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Monday, September 25, 2006

Well Spoken

Check out this short video clip, "That's My King", which we had in our worship service a few weeks ago.

I wish I could describe him to you...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Biblical Inerrancy IV: Revelation, General and Specific

God’s friendship with men begins and grows through speech; His to us in revelation, and ours to Him in prayer and praise. Though I cannot see God, He and I can yet be personal friends, because in revelation He talks to me.
- J.I. Packer

We previously covered the ground rules and introduction to the series, reduced confusion by separating terms and ideas often confused with inerrancy, identified the faulty arguments against inerrancy, and defined inerrancy. If you haven’t reviewed these, please do!

There are two basic building blocks to any faith system – ontological (who God is) and epistemological (how we know God). While the two are certainly intertwined, we can only develop ontological ideas through epistemology. How can we know God?

Unlike the gods of the imagination and the gods made of wood and stone, our God speaks! (Deut 4:33). We call the ways God speaks “revelation”, how he reveals himself to us. If it were not for the fact that he has spoken, we could not know him. Revelation can be practically defined as "the unveiling of something that is hidden so that it may be seen and known for what it is.” It is not the creation of truth into existence, but exposing the truth present and making it known. A simple metaphor: an auction of a painting under cloth, and the moment when the cloth is pulled away is revelation. The auctioneer did not make the painting, but he revealed it. God’s truth is not created in revelation but made known in it. Thus, every truth we know given to us by revelation is given to us as an act of God’s grace. Without it we would be left in the dark. Karl Barth wrote, “God did not have to tell us these things but in his grace did. There can be arrogant professors of science, English, history, etc, but there can be no proud theologian, because every truth they study is given to them by grace.” Revelation is not a matter of human discovery, but of divine disclosure.

The Bible speaks of the revelation of God; that he has chosen what to reveal of himself. In Psalm 19 we read of how the created order speaks of God’s nature. Matthew 11 shows that God reveals some things to some and keeps them from others, and only God himself knows everything about God: At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. See also Matthew 16:13-17. We need revelation because God is transcendent because He is so much greater than us, He is holy, He is pure, He’s beyond our comprehension. We’re fallen and finite. Thus we need Him to do something to bring us to Him. This gulf can only be reached, not by man reaching in through human exploration of someone, but given by God. The fullest and most direct is the Incarnation (God coming to Earth as the man, Jesus Christ), but all revelation is from God. He must bridge the gulf.

There are two primary divisions of revelation – general and specific (often called ‘special’).

General Revelation

General revelation is general in its scope and its substance. It reveals God’s power, wisdom, etc. There are two avenues of general revelation – creation and the conscience of man.

Romans 1 gives a detailed description of the revelation of creation: For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools. Creation attests to God’s existence, power and glory.

Man’s conscience is the other avenue of general revelation. As demonstrated in Romans 2, man’s conscience is the revelation of God written on man’s hearts, expressed in moral sensibility, moral action and moral judgment; “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”

These things are true across time and across cultures. When Abraham tells the king of Egypt that Sarah is his sister, we all, whoever and wherever we are, recognize that he has lied and that it is wrong. Thou shalt not steal is universal, as are other moral laws of God.

Specific Revelation

It is specific in scope and substance. Scope – it is given to some, not to all: to Abraham, and no one else; to Israel, not Egypt, not Babylon. It is more specific in detail – we learn of the trinity not through the heavens, but through His Word, as well as his purposes, plans & will, the duties of man. We have the moral law upon our hearts, but we learn in greater detail through special revelation. God chose when to speak and how – creation, the flood, the selection of Israel, the giving of the law, and the Incarnation occurred at specific times. There are four types of specific revelation.

1) Personal Encounter: God confronting and talking to people. Examples include Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Isaiah, Daniel, and Mary. Think of the burning bush – God speaking directly to an individual, which is not shared (at least in actual experience) with anyone else.

2) Mighty Act: God’s action (aside from speaking) that is an amazing work – creation, the Exodus, the Assyrian plague (2 Kings 19 & Is 36-39), the Cross & the Resurrection. While acts such as the burning bush or Jonah’s survival in the belly of a whale are also mighty acts, they are acts between God and an individual. Mighty acts are acts of God that involve whole groups, in a revelation that can be attested to by more than one individual.

3) Propositional Revelation: Revelation in the form of human language. It includes poetic, narrative, parable, didactic statements. It is a larger category than Scripture (an obvious example of propositional revelation), because it includes things said that were not recorded (as stated at the end of the Gospel of St. John for example). Read Peter’s sermon to Cornelius in Acts 10. It only takes 20 seconds to read aloud – do we think Peter spoke a 20 second sermon that lead to the conversion of a whole group of Gentiles? Obviously not!

4) Incarnation: Is all three of the avenues of special revelation taken together. In fact, it is the greatest example of each. Deut 18:15 was fulfilled! Jesus quotes Moses – “You have heard that it was said” then goes on to say, “But I say unto you”! How can he speak with more authority than Moses? Because he is the Incarnation of God himself! Moses brought them the words from God, but Jesus, as God, could tell them exactly what his intent with the giving of the law was!

What is the importance of special revelation? It is the only way that the gospel is delivered (Psalm 19:7-11, Hebrews 2:3, 2 Tim 3:15) and because it is specific, it must be obeyed. Also, if special revelation is the only method of salvation, we must bring the gospel to all – 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 shows how it is through the preaching of the word that men are saved, and Acts 4:2 and Roman 10:8-17 demonstrates that faith in Jesus Christ specifically heard through the proclamation of propositional revelation, is the only way to come to eternal life.

Without God’s interpretations of His actions, they would not have been fully understood. Many witnessed the Exodus out of Egypt, the Babylonian captivity of Israel, the death of Christ, or the empty tomb. But all did not see the same meaning in these acts. Only God’s revelation can tell us, for example, that the crucifixion of Christ was “for our sins”. Unless God reveals the meaning of his actions, we can never be sure of their full significance.

A revelation through words is also necessary for personal relationship. The warm personal relationships of life are carried on by means of conversation, and the deaf man is largely severed from those relationships. The soundless world is far more frustrating than the sightless world. Radio drama is entertaining, but a television drama without its soundtrack is robbed of meaning. In life as in drama it is the word which carries the meaning; it is the word which is the element of cohesion; and it is the word which is the necessary presupposition for warm personal friendships. God’s special revelation is designed for personal fellowship, and this requires words so that we might understand the actions of God and respond to them.

It is necessary to note here that there is no conflict (despite the assertions of some) between Christ as the personal Word of God and God’s verbal Word. It is, of course, possible to focus on the words of Scripture without fellowshipping with the living Word of whom it speaks – this is a real danger in legalist fundamentalism in particular. Indeed, some of the Jews in Jesus’ day studied the Scriptures intently, believing (truthfully) them to give the way of life. But Jesus told them, “It is these [Scriptures] that bear witness of me; and you are unwilling to come to me, that you might have life” (John 5:39-40). Unfortunately some “Bible-believing” people know all about the Bible, but they do not have a living relationship with Christ.

Yet, according to the Scriptures, there can be no real separation between the written words and the personal Word. In our own communication with another person, his or her words are the way we get to know that person’s thoughts and feelings. In a real sense a person’s words are an extension of that individual as he or she seeks to bridge the distance between himself or herself and another. The assertion that we cannot know someone through their words is illogical, for “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh”. We cannot understand actions without words to express the intentions and beliefs of the person who makes those actions. I and Mary Beth both have read books by Marcus Borg, but unless we tell you what we think of those books and why we read them, you have no idea how we relate to those books. Similarly, the living God who came to earth in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, reveals his heart and mind to humanity through the medium of language, the verbal word of God.

A warning comes with these revelations – these specific revelations exist, which eliminates the use of our intuitions to determine if or how they happened or not. Our intuitions, unless we are people who spend hours a day for years investing in Scripture, are shaped primarily by our culture, our experiences, and our emotions, and are hence notoriously unreliable, because they are not a revelation by God, but a creation of man and his surroundings.

Jesus no longer walks among us as a man. The Holy Spirit communicates with men, but how can one man know if the Spirit has communicated with another man, or if he is mistaken? We cannot exclusively rely upon personal communication with God for our doctrine and directions. A good example is the Worldwide Anglican Communion. The Western, affluent arm of the communion has significant numbers who claim that homosexual ordination is acceptable. The rest of the communion disagrees. Both claim communion with the spirit and agreement in their local church communities. Therefore, the only final and authoritative source of revelation must be an inerrant Scripture, which can be read by all men, and can help us discern when men are speaking from the influence of the spirit, or from the influence of something else in matters of doctrine, faith, and practice.

Obviously many do not always agree. Those who disagree on the roles of these types of revelation and how they relate to an inerrant scripture are the subject of the next post, “Alternate Views of Scripture”, which will be followed by the conclusion to the series, “Why It Matters” that will defend the need for inerrancy.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Can We Really Know if Someone is Truly Following Christ?

This is my final comment to UK John on the ridiculously long series of comments on the latest 'Christian Carnival' post (which has 60-something comments- who would have even thought it would have one??!) The basic argument here is this:

UK John's position: We cannot determine if someone is truly Christian by what they say. We can say they are wrong. We cannot say they are not following Christ.

Teamhammer's (and RT and Robert's) position: Those who deny the core truths of Christ cannot know Him and are not His.

For those of you who started reading the comments and gave up (which I don't blame you), these final comments and quotes from UK John wrap up the whole debate. Why is the title of this post even important, and why is it anyone's business if someone else is truly following Christ? Because we must distinguish the lies from the truth. If we take someone at their word when the say they are a Christian and don't challenge the validity of their proclamation, we can be deceived and led into believing a falsehood. We must be clear to others who question the Christian faith what a real Christian believes- what characteristics to look for in a sincere Christian and what sound doctrine to believe about Christ. We are not to point a judgmental finger at someone and go around haughtily deciphering who is real and who is fake for the sake of "being right" or proving our own genuiness or righteousness, but we are to discern truth and uncover lies for the sake of leading others into knowledge of the truth. We are to have concern over lost souls and those who are being deceived and this is why it is vitally important to know if someone is truly following Christ when they say they are a Christian.

I am speaking to John throughout the rest of this post, but you'll get the point:

Since I am consistently accused of misunderstanding, reinterpreting, and putting words into your mouth, I will use your exact words in numerous places throughout this strain of comments to show for the last time why your argument does not make sense, and where the real issues lie, as well as a final attempt to explain our position as crystal clear as it can be:

what matters is not what we say (i.e. that we use the right creeds or the right names for God) but what we do (i.e. that we do the will of the Father in heaven).

Acts 4:12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

One can be converted, saved, elected, and yet have incorrect fundamental beliefs about God.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say this is true.

When I asked what “following Christ” means, you said this:

Following Christ means following Christ (if you'll excuse the tautology). "Follow" as in "walk in the way of", "go with as a companion", "do what He says and does". "Christ" as in "Jesus", "the Son of God", "the second Person of the Trinity".

You are defining who Christ is by stating the FACTS about Him! So to “follow Christ” do we, or do we not, have to believe these facts about Him? This seems to contradict everything else you’ve been saying, such as:

provided that we are really following Christ it doesn't fundamentally matter what we believe about Him.

Whatever we understand Him to be is irrelevant if only we hear His voice and do as He commands

"Christianity is a relationship with the person who Jesus actually is." What we think Jesus is like is largely irrelevant to this point (although crucial in other ways!).

"we cannot tell [where someone stands with Christ] from the facts that someone assents to"

The truth about Christ is important, but what is central is who Christ is.

You can’t separate “who Christ is” from “the truth”!

John 14:6- I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life.

Someone is far more likely to follow Christ if they have heard of Him and about Him.

This is an example of why I called much of what you are saying “nonsense”. It is not possible to follow Christ if someone has never heard of Him or about Him.

Over and over you demand we cannot determine if someone is not a Christian without “spiritual revelation”:

unless we receive a spiritual revelation. We cannot tell by reading what someone has written

we may not say (without divine revelation) that they are unsaved.

we cannot be sure of this without specific spiritual revelation or personal knowledge

We may not say that they are damned without spiritual revelation.

The Bible is the final and authoritative SPIRITUAL REVELATION! It gives us the spiritual insight to distinguish the truth from the lies, the false teachings from the sound doctrine, and the saved from the unsaved!

(Robert asked you:)"How much of Christ’s nature can be denied before one is no longer a genuine Christian...Where is the line of demarcation or do you think that there isn’t one?"

(Your response to Robert was): By "Christian" do you mean "member of the Christian religion" or "follower of Christ"? If the former, none of it. If the latter, all of it apart from His existence…But the absence of facts (or even their denial) doesn't prove that the relationship is absent.

This is a denial of the obvious. If my husband says he married a tall, black woman from Brooklyn who is a tax lawyer, he didn’t marry me! If he says he just met me, and that I am a Korean-American student at Oxford University, he hasn’t met me! We cannot have a relationship with someone we can’t even describe basic facts about!! Am I much more than my color, height, education and residence? Of course I am – but if you don’t even know those things about me, you can’t claim to have a relationship with me!

"Believe in your heart" doesn't mean "believe with every fibre of your being", as is sometimes suggested.

You need to do a Bible study about the heart. The Bible describes the heart as the core of our being. Believing in our heart means with everything that we are.

we have established from Romans that we must confess Christ as Lord. This is not a propositional fact but the establishment of a relationship.

Confessing Christ as Lord means just what it says. We must acknowledge that Christ is Lord (His divinity!) to be saved. It is not just confessing His lordship over us or an “establishment of a relationship”.

We have also established that a belief in the resurrection is required - although any claim to follow a Christ who is not alive is illogical. (And, remember, this verse just says that God raised Him from the dead. It doesn't require any particular understanding of that fact

When the Bible refers to the resurrection, it means BODILY. While his body had its limits removed, Jesus was seen, heard, held, fed, spoken with, and observed ascending into the sky. A “spiritual resurrection” means nothing. THE TOMB IS EMPTY- THE BODY IS GONE!

No vague verses saying that Christians recognise "truth" will do - you are claiming that Christians must recognise specific facts to be genuinely saved.

No matter how many verses we have given (including Romans 10:9), you manage as you always do, to excuse or explain how it doesn’t actually mean what it says (as you did in the homosexuality debate). So it really doesn’t matter how many more verses I lay out because you don’t believe in the inerrancy of Scripture (as defined in the series).

You are demanding that we give you a verse that lays out specifically ‘you must believe a, b & c’ to be saved. We’ve already given you that. You must believe in Jesus Christ to be saved, with which you repeatedly agree. But Jesus IS something definable! He is defined by certain characteristics which we have repeatedly laid out here. A denial (not a simple misunderstanding!) of these characteristics of WHO HE IS and WHAT HE DID, means that you are NOT FOLLOWING JESUS, but a god of your own making whom you can call ‘Jesus’ if that makes you feel Christian, but you AREN’T one! (I am speaking in general terms here when I say “you”)

Verses about “truth” are fundamentally important in this line of discussion for this reason:

Jesus said He came to bear witness to the TRUTH. (John 18:37)

And, "every one that is of the truth heareth my voice." We can't hear His voice unless we recongnize the TRUTH (the FACTS!) about Him! (John 18:37)

What is truth?

THY WORD IS TRUTH! (Psalm 119:60)

The Bible is truth. That is why everything in this exhaustive line of commenting returns to the issue of Biblical inerrancy.

Jesus asked this profound question:

"Who do you say that I am?" (Mark 8:29)

He asked this because it is a question of salvific importance. Our answer to that question determines where we will spend eternity!

The gospel of John tells us: "[The gospel] is written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believeing (these facts about WHO Jesus actually is!) ye might have life through His name." John 20: 31

Borg and his followers deny the core fact that Jesus is the divine Son of God! This denial means they do not have "life through His name" as this verse says!!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Christian Carnival 13 September

The newest Christian Carnival is up at

Thoughts of a Gyrovague.

While I am still perusing it fully, I noticed that there is a post
(Brain Cramps for God: What is a Christian?) that pointed to an issue that has come up over at UK John's blog.

It's worth a quick read, at least.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Biblical Inerrancy III: Inerrancy Defined

The Scripture is a tree, or rather a whole paradise of trees of life, which bring forth fruits every month, and the fruit thereof is for meat, and the leaves for medicine. It is…as it were a heavenly shower of bread sufficient for a whole host, be it never so great, and as it were a whole cellar full of oil vessels; whereby all of our necessities may be provided for, and our debts discharged. In a word it is a pantry of wholesome food against moldy traditions; a pharmacist’s shop (Saint Basil calleth it) of preservatives against poisoned heresies; a code of profitable laws against rebellious spirit; a treasure of most costly jewels against beggarly rudiment. Finally, a fountain of most pure water springing up into eternal life.

-From “The Translators to the Reader” in the preface to the Authorized Version of the King James Bible, 1611.

(Intro and Ground rules are here)

In our quest to establish the meaning and need for inerrancy, we have examined how it has often been confused with other terms relevant in discussions of Scripture, as well as debunking the most common straw man arguments used against inerrancy. With this post, we will define inerrancy and demonstrate some of the Scriptural and historical evidence supporting it.

Biblical Inerrancy is: The Bible, when correctly interpreted in light of the level to which culture and the means of communication had developed at the time it was written, and in view of the purposes for which is was given, is fully truthful in all it affirms.

There are other uses of the term inerrancy with different meanings. However, I would present that those uses are hijackings of the term in order to allow the users to say they believe the Scriptures are inerrant while actually denying it as such. I also recognize that my definition may seem to be rather malleable – but that is a function of form rather than being. To explain, I will give some qualifiers. I would expect comments to generally refer to these qualifiers.

Inerrancy is what is affirmed or asserted rather than what is reported. The Bible contains false statements by ungodly people. This is the easiest example of a distinction – the Bible reports what occurs and does not assert to the truthfulness of these kinds of descriptive passages. Even reports of the words of godly men, such as Stephen in Acts 7, can have errors in their statements, because the Bible is describing or reporting what is said inerrantly, not that what was said is inerrant. However, when something is taken by a biblical writer, no matter the source, and used in his message as an affirmation, then it must be judged as truthful.

2) Inerrancy is judged in terms of its cultural meaning in which its statements were expressed. We should not expect the exactness of quotation to match our current standards in an age of the printing press and mass duplication. We also need to recognize that numbers were used symbolically in ancient times, much more so than today. The words “son” has one meaning in our culture today, but in biblical times its domain included “descendant”. When we speak of inerrancy, we mean that the Bible is fully true in what it affirms in terms of the culture of its time. Thus, though the culture changes, what is affirmed does not.

3) Inerrancy requires that the Bible’s assertions are fully true when judged in accordance with the purpose for which they were written. Descriptive language is not meant to be prescriptive, and vice versa. Exactness will also vary according to the intended use of the material, with approximations likely at times. A simple modern example to explain this: If I make $22,325 a year, and I am asked, “How much do you make?” and I reply, “$22,000”, is what I said true? If I am talking to a friend about employment opportunities, it is true, but if I am talking to an IRS agent doing a financial audit on me, it is false!

4) Inerrancy recognizes that reports of historical and scientific data are in phenomenal rather than technical language. The writer is reporting how things appeared to the eye, which is normal in popular (rather than technical) publication. An easy example is the phrase, “the sun will rise”, which describes what we see, as opposed to what is happening in a fixed-sun reference. It is not meant to be taken literally. Also, Biblical reports do not attempt to explain how an event exactly happened as it appeared when, for example, the walls of Jericho fell, the Red Sea parted, or the Jordan River was stopped.

5) Inerrancy necessarily implies that difficulties in the text should not be prejudged as indications of error. The failure of modern archaeology to discover the Hittite culture or the unknown Sargon of Isaiah (20:1) were eventually overcome. The philosophical fallacy of the argument from silence remains a fallacy. Overall there is less difficulty for the belief of the factual inerrancy of the Bible than there was one hundred years ago, as greater discoveries of archaeology and research have supported Scriptural truthfulness, not undermined it. At the same time, we must realize that there may be difficulties in the Bible that we may never be able to substantiate with empirical evidence, and instead of developing fanciful explanations, we should leave them unresolved in the confidence that they will be resolved as the data becomes available, even if it is not in our lifetime.

6) Inerrancy is applied specifically to the originals and in a derivative sense to the translations and copies, to the extent they reflect the originals. Any research on Greek manuscripts will show that there is not a single passage of significant length that does not have a manuscript with at least one difference in it. However, our Bible today can be considered inerrant in preservation. Clearly some translations will not be – see my Bible Translations series – but those that convey the truth of the originals are entirely reliable. A Scriptural example is Paul’s exhortation to Timothy that all Scripture is inspired, yet the Scriptures Timothy was familiar with were translations of copies. The God who is able to inspire is able to preserve, and in a fashion that those who seek him will find his word.

7) It is worth noting that inerrancy does not entail a few things. It does not tell us what type of material the Bible will contain. Nor does it tell us how we are to interpret specific passages. In particular inerrancy does not imply that the maximum amount of specificity will be present. Words mean something, and their meaning is not only drawn from themselves, but also from their purpose and meaning. That said, “truthful” must mean something, and cannot be expanded so as to mean nothing, as some do. If Jesus did not die on the cross, if he did not still the storm at sea, if the walls of Jericho did not fall, if the people of Israel did not leave their bondage in Egypt and depart for the promised land, then the Bible is in error.

The following three posts will develop toward a defense of the need for inerrancy in much the way these three built toward a definition of inerrancy. The next post will discuss the ways in which God speaks to men, followed by a post describing other types of theologies that do not hold to inerrancy, with a concluding post in defense of inerrancy.

What follows here is a selection of Scriptural and historical support for Biblical inerrancy. Although I have tried to keep it as short as practicable for its purpose, it may be tedious to some, so I will lead with a statement by Kirsop Lake, a respected liberal biblical scholar at Harvard University in the early twentieth century, who himself had little respect for the accuracy of Scripture:

It is a mistake often made by educated persons who happen to have but little knowledge of historical theology, to suppose that fundamentalism is a new and strange form of thought. It is nothing of the kind; it is the partial and uneducated survival of a theology which was once universally held by all Christians. How many were there, for instance, in Christian churches of the eighteenth century who doubted the infallible inspiration of all Scripture? A few, perhaps, but very few. No, the fundamentalist may be wrong; I think that he is. But it is we who have departed from the tradition, not he, and I am sorry for the fate of anyone who tries to argue with a fundamentalist on the basis of authority. The Bible and the corpus theologicum (body of historical theology) of the Church are on the fundamentalist side.


Jesus of Nazareth clearly assumed the errorlessness of the Old Testament in all its statements and affirmations, even in the realms of history and science. In Matthew 19:4, 5 he affirmed that God himself spoke the words of Genesis 2:24, with reference to the literal, historical Adam and Eve, as he established the ordinance of marriage. In Matthew 23:35 he put the historicity of Abel's murder by Cain on the same plane of historical factuality as the murder of Zechariah the son of Barachiah.

Matthew 24:38, 39 Jesus clearly accepted the historicity of the universal flood and Noah's ark: "For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away...."

"For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matt. 12:40). In the same way, Christ goes on in the very next verse to confirm that the heathen population of Nineveh really did repent at the preaching of Jonah, just as recorded in Jonah 3:7-9.

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8).

[Jesus speaking] “the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. (Psalm 19:7-9)

All your words are true (Psalm 119:60)

Every word of God is flawless (Proverbs 30:5)

[Jesus speaking] Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Matt 5:17-18)


If a Scripture which appears to be of such a kind [contradictory to another Scripture] be brought forward, and if there be a pretext (for saying) that it is contrary (to some other), since I am entirely convinced that no Scripture contradicts another, I shall admit rather that I do not understand what is recorded, and shall strive to persuade those who imagine that the Scriptures are contradictory, to be rather of the same opinion as myself.

- Justin Martyr, circa 100 A.D.

Give ear for a moment that I may tell you how you are to walk in the holy Scriptures. All that we read in the divine books, while glistening and shining without, is far sweeter within.

- St. Jerome, fourth century

You have studied Scripture which contains the truth and is inspired by the Holy Spirit. You realize that there is nothing wrong or misleading in it.

- Clement of Rome, mid-first century

No person of common sense can permit them [those who deny the authenticity of Luke’s Gospel] to receive some things recounted by Luke as being true, and to set others aside, as if he had not known the truth.

- Irenaeus, second century

For those who have ears to hear [there is in fact] no conflict…[they] are truly at perfect concord.

- Origen, 4th century

We, however, who extend the accuracy of the Spirit to the merest stroke and tittle, will never admit the impious assertion that even the smallest matters were dealt with haphazardly by those who have recorded them, and have thus been borne in mind down to the present day.

Athanasius, 4th century

[To those who disregard portions of Scripture] Do not utter such infamy. God speaks, and you have the effrontery to say, “Nothing is useful in what is said.”

With the Scriptures…it is not like this. The gold does not lie before us mixed with earth; instead it is gold and only gold.

Chrysostom, 5th century

[Regarding the 66 canonical books of the Bible] Of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error.

Therefore everything in Scripture must be believed absolutely.

Whatever they [scientists] can readily demonstrate to be true of a physical nature, we must show to be capable of reconciliation with our Scriptures; and whatever they assert in their treatises to be contrary to these Scriptures of ours…we must either prove it as well as we can to be entirely false, or at all events, we must without the smallest hesitation believe it to be so.

Augustine of Hippo, 4th century

For I am sure that if I say anything that unquestionably contradicts Holy Scripture, it is false, and if I am aware of this I do not want to hold it
- Anslem, late 11th century

All which is spoken of in Holy Scripture is spoken of God.

We must keep to that which has been written in Scripture as to an excellent rule of faith so that we must add nothing to it, detract nothing, and change nothing by interpreting it badly.

- St. Thomas Aquinas, mid 13th century

…I am ready to trust them only when they prove their opinions from Scripture, which has never erred.

Consequently, we must remain content with them [words], and cling to them as the perfectly clear, certain, sure word of God which can never deceive us or allow us to err.

- Martin Luther, 16th century

You all have by you a large treasure of divine knowledge, in that you have the Bible in your hands; therefore be not contented in possessing but little of this treasure. God hath spoken much to you in the Scripture; labor to understand as much of what he saith as you can. God hath made you all reasonable creatures; therefore let not the noble faculty of reason or understanding lie neglected. Content not yourselves with...divine accidentally gain in conversation; but let it be very much your business to search for it, and that with the same diligence and labor with which men are wont to dig in mines of silver and gold."

Jonathan Edwards, 18th century

Since for unbelieving men religion seems to stand by opinion alone, they, in order not to believe anything foolishly or lightly, both wish and demand rational proof that Moses and the prophets spoke divinely. But I reply: the testimony of the Spirit is more excellent than all reason. For as God alone is a fit witness of himself in his Word, so also the Word will not find acceptance in men's hearts before it is sealed by the inward testimony of the Spirit. The same Spirit, therefore, who has spoken through the mouths of the prophets must penetrate into our hearts to persuade us that they faithfully proclaimed what had been divinely commanded ... "
--John Calvin, 17th century

If there be any mistakes in the Bible, there may well be a thousand. If there be one falsehood in that book, it did not come from the God of truth.

- John Wesley, 18th century

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Christian Carnival, 6 September

Christian Carnival CXXXVIII (138) is up at From the Anchor Hold. Check it out!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Biblical Inerrancy II: Straw Men

Christ absolutely trusted the Bible; and though there are in it things inexplicable and intricate that have puzzled me so much, I am going, not in a blind sense, but reverently, to trust the Book because of Him.

-Bishop H.C.G. Moule

(Intro and Ground Rules here)

The previous post addressed the aspects of scripture that are often confused with inerrancy: inspiration, authority, interpretation, and importance. As we look at the “straw men” used to attack inerrancy, we will see that the confused elements are often intentionally confused.

[For those unfamiliar with the term “straw man”, it is a case where one party falsely restates the position of the other party in order to easily attack it. An example in the political arena of a straw man would be as follows:

Mr. Lib - “We are losing the war in Iraq. We should pull out now and get our troops home.”

Mr. Con – “You want to tell the troops that we should cut and run – don’t you think that is cowardly?”

Mr. Lib – “How dare you call me unpatriotic! What ever happened to freedom of speech? I thought you conservatives believed in liberty – but only when it’s your side, right?”

Here, Mr. Lib has committed the fallacy of the “straw man”, where he accuses Con of attacking his patriotism. He does so because it is easier to defend against someone who is calling one’s patriotism into question than it is to explain how an immediate pullout of Iraq is not “cutting and running”.]

Back to the matter at hand.

Straw Man #1: “If you believe in inerrancy, you are a literalist/ you believe it all literally”

This is an intentional confusion of inerrancy and interpretation. It is very easy to discredit someone who believes that every word of the Bible is to be interpreted literally – that person would have to hold that when Jesus says “I am the bread of life” that Jesus actually was made of bread. Such a thought is simply ridiculous, which is why opponents of inerrancy often throw around the term “literalist” or “literal”. However, there is no person who has ever espoused such an interpretation, and even if they did, it is an interpretation of the words, not a value statement of the inerrancy of the entire scriptures. Words mean something, and inerrancy is not interpretation – and especially not a caricature of an interpretation that no one holds.

Straw Man #2: “If you believe that God only speaks through the Bible, then you are denying that God speaks through the Holy Spirit or personal experiences or creation itself”

Another intentional confusion of terms. Holding to an inerrant text of Holy Scripture is not tantamount to denying anything else of any kind. The subject of inerrancy of Scripture is limited to the very subject it clearly is about – the Scriptures. The presence, reliability and authority of other methods that God uses to speak to people are not at issue. I will discuss the ways that God reveals himself to humanity in the post after next to explore this subject in more detail. For this straw man, it is false because it is confusing the issue of authority with inerrancy and is introducing subjects that are not part of the issue at hand.

Straw Man #3: “You think the Bible is a science textbook”

Perhaps the single greatest reason this is a fallacy is that it is a lie. Like the false claim that inerrantists are literalists, no inerrantist is claiming that the Bible is a science textbook. Once again, opponents are intentionally creating a confusion of terms to make inerrantists look like idiots. Whether scientific facts are present or absent and what relation they have to science are matters of authority and interpretation, not inerrancy. Inerrancy does impact the issue potentially – because an inerrant book cannot contradict a known truth. However, believing that there are no conflicts between scientific facts and events described in scripture is a long way from thinking the Bible is a science (or math, or engineering, etc.) textbook. We’ll discuss some of these apparent conflicts later in the series.

Straw Man #4: “You think the Bible is a step-by-step rulebook for life”

This is a curious attack, for it is not even related to inerrancy, authority, inspiration or importance. It is an attack upon an application of Scripture, which is why it is a fallacy. There may be some who apply the Bible in this fashion – but I have never met them. Claiming that the Scriptures are inerrant will affect one’s application (after authority, interpretation and importance are determined), but to state that a belief in inerrancy is equal to a specific and very restricted application is an intentional deception and a straw man.

Straw Man #5: “You worship a book.”

A tedious straw man. Again, I have never met someone who worshipped the Bible instead of Christ. Inerrantists are in agreement with some non-inerrantists that the Bible is a witness to the One we worship. The matter of disagreement for these two groups who agree here is not who is worshipped, but the inerrancy of Scripture. As we will see in an upcoming post, the line of division between inerrantists and non-inerrantists creates room for great disagreement in other areas, too – but the issue of the worship of a book is not one of them, because no one is doing it!

Now that we have dispensed with unintentional confusions and intentional straw man attacks against inerrancy, we will move forward in the next post, “Inerrancy Defined”, where I will define inerrancy and demonstrate the scriptural and historical support for the doctrine of inerrancy. Following that, we will discuss the different ways that God communicates with people in “Revelations, General and Special”, and then the alternate views of Scripture that exist without a belief in inerrancy, before finishing up with a defense of the need for this doctrine.