Thoughtful post here from Trevin Wax on those who want to avoid the word inerrancy because it carries too much baggage.

The conclusion:

We’re not choosing between using terms that have baggage or not. We’re choosing what kind of baggage we want to carry.

I’d rather run the risk of being associated with those who hold a literalistic interpretation of Scripture than with those who deny central articles of the faith. (And without seeking to demean the motives of people who don’t like “inerrancy,” I wonder how much of our current aversion to the term is a self-conscious attempt to distance ourselves from some of our forefathers in the faith.)

Dumping the term while upholding the content may appear sophisticated and nuanced, but I believe it breeds more confusion than clarity. So, I’ll continue to affirm inerrancy. I”ll continue to teach it, to properly qualify it, and to reclaim it. To my friends who still don’t like the label, your baggage looks heavier to me.

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Comments:


49 thoughts on “Inerrancy and Baggage”

  1. Daryl says:

    That’s a really good article, well worth reading

    In my experience, people who so easily chuck the term inerrancy, do it because they think is says too much about Scripture.
    That is, they know that it leaves them with a young earth and a floating axehead and a world-wide flood.

    If anything, the problem with the term is that it says too little. Hence the needed definitions.

    Without inerrancy, infallibility and inspiration mean little more than “really really good book with lots of good things to say about God and us”.

    If that’s all we’ve got, we need a different book.

  2. Jesus Christ is God; ergo, John 17:17 is true; ergo, the Scripture is without error in its original manuscripts!

    Thanks for this blog. It is a constant encouragement to me.

  3. Alan Kurschner says:

    There is something to say as well for the term “Calvinist.” Some want to avoid the term because of the commonly-heard reason, “many misunderstand the term,” or the like. But that is precisely why we need to use the term. I know that many non-reformed people have a caricature of Calvinism; therefore, I invoke the term in conversation and listen to their ensuing consternation. It allows me _the opportunity to correct their misunderstanding_ and share the beauty of Calvinism.

    If I had never used the term “Calvinist,” there would many individuals out there right now that would have continued in their caricature of Calvinism.

    So use “I am a Calvinist” as a conversation piece.

  4. J Lo says:

    I would be interested to read a good summary of what “inerrancy” pushes us to affirm in our reading of Scripture and why one might subscribe to it. I will be honest and say that it is something I used to believe growing up, but my opinion changed as I dove more deeply into reading my Bible and learning about historical criticism. Still, I’m afraid that I might be caricaturing those who hold to it, and Alan brings up a good point about not doing that. Any recommendations on what to read (hopefully something semi-brief since I’m in the middle of a semester!) or anyone willing to take a stab at it?

    Also, Lanny, I would argue that that verse says more about our sanctification in Christ (the Word) than the nature of the biblical manuscripts. But that’s just me playing devil’s advocate. :)

    1. Andrew Cowan says:

      J Lo,

      There is an essay titled “The Meaning of Inerrancy” by Paul Feinberg in the book Inerrancy edited by Norman Geisler. If I remember correctly, it is fairly helpful in describing what the term is intended to affirm/deny and what it is not intended to affirm/deny. Regarding why one might subscribe to inerrancy, I can’t think of any favorite brief resources off the top of my head, but perhaps you may want to consult some of the essays in Scripture and Truth, edited by D.A. Carson and John Woodbridge. I read both of those books in college, so it has been a while, but at the time I found them both immensely helpful.

      1. J Lo says:

        Thanks, Andrew. I will look into those.

  5. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    I totally agree with Trevin Wax.

    Thanks for posting this, JT.

  6. dw says:

    I use the word, affirm it (when nuanced properly, as in the Chicago Statement), but don’t see it quite as cut and dry as Wax does. The baggage with the term ‘inerrancy’ isn’t just literalism. I have no problem being called a literalist (when the word is properly nuanced, again). However, though the term has a long history, I fear the word carries baggage now that it didn’t then as a result of the Enlightenment. It now carries connotations of precision and certainty that I don’t think it initially did. Words change in meaning, which is why we don’t usually refer to bundles of sticks as a fagot anymore. So, while I affirm that Scripture is without error, and continue to use the word ‘inerrant’, I think Wax needs a little more nuance. It may be that the baggage gets in the way of us stating our case clearly. All this nuancing gets exhausting.

