Musing on Inerrancy

(Posted by Paige)

Musing on the subject of inerrancy, I came up with a “spectrum-of-thought” model to describe the various ways that people view and respond to the Scriptures. See what you think.

Note that in the scheme below I am not using “FAITH” with salvific significance, but rather as a description of the view that “takes God at his word” about the Word. It is worth debating whether one could maintain a robust, saving faith in Christ while simultaneously believing that the Bible in its original state already contained intertextual or historical contradictions and errors. For my part, while I do not at all recommend this as a healthy path to take, I would personally echo the Chicago Statement’s sentiment at Article XIX:

We affirm that a confession of the full authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture is vital to a sound understanding of the whole of the Christian faith. We further affirm that such confession should lead to increasing conformity to the image of Christ.

We deny that such confession is necessary for salvation. However, we further deny that inerrancy can be rejected without grave consequences both to the individual and to the Church.

Which may turn out to be the most provocative thing that I say here; go ahead and argue with it if you want to.

Here is my spectrum-of-thought model. I observe that people react to the various claims of the Christian faith along a continuum that looks like this:


While an individual’s response to any given doctrine, orthodox or heterodox, may be described along this spectrum, I believe that one’s stance regarding the Bible – what it is, what authority it possesses over the reader – is the foundation of one’s reaction to all other claims of the Christian faith or of men.

Ideally we’re to be right in the center of this spectrum, responding to the truth with FAITH; but in reality even believers are often leaning away from faith and towards one of the other options, with regard to one aspect or another of Christian claims. (Again, don’t think of “FAITH” as salvific in this scheme.) Also, sometimes Christians confuse CREDULITY with faith, and sometimes we forget that faith incorporates some healthy SKEPTICISM. Some elaboration, as this relates to approaching the Bible:

On the far end of SKEPTICISM, the Bible is viewed only as another Ancient Near Eastern text. There is NO assent to claims that there is any supernatural involvement in its creation, or that it is “God’s Word.” It is a people-made product. (Slightly closer to center, it is a people-made product that tells about a real God and his works, but the book itself is no more unique than any ancient book. Thus it is no wonder that it’s “messy” and contains many internal contradictions and errors, which were there even before the scribes & the translators got hold of it.)

On the far end of CREDULITY, the Bible basically fell from the sky into the church; there is little interest in the “how” of its writing, the people-made part of it, or the history of translation or document studies; there is much literalism, “magic,” ignorance about genres, and misplaced loyalties (like to the KJV only). The Holy Spirit is basically assumed to have dictated the whole thing to its writers, if not guided their penmanship while they were in a trance. This stance is assumed by many to be the same as FAITH, but if so it is only blind faith, not reasonable faith. (Slightly closer to center we find more interest in the different authors and their time periods, but also the too-ready acceptance of the interpretive choices of preachers, teachers, and translators.)

Finally, a stance of FAITH means hearing God’s words and believing them. Because of our heart-change by the Spirit, we are enabled to accept the Scriptures as God’s very words, which is the Bible’s claim about itself. Scripture is, uniquely, the written voice of God, speaking through human writers. This is not blind faith — it’s reasonable faith, the only reasonable response to the claims of the God of the Universe, validated to us by the risen Christ. And this is the basis for our confession of the inerrancy of the Scriptures.

I would suggest too that at its best (and most informed), this stance of FAITH also involves a sort of “critical realism” that is missed by the credulous, including reasonable views of the various authors’ involvement (it wasn’t all dictated!), the history of canonization & translation, and sound contextual approaches to interpretation. This faithful stance also evaluates the claims of teachers according to the content of the Bible, keeping the wheat and throwing out the chaff, rather than accepting everything it hears. It’s smart, but believing — and it believes, but is smart about it. (Obviously, every believer will not be able to investigate all these aspects. But speaking ideally, if they could, they would; and speaking realistically, if we can, we should.)

Frankly, I am persuaded that if the church neglects instruction in the believing-but-appropriately-critical approach to the Scriptures that I’ve touched on here, it risks abandoning the flock EITHER to a drift towards credulity or a slide towards skepticism. And either option has “grave consequences,” to quote the CSBI. Perhaps this danger is easier to recognize in the academy’s rejection of the supernatural nature of Scripture; but I believe it is a comparably grave thing to be credulous, “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14). Of which I can think of a few; can’t you?


