Did the Ancient Church Muzzle the Canon? Daniel Wallace

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Dr. Daniel Wallace addresses the mystery of the gospels and books that were excluded from the New Testament by the ancient church, such as the Gospels of Mary and Judas.

He teaches some of the rhetoric and restrictions on the church’s decision-making process and confronts the complexities of these decisions that were made so long ago.

VIDEO by WA BibleDepartment This lecture took place at Biola University in 2011.

There are 2 other lecture videos on the subject from Biola University:

Dr. Daniel Wallace – Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary (Photo credit www.dts.edu)

Dr. Wallace influences students across the country through his textbook on intermediate Greek grammar. It has become the standard textbook in the English-speaking world on that subject. Dr. Wallace is also the senior New Testament editor of the NET Bible and coeditor of the NET-Nestle Greek-English diglot. He has been a consultant on four different Bible translations. Recently his scholarship has begun to focus on John, Mark, and nascent Christology. He works extensively in textual criticism, and has founded The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (csntm.org), an institute with an initial purpose of preserving Scripture by taking digital photographs of all known Greek New Testament manuscripts. He has traveled the world in search of biblical manuscripts. His postdoctoral work includes work on Greek grammar at Tyndale House in Cambridge, textual criticism studies at the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster, and the Universität Tübingen, Germany. He is in demand as a speaker at churches, colleges, and conferences.

The Size of the New Testament Books by Verses

Photo credit http://visualunit.files.wordpress.com

Reclame

The Bible Is True! ~ The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict Josh McDowell

Photo credit amazon.com

Evidence I & II-The classic defense of the faith: Now fully updated to answer the questions challenging evangelical faith today.

The New Evidence maintains its classic defense of the faith yet addresses new issues.
The New Evidence is destined to equip believers with a ready defense for the next decade and beyond

Bestselling author and Christian apologist Josh McDowell hopes The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict will further document historical evidence of the Christian faith. As such, it is a straightforward compilation of notes prepared for his lecture series, „Christianity: Hoax or History?” The entire book (over 750 pages) is laid out in outline form, which makes it easier for researchers, scholars, and students to access. As a result, this is not reflective fireside reading. Rather, it is a tool for locating supporting „evidence” whenever the need arises. Part I addresses the trustworthiness of the Bible; Part II offers historical evidence and supporting attestations for Jesus’ claim to God; Part III addresses „radical Christian criticism” of the Bible; Part IV is devoted to quelling the voice of numerous skeptics, including „a defense for the existence of miracles” and „answers to divergent worldview.” (Amazon’s review)

VIDEO by WA BibleDepartment

IS THE BIBLE RELIABLE AND ACCURATE? Josh McDowell

Photo credit www.amazon.com

You can bookmark this link and read the book (pdf form) for free at Josh McDowell’s website here http://joshmcdowellmedia.org/FreeBooks/JoshMcDowellAnswersFiveToughQuestions.pdf

Here is a wealth of Bible research and point-by-point logic to answer 65 of the toughest questions asked by skeptics – and to show precisely why Christianity stands up to even the toughest scrutiny. For more than 20 years, Josh McDowell has been one of America’s most powerful and persuasive defenders of the Christian faith. An important resource for any apologetics class. VIDEO by WA BibleDepartment

Liar, Lunatic or Lord – Did God Really Say…?

SEE FULL VIDEO + TRANSCRIPT HERE – 

Cover of "Fundamentalism and the Word of ...

Cover of Fundamentalism and the Word of God

John Piper:

God made me see it. I believe, I couldn’t believe the Bible is untrue if I tried, because I’m just taken by Him. That’s my biggest reason (for believing the Bible).

You can’t persuade anybody with that, so up above those layers are the layers of experience, of encounter withe the text. And, I think that at one level, the Bible, as C. S. Lewis said: „You believe in it as you believe in the sun not only because you see it, but you see everything else by it.” I asked my professor in Germany one time, „Why do you believe the Bible?” And he said, „Because it makes sense out of the world for me”. And I think that is right. You don’t take every sentence and relate it to every part of the world. You just… year after year, after year, you live in the book and you deal with the world and it brings coherence to evil, and good, and to sorrow, and to loss.

There is one other level I would mention. liar, lunatic, Lord argument in the Gospels works for me. And Paul, liar, lunatic, or faithful apostle. Because I think I know Paul better than I know anybody in the Bible. Luke wrote most quantitatively, but he’s writing narrative. The apostle Paul you know, if you read his 13 letters hundreds of time, you know this man. Either he’s stupid, I mean insane, or liar, or a very wise, deep, credible, thoughtful person. So, when I put Paul up against any liberal scholar in any German university that I ever met, they don’t even come close. So, I have frankly never been tested very much by the devil, or whoever, to say, „This wise liberal offering his arguments…” and I read Paul and I say, „I don’t think so!” This man (Paul) is extraordinary, he’s smart, he’s rational, he’s been in the 3rd, 7th heaven evidently, and he’s careful about what he’s saying”. So, that whole argument: Liar, lunatic, Lord, works for me with Jesus and it works powerfully for Paul.

And, once you’ve got Paul speaking, self authenticating, irresistible, worldview shaping truth, then, as you move out from Jesus and Paul, the others just start to shine with confirming evidences

Why are you married? After 43 years, how do you endure losses? I mean, really, where does your strength come from? „You will know the truth and the truth will set you free”. Free from pornography, and free from divorce, free from depressions that just undo you. How do you find your way into marriage over and over, and out of depression, and away from the internet. How does that happen? It happens by the power of this incredible book.

2 recommended books on Scripture:

  1. Scripture in Truth by D.A.Carson and Nichols
  2. Fundamentalism and the word of God by J. I. Packer

Al Mohler:

The problem is with how few of our confessional statements are clear on this. So, one of our evangelical liabilities is that too much has been assumed under our article (statements) of Scripture, without specifying language, with inerrancy being one of those necessary attributes of Scripture to be affirmed.

You do find people today, some lamentably, who are trying to claim that you can still use the word, while basically eviscerating it, emptying it of meaning, so you have historical denials. In particular, you have that a text- and the Chicago Statement is very clear. Our affirmations of denials are actually patterned after the International Council of Biblical Inerrancy, which was itself patterned after previous statements in which there were not only affirmations, but clear denials. So, when you look to that statement, you’ll see the assertion of what that statement means, and you have clear denials. One of the affirmations is Scripture has different forms of literature. But, the denial is that you can legitimately dehistoricize an historical text. So, in other words, everything Scripture reveals, including a historical claim is true. Well, you find some people saying, „Well, you can affirm the truthfulness of the text, without the historicity of the events. You can’t do that. You have people who are now using genre criticism, various forms to say: This is a type of literature, the lamentable argument is, this is the type of text to which the issue of inerrancy doesn’t apply. In other words, „I don’t like it”. But, what they mean is (that the text) it’s not making a truth claim. That’s ridiculous, but you find these kinds of nuances going on.

You also find very clear points of friction. So, for ex.: Do we have to believe in the historicity of the first eleven chapters of the Book of Genesis? That puts us over and against a dominant intellectual system, that establishes what is called credibility in the secular academy. Those evangelicals that feel intellectually accountable to that are trying to say, „There has to be some other way then of dealing with Genesis 1-11. And that’s where you have, now, the ultimate friction point which is coming for instance with the historical Adam, and an historical fall. And now, you’re finding people who are trying to say, „Okay, There is no historical claim in Genesis 1-3, but I still believe in an historical Adam, because I’m just gonna pull him out of the air and plop him down. I still believe in a historical Adam, I’m not gonna root it in the historical text, but, I need him because Paul believed in him.

And then you have people who are on websites today, someone like Peter Enns, who used to teach at an institution which required inerrancy, who no longer teaches there, who says, „Clearly, Paul did believe in inerrancy, but Paul was wrong.” So now, not only do you have the denial of inerrancy and the historicity of Genesis 1-3, but, you have Paul now in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 being said (about): Well, now inerrancy for him means he was speaking truthfully, as inspired by God, but limited to the worldview that was accessible and available to him at the time. That is not what Jesus believed about Scripture.

VIDEO by WA BibleDepartment

Did God really say? VIDEO with full transcript

An essential, highly interesting affirmation by the panel of the belief on biblical inerrancy from the Together for the Gospel Conference 2012, led by Mark Dever, Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C. Besides the great panel discussion, there are also a few book recommendations (linked to Amazon, just click on title or photo) and lots of links to search peripheral issues as they relate to the inerrancy debate. This page will be added to the (permanent) apologetics page.

photo from T4G website – http://t4g.org/resources/photos/

  1. We affirm that the sole (final) authority for the Church is the Bible, verbally inspired, inerrant, infallible and totally sufficient and trustworthy. We deny that the Bible is a mere witness to the divine revelation or that any portion of Scripture is marked by error or by effects of human sinfulness. 
  2. We affirm that the authority and the sufficiently of Scripture extends to the entire Bible and that therefore the Bible is our final authority for all doctrine and practice. We deny that any portion of the Bible should be used in an effort to deny the truthfulness or trustworthiness of any other portion. We further deny any effort to identify a canon within the canon or for example to set the words of Jesus against the words of Paul. 
  3. We affirm that truth ever remains a central issue for the Church and that the Church must resist the allure of pragmatism and post modern conceptions of truths as substitutes for obedience to the comprehensive truth claims of Scripture. We deny that truth is merely a product of social construction or that the truth of the Gospel can be expressed or grounded in anything less than total confidence in the veracity of the Bible, the historicity of the biblical events and the ability of language to convey understandable truth in sentence form. We further deny that the church can establish its ministry on a foundation of pragmatism, current marketing techniques or contemporary cultural fashions.

Is inerrancy something new? Short answer „NO!”

Minute 4 – Dever addresses the charge that „inerrancy” is a „new thing” or just a „reformation doctrine?”.

  • John Piper responds:.In 1971 Fuller Theological Seminary  took the Word out.  I read what was happening in Germany. It blew me away. I did not see it coming. So it may have been there, but the teachers that I loved and had influenced me most didn’t talk that way and didn’t give me indication that it would be going that way. I was never able to make any sense out of the distinctions between infallible and inerrant. 
  • Dr Simon Gathercole – teaches New Testament at Cambridge, in England. One of the clearest figures to express a doctrine of inerrancy was St. Augustine and it came up for him in conversation with the Manichaeans where he made it very clear that there were no contradictions in Scripture , that if you do find what looks like a mistake in Scripture, it is either a result of a problem with the translation, a problem in the text, a particular manuscript or scribal error or that you have misunderstood it. So Augustine is an example of someone who was very clear on inerrancy.
  • Ligon Duncan – there is a consistent witness across Christian history to the Bible’s sole, final authority and its inspiration and inerrancy.
  • Peter Williams – (undergraduate studies at Cambridge) „I believe it is fully authoritative, inerrant, inspired by God’ I think I’d want to add more words, I want to say: It’s basically clear, it’s sufficient, it’s historical. People can take a word like „inerrant” and leech it (by saying) – „I agree with the notion that Scripture is entirely true, but then they try and weaken it in other ways and I think that’s happening particularly because a lot of people, at least in this country are signing an inerrancy statement for their paycheck (which sometimes happens; they redefine inerrancy). There are many reasons to believe in inerrancy, but I think when you believe in verbal inspiration (i.e.) that God gave words and you believe in God’s trustworthiness, that He has a true character and you want to have a relationship with God, then it is inescapable logically to come to a view of Scriptural inerrancy. If you believe that God has given words, I don’t see how you can break that and say, „Well, He gives words and they are sometimes full of errors”, without actually questioning God’s trustworthiness Himself.