  7. Daryl says:

    It seems to me, that whatever the term is, so long as it ends up not allowing someone to read the text of Scripture, understand what it’s saying, and then say “That bit there, is wrong.”

    I don’t think any other term says that so plainly as inerrancy. And really, I think that’s precisely why so many people don’t like the term.

  8. Al Bennington says:

    I don’t believe the bible is inerrant because I don’t want the baggage of psalm 137:9 as well as others. I want to be very clear and say that I believe there is moral error expressed in this verse and other types of errors in other verses. I affirm the bible as a witness to Christ. That in the bible which is rendered questionable by him, i drop like yesterday’s newspaper.
    You will say that Jesus affirmed all the old testament as the word of God, but I would say he embraced it in ways which necessarily rendered parts of it obsolete. Which parts you say? It’ll take awhile to sort that out.

  9. Raja Dani says:

    Al,

    So your fallen moral intuitions are the final judge with regard to what exactly is the true Word of God and what isn’t? Can you let us know which parts of our Bibles we can trust once you sort it all out?

    Thanks

    1. Al Bennington says:

      Raja,
      well, we all have fallen moral intuitions that we must use, so welcome to the club. But we must let these intuitions be informed and re-formed by Jesus. There’s alot in the bible and it must be carefully read in light of Christ. My comment on it taking awhile to sort out is another way to say that all of us are trying to read it in light of Jesus and come to different conclusions, and have different understandings of what it means to read scripture that way. Here’s an example of how I try to do it:
      Can I picture Jesus carrying out alot of things that the OT affirms? Can I picture Jesus carrying out psalm 137:9 at his first OR second coming or approving of those who do? If my answer is no (which it is), then I think we should confidently say it’s an error. We also have no record of Jesus ever killing gay people, adulterers, rebellious children, idolators, or those who picked up sticks on the sabbath, or approving of those who did. According to his OT, he should have done this but he didn’t. So I think those parts need to be dismissed. And committing genocide because “God said so” needs to be thoroughly deconstructed.

      1. Raja Dani says:

        I see, you deny the Trinity.

        Thanks for the clarification.

        1. Al Bennington says:

          Raja,
          No, where did that come from?

          1. Raja Dani says:

            Well, you couldn’t imagine Jesus requiring animal sacrifices, right? You couldn’t imagine him killing Uzziah for touching the ark of the covenant either, right? So, we must dismiss those portions of the Bible too, correct?

            And actually, believers don’t use their fallen moral intuitions so much as that they are filled with the Holy Spirit and are guided into all the truth by Him.

            And since God is good, we know that He has a purpose for whatsoever He does, a greater good than the evil that He plans or allows. I mean, if the sons of Edom referred to in Psalm 137:7-9 had their way, they would have destroyed the line of David that was the line of Jesus. Yet, you seem to find the inspired Psalmist’s words offensive.

            You set yourself up as judge of God’s Word, rather than you being judged by it.

            1. Al Bennington says:

              Raja,
              I bet Jesus did offer sacrifices, though there’s no mention of it. No big deal there. I admit that the uzzah story is a difficult one, though there could be some interpretation going on by the author.
              I have no disagreement about the holy spirit’s leading us into truth, but we still see as in a glass darkly for now because we are not fully set free.
              You know that the babies described in psalm 137 would have grown up to kill david’s ancestors one day?
              We all have to “judge God’s word” in the sense that all of us must decide how to respond to the content of the bible. When your commitment to the inerrant-word-of-God view causes you to have to find ways to defend throwing babies against rocks, then you need to start asking questions.
              If we can’t call that evil, then how can we really know anything anymore?

  10. Raja Dani says:

    Al,

    How would Jesus offer sacrifices when he is without sin? I was referring to Jesus requiring sacrifices, as God does in the OT. With regard to Uzzah, if the author is offering his personal interpretation then Scripture is not inspired by the Holy Spirit.

    I think you missed the point about Psalm 137. Of course “throwing babies against rocks” is evil, except that God had a greater good in mind, namely the preservation of the human ancestral line of Jesus. The sons of Edom were seeking to wipe out the Israelites.

    We do not all “have to judge” God’s Word. We accept it as a whole and seek to understand and apply it. We are judged by it, not the other way around. We see in a glass darkly in the sense that we do not yet fully know as we will one day know, however, we are led by the One who illuminates our understanding of the truth.

