There’s Accommodation, and then There’s …?

I remember sitting in class at WTS listening to Dr. Enns explain his experience with unbelieving professors and their intellectual challenge to his faith. He expressed that he was particularly shaken by the strength of their attack on the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. His solution (my assessment of what I heard) was to accommodate himself to some of the presuppositions of his unbelieving, higher-critical professors at Harvard (-ahhhhd.)

In this post I want to focus on Enns’ (et. al.) notion of accommodation. I am using this term in a two-fold sense: 1) the accommodation Enns makes to unbelieving higher-critical (UHC) scholars, and 2) the accommodation Enns believes God makes in the Bible.

Enns’ Accommodation to UHC Scholars

Enns in principle accepts the affirmation from UHC scholars that extra-biblical sources of information provide irrefutable evidence that that Bible contains demonstrable falsehoods and mistakes. That is, the Bible contains provable factual errors.

Further these are not immaterial errors. Rather these are non-incidental errors; they are 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 topics.)

Thus Enns begins with the presupposition that the Bible necessarily records things for which there is no other way to describe them but as errors. Accordingly, if he is going to maintain any semblance of belief in inerrancy, he must re-define it. This is what he attempts to do in the second sense of accommodation.

God’s Accommodation to Man

It is true that man himself is prone to error. He is prone to: 1) believing things that are not true, 2) teaching others to believe these false beliefs; and 3) building his life on these false beliefs. In God’s mercy, error-prone man actually achieves some degree of success via his error-laden convictions.

Enns’ argues that God accommodates his communication in the Bible to this error-proneness of man. This is not the accommodation position of Calvin and historic reformed doctrine (e.g., anthropomorphic language) in which God communicates the otherwise incomprehensibleness of his own being in terms that are comprehensible to us, but are not therefore premised on falsehoods or mistakes.

No, the accommodation Enns argues for is God knowing use of man’s erroneous understanding. The BIG example is found in Gn 1:1-2:4 (and other creational passages); where God (supposedly) accommodates his explanation of his sovereignty in creation to man’s (scientifically) erroneous understanding. Other material examples are scattered throughout the Bible, often historical “errors” in which the Biblical data does not match what secular knowledge has proven to be true.

The key to demonstrating that this accommodation is actually occurring in the Bible is not the narrowly the contradicting secular sourced information. No, it is a presupposition flowing what is called comparative religious studies. Particularly, the myths and legends of ancient near eastern (ANE) civilizations, civilizations that are neighbors to ancient Israel (in time and location), demonstrate (apparent) similarities wth corresponding Biblical passages. These (apparent) similarities are used by Enns to demonstrate that God was not trying to express himself factually accurately. Rather, he was using the cultural errors common to his people (the broader ANE cultural mileu, the historical-societal environment) to explain to them his truths in terms acceptable to their limited (error-prone) intellectual capacities.

In other words, these ANE myths/legends serve as the solution to the problem of how to maintain inerrancy in the presence of the Bible’s errors. God was merely accommodating himself to speak truth via the errors with which man was comfortable.

Aside from the fact that the supposed similarities between the ANE myths/legends is highly overrated; and aside from the fact that there is a better explanation for any similarities that do exist (corrupted transfer of fact), consider where this principle of accommodation leaves us:

God used stories he knew to be filled with non-incidental errors as the basis for his communication of the same “history,” with the intention of giving us a trustworthy record. He used known (to him) errors to communicate trustworthy truth.

Boiling it down to the critical focus, as the whole Bible has a Christocentric (Christ is the center) purpose, or as Enns prefers, a Christotelic (Christ is the goal) purpose, then – God used ANE superhero comic book stories to convince us that Jesus really is The Superhero!

There’s accommodation, and then there’s …?

– Reed DePace


  1. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    May 27, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Reed DePace: “There’s accommodation, and then there’s …?”

    Then There’s Coherent Inerrant Scripture:

    “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.
    For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?
    Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
    What accord has Christ with Belial?
    Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?”

    2 Corinthians 6:14-15

  2. Reed Here said,

    May 27, 2009 at 10:09 am

    Uh … I’m not sure I fully track with you here.

  3. Sam Sutter said,

    May 27, 2009 at 11:32 am

    I don’t really track with the idea of presupposition when it comes to difficult phenomena.

    Silly Example: says that sunrise is at 5:45AM.

    Liberal Criticism: – is wrong – the sun does not rise, it’s teaching a flat earth we can’t trust

    Conservative Criticism: – Only Liberals talk about the problem of the sun rise – people who start noticing these things stop trusting in, if is true, then it won’t have errors like that… shhhh!

    (both ironically guilty of empathizing the error.)

    Better:- Umm. is just “accommodating” to the way we understand stuff. Obviously it does say “sun rise”, Obviously the sun doesn’t actually rise. – it’s no accommodation to the round earth agenda to point that out. – It’s wrong, call it an “error” if you want, but it’s not really a threat to the truth of the weather forecast to say “sun rise”, or point out that the sun doesn’t actually rise. Read it without fear.

  4. Reed Here said,

    May 27, 2009 at 11:41 am

    Sam: uh… thanks, I think?

    Not sure what your comment is directed at here. Assuming they’re intended to apply to either side of the debate here, I don’t think either of your characterizations are all that accurate, and therefore fair.

    Point of fact I think boths sides would affirm your “better” position. Such anthropomorphic language examples are not in contention by either side here. Of course there is language of appearance in Scripture, and it’s use does not demonstrate God’s accomodation of error.

    This is not an example of the Enns accomodation, not what I am particularly critiquing.

  5. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 27, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Of course, God does correct some things in that “erroneous” understanding–He corrects their views of God, how to worship Him, the status of the cosmos (as creature, not as divine). So, the simple fact that God uses known things does not mean He is limited by them in what He can reveal. Why would it be harder to reveal, say, evolution than to reveal that the sun was not actually a God?

    And this is why we need to study the history and philosophy of science. A former prof of mine suggested that the history of theoretical science has been a series of “ontological flip-flops”–we’ve gone from a plenitude to atoms and the void, back to plenitude (ether), back to atoms and the void, back to plenitude (dark matter)…Why are we taking the current theories as the measure of what we know?

  6. Reed Here said,

    May 27, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Thanks Joshua.

    First paragraph: I would go further. He corrects our view not simply of spiritual things, but of material things as well. Yes, this is that which in the context of redemption, the subject matter of the Bible. I.e. this is not an arugment that the Bible is a mathematics textbook, etc. It is to say that when it uses mathematics, science, history, etc., it does not do so via falsehood/mistakes. Other than this clarification, I agree with you here.

    2nd paragraph: agreed. I find is somewhat surprising that the Enns ( focus gives a particular “stamp of validity” to the sources they believe materially prove their premise(s). As one put it here on another post, it is the “cumulative weight” of such evidence that compels the position.

    I’m surprised that these brothers do not seem to take into account the numerous times the theories of man have fallen by the wayside, while the “thus saith the Lord,” keeps marching on.

  7. Sam Sutter said,

    May 27, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Reed, I think some examples of compromises (accommodation) you think that Enns has made would be helpful then.

    In my silly example, I was eluding to something like the solid dome (raqia) example. If that’s not the kind of accommodation you’re talking about, what are some examples that would fit your criticism? If this is not the kind of accommodation that you’re criticizing, how do you determine what sort of accommodation is good, and what kind is bad?

  8. GLW Johnson said,

    May 27, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    I would like the Enns guys to please tell us why all of them are now so decidedly against the doctrine of inerrancy as defined by Old Princeton/Westminster- yet they contended that during the Enns controversy at WTS that Enns was in fact completely on board with inerrancy and insinuated that a political witch hunt was going on to remove him. It certainly appears that something else was in the mix – because since his removal the rhetoric from these fellows has heated up denouncing inerrancy.

  9. Reed Here said,

    May 27, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Sam: actually the raqia is a perfect example. Sorry, but that elusion was not clear to me in what you wrote.

    In this example, the argument (UHC and Enns) makes is three-fold:

    1) That the commonly accepted form of ANE cosmogeny contained an element of some sort of solid dome (raqia) encircling the earth. By way of analogy, the ANE world’s cosmogeny was silly-wrong, just like the Medieval cosmogeny of a flat-earth.
    2) That this was the cosmogeny held to by the Exodus generation, and
    3) That God accommodated his cosmological explanation to this (erroneous) opinion of theirs. That is he did not correct their mistaken understanding; he merely used for rhetorical purposes.

    This is debatable from at least a couple of perspectives, neither of which begins with the presupposition that God actually did use a falsehood to communicate truth. E.g.,:

    1) The dubiousness of the similarities between ANE and Genesis cosmogeny.
    2) The principle of copy-degradation; the more times a story is re-told, the more it tends to be corrupted (much like the Xerox copy of a copy of a copy of a … think of the Michael Keaton movie Multiplicity, or the “whisper” game.)

    Fact is we are not given enough details in either the rest of the Bible or the Hebrew text to know exactly what the raqia was. It is wrong to say, on the basis of imperfect external sources, either:

    1) It must be a water-vapor canopy (or any other popular creationist explanation), or
    2) It must be what the ANE pagan cultures meant (their erroneous myth understanding).

    The purpose for which God mentions the raqia is to explain where the water “from above” came from for the flood. What he has told us, coupled with the self-attestation of Scripture that it is inerrant, is sufficient explanation for that purpose. There is no need to theorize, as Enns ( does, to explain a supposed error.

  10. Sam Sutter said,

    May 27, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    GLW, If that’s directed at me, then it’s not really what I’ve said.

    (related comment?) The problem though is that inerrancy as defined by Westminster has changed. One day Pete Enns is a rising star, the next day he’s a fallen angel. But he’s really been teaching the same lectures for 10?+ years. Either WTS is grossly unaware of what it’s faculty have been teaching and doesn’t bother to read books they publish, or their theological winds have changed. But students who love their Westminster education are reluctant to concede that what they learned was wrong. (Call it the grand weakness of the mentoring system of education if you will.) But, if your version of inerancy doesn’t allow for God lisping, then Calvin and I will denounce it no matter how liberal that may sound. :-)

    I think that many of us really appreciated the education we received from WTS and really loved how God was glorified and God’s sovereignty in the middle of a messy world was proclaimed. Then one day, parts of that education was deemed

  11. Reed Here said,

    May 27, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Gary: that is a question you’ve asked now over the last four or five threads.(In vain so far ;-) .)

