This post was originally written as part of this comment exchange on Randal Rauser’s blog post “Liar, Liar, Soul on Fire.”
1. I see the Bible is a collection of documents written by ancient Jews over many generations, and ostensibly no more free from error or worthy of attention than any other ancient documents.
2. I read the documents and see that they coalesce in meaning around Jesus of Nazareth. The NT claim that He is the figure promised in various ways throughout the OT strikes me at first as plausible, then as credible, and ultimately as persuasive. I accept that He is indeed Lord and vow to serve Him as such.
3. I see that Jesus regarded the OT as the word of God, and therefore worthy of appropriate devotion. I take that as my cue to do the same.
4. Given that the NT writers claim to speak in Jesus’ name, I give their writings the same respect.
Thus I don’t need the Bible to be the word of God in order to believe that Jesus is Lord. However, believing in Jesus as Lord does lead me to believe that the Bible is the word of God.
That said, I do not go around telling scientists what theories they can hold or what they can and can’t call facts. I’m not a scientist and the Bible is not a book of science. A problem only arises when scientists – or, more broadly speaking, modern culture – tells me what is and isn’t true in the Bible. I refuse to cede that authority to them.
Of course, the threat of modern culture is that I won’t be be considered intellectually respectable if I maintain this view. However, since my Lord didn’t compromise His faith in the truth for the sake of preserving intellectual respectablity, who am I to try to maintain intellectual respectability?
I learned of this 1970 clip from Adrian Warnock’s blog.
The short post was originally written as part of a response to a blog post - A BIBLIOLOGY GROUNDED IN CHRISTOLOGY by Dan Wallace – on the Credo House Ministries Parchment & Pen blog.
Reading the Scriptures as mere ancient documents (no more inerrant than any other ancient documents) one can get to Jesus is Lord. Then, given that Jesus is Lord and that He considered the Scriptures to be the word of God, you can arrive quickly at inerrancy.
We must believe that the Bible is the word of God because Jesus is Lord. For if we believe that Jesus is Lord because the Bible is the word of God, then, as it was with Bart Ehrman, the collapse of inerrancy leads to the collapse of faith in Christ.
Bart Ehrman and Dan Wallace are colleagues; hence the reference. Regarding their respective views see:
Daniel Wallace Debates Bart Ehrman about the Reliability of the New Testament Manuscripts
Is The Original New Testament Lost? :: A Dialogue with Dr. Bart Ehrman & Dr. Daniel Wallace – YouTube
This post originally appeared at this point in the comment thread on this post from Randal Rauser’s blog.
At issue is whether or not the prophets of Israel, who wrote the Scriptures, can be trusted in the light of modern science and history. The answer is a resounding “Yes!”
The defining function of a prophet was to speak for God. In his prophesying, the prophet might make reference to past, present, or future events – but in all cases he would be doing so on behalf of God and not himself. That is, he would be speaking in God’s name and not his own.
God urged His people to discern between true and false prophets – not between true and false prophecies. Isaiah, for example, is not to be read a la carte. Rather, “we count those blessed who endured” and so we accept his message in total. Thus it is the writings of faithful prophets such as Isaiah, Moses, and Jeremiah that came to be collected and eventually called Scripture.
If we allow the word of men (whether modern or ancient) who do not claim to be speaking for God trump the word of men who we claim to believe are speaking for God, then let us drop the pretense of saying that we are trusting God and admit that we are trusting men instead.
And if modernity is the arbiter of truth, why are we professing allegiance to documents from antiquity?
The problem with the doctrine of inerrancy is not that it is wrong, but that it subtly pushes the conversation about the Bible’s reliability toward trivialities. We end up majoring on minors.
On this point, here’s a recent exchange I had with someone on Randal Rauser’s blog.
John said: Mike, Randal has a friend named Dr. Kenton Sparks who seems to believe the authors of Bible manuscripts were capable of receiving the Word of God and yet made errors when recording scripture. Here is a comment from Dr. Sparks on the subject:
“God never errs, so in all of Scripture–every page–he never errs in his discourse. However, because God accommodates his speech to us through human beings who inevitably err, there not a single page of Scripture that is entirely free of human error.” – Kenton Sparks (February 19, 2009 at 8:10 am)
If Dr. Sparks is correct, then what reason is there for us to believe prophets of God could not also make errors when teaching others what God revealed to them?
Here was my response:
Mike Gantt: I do not think that making inerrancy the focal point is helpful because it inclines the conversation toward minor issues. Keeping attention on major issues is more productive.
Let’s say that I must listen to an important speech from someone speaking French. Since I do not understand French, I am dependent on the interpreter. Is the interpreter human and therefore fallible? Yes. Does the interpreter sometimes hesitate or stammer in his delivery? Yes. Is it possible that something might get lost in translation? Yes. If, however, I focus too much on such issues I will fail to hear and understand the speech.
The real problem with Sparks’ view is that it renders the non-French-speaker with an interpreter no better off than the non-French-speaker without an interpreter. Neither can be sure what the speech was about.
This exchange can be found in its original context here, and the original post is here.
The link that John gives to Andy Naselli’s blog is a helpful illustration of how far afield such debates about inerrancy can go. Kent Sparks himself participates in the comment thread that follows Andy’s post about his book.
I made a similar point in this previous post: Inerrancy Is Not the Point; The Point Is Christ
Here’s the C.S. Lewis quote:
Barfield never made me an Anthroposophist, but his counterattacks destroyed forever two elements in my own thought. In the first place he made short work of what I have called my “chronological snobbery,” the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. You must find why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. From seeing this, one passes to the realization that our own age is also “a period,” and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions. They are likeliest to lurk in those widespread assumptions which are so ingrained in the age that no one dares to attack or feels it necessary to defend them.
And here’s the post where I found it, and that gives the quote some context: Piers Morgan: King of the Chronological Snobs | The American Spectator.
Larry Hurtado notes how some people will say that the ancient only read aloud – and disputes it.
On Reading in the Roman World: A Key Book | Larry Hurtado’s Blog.