    If you reject inerrancy, you cherry pick those things that seem nice to you and reject everything else. The problem is, you handicap yourself with regard to knowing God as He has revealed Himself, because you don’t think He is really like this or that. You make God in your own image. You cannot avoid doing this given your a priori commitments.

    You should rather seek to understand Scripture within its own context. Then Psalm 137 won’t be much of a hurdle for you…

    1. Al Bennington says:

      Raja,
      Of course Jesus was without sin so he didn’t need to offer sacrifices. And technically it would have been a priest carrying it out. I meant that I imagine that he participated in all aspects of the covenant community and temple worship as a good jew and i have no hang ups with that.
      No, I think you’re missing the point on psalm 137. In your view, the holy spirit inspired the author to say that dashing infants against the rocks is a blessed activity. The author of psalm 137 would disagree with you that this activity is evil. He calls the person blessed who does this. He’s happy about it happening. And your view of inspiration says that what the bible writer says, God says.
      Your “judgment” on the bible is that you judge the protestant magisterium’s position on the bible to be correct. We all have to decide what our position is on the bible’s authority – we accept a evangelical view or we don’t, so yes, we all have to pass some sort of “judgment” on the bible.
      I believe that my view of the bible is closer to the view of those who actually wrote it. For example, Luke makes it clear in his introduction that he has done his best at going to the sources to craft a faithful account of the life and teaching of Jesus so that his message can be spread. I am thankful for luke’s hard work. But notice that he doesn’t say – “and remember, everything I say is just as good as if it were coming from the very mouth of God.” I doubt he believed that. If he did, it would have been very convenient for him to remind his readers of that. I don’t think Paul did that either – 2 Timothy 3:16 doesn’t actually fulfill the scope that evangelicals have assigned to it.
      We have a fundamentally different view of the bible and neither of us is going to “win” in this blog discussion.
      Jesus accepted the authority of the OT as a witness to himself, and he did it in such a way that he did not leave it in the condition as he found it. His fulfillment of the OT left it unrecognizable as it stood in many places. I am trying to read the bible the way Jesus read it and so i necessarily leave things behind. You should too. It strains normal language and authorial intent past the breaking point to deny the author of psalm 137 was happy about killing infants in a violent way. It would be helpful for Christians to stand united and unanimously distance ourselves from these types of things.

      1. Raja Dani says:

        Al,

        The Holy Spirit inspired the words of Psalm 137, and fulfilling God’s judgment against the sons of Edom was a blessed thing. You’ll notice it doesn’t say that Christians should smash babies against rocks in general, nor does it have any perpetual moral obligation attached to it whatsoever. It is specifically in reference to the Israelites response to the intention of a wicked pagan people who tried to wipe out the chosen of God. You muddled in your thinking, even though you think you’re taking the moral highground.

        Protestants don’t have a Magisterium, I am getting my position from the Scriptures themselves. I could make the case, but that is beyond the scope of these comments.

        Your view is closer to the serpent’s view than the writers of the Bible. “Has God said…?” seems to be your working doctrine of the Scriptures. Whether or not Luke, or any other biblical writer, was aware that he was writing the very words of God is irrelevant to the doctrine of inspiration or inerrancy.

        I don’t intend to “win” anything, I just intend to defend the truth as God gives me wisdom and grace.

        If the Bible is not inerrant, what basis does Jesus have to claim that the OT is a witness to him? How does that even make sense? You are definitely not reading the Bible as Jesus did, for He left none of it behind. He fulfilled it, and corrected misunderstandings of it.

        It would be helpful for Christians to be united in their belief in the Scriptures, their thoughtful and prayerful approach to understanding them, and unanimously distance themselves from a pretend god of their own imagination.