    As originator of three of these threads, let me note for those who wonder, I understand Gary to not be asking because he wants to merely expose what he perceives to be a disingenuousness. (That seems fairly obvious. I remember those prior conversations here in a similar manner.)

    No, I think he is trying to get at underlying (and apparently unexamined) presuppositions on the part of Enns ( Such a question therefore, is completely relevant to all these threads.

    Does this “change” demonstrate development of the position, and if so, how? Or does this “change” merely demonstrate a growing awareness on the part of Enns’ disciples for the necessary logic of the position? If so, why the necessity to argue otherwise before and not so now? That is, what has become more important, vital, etc., to the position that resulted in the eschewal of what was previously so vociforiously argued for (to wit, this position is not an abandonment of inerrancy as defined by the Old Princeton/WTS tradition)?

  12. Sam Sutter said,

    May 27, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    So you’d take the “ couldn’t possibly be using the expression ‘sun rise’ because they’re obviously not going to teach medieval science, we’re just not sure what ‘sun’ or ‘rise’ really means” position? :-)

  13. Pete Myers said,

    May 27, 2009 at 2:48 pm


    I don’t know anything about Enns… but surely his theology has developed in the last decade?

    Presumably, there would then be a question any organisation would find hard to tackle – what point is something “over the line” confessionally. Positions change slowly and incrementally. I’m not in any position to say whether Westminster stayed in exactly the same place on the subject, but just that, I find it hard to see how anyone could have stayed in exactly the same place on an issue for a whole decade.

    A point highlighted by Gary’s comment, over time, positions change and develop.

  14. Reed Here said,

    May 27, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Sam, no. 10: no, I do not believe Gary was directing that at you per se (see my comment that follows yours.)

    As to the “why” you ask, there is a simple asnwer, one that gives me as a WTS alum both comfort and pause. Simply put, our fathers at WTS are like all men of God, lumps of clay divinely called. We should expect such things.

    It is not an unreasonable period of time for Dr. Enns’ position to develop, and then be questioned, and then be determined out of bounds with WTS’s standards. I’m rather grateful that the history demonstrates that those who fear a witch hunt in these circumstances are wrong.

    We should take comfort in the faith expressed by those who opposed Enns. Contrary to all the inappropriate unsubstantiated accusations I’ve heard, the men behind this (most notably Lilliback and Trueman) behaved themselves in a manner consistent with Christian behavior AND the procedural standards of WTS itself.

    So I don’t too worked up over “why did it take so long?” Patience, forbearance, taking a brother at his word, until circumstances made it clear otherwise, and then a quiet and patient pursuit of an agreed upon process – all these are characteristic of these circumstances.

  15. Reed Here said,

    May 27, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Sam, no. 13: that is silly. By your own definition, this is a silly example. Basing an assumption of my understanding on a silly example is just silly of you.

    Sunrise is phenomenal language describing circumstances that are ongoing in our everyday experience. Raqia is phenomenal language describing circumstances prior to the flood. It is assumption either way (the creationist or the ANE cosmongeny position) based on a set of circumstances for which we have neither modern parallel nor sufficient empirical data.

    Again, the point in the raqia reference is sufficient for its usage. Might as well get all uptight about whether or not Cain had to marry his sister. We can surmise all we want. Yet the text does not bother with that question. Therefore, we can conclude on the self-attesting authority of the Bible, that the question is immaterial and need not worry us.

    I sleep comfortably knowing I will see that sunrise until either I awake in His presence or hear the final trumpet. I sleep comfortably not because I have all my suppositional itches scratched, but because He Who has persuaded me has communicated truthworthy truth in His Bible.

    If one is pre-dispossed to find errors, contradictions, etc., in the Bible, there is no argument that will suffice to stop one. Please do not however, assume silliness on the part of another’s understanding of inerrancy.

  16. Sam Sutter said,

    May 27, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    well, the downside of that approach (other than the obvious anachronism of Lilliback and Trueman coming after Enns) is that teachers teach, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that when you reject a mentor, their followers somehow feel a bit defensive. I’m not talking about a witch hunt – if Lane Tipton was removed from WTS for his view of Gen 1-2, or Trueman for his Marxist takes on saints or Gaffin for cheating at softball, I think many of us would be defensive – because we learned from these men and to reject them is to reject their students.

  17. Sam Sutter said,

    May 27, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    …i was totally kidding about Gaffin cheating at softball.

  18. Reed Here said,

    May 27, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Sam, no. 17: I got it. Seems everyone always has to pick on him though :)

    No. 16: your comments are loaded with inferences, no of which necessarily follow. At most, if we were in those circumstances, I would be obligated to here your concern and deny it; whereas you would be obligated to not make an inference necessary without first asking.

    The anachronims comment seems to me to be an opinion based on your take. Let’s leave such out, shall we?

  19. Sam Sutter said,

    May 27, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Reed no 18 – sorry, inferences not accusations – my point is that students (I’m) loyal generally to my teachers if you were to pick on any of them, I’d get defensive.

    anachronism – fact not opinion, Enns was in full time employment of WTS longer than/before Lillback, and I think Trueman. It’s a flaw in your narration about WTS fathers sitting back watchin it all take place. – maybe a weak point on my part, but i think a matter of public record.

  20. Reed Here said,

    May 27, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Sam, no 19: the “flaw” in my narration is a reading into what I intend to be general observations about the period. I should have made that clearer. Sorry.

    My point was simply that those circumstances do not fit well into one particular perspective conclusion over another. Much going on during this period, too much that one conclusion fits all. Nothing more intended.

    As this is off the main topic, unless there is something relevant, or a final point you wish to make (please do), I’d rather drop it and move back toward the topic at hand. Thanks.

  21. GLW Johnson said,

    May 27, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    Actually I was making reference to Art, Steven (FTH) Mark T., and Carlos. Are you a Enns disciple too?

  22. ReformedSinner said,

    May 27, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    #16 Sam,

    Interesting. How about the other part of Enns’ students that were disturbed by Enns’ teachings and either have their faith shaken, distressed, and they are very happy that Enns has left WTS?

    Just pointing out there’s always two sides to the story, and if anything you’ve proven a human weakness: we rather side with man rather than with God.

  23. Adeathmarch said,

    May 27, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Dear Men,

    I’m a little unclear what good this debate is doing? Either you believe in God or you don’t. Is it not true that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord in the end anyways?

    A Layman

  24. Reed Here said,

    May 27, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Dear Layman: please introduce yourself, as per Lane’s blog rules. Thanks.

  25. Adeathmarch said,

    May 28, 2009 at 2:11 am

    I’m sorry I’m new to blogging and I couldn’t find the rules on this page. What is it you want to know?

  26. Adeathmarch said,

    May 28, 2009 at 4:19 am

    Dear Reed,

    After praying about it I thought these are the things you may want to know:

    My name: I don’t feel comfortable giving you this information as I am afraid you may try to harm those I love.
    Church Affiliation: Member of a PCA church
    Marital Status: Married
    Children: 2
    My profession: Research Assistant
    My education: BS in Chemistry

    I have been reading the Word (yes, the Bible, mainly NIV, but I do almost have every version in my home) for approximately 30years. As far as a believer goes it has been 25 years. Hope this is what you want.

  27. GLW Johnson said,

    May 28, 2009 at 5:29 am

    ” harm those I love” ? I saw this kind of thing on the ‘Save Our Seminary’ website. Enns was being persecuted, the WTS hounds were going to be let loose to track down any Enns sympathizers , the righteous ones were going to be hauled into the Church courts. Gee whiz but this kind of whining gets old.

  28. David Gray said,

    May 28, 2009 at 6:08 am

    >Gee whiz but this kind of whining gets old.

    Yep. Liberals in the PCA are generally quite safe.

  29. GLW Johnson said,

    May 28, 2009 at 6:16 am

    Leave it to you to make a real contribution to this conversation.

  30. David Gray said,

    May 28, 2009 at 7:10 am

    >Leave it to you to make a real contribution to this conversation.

    Sounds like whining to me…

  31. pduggie said,

    May 28, 2009 at 7:44 am

    I never get why the Raquia cosmology is “silly-wrong”. Its a valid naive observation, but not silly wrong. Silly wrong is Aristotle believing mice spontaneously generate from dirty rags, or that a thrown object travels in a straight line then falls straight down. O_o

  32. Reformed Sinner said,

    May 28, 2009 at 8:02 am


    “harm those I love?” You gotta be kidding me….

  33. Reformed Sinner said,

    May 28, 2009 at 8:31 am

    #31 pduggie:

    Raquia cosmology is silly because it is wrong (thus silly-wrong):

    The Hebrew raquia (the “firmament” in English translation) means an “expanse” (Davidson, 1963, p. DCXCII; Wilson, n.d., p. 166), or “something stretched, spread or beaten out” (Maunder, 1939, p. 315; Speiser, 1964, p. 6). Keil and Delitzsch offered this definition in their monumental commentary on the Pentateuch: “to stretch, to spread out, then beat or tread out…the spreading out of air, which surrounds the earth as an atmosphere” (1980, 1:52).

    In an article discussing the “firmament” of Genesis 1:6-8, Gary Workman observed that this word is an “unfortunate translation” because it “not only is inaccurate but also has fostered unjust criticism that the Bible erroneously and naively pictures the sky above the earth as a solid dome” (1991, 11[4]:14). Strictly speaking, of course, “firmament” is not actually a translation of raquia at all, but rather, more accurately, a transliteration (i.e., the substitution of a letter in one language for the equivalent letter in another language) of an “unfortunate translation.” Allow me to explain.

