A Friendly Introduction to Biblical Literacy

Posted by Paige (Yes, I’m still around here sometimes!)

I’m pleased to be able to share with you a quirky biblical literacy resource that I created this year. Originally commissioned for a women’s Bible study conference last fall, this half-hour talk instructs beginning Bible students in the difference between “doing devotions” and studying a passage, using Isaiah 61 to reinforce my main points.

It’s meant to be a primer, so the content won’t interest most readers of this blog. But if you listen for just a few minutes, you’ll likely think of a few people who would benefit from this kind of friendly instruction. (Of course, if you listen to the whole thing I will be flattered!)

This talk is on YouTube not because it’s a video of me speaking, but because I created slides to accompany it, for the sake of visual learners. The talk can be enjoyed profitably just as an audio recording, too. Please pass this link along, as appropriate. Thanks!

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