  1. John Harutunian said,

    December 11, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    Paige, I agree with much of what you say. But:

    >Because of our heart-change by the Spirit, we are enabled to accept the Scriptures as God’s very words…

    Doubtless my non-Reformed orientation is coming out again -but I really don’t see it as quite that linear. C.S. Lewis didn’t hold to plenary verbal inspiration (he has some pretty strong things to say about the imprecatory Psalms!). But few would deny that he was a genuinely converted man.

  2. Andrew McCallum said,

    December 11, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Hello Paige,

    Very nice essay, thanks. To me the position you label as credulity (what I think I would call Fundamentalism) is such a sad affair since, unlike the skeptical approach, the credulists (can I coin this term?) are in the Church only until such time as their faith is so attacked that they feel they can no longer stay within the Church and they end up as ex-Fundamentalists in one of the many variants of the religion of the skeptics. But Fundamentalists turned skeptics are generally quite a bit more hardened to the Christian faith than those skeptics that have never really been exposed to vibrant biblical Christianity.

    To me this all speaks volumes about the importance of good Reformed catechesis.

    Cheers for now…..

  3. Brad B said,

    December 11, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    “But few would deny that he was a genuinely converted man.”

    Maybe few would deny his conversion, but at the same time few would consider him fit to teach doctrine.

  4. paigebritton said,

    December 12, 2011 at 5:56 am

    John —
    Interesting point. I was trying to express the idea of 1 Cor. 2:14, that “the man without the Spirit does not accept the things of the Spirit of God…” As a matter of fact I wasn’t consciously thinking of plenary verbal inspiration, though I phrased it that way (had MWS’s song in my head). Maybe we can set PVI alongside inerrancy as two doctrines that are not necessary for salvation — but many of us would say they are pretty darn important, and some of us would indeed classify them as non-negotiables.

    Lewis being the original thinker that he was, the settled nature of systematic theology probably rubbed him the wrong way. I wonder if he thought PVI just meant “dictation,” and I wonder how strong a biblical-theological scheme he had for reading those imprecatory Psalms.


  5. paigebritton said,

    December 12, 2011 at 6:01 am

    Andrew –

    Thanks! Yes, I think skepticism is often the refuge of thinking people in the church who have been expected by their pastors and teachers to accept statements without questioning them. And probably that kind of teaching approach is itself in part a reaction to the skepticism of the academy! It just seems too risky to open the floor to questions.


  6. Jed Paschall said,

    December 13, 2011 at 1:28 am


    Very interesting thoughts here. I would argue that the inerrant position, when held with academic rigor is among the most challenging yet absolutely the most rewarding position to hold. When we examine the nexus of divine inspiration and the human literary impulse it is a marvel to behold. I am very much encouraged that those who have delved deep into ANE, intertestemental lit and 2nd Temple Judiasm, and Greco-Roman sources, such as Walton, Waltke, Carson, Beale, and others to name a few also end up at the end of the day as some of the strongest supporters of inerrancy.

    I think so much of where one lands on the issue rests on a priori convictions about which sources of truth ultimately can be taken as authoritative. There isn’t as much to defend a thoroughgoing skepticism as some would claim, since this also presupposes certain faith-commitments resting in the skeptic’s or the academy’s ability to arbitrate the truth of what is happening in and behind the composition of the text. At the heart of the inerrancy position seems to be an understanding that if God is to reveal himself, then such revelation ought to be truthful if God has any claim to being the source of truth. But a robust inerrancy should never shy away from the complexity and difficulty of the position, since we still are developing in our analysis of the text and how it is faithfully witnessing to God and to the external world.

    Practically speaking, I think this means having a firm commitment conceptually to what inerrancy is, and the Chicago Statement is still the gold standard as I see it. However, on the flip side, I think there has to also be a measure of intellectual humility about how this all comes together, for instance in the areas of composition, authorship, use of contemporary sources, and how Scriptures are both timeless and culturally bound. In the quest to articulate the doctrine of inerrancy I think it is of utmost importance to abstain from drawing any lines that the text does not conclusively demand whether we are speaking of modes of eschatology, views on the mechanics of creation, or how intertextuality functions (e.g use of the OT in the NT). In the process, I think that inerrantists are at their best when there is a robust and spirited dialogue within the camp of what this looks like, and when they firmly and patiently uphold their witness to all detractors.