    The Septuagint (a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek produced by Jewish scholars in the third century B.C. at the behest of Ptolemy Philadelphus, for inclusion in his world-famous library in Alexandria) translated raqia into the Greek as stereoma, which connotes a “solid structure” (Arndt and Gingrich, 1967, p. 774). Apparently, the translators of the Septuagint were influenced by the then-popular Egyptian view of cosmology and astronomy that embraced the notion of the heavens being a stone vault. Unfortunately, those Hebrew scholars therefore chose to render raqia via the Greek word stereoma—in order to suggest a firm, solid structure. The Greek connotation thus influenced Jerome to the extent that, when he produced his Latin Vulgate, he used the word firmamentum (meaning a strong or steadfast support—from which the word “firmament” is transliterated) to reflect this pagan concept (McKechinie, 1978, p. 691).

    Raquia denotes simply an expanse, not a solid structure. Furthermore, the actual substance of the expanse is not inherent in the word. For example, Numbers 16:38 juxtaposes raquia and pahim (plates), suggesting literally an “expanse of plates.” Here, “plates” specifies the actual material involved in the expansion. In Genesis, “heavens,” not solid matter, is given as the nature of the expanse (Genesis 1:8,14,15,17,20). The original context in which raquia is used does not imply any kind of solid dome above the Earth.

    The Bible equates “firmament” with the “heavens” (Psalm 19:1), using even the compound “firmament of heaven” (Genesis 1:14,15,17). God provided the correct definition of the word on the second day of creation when He “called the firmament Heaven” (Genesis 1:8). It was described further when Isaiah said that the Lord “stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in” (Isaiah 40:22). “Heavens” always is dual in the Hebrew and, in general, refers to the “heights” above the Earth. As such, there are three particular applications of the word in Scripture. There are the atmospheric heavens (Jeremiah 4:25), the sidereal heavens (outer space) where the planetary bodies reside (Isaiah 13:10), and the heaven of God’s own dwelling place (Hebrews 9:24). As the context requires, “firmament” may be used in reference to any one of these three places. Birds are said to fly in “the open firmament of heaven” (the atmospheric heavens, Genesis 1:20). The Sun, Moon, and stars are set in “the firmament of heaven” (the sidereal heavens, Genesis 1:17). And the psalmist spoke of God’s “sanctuary” as being “in the firmament” (Psalm 150:1).

    The context of Genesis 1:6-8,14-22 makes it clear that Moses intended his readers to understand the raquia simply as the sky, atmosphere, or expanse above the Earth.

  34. Chris Donato said,

    May 28, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Why does Enns assume the biblical author didn’t know exactly what he was writing? What if Moses knew what he was writing was not scientific cosmogeny? What if he deemed readers who read him that way to be reading wrongly? Would this not alleviate Enns’ concern re: accommodation?

  35. GLW Johnson said,

    May 28, 2009 at 8:55 am

    I have noticed that once people adopt a position and then find themselves under a barrage of criticism they do one of two things: They either retreat and reformulate their position to bring it more in line with the criticisms-or they redouble their efforts and dig in because they have too much of an emotional investment to back down at this stage. If the latter, then they will also adpot a ‘remnant’ mentality which allows them and their followers to feel persecuted for their views .

  36. Tony said,

    May 28, 2009 at 9:12 am

    #33, Reformed Sinner:

    This is odd. Are you Bert Thompson? If not, why do you not credit him for his words which you cut and pasted into your post? Or did Bert Thompson take the words in his article from you?

    Posts on a blog aren’t publications. Still, the principle of intellectual property still seems to apply, and credit should be given where credit is due.

    As this happened once before with you, it seems worthwhile mentioning.

  37. cbovell said,

    May 28, 2009 at 9:18 am

    Ooooohhhhh, NOW I remember. Reformed Sinner is that guy who likes to cut and paste online materials without citing them and then post them as if they’re his very own comments, even down to an “Allow me to explain.”

    (Comment #33 is taken verbatim from

    You did the same thing last year, too. I remember complaining about it then but everyone just turned a blind eye without saying anything. I am beginning to wonder if one of the purposes behind these past few threads is to provide an opportunity for TR people to show their constituents just how “learned” they are while being able to publicly bash Pete Enns at the same time.

  38. GLW Johnson said,

    May 28, 2009 at 9:23 am

    Neither myself or Fowler White ( and many others who have posted comments -all of whom have grave concerns over the influence of Enns) have engaged you in that manner.

  39. Reed Here said,

    May 28, 2009 at 10:18 am

    Carlos, no. 37: hmm, … those kind of comments sound creepily like those made by someone on a witch hunt.

    As I’m the source of this series of posts (more to come), I can assure I have had one primary goal, and a secondary one:

    1) I believe your position (enns’, is wrong, and given the subject, dangerous to faith of the sheep. Thus my goal is to offer a series of posts which I pray God will use to protect them. (Acts 20:28; 1Ti 4:6; Heb 12:15.)

    2) I believe you ( are in the grips of a serious error, one which is detrimental to your soul, potentially to it’s eternal well-being. Accordingly, my secondary goal is to offer a series of posts which I pray God will use to grant you repentence. (2Ti 2:25; 3:7.)

    Carlos, you know such questioning of motives is wrong. I’ve read you rightly challenge it in others. Tony’s question to RF is sufficient. No need to suppose a grand conspiracy. Please, give an appropriate mea culpa ( a simple “sorry” is sufficient proof of the Spirit’s working), and move on.

  40. cbovell said,

    May 28, 2009 at 10:49 am

    There you go questioning motives again, Reed. I didn’t even see Tony’s post until after I posted mine! Now, I will gladly move out of this discussion.

  41. Reformed Sinner said,

    May 28, 2009 at 11:10 am

    #37 Carlos,

    I do not see a need for citation in a blog (unless for further reading, which I will include), but if you would like I will do that for you in the future. I am not here trying to get a grade nor accreditation from an institution. I’m here to share knowledge.

    If you like I am free to admit nothing I posted here is my own but I LEARN them from someone else. Nothing is my original work. I will humbly follow the wisdom of others as they are consistent with the Word of God. And yes I like to use copy and paste when I feel I can’t speak it better myself. I really don’t see the fuss on the difference in me putting them in my own words and just copy and paste. In many part of the Eastern world that’s sound academics and expected.

    The point of this blog is to share knowledge, not trying to prove who’s smarter and who can articulate stuff best in his own language.

    But then again, coming from someone that seems to care a great deal on how the academic people evaluates him, I am not surprise by your reaction.

    Also, I free admit my style may be view with disgust in the Western academic world (having been through western academic system), if this blog owner has a problem with my “radical” approach on citations, I will accommodate too.

    Finally, Carlos, care to share with us the weight of the content that challenges your view or are you simply going to whine about something irrelevant to the argument?

  42. Reed Here said,

    May 28, 2009 at 11:10 am

    Carlos: I did not question your motives. I responded to exactly what you said. You are the one who “wondered” about the purpose behind these posts, and then went on to offer a purpose that necessarily infers sinful motives.

    I made no mention of your motives, only your written words.

    I worry for you brother, when you use tactics of the fallen world to defend obvious sinful behavior. Bowing out now leaves this mark on your profession of faith. I urge you brother, do not do so.

  43. Reformed Sinner said,

    May 28, 2009 at 11:19 am

    #36 Tony,

    I will freely admit I know the rules of plagiarism in the Western context. However, my purpose is never to come to this blog to show off how smart I am (can’t say the same about others). My primary purpose here is to share knowledge and advance arguments with additional information and data. When I see a good argument my first instinct (train by western standards) is to rephrase it in my own words. However, if that is not possible (as I am so awe in the original writer’s skills that I cannot do better), I simply copy and paste (my Eastern part comes out). I do not hide that and I never tried to hide that.

    I guess it doesn’t take a second to post a link and then say “this is what someone else said…”, but I found long ago that usually when this happens nobody read it nor taken seriously, so I merely copy and paste, again, I do not hide that.

    However, I will respect the rules of the game. Carlos is right no one made a fuss about it last year so I do not hide the fact that I have done it, has done it in this case, and will do it again in the future unless I’m specifically told by the owners here that they prefer I treat this with the same vigor as any other academic setting.

    But personally, I don’t know why this is upsetting to some people. Like I said, I’m not here to get anything out of it myself, I’m simply trying to help advance arguments and learn from people’s responses to these arguments.

  44. Reed Here said,

    May 28, 2009 at 11:23 am


    Thanks for your open explanation. Unless Lane wishes to direct otherwise, I think it is in keeping with Lane’s “scholarly” intentions for this blog for simple referencing of source(s) to be provided for all: parts of one’s comments that are “cut-&-paste”, and parts that are substantial paraphrasing of another’s words.

    Again, appreciate your willingnes to remove an unneeded stumbling block.

  45. Reformed Sinner said,

    May 28, 2009 at 11:27 am

    #44 Reed,

    Ok guys, from now on I will treat this blog forum like an academic paper, and I will follow the SBL rule of citations.

    However, I just like to share a personal lament. What has gotten into the academic field that once it’s all about knowledge exchange, and now it seems to be about “intellectual property.”

    But I’ll stop there, and I will follow the SBL rule of citation in this blog.

  46. Reed Here said,

    May 28, 2009 at 11:32 am

    RF: no, please do not over-read what I’ve asked. Simple parenthetical source referencing is sufficient for lengthy quotes. Otherwise, a “so and so has said, “blah, blah, blah.”, is perfectly sufficient. The inquirer who wants to look at the original source can ask you for more bibliographic info.

    The purpose is not to burden the poster or the reader with an SBL level of referencing. The purpose is to eliminate the kind of challenge Tony and Carlos have made, and thereby ignore the substance of the debate.

  47. Reformed Sinner said,

    May 28, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Oh ok, got it.

    Simple link and “so and so has said” got it.

  48. Reed Here said,

    May 28, 2009 at 11:46 am


  49. cbovell said,

    May 28, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    I’ve made up my mind to not participate anymore. The conversation might have had some potential to become edifying when I first began but it has since deteriorated below a threshold by which time I had promised myself I’d back out of the discussion.

    This is my personal judgment and I am going to act upon it. I need a break from this place and I want to leave you guys alone to what is tantamount to Enns-bashing in the name of the Lord. But before I do I will honestly ask: what is it that you want to clear up with me, Reed? Or what is it that you want me to clear up with you?

