Inerrancy and Hermeneutic

(Posted by Paige)

In our recent thread on inerrancy, some titles were mentioned as worthwhile reads for those who wanted to learn more on the topic. I was curious about this one, a collection of essays by Westminster East faculty published in 1988. Despite the extremely low-budget cover, it is no cheap paperback; but if you are eking out a seminaryish education by hook or by crook, you should count Inerrancy and Hermeneutic as pretty inexpensive tuition. Here’s a brief rundown of what you will find inside:

A Historical Prologue: Inerrancy, Hermeneutic, and Westminster (Harvie Conn)
Both a historical survey and an introduction to the book, this chapter traces trends in hermeneutics and Westminster’s creative responses to them.

Inerrancy and Westminster Calvinism (Clair Davis)
A treatise on the submission of the believing scholar to the limits of the Word.

How does the Bible Look at Itself? (Sinclair Ferguson)
“We subscribe to biblical infallibility not on the grounds of our ability to prove it, but because of the persuasiveness of its testimony to be God’s own Word.” (64)

Old Princeton, Westminster, and Inerrancy (Moises Silva)
A helpfully nuanced discussion of the doctrine of inerrancy.

What does God Say Through Human Authors? (Vern Poythress)
A look at the issue of dual authorship from a canonical perspective.

The NT’s Use of the OT (Dan McCartney)
An examination of the NT authors’ Christological approach to OT texts, and a critique of an exclusively grammatical-historical method that neglects the authoritative guidance of special revelation.

Oral Tradition (Bruce Waltke – remember, this is 1988)
A survey of ANE & other societies where oral recitation plays a part, concluding that as long as writing has existed, even oral compositions have been preserved in permanent form (as opposed to, say, the material in Genesis gradually accruing new features over a long period of oral transmission).

Storytellers and Poets in the Bible: Can Literary Artifice be True? (Tremper Longman III)
A helpful discussion of fiction, nonfiction, and the deliberately crafted “literariness” of the Scriptures.

Harmonization: A Help and a Hindrance (Raymond Dillard)
The pros and cons of harmonistic exegesis.

The NT as Canon (Dick Gaffin)
My favorite of the more technical pieces: the canon is closed because God’s pattern is one of redemptive acts followed by verbal revelation, and the redemptive acts are done for now.

Normativity, Relevance, and Relativism (Harvie Conn)
I admit to being completely baffled by this one, lost somewhere in the hermeneutical spiral. Our horizons did not fuse. Am I to consider myself too culturally embedded to understand the Bible at all, or only able to understand it because I am culturally embedded? Not sure.

The Use of the Bible in Ethics (David Clowney)
This is a fine piece on living in Christian love and wisdom, receiving the commands of the Lord from the inerrant Scriptures and learning to work them out in creative and godly ways.

Bible Authority: When Christians Disagree (George Fuller & Sam Logan)
I read this one first, and I can cheerfully attest that it will not please everybody. The authors acknowledge that even true Christians can be inconsistent in their views of Scripture, and they promote cordiality in discussion, though they do not shy away from the responsibility of speaking words of correction and rebuke.

Evangelicals and the Bible: A Bibliographic Postscript (John Muether)
The librarian of WTS offers an annotated bibliography on inerrancy and hermeneutics, grouping the references by time periods.

Enjoy!

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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)

Inerrancy: Rocky Mountain Presbytery’s Statement on Scripture

Been trying to find time to make a couple of other posts on inerrancy (e.g., necessity of historic Adam, inerrancy bibliography.) Yet seems that the busy-ness in Lane’s September has spilled over and rolled down hill to Alabama ;-)

In the meantime, here is a recent statement on the nature of Scripture, adopted by our brothers in Rocky Mountain Presbytery, PCA. Without any particular comments at this time, I post it here for a moment of reflection and consideration (as reported at The Aquila Report). It does appear to touch on all the hot button issues we’ve discussed.

Rocky Mountain Presbytery Adopts Pastoral Letter on Affirmations and Denial on Scripture

Reed De Pace

Inerrancy vs. the god Objectivity

In light of the conversation here, I’ve been planning this post for a few weeks now. Frankly, I’ve been concerned that “younger” evangelicals are bothered by the appearance of secular sourced evidence that “proves” the Bible contains errors. I’ve been there and continue to face this challenge.

