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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Biblical Inerrancy: The Lectionary

When I began the inerrancy series, I mentioned in the “What Inerrancy is Not” post that the doctrine of inerrancy forced us to be confronted with things that challenged our worldviews and held beliefs about ourselves, God, and our relationship to Him. John countered that those denominations that use a lectionary are more often faced with challenges to their faith because they are more likely confronted with the Scriptures than his caricature of evangelical churches:

“For example, an inerrantist in a church that only cycles through the pastor's favourite dozen passages (a far too common occurrence) will face up to far fewer biblical challenges than a non-inerrantist who attends a church that follows a lectionary. We will only face up to challenges if we read them!”

I did not respond to that idea because it sounded quite reasonable to me. I also remembered times when I was in a church that used the lectionary and was able to talk about the passage for that Sunday with my friend who was a Roman Catholic that heard a homily on the same passage the same Sunday, another benefit of a lectionary. However, recently, as I was finishing the series and considering the more liberal denominations, the thought struck me: What do they do with Isaiah 66:15-24, or Isaiah 63:1-6? There is no way that, even with their dismissals of the meanings of these texts, that they could read them to the church on a Sunday morning – so what do they do?

It’s very simple, actually. They don’t read them. In fact, what is not read seems very deliberate. I compiled a short list, which is not exhaustive.

Key Scriptures supporting historical doctrines eliminated from the lectionary:

Warnings against sexual immorality:

Gen 19;1 Cor 5:1-4, 9-13, 6:9-10, Leviticus 18, 20; Rom 1:26-27; 1 Tim 1:8-10. (This includes every single scriptural prohibition of homosexuality. Every one!)

Marriage and family guidance:

1 Cor 7:1-18; 1 Tim 5 (entirely); Titus 2:1-10; 1 Tim 2:8-15; Eph 5:22-33, 6:1-10, 1 Peter 3:1-7

Bishop (pastor) qualifications: 1 Tim 3 (entirety); Titus 1 (Entirety)

Warnings against false teachers/doctrine:

2 Cor 11; Jude (the whole thing); 1 Tim 1:3-11; 1 Tim 4; 1 Tim 6:1-5; 2 Tim 3:1-13; 2 John (all of it); 1 John 4:1-6; 2 Peter 2; Rev 2-3;


Matt 12:41-42; Luke 11:31-32; 1 Cor 15:35-53; Rev 8-18, Rev 20; Matt 18:1-14, Matt 23:13-33; Matt 24:1-35, 45-51, Romans 2 (entirety)

What do liberal churches do with a Bible they don’t believe? Two things – they encourage parishioners to believe that they should only digest it in “community”, and then ensure that the community does not hear the Word that stands against their positions. Of course, any person who dislikes specific texts can dodge them (though I doubt the caricature presented is a “far too common occurrence”, for which there is no evidence of it being far too common) – but an adherent of inerrancy must either suffer cognitive dissonance or read and believe all!

“We will only face up to challenges if we read them!”

Indeed. Indeed.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Sorry that I'm absent - I am at a difficult conflation of heavy loads at work and school as I enter a job transition and face the portion of the semester that maximizes papers and tests, plus an under-40% average in Hebrew! I'll return to posting and commenting here and elsewhere soon.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Biblical Inerrancy VI: Why Is Inerrancy Necessary?

My conscience is captive to the Word of God; to go against conscience is neither right nor safe; on this I stand, I can do no other; God help me, Amen.”

- Martin Luther

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
-Romans 16:17-20

(Introduction and subsequent links to the series can be found here)

After acknowledging that there is more truth than is contained in the Bible, that all truth is of God, and that there are other ways in which God speaks to us, why insist upon an inerrant Scripture? Aren’t all forms of revelation equally valid? Why would we consider a written revelation any more authoritative than a word directly from the Holy Spirit to someone? If God has spoken, who am I to contradict it? Perhaps a true, current example will suffice.

The current worldwide Anglican Communion comprises millions of members from throughout the entire world. However, the Communion is in danger of a split that may exclude parts of it from certain functions and meetings, if not from the Communion altogether. While the issues may be more myriad than on the surface, the issue that has the headlines is the acceptance and ordination of homosexual clergy. The Anglican branches in Canada, the US and New Zealand allow this. Other first world, westernized countries are neutral or considering it. The remainder of the Communion, particularly in the third world, is vehemently opposed to the practice.

The western branches, who happen to be primarily white, wealthy, western, and liberal, believe that they have been and are led by the Holy Spirit to move in this direction. Thus, they claim, in essence, revelation from God as an authority to do so. The majority of the Communion disagrees, and claims that the Holy Spirit has led them to an opposite conclusion.

Yet, we know that “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph 4:4-6)

The same Spirit cannot assent that an act is praiseworthy and abhorrent at the same time. There must be an arbiter – that arbiter is Scripture. In fact, they are more than arbiters – they are sufficient for our knowledge of the things of God. That is why St. Athanasius said, “For indeed the holy and God-breathed Scriptures are sufficient for the preaching of the truth.” Cyril, a bishop in the mid-fourth century, wrote, “In regard to the divine and holy mysteries of the faith, not the least part may be handed down without the Holy Scriptures…even to me, who tell you these things, do not give ready belief, unless you receive from the Holy Scriptures the things of which I announce.” St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in the thirteenth century, “we believe the successors of the apostles and prophets only in so far as they tell us those things which the apostles and prophets have left us in their writings.”

The belief that the Scriptures alone are the final authority for the believer is crucial to Christianity. For only as the authority of the Bible stands supreme over the authority of the individual, or the community, or even the church can we truly be addressed by the Word of God and not by our own word. Only when the difference between the work of the Holy Spirit in the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures is recognized as different from His work in the teaching ministry of the church can the church hear a Word from God rather than its own voice.

What do we have in those branches of “Christianity” that deny an inerrant Scripture? What do we have in liberal theology, neo-orthodoxy, and historical-critical theology? What do we have in the other theologies that have sprung up in the last 200 years or less that deny the authority of the Scriptures over their own authority?

They are not Christianity. They are made up religions.

That sounds harsh. I don’t think it is anything but the truth. While liberal, neo-orthodox, and historical critical theologies have distinct differences (all three are hereafter referred to as liberal), and those of one color are insulted when called another, in the end, they all have the same hermeneutic (method of determining what the Bible says) as described by Marcus Borg in “Reading the Bible Again for the First Time”: “There are parts of the Bible that we will decide need not or should not be honored, either because we discern that they were relevant to ancient times but not to our own, or because we discern that they were never the will of God.”

This kind of hermeneutic is one that, essentially, reduces our faith to a faith that is in only what we want to believe. Think about it. It is this faith that agrees that God is a God of love, who is our heavenly Father, yet denies that, somehow unlike an earthly father, He would give us rules that we don’t like, or knows things that we do not, or would impose his authority upon us in wisdom we cannot understand. It is this kind of hermeneutic that results in a faith that relies upon the “Spirit working in community”, yet restricts that community to my particular denomination, culture, place and time and completely rejects the testimony of historical Christianity, Scripture and the faithful the world over. It is this kind of hermeneutic that creates a “Christianity” that is extremely acceptable to secular intelligencia and culture, instead of preserving a gospel that offends the world and makes them hate us (Matt 10:16-41).

These followers of this kind of faith are following something, but not Christ. They are following the teachings of demons (1 Timothy 4:1). (Appropriately enough, many of these very people will deny the existence of demons, or that they actually do anything.) They use a hermeneutic that allows them to pick and choose Bible verses they already agree with, and reject those they do not.

Consider this – what basis does one reject Scriptural teaching upon? Upon their own desires. Oh, they may cite the agreement of others or current scientific evidence, but the evidence and opinions of others conveniently agree with what they already believe.

So where does the Spirit play in all of this? The Spirit is active, living and mighty in our world. He leads us into all truth (John 16:13), and gives us guidance, comfort, strength, wisdom and discernment. What He cannot do is contradict himself. He does not “lead” one believer to march in a “women’s choice” rally and another to volunteer in a pregnancy counseling center to save unborn children. He does not “lead” one preacher to proclaim a gospel of earthly prosperity and another to preach financial sacrifice to help others. He does not “lead” one denomination to ignore the Biblical prescription for the qualifications of pastors yet another to adhere to it. He does not “lead” one Christian to support a gay pride event and another to campaign for a traditional marriage protection amendment. None of these views make one a non-Christian, but to claim that both in any case are Spirit-led actions is ludicrous. Specifically, He does not contradict Scripture or lead us into “new” readings that did not become acceptable until secular culture said it was acceptable. In fact, the way we know the difference between the Holy Spirit and the leading of evil spirits is obedience and submission to the Scriptures, (1 John 4:1,6).

There is another difference you will notice between the adherents of inerrancy and those who do not: fruit.

Go to the Passion 268 website and after you enter, click on “Watch Louie’s talks online” choose “Unthinkable Rescue”. After it loads far enough, move the pointer to 22:45 and listen for a few minutes. He reads a personal letter of deliberate sin and its consequences, followed by divine salvation and the joy that results.

These stories are frighteningly rare in liberal circles, and common enough in inerrantist circles to be beyond the highest level of statistical significance in comparison. They are found in churches that maintain an orthodox view of Scripture – though many of them may look very different in presentation. This one (Louie’s), for example, is a Southern Baptist Church, though you wouldn’t guess it until you hear the Word preached. The salt of the earth are found, not in highbrow European neo-orthodoxy, but in a Promise Keepers rally where gang members renounce their gang ties at the risk of their lives; where homosexuals leave that lifestyle as they deny themselves and take up their cross; where alcoholic fathers gives their lives to Christ after being witnessed to by a street preacher; where porn-addicted husbands find rescue from their addiction after watching Billy Graham on TV; where drug addict sons leave their sin behind forever when they meet the living Christ in the preaching of the gospel! The stories of redemption from unspeakable sin are found in fundamentalist Christianity, where the Bible is regarded and preached as fully inerrant. The former gangsters never become pastors preaching that gay sex is honored by God. They are instead in COGIC churches, Cities of Refuge, and other urban gospel congregations that demonstrate real joy and exuberance in the Lord and who believe in the inerrant Word. They are coming to Christ in Pentecostal and charismatic congregations who practice gifts of the Spirit in a way I never would and who believe in the inerrant Word. They find community in a little Baptist church that makes weekly altar calls and proclaims an inerrant Word. They serve others as part of a Roman Catholic mission that believes in an inerrant Word and lives it in service to the poor. The drunkards, prostitutes, child molesters, murderers, thieves and liars come to the Christ who was fully God and man, who was born of a virgin, who suffered bodily under Pilate, who was crucified, dead and buried, who rose again from the dead, leaving an empty tomb, rose into heaven to sit at the hand of the Father, and will come again in Judgment. They come in response to a call to repentance and submission to the King of Kings, and not because they are told they have a “God-shaped Hole” and are seeking comfort after a tough week at the office. Christians the world over are martyred not for a liberal gospel of pick and choose doctrines – the Chinese government, after all, makes their own approved Bible of pick and choose verses – but for proclaiming that the road is narrow and that the truth of the Bible that Jesus is the only way!

There is a reason that Brian McLaren is never going to be translated into Sudanese; there is a reason that liberal theology isn’t exploding in North Korea; there is a reason that the trailer parks are not embracing neo-orthodoxy; there is a reason that spiritual revivals in the ghettos of New York are not found in churches that do not believe the Bible is the final and authoritative revelation, just as it was given. Lives are not changed by a “God” who doesn’t do real miracles, who doesn’t hold the universe in his hand, who somehow couldn’t communicate what He really meant until Bultmann, Schliermacher and Barth opened our eyes over the past 150 years.

Nancy Anderson and Richard Marius, both of whom are liberals, wrote sociological analyses of the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention – and both came up with the same conclusion. When you look at people who were moving toward liberalism, and the ones who were standing toward orthodoxy, the ones who were the fundamentalist were those who grew up in blue-collar homes; while the ones who were liberal, regardless of how much money they had now, were those who grew up in very comfortable homes. Not as a hard rule, but generally. Why? Anderson and Marius both asked, Why? Their conclusion: those who are more at home in American culture, those who are more secure in American culture, were those who were more likely to move with American culture, were those who were more likely to be concerned about what the outside culture thinks. Those who instead were insecure, those who were already marginalized, were the ones who were willing to hear and to listen to a gospel that the scholars had been telling them is ridiculous!

What do those who claim Christ yet deny the Scriptures do? They say things like, “The crucifixion of Christ is not salvific.” Then they claim they are following Christ, and use their superior seminary education and high status as an ordained pastor as justification to scoff at the fools who believe the Bible. Yet, we should not be surprised.

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

Those who are saved believe the Bible and those who are perishing deny it. The Scriptures and the communion of saints throughout the ages stand in unison against the false religions followed by many who call themselves Christians. Are there those who deny some part of the Bible that is true and are yet saved? I’m sure there are. There is a difference, however, between denying Scripture one is ignorant of or perhaps not discipled in and denying Scripture after studying it. The Holy Spirit will not allow a Christian to continue to deny the wondrous truths of his name and follow sin as righteousness (John 15:26-16:15). I would wager my own salvation on a brother from any culture who believes the Bible, is not ashamed of the gospel, and serves the Lord with his life – yet would not even consider it for a highly educated westerner whose faith mirrors that of their culture. Yet my assent is of no relevance – the One who brings well-being and calamity, the only one who saves, the one who has breathed out the words of Scripture, has the final say.

He has spoken – to whom will you listen? Will you listen to those “Christians” who deny the inerrancy and authority of Scripture like Borg, who says “the gospels are neither divine documents not straightforward historical records. They are not divine products inspired directly by God, whose contents are therefore to be believed”, or will you listen to the Word of God: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16, from the larger section on Scripture 2 Tim 3:1-4:8)? These conflicting views cannot both be right. You either believe in an inerrant word or pick and choose that which you will believe and that which you will disregard, of which it is written, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Prov 14:12)

(This concludes the inerrancy series. I will have two short addendums – one regarding the lectionary and one that is a warning to conservative Christian leaders)

UPDATE: The Passion website took down the Louie Giglio message (which was #3 in the Unthinkable Series) today, Oct 16th. I'm sorry you won't get to hear the story.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Romans 15:4 Project: Christian Carnival

Christian Carnival CXLIII is up at the Romans 15:4 Project: Christian Carnival .

Check it out - we are featured in the "Reflection, Spiritual Training, Teaching and Discipline" section.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Biblical Inerrancy V: Alternate Views of Scripture

I want to know one thing – the way to heaven: how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way. He hath written it down in a book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be a man of one book.

- John Wesley

(Previous posts in the series can be accessed here)

When you encounter a present-day view of Holy Scripture, you encounter more than a view of Scripture. What you meet is a total view of God and the world, that is, a total theology, which is both an ontology, declaring what there is, and an epistemology, stating how we know what there is.

The view of Scripture I have defined is called “full inerrancy”. There are other types of “inerrancy” that many claim to believe, yet an examination of them reveals that most are no inerrancy at all. The other types of “inerrancy” include:

Technical or Absolute Inerrancy: This view was expressed in Harold Lindell’s “Battle for the Bible”, and presents that all of what the Bible is can be shown to be true when evaluated based upon contemporary science, historiography, and journalism. This differs from full inerrancy in that it demands that every description in Scripture be defended in accordance with current scientific, historical, and journalistic standards.

Limited Inerrancy: This view holds that the Scriptures are inerrant in its salvific doctrines. It creates a distinction between these and empirical, natural references, ascribing errors to the state of scientific, journalistic and historical limitations of the time of the writers. For the purposes for which the Bible was given, it is fully truthful and inerrant.

Kergymatic Inerrancy or Inerrancy of Purpose: The ‘big picture’ of the Bible gets across, even though there are errors in it. The ‘inerrancy’ in view here is one that holds that the Bible inerrantly accomplishes its purpose, which is to bring people into personal fellowship with Christ, not to communicate truths. While it accomplishes this purpose effectively, it is improper to relate inerrancy to factuality. Thus, truth is not thought of as a quality of propositions, but as means to accomplish an end. Implicit in this position is a pragmatic view of truth.

Accommodated Revelation: Also, there are views which do not claim any inerrancy of the Scriptures at all. This position emphasizes that the Bible came through human writers and thus participates in the shortcomings of human nature. This is not only true in historical and scientific matters, but in theological and moral matters as well. Proponents of this view are those who simply declare that Paul was wrong in some of his doctrinal teachings because of his rabbinical background, or that sometimes he was right and sometimes wrong. Some even feel that Jesus was wrong, not merely unaware, of the time of his return.

Nonpropositional Revelation: This view denies that the Scriptures are revelation at all, preferring to describe only the person-to-person encounter as revelatory. The whole question of truth or falsity does not apply. The presence of errors in the Bible are those of the writers, because the words are those of the writers, not of God, yet these in no way work against the usefulness of the Bible.

The type of theology that arises from full inerrancy is evangelical or perhaps fundamentalist (though many who call themselves fundamentalist demand absolute inerrancy). While there are a smorgasbord of other theologies, the three most prevalent are liberal theology, neoorthodoxy, and historical-critical theology.

As I demonstrated in a previous post (the bottom half of it), full inerrancy was the historical view of the church, both Protestant and Catholic, until the so-called “Age of Reason” and particularly in the subsequent “Enlightenment” of the 18th century. Even though the Catholic Church added the authoritative interpretation by the church authorities as revelation as well, it did not change the fundamental view of scripture as God’s revelatory word. The Reformers rejected the idea of additional revelation, but their understanding of the nature of the Bible was also the historic position.

Immanuel Kant, perhaps the single greatest contributor to the Enlightenment, said that “Enlightenment is man’s leaving his self-caused immaturity. Immaturity is the incapacity to use one’s own intelligence without the guidance of another…Having the courage to make use of your own intelligence is therefore the motto of the Enlightenment.” This movement was characterized by a rejection of external authority – whether the Bible, the church or the state – because people, they said, should not be bound by ancient customs or creeds. Second, human destiny lies in progress, based upon the belief that human nature is basically good. Third, the knowledge of God and religious truth is ultimately attainable through human reason – and therefore divine revelation is unnecessary. As a result of the Enlightenment (the advent of the “modernist” worldview), many theologians came up with new ways to explain the concept of revelation and the nature of the Bible.

Liberal Theology: Liberal theology uses the last two views of scripture (accommodated revelation and non-propositional revelation) to construct its views. Essentially, liberalism claims that revelation comes through human subjective experience.

The primary figure in Theological Liberalism (hereafter referred to as liberalism) is Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) who was highly influenced by Kant. He agreed that we cannot know anything for real, the thing in itself. Therefore we cannot know God in Himself, it’s in the ‘noumenal’ realm. We can’t know Him, but we can only know our experience of God. He defined religion as “a feeling of absolute dependence”. We use our imaginations to construct God concepts that help people because the purpose of religion is to help people, and our religion ends up becoming ideological. Liberalism does not believe that God has spoken.

Thus, the Bible is regarded as nothing but the confirmation of the religion of reason, often stated in fictitious stories, and is not the Word of God. Rather, the teachings of the Bible are only the experiences of the Christian community expressed in words. The idea of revelation in the religious experience became popular first in liberalism. Schliermacher’s student, Albrecht Ritschl (1822-1889) argued that we need to understand Christ as the archetypal man, the Christ-figure (since liberals believe that we obviously don’t know if we know the historical Christ, that Christ is not the revelation of God, and is not God) for how we should live in ethical behavior – social justice. In liberalism there is no sin, no atonement (because there is no need since we are “basically good”), and no revelation. Another example of a leading pioneer of liberalism is Adolf von Harnack (1851-1930) a church historian. His claim would be that we read the Bible to discover the kernels among the husk. There are all kinds of “husk” according to von Harnack - miracles, supernatural parts of the Bible, etc (of course he and his followers are Darwinists, and think there is a lot in the Bible that is crazy) but there are some “kernels” of truth that we save and keep.

Liberalism affirms, in Clark Pinnock's words, that "divine truth is not located in an ancient book but in the ongoing work of the Spirit in the community, as discerned by critical rational judgment." Note, however, that "divine truth" means to liberals, not God's instruction nor a permanently valid human formulation, but simply an authentic awareness of God, to which no particular form of words is necessary either as a means or as an expression. As J. Gresham Machen pointed out half a century ago in Christianity and Liberalism, the liberal position in all its forms is deeply anti-intellectual in both its stance and its thrust, and this explains why it is so consistently hostile to the attempts of both Roman Catholics and evangelicals to formulate a definitive theology on the basis of a supposedly definitive Bible.

Liberalism also espouses a type of Christology that is not "from above" in the sense of seeing Jesus Christ as the divine Son, the second person of the Godhead, and the eternal Word made flesh, according to John's Gospel, Philippians 2, Colossians 1, and Hebrews 1-2, which the Nicene and Chalcedonian formulae follow. Instead, liberal Christologies are "from below," seeing Jesus in "humanitarian" terms as a prophetic, God-filled man, an archetype of religious insight and excellence, one who, however much he carries for us what Ritschl called the "value" of God, is not God in person. Such Christologies involve, of course, abandoning all thought of a real ontological Trinity and a real divine sin-bearer. They require a reconstructed view of salvation in which Christ's mediation appears as a matter of teaching and trail-blazing only, with no hint of his having borne the Creator's wrath against our sins in order to render him propitious to us - for it would take a divine person to do that. Liberals characteristically cut the knot here by denying that there is any personal wrath of God against us that needs to be quenched and maintain a barrage of criticism against "word-made-flesh" Christology as being necessarily docetic, minimizing the true humanness of our Lord.

Liberalism highlights human religious greatness, as seen in the Bible, in Jesus, and in all Christian, pagan, and secular pioneers who have in any way contributed to man's "humanization" by stressing life's spiritual and moral values. Rightly does Pinnock say that “liberals have sought to replace the idea of the Bible's infallibility as teaching from God with what they saw as proper respect for its human greatness" as "a classical witness of those in whose lives God once worked which can once again serve to alert us to his reality."

Liberalism held its greatest sway from the late 1800’s until the First World War – when the idea of a subjectivity that cannot describe anything, not even the poison gassing of men, as objectively sinful, fell out of favor, and out of the ashes of WW I arose…

Neoorthodoxy: For many theologians, equating subjective religious experience with divine revelation brought God too close to human beings, who were clearly capable of significant evil. Thus, some kind of objective message from God, the One who is transcendent and who can encounter individuals in their sinfulness, is necessary. Revelation and its expression in human words must be more than human insight into spiritual and moral things. In neoorthodoxy, revelation comes through events in which God personally encounters individuals. Neoorthodoxy often uses kergymatic and limited inerrancy to describe its view of the Scriptures.

The initiator of neoorthodoxy was Karl Barth (1886-1968), who embodied the neo-orthodox commitment that God exists and had made Himself known. The events through which God revealed himself include the saving acts of God in history such as the call of Abraham, the Exodus, and the person and work of Christ. God exists as a transcendent, holy God, who made Himself known in Christ. The Bible is a witness to the revelation of God in Christ, and Christ is the Word of God, not the Bible. The Bible does a pretty good job of witnessing to God, but is not inerrancy or a divine product. Therefore, since the Bible is a good witness to Christ, we should preach from it. In neoorthdoxy, however, the Scriptures are not revelation itself. God continues throughout history to use this original witness of the Scriptures to confront people in similar revelatory occasions in which he encounters individuals to reveal himself.

This “encounter” is referred to as God “speaking”, and its content is “the Word of God.” But this Word is never equated with human words, such as those in the Bible. Rather, the “Word” is personal, that is, God himself in revelation, and particularly Jesus Christ, the Word of God. This revealed Word encounters us not as information, but as God’s saving presence, and this calls for obedience, not assent to certain truths.

Barth represents not only the greatest of the neoorthodox thinkers, he also represents its most conservative. Even so, though Barth makes quite a meal of rejecting any formal ascription of inerrancy to the Bible and of affirming its "capacity for errors," he declines to identify particular mistakes in it, although he declares in general terms that there are some, both factual and religious. On the contrary, "while preaching the inerrancy of the Bible, Barth practices its inerrancy": his interpretations, while sometimes novel and unconvincing, are always presented as elucidations of the witness the text actually bears, without any suggestion that anything it says should be discounted as false. Evangelicals will applaud Barth's exegesis as correct in method, if not always in substance; but we must realize that by stating that the prophets and apostles erred in their writings, even if we cannot say where, Barth himself has made his exegetical method seem hazardous, arbitrary, and untrustworthy. It is impossible to maintain high doctrines of revelation and inspiration without at the same time being willing to defend in detail the veracity and historicity of the biblical writings. But here Barth fails us, and the effect of his failure is to make it seem unreasonable for anyone to trust the texts as he seems to. It must be recorded that other neoorthodox thinkers see this very clearly, and therefore do not so trust the Scriptures.

No self-respecting neoorthodox preacher would ever preface the reading of Scripture by saying, “We will now hear the Word of God.” That would be blasphemy, presuming to tell God when and to whom He is to speak. The neoorthodox view is that reality and truth are dynamic rather than static or substantive. Revelation is something that happens, not something that is. Thus, when the neoorthodox speak of revelation, they have in mind the process, not the product.

Historical-critical Theology: The third view of Scripture sees revelation not in or through history, but as history. These theologians, led by Wolfhart Pannenberg (1928-), state that God acts through history in such a way that the events actually were and are revelation of himself. They view the acts of God in history as literal, not figurative or metaphorical. The resurrection of Jesus, perhaps the supreme act of God in history, can be proved by reason, just as any other fact of history.

In HC Theology, the history discussed is not exclusively the events in Scripture, but all of history is considered the revelation of God. By doing so, the previously discussed differences between general and specific revelation are eliminated. In this view the revelation of God throughout history does not need the support of any supernatural revelatory Word. Rather, the manifestation of God is open to anyone. When we thoroughly investigate our world and our own human nature, using the best critical tools of modern scholarship, we recognize the reality of God by the light that his presence sheds on our experiences. The resurrection of Christ obviously has significance for human life – it proves that the God of Israel is the one true God. However, it’s further significance is not established, because history continues, as does the revelation of God.


All of these Modernist views of Scripture have four things in common. First, they are significantly different from the nearly 1800 years of Christian theology regarding Scripture prior to the Enlightenment. Second, they all accept human reason as the final criterion of truth. Even those who have a desire to have a Word that addresses humanity from outside still accept the conclusions of rationalistic scientific historical criticism in saying that the Bible has errors in it and is not the objective truth of God. Third, revelation is conveyed only indirectly through human religious subjectivism. Revelation may come through the exalted insight of human reason – individual or communal – through emotional religious experience, or through an encounter with God. This reason may be described as “illumination by the Spirit”, but it is reason nonetheless, revealed as such because it is almost always in exact agreement with the current cultural view of that time and place. But, revelation is never the direct communication of divine truth, coming to individuals as objective propositional teachings. Lastly, because this revelation is mediated indirectly and never objectively, it never communicates absolute truth. Its truth is always conditional in some way by its limited historical environment and it is therefore always relative. It is only claimed as truth when it cannot be measured in any fashion. Thus, in all cases above one can “follow Jesus” without believing anything specific.

Now that the alternate views of Scripture have been defined, I will finish the series with a post describing “The Need for Inerrancy.”

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:14-18)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

So Much For Tolerance!

I recently commented on a blog of a dear friend’s sister who was writing about her “de-conversion” from “christianity”. It is amazing to me that those who adhere to a belief strictly in a “gospel” of the good works of Christ and “humanitarian chrisitianity” while preaching tolerance and “being nice”, are some of the meanest and most intolerant people I have come across when they are challenged with opposing views. See for yourself- read the posts here (scroll down to the post for the 27th of September, "On not being a Christian" and previous posts on the subject, as well as comments) and see my comment below (which was rudely deleted so no one would have a clue that I was actually not the demon I was made out to be by her response!) Her comment back to me (currently viewable in the comments of the post, but may be deleted at any time) was, “Mrs. H - Do not EVER cross the cyber threshhold onto this blog again. EVER.” When asked “who is Mrs. H”, she wrote, “Someone who will lose this url if she has any sense (and her husband too).”

She pulled the same stunt with my husband last year, as he documented here (most of the details are in the posts he links to, one of which has conveniently been deleted). As I’ve said before, no matter how nicely and respectfully you present the truth to someone who doesn’t want to hear it, the truth hurts!!

Here was my comment:

Let me start by saying that I appreciate your honesty, openness, and genuiness. It is nice to see someone admit that there are non-negotiable beliefs that are required to be a Christian, and to see you admit that there are “Christians” who only believe and practice the humanitarian aspects of who Christ was.

I am wondering what you think of this verse in light of your comment that the gospel message “doesn’t make sense” to you. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1: 18-20)

Here is an example that may help it to make more sense to you:

What do you value more than anything on this Earth? Your own life? Maybe. The life of your child? Definitely. God loved us so much that to reconcile us to Him He came to Earth and sent His precious only Son to be tortured, mocked and crucified to take the punishment for our sins when we repent and trust in Christ. He loves you so much, Jennifer, even when you turn away from Him, that He died for you to have eternal life when you believe in Him. I know you already know all this, but it’s one thing to have head knowledge, and another thing entirely to have that knowledge applied to your heart. There is no hope apart from Jesus Christ. There’s no other path that leads to God apart from Christ. “Humanitarian ‘christians’” are not saved will not be in heaven because there is not one who does good, no, not one. Our works can’t save us, only Jesus’ blood can.

It saddens me to see your friends simply giving you a pat on the back as you “bravely” deny the only source of salvation- Jesus Christ. I know your sister loves and cares for you and is praying for you, and I am, too.

I hope you don’t take offense to this, but what makes you think you were ever really “Christian” in the first place? Did you ever have a deep and personal relationship with Jesus Christ? If you say yes, then you are admittedly denying the Lord. I’m not even sure if this is possible, since this is blasphemy of the Spirit. If you say “no” or “I’m not sure” (which probably means you didn’t), then you never really “de-converted” from anything, because you never had a regeneration or rebirth experience in the first place. I am praying you will come to know the Lord as you search for answers.

(End of comment)

My husband also commented, with this simple word:

“Thank you for your intellectual honesty, Jennifer. It is refreshing. I will pray for you as you continue on your journey.”

She deleted that as well.

It’s no coincidence that I heard a sermon this week by Alistair Begg where he said, “Don’t be surprised when you stand firm on the word of God and boldly proclaim the truth that people will say to you, ‘Who do you think you are?! You arrogant…’

Remember Jesus’ words: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’” (John 15:18-24)