  7. paigebritton said,

    December 13, 2011 at 6:40 am

    Nicely stated, Jed, as usual. I like your balanced view of things.

    I have found that a confession of inerrancy alone is not enough; it needs to be coupled with the faithful-but-appropriately-critical realism of believing textual studies. I can actually sympathize with a skeptical reaction against inerrancy, if the doctrine has been presented merely as a “magical” solution to all perceived puzzles in the text.

    On the other hand, if we don’t hold to certain “believing boundaries” as we try to make sense of the textual puzzles, we are in danger of making ourselves into the authorities over the text.

    Whether “the academy” will ever be able to accept the contributions of believing scholars, given these scholars’ prior commitments to the unerring God who gave the texts, is to my mind a doubtful prospect.


  8. michael said,

    December 13, 2011 at 3:09 pm


    Here are some of my musings after reading yours. I don’t know about those who were born into a Reformational family and baptized as an infant and were catechized through their learning years into adulthood? Hopefully the learning process never ceases? It hasn’t for me. I find that I have a greater hunger and thirst for His Grace and the Knowledge of the Truth than when I first started reading the Word of God.

    In any event, after reading your musings, I am grateful to the Lord for sending His Spirit to mine to sanctify my wretched soul at the age of 21 many years ago.

    I did not start then reading what the ECF’s or other great Reformed Theologians wrote when I came alive in Christ back in 1975.

    At that time I was undone. I was lost. I was in such an emotional state I easily could have been admitted to an institution, being so very weak mentally and feeble minded.

    What happened? I ended up at a Christian community one summer morning. I was given a King James Bible to read.

    I left this place and went back home and started reading. As I recall, I got home around 11 a.m. on that Thursday morning. The person who gave me the Bible to read opened it up to Matthew Chapter One and said I should start reading there. This same person also said this Christian community met ever Sunday at a rented hall and I should plan on attending a church service that following Sunday.

    I remember the drive back home. An amazing sense of Joy came over me. I was so excited. When I got home I went right to it, reading, reading, reading.

    What happened at first was when I got to Matthew 1:21 my mind was opened to understand my lost condition before God. It was an amazing experience. Joy flooded my soul. I found myself crying and crying praying out to God for forgiveness! I felt so clean at that moment.

    I could not put the Bible down. I read and read, all through that night, all the next day and night, the next day and night up to about 5 a.m. Sunday morning. I got through from starting at Matthew One to about Romans 14 at 5 a.m. that Sunday morning when my attention focused on the idea of going to that church service I was told about on Thursday.

    That was an experience going to that church service. I just remember vividly how clean and holy everyone seemed to be that Sunday service. The air was so full of Joy and Gladness among these Christians. It was as if I was being zapped from Heavenly places directly as I listened to the singing and the preaching of the Word that day!

    Where am I going with all this musing above?

    Well, to skepticism. Yes, skepticism settled in when I started reading Exodus. I did fine reading through the New Testament. Then I started in on Genesis. But, when I came to start reading the book of Exodus and read what God was doing through Moses in Egypt, I clearly remember becoming unsettled and putting the Bible down.

    It took several people talking to me and encouraging me to continue reading the Old Testament Bible.

    Today, now, as I read your musings in this thread these Words from 2 Corinthians come alive within me to point to, especially where Paul refers to “what has been written”.:

    2Co 4:13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak,
    2Co 4:14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.

    Now, so many years later and much book reading, of the ECF’s and several Historical Theologians and a lot of current writings, I can say it is not me but the “spirit of Faith” who works in me who is filling my heart and soul with Life and Presence and Spirit and Zeal!

    Now I reflect on verses such as these as I find myself praying continually with Joy and Gladness:

    1Ch 16:28 Ascribe to the LORD, O clans of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!
    1Ch 16:29 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;
    1Ch 16:30 tremble before him, all the earth; yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
    1Ch 16:31 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”
    1Ch 16:32 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it!
    1Ch 16:33 Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth.
    1Ch 16:34 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

    Hab 3:1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.
    Hab 3:2 O LORD, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O LORD, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.
    Hab 3:3 God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. His splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. Selah
    Hab 3:4 His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hand; and there he veiled his power.