The 3 roots/trajectories on how inerrancy is denied

  • Al Mohler (11 min mark) Why wouldn’t anyone believe in this? (This question) leads to a principle of interpreting church history, which often surprises people when you first hear it, and that is that „heresy precedes orthodoxy„. That doesn’t mean that the false precedes the true. It does mean that the codification, or confession of the faith is often in the face of, is a response to heresy or that which is sub biblical or sub orthodox. So, in 325  AD you have a statement made by the Council of Nicaea, that wasn’t necessary until Arius denied that the father and the Son are of the same substance. And when it comes to inerrancy, the first thing is that this is God’s word, God is totally true, so all the attributes of Scripture seem to come, and yet Augustine has to respond to the Manichaeans and we have to respond to contemporary denials of the total truthfulness of Scripture. I think there are 3 roots, or 3 trajectories in which that comes:
  1. The first is ideological and this is basically the external critique of biblical inerrancy. It comes from new atheists, of course if you don’t believe in God, you don’t believe there could possibly be a word of God; if you don’t believe in supernatural revelation as a possibility, or even recently, if you don’t believe in words as units of meaning; that are capable of conveying truth, there are various rules of philosophy and literary interpretation that have lost all confidence in words. They have to use words to explain how little confidence they have in them any longer; it’s part of the whole conundrum, but nevertheless, it is an ideological assault and so a good bit of what you will read simply says: „Inerrancy is an impossibility” and it will move on. But, it is not the major issue of our concern, there are two other trajectories.
  2. Another trajectory is apologetic. This is where you have evangelicals who say: This is an embarrassment. To claim inerrancy is to over claim the text, it is an impediment to our intellectual credibility and so you have people who would pose to be within the evangelical movement who will say, as Kenton Sparks in a recent book said, „This is the intellectual doom,” to paraphrase him, because it makes us continually defend the truthfulness of every passage in a text and that is leading modern people to have huge intellectual obstacles to receiving the main message in the text, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So you have various forms of this kind of apologetic argument; it’s the same argument as people who come along and say you can’t talk about the Bible’s teaching on sexuality; that’s presenting too much of an obstacle for contemporary people to come to Christ. Ot, you can’t deny the theory of evolution, it’s metanarrative because that creates too much of an impediment for people to come to Christ. And so, you have websites today and people arguing that inerrancy is just an obstacle, it’s a theological construct that’s doing more damage than good.
  3. The third trajectory, or the third root you can look at this is moral, in which case you have people say that if we’re committed to total truthfulness of Scripture, then we’re committed to text which reveal God as acting in immoral ways; God’s people sanctioning immoral acts, and what you have is people who will say, „Look, we have the capacity as human beings to judge God, and thus we’re gonna go to the conquest of Canaan or we’re gonna go to the way God deals with any individual in either Testament of the canon and say that that’s immoral. If you’re gonna try and impose a human standard of morality, like the late atheist, Christopher Hitchens, if you read the Bible honestly you’re gonna find texts that are gonna cause you all kinds of  difficulty and by the way, one of the things Christopher Hitchens did very well for us was to say, „He can understand theists who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture and he can understand atheists who don’t believe it’s possible, what he didn’t understand were people who tried to pose in the middle.
  • Dr Simon Gathercole – The central plank for me in the doctrine of inerrancy, and that is that it was Jesus’ view of Scripture and I think the 2 other points that were mentioned are really significant. The sort of dogmatic logic of what Scripture says, God says and therefore because of the character of God, Scripture is without error. Also, it’s the continuous testimony of the Church. I would recommend everyone read John Woodbridge’s book  Biblical Authority: A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal even though the debate is now different, but there’s a lot to learn there. But, if you just look at the way Jesus treats Scripture, what He says about Scripture, „Your word is truth”, „Scripture cannot be broken”, the way He refers to Adam, the way He refers to Elijah and Elisha, all the figures of the Old Testament, the way He responds to Satan: „It’s written, and every word is proceeding from the mouth of God.” That has to be the real cornerstone for our doctrine of inerrancy and it means that it’s an imperative of discipleship for us, that it’s a matter of following Jesus. (Also recommends Christ and the Bible” by John Wenham)
  • Peter Williams – If heresy precedes orthodoxy then I think that apologetics precedes heresy, as in most heresy begins as apologetics movement. And, I say that as someone who is involved in apologetics and likes it. Liberal theology is an attempt to rescue Christianity from deep embarrassment and that’s how a lot of these things begin and  those of us that are involved in apologetics need to be quite careful about that, because it can lead to error. The way people get seduced sometime into abandoning Scriptural authority is when they become persuaded that, that thing which adheres most to their dreams and their aspirations and start to believe „that more people will come to Christ if I just water this down somewhat”. Sometime people become persuaded in theological education that they are being more faithful to the text if they read it in a way that is contrary to another text. When people are being brought up in a Chirstian context, to value the authority of the Bible, it appeals and they become persuaded that the most honest reading of the text is to read it so it contradicts to another one.
  • Al Mohler –   Liberal theology is a succession of rescue attempts for the reputation of Christianity and to just give an example of what Peter is talking about: You have Rudolph Bultmann, who in one of his books says people who use electric lights don’t believe in a supernatural universe. So, in other words, if you’re gonna reach modern people we’re gonna have to bring christianity into intellectual credibility with the modern world. A lot of the things you see being claimed right now are as old as the heretics that the church fathers faced and certainly in terms of protestant liberalism and what the church has faced in over 100 years.
  • Ligon Duncan –  Another example in modern liberalism is Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher. Schleiermacher  was offended by the doctrine of the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ and the uniqueness of Christ. And he looked out at Germany and he said: German intellectuals are rejecting Christianity in droves, they’re impacted by the enlightenment and the message of Christianity must change if we are going to be able to capture this generation for christianity. It wasn’t as if he was sitting around inventing to destroy christianity, but in fact he did that with apologetic missionary motives in reaching his culture and so liberalism’s fundamental premise is that the message must change if christianity is going to survive and effectively engage the culture.
  • Peter Williams -It’s going right back to Marcion in the second century. Marcion is deeply embarrassed by the Old Testament, by the Jewishness of Jesus. He, as an apologist thinks that he can commend christianity far better by ditching those things. So, that’s why becoming an apologist, led straight to the heresy.
  • John Piper (minute 20 mark) Mark Dever asks why JP concluded that inerrancy was true: There are layers to that like- My momma told me it was true. That’s one layer. „..remember those from whom you’ve learned the faith” (2 Timothy 3:14), that’s an argument in the Bible. Second layer would be: God made me see it. That’s the deepest layer and I do believe I couldn’t believe the Bible is untrue, if I tried because I am just taken by Him, for it. I believe that’s the deepest reason. You can’t persuade anybody with that and so, up above those layers are the layers of experience, of encounter with the text and I think that at one level the Bible, as C.S.Lewis said: „You believe in it as you believe in the sun, not only because you see it, but you see everything else by it”. I asked my professor in Germany one time, „Why do you believe the Bible? And he said: Because it makes sense out of the world for me. Year after year, after year you live in the book and you deal with the world and it brings coherence to evil and good and sorrow and loss. And there’s one other level I would mention: Liar, lunatic, Lord argument in the Gospels works for me in Paul: Liar, lunatic or faithful apostle because I think I know Paul better than I know anybody in the Bible. Luke wrote most quantitatively, but he’s writing narrative. But with Paul, if you read these 13 letters hundreds of times, you know this man. Either he’s stupid, I mean insane, or liar, or a very wise, deep, credible, thoughtful person. So, when I put Paul against any liberal scholar in any German university  that I ever met, they don’t even come close. So, I have never, frankly, been tested very much by the devil or whoever to say, „This wise, liberal, offering his arguments…” I read Paul and I say, „I don’t think so”. This man is extraordinary, he’s smart, he’s rational. He’s been in the 3rd, 7th heaven and he is careful about what he is saying. So, that whole argument „Liar, lunatic, Lord – works for me with Jesus and it works powerfully for me for Paul and moreover once you’ve got Paul speaking, self authenticating, irresistible, world view shaping truth, then as you move out from Jesus and Paul, the others just start to shine with confirming evidences. Just a few ayers, there are others. Dever prompts John to give one more. JP: Why are you married after 43 years? How do you endure losses? really, where does your strength come from? You will know the truth and the truth will set you free. Free from pornography and free from divorce, free from depressions that just undo you. How do you find your way into marriage over and over and out of depression and away form the internet? How does that happen? It happens by the power of this incredible book. Dever: For people who haven’t had time to accumulate all those layers, anything you would tell them to read? Piper: Back when the inerrancy council was red hot „Scripture and truth” edited by Grudem and
  • Mark Dever recommends J. I. Packer’s „Fundamentalism and the Word of God”.
  • Al Mohler – The problem is how few of our confessional statements are clear on this in the first place. So one of our evangelical liabilities is that too much has been assumed under an article of Scripture without specifying language, with inerrancy being one of those necessary  attributes of Scripture confirmed. You do find people today, some lamentably who are trying to claim that  you can still use the word, while basically eviscerating it, emptying it of meaning. So you have historical denials, in particular, you have someone who says that a text… and „The Chicago Statement on Inerrancy” makes it very clear, our affirmations and denials are actually patterned after the International Council of Biblical Inerrancy, which was itself patterned after previous statements in which there were not only affirmations, but clear denials. So, when you look to that statement, you’ll see that there’s the version of what inerrancy means and that means „This is not true”. So, you have clear denials. One of the affirmations is: Scripture has different forms of literature, but the denial is that you can legitimately dehistoricize an historical text. So, in other words, everything in Scripture reveals, including every historical claim is true. You find some people saying: „Well, you can affirm the truthfulness of the text without the historicity of the text. You can’t do that. You have people who are now using genre criticism, various forms to say: This is a type of literature. My favorite of these lamentable arguments is the one that says: This is the kind of text to which the issue of inerrancy does not apply. In other words: I don’t like it. But, what they mean is: I am not making a truth claim. If I am not making a truth claim… that’s ridiculous, but you find these kinds of nuances going on. You also find very clear, points of friction. So, let’s give an example of points of friction: Do we have to believe in the historicity of the first eleven chapters of the book of Genesis? What Pete said about apologetics, that puts us over, against a dominant, intellectual system that establishes what is called credibility in the secular academy. Those evangelicals who feel intellectually accountable to that, are trying to say, „There has to be some other way then,  of dealing with Genesis 1 through 11 and that’s where you have now the ultimate friction point, with coming, for instance, the historical Adam and an historical fall and now you’re finding people who are trying to say, „Okay, there is no historical claim in Genesis 1 through 3, but I still believe in an historical Adam because I am just going to pull him out of the air and pop him down and say, „I still believe in an historical Adam (but) I am not going to root it in the historical nature of the text, but I need him because Paul believed in him. And then, you have people who have websites today, someone like Peter Enns, who used to teach at an institution which required inerrancy, but no longer teaches there, who says, „Clearly, Paul did believe in inerrancy, but, Paul was wrong”. And so, now you not only have the denial of inerrancy of the historicity of Genesis 1 through 3, you have Paul now, in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 being said, „Well now, inerrancy for him means ‘he was speaking truthfully, as inspired by God, but limited to the world view that was accessible and available to him at the time’. That is not what Jesus believed about Scripture. That is not what the church must believe about Scripture. I never came close to not believing in the inerrancy of Scripture. I came close to believing that there could be other legitimate ways of describing the total authority and truthfulness of the text and especially in context of fierce denominational controversy, I thought there must be room for finding it somewhere else and some people even mentioned here were correctives. For example J.I. Packer’s Fundamentals of God, was the bomb that landed in the playground. That little experiment just doesn’t happen; you take that out, it simply won’t work. At about the time that you (Mark Dever) and I really became friends, we were looking at how you came from an evangelical background where those issues have been discussed for 20 years before they did explode in the Southern Baptist Convention. My denomination had to learn this lesson a little bit late and at great cost.
  • Mark Dever– leaving the denominational stuff aside, you (Mohler) as a Christian, you found an intuitive, like John is talking about, an intuitive faith in Scripture.
  • Al Mohler– Well, it was intuitive, but I also had intellectual guardrails. My earliest, explicit theological formation was when apologetics hit me as a crisis as a teenager and I was led directly into the influence of Francis Schaeffer. And the book that most influenced me as a  teenager in high school, holding on to the faith as against a very secular environment was his book based on  lectures at Wheaton „He is there and He is not silent”, and I would point to that as the 5 or 10 books that most shaped my thinking, because Schaeffer’s logic in his lectures is really clear: „If there is a God, who doesn’t exist, we’re doomed. If there’s a God who does exist, but doesn’t speak, we’re just as doomed. If there is a God who does exist and He does speak, then salvation is in the speech. And so that was one of the guard rails in my life and being raised in a Gospel church that preached the word of God and just assumed that when you say „It’s the word of God”, it means all this.
  • Ligon Duncan – I didn’t have faith challenges as a teenager that Al did, but I was reading a lot of that apologetic literature and this was being talked about by evangelicals and the Ligonier statement on Scripture had come out in 1973, the ICBI Chicago Statement came out in 1978. Those are my teenage years. This is a conversation in the conservative corner of evangelicalism, in which I was reared. I had a good pastor that was happy to have me ask him questions about this when I was troubled with something I could ask him, he was on the board at Westminster Theological Seminary. When I went to Edinburgh (Scotland for PhD) I already had a solid education in the doctrine of Scripture at Covenant Seminary. But when I went to Edinburgh , James Barr’s book „Fundamentalism”  had just come out and I read it. I have more writings in the margins of the text in this book. I was arguing with him relentlessly in this book.
  • Mark Dever – This was an attack on J.I. Packer’s book and other kinds of statements of faith and Scripture.
  • Ligon Duncan – At that point I thought this would be some kind of hot topic. I had read some Barr in seminary, mostly semantics of biblical language and other things like that, in which, hopefully he is going after some bad stuff, but, I decided that when that book came out that I needed to read everything that Barr had ever written because of the potential influence on scholars. I was doing patristics at Edinburgh and so this wasn’t something that was part of my reading for work, it was just something I needed to do on the side and so I did. It was the most soul killing 6 months that I have ever spent. It was very disturbing. And several things helped me: One is a professor who had already thought through all of these issues. I went to another professor, and as we sat down he said, „You need to know, I have walked through all of these issues long ago and I’m happy to walk with you through them now. That was an enormous intellectual and theological resource to me. But then, it was the reality of Christ and the Gospel and the lives of believers that didn’t even know that they were ministering to me because that person could not be the way he or she is if there wasn’t a Holy Spirit indwelling Christ in us. I was also reading Ned Stonehouse’s biography of J Gresham Machen, who went through the same thing when he went to Marburg to study and he came into contact with Hermann and the german liberals of those days, and his correspondence with his mother was very significant in keeping him with just losing his mind.
  • Al Mohler – One other thing that was very informative to me was listening to people preach and seeing the distinction in the midst of a huge controversy with some people saying, „I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture and other people saying, „I believe almost the same thing, I just think the words aren’t necessary, etc., etc.” When one got up and said, „This is the word of God”, read the text and preached the text and the other read the text and said, „Let’s find what’s good in here”. And they didn’t necessarily put it that way, but you could tell that is what they were doing homiletically. Here is an accountability to every word of the text. The text speaks because when the text speaks, God speaks. And on the other hand, people saying, „You know, there’s good stuff here, let’s go find it”.
  • Peter Williams – I went through a time of significant doubt when I was around 21 , 22. Mark (Dever) was in town at the time, in Cambridge, a great help and the Lord brought me through those, having to work through a lot of that. I certainly looked at liberalism and secular approaches to the Bible, from the inside, within my heart and really, there is nothing there, there’s nothing that has the explanatory power, the comprehensive work that the Gospel, the work in your life and even, also, I think on a historical  level there are some amazing things about the Bible. If I can just mention one: Historical level: Go back 400 years to someone like James Ussher (or 350) calculating the dates of Kings of ancient Israel, or Kings of Assyria. That was before archaeology had begun, before the language of the Assyrians had even been deciphered (that’s been in the last 200 years) and he gets the dates of Tiglas Pileser within one year of what now people believe it to be, based on the Bible and he’s not got Hebrew manuscripts any earlier than 11th century AD. and he’s getting reliable information from 1800 years earlier. You can document that. It’s not widely appreciated, but he gets the year 728 and we think it’s 727. It’s pretty remarkable, that sort of level of agreement. It is one of the most amazing stories to me, of historical accurate information being transmitted.
  • John Piper – ends with prayer that faith would increase in this generation.