        1. Al Bennington says:

          Raja,
          Indeed I do claim the moral high ground over the author of psalm 137. So should you. You agree that it’s evil. Those babies would not be trying to wipe anyone out. It’s amazing that you continue to defend such ideology – you are trying to justify the psalmists sentiments by completely turning the tables. You try to paint this violence as if it were a just response to some terrible oppressor – while it is the author of the psalm that is promoting the atrocity here. It is your thinking that is muddled. If Christians shouldn’t smash babies against the wall, then neither should the followers of the living God in any generation.
          And the scriptures act as the protestant magesterium. The trouble is that they were written by fallible humans who are equally capable of creating God in their own image. It seems all too obvious that they fell into that trap at times. You don’t have only one pope, but you have all the writers of the bible as your papacy. Nowhere does Jesus commission the writing of the NT. And a verse in the bible (which i don’t think we have) that says all the bible is the inspired inerrant word of God wouldn’t do anyway. That would be a circular argument. And I am only talking like the serpent if we assume that the bible is what you think it is. I don’t share that assumption.
          We take seriously the studied testimony of fallible humans all the time without ascribing them divine infallibility. Jesus didn’t need the OT to be inerrant for it to bear faithful witness to him, nor do I need the bible to be inerrant for it to lead me to Jesus. There are christians all over the world and in all time periods who do not believe in inerrancy yet faitfully follow Christ.

          1. Stephanie says:

            Al, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul addresses some of these issues that you’ve brought up. You might read it.

          2. Raja Dani says:

            Al,

            I see, you are holier than the Holy Spirit (who inspired the Psalm in question), you deny that God has the right to pronounce judgment against pagans who attempted to wipe out His people, you know which parts of the Word of God should be believed and obeyed, and you know what Jesus thought about the OT Scriptures. Got it.

            Please keep us abreast of the latest developments so we know what to do to follow Jesus. Perhaps a newsletter is in order?

            Thanks

            1. J Lo says:

              I think you’ve both lost track of the point. This is a lament psalm. Its fundamental task is not to recount history or propose a plan of action; its purpose is to express negative human emotion in a way that ultimately yields its desired action to God’s better judgment. The psalmist is upset, because the enemy has taken Jerusalem, sent her people into exile, and likely killed many (including the babes of Israel) by smashing them against rocks. This is more of an expression of “They did it to us, and I hope someone does the same to them one day.” Really, when you think about it like that, it’s an extension of “eye for an eye.” (Al, you were right to point out that this is one of the parts of the law that Jesus modified during His ministry.) But the psalmist is not encouraging anyone to undertake them, nor is he promoting them. He’s venting. Also, God is not the speaker here pronouncing a judgment, Raja. The psalmist is trusting in God’s better judgment by asking God to “remember” these actions and bring the enemy to justice. Any attempts to justify our future actions or Israel’s past actions on such a passage seems invalid.

              Al, if it would have been me making this overall argument I would have gone with the 2 varied creation accounts in Genesis or the differing accounts of the “Last Week” in the 4 gospels as testimony against “inerrancy” rather than a psalm.

              Raja, Jesus did not need to rely on any theory of inerrancy to bolster any of His claims. As Son of God, He has plenty of authority without having to derive it from any external party – even the witness of Scripture. Also, based on your completely uncharitable reading of Al’s comments and your tendency to read crazy conclusions (denying the Trinity for example) into the text, I would be uncomfortable following your lead when it comes to reading anything, especially the Bible.

              Tim, that goes for your “Dittos” too. :)

              1. It doesn’t matter, really, what you use to deny inerrancy, or what you use to justify yourself as the supreme moral arbiter of what is right and good. That position is self-deification — it seeks to posit the individual as the final and lasting decider of what is true; no Scripture, no testimony, no evidence by design — you and you alone decide what is right for all time. Again, self-deification.

                It is worth stating that Jesus appealed to and quoted the OT on many occasions. If the OT is not inerrant, then the hearers of his words (and us) have no reason to assume that his claim is valid. After all, those words were just copyist errors, or obsolete text, or, or, or…anything but the truth.

                And as for varying accounts, that argument has been completely and forever blown out of the water by Lee Strobel. If your position is “The Bible is contradictory — prove to me that it isn’t!”, that is the direct opposite of “I trust God; help me understand.” It is vanity speaking, not humble ignorance.

              2. Raja Dani says:

                J Lo,

                Since it is the Holy Spirit that inspired the Scriptures, and Al denies such inspiration and asserts that God in the OT could not be as He has revealed Himself, because he “couldn’t imagine” Jesus doing this or that which God did in the OT, he is effectively denying the Trinity.

                Secondly, since this pronouncement of blessing upon those who would smash the babies of the sons of Edom on the rocks was spoken by the Psalmist and inspired by the Holy Spirit, it is a pronouncement of judgment.

