Twin Lakes and Inerrancy

Here at the Twin Lakes Fellowship, listening to Dr. Ligon Duncan speak on the seriousness of the resurgence of the denial of inerrancy among young evangelicals, and in particular young reformed evangelicals. Some highlights:

“If God is a Spirit, then the only way we can know him is if he speaks to us. And if he does not speak truth to us, we have no way of knowing him truly.”

His advice to pastors on how to be of help to our younger brothers and sisters:

  1. Re-read the classics on the doctrine of inerrancy.
  2. Walk with seminarians and others through the arguments of the current critics of inerrancy.
  3. Don’t assume Young Evangelicals own this tradition. Instead, persuade them into it by boht your understanding of the arguments from the critics and the biblical defense against those arguments.

This year the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) will be re-constitued and re-begin its work. Dr. R. Albert Mohler will be the convening president, with Dr. Duncan Rankin serving as the Executive Director of the re-constituted ICBI. The make up of the members will be more multi-national than the previous generation of the ICBI.

First up for the ICBI’s work: re-affirmation of the original ICBI statements. Second: affirmation of the total authority of the Bible.

(Reed DePace)

I’m Just Wondering

Scott Clark has argued that one of problems with the URC Psalter Hymnal that is coming out is a general resistance in the Reformed ethos to singing Scripture-only music in our churches. Singing Scripture only is a position that he advocates in his Recovering the Reformed Confessions. It must be clear here that Clark does not advocate Psalms-only singing, although he certainly loves the Psalms (as do I). He advocates that the only thing we should sing in worship is Scripture. His position is that the Regulative Principle requires this.

Now, this position has a very honorable pedigree in the Reformed tradition. It is not a position to be made fun of, or to dismiss cavalierly, as many are wont to do. I would certainly not wish to do so, even though it is not my position. Comments are closed on his blog, and so I thought I would write my question to him on mine. This question comes, it must be said, from a genuine curiosity, and not from any attempt at a “gotcha” argument. I do not remember Clark addressing this particular question in his book.

My question is this: we allow paraphrases and summaries of biblical doctrine in several places in the worship service. Usually, even the strictest advocate of the Regulative Principle believes this. Preaching inevitably involves this, as does prayer (at least, good prayer does!), and any reading of the confessional standards in the worship service. If we allow paraphrase of the text to occur in some places in the worship service, why not when notes are attached to the paraphrase? What biblical warrant do we have for placing good paraphrases of the Bible in hymns (and, of course, there are plenty of bad paraphrases in hymns which should never be used, but the bad does not in and of itself negate the good) in a different category from biblical paraphrases in prayer or preaching? If a service can have a made-up confession of sin, for instance, that paraphrases different biblical truths, why couldn’t that same confession be sung?

One other question I have arises from this quotation:

When our parent denomination was founded, one of the three principal concerns was that the older Dutch Reformed church in the USA (the RCA) had given up psalm-singing for hymnody. When the founders of the CRC came to North America they were shocked by such liberalism.

Now, no Reformed church should give up singing the Psalms. That is, after all, God’s own hymnbook given to us, and we should make regular and extensive use of it. However, is singing any hymns (even what I would call “good” hymns, which would be Scriptural in content with music that fits the words) a mark of liberalism? Clark, of course, is here talking about giving up Psalm-singing for hymns. I wonder if he would say the same for a congregation that sang Psalms, though not exclusively, but also sang hymns that paraphrase Scriptural truths well.

Sailhamer’s Meaning of the Pentateuch, Take Five

Here’s the Table of Contents for these reviews so far:

My Introduction
Sailhamer’s Introduction
Chapter One: Goal of OT Theology
Chapter Two: Verbal Meaning

Chapter 3: What is the “Historical Meaning” of the Biblical Text?

In Chapter 3, Sailhamer provides a feast for the historical theologian as he explores what has become of the notion of the “historical-grammatical” practice of reading Scripture. His claim is that, as originally intended by the 19th century German theologian Johann August Ernesti, this phrase referred to “a literary and linguistic understanding of the biblical text and its composition” (101); but later,via an English mistranslation, the synonyms “historical” and “grammatical” began to take on separate meanings for evangelicals*, leading to the prioritization of historical reconstructions of events over the careful study of the “verbal versions” of those events. This change of emphasis, Sailhamer writes,

shifts the focus from the biblical narratives, as historical accounts of real events, to the events themselves…lying outside the narratives. Thus, the task of the study of biblical “history” in this new orientation of method consists of clarifying, explaining and adding to the biblical narrative depictions of biblical events. We do so by filling in the details of the events from our growing knowledge of ancient history. (101)

While archaeology and historical reconstructions have their place in our studies, Sailhamer argues that the task of hermeneutics is mainly verbal: it is to discover “the meaning embodied in biblical narratives” (103), paying attention to what is provided by the author rather than filling in the details he has not given us. In this vein, Sailhamer offers this artistic observation by way of illustration:

Using modern historical tools, we have the same ability to fill in the historical details of scriptural narratives as we have of painting intricate details of 17th century life over the shadows of a Rembrandt painting. By painting shadows, Rembrandt deliberately left out many historical details that would have given us much information about the events he recorded on canvas…Rembrandt’s meaning lies as much in what is not seen in his painting as in what is seen. The shadows, by blocking out the irrelevant details, help us focus on what is seen. The effect of our adding more details to the painting would be to lose Rembrandt’s focus. (104)

Additionally, because the narratives in the OT are so lifelike, it is easy to mistake them for the events themselves, overlooking the reality that they were written by an author who had a particular purpose in mind and arranged his words just so. Sailhamer affirms Ernesti’s conception of the “historical dimension of a text,” which is simply “the ‘fact’ that at a certain place and time in the past a living human being recorded a word in a text in such a way that its meaning (usage) could be derived by reading that text” (118). Not only does this conception promote an author-focused entry to the biblical text (rather than an events-focused approach), it also preserves the idea of the inspiration of the very words of the text by calling us to focus on the very words of the text.

Without losing sight of the historicity of the events that are described, Sailhamer insists that we must remember that we are dealing with “verbal versions” of those events rather than the events themselves; and thus we should pay closer attention to the intelligent design of the author’s presentation than to historical reconstructions of the events he narrates. Once again, and from another angle, we arrive at Sailhamer’s text-immanent approach to reading Scripture.

So, what think you? What role should archaeology have in biblical hermeneutics? Is it possible to focus so much on the events described by a text that we forget to wonder about the “fact” of the text itself? And which is more important for understanding the meaning of scriptural narratives: discerning the author’s arrangement of his ideas in a textual form (which then can be related to other texts), or analyzing and filling out the details of the events described in that text?

*Recall that Sailhamer is writing for a general evangelical audience. He is actually quite complimentary of Reformed work in this area.

If Someone’s Feeling REALLY Generous

The Burning Key: Materialist Feminism in the Works of Joyce

Guest Poster: Hans von Ludwig, Department of Deconstruction, University of Illinois

1. Contexts of meaninglessness

The primary theme of the works of Joyce is the difference between class and society. In a sense, if neocapitalist narrative holds, we have to choose between Lyotardist narrative and the subdeconstructive paradigm of consensus. Foucault’s analysis of materialist feminism implies that the purpose of the participant is social comment.

Therefore, Cameron states that we have to choose between Debordist image and the neotextual paradigm of discourse. Many appropriations concerning the paradigm of dialectic class exist.

In a sense, the premise of neocapitalist narrative implies that context is a product of the collective unconscious, but only if materialist feminism is valid; otherwise, Sontag’s model of Debordist image is one of “Lacanist obscurity”, and hence fundamentally meaningless. Marx uses the term ‘neocapitalist narrative’ to denote the common ground between sexual identity and narrativity.

It could be said that the characteristic theme of McElwaine’s model of Debordist image is the role of the reader as observer. Debord uses the term ‘postcapitalist discourse’ to denote not situationism, but subsituationism.

2. Materialist feminism and cultural postcapitalist theory

“Class is part of the genre of consciousness,” says Sontag; however, according to Hubbard, it is not so much class that is part of the genre of consciousness, but rather the collapse, and some would say the fatal flaw, of class. Thus, the subject is contextualised into a semioticist socialism that includes sexuality as a reality. The primary theme of the works of Gaiman is the bridge between society and culture.

Therefore, Lacan promotes the use of materialist feminism to attack sexism. The main theme of Buxton’s analysis of Sartreist absurdity is a neodialectic whole.

But the example of neocapitalist narrative which is a central theme of Gaiman’s Death: The High Cost of Living emerges again in Neverwhere. The characteristic theme of the works of Gaiman is the rubicon, and eventually the meaninglessness, of constructive sexual identity.

3. Narratives of Absurdity

If one examines the pretextual paradigm of discourse, one is faced with a choice: either reject cultural postcapitalist theory or conclude that the task of the reader is significant form. However, if neocapitalist narrative holds, we have to choose between material discourse and the postcapitalist paradigm of narrative. Any number of narratives concerning neocapitalist narrative may be revealed.

“Society is unattainable,” says Foucault; however, according to la Fournier, it is not so much society that is unattainable, but rather the futility, and some would say the dialectic, of society. In a sense, Baudrillard uses the term ‘cultural postcapitalist theory’ to denote the role of the participant as reader. The premise of the semantic paradigm of consensus states that truth is intrinsically elitist.

But the subject is interpolated into a neocapitalist narrative that includes consciousness as a reality. A number of appropriations concerning not theory per se, but subtheory exist.

In a sense, Finnis implies that the works of Gaiman are postmodern. Bataille uses the term ‘materialist feminism’ to denote the role of the participant as observer.

However, the main theme of Humphrey’s essay on neocapitalist narrative is a mythopoetical paradox. Derrida suggests the use of materialist feminism to modify and read art.

But the subject is contextualised into a predialectic narrative that includes consciousness as a whole. Neocapitalist narrative suggests that society has objective value.

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