    Rom 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

    1Pe 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
    1Pe 5:9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
    1Pe 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
    1Pe 5:11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

    Rev 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb
    Rev 22:2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

    While I read books, lots and lots of books, I wish I could say I enjoy reading these books as much as I enjoy reading the Word of God.

    But, honestly, I cannot!

    I have found it much easier to spot things that create skepticism within me when reading books because of my constant reading and praying the Word of God.

    So, for me, with gladness of heart I can heartily commend others as much and more so, in these days of book reading, these Words of the Apostle:

    Act 20:32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

    For me, I have found it true that both God and the Word of His Grace indeed build me up daily and They give me blessed assurance of that inheritance, the eternal redemption purchased for all of God’s Elect by His own Precious Blood!

    So, I come back to where I first began, 2 Corinthians 4 and these verses, too:

    2Co 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
    2Co 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.


  9. John Harutunian said,

    December 13, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    Some good points, everyone. Brad, I might go along with what you say, but I’d probably want to qualify it: “few _in the Reformed tradition_ would consider [Lewis] fit to teach doctrine.” I will say that Lewis did write an excellent introduction to Athanasius’ “On the Incarnation” (available online).


    >Lewis being the original thinker that he was, the settled nature of systematic theology probably rubbed him the wrong way.

    This may be. At one point (I don’t remember the context) he writes that he is “no good at theology.” Reading between the lines here, it would seem that he regarded theology as a sort of skill, as something that is learned with practice. (Though he does speak of it in more positive terms elsewhere.)

    Michael. it sounds like you had a particularly emotional and moving conversion experience! I can’t resist pointing out that it sounds similar to that of Blaise Pascal, the great Roman Catholic philosopher! (Even though I don’t happen to be a Roman Catholic myself.)

  10. paigebritton said,

    December 14, 2011 at 6:17 am

    John —

    You wrote, At one point (I don’t remember the context) he writes that he is “no good at theology.”Reading between the lines here, it would seem that he regarded theology as a sort of skill, as something that is learned with practice.

    Maybe — but that’s also the sort of thing we say when we’re scornful of something that others take to like ducks to water — e.g., in my case, small talk. :)


  11. michael said,

    December 14, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    John H.

    I don’t know if it is to be taken as a compliment to be compared with the Frenchman of the Seventeenth century, Blaise Pascal or not?

    I have been approached twice over the years, once by a waiter in South Carolina and once by a waitress in California asking me for my autograph because, amazing as it is to me and my family, each one thought I was Mel Brooks! Both times my wife and two sons were with me. They had a good laugh! :)

    Yes, I did have an amazing conversion, and now, being fully reformational, I am still having a continual conversion, daily!

    Now, I have observed after these many years since 1975 that human nature, whether Jewish or Gentile, hasn’t change at all that much when it comes to them hearing about Christ and listening to the message we preach about His Resurrection as we read about here with regard to the defense of the Gospel the Apostle Paul gave about Christ, Who is the Resurrection and the Life that we have been brought into by the same spirit of Faith:

    Act 28:22 But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”
    Act 28:23 When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.
    Act 28:24 And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved.

    It still amazes me that even in these days some are convinced by the message of the Gospel while some disbelieve!

  12. December 14, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    The author of this post has offered a thesis that not a single NT writer or speaker would have dreamed of endorsing as a means of staving off the baying hounds of that dreaded charge of anti-intellectualism targeting reputation-hungry Bible-believers and, if followed, will foster, if it evolves logically over time, a climate of unbelief in the church. In fact, it has done just this — simply look at what enlightened conservatives were saying about higher (and *lower*) text criticism in the church in the late 19th century.

    Modern conservative evangelicalism (included Reformedville) is (still) a halfway house to unbelief.

  13. paigebritton said,

    December 14, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    Did I manage to do all that? Wow.

    I take it you see a slippery slope somewhere in here…So what’s the first step upon it?