I note in many of their questions and comments an underlying angst. They are frustrated, in part, because the old inspiration-inerrancy-infallibility triad seems fatally broken by unquestionable secular evidence. They try to couch this in terms of “determining how the Bible is authoritative,” all the while dismissing the intra-Biblical evidences for its inerrancy.

In reality, it seems at least to me, they are bowing before the Secular god of Objectivity. I read in them an unacknowledged (somewhat unaware) allegiance to the supremacy of rationalism over God himself. I realize they will argue differently. Still …

I simply want to remind them, or possibly introduce some of them, to the wisdom of our forefathers who already faced the challenge of the god Objectivity, and found the Bible’s own answer to slay it. It is found in the Westminster Confession’s first chapter, on the Bible:

WCF 1.5 We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture, (1Ti 3:15 1) and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole, (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God;

yet, notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the word in our hearts. (1Jh 2:20,27; Jh 16:13,14; 1Co 2:10,11,12; Isa 59:21.)

Note that we can acknowledge the “under the Sun” rational evidences for the Bible’s claim to being God’s word. Yet our only full assurance of this fact, the only objectivity we have if you will, is subjectively sourced – it is the Spirit’s own witness in our hearts that we (objectively) know these things to be true.

What this means for inerrancy (and inspiration and infallibility) is at least:

1. We will always find our convictions here fatally challenged by any system which assumes man is the ultimate authority.
2. We can only be assured in our convictions by the Spirit’s work in us as individuals.

This is a curse: Objectivity went out the window when our first parents rebelled against the Author of Objectivity. It is because of the fall that we cannot, as mere men, know for sure. It is because of the fall that Secularism will always rise up with new, seemingly insurmountable challenges to the Bible as God’s word.

And a blessing: God graces his children with the removal of the curse, and restores to us a surety that surpasses mere knowledge. No antagonist, no enemy, no person set on destroying your faith can touch such surety. You will not find comfort in trying to come up with a scheme where God uses error to speak truth – it is in the end irrational because God has said so (in the Bible in particular.) You will, however, find comfort in resting in God’s own witness.

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible (affirmed by the Spirit) tells me so.”

– Reed DePace

Post-script: after reading some blogs of neo-errantists, I expect some will laugh at my assumption of their naivety concerning the Spirit’s inward witness. They will respond, “of course, and that’s how we know we know what we know (about the Bible) is right.”

Fair enough. The real question is not whether or not you or I say the Spirit confirms, especially that which we disagree on (inerrancy.) The question is what does the Bible say? After all, it is the only judge of who has the credible right to claim the Spirit’s amen to their convictions.

Two final thoughts I hope the neo-errantists will consider. 1) I’ve yet to see serious interaction with the biblical claims to inerrancy. Rather, you’ve offered little less than a dismissive comment or two.

2) Consider that in principle you have no basis for assuming anything in the Bible is inerrant. Or, putting aside the inerrancy angle for the sake of the discussion – your position has left you with no basis on which to affirm infallibility. Your position leaves no place for the objective work of God to authoritatively show itself. In principle, everything in the Bible, and therefore in the ministry of the Church, is left up to the autonomous opinion of the individual.

Your’s is a position which has removed the mantle of sacredness from the sacred Scriptures, and has lain it across the shoulders of the individual. Be ware the “demons” you let loose; they will not easily be re-caged.

Inerrancy & Humility

This is just a quick comment about a phenomenon in this inerrancy discussion that disturbs me. It is particularly addressed to all those (young) men who find the orthodox inerrancy position untenable.

I have paid some attention to the blogs of those opposed to the orthodox view of inerrancy. There has been quite a bit of critique of my posts here and the comments. That is all well and good. I blog because I hope to have conversations with others that Christ might use to bless His Church.

I’ve been struck and saddened however by the great degree to which much of the criticism is wrong-headed. Y’all are both assuming things not said, and then working off that asusmption, offering criticisms that simply miss the mark. Your confident assertions of how right you are, and how wrong we are, give sad evidence of a serious lack of critical listening and judgment on your part.