    I am honestly saying to myself now (is this the evidence of Spirit you speak of? [Now I find THAT arrogant]): Reed says he’s not doing this to bash Enns and be a hero. I guess I’ll take his word for it. His attention is consciously focused on the items he delineates in his comments #39. Ok. Declaration noted. That must mean the former considerations are only incidental outworkings of his more primary and secondary intentions.

    Now if it serves the purposes of these threads for you to tell me (and all the readers of this blog) that I am coming across as using tactics from the fallen world and that I need to repent to you, then you won’t mind if I share with you how you are definitely coming across as a high priest.

    I mean think about it, Reed. Just look at how much control you have over these threads. A guy can’t even leave if he wants to. (Can I leave now?) A guy can’t wonder if there’s some behind-the-scenes dynamic at work on account of how our exchanges are structured and in the way these discussions have panned out without falling into some grave spiritual danger. I wonder to myself (and now aloud to you and your readers) how holy does a guy have to be to participate on this site? (I think I know how might answer this, but your answer is not what is comes across.)

    Nevertheless, I am ever before you in my comments, Reed, and never have anything to hide. Do instruct me as to where the “blemish” is in my profession and tell me more about my manifest “fallenness.” Sure, tell all the readers here and control the action some more.

    I share my frustrations with you in good faith, Reed. Hear them if you are able to.

  50. Reformed Sinner said,

    May 28, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    #49 Carlos,

    Seriously, do you ever look in the mirror when you make these criticisms?

    “I want to leave you guys alone to what is tantamount to Enns-bashing in the name of the Lord.” (Carlos said in post #49… :)

    I really don’t know where you get this from. We have a group of Christian people here that is bothered, distressed, and sadden by Enns teachings and seek to understand (and rebuke) his thought process in light of Scripture. I do not know why you keep calling this “Enns-bashing”. Quit playing the victim card as if anyone that dares to bring up any contrary voice is “Enns-bashing”

    “But before I do I will honestly ask: what is it that you want to clear up with me, Reed? Or what is it that you want me to clear up with you?”

    The tone of post #48 for starters. Do you not see the tone of your own post, do you ever re-read your posts?

    “Reed says he’s not doing this to bash Enns and be a hero. I guess I’ll take his word for it.”

    Yes, you need to take his words for it, because he’s a fellow brother in Christ and that’s enough reason to take his words for it, just like we (or at least I) truly believe you are not trying to be detrimental, and you seriously believe you do what you do for the benefit of the Church and its young Evangelicals. There’s no doubt in my mind you’re sincere in your motives, now whether your way is the truth and consistent with the Bible is the argument here. But I see no one here ever question your faith and your love for God. But yet you treat Reed (and others) like the worst Pharisees that you can’t wait for Tribulation to suck us down to the lands of Hades. What gives?

    “you won’t mind if I share with you how you are definitely coming across as a high priest.”

    Please re-read all of your posts the last few days. You are already doing a fine job of this statement.

    Anyway, what’s between Reed and you is between you guys, but I just want to point them out as an observing third-person of these on-going arguments.

  51. GLW Johnson said,

    May 28, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    How is it “Enns bashing” to ask the question I did about Enns , who claimed to affirm inerrancy and to stand in the Old Princeton/Westminster tradition-and his disciples defending all through the controversy at WTS ,insisting that Enns was being deal with unfairly ( a political coup is how it was described)-but now that Enns is no longer at WTS these same individuals rail against the very doctrine that Enns claimed to embrace?

  52. Sam Sutter said,

    May 28, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    I guess my frustration with this discussion is that the comments as a whole have little to do with the post. (I’m guilty too) But the post was about…

    Post Thesis: 1) Enns believes what he believes as an accommodation (or compromise to liberal scholars.) – It’s almost ironic that the difficulty of motive has come up multiple times in the comments – each toward giving grace to commenter… but never about the complexity of assigning that motive to Enns. – Which is the first thesis of the post – and difficult to sustain.

    Thesis 2) God Speaks truth though/despite error(?) – Again, very little of the comments on if God can do that or not.

    Honestly, if you want to discuss this just make a post with the title “Pete Enns’s Mom wears army boots” and we can have the same discussion and be on topic. But right now I feel like I’m the Yankees fan commenting on a Red Sox forum. It’s a good time. Being right is a good feeling, but at the end it always devolves to A-Rod jokes and ‘we’ll see you at the playoffs’, and it makes one wonder if there’s really a point in having this discussion.

  53. GLW Johnson said,

    May 28, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Well, I can see that my question is going to go begging.

  54. Reed Here said,

    May 28, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    Sam, no. 52: again, you make a silly comment.

    Did we not interact on your “on-topic” comment? (Yes.)

    Did we not interact on your “off-topic” comment? (Yes, after which it was I who suggested to you that we get back on track.)

    Feel free to make substantive comments about the subject of the thread. Otherwise, please refrain from complaining about off-topic comments when you yourself seem to only make such comments as Enn’s mom’s choice of foot apparel.

    Me thinks thou dost protest too much (and how!)

  55. Sam Sutter said,

    May 28, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    sorry for being silly… no, I’m sorry i wasn’t at all insinuating that *my* comments were worth talking about. unless I’m confused about which blog I’m posting on, you (Reed) are the author of the post. I think that *your* post (the thing at the very top of the comments LOL) should be the topic of conversation. And it seems most commenters (including myself) are guilty of commenting on something else – Which either says something about the post, or about the audience.

  56. Reed Here said,

    May 28, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Sam: oh, in that case, swing away Merrell! (Don’t ask me to explain why a line from the movie Signs comes to mind.)

    Seriously, point taken. There is to be expected some “rabbit-trailing” in any conversation. As long as it does not go too far afield, or last too long, s’okay.

    And yeah, I do agree there has not been much interaction with the point. That can mean a number of things: 1) its just boring, 2) its obviously wrong that no one needs critique it, or 3) it is so on-target as to speak for itself.

    I doubt the last will be agreed to by Enns’ disciples. They’ve chosen to absent themselves at this point. Others may still wish to chime in. Regardless, my goal still stands.

  57. Sam Sutter said,

    May 28, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    I’ll try not to read into the order or the amount of your options… :-)

  58. Reed Here said,

    May 28, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Yes, I didn’t care to act like a Puritan and list the other thousand :-)

  59. Reformed Sinnner said,

    May 28, 2009 at 5:22 pm


    Well too bad. I was looking forward to their answer on how their system works for the entire Bible. It’s one thing to look at “easy passages” and say “aha, there’s errors here, errors there, so the Bible is erroneous.” But even 1.5 years later I am still waiting for a solid answer on how they decide which passages are in error and which are not, when you consider all of the Bible falls into their criteria of historical situatedness, (supposed) similarities with other ANE and surrounding cultures, and all of the Bible are written by and through human authors.

    I’m surprise Pete Enns didn’t pick up a thing or two from Ray Dillard. I remember Al Groves once shared that Dillard, after surveying through all the methods that might explain the differences in chronologies in the OT, thought he has found one method that can explain it all, until he met one passage that the method doesn’t work on, and Dillard discard that method as unbiblical because although it fits all other OT passages but one. Now that’s an honest OT theologian.

  60. Vern Crisler said,

    May 28, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    Re: #33
    I don’t think it’s correct to say that “raquia” only denotes an expanse or atmosphere, not a solid dome-like structure. The sacred writer did not have our scientific understanding of where rain came from. He knew it came from “up there” so there had to be something that kept the rain (the waters above) from pouring all the time — and that something was a “firmament in the midst of the waters” (Gen. 1:6).

    Paradoxically the sacred writer in Genesis is not describing Creation sub specie aeternitatis but from a local, perspectival, terrestrial outlook. Neither he nor his readers would have understood anything else. The Bible isn’t written in a preferred target language — the language of modern science or astronomy — but in the ordinary language of the ancient near east.

    To require God to reveal himself in modern terms means that he could not reveal himself to anyone but modern man. Nevertheless, as long as the language is purely terrestrial (with no cosmology at all in mind), such naive descriptions fall within alethic tolerances for everyday discourse (which is why we can still truthfully say that the sun rises in our non-Ptolemaic universe).

    Errantists want to use a legitimate point about accommodation to make the illegitimate claim that the Bible is false in its teachings about creation, that the world wasn’t created in 6 days, with God resting on the 7th. But there is no significant difference in the ancient and modern understanding of what a day is (viz. its length), so there would be no need for accommodation with regard to the meaning of “day.”

    Those who still believe in the truthfulness of the Bible should realize that God did not just accommodate himself to man, but more specifically, God accommodated himself to ancient near eastern man. I don’t think Bible-believers should allow themselves to be painted into a corner on this.

    The answer to hyper-accommodationism is not a flat non-accommodationist hermeneutics (all too often indulged in by some creationists), but a Calvinistic accommodationism, where God baby-talks to man.

    Just some thoughts,


  61. Reformed Sinner said,

    May 29, 2009 at 10:04 am

    #60 Vern,

    I have no issue with accommodation, but I do have an issue with taking things for granted. Raquia is just an expanse or a dome-liked structure? While the language style of the historical situatedness do play a role, however, the weightier side to settle the argument should be the Bible’s use of itself. We need the Biblical content to inform us and I believe post #33 (not my thought but I copy and paste from the web) makes a strong argument for an alternative reading from within the Bible’s own contents.

    While all of us have some type of “a priori” favortism, however, that shouldn’t stop us from sincerely interacting with each other’s arguments. Unfortunately posts here typically blog downward to “you just don’t get it, I have nothing more to say to you” while never spending anytime to take the conservative challenges seriously.

  62. Reed Here said,

    May 29, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Vern, no. 60:

    If I’m tracking, you’re saying “accommodation” in the sense that raqia is used in a language of appearance manner. A comparable usage might be Dt 28:23, where God describes an element of the covenant curse as a “bronze” heaven; in context a simile for God ceasing rain and thereby precipiating a famine producing drought.