  14. John Harutunian said,

    December 14, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Michael, I assure you that a comparison with Pascal is a compliment. Although a Roman Catholic, he identified with the movement within the Catholic Church known as Jansenism -which emphasized original sin, human depravity, the necessity of divine grace, and predestination.

    Andrew, where in Scripture do you see St. Paul, St. Peter, St. John or anyone else saying that faith in an infallible Bible is necessary for salvation? It looks to me like the burden of proof lies with you at this point.

  15. Jed Paschall said,

    December 15, 2011 at 2:00 am

    Dr. Sandlin,

    The author of this post has offered a thesis that not a single NT writer or speaker would have dreamed of endorsing as a means of staving off the baying hounds of that dreaded charge of anti-intellectualism targeting reputation-hungry Bible-believers and, if followed, will foster, if it evolves logically over time, a climate of unbelief in the church.

    Seems to be a little over the top for a blog entry whose title begins with “musing”. Would you concede that even within Scripture itself there is a polemical structure, where in both OT and NT the truth is being presented to the exclusion of all other claims? Is there no place for such polemics in today’s scene, is it all bound up in pride? Maybe Paul’s speech in Athens was nothing more than an attempt to appease intellectuals of his time by asserting that belief in Christ was the only reasonable course of action. I guess conservative scholars who toil in their calls are really so consumed with pride that they take a position that defends the belief that God reveals himself in Scripture in a manner consistent with his character – the nerve of these ambitious men, who would have the church be confident in the certitude of what God has spoken. You have a doctorate yourself, in theology no less as your link indicates, does that mean you are a member of that brood of vipers?

    There are even examples of evangelicals who engage in TC today who do an admiral job, that likely surpasses the higher critics in the 19th century in terms of both quality and scholarly rigor. Here’s a good example:

    Inerrancy and textual criticism

    Daniel Wallace claims:

    Simply put, the doctrine of inerrancy is embraced by evangelicals even in the face of a less-than-certain text of the NT. And that’s because even though there is not 100% certainty over the wording of the NT, the words of the original text are evident—in either the text or the variants of, say, the Nestle-Aland27 text. Conjectural emendation is virtually unnecessary. And no viable variant in that apparatus has been persuasive enough to evangelicals as a whole to dislodge their belief in this doctrine.

    Here’s a Link to the .pdf of his excellent article Inerrancy and the Text of the New Testament

    There is always the priority of one’s faith commitment and one’s submission to the Word of God, regardless of how incomprehensible it may be at times, but this in no way lets those whom God has gifted with a mind to use off the hook for not using it rigorously in his service. Surely a defense of the Chicago Statement isn’t the same thing as 19th century TC high or low.

  16. December 15, 2011 at 2:25 am

    Jed, the assumption that scholarship must by its nature dissent from what the author has termed “credulity” would decertify most theologians before the 19th century.

    And on lower criticism, I’m unnerved that the road Moody and Wheaton grad Bart Ehrman first traveled to his present apostasy started precisely with his “The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture” — as counterintuitive as that may sound.

  17. paigebritton said,

    December 15, 2011 at 6:08 am


    You wrote, the assumption that scholarship must by its nature dissent from what the author has termed “credulity” would decertify most theologians before the 19th century.

    Perhaps you are reading too much into what I’ve attempted to say above…It would seem to me that Calvin, for example, would have excelled in the very things that I observe “credulous” Christians rejecting nowadays — e.g., a working knowledge of original languages, the distinction between genres, the thoughtful study of the texts for reasonable interpretation. Where such work of the mind is dismissed as irrelevant, I see what I’m calling “credulity.”

    Paige Britton

  18. Jed Paschall said,

    December 15, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    Dr. Sandlin,

    the assumption that scholarship must by its nature dissent from what the author has termed “credulity” would decertify most theologians before the 19th century.

    Again, I think you are painting with too wide of a brush here, we have early Protestants grappling with canonical issues, such as Luther’s famous struggle as to whether or not James should have been included in the NT. The scope, content, meaning and authority of the canon of Scripture has been debated hotly for the better part of 20 centuries now, and it would seem compared to the ancient debates we are more prone to credulity in our late modern age than were those poor unenlightened pre-moderns who have been so instrumental in articulating the cardinal doctrines presented in Scripture. To assert that Paige’s characterization of *credulity* disqualifies all pre-19th century theologians as they were awash in a sea of fideism and credulity paints a distorted picture of the past. Scholarly rigor in many respects was on a much higher par, albiet with less access to the resources, from the medieval ages all the way through the Reformation on down through the scholastics than what we have today. I don’t think you honestly mean to assert that pre 19th cent. theologians were the back-woodsy simpletons that you are trying to say Paige is painting them as.