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Michael Horton Is The Doctrine of Inerrancy Defensible?

Michael Horton at a Ligonier Conference:

Young evangelicals and inerrancy – There is a resurgence of commitment to inerrancy among a lot of young christians, especially in the young calvinist movement and that’s very encouraging. But, there are also signs that there is a generation that knew not the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, that Dr. Sproul and Dr. MacArthur were a part of so many years ago. I remember when I was a teenager I went to one of those conferences, and I was wrestling with some of these questions myself, and I was raised in a very conservative evangelical background, but I’ve always had some restless, inquisitive spirit and didn’t want to just take things whole as they were being taught to me without asking some questions and being convinced in my own mind. What I was questioning, in many respects, the doctrine of inerrancy really wasn’t. I think a lot of younger christians right now are struggling with inerrancy for a lot of the same reasons their parents and grandparents may have struggled with it. (PHOTO CREDIT derekgriz.com)

First of all, we’ve had 3 centuries of rationalistic criticism of the supernatural. Now, obviously, if we’re going to have a word form God, given to us in history, you have to be at least open to the plausibility for the supernatural world view. You can’t say that miracles never happen, and yet believe that God has spoken, has broken into our world to speak to us in our history. We’ve had 3 centuries of a presupposition that says, out of the gate, without any investigation, without any criticism or questioning, that things happen, purely according to natural processes. God doesn’t speak and God doesn’t act in history. He may have created the world, He may have wound up the clock, but He doesn’t get involved now that things are running along marvelously. God doesn’t speak either, to us in judgment that would terrify us, as Israel was terrified when God spoke at Mt. Sinai. Nor does He speak to us the good news of salvation, because we don’t need to be saved. And so, there’s this integral relationship between Pelagiansim- the belief that we can save ourselves, and naturalism- the belief that we don’t need to hear from  a god outside of ourselves. And that’s what we’ve seen for the last 3 1/2 centuries with the rise of the enlightenment, where spirit and letter were set in opposition. This was already clear in some of the mystical sects of the Middle Ages. It was very clear in the radical anabaptist movement, where leaders like Thomas Muntzer that Luther just preaches the external word, that merely just beats air, but, we have that inborn spiritual word in our hearts.  And so, the external word of Scripture and the internal word of the Spirit speaking directly in our hearts became a hallmark of western consciousness. It was picked up by the rationalists and secularized by people like Lessing and Kant and others, who said we have an inner morality that we turn to. We can trust that reason within us, and we don’t need a word outside of us. We do not need an external God outside of our own hearts, or our own minds, or our own experiences to tell us who we are, where we are, what or problem is and what He has done to solve it.

Immanuel Kant, one of the great leaders of the enlightenment said, „The concept of God, and even the conviction of His existence can be met only in reason, and cannot first come to us, either through inspiration or through tidings communicated to us, however great the authority behind them”.  He went on to say that the 2 things we can be convinced of most certainly of are the starry heavens above and the moral law within. But, of course this means that human existence is totally self enclosed, like the roof over this building. There’s nothing above us, there’s no one to tell us why He made us, how He made us, what His purpose is for our life, and how we stand before Him in the light of that purpose, and what He has done to save us. Closed up in ourselves. „In brief,” said Kant, „we seek moral imperatives. In brief, I am only interested on what is incumbent upon me, clearly distinguished form what God does for me. Hence, nothing new is imposed by the Gospel upon me. Rather, whatever the state of those reports, new strength and confidence is already given to my already good dispositions. And so, one of the real reasons I think we struggled with this, from Immanuel Kant to Oprah, is that we don’t allow anything from outside of our own narrow experience and reason to interrupt us.

Christianity is a rational faith. Not rationalistic, but rational. There is no great doctrine in the christian faith that isn’t a mystery, that doesn’t transcend our reason. But, there is no doctrine in christianity that is against reason itself. But, rationalism is itself against reason because it presupposes a world that doesn’t exist  before it even investigates that world. 

Unwilling to be judged by God’s external law, many of our contemporaries are unwilling to be saved  by God’s external Gospel. In one sense, the modern age has been very rationalistic: „Just the facts, ma’am.” And on the other hand, very mystical. When it comes to finding ultimate meaning in life, they realize they can’t find ultimate meaning in science and reason, and so they turn inward. As C. S. Lewis said: They sort of just become scientist magicians- going to the lab and thinking critically as scientists, and then going home and playing with their ouija boards. (10)

There’s a schizophrenia in out culture that is that is very much a part of our problem with an external authority. Also, there have been scuffles with science. The reformation contributed mightily to the rise of modern science, in many ways. But, there’s the history, especially in the Medieval church of Copernicus and Galileo that still haunts us to this very day. Today, science and orthodox faith are polarized as never before. Scientists often go beyond the methods, sources, and criteria of their own field, in order to pronounce on philosophical and metaphysical questions, while, sometimes christian theologians transgress the boundaries of the faithful interpretation of Scripture and adopt extra biblical theories. And, what happens in the process often is you have young people going off to college not knowing what they believe and why they believe it, and they get caught in this crossfire between science and faith.

Thirdly, there are genuine discrepancies. After 3 centuries of relentless criticism, we can say there are genuine discrepancies. Now, discrepancies are not errors. Discrepancies are problems that we haven’t solved in our exegesis. They’re not problems with the text, but they’re problems with us. But, it’s not as if this was shown for the first time in the enlightenment. If you read Jean Calvin’s commentaries, or if you go back to John Chrysostom, for that matter. Or, Augustine, you see that they point out discrepancies. But, as in any science, you don’t throw a whole paradigm that is stable and accounts for the greatest amount of data overboard, simply because you can’t explain anomalous data. And if that’s true, and the sign is that it is generally true when we come to the inerrancy of the Scripture.

For the Protestant reformers, the defense of Scripture, they agreed with Rome on the inerrancy of Scripture- Rome has down  to the second Vatican council agreed with the inerrancy of Scripture, at least officially. The reason the informers were so insistent on Sola Scriptura was not because they have a sort of Islamic attachment to a book, It was because they knew that in that book, God had spoken to us outside of our experience, outside of our reason, outside of what we ever could have know for ourselves and delivered the only hope for our salvation and the salvation of the world. And so, the Gospel itself was bound up with Scripture.

The apostle Paul tells us, famously, in 2 Timothy 3:14 „But, as for you continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training and righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped, for every good work.” The first thing we need to look at here, in this definition of inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture is:

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God’s own testimony to His word is in Scripture.

The Bible’s testimony to itself. The Bible is a canon, coming from the greek word canon, which means rule, it’s sort of similar to a constitution. And in the ancient near eastern world, the world of political treaties from which our covenantal analogies in Scripture come, in that ancient near eastern world, a great king would liberate a lesser people from tyrants and then annex that lesser people to himself. And so, his word had both liberating power and when he gave them the treaty, binding, regulating power. And it’s no different between Yahweh and His people. God is the great king, greater than all kings of the earth, and God has annexed us, He has chosen us, redeemed us, called us to Himself, liberating us from lords that cannot make us safe. And so, God;s word not only saves, it rules. It’s not only the word of liberation, that saves us from our enemies. It is also that constitution by which the people of God are bound, and by which His church is regulated. Nothing added, nothing subtracted on penalty of death. And there’s a line in these ancient near eastern treaties of Israel’s neighbors. With these political arrangements, the treaty always had a clause saying that whoever adds to or takes away from the words of this treaty X,Y, and Z would happen to them. And usually it was death. We find the exact same formula in the Old Testament. We read that death will come to anyone that adds words to this law or takes away from the words of this law. And in the last book of the Bible it ends the same way: Whoever adds words or takes away from this prophecy, his name will be taken away from the Book of Life.

That’s what it means to have a canon. But, how can we embrace the christian canon over other supposed canons? For instance, the Koran. What distinguishes the Bible? Scripture, of course, is self authenticating. That means that as we read the Bible we hear God speak to us, and you don’t need to know the argument for how that happens, to really hear God speak through His word. You don’t have to become an apologist, you don’t have to defend it to all detractors. The word of God speaks for itself because in that word, we have God Himself addressing us through the lips of His ambassadors.  And yet, we need to always be prepared for the defense that we have, and also to help christians struggling with issues like inerrancy, to think through the internal and external evidence for the faithfulness of God speaking in His word.

The best way to do this is to start with Jesus. 

Jesus is GodJesus declared and eyewitnesses confirmed that He was the promised Messiah. That was His message concerning Himself. He’s the Son of God and the Son of David, who was sent to deliver us from our sins. That’s the main message and ministry of Jesus Christ. And He explained that He came to die on the cross, and to be raised 3 days later. So, we start with the message of Jesus. Who did Jesus believe He was? And what did Jesus believe He had come to do? And then, the second question to ask is: Did He do that? Was He successful? Did He accomplish everything that He promised? And when we look at  that we see great evidence internal and external for the resurrection of Christ.

Those with the means, the motive and the opportunity to disprove the resurrection of Jesus failed to do so. They failed to come up with evidence. In fact, the ancient rabbinical sources, the rabbis of Jesus’ day said that He was born illegitimately and was probably demon possessed because ‘He performed signs and wonders and led our people astray by the work of Satan’, confirming therefore that He was performing signs and wonders, and confirming the report that the unpardonable sin the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is to say that Jesus was performing these miracles, not by the power of the Holy Spirit, but by the power of Satan. They offered implausible arguments about the disciples having stolen Jesus’ body, proving once again that the body wasn’t there. Hindsight is 20/20, but you almost think that if you’re a later Jewish apologist, you’d wanna say, „Why couldn’t anybody shut up? Why were they talking so much? Why were they going after christians so much? Every time they attacked these claims that swirled around Jesus, they substantiated many of those claims as hostile witnesses.”

Roman and JEwish historians have both confirmed that a great dissension erupted in Jerusalem over the whereabouts of Jesus’ body and over the immediate rise- this wasn’t a slowly evolving myth, over the immediate rise of the disciples of Christ who proclaimed His resurrection, on penalty of death. And none of the disciples showed themselves to be in any mood for martyrdom. They fled the scene leaving the women to sort of fend for themselves. The men fled. Peter denied Jesus 3 times. Where do we learn about this? In the Bible itself. If you start a new religion would you represent yourself and your buddies that way? Well, the New Testament is telling us warts and all what had happened because whatever it was it was great enough to bring them out into the light of day and proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ even though they knew that they would be martyred for that claim.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The person who wrote that, the apostle Paul, was commissioned by this risen Christ. And the other apostles were commissioned directly by Jesus Christ. They had to be eyewitnesses. And so, what we have now in the New Testament is a canon composed through human agency, with the criteria of their being eye witnesses and commissioned directly by Jesus Christ for this purpose.

Let me just say a little word about trinitarian cooperation in inspiration. The cooperation of the persons of the trinity is very important here. Every work that the godhead does is done from the Father, in the Son, through the Spirit.- Whether it’s creation, whether it’s the Exodus and the conquest, or whether it’s the life and ministry and work of Jesus Christ. Nothing is done by the Father without the Son and the Spirit. Nothing is done by the Son without the Father and the Spirit. Nothing is done by the Spirit without the Father and the Son. They cooperate in every work. And that is true of inspiration as well.

If we just have a doctrine of inspiration and inerrancy that focuses on the Father’s speaking (such as): It’s inerrant and infallible because God said it, I believe it, that settles it- we do not yet have a sufficiently christian doctrine of inspiration and inerrancy. But, some people say, „No, it should focus on Christ, Christ is the content, the substance of Scripture and this often leads to a canon within a canon approach. That is, whatever preaches Christ, in other words, whatever ‘I’ think preaches Christ is inerrant, and everything around it might be full of errors, but at least that is true, at least the Gospel is true. And then, some people take the Holy Spirit and separate the Holy Spirit from the word, so that you hear things like, „What the Holy Spirit is saying to us today is is just as important as what He said to the prophets and the apostles.” What we have to do is recognize  that in the work of inspiration, the Father is speaking, the Son is the content, and the Holy Spirit is the one who both inspires the text and illumines our hearts to embrace it.

In 2 Corinthians 1, the father is the faithful promise maker and we read: „All of the promises of God find their yes in Christ. Yet, we can only utter our amen to God for His glory because He has also put His seal on us and given us His spirit in our hearts as a guarantee”. There you have the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in cooperation. Other passages 2 Timothy 3:15017, that I just read also makes that point very well. The Father is mentioned, the Son is mentioned, and the Spirit is mentioned. (25:00)

But, when you go back and read the creation account, one of the things that has really stood out to me in recent years is the way you have there in the creation account two forms of God’s creative accounts. The first is ex nihilo, bringing the world out of nothing. „Let there be..” and there was. That’s the formula that we’re familiar with. But, in those same passages you have references to God saying, „Let the earth bring forth.. ” and the earth brought forth. Now here’s the thing. Liberals and fundamentalists often sound alike in their presupposition, that to the extent that something is from God, it is not through human agency. This is something we really have to work through because hyper supernaturalism and naturalism are kissing cousins. The first thing we have to see here is because it’s trinitarian, the Father working in the Son, by the Spirit, both declaring, „Let there be…” and there was, but also through the work of the Holy Spirit saying, „Let the earth bring forth…” God used the natural capacities of the prophets and the apostles to bring forth that which He had foreordained before the foundation of the world. Photo credit for book www.amazon.com)

To delineate this a little bit more, what I’d like to do in the time remaining is look very briefly at a book that I think remains probably the best book on this subject. B. B. Warfield and A. Hodge’s book ‘Inspiration’ remains untouched. Their arguments have yet to be answered by critics. And so, I wanna mention their points very briefly, cause I don’t think anything here has changed yet.

  1. They point out that the rejection of inerrancy, which means that the Bible does not err in all that it affirms in the original autographs, they point out that the rejection of inerrancy is typically founded ultimately on a false view of God’s relation to the world. In other words, either miracles cannot happen, or whenever God acts it always has to be miraculous. Here again, the fundamentalists and the liberals often play off against each other. If it’s going to be an act of God, to that extent, it can’t come through human agency. You have to deny the human aspect. And yet, these authors say biblical inspiration, not only includes the untrammeled play of all the authors faculties, but involves the very substance of what they write. It’s not just how they write it, it’s what they write that is human. It is evidently, for the most part a part of their mental and spiritual activities. The writers say God’s superintendence does not compromise creaturely freedom. Our freedom is not divine freedom, it’s always creaturely freedom. But precisely because God gives it to us by analogy, we really do have freedom. This means that it is not the case that as to the extent that God does something, creatures don’t do something. Rather, it is precisely because of God’s sovereign freedom that human freedom is even possible in the first place. God has no trouble, therefore, producing a Bible that is without errors, without interrupting or taking away human freedom. There’s this assumption that human freedom implies error. „To err is human”, that’s not the case at all. And of course, Jesus Christ was without sin, and yet tempted in all respects as we are. If we believe that He was truly human, yet without sin we can believe that the Bible is truly human, yet without error.
  2. Warfield and Hodge underscore the redemptive historical unfolding of biblical revelation. In other words, the Bible did not fall down from heaven, it’s not like Muhammad receiving the Koran, supposedly as it dropped down from Allah to Muhammad. It’s not a collection of eternal timeless  thoughts and principles. It is a story, it is  narrative that unfolds from Genesis to Revelation. And that which is less clearly revealed in the Old Testament is more clearly revealed in the New Testament. 1200 years of this organic, like a plant, organic development is what produced our Bible. That’s what we have in the Old and New Testaments. A canon that has grown through the centuries, through the superintending work of the Spirit, working through creaturely means. Therefore, say the authors, theories concerning  authors, dates, sources, and modes of composition that are not plainly inconsistent with the testimony of Christ and His apostles. As to the Old Testament or with the apostolic origin of the books of the New Testament cannot in the least invalidate the Bible’s inspiration and inerrancy. Those questions are open. They’re questions about the humanness of the books. Whenever we bump into the obvious humanness of the Bible, that shouldn’t diminish our confidence in its divinity, its divine force. Rather, it should strengthen it, that in all of its humanity, in all of its diversity, in all of its plurality of witnesses and voices, clearly, there is one voice behind it all that brings it together. In Scripture, no less than in history itself. (32:50)
  3. These Princeton theologians faced squarely the question of contradictions and errors. They noted problems in great detail. Some discrepancies are due to imperfect copies, which textual criticism properly considers. Other discrepancies may be due to an original reading that has been lost. Or we may simply fail to have adequate data, or be blinded by or own presuppositions from understanding a given text. They say, „Sometime we are destitute of the circumstantial knowledge which would fill up  and harmonize the record, as is true in any historical record. But, you don’t have historians running off and saying the battle of Waterloo never happened because there are things we can’t explain. The record itself, they say, furnishes evidence that the writers were in large measure dependent on their knowledge upon sources and methods in themselves fallible. Peter, himself, says that the prophets were diligently searching out in an inquiring as they were writing out their prophecies, what this might mean. They weren’t Nostradamus, walking around receiving a word of knowledge to see into the future. No, God gave them audible verbal words  in those case of ‘Thus saith the Lord”, analogous to ‘Let there be light,’ and there was. And in other cases, led them to the trammel free of their faculties and in His sovereignty determined that what they said would be an inspired record of what He wanted for future generations to be recorded.
  4. (skipped # 4)
  5. The claim of inerrancy is that in all their real affirmations, these books are without error. Every sentence here, every thesis of Hodge and Warfield was carefully selected and every word in it is very important. Now, there are many things in the Bible that are not real affirmations, but are assumptions on the part of the writer. A reductionistic view of language would only lead us to reject the inerrancy and the trustworthiness of the Bible because we couldn’t reconcile it, for example, with the cosmology of the Psalmist with Einstein. It would be ridiculous. As Jean Calvin said, „Moses was not an astronomer. He wasn’t doing astronomy. He was giving us God’s inspired  infallible record of His covenant relationship with His people and His sovereignty over the whole earth”. Whatever the Scriptures teach is inerrant. We have to ask: What is their purpose? What is being really affirmed in certain passages? Some critics have said, „Look, the Psalmist says that the world rests on four pillars. What an antiquated world view, as if they’ve never read poetry before. It may well be that the Psalmist assumed a cosmology or a world view  that was unknown until modern science. That may be, but what was he affirming? What is the real affirmation there of the Psalmist, especially when it’s in the form of poetry? He didn’t believe God had feathers, yet He spoke of God having feathers (cover me with Your wings…). We have to be very careful that we don’t hand liberals the fodder. A classic example that is often quoted is Matthew 13:32 where Jesus said that the mustard seed is the smallest seed. I can’t tell  you how many well educated scholars who used to believe in inerrancy and now they don’t, flounder on this passage. Of course the mustard seed is not the smallest seed in all the world. We know what the smallest seed in all the world is and it’s not that one. But, 2 things we can say by way of response. Jesus didn’t necessarily know what was the smallest seed in the entire world. In His state of humiliation He didn’t know the hour or the time of His return: Only my Father in heaven. In His state of humiliation Jesus Christ was faithfully telling  what He had been delivered from the Father. All of this, I received from my Father in heaven”. And so, Jesus was speaking to them in a way that they would have understood, out of a world, out of a place and time He belonged to very much, as a first century Jew. What’s really being affirmed in this passage is: The smallest seed you have any awareness of, any experience of in your daily life, the kingdom of God starts out like that, and gets  real big. Inerrancy requires our confidence, not in the exactitude of the biblical statements, but in the reliability  of the biblical statements. What is affirmed as reliable, not necessarily exhaustive?

Critics, also, often point out that if you follow the chronologies in the Scripture, particularly in the Old Testament, you arrive, as archbishop Usher did in the 17th century, that the world was created Sunday, October 23rd 4004 B.C. Well, if that’s disproved, then the Bible therefore unravels and we can no longer trust in its authority. Well, now we know how chronologies work. Chronologies are not like the United States Census Report. Chronologies in the ancient world highlighted significant people in dynasties. You go from George Washington and skip to Abraham Lincoln. You don’t go from George Washington to his children, and their children and so forth. And the same is true in Matthew’s genealogy. Once again it’s a question of the scope. What is being claimed in each passage? As Warfield explains: It is true that the Scriptures were not designed to teach philosophy, science, or ethnology, or human history as such. Therefore, they are not to be studied primarily as sources of information on these subjects. Not because they’re unreliable, because they don’t address it. That’s not their purpose. That’s not their scope.

  • 6. An appeal to the inerrancy of the original autograph. This is kind of the Achilles’ heel. Critics will say, „What museum can I go to for the original autographs? If so, we can talk about whether they’re inerrant or not inerrant. You guys keep talking about the  inerrancy of the original autographs…” We’re clearly not saying that this (the Bible) is inerrant. Textual criticism is always going through and showing, after more careful research, more careful study that the ending of the Lord’s prayer isn’t in the best manuscripts. Because not much has changed through textual criticism, nothing touching any major point of doctrine , we can be convinced that as it is now, the conclusions that have been reached are pretty devastating to higher critics.

It is really important for us to realize that not only the Gospel, but the nature of God is implicated in this whole question of inerrancy, and that’s what I’m going to close with here.

I mentioned that the reformers bound their understanding of Scripture, the importance of the nature of Scripture with the content, the Gospel itself. Whatever the holy, unerring, and truthful God says is simply by virtue of  having come from Him holy, unerring, and truthful. In addition, the content of God’s speech is none other than the gift of the eternal Son, who became flesh for our Salvation. Revelation is therefore not merely an ever new event that occurs through the work of the Spirit, it is a written canon of biting, Spirit breathed, constitution for the covenant community unto all generations. That’s why Paul calls it a pattern of sound words, that we are to guard by means of the holy Spirit, who dwells within us. Of course this word creates. The Spirit creates through this word our act of faith in it. But, it is primarily, and first and foremost objectively the faith, once and for all delivered  to the saints.

Far more than ancient eastern rulers who demanded the death penalty for adding and subtracting from the canon does this great King, the Lord God almighty impose His canon with all seriousness. Secular kings could impose their constitutions simply by brute force, vascillating arbitrarily between harsh tyranny and careless abandon. But our King rules us, brothers and sisters, our King rules us in order to save us. He doesn’t rule us haphazardly, or tyrannically, although He has more power than all the kings of the earth. When He speaks, life comes to those who are dead. Sins are forgiven, and new creation dawns. That’s what happens when God speaks. In this way, we see the wide gulf separating christianity from Islam, for instance, in its claim.

And, I’ll conclude with this comparison and contrast. No Muslim embraces the Koran out of confidence that only there they can find the gracious face of a father, who warmly embraces them in His Son. Whereas the Koran is a collection of oracles supposedly dictated directly from Allah to Muhammad, the Bible directs us to the testimony of prophets and apostles over many centuries and in the proper voice of each author. Furthermore, whereas Paul reminded Caesar’s court that the events surrounding the resurrection of Jesus Christ were public knowledge , saying, „These were not done in a corner, as you, yourself know.. Everything, every miraculous claim in the Koran was done in a corner. A deep dark corner. Privately, not publicly, not open to investigation or criticism. 3 centuries of the greatest intellects of the western culture  have subjected the Bible to criticism precisely because it invites it, and has turned out to be better for the struggle. Islam means submission, based on the mere assertions of its leader. Christianity proclaims trust in Jesus Christ based on historical reports. And that same gulf separates Christianity from all of the inward looking enthusiastic movements of our age. Christians receive Scripture as inspired and inerrant because it comes from a faithful FatherIt speaks of a gracious Son, and it is certified by the Spirit who opens our heart to receive its treasures  for everything that we need in this passing evil age. And all other ground IS sinking sand.

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What Is Inerrancy? (William Lane Craig)

william lane craigThe doctrine of inerrancy doesn’t mean that everything in the Bible is literally true. What inerrancy, properly understood means is that everything that the Bible teaches is true. Or, that everything that the Bible teaches or affirms to be true is true.

Inerrancy is viewed as so important because if the Bible has mistakes in it, then how can it be inspired by God?

The doctrine of inspiration, I take to mean that the Scripture, as it was originally written was exactly what God wanted to be His word to us, that what those human authors wrote, under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit was His word to us, and therefore is inspired, in that sense. Now, whether or not inerrancy is an implication of that, or not, might be something that one might debate. But, I think, typically, one might think that inerrancy would be a corollary of inspiration, because it is God’s word to us, and God is truthful. Therefore, whatever the Bible teaches or affirms is true. It is God’s word to us.

Bart Ehrman’s own evangelical faith was undermined, initially, at least he claims, by his abandonment in his belief in inerrancy. He had a strong view of inerrancy, as a student at Moody Bible Institute, and then Wheaton College. And when he went to Princeton to do his graduate work, apparently when he was doing the exegesis of a certain passage, that looked to have an error in it, and when he tried to think of all sorts of ways to interpret the passage, so as to explain away this mistake, and apparently, his professor returned the paper to him and said, „Maybe Mark just made a mistake.” And Ehrman said this was like the scales falling from his eyes. With that simple comment, his belief in inerrancy just began to collapse. And he thought, „Yeah, maybe the author just made a mistake.” And the problem for Ehrman was that once inerrancy went, it was like the finger in the dyke being released and the whole of his faith disintegrated.

And I think there’s a lesson in this. And it’s this: Inerrancy is a corollary of the doctrine of inspiration. And as such, it’s important to the Christian faith, but it doesn’t stand at the center of the Christian faith. It’s not one of the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith. If we think of our theological system of beliefs as like a spider’s web, at the core of the web, where the center is there will be things like

  • belief in the existence of God. That will be absolutely central to the web of beliefs.
  • a little further out would be the deity of Christ and His resurrection from the dead.
  • a little bit further out from that would perhaps be the penal theory of the atonement, the substitutionary death for our sins.
  • and even further out than that, somewhere at the periphery of the web will be the belief in the inerrancy of Scripture.

What that means is that if one of these central beliefs, like the belief in the existence of God or the resurrection of Jesus goes, that part of the web is plugged out, the whole web is going to collapse because if you take something out of the center, the rest of the web can’t exist. But if you pull one of the strands out that is near the periphery, that will cause some reverberation in your web of beliefs, but it’s not going to destroy the whole thing. And the problem with a person like Bart Ehrman, and I think, many people today, is that they have at the very center of their web of theological beliefs, the belief in inerrancy, so that if that belief goes, the rest collapses, and they are really in danger of committing apostasy.  They’re teetering on the brink by having this belief be at the very center of their beliefs.  And that, I just think is clearly mistaken. If inerrancy isn’t true, that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist. If inerrancy is not true, does that mean that Jesus of Nazareth was not the second person of the trinity, that He didn’t rise from the dead? That He didn’t die for persons? Obviously not.

So, inerrancy isn’t a doctrine that belongs at the center of your beliefs, it belongs on the periphery. What happened to Bart Ehrman was a misconstruction of his theological system. He set himself up for a fall by having a disoriented theology. If inerrancy is not true it weakens the Christian faith, because you would be prepared to say that various Scriptural authors have erred in things that they have said. And then the questions would arise, „Well, then, where do those errors lie?” And this would reduce your confidence and certainty in the teaching of the Scripture. So, absolutely, this is an important doctrine, and one that one would not give up lightly. (10:00)

However, it is a huge mistake to make the focus of evangelism inerrancy instead of Christ. It’s Christ that is the center of the Gospel. And so, He ought to be the stumbling stone, not the doctrine of inerrancy. Inerrancy is an in-house debate for someone who is already a Christian. It’s an in-house argument to what corollaries are there to the concept of inspiration. (10:00)

Suppose somebody did demonstrate an error in Scripture, does that invalidate the Christian faith? I am saying: No. It would mean that you’d have to adjust your doctrine of inspiration, you would have to give up inerrancy of the Scripture, but it wouldn’t mean that Christ didn’t rise from the dead. , and it wouldn’t even mean that you wouldn’t have good grounds for believing Christ rose from the dead. So often, christian apologists give lip service to this idea that if you approach the New Testament documents as you would any ordinary historical document, that they are reliable enough to show, for example, that Jesus thought He was the Son of God, that He did miracles and exorcisms, and that He rose from the dead. But, they don’t really believe that, because the minute somebody point an error, they go up in arms as though to admit this one error it would completely undermine the historicity of the records of Christ. No historian approaches his documents like that. Indeed, the very task of the historian is to sift through the chaff and to find the historical nuggets of truth amidst the errors and mistakes that are typically found in historical writing.

What I’m suggesting is that if you approach Scripture as you would historical documents, and you find in them mistakes, contradictions and errors, that still wouldn’t undermine the general historical  credibility of the Gospels for example. , including things like the miracles and exorcisms of Jesus, His radical self understanding, His resurrection from the dead. Those things don’t hang on the affirmation of biblical inerrancy. (15:00)

So, I am not arguing for biblical errancy. I do believe in inerrancy, myself, properly understood.

The passage in Matthew 27 is that at the time of the crucifixion, there were some, not resurrections, but revivifications of some saints who actually came out of the grave, and who appeared to people, much like other resurrections or revivifications in other Gospel accounts. And, whether that’s historical, or whether that’s language to illustrate  the profundity of it, we don’t know. Whether this looks like an error to some critics, it would be really quite irrelevant to either the historicity of the crucifixion or the historicity of the resurrection. It is just a red herring to try and distract people.

I’m happy to say, about this passage in Matthew that I’m not sure what it means, and that’s perfectly consistent with believing in biblical inerrancy. Believing biblical inerrancy doesn’t mean that you understand everything. I don’t understand the Book of Revelation. When I read the Book of Revelation, with all these various symbolic figures and images, I am not sure what it’s saying. But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t think that it’s inspired by God or inerrant in what it teaches. That’s perfectly consistent.

Scholars have given good explanations on this passage that it was the first fruit of the dead in Christ and that we would expect phenomenon like this to go on at such a profound event, at the crucifixion and the resurrection. So, it’s not a knock down error. For me it’s a triviality. It doesn’t prove anything. This is an addendum to the crucifixion story of Christ. It’s not part of the resurrection account. This is a part of the account of the crucifixion. And yet, no historian denies the truth that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified. So that even if you regard this a piece of apocalyptic imagery on Matthew’s part, and not something that literally, historically happened, nobody thinks it does anything to undermine the fact that Jesus of Nazareth died by Roman execution, by crucifixion. So, it is just a triviality, a red herring.

Norman Geisler is very encouraging to those that are disturbed at the longer ending of Mark not being authentic, not being in the oldest manuscripts, and he just says, „So what? So we have some extra material that we don’t quite know what to do with. Well, textual criticism helps us sort these things out. But, that’s quite a different answer than inerrancy. As we said before: Inerrancy is the view that whatever the original Scriptures, the original documents teach or affirm is true. But the question of textual criticism is: What were the original documents? So on discrepancies, an informed inerrantist won’t be upset by that, on the contrary, he’ll be involved in textual criticism, because he’ll be anxious to understand what the original text really did say, lest he me misled by copyist errors. So, somebody like a Daniel Wallace, for example, who is a fine New Testament textual critic at Dallas Theological Seminary is an inerrantist, but he’s also very much involved in establishing the original text in the New testament. And he, like other text critics would say the longer ending of Mar, as well as the shorter is spurious, it’s an accretion by some later author. That the original Gospel of Mark either ended with verse 8 of chapter 16, or else the original ending has been lost and has not been recovered. This is not really relevant to inerrancy at all.

What we need to understand is that the doctrine of biblical inerrancy  is a corollary of the doctrine of inspiration. As such, it is an important doctrine, but it is not a central doctrine to the christian faith. You can be a christian and not affirm it. And, if one does give it up, it will have some reverberations in your theological web of beliefs, but it won’t be destructive to that fundamental web of  Christian beliefs because it stands somewhere near the periphery. 

VIDEO by drcraigvideos

Why do we call the Bible inerrant? Carl Trueman

carl-truemanCarl, you mentioned that the British don’t use that word so much. Is it because British evangelicals don’t believe in inerrancy?

Carl Trueman:

No, I think there are a number of reasons. One, is the word infallibility is by and large done the work of inerrancy in Britain. If you look at Jim Packer’s book ‘Fundamentalism in the Word of God’, I think it’s written in the 1960’s, when Packer was still packed in Britain, he argues basically the inerrantists position. So, it’s definitely present in evangelicalism. It’s just that the term is not as familiar to many, as it would be over here. 

What about the concept of Scripture not being inerrant, or infallible, but, being authoritative. Does that work?

Carl Trueman:

No. I think your problem with saying that Scripture is authoritative , but is not infallible or inerrant is: If Scripture is authoritative, you have to take Scripture’s own claim about itself seriously. And if those claims are that it is inerrant, inspired, then for it to be authoritative, those claims have to be true. I think therein lies the problem. So, if Scripture is authoritative , but it isn’t inerrant- well, then you’d have to say, „Scripture is authoritative except when it speaks about itself.” That, I think is problematic. 

I think you should talk to people and find out why they’re afraid of terms such as infallible or inerrant. Those terms don’t exist in Scripture, one wouldn’t want to go to the stake for those terms, and sometimes people object to those terms because they think it reduces Scripture to a book of logarithms, that it’s just propositions, and it isn’t relational, personal. So. somebody can reject the term and still hold to the orthodox concept. So, if someone rejects the term of inerrancy, I’d want to know why, (and ask) „Do you know what it means? What are your concerns with it?” 

What are the parameters to its scope, its intentions? Is it a science book? Sometimes that’s used, people discredit Scripture in form or another because it says the sun rises.

Carl Trueman:

Well, we all say the sun rises, in my experience. I talk about the sun rising, the sun setting, Scripture offers phenomenological accounts of what’s going on there. I don’t think it’s a science textbook. I don’t think it’s irrelevant to science, though. Clearly, it teaches that there’s a Creator and a creation. The distinction is taught in Scripture, which must have implications as to how you understand the world, and the cultures, science, etc… It’s not a scientific textbook, but it clearly has implications for science.

G. K. Beale, Carl Trueman, and Ryan KellyApril 30, 2011
Clarus 2011 – Scripture: God Speaks
The SW Regional Conference of The Gospel Coalition
http://www.clarusabq.comVIDEO by DESERT SPRINGS CHURCH

The question of the historical Adam and why evangelicals are capitulating on this

by STEVEN WEDGEWORTH

creation of man

creation of man (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Modern evangelicalism has always had something of an identity problem. Wanting to be neither Fundamentalism nor Liberalism, it has often found itself unable to sit comfortably in the middle. More often than not, and sometimes with a bit of pressure from either side, it ends up swinging back and forth between the poles, often unable to explain why it isn’t one or the other. Traditionally a commitment to Biblical inerrancy was the one sure thing that all evangelicals could agree upon, but even that, in light of contemporary challenges, is proving inadequate. The question of hermeneutics must (again) be dealt with, as more and more professing evangelicals are re-reading the opening chapters of Genesis as myth. While the particulars of the discussion are not fully uniform (whether one must or should be a “literal” six-day creationist or not), the question of the historical Adam is now quite definitely the new lynchpin. We would like to here lay out some of the consequences of denying the historical Adam in order to substantiate our claim that this is a boundary of orthodoxy, but first a bit of context.

The reason that evangelicals are losing the historical Adam are several, but they all boil down to the dominance of the Darwinistic evolutionary theory, both in the academies and in the media. For both academic and cultural reasons, the denial of this evolutionary theory is shameful, and it is becoming increasingly clear that this theory also demands a sort of polygenesis. Thus the historical Adam cannot be retained. There are certainly those on both sides of the issue who hold out hope for a middle position, but as it currently stands, naturalistic science is basically agreed that the early chapters of Genesis cannot be historical. And so, in the face of this pressure, evangelicals are falling in line.

Read the entire article here – http://calvinistinternational.com/2013/05/10/what-depends-upon-an-historical-adam/

Also read Denny Burke’s article here –

More on the Poison Pill: Responding to Stanley, McKnight, and Bird – The doctrine of scripture is foundational, and at a time when it is so contested it is worth every effort to get it right

Infallibility vs. Inerrancy of the Bible (Essential Reading)

photo form news.tiu.edu

This is a very helpful article, written by Kevin J. Vanhoozer is currently Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illonois. The article is from http://www.theologynetwork.org Dr. Vanhoozer shows that the Word of God, as it is written in the Bible can use the common language of the day, (by employing metaphors) without committing to its literal truth. as he shows in the example of the ‘rising sun’ metaphor:

In speaking of the sun rising, does not the Bible make a scientific mistake? To this objection it may be replied that using the common language of the day is not the same as committing oneself to its literal truth. One must not confuse a social convention with a scientific affirmation. To say that the sun rises is to employ a metaphor – one, moreover, that is true to human experience. The objection proves too much: if the inspired authors have used ancient thought forms that led to scientific errors, would not these same thought forms have led to errors in matters of faith and practice too? After all, ‘To err is human’ – or is it? Though proverbial wisdom equates humanity with fallibility , the paradigm of Christ’s sinless life shows that the one concept need not follow from the other. God’s Word, we may conclude, can take on human form -incarnate, inscripturate – without surrendering its claim to sinlessness and truth.

Read the full article below the photo:

photo by godzdogz.op.org

The Inerrancy of Scripture

Whereas inspiration concerns the origin of the Bible’s authority, inerrancy describes its nature. By inerrancy we refer not only to the Bible’s being ‘without error’ but also to its inability to err (we might helpfully illustrate this point by comparing it to the distinction between Jesus’ sinlessness or being without sin, on the one hand, and his impeccability or inability to sin on the other). Inerrancy, positively defined, refers to a central and crucial property of the Bible, namely, its utter truthfulness.

The basis for the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is located both in the nature of God and in the Bible’s teaching about itself. First, if God is perfect – all-knowing, all-wise, all-good – it follows that God speaks the truth. God does not tell lies; God is not ignorant. God’s Word is thus free from all error arising either from conscious deceit or unconscious ignorance. Such is the unanimous confession of the Psalmist, the prophets, the Lord Jesus and the apostles. Second, the Bible presents itself as the Word of God written.

Thus, in addition to its humanity (which is never denied), the Bible also enjoys the privileges and prerogatives of its status as God’s Word. God’s Word is thus wholly reliable, a trustworthy guide to reality, a light unto our path.

If the biblical and theological basis of the doctrine is so obvious, however, why have some in our day suggested that the inerrancy of the Bible is a relatively recent concept? Is it true, as some have argued, that the doctrine of inerrancy was ‘invented’ in the nineteenth century at Princeton by B B Warfield and Charles Hodge and is therefore a novelty in the history of theology? In answer to this question, it is important to remember that doctrines arise only when there is need for them. Doctrine develops when something implicit in the faith is denied; false teaching provokes an explicit rebuttal. This is as true of inerrancy as it is of the doctrines of the Trinity, or of justification by faith. The notion of the Bible’s truthfulness was implicitly assumed throughout the history of the church.

Theologians were only reflecting the view of the biblical authors themselves. Jesus himself quotes Scripture and implies that its words are true and trustworthy – wholly reliable. The New Testament authors share and reflect this high estimate of the Old Testament. The question is whether this ‘high estimate’ of Scripture pertained to its reliability in matters of faith and salvation only or whether it involved a trust in all matters on which the Bible speaks, including science and history. One difficulty with this question is that it is anachronistic: it reflects the concerns of our times (including the dubious dichotomy between fact and value) rather than that of the Fathers and Reformers. With regard to the Fathers, we know that they held to the divine authorship of Scripture. Behind the many voices of the human authors is the voice of the Holy Spirit, the ultimate author of Scripture. While some used this as an excuse to search for hidden truths through allegorical interpretation, if anything the tendency was to ascribe too much truth to Scripture rather than too little. For the Fathers, to suggest that there were errors in the Bible would have been unthinkable. Augustine, for instance, wrote that biblical authority would be overthrown if the authors had stated things that were not true. Though Augustine warned Christians not to hide their ignorance of scientific fact by easy appeals to Scripture, he also believed that the biblical writers did not make any scientific errors. True scientific discoveries will always be capable of being reconciled with the Scriptures. Augustine is at pains to show that there are no contradictions, either between one part of the Bible and another, or between the Bible and truth gleaned from elsewhere. Whatever we think of such attempts, they are at least compelling evidence of the widespread Patristic presupposition of the Bible’s truthfulness.
The Reformers similarly affirmed the truthfulness of the Bible. There is some debate among scholars whether Luther and Calvin limited Scripture’s truthfulness to matters of salvation, conveniently overlooking errors about lesser matters. It is true that Luther and Calvin are aware of apparent discrepancies in Scripture and that they often speak of ‘errors’. However, a closer analysis seems to indicate that the discrepancies and errors are consistently attributed to copyists and translators, not to the human authors of Scripture, much less to the Holy Spirit, its divine author. Calvin was aware that Paul’s quotations of the Old Testament (e.g Rom 10:6 and Dt 30:12) were not always exact, nor always exegetically sound, but he did not infer that Paul had thereby made an error. On the contrary, Calvin notes that Paul is not giving the words of Moses different sense so much as applying them to his treatment of the subject at hand. Indeed, Calvin explicitly denies the suggestion that Paul distorts Moses’ words.

Doctrines are formulated in order to refute error and to preserve revealed truth. Just as biblical authority only became part of Protestant confessions in the sixteenth century to counter the idea that tradition is the supreme authority of the church, so the doctrine of biblical inerrancy was only explicitly formulated to counter explicit denials of the Bible’s truthfulness. These denials arose about the same time as did modernity and the distinctively modern way of interpreting the Bible: biblical criticism. Many so-called ‘enlightened’ thinkers of the eighteenth century accepted the Deists’ belief that the source of truth was reason rather than revelation. Increasingly, the Bible came to be studied like any other book, on naturalistic assumptions that ruled out the possibility of divine action in history. Accordingly, biblical critics grew sceptical of Scripture’s own account of its supernatural origin and sought to reconstruct the historical reality. Advances in knowledge and a changed view of the world were thought to necessitate a rethinking of biblical authority. Historical-critics argued that the authors of the Bible were children of their age, limited by the worldviews that prevailed when they wrote. It was against this backdrop of widespread suspicion of the supernaturalist appearance of Scripture, and the virtually taken-for-granted denial of divine authorship, that the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, implicit from the first, was explicitly formulated (e.g. by Warfield and Hodge). What is explicitly expressed in the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, however, is not a theological novelty so much as an articulation of what was implicitly, and virtually always, presupposed through most of church history.
What then does the doctrine of biblical inerrancy explicitly articulate? We can refine our provisional definition of inerrancy in terms of truthfulness as follows: The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture, in the original manuscripts and when interpreted according to the intended sense, speaks truly in all that it affirms. These specifications, by identifying the conditions under which Scripture speaks truly, do not hasten the death of inerrancy by qualification; they rather acknowledge two crucial limitations that enable believers to keep the doctrine in its proper perspective. Let us examine these two qualifications in more detail.

First: the Bible speaks truly ‘in the original manuscripts’. We have already seen that the Reformers were able to affirm the truthfulness of the Bible and to acknowledge errors due to faulty translation or transmission. To the objection that we do not now possess the original manuscripts, it must be pointed out that textual critical studies have brought us extremely close to the original text. The relatively small number of textual variations do not for the most part affect our ability to recognize the original text. At the same time, it is important not to ascribe inerrancy to the copies of the originals, since these are the products of an all-too human process of transmission.

The second qualification is just as important: ‘when interpreted according to the intended sense’. It is often tempting to claim the same authority for one’s interpretations as for the biblical text itself. The thrust of the doctrine of inerrancy, however, like that of sola scriptura, is to stress the distinction between the Word of God and the words of men. Interpretations of the Bible fall under the category ‘words of men’. It is thus important not to ascribe inerrancy to our interpretations. To the objection that we do not possess the correct interpretation, we must appeal not to inerrancy but to the perspicuity of Scripture. What conflicts there are about biblical interpretation ultimately must be ascribed to the fallible interpreter, not to the infallible text.

Does inerrancy do justice to the humanity of the Scriptures? Some critics of inerrancy have suggested that God had to ‘accommodate’ his message to the language and thought-forms of the day in order effectively to communicate. In taking on forms of human language and thought, does God’s communication simultaneously take on outmoded views of the world or of human nature? For example, could God speak truthfully of the sun ‘rising’ when he knows full well that the sun does not move? In speaking of the sun rising, does not the Bible make a scientific mistake? To this objection it may be replied that using the common language of the day is not the same as committing oneself to its literal truth. One must not confuse a social convention with a scientific affirmation. To say that the sun rises is to employ a metaphor – one, moreover, that is true to human experience. The objection proves too much: if the inspired authors have used ancient thought forms that led to scientific errors, would not these same thought forms have led to errors in matters of faith and practice too? After all, ‘To err is human’ – or is it? Though proverbial wisdom equates humanity with fallibility , the paradigm of Christ’s sinless life shows that the one concept need not follow from the other. God’s Word, we may conclude, can take on human form -incarnate, inscripturate – without surrendering its claim to sinlessness and truth.

Does inerrancy therefore mean that every word in Scripture is literally true? There has been a great deal of confusion on this point, both in the media and in academia. It should first be noted that mere words are neither true nor false; truth is a property of statements. Second, those who oppose biblical inerrancy have all too often contributed to the confusion by caricaturing the notion of literal truth. Critics of inerrancy typically speak of ‘literal truth’ when what they really mean is ‘literalistic truth’. Defenders of inerrancy must take great care to distinguish the notion of literal truth from the kind of literalistic interpretation that runs roughshod over the intent of the author and the literary form of the text.

Perhaps the best way to resolve this confusion is to begin at the other end. What counts as an error? If I say that my lecture lasts an hour, when in fact it lasts only fifty-nine minutes, have I made an error? That depends on your expectation and on the context of my remark. In everyday conversation round figures are perfectly acceptable; no one would accuse me of getting my figures wrong. In other contexts, however, a different level of precision is required. A BBC television producer, for instance, would need to know the exact number of minutes. The point is that what counts as an error depends upon the kind of precision or exactness that the reader has a right to expect. ‘Error’ is thus a context-dependent notion. If I do not claim scientific exactitude or technical precision, it would be unjust to accuse me of having erred.

Indeed, too much precision (‘my lecture is fifty-nine minutes and eight seconds long’) can be distracting and actually hinder clear communication. Let us define error, then, as a failure to make good on or to redeem one’s claims. The Bible speaks truly because it makes good its claims. It thus follows that we should first determine just what kind of claims are being made before too quickly ruling ‘true’ or ‘false’. If error is indeed a context-dependent notion, those who see errors in Scripture would do well first to establish the context of Scripture’s claims. To interpret the Bible according to a wooden literalism fails precisely to attend to the kinds of claims Scripture makes. To read every sentence of the Bible as if it were referring to something in the world, or to a timeless truth, may be to misread much of Scripture. Just as readers need to be sensitive to metaphor (few would react to Jesus’ claim in Jn 10:9 ‘I am the door’ by searching for a handle) so readers must be sensitive to literary genre (e.g. to the literary context of biblical statements).

Is every word in Scripture literally true? The problem with this question is its incorrect (and typically unstated) assumption that ‘literal truth’ is always literalistic – a matter of referring to history or to the ‘facts’ of nature. It is just such a faulty assumption – that the Bible always states facts – that leads certain wellmeaning defenders of inerrancy desperately to harmonize what appear to be factual or chronological discrepancies in the Gospels. In the final analysis, what was new about the Princetonians’ view of Scripture was not their understanding of the Bible’s truthfulness but rather their particular view of language and interpretation, in which the meaning of the biblical text was the fact – historical or doctrinal – to which it referred. Their proof-texting was more a product of their view of language and interpretation than of their doctrine of Scripture.

What if the intent of the evangelists was not to narrate history with chronological precision? What if the evangelists sometimes intended to communicate only the content of Jesus’ teaching rather than his very words? Before extending the Bible’s truth to include history or astronomy, or restricting to matters of salvation for that matter, we must first ask, ‘What kind of literature is this?’ The question of meaning should precede the question of truth. We must first determine what kind of claim is being made before we can rule on its truthfulness. The point of biblical apocalyptic is quite distinct from the point of Jesus’ parables, from that of the Gospels themselves, or of Old Testament wisdom. We must, therefore, say that the literal sense of Scripture is its literary sense: the sense the author intended to convey in and through a particular literary form. Inerrancy means that every sentence, when interpreted correctly (i.e. in accordance with its literary genre and its literary sense), is wholly reliable.

The older term to express biblical authority – infallibility – remains useful. Infallibility means that Scripture never fails in its purpose. The Bible makes good on all its claims, including its truth claims. God’s Word never leads astray. It is important to recall that language may be used for many different purposes, and not to state facts only. Inerrancy, then, is a subset of infallibility: when the Bible’s purpose is to make true statements, it does this too without fail. Yet the Bible’s other speech acts – warnings, promises, questions – are infallible too.

The Bible’s own understanding of truth stresses reliability. God’s Word is true because it can be relied upon – relied upon to make good its claim and to accomplish its purpose. We may therefore speak of the Bible’s promises, commands, warnings, etc. as being ‘true’, inasmuch as they too can be relied upon. Together, the terms inerrancy and infallibility remind us that the Word of God is wholly reliable not only when it speaks, but also when it does the truth.

T4G – Inerrancy: Did God Really Say…? Mark Dever, John Piper, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Dr Simon Gathercole (Cambridge, England), Peter Williams (Warden at Tyndale House)

An essential, highly interesting affirmation by the panel of the belief on biblical inerrancy from the Together for the Gospel Conference 2012, led by Mark Dever, Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C. Besides the great panel discussion, there are also a few book recommendations (linked to Amazon, just click on title or photo) and lots of links to search peripheral issues as they relate to the inerrancy debate. This page will be added to the (permanent) apologetics page.

photo from T4G website – http://t4g.org/resources/photos/

  1. We affirm that the sole (final) authority for the Church is the Bible, verbally inspired, inerrant, infallible and totally sufficient and trustworthy. We deny that the Bible is a mere witness to the divine revelation or that any portion of Scripture is marked by error or by effects of human sinfulness. 
  2. We affirm that the authority and the sufficiently of Scripture extends to the entire Bible and that therefore the Bible is our final authority for all doctrine and practice. We deny that any portion of the Bible should be used in an effort to deny the truthfulness or trustworthiness of any other portion. We further deny any effort to identify a canon within the canon or for example to set the words of Jesus against the words of Paul. 
  3. We affirm that truth ever remains a central issue for the Church and that the Church must resist the allure of pragmatism and post modern conceptions of truths as substitutes for obedience to the comprehensive truth claims of Scripture. We deny that truth is merely a product of social construction or that the truth of the Gospel can be expressed or grounded in anything less than total confidence in the veracity of the Bible, the historicity of the biblical events and the ability of language to convey understandable truth in sentence form. We further deny that the church can establish its ministry on a foundation of pragmatism, current marketing techniques or contemporary cultural fashions.

Is inerrancy something new? Short answer „NO!”

Minute 4 – Dever addresses the charge that „inerrancy” is a „new thing” or just a „reformation doctrine?”.

  • John Piper responds:.In 1971 Fuller Theological Seminary  took the Word out.  I read what was happening in Germany. It blew me away. I did not see it coming. So it may have been there, but the teachers that I loved and had influenced me most didn’t talk that way and didn’t give me indication that it would be going that way. I was never able to make any sense out of the distinctions between infallible and inerrant. 
  • Dr Simon Gathercole – teaches New Testament at Cambridge, in England. One of the clearest figures to express a doctrine of inerrancy was St. Augustine and it came up for him in conversation with the Manichaeans where he made it very clear that there were no contradictions in Scripture , that if you do find what looks like a mistake in Scripture, it is either a result of a problem with the translation, a problem in the text, a particular manuscript or scribal error or that you have misunderstood it. So Augustine is an example of someone who was very clear on inerrancy.
  • Ligon Duncan – there is a consistent witness across Christian history to the Bible’s sole, final authority and its inspiration and inerrancy.
  • Peter Williams – (undergraduate studies at Cambridge) „I believe it is fully authoritative, inerrant, inspired by God’ I think I’d want to add more words, I want to say: It’s basically clear, it’s sufficient, it’s historical. People can take a word like „inerrant” and leech it (by saying) – „I agree with the notion that Scripture is entirely true, but then they try and weaken it in other ways and I think that’s happening particularly because a lot of people, at least in this country are signing an inerrancy statement for their paycheck (which sometimes happens; they redefine inerrancy). There are many reasons to believe in inerrancy, but I think when you believe in verbal inspiration (i.e.) that God gave words and you believe in God’s trustworthiness, that He has a true character and you want to have a relationship with God, then it is inescapable logically to come to a view of Scriptural inerrancy. If you believe that God has given words, I don’t see how you can break that and say, „Well, He gives words and they are sometimes full of errors”, without actually questioning God’s trustworthiness Himself.

The 3 roots/trajectories on how inerrancy is denied

  • Al Mohler (11 min mark) Why wouldn’t anyone believe in this? (This question) leads to a principle of interpreting church history, which often surprises people when you first hear it, and that is that „heresy precedes orthodoxy„. That doesn’t mean that the false precedes the true. It does mean that the codification, or confession of the faith is often in the face of, is a response to heresy or that which is sub biblical or sub orthodox. So, in 325  AD you have a statement made by the Council of Nicaea, that wasn’t necessary until Arius denied that the father and the Son are of the same substance. And when it comes to inerrancy, the first thing is that this is God’s word, God is totally true, so all the attributes of Scripture seem to come, and yet Augustine has to respond to the Manichaeans and we have to respond to contemporary denials of the total truthfulness of Scripture. I think there are 3 roots, or 3 trajectories in which that comes:
  1. The first is ideological and this is basically the external critique of biblical inerrancy. It comes from new atheists, of course if you don’t believe in God, you don’t believe there could possibly be a word of God; if you don’t believe in supernatural revelation as a possibility, or even recently, if you don’t believe in words as units of meaning; that are capable of conveying truth, there are various rules of philosophy and literary interpretation that have lost all confidence in words. They have to use words to explain how little confidence they have in them any longer; it’s part of the whole conundrum, but nevertheless, it is an ideological assault and so a good bit of what you will read simply says: „Inerrancy is an impossibility” and it will move on. But, it is not the major issue of our concern, there are two other trajectories.
  2. Another trajectory is apologetic. This is where you have evangelicals who say: This is an embarrassment. To claim inerrancy is to over claim the text, it is an impediment to our intellectual credibility and so you have people who would pose to be within the evangelical movement who will say, as Kenton Sparks in a recent book said, „This is the intellectual doom,” to paraphrase him, because it makes us continually defend the truthfulness of every passage in a text and that is leading modern people to have huge intellectual obstacles to receiving the main message in the text, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So you have various forms of this kind of apologetic argument; it’s the same argument as people who come along and say you can’t talk about the Bible’s teaching on sexuality; that’s presenting too much of an obstacle for contemporary people to come to Christ. Ot, you can’t deny the theory of evolution, it’s metanarrative because that creates too much of an impediment for people to come to Christ. And so, you have websites today and people arguing that inerrancy is just an obstacle, it’s a theological construct that’s doing more damage than good.
  3. The third trajectory, or the third root you can look at this is moral, in which case you have people say that if we’re committed to total truthfulness of Scripture, then we’re committed to text which reveal God as acting in immoral ways; God’s people sanctioning immoral acts, and what you have is people who will say, „Look, we have the capacity as human beings to judge God, and thus we’re gonna go to the conquest of Canaan or we’re gonna go to the way God deals with any individual in either Testament of the canon and say that that’s immoral. If you’re gonna try and impose a human standard of morality, like the late atheist, Christopher Hitchens, if you read the Bible honestly you’re gonna find texts that are gonna cause you all kinds of  difficulty and by the way, one of the things Christopher Hitchens did very well for us was to say, „He can understand theists who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture and he can understand atheists who don’t believe it’s possible, what he didn’t understand were people who tried to pose in the middle.
  • Dr Simon Gathercole – The central plank for me in the doctrine of inerrancy, and that is that it was Jesus’ view of Scripture and I think the 2 other points that were mentioned are really significant. The sort of dogmatic logic of what Scripture says, God says and therefore because of the character of God, Scripture is without error. Also, it’s the continuous testimony of the Church. I would recommend everyone read John Woodbridge’s book  Biblical Authority: A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal even though the debate is now different, but there’s a lot to learn there. But, if you just look at the way Jesus treats Scripture, what He says about Scripture, „Your word is truth”, „Scripture cannot be broken”, the way He refers to Adam, the way He refers to Elijah and Elisha, all the figures of the Old Testament, the way He responds to Satan: „It’s written, and every word is proceeding from the mouth of God.” That has to be the real cornerstone for our doctrine of inerrancy and it means that it’s an imperative of discipleship for us, that it’s a matter of following Jesus. (Also recommends Christ and the Bible” by John Wenham)
  • Peter Williams – If heresy precedes orthodoxy then I think that apologetics precedes heresy, as in most heresy begins as apologetics movement. And, I say that as someone who is involved in apologetics and likes it. Liberal theology is an attempt to rescue Christianity from deep embarrassment and that’s how a lot of these things begin and  those of us that are involved in apologetics need to be quite careful about that, because it can lead to error. The way people get seduced sometime into abandoning Scriptural authority is when they become persuaded that, that thing which adheres most to their dreams and their aspirations and start to believe „that more people will come to Christ if I just water this down somewhat”. Sometime people become persuaded in theological education that they are being more faithful to the text if they read it in a way that is contrary to another text. When people are being brought up in a Chirstian context, to value the authority of the Bible, it appeals and they become persuaded that the most honest reading of the text is to read it so it contradicts to another one.
  • Al Mohler –   Liberal theology is a succession of rescue attempts for the reputation of Christianity and to just give an example of what Peter is talking about: You have Rudolph Bultmann, who in one of his books says people who use electric lights don’t believe in a supernatural universe. So, in other words, if you’re gonna reach modern people we’re gonna have to bring christianity into intellectual credibility with the modern world. A lot of the things you see being claimed right now are as old as the heretics that the church fathers faced and certainly in terms of protestant liberalism and what the church has faced in over 100 years.
  • Ligon Duncan –  Another example in modern liberalism is Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher. Schleiermacher  was offended by the doctrine of the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ and the uniqueness of Christ. And he looked out at Germany and he said: German intellectuals are rejecting Christianity in droves, they’re impacted by the enlightenment and the message of Christianity must change if we are going to be able to capture this generation for christianity. It wasn’t as if he was sitting around inventing to destroy christianity, but in fact he did that with apologetic missionary motives in reaching his culture and so liberalism’s fundamental premise is that the message must change if christianity is going to survive and effectively engage the culture.
  • Peter Williams -It’s going right back to Marcion in the second century. Marcion is deeply embarrassed by the Old Testament, by the Jewishness of Jesus. He, as an apologist thinks that he can commend christianity far better by ditching those things. So, that’s why becoming an apologist, led straight to the heresy.
  • John Piper (minute 20 mark) Mark Dever asks why JP concluded that inerrancy was true: There are layers to that like- My momma told me it was true. That’s one layer. „..remember those from whom you’ve learned the faith” (2 Timothy 3:14), that’s an argument in the Bible. Second layer would be: God made me see it. That’s the deepest layer and I do believe I couldn’t believe the Bible is untrue, if I tried because I am just taken by Him, for it. I believe that’s the deepest reason. You can’t persuade anybody with that and so, up above those layers are the layers of experience, of encounter with the text and I think that at one level the Bible, as C.S.Lewis said: „You believe in it as you believe in the sun, not only because you see it, but you see everything else by it”. I asked my professor in Germany one time, „Why do you believe the Bible? And he said: Because it makes sense out of the world for me. Year after year, after year you live in the book and you deal with the world and it brings coherence to evil and good and sorrow and loss. And there’s one other level I would mention: Liar, lunatic, Lord argument in the Gospels works for me in Paul: Liar, lunatic or faithful apostle because I think I know Paul better than I know anybody in the Bible. Luke wrote most quantitatively, but he’s writing narrative. But with Paul, if you read these 13 letters hundreds of times, you know this man. Either he’s stupid, I mean insane, or liar, or a very wise, deep, credible, thoughtful person. So, when I put Paul against any liberal scholar in any German university  that I ever met, they don’t even come close. So, I have never, frankly, been tested very much by the devil or whoever to say, „This wise, liberal, offering his arguments…” I read Paul and I say, „I don’t think so”. This man is extraordinary, he’s smart, he’s rational. He’s been in the 3rd, 7th heaven and he is careful about what he is saying. So, that whole argument „Liar, lunatic, Lord – works for me with Jesus and it works powerfully for me for Paul and moreover once you’ve got Paul speaking, self authenticating, irresistible, world view shaping truth, then as you move out from Jesus and Paul, the others just start to shine with confirming evidences. Just a few ayers, there are others. Dever prompts John to give one more. JP: Why are you married after 43 years? How do you endure losses? really, where does your strength come from? You will know the truth and the truth will set you free. Free from pornography and free from divorce, free from depressions that just undo you. How do you find your way into marriage over and over and out of depression and away form the internet? How does that happen? It happens by the power of this incredible book. Dever: For people who haven’t had time to accumulate all those layers, anything you would tell them to read? Piper: Back when the inerrancy council was red hot „Scripture and truth” edited by Grudem and
  • Mark Dever recommends J. I. Packer’s „Fundamentalism and the Word of God”.
  • Al Mohler – The problem is how few of our confessional statements are clear on this in the first place. So one of our evangelical liabilities is that too much has been assumed under an article of Scripture without specifying language, with inerrancy being one of those necessary  attributes of Scripture confirmed. You do find people today, some lamentably who are trying to claim that  you can still use the word, while basically eviscerating it, emptying it of meaning. So you have historical denials, in particular, you have someone who says that a text… and „The Chicago Statement on Inerrancy” makes it very clear, our affirmations and denials are actually patterned after the International Council of Biblical Inerrancy, which was itself patterned after previous statements in which there were not only affirmations, but clear denials. So, when you look to that statement, you’ll see that there’s the version of what inerrancy means and that means „This is not true”. So, you have clear denials. One of the affirmations is: Scripture has different forms of literature, but the denial is that you can legitimately dehistoricize an historical text. So, in other words, everything in Scripture reveals, including every historical claim is true. You find some people saying: „Well, you can affirm the truthfulness of the text without the historicity of the text. You can’t do that. You have people who are now using genre criticism, various forms to say: This is a type of literature. My favorite of these lamentable arguments is the one that says: This is the kind of text to which the issue of inerrancy does not apply. In other words: I don’t like it. But, what they mean is: I am not making a truth claim. If I am not making a truth claim… that’s ridiculous, but you find these kinds of nuances going on. You also find very clear, points of friction. So, let’s give an example of points of friction: Do we have to believe in the historicity of the first eleven chapters of the book of Genesis? What Pete said about apologetics, that puts us over, against a dominant, intellectual system that establishes what is called credibility in the secular academy. Those evangelicals who feel intellectually accountable to that, are trying to say, „There has to be some other way then,  of dealing with Genesis 1 through 11 and that’s where you have now the ultimate friction point, with coming, for instance, the historical Adam and an historical fall and now you’re finding people who are trying to say, „Okay, there is no historical claim in Genesis 1 through 3, but I still believe in an historical Adam because I am just going to pull him out of the air and pop him down and say, „I still believe in an historical Adam (but) I am not going to root it in the historical nature of the text, but I need him because Paul believed in him. And then, you have people who have websites today, someone like Peter Enns, who used to teach at an institution which required inerrancy, but no longer teaches there, who says, „Clearly, Paul did believe in inerrancy, but, Paul was wrong”. And so, now you not only have the denial of inerrancy of the historicity of Genesis 1 through 3, you have Paul now, in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 being said, „Well now, inerrancy for him means ‘he was speaking truthfully, as inspired by God, but limited to the world view that was accessible and available to him at the time’. That is not what Jesus believed about Scripture. That is not what the church must believe about Scripture. I never came close to not believing in the inerrancy of Scripture. I came close to believing that there could be other legitimate ways of describing the total authority and truthfulness of the text and especially in context of fierce denominational controversy, I thought there must be room for finding it somewhere else and some people even mentioned here were correctives. For example J.I. Packer’s Fundamentals of God, was the bomb that landed in the playground. That little experiment just doesn’t happen; you take that out, it simply won’t work. At about the time that you (Mark Dever) and I really became friends, we were looking at how you came from an evangelical background where those issues have been discussed for 20 years before they did explode in the Southern Baptist Convention. My denomination had to learn this lesson a little bit late and at great cost.
  • Mark Dever– leaving the denominational stuff aside, you (Mohler) as a Christian, you found an intuitive, like John is talking about, an intuitive faith in Scripture.
  • Al Mohler– Well, it was intuitive, but I also had intellectual guardrails. My earliest, explicit theological formation was when apologetics hit me as a crisis as a teenager and I was led directly into the influence of Francis Schaeffer. And the book that most influenced me as a  teenager in high school, holding on to the faith as against a very secular environment was his book based on  lectures at Wheaton „He is there and He is not silent”, and I would point to that as the 5 or 10 books that most shaped my thinking, because Schaeffer’s logic in his lectures is really clear: „If there is a God, who doesn’t exist, we’re doomed. If there’s a God who does exist, but doesn’t speak, we’re just as doomed. If there is a God who does exist and He does speak, then salvation is in the speech. And so that was one of the guard rails in my life and being raised in a Gospel church that preached the word of God and just assumed that when you say „It’s the word of God”, it means all this.
  • Ligon Duncan – I didn’t have faith challenges as a teenager that Al did, but I was reading a lot of that apologetic literature and this was being talked about by evangelicals and the Ligonier statement on Scripture had come out in 1973, the ICBI Chicago Statement came out in 1978. Those are my teenage years. This is a conversation in the conservative corner of evangelicalism, in which I was reared. I had a good pastor that was happy to have me ask him questions about this when I was troubled with something I could ask him, he was on the board at Westminster Theological Seminary. When I went to Edinburgh (Scotland for PhD) I already had a solid education in the doctrine of Scripture at Covenant Seminary. But when I went to Edinburgh , James Barr’s book „Fundamentalism”  had just come out and I read it. I have more writings in the margins of the text in this book. I was arguing with him relentlessly in this book.
  • Mark Dever – This was an attack on J.I. Packer’s book and other kinds of statements of faith and Scripture.
  • Ligon Duncan – At that point I thought this would be some kind of hot topic. I had read some Barr in seminary, mostly semantics of biblical language and other things like that, in which, hopefully he is going after some bad stuff, but, I decided that when that book came out that I needed to read everything that Barr had ever written because of the potential influence on scholars. I was doing patristics at Edinburgh and so this wasn’t something that was part of my reading for work, it was just something I needed to do on the side and so I did. It was the most soul killing 6 months that I have ever spent. It was very disturbing. And several things helped me: One is a professor who had already thought through all of these issues. I went to another professor, and as we sat down he said, „You need to know, I have walked through all of these issues long ago and I’m happy to walk with you through them now. That was an enormous intellectual and theological resource to me. But then, it was the reality of Christ and the Gospel and the lives of believers that didn’t even know that they were ministering to me because that person could not be the way he or she is if there wasn’t a Holy Spirit indwelling Christ in us. I was also reading Ned Stonehouse’s biography of J Gresham Machen, who went through the same thing when he went to Marburg to study and he came into contact with Hermann and the german liberals of those days, and his correspondence with his mother was very significant in keeping him with just losing his mind.
  • Al Mohler – One other thing that was very informative to me was listening to people preach and seeing the distinction in the midst of a huge controversy with some people saying, „I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture and other people saying, „I believe almost the same thing, I just think the words aren’t necessary, etc., etc.” When one got up and said, „This is the word of God”, read the text and preached the text and the other read the text and said, „Let’s find what’s good in here”. And they didn’t necessarily put it that way, but you could tell that is what they were doing homiletically. Here is an accountability to every word of the text. The text speaks because when the text speaks, God speaks. And on the other hand, people saying, „You know, there’s good stuff here, let’s go find it”.
  • Peter Williams – I went through a time of significant doubt when I was around 21 , 22. Mark (Dever) was in town at the time, in Cambridge, a great help and the Lord brought me through those, having to work through a lot of that. I certainly looked at liberalism and secular approaches to the Bible, from the inside, within my heart and really, there is nothing there, there’s nothing that has the explanatory power, the comprehensive work that the Gospel, the work in your life and even, also, I think on a historical  level there are some amazing things about the Bible. If I can just mention one: Historical level: Go back 400 years to someone like James Ussher (or 350) calculating the dates of Kings of ancient Israel, or Kings of Assyria. That was before archaeology had begun, before the language of the Assyrians had even been deciphered (that’s been in the last 200 years) and he gets the dates of Tiglas Pileser within one year of what now people believe it to be, based on the Bible and he’s not got Hebrew manuscripts any earlier than 11th century AD. and he’s getting reliable information from 1800 years earlier. You can document that. It’s not widely appreciated, but he gets the year 728 and we think it’s 727. It’s pretty remarkable, that sort of level of agreement. It is one of the most amazing stories to me, of historical accurate information being transmitted.
  • John Piper – ends with prayer that faith would increase in this generation.

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