    I.O.W., God is describing the skys above as having a “firmament”or “dome-like” appearance to the eye of man. He is not saying, in accommodation to man’s (supposed) mistaken scientific knowlege, “its really not a dome, but since you think it is, let’s go with that.” Rather God is saying something akin to, “yeah, it does look like a dome, doesn’t it? Well, that’s where all that water (from above) came from.”

    Aside from the lack of metaphorical l(simile) anguage in the raqia passagr, this would not be a problem. As long as we are maintaining the historical situatedness, the historicity of the report of the flood, there is no accommodation to man’s errors in such an interpretation.

    As you probably know, this is not consistent with the Enns’ ( approach.

  63. Reed Here said,

    May 29, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    Vern, no. 60: one other thought …

    Thank you for the final note concerning hyper-accommodation on one hand and flat-non-accommodation on the other. Indeed, in opposition to Enns’ ( hyper-accommodation, we are not affirming a flat-non-accommodation position.

    It often appears as if that misunderstanding is present in some of the opposing responses here. Your note shoiuld help remove this unnecessary barrrier.

  64. greenbaggins said,

    May 29, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    I would like to address one small point here: that of Enns and tone and bashing and all. I count Peter Enns a personal friend. I respect him as a Christian, and I respect his scholarship. I had a wonderful lunch with him once as I wanted to bounce off of him an idea concerning the relationship of music to theology, and the implications that music had for the unity of theology (implications that Jeremy Begbie has to some extent brought out in his unique and stimulating volumes). I have never bashed Enns, and Reed has never bashed Enns. Anyone who says otherwise is, I believe, committing false witness against us. I learned a great deal from Dr. Enns, and I am very grateful for that learning that he has given to me. I am sure that Reed feels the same. I can understand the frustrations that you, Carlos, are feeling, in that you don’t feel that Enns is being understood and engaged fairly. However, you must also try to put yourselves in Reed’s and my shoes. Here we are, having nothing personally against Enns whatsoever, and yet finding ourselves differing on a fundamental issue with him. Do you understand how sorrowful that makes Reed and myself? Do you understand how little tempted we would be to mock Enns, or grandstand on this issue? If it were not for the sheep and the shepherds that will be shepherding said sheep, we would be silent. Can we please lose the idea that anyone who disagrees fundamentally with Enns is therefore simply attacking him, the person? I get really weary of that equation. It’s not fair at all.

  65. May 30, 2009 at 10:26 am

    It seems to me that part of the impasse between the two sides on inerrancy is simply semantics. My guess is that everyone can agree that God in Himself is inerrant. By deduction that would mean that his word is inerrant. This I think both sides actually agree upon. The issue comes up as to the phenomenon of Scripture. How do we reconcile God’s perfect word with apparent discrepancies in the Bible? Both sides are assuming a level of modern accuracy as a rule by which Scripture is measured. A rule which higher criticism has established. For example, the issue of raqia keeps surfacing. Is this an error or is it simply an issue of varying degrees of accuracy? Certainly, a dome is an inaccurate description of the sky. However, sky is also inaccurate description from a certain perspective. Atmosphere is more specific and even then there are levels in the atmosphere. Therefore, description will always entail inaccuracy at some level or from a certain perspective. Thus, the bible does not err in its description of the raqia it is simply inaccurate from a modern perspective or rule of measure.

    Would it not be better to scrap the terms inerrantcy / error for more productive terms. One blogger noted that if the Bible said that Pi was 3.96 even though we know it as 3.14 then who would be right? The logical answer is that the Bible as God’s word would be right since God is creator and sustains of all things. However, this fails to address the real issue: How to reconcile the differences. Therefore, as a way forward I propose that we are not dealing with inerrancy but inaccuracy in communication. In this way, accommodation is a very real aspect of the conversation.

    This could also be said concerning the other errors pointed to in the conversation: Dan. 9:1, Lev./Deut. Passover laws etc. Would it not seem reasonable to simply change the language we are using?

  66. GLW Johnson said,

    May 30, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    First off, it is not a matter of semantics, or that the term inerrancy is carrying too much freight. Second, the issues here are theological-make no mistake about -if the doctrine of inspiration is revamped to accommodate error the flood gates will come open. For example, in the not too distance past ,it was once argued that we should restrict the Bible’s infallabilty to matters of faith and practice but that didn’t last long-soon the scope of was and what was not allow under the heading of infallible continue to grow. For instance there are now cultural catagories that include homosexuality. The Bible, it is argued is culturally conditioned and the writers of the various books of the Bible all bring their own limited perspective ( and bias) with them-thus the ‘human’ element in the equation is necessarily flawed. Some self-identified ‘Evangelicals’ are pushing the envelope and contending that even Jesus and the apostles made theological errors and thus we really can’t develope our doctrine of Scripture from them because they were subject to the same limitations as any other human author. It really would repay the time and effort it would take you to read extensively from the writings of Warfield on this subject. I have discovered that a great many people offering their two cents on this subject haven’t taken the time to read him. Some read him very selectively-going on a cherry-picking expedition – and end up looking rather foolish.

  67. Manlius said,

    May 30, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    I like the gist of what you’re saying, Steve. I agree that the term inerrancy is unfortunate because it causes a host of semantic disputes and prevents us from getting at the core issues.

    That said, since we’re sort of stuck with the term, I think classic “limited inerrancy” is the best way forward. It preserves the point that the Bible is exactly the way God wants it. However, it also demonstrates that in order to communicate with limited human beings, God has willingly limited himself in his expression through the use of human language, knowledge and other contingencies.

    I admit that limited inerrancy leaves a lot of questions unanswered, but it’s an excellent starting point for honestly trying to understand the Bible we’re confronted with.

  68. GLW Johnson said,

    May 30, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    ‘Limited inerrancy’? Limited to what?

  69. GLW Johnson said,

    May 30, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    By the way, Warfield wrote a lengthy article entitled ‘Limited Inerrancy”‘ that addressed this in some detail (P&R issued it as a pamplet back in the 60’s).

  70. Reed Here said,

    May 30, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Steve and Manlius: no disrespect intended, but your responses here are somewhat “limited.” They really do not address the real character of the issue. It is a fundamental issue of one position saying the Bible mean inerrancy in the normal sense of the word, free from factual falsehoods or mistakes, and the other side saying no it is not.

    The raqia discussion, the Passover discussion, the Dan 9 discussion, (ad nauseum) are all examples of the fallacies of the latter position which assumes the unbelieving higher critical assumptions that extra-Biblical data “proves” that the Bible does indeed contain factual falsehoods and/or mistakes. Starting from this error, this position cannot help but promote further error.

    Your notion of accuracy is but one small example Steve. This is not the ground of our differences. It is not an issue of contention between either side of the discussion here, contrary to the apparent failure of the other side to recognize that fact. I’ve posted enough comments that this should be clear. Thus it is not merely an issue of holding the Bible to a modern standard of accuracy which it clearly does not intend.

    No disrespect, but rather than your comments being means toward a resolution, they actually presuppose the fatal error of the side arguing for incoherent inerrancy. You’ll not succeed in persuading anyone who sees that your beginning point is that the Bible must in fact contain errors.

  71. Reed Here said,

    May 30, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    Let me amen Lane’s comment in no. 64.

    I do respect Peter Enns, and consider him a brother, a professor who has been used of God to bless me. I hold no ill-will or animosity toward him.

    I am engaging in debating what I understand to be his position, and its implications. I stand willing to be corrected whereever it can be shown that I am not tracking with either.

    I do not believe I have written anything that is disparaging to Dr. Enns, ascribing to him motives or goals that are less than christlike. Indeed, I write with the view in mind that I will one day have to answer for any erroneous words on my part. My prayer is that if this were to happen this side of eternity, I might be able to sit down in friendship with Dr. Enns and discuss my differences in the cordiality that only belongs to brothers in the Lord.

  72. GLW Johnson said,

    May 30, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    I am reminded of what Machen went through back during the upheaval in the Presbyterian Church and particularly as it centered around Princeton seminary. People kept telling him that the individuals on the other side- particularly Robert Speer and Charles Erdman were ‘nice men’. Machen responded ” I never said that they weren’t”. Machen contended that that wasn’t the issue. Erdman ,on the other hand ,made it a personal issue, declaring that Machen was ‘mean-spirited’ and did everything he could to oppose Machen’s appointment to the chair of apologetics at PTS. Van Til told me that Machen was subjected to the most abuse for standing up for his principles and his convictions about maintaining the Old Princeton theology. We’ve come full circle. Where would Machen stand if he were with us today?

  73. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    May 30, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    GLW: “Where would Machen stand if he were with us today?”

    My guess is that he would support Enns’s ouster. And that with regards to his book “Christianity and Liberalism” he’d still stand by what he wrote.

  74. GLW Johnson said,

    May 30, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    I am pretty sure you are right… and I am convinced that Van Til would have concurred , along with Murray and Young and Stonehouse. We know for sure were Gaffin would stand.

  75. Reed Here said,

    May 30, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Gary: yeah, I’m with you.

  76. May 30, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    GLW, Reed,
    I’m not sure why it’s being said of my post that my “beginning point is that the Bible must in fact contain errors” or that I’m “revamping” doctrine to” accommodate error”. When I wrote, “By deduction that would mean that his word is inerrant” that was an affirmation of Scripture’s inerrancy.
    GLW, you are right that you approach this issue as a theological issue. This is why I grant inerrancy as assumed from a theological point of view. Inerrancy is deduced from our doctrine of who God is. By definition he cannot err. This point I believe that both sides of the conversation can agree upon. The doctrine of inerrancy is a theological / systematic dogma. Let’s grant that the Bible is inerrant on the basis of our dogma. From this point however, we are confronted with the phenomena of Scripture. Now, the other side of the conversation is approaching the Scripture from an hermeneutical/exegetical point of view and not a theological point of view. So there are two different approaches that it appears to me are speaking past each other. A theological approach and a hermeneutical/exegetical approach. As a side note, I think it was Gaffin in God’s word in Servant form that says we cannot derive our doctrine of scripture from the phenomena of Scripture, which I agree, but that doesn’t seem to deal with the phenomena of scripture itself.
    If I can put it in different terms, one approach is theological and the other is experiential. Interestingly, we find this “problem” in many places within Christianity. For example, the struggle over justification. The Catholics insist on understanding justification as an “infusion of moral righteousness” whereas the protestants understand justification as a reckoning of an alien righteousness. Simon Gathercole helpfully writes in his analysis of justification, “The principal trouble is if one supposes that God can declare something to be the case (namely, that the sinner is righteous) but that in reality the opposite state of affairs persists: in God’s eyes, the believer is Justus (“righteous”), but his or her real being is fundamentally a peccator (“sinner”)”. Brothers, is this not the dilemma that is being discussed concerning what scripture is? It is inerrant by virtue of being God’s word, but we experience “errors” on a hermeneutical level?
    Gathercole goes on, “We should more properly consider that God’s “speech-acts” are what determine reality; they do not merely create an alternative, Platonic reality”. Hence, the same thing could be said about our understanding of scripture: the proposition that scripture is inerrant. In other words, it is God’s word which determines reality (I think this has been said and affirmed in the other blog posts).
    So people often feel conflicted. They may say, “I’m justified on the basis of Christ’s work received by faith and yet I’m sinful in my daily experience” or “I believe that the Scripture is God’s word but I see these problems in Scripture”. The question is raised: how do we resolve this problem between faith and experience?
    What I’m trying to get at is that accommodation is a way to explain the already/not yet phenomenon even in the Bible. God has clothed his word in ancient texts written by human authors. It is redemptive history and we see through a glass darkly. It is inerrant but not always accurate from our limited perspective.

  77. Manlius said,

    May 30, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Limited inerrancy is not exactly a new concept. Poythress wrote an article critiquing it back in 1975.

    Your question of “limited to what?” is a good one. I’ll grant that limited inerrancy can be very ambiguous and that its proponents often disagree where to draw the line. Of course, unlimited inerrancy has its own issues, too, and not everyone there is in full agreement either. For example, not all full inerrantists were very pleased with WTS’s “Inerrancy and Hermeneutic” back in the ’80s.

    In my view, the best definition for limited inerrancy I’ve come across is this: “The inspired books teach the truth. Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.” (Catechism of hte Catholic Church, Paragraph 107.)

  78. Manlius said,

    May 30, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Btw, isn’t limited inerrancy the “L” in TULIP?

    (Just trying to add a little levity :)

  79. Manlius said,

    May 30, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Sorry, GLW, I missed your comment # 69. From comment # 68 I thought you might be implying that I was coming up with something novel. # 69 shows you were well aware of it. Sorry about that.

  80. Manlius said,

    May 30, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    Oh, and another thing (sorry about my string of comments). As you well know, but it bears reminding, even full inerrantists limit inerrancy to the original autographs. So all of us are on the slippery slope, just in different places on it.

  81. May 30, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Machen’s View of Scripture–one example:

    With apologies to GLW for my long absence, here is a vignette from Machen that seems apropos to the discussion at this point. This is a clip from Machen’s 1933 review of Dr. Robert E. Speer’s work, The Finality of Jesus:

    “We desire particularly at this point to be fair. It is perfectly possible for a man to hold a high view of the Old Testament and at the same time to use some unguarded expressions that would logically destroy that view. I did just that, if I may take myself as a humble example, in my course lessons, A Rapid Survey of the Literature and History of New Testament Times, which was first published by the Presbyterian Board of Publications in 1914. In that course of lessons, especially in the first printing, I used some expressions, in describing the relation between Christianity and “Judaism” which were erroneous in a way similiar to that for which I am now criticizing Dr. Speer. Yet in that same course I presented a very high view of the authority of the whole Bible.

    I have regretted the errors in my course, and I am glad to correct them. I hope that Dr. Speer will not take it amiss if I point out errors in his latest book which seem to me to go very much further in the same direction.

    The great trouble is that I do not remember in this latest book of Dr. Speer, or in his recent books, any clear presentation of the doctrine of supernatural revelation or of the inspiration of the whole Bible which would counterbalance the unfortunate passages to which I have referred. I cannot remember any clear-cut statement of the authority of the Bible as such. It would be difficult to imagine a more serious difference of opinion than that which here seems, at least to separate us from Dr. Speer. Men may differ about the superstructure in many details, and still go on in essential harmony; but unless they are agreed about the foundation, it is difficult to see how anything like real agreement among them can be attained. The foundation of mission work, and of Christian work in general at home as well as abroad, for us Bible-believing Christians, is found in the absolute authority of the whole of God’s holy Word. I do not know how far Dr. Speer understands the implications of certain things that he has said. But the matter is so fundamental and so serious that even confusion with regard to it, to say nothing of positive error, is disastrous to everything that the Church is endeavoring to do.”

    [excerpted from Christianity Today, 4.1 (Mid-May 1933): 24-25.

  82. ReformedSinner said,

    May 30, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    #80 Manlius:

    There is no contradiction between autograph inerrancy and our text today we have as a result of textual criticism. We are just humble enough to recognize what we have today is not the same as the autograph, however, what we have for us, due to the preservation by the Holy Spirit, is so good that we can be confident of our text as if it was the autograph (we are certain what we have is 99%+ similar to the autograph, and should there are deviations the deviations are so small that it doesn’t alter the accuracy, fact, content, or its teachings and revelations of God Himself and His deeds.)

    So it’s inaccurate to say inerranists at the end of the day are just like erranists and the difference is only a matter of degree and how much we are willing to “open the door”

  83. Manlius said,

    May 30, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    Ref. Sinner, I say the same the thing about the preservation of the Holy Spirit. I would add, in fact, that it is His guidance and inspiration that makes it possible to affirm limited inerrancy without fear of diminishing the Word of God as our infallible and authoritative rule of faith.

    If the Holy Spirit can assure you that you have access to the inerrant Word of God despite textual discrepencies, why can’t the Holy Spirit also guarantee that same access to God’s inerrant Word despite scientific and historical mistakes?

  84. ReformedSinner said,

    May 30, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    #83 Manlius, thanks for the reply.

    Because we are talking about different things. The Holy Spirit, in preserving the manuscripts, allows the people of God to have access, a real access and not just an hypothetical access, to the actual autograph, an autograph that is inerrant. Today we are confident we have 99%+ of the autograph, and while discrepancies arises, but at the end of the day we have no discrepancies that alters anything of significance, not even history or numbers.

    Second, inerrancy is an inductive argument (inductively still starts with exegesis of Scripture, but we need to first exegete Scripture’s revelation of itself, and then from that (Doctrine of Scripture) inductively argue for the inerrancy of the Bible). The Scripture presents itself as God’s Word (2 Tim. 3:16), it also manifests God’s Being (God breathed). God cannot lie nor can He err nor can He not tell the truth. God can’t help it but always tell the truth, that’s the essence of who He is. The argument of inerrancy cannot be argue backwards, i.e. start with the phenomena of Scripture and work backward to the Doctrine of Scripture. Rather, it is inductive, we have the Doctrine of Scripture given by God and then we explore the phenomena of Scripture under the presupposition of the Doctrine of Scripture given by God Himself in Scripture.

    For me the erranists (or limited inerrancy in this case) makes the same methodoxical mistake as the people arguing for the Openness of God. The Openness of God people argues their new Doctrine of God in the same way as erranists. They gather the phenomena of Scripture that signals how God might be “open” in His being, and then rewrite the Doctrine of God to fit into the phenomena of Scripture and then argues this shouldn’t effect the faith of the Church but rather strengthen it. In the same way, I see the attack on Inerrancy using the same incorrect method.

  85. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    May 30, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    Westminster Theological Seminary made an accommodation and hired Dr. Gregory Beale. See here for the details.

    The thread is interesting also.

  86. GLW Johnson said,

    May 31, 2009 at 5:45 am

    Thanks, Wayne. I had not seen that particular piece from Machen-but it does cast a lot of light on the discussion we have been having here.

  87. GLW Johnson said,

    May 31, 2009 at 6:29 am

    The Enns crowd continue their drumbeat diatribe against inerrancy and against WTS for the outster of Enns. It doesn’t seem to have dawned on them that they are simply confirming that the action taken by WTS was indeed needed if the seminary was to remain faithful to the cause Machen & co. cherished.

  88. May 31, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    WWMS (what would Machen say)

    Contrary to popular lore…the supposed “Enns project” was NOT liberalism per J. Gresham Machen:
    “There are many who believe that the Bible is right at the central point, in its account of the redeeming work of Christ, and yet believe that it contains many errors. Such men are not really liberals, but Christians; because they have accepted as true the message upon which Christianity depends. A great gulf separates them from those who reject the supernatural act of God with which Christianity stands or falls” P.75 Christianity and Liberalism.

  89. ReformedSinner said,

    May 31, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    #88 Steve,

    I keep seeing that posted about Machen. But totally ignore what Machen said earlier: “the Holy Spirit so informed the minds of the Biblical writers that they were kept from falling into the errors that mar all other books.” P. 74 Christianity and Liberalism. THIS is Machen’s stance and he’s totally in line with Old Princeton’s inspiration and inerrancy.

    As for what he says about “Such men are not really liberals”, this needs to be taken in the historical context. To Machen at his time, he defines a Liberal as someone who rejects miracles, Virgin Birth of Mary, substitutionary atonement, and the deity of Christ. A real Christian, to Machen, accepts Jesus as a divine savior, but Liberals, to Machen, looked on Jesus as simply an example of moral perfection. So in this definition, it is no surprise that Machen, in his time, would accept people who claim the Bible contains errors, but affirms all that Machen affirms as historic Christian faith, as “not really Liberals.”

    However, to use a common catch phrase, I believe WTS’s (and some of us here) rejection of Enns is in the trajectory of Machen :) That is, Machen has always insisted that the only way to examine Liberalism was not by its actual manifestation but by its logical implications. So in the same trajectory, we believe Enns teachings, by logical implications, will lead to Liberalism and ultimately, what Machen would call Paganism.

