow opponents. ;)

  54. Pete Myers said,

    May 27, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    #51 Gianni,

    I gave some response to this in the other thread. Let me try and respond a bit more fully here for you, and pull together stuff into this thread.

    1) Thank you for your comment. If something is “authoritative” it is not necessarily inerrant as you describe. However…

    2) When evangelicals talk of scripture being “authoritative” that is almost universally understood to mean “ultimately authoritative”. That is certainly the shorthand I was using in the comments where I’ve mentioned scripture’s authority. Since some guys have tried to defend their credentials on authority in response to me and others, it had appeared to me as though we had all been understanding scripture’s authority in the same way. I.e., until you raised the fact that “authoritative” doesn’t necessarily mean “ultimately authoritative” I don’t think it had been a major factor in the discussion, nor do I think people had understood what I meant necessarily.

    3) In this sense, I think it is a fair part of the inerrantist argument to say that scripture being ultimately authoritative does necesitate it being inerrant.

    4) Indeed, there is a wider discussion to be had about the relationship between authority and errancy. Insofar as something is “authoritative” on a matter, it is not considered to be “wrong” on such a matter. There is an intrinsic connection between being right and being authoritative. I don’t have time to unpack all the ins and outs of this here, but, the fact that we would describe someone as an “authority” on a subject implies that we think they will give a far less errant description of that subject than anything else.

    The above points are reasonably disconnected. But, if I were to extend 4 for a moment, I’d point out that because scripture is ultimately authoritative in every area that it addresses (directly or incidentally), it is therefore inerrant in every area it addresses. If it were errant in any of those areas, then, I would have to hold a higher authority over scripture to assert where scripture was right and wrong.

    That, essentially, is why I think inerrancy and authority are to be “held together”.

    While no authority in this world is inerrant, neither is any authority in this world absolute.

  55. Reed Here said,

    May 27, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Gianni, no. 50: pardon my obtuseness here. Maybe a question or two will help me understand.

    You’ve said (to Pete): “But when he argues that Scripture needs to be free from error in order to be authoritative, as he has done, he is wrong, and he is framing the discussion in the wrong way.”

    Are you saying that the authoritative nature of the Bible does not require inerrancy? I.e., that the inerrancy plays no function in the Bible’s authority?

    Or are you trying to get at something completely different? If so… ?

  56. Gianni said,

    May 27, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Pete #53,

    “When evangelicals talk of scripture being “authoritative” that is almost universally understood to mean “ultimately authoritative”.

    Yes, but you were not talking to “evangelicals”, were you? Whether or not Scripture is the ULTIMATE authority is precisely the point where you challenged your opponent Richard in a previous thread (the story of the five-legged elephant). You didn’t use the phrase “ultimate authority”, but that was the point of your analogy. What that exchange revealed was that your opponent DOES believe in the authority of the Bible, but not in the ULTIMATE authority of the Bible. So the ultimate authority of Scripture is NOT a concept you can take for granted here. It is not common ground you share with your opponents. Richard wrote somewhere: “The authority of Scripture does not rest upon it being inerrant”. What does he mean? Remember, Richard and his friends do not believe in Scripture’s ultimate authority, as you showed very well. Look how the ambiguity regarding what everybody means by “authority” goes unrecognized an inch below the surface of this discussion.

    “it had appeared to me as though we had all been understanding scripture’s authority in the same way.”

    I don’t think so. In fact, you yourself have argued that this is not the case!

    “until you raised the fact that “authoritative” doesn’t necessarily mean “ultimately authoritative” I don’t think it had been a major factor in the discussion”

    On the contrary, Pete, this was precisely the point of your analogy of the five-legged elephant, wasn’t it? Your point being that you and Richard differ on whether Scripture is ULTIMATELY authoritative.

    “I think it is a fair part of the inerrantist argument to say that scripture being ultimately authoritative does necesitate it being inerrant.”

    Yes, I have no problem with that.

    “Indeed, there is a wider discussion to be had about the relationship between authority and errancy.”

    You bet.

    “I’d point out that because scripture is ultimately authoritative in every area that it addresses (directly or incidentally), it is therefore inerrant in every area it addresses”


    “If it were errant in any of those areas, then, I would have to hold a higher authority over scripture to assert where scripture was right and wrong.”

    Yes, and this is precisely the point where you have argued that your opponents do not use the word “authority” in the same sense as you do. But then you kind of forgot that you have argued it.

  57. Gianni said,

    May 27, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    Reed #54,

    “Are you saying that the authoritative nature of the Bible does not require inerrancy?”


    “I.e., that the inerrancy plays no function in the Bible’s authority?”

    No, that is not my point.

    “Or are you trying to get at something completely different? If so… ?”

    Does my latest reply to Pete above clarify this issue for you? I am trying to say that Pete (and possibly he is not alone in this) disagrees with his opponents regarding the meaning of the phrase “biblical authority” (he takes it — rightly — to mean ultimate authority, they do not), yet he has occasionally framed the issue in a way which obscures that crucial difference and which forgets that basic disagreement (e.g. see the quotation I reported in my first comment).

    When Pete does that, his opponents tend to misunderstand him: like Richard, they can retort that “The authority of Scripture does not rest upon it being inerrant”. Now if the authority of Scripture is similar to that of a soccer coach, (that is, not ultimate) then Richard is correct. No non-ultimate authority needs to be inerrant in order to work. But this shows where the antithesis is, and where the battle needs to be fought.

    So, contrary to what Pete says, I think we do need to be precise regarding the meaning and use of the word “authority” when we speak about inerrancy. I suspect that this online discussion would be far shorter if the actual antithesis be kept in mind.

  58. Reed Here said,

    May 27, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Gianni: o.k., point taken.

    From my perspective, the issue of authority is not new in this discussion, at least here at GB. The last time we debated this I posted a thread specifically on that point (sometime last fall I think.) In that conversation there was lots of discussion of authority; little progress. Our friends on the other side insist in an authority for Scripture. It is unclear, at least from what they say, the nature of this authority.

  59. June 2, 2009 at 9:08 am

    […] he is trustworthy after all. (More can be read on this in the previous posts, Incoherent Inerrancy, Who Ya Gonna Believe, and There’s Accommodation, and then There’s […]

  60. June 6, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    […] errors in the Bible there is an unacknowledged gorilla in the room. (See Incoherent Inerrancy, Who Ya Gonna Believe, There’s Accommodation, and then There’s …?, and Check Your Facts!, […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: