Sunday, 18 March 2012

Qualifying inerrancy

I have read a few blog posts on inerrancy over the years. I think the discussion lacks clarity at times. I have previously given my perspective on the difference between inerrancy and infallibility (as it is now used). I do not think inerrancy is a modern idea, even if the term is more recent. "Inspired" is a difficult term because of the differences people place on the idea. I think a good argument can be made for Jesus' view of Scripture being similar to an inerrant view of Scripture.

One complaint is that inerrantists are basically infallibilists once qualifications are taken into account. If one agrees with the qualifications then the term "inerrantist" is still to be preferred as holding inerrancy with qualifications is still significantly distinct from infallibility.

Another complaint is that the presence of qualifications concerning what inerrancy means undermines the term inerrancy. I strongly disagree, and may address some of these qualifications and the reasons for them in further posts. But briefly...

It is claimed that definitions can die a death from a thousand qualifications. This can be true, but it need not be true. The problem here not uncertainty over what the specific view (inerrancy) intends, it is because critics of the view raise complaints. It is often easier to critique something than it is to answer the critique, and frequently the answer is much longer.

Anyone can make an outlandish claim in a few words. Further they can defend such a claim with brief outlandish reasons. Offering a refutation more substantial than stating a contrary position, i.e. giving an explanation, is going to take more words.

Therefore the appropriateness of qualifications does not relate to their number (which is limited to the imagination of the critic) or their length, it relates to their reasonableness.

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy is one position on inerrancy; one that I think is moderately reasonable. Hopefully I will address some of the articles in the future.

Here is the Preface The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy

The authority of Scripture is a key issue for the Christian Church in this and every age. Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are called to show the reality of their discipleship by humbly and faithfully obeying God's written Word. To Stray from Scripture in faith or conduct is disloyalty to our Master. Recognition of the total truth and trustworthiness of Holy Scripture is essential to a full grasp and adequate confession of its authority.

The following Statement affirms this inerrancy of Scripture afresh, making clear our understanding of it and warning against its denial. We are persuaded that to deny it is to set aside the witness of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit and to refuse that submission to the claims of God's own Word which marks true Christian faith. We see it as our timely duty to make this affirmation in the face of current lapses from the truth of inerrancy among our fellow Christians and misunderstanding of this doctrine in the world at large.

This Statement consists of three parts: a Summary Statement, Articles of Affirmation and Denial, and an accompanying Exposition*. It has been prepared in the course of a three-day consultation in Chicago. Those who have signed the Summary Statement and the Articles wish to affirm their own conviction as to the inerrancy of Scripture and to encourage and challenge one another and all Christians to growing appreciation and understanding of this doctrine. We acknowledge the limitations of a document prepared in a brief, intensive conference and do not propose that this Statement be given creedal weight. Yet we rejoice in the deepening of our own convictions through our discussions together, and we pray that the Statement we have signed may be used to the glory of our God toward a new reformation of the Church in its faith, life, and mission.

We offer this Statement in a spirit, not of contention, but of humility and love, which we purpose by God's grace to maintain in any future dialogue arising out of what we have said. We gladly acknowledge that many who deny the inerrancy of Scripture do not display the consequences of this denial in the rest of their belief and behavior, and we are conscious that we who confess this doctrine often deny it in life by failing to bring our thoughts and deeds, our traditions and habits, into true subjection to the divine Word.

We invite response to this statement from any who see reason to amend its affirmations about Scripture by the light of Scripture itself, under whose infallible authority we stand as we speak. We claim no personal infallibility for the witness we bear, and for any help which enables us to strengthen this testimony to God's Word we shall be grateful.

2 comments:

  1. I no longer know how to formulate a doctrine of Scripture. I don't want the statement getting in my way when I actually study Scripture. I'm not in sympathy with Bart Erhman's rejection of Christianity. I feel there is power and validity in the Bible's witness and message. But, much of what Bart discovered is simply what all of us discover when we study the Scriptures closely. So, these things should not be secrets. And, we shouldn't have to wait for some agnostic former-inerrantist-Christian to let the world know.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Craig, one problem with formulating doctrine is that qualifications need to be made for those who disagree (reasonable) or try to find problems (less reasonable) with a doctrine. I understand what I mean by inerrancy, and others that agree with me may independently give similar qualifications. Similarly with other doctrines. It is the difficulty of those who get a doctrine or idea (true or false) trying to explain it to those who don't get it.

    I agree with the problem of hyperliteral fundamentalism. But the solution is not hyperliteral agnosticism, it is the hyperliteralism.

    I am literal and have sympathies with fundamentalism (though would not use that term) but the hyperliteralists force the text to say more than what we expect from normal conversation. When Aspergers struggle with metaphor and insist on literalism, or fail to comprehend implied statements we try and educate them. The problem is not in what we said.

    The problem may not be with the Bible text, it may the faulty Aspergers hermeneutic.

    ReplyDelete

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