  90. ReformedSinner said,

    May 31, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    Oh and Machen also said:

    “… If the liberal preacher objected to the doctrine of plenary inspiration on the ground that as a matter of fact there are errors in the Bible, he might be right and he might be wrong, but at any rate the discussion would be conducted on the proper ground. But too often the preacher desires to avoid the delicate question of errors in the Bible–a question which might give offense to the rank and file–and prefers to speak merely against “mechanical” theories of inspiration, the theory of “dictation,” the “superstitious use of the Bible as a talisman,” or the like. It all sounds to the plain man as though it were very harmless. Does not the liberal preacher say that the Bible is “divine”–indeed that it is the more divine because it is the more human ? What could be more edifying than that? But of course such appearances are deceptive. A Bible that is full of error is certainly divine in the modern pantheizing sense of “divine,” according to which God is just another name for the course of the world with all its imperfections and all its sin. But the God whom the Christian worships is a God of truth.”

    Wow, look at how Machen critique the Liberals. They speak in orthodox language, “the Bible is divine!” the Liberals would say, but let’s just appreciate it’s divinity by making it more human, what could be more edifying than that? Machen correctly called that out as deceptive. God to them is just another name for all imperfections and all its sin. Not so the true God that Christians worship, He is a God of truth.

    This precedes the paragraph quoted by Machen talking about SOME people believe in errors are not really Liberals but Christians, BUT, Machen continues in the paragraph AFTER he made a side comment about accepting erranists as Christians:

    “It is another question, however, whether the mediating view of the Bible which is thus maintained is logically tenable, the trouble being that our Lord Himself seems to have held the high view of the Bible which is here being rejected. Certainly it is another question–and a question which the present writer would answer with an emphatic negative–whether the panic about the Bible, which gives rise to such concessions, is at all justified by the facts. If the Christian make full use of his Christian privileges, he finds the seat of authority in the whole Bible, which he regards as no mere word of man but as the very Word of God.”

    Wow, the trouble here is those people, Machen are still calling them Christians, but are logically inconsistent because there’s one major trouble: Jesus our Lord Himself holds a HIGH VIEW OF SCRIPTURE which is here being rejected by some in the Church. And notice how Machen answers that he thinks this view, Bible containing errors, Machen emphatically rejects it NEGATIVELY. Bible is no mere words of man, but the Words of God (with the full weight of Old Princeton Inspiration and Inerrancy implied in Machen’s usage here).

    Whew, thank goodness I read the whole book.

  91. GLW Johnson said,

    June 1, 2009 at 6:27 am

    Enns’ cadre of acolytes are actually doing him more harm than good-much the same way that the Remonstrants did Arminius. There is some interesting parallels here in terms of Arminius professed public allegiance to the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism and his private lectures to his loyal students. Enns is on record claiming to affirm inerrancy but his devotees are downright pugnacious in their opposition to it.

  92. wsparkman said,

    June 1, 2009 at 7:35 am

    GLW, #91:

    Interesting that you should reference Arminius. I came across the following quote yesterday, by Samuel G. Craig, founder of P&R Publishing (which began, by the way, with start-up capital provided by Machen). I’m pointing to the end of the paragraph, but provide the whole of it for context:

    “Quite apart from the question whether it is possible to regard the Bible as infallible in the realm of faith and practice if it be inaccurate in its statements of fact–we do not think it is–it ought to be clear to all that the ordination vow taken by ministers, elders and deacons is not amenable to the minimizing interpretation that our contemporary seeks to place upon it. Such an interpretation is to be rejected on both exegetical and historical grounds. The candidate for ordination does not merely afifrm that he believes the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the only infallible rule of faith and practice, he affirms that he believes it to be the Word of God. He is required to affirm, first of all, that he believes said Scripture to be the Word of God. Having done that he is required to go on and affirm faith in them as the only infallible rule of faith and practice. It would be absurd to affirm that the Bible is the Word of God and then weakly add that it is infallible only in as far as it constitutes a rule of faith and practice. And yet that is what our contemporary, in effect, says that the candidate for ordination does. If the Bible is the Word of God, we may be sure that it is altogether, not merely partly, trustworthy. However it is not absurd but eminently fitting to affirm that the Bible is the Word of God and therefore the only infallible rule of faith and practice–and that is what the sincere and intelligent candidate for ordination actually does. Moreover our contemporary is quite mistaken when he affirms that his interpretation of the ordination vow is that of its framers. To cite Dr. B.B. Warfield: “This view was not the view of the Westminster Divines. It had its origin among the Socinians and was introduced among Protestants by the Arminians. And it was only on the publication, in 1690, of the ‘Five Letters concerning the Inspiration of Holy Scriptures, translated out of the French’, which are taken from Le Clerc, that it began to make its way among English theologians” (The Westminster Assembly and its Work, p. 203).

  93. June 1, 2009 at 8:07 am


    Are you classifying me as Enn’s cadre? Are you directing your comment to me? If so, perhaps you should read my post first. I am NOT stating a case against innerrancy and neither is Enns. Perhaps I should quote Machen more: “It is usually considered good practice to examine a thing for one’s self before echoing the vulgar ridicule of it”


    We can certainly disagree on trajectory of Enn’s work. I believe it was not in the trajectory of Liberalism. His point seemed to be one of Christotelic, the very core affirmation that Machen was pointing to. That was my purpose in quoting him. There seems to be a different trajectory in Enn’s and others work, one that will not necessarily lead to liberalism as Machen would have seen it. We need to remember that Enns left WTS on a joint decision. It was the WCF that was the central issue…was he in or out of accord with it.

    But I’m not really here to talk about WTS. People have their opinions and I don’t think its on topic here.

  94. GLW Johnson said,

    June 1, 2009 at 8:16 am

    No, I was not directing that at you. We have had a number of Enns’ loyalists make occassional appearances -and one of them, Art Boulet has a blog that constantly defends Enns, assaults WTS, and repudates inerrancy.

  95. Reed Here said,

    June 1, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Steve, no. 93: as you can see from Gary’s response, no he was not targetting you.

    Let me suggestto (and all of us) we begin with the assumption that the person debating with us isn’t targeting us. Assume their intention is sincere, and their goalis pure. This still leaves failures in words at times. Yet we can find it easier to deal with those if we do not load up our offense with motive/goal issues.

    Just some friendly advice Steve, and advice that I myself strive to live by and (as regulars here know) advice I have failed at times to abide by. I’m grateful for the patience of brothers and sisters.

  96. Reed Here said,

    June 1, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Steve, no. 93: agreed, the issue is not WTS per se. The issue is the view of inerrancy put forward by Dr. Peter Enns (formerly of WTS) and many who affirm his position (many formerly of WTS). That’s why the WTS tangent is relevant at times. Yet, as you note, WTS is not the issue.

    Let me offer one critique I think applicable to a number of your comments. You continue to offer the insight that both sides affirm inerrancy, and therefore we do not need to struggle with that. Instead we need to struggle with the nature of inerrancy (e.g., accuracy, accommodation, etc.)

    Saying both sides here affirm inerrancy is not different that saying Evangelicals and Mormons both affirm Jesus is God, the Son of God. Obviously Mormons are working off of different definitions, so different as to make the affirmation meaningless, and at worse dangerous.

    Enns ( affirms an inerrancy that is fundamentally different from the inerrancy affirmed by the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, the Westminster Standards, other historic reformed standards, the understanding of inerrancy handed down from the Church historic, and in the end, different from what the Bible teaches for itself.

    Reading Enns’ Inspiration and Inerrancy is a good starting point. Yet that book is just an overview of the critical areas of problems. If you’re interested in reading some good first hand interaction between men on both sides of the debate, men who both studied under and/or interact with Enns and his position directly, then the series of posts related to this one will get you started. Even better will be the discussion we had together here last year (a search on Enns will turn this up). As well you can visit these brothers’ blogs directly.

    As it is, your observations are not getting much traction with us because we believe that you’re comments do not seem to grapple with the critical issues. I take at face value your affirmation you are not in the Enns “camp.” I do suggest (as I did previously) that your beginning assumption, that we agree in the essentials and are merely working out the specifics, is one of the arguments from the Enns supporters (we’re really still in the same camp).

    It is an argument to which we respond (by necessity), no, no we are not in the same camp. Enns’ inerrancy position allows for God to knowingly use factual falsehoods and mistakes to communicate his truth. This is not in essence the same view of inerrancy that we believe the Bible puts forward. Hence, to the degree you miss this vital difference, we disagree with your take.

  97. June 1, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Sorry for the wrong assumption. I thought it was directed at me since I just posted the idea of Enns and Machen.


    Thanks for the thoughtful response. I think you are right at targeting the heart of the issue on not whether inerrancy is a valid doctrine but how we understand what that doctrine says about the Bible. It is somewhere in that middle ground that I’m wrestling with. I think (or maybe its a hope) that there is a way forward in the discussion, that we can think about issues from a different perspective so that we grow in our knowledge of God and his word, neither abandoning it to liberalism nor confining it to doctrinal formulations of a former age. Doctrinal development is a function of the Church and as such it should be a collaborative effort.

  98. Reed Here said,

    June 1, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Steve, no. 97: thanks too for your good response.

    Yes, I see and understand you are struggling for a middle way. This actually was my first response when I heard these things from Dr. Enns (and others) in class at WTS. Initially I simply assumed that he was suggesting adjustments to anthropomorphic, language of appearance, and other non-errant expressions of accommodation. In addition, I learned substantially from insights concerning our wrongly imputing notions of scientific precision, etc. on the text. I benefited from discussions concerning the marks of post-Mosaic editing on the Pentateuch. All these things – and my convictions of inspiritation/inerrancy/infallibility were not challenged.

    In fact, I thought a few of my fellow classmates who were uptight about what was being said in class were just that, uptight :)

    It was only after I graduated, and began to work with what I learned that I realized that my own presuppositions have effectively innoculated me from the faulty presuppositions Enns was basing all this upon. I paid more attention, in particular to Enns and those among his students who most closely listened to Enns. I kept hearing the presuppositions that I’ve outlined in Incoherent Inerrancy, Who Ya Gonna Believe, and this post.