I’m not writing to this vent. (My choice of words here would make it much more obvious if that was my intention.) Rather I’m posting this because I am concerned.

Many of you are young yet. I’m not disparaging your obvious intellectual skills. I willingly admit many of you are miles beyond me.

Rather I see you making young man’s mistake. You are so busy arguing against what you think is wrong that you are not really listening to your opponents. Quite frankly a number of you read what I’m saying as if I were an inflexible fundamentalist with a “the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it!” mentality.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Seriously, aside from a few of you who have commented here, you are so busy apply labels to me (and the others defending orthodox inerrancy) that you are justifying yourself in conclusions for which you have little support.

Asking questions, struggling with the issues is good. But to misread, and then mischaracterize, and on that basis conclude, “Therefore my opinion is right,” is dangerous.

Let me end by hopefully offering a blessing:

Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor. ~ Proverbs 18:12

With you, because of Christ, I am committed to pursuing his blessing of humility in this discussion.

Inerrancy & the Language of Accommodation

My oldest daughter is working through Calvin’s Institutes as part of a multi-year homeschool course. I have the joy of (re)reading along with her. While reading something on providence (last part of book 1), I stopped at a comment by Calvin concerning the language of accommodation in the Bible. This got me thinking about this whole topic in relation to the discussion here.

Enns’ (et.al.) suggest that the use of error in the Bible (at least some) is an accommodation by God to the pre-scientific understanding of the original readers. E.g., God used ANE cosmogonies in Gen 1-11, not because they were historically factual, but because this was how Moses’ exodus generation had learned to think about such topics. The argument goes that in order to help his people understand the (underlying) spiritual truth of the text God accommodated his communication to their own erroneous scientific understanding.

I’d like to challenge this via the issue of God’s accommodating language.

First, it seems apparent that God does accommodate some of his communication in the Bible to the limits of human readers. The use of anthropomorphic descriptions of God fits this principle. E.g., God’s “hand” is such a use, ascribing physical qualities to a spiritual being for the sake of our understanding. I.e., such texts are not really saying God as Spirit has a real physical hand, but merely using that to describe an otherwise incomprehensible attribute in terms we recognize.

Second this is accommodation is not the same as what Enns (et.al.) is talking about. I think the critical difference, the distinguishing characteristic is seen the distinction between the transcendent nature of God’s being, and the immanent nature of the Cosmos. Usually this is described as the difference between God’s infiniteness and our finiteness.

Here’s the contrast:

> God uses language of accommodation for any subject that falls under the heading of transcendence. He does so because our finiteness limits our ability to understand his infiniteness.
> Contrarily, God does not use accommodating language for any subject within the realm of our finiteness, literally the created cosmos. This is because all such subjects are within our created abilities to understand.

Look at this from another angle. Enns (et.al.) posit God’s accommodating our fallenness in his communication. I.e., it is not because we are finite that we cannot understand the nature of creation, historical fact, etc. Rather (according to Enns) because the fall makes us prone to error, God willingly accommodates his communication of truth to our error-proneness.

Hopefully y’all will see that this goes completely contrary to the whole intention of God’s communication in the Bible:

“You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” John 8:32

– Reed DePace

How Trustworthy is That?

In these discussions on the supposed errors in the Bible there is an unacknowledged gorilla in the room. (See Incoherent Inerrancy, Who Ya Gonna Believe, There’s Accommodation, and then There’s …?, and Check Your Facts!, God.)

Specifically it is the question of Creation as reported in Gn 1:1-2:4. For those who affirm an error-laden-inerrancy, this is the really big error in the Bible. After all, Secular Science has all but proven that evolution, both biological and cosmological, is the unquestionable fact.

Sitting in classes at WTS, it was this problem that most exercised the “young evangelicals” around me (I was in my later 30’s when I went to WTS.) Enns’ solution (God’s accommodation to man’s errors) was the “cage” that finally contained this gorilla for a number of them. I daresay, caging this particular gorilla has been at the forefront of the “error-problems” of many of the errantists participating in this blog. (I could be wrong, but …)

I admit to appreciating the angst of younger evangelicals concerning this subject. Popular culture is a serious idol to go up against. One is foolish to do so with any weapon but the honest to goodness sword of truth. If in some way Gn 1:1-2:4 on the face of it acts to dull the sword of truth, by all means let’s fix this.

The problem again begins with one’s presuppositions. I for one am not ready to crown Secular Science with inerrancy and infallibility. Meteorologists still get it wrong, crops still fail, people still die. I.e., Secular Science has a long way to go before it can claim the inerrancy/infallibility that is inherent in God’s being and His word. Thus I see the seriousness of the challenge.

But there is something more important than being laughed at by a bunch of mocking unbelievers who think any of my convictions are just so much evidence of my weak mind and foolishness. I’m not ready to conclude that God has used error to communicate some of the most critical truths in the Bible.

Assume for the sake of discussion that God’s creation account accommodates itself to the errors of the ANE cosmogonies common during Moses recording of Genesis. That is, God had Moses not record a factually accurate account, but specifically used the erroneous ANE’s creation myths as the basis for his creation story.

O.k. then, let’s deal with the question of trustworthiness, of reliability. Assuming that the account is not all pure myth (error), how do we determine what parts are true? Not what parts are true, but what hermeneutical principle(s), found in the Bible itself, will enable us to reliably determine what parts are true and can be counted upon to be trustworthy?

I dare so you will search in vain for such hermeneutical tools.

The structure of Genesis (i.e., the waw-consecutive) requires that we read the succeeding stories as one whole cloth with the creation story. But let’s limit our questioning to Gn 2-3. If the creation story is error-laden, then on what basis are we to prove that Adam is historical? If we do not have a historical Adam, then what of the Fall? I.O.W., following the necessarily logic of the error-laden-inerrancy reading of Gn 1:1-2:4, we are left concluding that Adam and the Fall are nothing more than myth, and that God used these errors to rhetorically communicate some “truth” in these passages.

Take this to its next necessary connection, Romans 5:12-20. If Adam and the Fall are merely rhetorical, then Jesus’ atonement is as well. There is no other conclusion we can reach. Get this, beginning with the presupposition that Secular Science must be right, and the Bible’s creation account must be an accommodation with the ANE error-laden creation myths, we end up with nothing more than a rhetorical atonement.

How trustworthy is that?

– Reed DePace

Check Your Facts!, God

I enjoy listening to the hubristic claims by some in the media that they only report the truth; that they are rigorous in checking their facts, and so their reports can be trusted. Then someone comes along with impeccable evidence that proves the inerrant reporter is made of clay like the rest of us.

The brothers following the trajectory of Dr. Enns in Inspiration and Incarnation would have us believe that God is very much a clay-e-reporter. They do so with the intention of encouraging us that he is trustworthy after all. (More can be read on this in the previous posts, Incoherent Inerrancy, Who Ya Gonna Believe, and There’s Accommodation, and then There’s …?.)

Huh? God knowingly communicates in the Bible via errors, and this makes him more, not less trustworthy?

In this post I want to offer some suggestions to counter this irrationality. Contrary to the position that says we have to live with the fact that the Bible is filled with errors, there are perfectly rational alternative explanations for the (supposed) errors in the Bible, alternatives that do not begin with the presupposition: God trustworthily communicates truth via error.

I do not propose to offer any “proof” here. (I think there are reasons why God does not offer us proof – a future post will address that topic.)

Rather I propose to offer perfectly reasonable alternatives; alternatives which presuppose God trustworthily communicates truth inerrantly. I hope to show that there is no need to bow before the unbelieving higher-critical scholars, and then try to come up with a position of error-laden inerrancy.

Let’s use Daniel 9:1 one as our example passage (ESV): In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans-

The problem, according the errantists is that ancient near eastern (ANE) historical sources prove that this is wrong. These ANE sources prove that there never was a Persian king named Darius who was the son of Ahasuerus. Thus, the Bible must be wrong.

I’ll leave it others to list all the viable alternatives to assuming the Bible is wrong. Instead, I want to put the shoe on the other foot. Which is more plausible, that the Bible is wrong here, or that the ANE sources are wrong? Here are three common characteristics of secular historical sources, characteristics which mark their errancy and fallibility.

ANE Name Usage

Ancient naming practices were not as controlled as our modern western name process – recorded on the birth certificate it is as good written in stone! Not so in the ANE. Like any culture, ANE cultures used names in a variety of ways naming individuals, that when recorded in history, can lead to confusion.

E.g., sometimes a given name of one important person becomes an honorific title for others following after him. “Caesar” was one of Julius’s personal family names. With his successor and nephew, Augustus “Caesar” this name became a title ascribed to all succeeding Roman emperors (and their titular descendents in Germany, “Kaiser” and Russia, “Czar”.)

Sometimes someone just did something that added a name to his names. I’m sure most American readers will know who I mean when I say I love the Duke. (Movie actor John Wayne for those amongst us who have not had the cultural development of the rest of us ;-).) It would be easy 500 years from now, with spotty records from our period, to get confused: John Wayne, Duke, Marion Morrison (John’s birth name) – are we talking one guy, two guys, three guys, etc.?

Other times adoption, political maneuvers, critical societal shifts, etc., resulted in names being associated with individuals that were not well documented in historical records. E.g., there is some evidence that “Ahasuerus” was something of a titular name that was assumed as a part of the names ascribed to a Persian king.

Whether or not this is the explanation is not the point. What is the point is that there is sufficient evidence from ANE sources to provide plausible naming explanations for Dan. 9:1.

Spotty Historical Records

Of course, those who believe the ANE sources that “prove” Dan 9:1 is an error, are assuming that these secular sources are themselves inerrant! Yet history is replete with examples of such inerrancy assumptions being proven false.

One of the best examples is the claim that Belshazzar was not the last king of Babylon, and that Daniel was wrong in calling him so. After all, “inerrant” ANE secular sources “proved” that Nabonidus was the last Babylonian king.

That was until some ANE records turned up that explained that Nabonidus had appointed his son Belshazzar to be his regent, his “king-in-fact” in Babylon while he went off to fight an enemy. So what of all those claims that the Bible was proved wrong by these ANE records? Ooops …

Again, I’m not claiming this is the explanation for Dan 9:1. I am challenging the presupposition that the ANE records are inerrant. Why do we need to assume that the Bible must be wrong? It is just as likely that the historical record is spotty, that there is information missing from the ANE sources.

Propaganda History

The cliché “the victor write the history,“ is not always true. Sometimes the loser writes it, and he is believed.

My favorite example of this is the supposed victory of Ramses II over the Hittites at Kadesh in 1274 B.C. This was possibly the largest chariot battle ever fought in the ANE, with over 5,000 chariots involved. Due to the large amount of Egyptian records, it was commonly accepted that this was a stunning victory for Ramses II and the Egyptians.

That was, until Hittites records were discovered – and they told a significantly different story. In the end, scholars debate whether Ramses II secured a Pyrrhic victory (brought his army home, but did not capture Kadesh,) secured a draw with the Hittites, or suffered a stunning defeat.

So what of Ramses II’s claims of an overwhelming victory? Pure propaganda!

Now again, I’m not proposing such a solution for the question in Dan. 9:1. I am pointing out that ANE sources are just as likely to be nothing more than propaganda, lies intended to serve political ends, as they are accurate historical records.

I’ve given these three examples, again not as solutions to the “apparent” error in Dan. 9:1. Rather I’m seeking to make one simple point. The ANE cultures whose historical records “prove” that the Bible has errors in it were cultures just like ours, filled with error-prone people.

On what basis do we presuppose that these sources are more trustworthy than the Bible? If the Bible were nothing more than another ANE record written by error-prone men, well then of course it would be no different, and equally as likely to be in error as the contradicting secular sources.

However, we’re talking about God’s record here. Do we really want to presume that God needs to check his facts?

– Reed DePace

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

Who Ya Gonna Believe?!

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

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

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

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

eLi Presuppositions

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

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

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

eFi Presuppositions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Reed DePace

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