    I guess this is where I am confused by the point of your argument – are you arguing against scholarly rigor in the inerrancy debates since prior scholars, credulous they may be, did not engage in the contours of modern discourse and still managed to spare people from the perils of unbelief? I am frankly a bit baffled that you get this out of the current discussion.

  19. John Harutunian said,

    December 15, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    Great post, Jed. A side issue here: whether the Church “determined” or simply “recognized” the canonicity of the writings which we now have as the Bible. Though I’m a High Churchman in some respects, I personally would go with the latter [Protestant] view here.

  20. Cris D. said,

    December 16, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    #16 Mr Sandlin: And on lower criticism, I’m unnerved that the road Moody and Wheaton grad Bart Ehrman first traveled to his present apostasy started precisely with his “The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture” — as counterintuitive as that may sound.

    But a great many alumni from Biola to Moody to Wheaton, to name-your-evangelical-liberal-arts-college have studied textual criticism without denying the faith. Whatever prompted Ehrman to enroll at Princeton Seminary, I’m pretty sure it’s there that he came to his full critical (higher critical) stance.

    Ehrman turned away from the conservative and fundamentalist positions of his youth (his parents) and has been determined ever since he underwent that “conversion” (deversion?) to ridicule and belittle that set of beliefs. While others have also grown up to distance themselves from their parents’ religion, etc., Ehrman has done so with a vengeance.

    The main thing that Ehrman does with respect to text criticism related to higher or historical criticism: Ehrman presumes he knows the theological intentions behind scribal transmission errors. He sees theological agendas hiding behind transmission errors. That’s a relatively idiosyncratic position on his part. If that came from a “credulity” upbringing, it’s because he is kicking against that upbringing with all his might.

    And it is to be noted, this post was not meant to advance or defend the credulity approach. Nor can it be claimed that all who start in the credulity camp devert to critical stances. If so, would not fundamentalism be dying out, or gone by now?

  21. Paul said,

    December 19, 2011 at 1:57 am

    Dr. Sandlin,
    i once heard Bart Ehrman give a talk on the problem of suffering. My understanding of his talk was that it was primarily the problem of pain and suffering which started his rejection of his earlier faith and was also the major component of that rejection. Indeed, I also vaguely recall reading something similar in one of his books (possibly “Misquoting Jesus” but I don’t have easy access to a copy so cannot check that). Therefore, I am curious to know what basis you have for your statement that “Bart Ehrman first traveled to his present apostasy started precisely with his “The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture””.

  22. Richard said,

    December 20, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Hi Paige, at what stage in literary development would you see inerrancy being applied to? I am thinking particularly of the recent trend in American and Continental scholarship which recognises that the exodus-Moses traditions form a separate history of Israel’s origins from the patriarchal narratives. Would ‘inerrancy’ preclude such a scholarly conclusion or is it liquid enough to embrace such a view…irrespective of whether we actually think it’s correct!

  23. paigebritton said,

    December 21, 2011 at 8:06 am

    Hi there, Richard!
    Nice to hear from you. Good question…tough question. It’s related also to “at what stage in literary development would we apply the idea of inspiration,” a question touched on in the intriguing book Paul and First Century Letter Writing (IVP, E. Randolph Richards).

    Others are welcome to chime in here. From my limited knowledge of the matter, I can say this: Unless we believe that the biblical texts arrived and were maintained in an unaltered state (apart from translation) till they got to us, we do have to contend with the reality of “literary development,” whether that means relatively minor editorial glosses (of the sort Sailhamer claims to identify in the Pentateuch), or the incremental drafting of letters or Gospel accounts, or something more significant like entire passages wandering around (woman caught in adultery, etc.).