                Furthermore, without inerrancy you don’t even know what Jesus’ claims really are. You only pick the ones that sound nice to you, but perhaps you’re wrong. How do we know what God has said, and what He has not said?

                Care to elaborate?

                Thanks

              3. J Lo says:

                I can’t speak to Al’s theory of inspiration, because I just don’t know. I think that your argument about denying the Trinity is an interesting place to end up from his comments about this psalm. I don’t exactly follow the logic. However, I think you’re making some points that our knowledge of God the Father is dependent on the OT witness being inerrant and that if we put up such a dividing wall between Jesus and the Father we are negating the unity of the Trinity. Please let me know if I got that wrong. I wouldn’t argue with the latter point, but I would revise the former with the word “reliable” in place of “inerrant” (just as 2 Tim. 3:16 says!). I would also add that denying the OT witness does not necessarily mean a denial of the Trinity. In my mind, such a picture would be extremely deficient, but the revelation of Christ is our ultimate revelation of the Trinity. We only know the Father through Christ’s relationship with the Father (as Barth would say). Although I wouldn’t, someone could still affirm a weakened version of the Trinity in theory from the NT alone.

                I think you’re right that there are judgments going on here, but I think we read those judgments differently. This is not God ordering violence, though clearly the Edomites are guilty. The Holy Spirit has inspired the psalmist to see the injustice of what has happened here and to seek justice. Yet, while the psalmist believes that this justice is best served by doing to the Edomites what they had done to Israel (killing infants) and that it would be a blessed thing to be able to carry out that justice, ultimately the Spirit leads the psalmist to the conclusion that justice belongs to God. That’s why he asks God to remember what the Edomites did. That doesn’t exactly sound like sanctioning violence to me, but a reminder that vengeance is the Lord’s.

                Finally, I think there is more to biblical criticism than picking what sounds nice to me. In fact, I find a lot of Jesus’ sayings troubling and have no intention of throwing them away. I’ll be honest and say that I’m still struggling every day to find the appropriate way to approach Scripture. Even inerrantists disagree with one another about what a particular passage means. It’s their presupposition about inerrancy that seems to unite them. Furthermore, even inerrantists pick and choose. I’d be curious to know if you follow every word in the Levitical code or if you allow women to speak in church at all, wear jewelry, etc. If not, what’s your justification for leaving those words behind? Or getting back to Jesus: what do you do with the difference of “Blessed are the poor” v. “Blessed are the poor in spirit”? Granted, that’s a minor issue. Yet, any harmonization isn’t exactly a reading of Scripture but a reading into Scripture since Scripture says two different (though not very different) things.

                For that matter, which version of the Bible is inerrant? If every single word is correct, I need to know which translation because no two are the same. If it’s KJV, what about the manuscripts in the original languages? Every translation is an interpretation of sorts. If it’s the original manuscript, we can’t talk about inerrancy because we don’t have it. Why wouldn’t God safeguard its preservation?

                Do you care to elaborate?

          3. Christians all over the world who faithfully follow Christ, but cannot claim that the Bible is inerrant will always fold when asked to defend positions which are unpopular at any given time; really, you can see that pretty obviously when it comes to male headship. Oh we don’t like those verses, so those are out! Abortion causes the same emphasis. And so does the desire to sleep around. On and on it goes, with verses discarded to allow people to create (not follow) Jesus in their own image. Jesus, in the end, means nothing to these people because there is no agreement on who he is, or even if he existed at all.

            So of course it follows that we can be enlightened Christians, because we don’t believe all of that nasty, outdated, evil words that the Scriptures really contain. Of course we follow Christ, but really, we follow ourselves first, because we decide what is right and true, and if you need any guidance, ask us — we know.

