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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Biblical Inerrancy

Last year I put together a short series titled “Biblical Inerrancy” – but, as UK John identified early in the first post, it was not about inerrancy at all. It addressed biblical reliability and biblical uniqueness, but inerrancy itself (though I would say that both of those things are necessary for inerrancy) was not addressed.

Over the time since then, I have observed how inerrancy is spoken of, particularly by UK John and Sven, as well as comments interjected by RightThinker and Mary Beth demonstrating clear differences not only on the definition of inerrancy, but whether it is true at all.

What is clear is that, for reasons I find difficult to explain, some people have different definitions of inerrancy. Furthermore, some deny inerrancy, and some question it. I will set out to do three primary things:

1) Define inerrancy

2) Describe the need for inerrancy

3) Defend inerrancy

I expect this series to be long, because I desire a level of clarity often absent in discussions of this issue. For example, before I actually define inerrancy, I will do a post about what inerrancy is not, and a post describing the straw man attacks most often seen. Before I describe the need for inerrancy, I will discuss revelation in general and the various uses and manifestations of the word of God. I will also describe the views of Scripture held by Christian and pseudo-Christian groups in opposition to inerrancy. I will even spend time describing how an unbalanced view of inerrancy will be as dangerous as an outright denial of the importance of Scripture.

I cordially invite those who disagree with my positions to comment and challenge whatever and however they may desire. I have a small number of regular readers, and so I plan to post the series on as many carnivals as it fits. What I really want to hear is the liberal view, which neither John nor Sven have, even though they certainly do not share the evangelical view of Scripture. I believe that Mary Beth holds that view, and hope she and those who agree with her will defend it here.

Here are the “ground rules”, which I recognize that only I am bound to and can guarantee, but hope others will as well:

1) No ad hominem attacks. One can say, “I don’t think this is a Christian point of view you have, Hammer”, but not, “Hammer is a moron”.

2) Be prepared to defend your point of view with two things – Scripture and historical support prior to the mid-eighteenth century. Opponents of the evangelical definition of inerrancy claim it never existed prior to the past 100 years. Thus, while I intend to back up my position with historical Christianity, detractors should do the same. Christianity is a fact-based and historical faith, and a position arrived at in the past 200 years is highly unlikely to be closer to “the faith once for all delivered unto the saints” than that of the apostolic and early church fathers. While Catholic commenters may not regard Luther, Wesley and Calvin as authorities, nor some Protestants Aquinas or Chrysostom, it is not the men that make them authoritative, but the connection of the communion of saints through the ages in doctrine that does.

3) Be clear, concise, and courteous. Clarity, because we don’t want to waste time commenting about something that is misunderstood; courteous, because it begets courtesy and frank speaking, and brevity (yes, that means you, RT) because long comments lead to longer retorts, and others get tired of reading it and drop out.

If someone can think of other important ground rules before I begin, let me know and I’ll include it in this post.

Finally, I should say what I have held since the first day I wrote a post on spiritual matters – I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind with any of this, at least, not someone who is dedicated to their view of Scripture. My goal is to present the various viewpoints in a fashion that eliminates the cloud surrounding the different views for two reasons – to sharpen my own understanding and to allow those who have yet to determine their permanent view of Scripture to choose from the real choices.


  • I look forward to this series.

    The comment about brevity as aground rule was a good poke in the jibs... ;) I know my comments are often way too long! Wordiness, when I am trying to convey my point, is one of my biggest faults!

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 8/20/2006 08:16:00 AM  

  • Now that was an introduction :-)

    Bring it on - sounds like it'll be a great series!

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 8/20/2006 03:00:00 PM  

  • I probably won't have much to say, but I'll be reading!

    By Blogger Ruth, at 8/21/2006 06:11:00 AM  

  • I have no direct comment on this, but I suggest you read The Bible and Authority over at Street Prophets, the Christian spin-off site to the evil, leftist Daily Kos. Here's a tidbit:

    Suffice it to say that one of the unifying characteristics of progressive Christians is that we do not believe the Bible to be the "inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God." Rather, we see scripture as the record of a people's journey with God over time - about 1500 years - and reflecting many divergent perspectives on the meaning of that story.

    By Blogger Mark, at 8/21/2006 08:06:00 PM  

  • After thinking a bit, I do have some direct comments on this. :-)

    What I really want to hear is the liberal view... Be prepared to defend your point of view with two things – Scripture and historical support prior to the mid-eighteenth century.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but your approach to religion and politics is largely based on your belief in central authority and tradition, central tenets of conservatism. Liberalism lies orthogonal to those beliefs, claiming that authority must be questioned and each tradition must be held accountable, subjected to the same standards as any new idea.

    In other words, what you are asking is for someone to justify their liberal beliefs based on conservative assumptions. I'm guessing most won't succeed at that. I could be wrong, as liberalism is based on The Enlightenment which goes back a few hundred years and was the guiding principle in the formation of our country, but the odds are stacked against it.