    An example might help explain why I believe no middle ground actually exists. If we’re talking about say, the writer of Chronicles using the text of Samuel-Kings, and re-working it toi fit his particular theological concerns, both sides agree that there are differences between the Chronicles text and the Samuel-Kings referent. Yet this is not the middle ground from which we can now move forward.

    We must identify two different diametrically opposed, positions: the writer of Chronicles uses Samuel-Kings as he does:

    >Orthodox inerrancy: without factual falsehood or mistake., vs.
    > Enns ( inerrancy: with factual falsehood and mistake.

    Hopefully you are beginning to appreciate why I do not think there is any middle ground upon which to stand.

  99. Richard said,

    June 1, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Gary: In case you haven’t seen it, could I draw your attention to comment #548 here.

  100. Pete Myers said,

    June 1, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Perhaps it’s worth questioning the appropriateness of the term “middle-ground”. Middle ground is the reasonable conciliatory position opposing sides take when they both realise that the biggest problem is they perhaps have lacked generosity in their interaction with each other.

    But Reed’s whole thing about presuppositions is that he’s showing that one side begins with “A”, and the other side begins with “not-A”.

    Reed isn’t refusing to take some conciliatory middle ground position, it’s just that the presuppositions are logically incompatible. Behind all the complex discussion is a very simple distinction between two sets of different presuppositions.

  101. Reed Here said,

    June 1, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Peter: amen and thanks! I certainly have and continue to have every desire to see help eliminate misunderstandings, misapprehensions, misconceptions. My chief aim continues to be that these unsettlings things be settled according to the Bible’s own answers; for this is the only place from whence any real Help will come.

  102. GLW Johnson said,

    June 1, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    That did not link me to that comment. I am more than a bit challenged trying to figure out how these #*!&?@* work.

  103. Richard said,

    June 1, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Gary, the comment is third from bottom. I can’t see how to link directly to comments either…oh well.

  104. Richard said,

    June 1, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    I’ll just repost it here:

    Gary: I would be interested on your take of Muller’s presentation of Warfield in vol. 2 of his PRRD (2nd ed.) esp. footnote 192 on pp. 414 and the second para on pp. 415. Muller notes that,

    “A rather sharp contrast must be drawn, therefore, between the Protestant orthodox arguments concerning the autographa and the views of Archibald Alexander Hodge and Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.”

  105. GLW Johnson said,

    June 1, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    I was once urged to start a blog- yeah right, and Charles Barkley should go to Q school and try and get his card to play on the PGA tour.

  106. GLW Johnson said,

    June 1, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    I am out of my study for the day- I get back to you on Muller first thing in the morning.

  107. Pete Myers said,

    June 1, 2009 at 12:34 pm


    For those of us who haven’t been able to follow things as closely as we would have liked (i.e. me – v. busy week). Could you perhaps summarise the argument from your perspective? Scanning down your comments on the last few threads, I’m struggling to see how your argument has developed (sorry for where that’s me being dumb).

  108. Richard said,

    June 1, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Gary: I look forward to it!

    Pete: The argument has really just been developing as Dr White and I work our way though some challenging questions. I’d pick it up with my comment #551. Teasing things out slowly is probably the best way to explain our exchange. We haven’t been discussing inerrancy as such but prelimianary issues.

  109. Richard said,

    June 1, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Pete: In summary; I suppose my argument has been that the Bible is not God’s word immediately but rather mediately, the Bible is a document of the community of faith at a particular time and in a specific place giving voice to the Spirit of God working in and through them. As a result the documents are culturally situated and so need to be read in the appropriate Sitz im Leben. The documents themselves witness to YHWH’s acts as understood by Israel and are themselves shaped by historical circumstances whereby Israel seeks for answers concerning its own situation and so reworks its own documents. The authority of Scripture lies in its being the voice of the Spirit of God as it works through the community of faith in history.

    The conversation between Dr White and I should really be read from comment #476.

  110. Reed Here said,

    June 1, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Pete: I’ll let my suggestion of starting at 521 on Inerrancy and Incoherency be superseded by Richard’s recommendation here that you go back to #476.

  111. Richard said,

    June 1, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Reed & Peter: I think Dr. White’s exchange with me begins proper in #476 but Reed is certainly correct that a pivotal coment was #521, I suppose it depends what time (and inclination) you have as to where you feel it approapriate to begin. Comment #109 above summarises my argument but it ay be of use to see Dr. White’s questions.

  112. Pete Myers said,

    June 1, 2009 at 3:30 pm


    Thanks Richard, I’d invite you to address the questions I pose for you in that thread.

  113. GLW Johnson said,

    June 2, 2009 at 7:17 am

    Muller’s remarks do nothing for your position. He is only drawing out the point that the Protestant orthodox insisted that to claim that errors in the scribal copies,the ‘apographa’, is hardly proof: the claim must be proven of the original ‘autographa’. Muller is in fact arguing that the doctrine of inerrancy preceded Old Princeton -even though the form advanced by Hodge and Warfield put more stock in insisting that the original text -and not copies constituted the inspired work of the writers who were the human instructments of the Holy Spirit-and not the scribes that made copies.

  114. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    June 4, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    Reed: “He expressed that he was particularly shaken by the strength of their attack on the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. His solution (my assessment of what I heard) was to accommodate himself to some of the presuppositions of his unbelieving, higher-critical professors at Harvard (-ahhhhd.)”

    Dear Reed,

    Implicit in your post is the distinction between unbeliever higher-critical scholars and believer higher-critical scholars. Would you agree?

    Reed, do you know of any inerrantist (CSBI affirming) who is also a higher-criticism scholar? Were any of the signers of CSBI historical-criticism scholars?

    Is the higher-criticism methodology de facto antithetical and opposed to the doctrine of inerrancy?

    On a related note, is there any contribution made by scholars using higher-criticism methodology that could not also have been made by theologians using the grammatical-historical principles of hermeneutics?

    Lastly, would you say that the following comment by text-critic scholar falls under what you term as “accommodation”? Why or why not?

    “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.”

  115. GLW Johnson said,

    June 5, 2009 at 5:51 am

    That quote sounds very sincere and magnanimous-but the very same thing has been said about the issues that divide Roman Catholics and Protestants and more recently the differences between Evangelicals and Mormans. In each case doctrinal distinctives that once defined historic Evangelicalism are thrown in the shade and the rally cry “We all serve the living Christ!” drowns out any dissenting voices. Here is the question that demands our attention- Is our view of Scriture the same as that of Christ and His apostles? If it is not then all special pleading about making a mountain out of a mole hill amounts to a denial of that very Christ.

  116. Reed Here said,

    June 5, 2009 at 8:24 am

    TU, no 114: I’ll have to get back to you later. For now, let me note there is an assumption you seem to be making that is not part of my thinking.

    By the way, sorry I’ve forgotten, but your first name again? Thanks!

  117. Ron Henzel said,

    June 5, 2009 at 8:31 am

    Truth Unites…and Divides quoted the following:

    There is but one mountain, Christ.

    Which begs the real question that I believe is at stake here: “On what authority do we know that to be true?”

  118. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    June 5, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Reed et al,

    My first name is Daniel.

    GLW Johnson: “In each case doctrinal distinctives that once defined historic Evangelicalism are thrown in the shade….”

    #1. When this is done, is this not “accommodation” or at least a large step towards “accommodation”?

    #2. GLW, I have read enough of your comments to know that you are a fairly erudite and well-studied brother in Christ. With regards to this following question, can you provide links to your writings and/or the writings of others as to the benefits and drawbacks of doctrinal minimalism versus doctrinal “maximalism”? Or how to avoid some of the typical errors associated with both doctrinal minimalism and doctrinal maximalism?

    #3. Related to #2, with regards to a hierarchy of doctrine or doctrinal taxonomy, who decides what belongs to each level and why and how? And whether the presupposition that there should be a doctrinal taxonomy even holds or is even biblically based and biblically taught.

    Ron Henzel: “Which begs the real question that I believe is at stake here: “On what authority do we know that to be true?”

    I totally agree. And I take it a step further. Isn’t that Authority compromised when folks say that it’s errant? And even further, are well-meaning Christians remiss when they permit, allow, and even encourage such teachers of errancy to hold positions of leadership in seminaries, churches, and denominations?

  119. GLW Johnson said,

    June 5, 2009 at 11:49 am

    You can tap in to our website ot simply goolge search my name and the books I have contributed to should pop up.

  120. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    June 5, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    “You can tap in to our website ot simply goolge search my name and the books I have contributed to should pop up.”

    That might be drinking from a fire hydrant!

    Anything that specifically addresses doctrinal minimalism vs. doctrinal maximalism?

    Also, do you have any thoughts regarding the initial questions I posed to Reed in #114?

  121. GLW Johnson said,

    June 5, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    I have seen you comment over at Scott Clark’s blog- read everything Scott has written,especially his recent RRC and your set to go. Oh, read Warfield, Machen and Van Til.

  122. Pete Myers said,

    June 5, 2009 at 12:49 pm


    What’s the best way to get hold of Warfield’s stuff?

    What editions of his work would you recommend? Is there a complete works floating about somewhere?

  123. GLW Johnson said,

    June 5, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Baker reprinted the Warfield Works( that originally were published by Oxford in 10 vol.) set once upon a time. You can find it if you google it as well as the 4 vol. set that P&R did back in the 60’s along with the 2 vol. selected shorter writings. Banner of Truth has also issued a number of Warfield’ sermons and some of the P&R stuff.

  124. Pete Myers said,

    June 5, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Cheers Gary.

  125. Reed Here said,

    June 6, 2009 at 5:41 pm


    Sorry to get back so late. A few breif responses.

    No, I do not equate higher criticism with unnbelief. I.e., someone’s comment to the tenants of higher criticism is not on the face of it evidence of lack of faith.

    Yes, I do believe there are some valid uses for highercritical techniques. Note what I’ve focused on here, techniques, not presuppositions. I think (generally speaking) an unexamined carte blanche acceptance of higher criticism is inconsistent with a believing understanding of the Bible.

    Hope that helps. Further details on this particular subject should be addressed to Lane, who has a particular interest in this area and is qualified to speak accurately and insightfully.

  126. June 6, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    […] 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!, […]

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