            1. Al Bennington says:

              InRussetShadows,
              you and Raja have clearly demonstrated that fundamentalism is fatally flawed and will fail generation after generation. Instead of reasonable interaction, you become sarcastic and belittle those who hold differing opinions, asserting that the real reason we don’t agree with you is that our morals are weaker than yours and we need an excuse. I find it curious that you would bring up abortion in a discussion where I have been the one denouncing the slaughter of innocent babies.
              You need to reconsider your argument that I am guilty of self-deification, saying that I set myself up as the final authority. Your position suffers great weakness at this very point.
              In your inerrancy view, unless the bible, which was written by humans, measures up to your standard of perfection, then you don’t think Jesus is worth following. You write: “It is worth stating that Jesus appealed to and quoted the OT on many occasions. If the OT is not inerrant, then the hearers of his words (and us) have no reason to assume that his claim is valid.”
              You have set up your own rules that God has to play by in order for you to take him seriously. God doesn’t have to play by your rules.
              And you put an artificial stumbling stone in the paths of believers. When, in their own reading of the bible, they come across something which they don’t know how to harmonize to perfection, they immediately face a crisis of faith. Either that, or they rely on their feeble attempts at harmonization so that they can keep believing without having to deal with the implications that arise from the possibility of a non-inerrant text.
              And Lee Strobel has not “completely and forever blown” anything out of the water. I don’t recall him arguing for inerrancy in “the case for Christ”, and one of his main sources for the book, Bruce Metzger, is not an inerrantist. You are going to have to go deeper than your local Christian bookstore if you are going to engage the broader world on these issues. There is a generation of post-christian, post-modern young people out there who have left fundamentalism far behind. If you want to reach them, which I’m sure you do, then you are going to have to re-examine your entire approach to scripture or at least the way you hold you views and engage with those who disagree.

              1. Raja Dani says:

                Al,

                The sarcasm has a point, but apparently it was lost on you.

                The inerrancy of Scripture has nothing to do with what *my* standard of perfection is. If man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that falls from the mouth of God, then we’re in big trouble because neither you nor I know for sure exactly what that word is (under your position on the Bible).

                Trying to poison the well with prejorative terms like “fundamentalism” isn’t going to further your argument at all.

                You deny that God has spoken, unless His words get filtered through you and gain your approval. Either that or it’s left to every man to decide for himself just what God has said, and of course no two men (or women) will agree on that.

                Your problem, outside of your unbelief, is that you don’t like the God of the Bible. Which is certainly problematic in the most profound and serious way possible.

            2. J Lo says:

              Sometimes I get passionate about an argument and come on a little stronger than I meant to. If I came across as saying “Prove this, and I won’t believe it until you do,” I sincerely apologize for it. I am simply trying to work out my faith with much fear and trembling. I used to be as conservative as they come, and it scared me to leave that behind, but I personally could not continue to affirm those principles. My life’s prayer since college has been “I believe; help my unbelief.”

              I won’t argue that self-deification doesn’t happen in some circles. It does. I think that Bible-deification or bibliolatry happens as well. When Christ is only authoritative insofar as he agrees with the “inerrant” words he quotes, that is the same as saying that the Bible holds authority over Christ. I would argue that the Bible derives its truth and authority from its witness to the Word that is Christ, not the other way around.

              Furthermore, even most of the inerrantists I know pick and choose which texts to follow. Do you eat shellfish? Do you wear poly-cotton blends? Do you allow women to wear jewelry in worship, worship without a veil, or even speak in the assembly? I may be guilty of self-deification at times, but I would argue that even the most careful “inerrantist” is as well. After all, we are all sinners.

              Finally, one does not have to affirm inerrancy to affirm the authority of the Bible. There is a vast gulf that separates the “No errors” cry from the “Only errors” position. I affirm neither. Keep in mind that the word “inerrancy” never shows up in the Bible, and it seems to me like that has been read into 2 Tim 3:16 to make it say something different than it does. I affirm the trustworthiness and reliability of the Bible in the same way that I would an inspired human messenger (though more so with the Bible) – little details may be accidents of human origin, but the overall message is divine and something around which I can live my life. It’s still true and authoritative, but I have to do the hard work of discerning what is what through the Spirit. Again, I think everybody does this – even hardcore inerrantists.

  11. Tim Bushong says:

    Raja- kudos to you- great points. “Dittos”!

  12. Al Bennington says:

    Raja,
    You write:
    “You deny that God has spoken, unless His words get filtered through you and gain your approval. Either that or it’s left to every man to decide for himself just what God has said, and of course no two men (or women) will agree on that.

    Your problem, outside of your unbelief, is that you don’t like the God of the Bible. Which is certainly problematic in the most profound and serious way possible.”