    Opponents of the evangelical definition of inerrancy claim it never existed prior to the past 100 years.

    Though this argument is often repeated, I think it is repeated incorrectly. The real point is our modern society is based on principles of The Enlightenment and, particularly in the past hundred years or so, science. Our modern understanding of what qualifies as a 'fact' is completely different than it was a few hundred years ago. To us, 'fact' means it can be accurately reproduced and verified. 'Faith' means you believe without evidence.

    But 'fact' and 'faith' were not so different from each other hundreds of years ago. There was no assumption any true fact could be independently verified, not in the modern, scientific sense. That is why the modern evangelical definition of inerrancy didn't exist 100 years ago; it couldn't. We all see the world through different eyes than those who came before us.

    By Blogger Mark, at 8/22/2006 02:01:00 AM  

  • Here's a little something I found quite funny and fitting as we embark on a discussion on Biblical inerrancy:

    Taken from 'The School of Biblical Evangelism' by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron:

    -A new convert was reading his Bible when he called out, "Wow! Praise the Lord!"
    A liberal minister heard him, and asked him what the noise was about. The young Christian replied with great enthusiasm, "This is incredible! It says here that God performed a miracle of deliverance by opening up the Red Sea for the Jews to march through!"
    The minister replied, "Owing to tidal patterns around that time of year, the Red Sea was a swamp that was only three inches deep."
    Somewhat subdued, the young man continued reading, but soon exclaimed, "Wow! Praise the Lord!"
    "What's the matter now?" asked the minister. The Christian replied, "God has just drowned the whole Egyptian army in three inches of water!!"

    Over 3,000 times the Bible speaks of its inspiration by God. His Word is true, and you can believe every word of it.

    By Blogger mrshammer, at 8/22/2006 01:08:00 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger mrshammer, at 8/22/2006 01:08:00 PM  

  • Mrshammer, that was indeed very fitting!

    It is interesting that while most admit the omnipotence of God, they lack faith in His ability to communicate. To say that the Bible doesn't communicate the exact intent and will of God is to say that we are left floundering and have no real answers.

    For those who focus on a God of only Love, a God who lacks wrath and justice, that is a contradiction! A God of Divine Love would never give us a muddled and incomprehensible Word that would leave us searching for answers to an ever-elusive set of facts and truths.

    For us that are not Biblical scholars, thankfully, it is Grace (through the cross and denial of sin) itself that saves-not philosophical debate and redefinition of "truths".

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 8/22/2006 02:17:00 PM  

  • Mark,
    Be patient! We'll get there. It is already planned:)

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 8/22/2006 03:13:00 PM  

  • We're all chomping at the bit to hear what you have to say in your first installment, Mr Hammer!! I'm really looking forward to this - almost as much, no, more in fact, than I look forward to my favourite authors' new books!!

    Although I plan to stay quiet on the grounds of not knowing anything about biblical inerrancy, I can't help responding to Mrs Hammer's joke (which gave me a chuckle).

    Now I don't know where I stand on the issue of 'biblical inerrancy'. I've never discussed it before - and never really considered it. I need Hammer's definition of what 'biblical inerrancy' is, for starters.

    When you mentioned the parting of the Red Sea I became very excited because here's something that interests me: plate tectonics and continental drift; the movement and eruption of the earth's crust. Scientists are coming ever closer to discovering how (and when) the Red Sea appeared to part and why something of a tidal wave then occurred. I believe that there is "a worldly explanation" for it (volcanic activity or something of the kind). That's not to say, though, that the ways of the world (the shifting of the continents; the erupting of the volcanoes) are not orchestrated by God. What a miracle that the waves should have parted just when Moses needed them to.

    By Blogger Ruth, at 8/22/2006 04:13:00 PM  

  • Ruth,
    I'll have it up Saturday (our time). Sorry for the wait, but with my two jobs, seminary, and a family I love ahead on my list, compounded with a series I am putting more research into than any prior, the posts may not come any faster than weekly.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 8/24/2006 03:34:00 PM  

  • Thanks MrsHammer,

    Thanks for inviting me over to read/participate in your forum. In reading through some of the other posts, I think I will find this blog to be a refreshing change from other writings I've been reading from your viewpoint. Or at least what I assume to be your viewpoint.

    A little background on me so others may know from whence I come;

    1- born in the 60's to a casually Catholic family.

    2- stopped frequenting church after joining the Navy.

    3- met and married an evangelical Christian

    4- left the Catholic Church and went though 10's of different faith communities over a course of 10 years ending up in a Lutheran Church.

    5- converted to the Catholic Church

    6- wife followed me a year later

    By Blogger pyrosapien2819, at 8/25/2006 02:42:00 AM  

  • pyro-
    Welcome to our conversation! After perusing your blog a bit, you seem like exactly the kind of person we enjoy having discussions with. We look forward to getting to know you better and helping each other grow.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 8/26/2006 07:55:00 PM  

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