    A confession of inerrancy (and of inspiration) is really a confession of God’s superintendence of the process, whatever that process looked like. In the Reformed/Protestant tradition, at any rate, this includes the idea of a “closed canon,” where the OT was set in its final form by Jesus’ day (so what he refers to is what we also use) and John’s Revelation chronologically caps off the NT. The qualities we recognize in the Bible — inerrancy, infallibility, inspiration, etc. — would apply, I would guess, to the final form and its earlier versions as well, even in their “unfinished” states. Just a guess — others are welcome to correct me.

    As to the specific example you mention, inerrancy would only factor into the question if the theory introduced something that would implicate the Bible in communicating untruth at some point — so if they are claiming that one (or both!) of the “histories” of Israel’s origins is really just a myth or legend, it wouldn’t pass the smell test.

  24. Stephen said,

    December 22, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Interesting post and discussion.

    Paige…from our past interactions, where do I fall in your spectrum here? ; )

  25. Richard said,

    December 22, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Hi Paige, thanks for your reply. So if I am hearing you correctly one could hold quite radical views on the development of the biblical text and still hold to inerrancy provided that one does not see the text as communicating a lie; it seems possible that one could hold to a view similar to someone like Van Seters or Christopher Levin and still maintain inerrancy, i.e. one could argue that the core narrative of the Pentateuch provided by the ‘Yahwist’ was an exilic work and as long as we accept that the Yahwist didn’t write a fictional work we can adhere to an inerrant text.

    I won’t be looking at Pauline literature till next Michaelmas but will check out that volume when I do.

  26. paigebritton said,

    December 22, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Hi, Richard,
    Well, sure, if you are going to be a compartmentalizing sort of person, you could hold to inerrancy and radical developmental theories all at once…But since inerrancy generally is one aspect of an orthodox doctrine of Scripture, and since it would hardly be held by anybody who didn’t also believe in things like plenary verbal inspiration and the God-given authority of the text, it isn’t very likely, is it? :)

  27. paigebritton said,

    December 22, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Hey there Stephen,
    I guess you’d be somewhere to the left of center, as you’ve expressed your belief in the God of the Bible to us in the past, but your stance towards the Scriptures is one of skepticism regarding their claim to be a divine-human collaborative project, and you approach them as you would any ancient text. Is this a fair assessment of you? (Again, “faith” in this spectrum is not salvific.)
    Blessings on your first Christmas with the little one!!

  28. Richard said,

    December 23, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Hi Paige, very true – personally I am convinced by the weight of evidence in favour of seeing two competing stories about the origins of Israel, that is the direction I see the textual evidence pointing, and yet at the same time I wish to affirm that the text is God’s word to us. So I’d wish to follow to a greater degree Van Seters’ “The Patriarchs and the Exodus: Bridging the Gap between Two Origin Traditions” whilst maintaining an orthodox view of Scripture.

  29. December 24, 2011 at 4:58 am

    Paul, I meant textually, not existentially. The narrative you adduce is the same one I’ve read from Bart. I should have made clearer that the public, scholarly path to apostasy started with TOCOS (or maybe an earlier journal article) and the vetting of the variants that undermined his confidence in the Word of God. Of course, John Owen said the same thing — but from an entirely different perspective.

  30. December 24, 2011 at 5:09 am

    Cris, of course it’s idiosyncratic today to argue that there are “theological agendas hiding behind transmission errors”; heaven forbid that SBL neutralists (and ETS members cowed by them) suppose that anybody would have a vested interest in altering textual evidence to conform to theological assumptions. Every higher critic who questioned the single authorship of Isaiah and the Pauline authorship of an epistle the apographa assert he wrote denied a theological agenda.

    One need not subscribe to conspiracy theories to question whether “theological agendas” might, just might, have some bearing on textual choices.

  31. December 24, 2011 at 5:12 am

    Paige, if I did misunderstand I do apologize. Calvin (e.g.) good humanist that he was, surely was committed to an ad fontes agenda. I simply wanted to point out that what (it seemed to me) you were calling credulity was in large part just what many learned, godly people before the 19th century actually believed about the Bible.

  32. December 24, 2011 at 5:15 am

    Paige, #23, Frame’s new bibliology deals expertly (and creatively) with the thorny question of the actual textual locus of inerrancy. I’ll try to summarize it here later if I can get the time, but it’s quite good — even if one disagrees with him.

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