    You need to realize and come to grips with the reality that your position includes the presuppostion that everything in the 66 books of the bible come directly from the mouth of God. And that is the very point where we disagree. You cannot therefore claim that I deny that God has spoken or that I am in “unbelief.” The correct thing to say is that I don’t agree with your position, which is the evangelical position on the bible. That is not the same thing as saying I deny that God has spoken or that I don’t believe.
    While I think you’re wrong, I haven’t accused you of unbelief because you don’t share all of my presuppostions (which is one of the defining marks of fundamentalism – saying that anyone who doesn’t share your assumptions isn’t a believer). And that’s exactly what you’re doing.
    And it would also be more correct to say that I don’t resonate with all of the understandings of God that are found in the bible. I believe Jesus corrected some of the misunderstandings of God which can be detected in the OT and even continued to exist in some parts of the NT. That is not the same thing as saying I don’t like God. Like J Lo (and many others) I am constantly in the process of trying to understand how to deal with the all the literature in the bible in a way that is faithful to Jesus. And this is a journey in which there are many questions that are not easily answered and are not satisfactorally accounted for by the inerrantist position.
    Your position denies that God has spoken unless he renders biblical authors infallable. God doesn’t need to ask us what criteria he needs to use in order to speak to us. He speaks, period. The way he has spoken most clearly is the life, ministry, words, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The bible is of supreme and essential value because it is THE faithful witness to him. We would be dead, lost, and hopeless without the words in the bible. I have spent the last 15 years of my life dedicated to retelling the story found in the bible – I am a preacher of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and I have served two churches in a full-time capacity since I went to grad school to study the Bible. You need to develop a category for people who love the trinitarian God revealed in Jesus, love the gospel and haven’t sold out just because they don’t see things the way you do and use your vocabulary. And many, many other people need to learn that lesson too.

    1. Raja Dani says:

      Al,

      You said:

      “You need to realize and come to grips with the reality that your position includes the presuppostion that everything in the 66 books of the bible come directly from the mouth of God. And that is the very point where we disagree.”

      Excellent summation of the obvious.

      You said:

      “You cannot therefore claim that I deny that God has spoken or that I am in “unbelief.”

      Of course I can. You don’t *believe* that God has spoken unless He gets your imprimatur. It’s only God’s Word if Al says it is.

      You said:

      “While I think you’re wrong, I haven’t accused you of unbelief because you don’t share all of my presuppostions…”

      Well, you can’t very well accuse me of *unbelief* because I believe the Scriptures. If there is any unbelief on my part, it’s unbelief in Al’s position on the Scriptures (i.e. Al determines what God really said).

      You said:

      “which is one of the defining marks of fundamentalism – saying that anyone who doesn’t share your assumptions isn’t a believer). And that’s exactly what you’re doing.”

      Throwing around perjorative terms, as I said earlier, doesn’t further your argument. It has nothing to do with my *assumptions* or “fundamentalism”, it has to do with your rejection of Scripture.

      You said:

      “And it would also be more correct to say that I don’t resonate with all of the understandings of God that are found in the bible. I believe Jesus corrected some of the misunderstandings of God which can be detected in the OT and even continued to exist in some parts of the NT. That is not the same thing as saying I don’t like God”

      No, it’s correct to say that you reject the God who has revealed Himself in the Bible. You accept Jesus’ *corrections* as long as they line up with your judgment. That is the same thing as saying you “don’t like the God who is”, just the God that pleases you.

      You said:

      “I am constantly in the process of trying to understand how to deal with the all the literature in the bible in a way that is faithful to Jesus. And this is a journey in which there are many questions that are not easily answered and are not satisfactorally accounted for by the inerrantist position.”

      You mean “in the process” of trying undermine Scripture and making it fit into your preconceived notions of what God could possibly be like.

      You said:

      “Your position denies that God has spoken unless he renders biblical authors infallable. God doesn’t need to ask us what criteria he needs to use in order to speak to us. He speaks, period. The way he has spoken most clearly is the life, ministry, words, death, and resurrection of Jesus.”

      My position is that God has spoken in the Scriptures and that man could not live by every word that falls from His mouth if he doesn’t know what that word is (unless he first checks with Al). How would you even know about Jesus’ life and ministry without Scripture? Apparently, the Gospels get Al’s stamp of approval.

      You said:

      “The bible is of supreme and essential value because it is THE faithful witness to him”

      You certainly have an odd view of divine inspiration as well as J Lo. It’s faithful and it’s supposed to be telling us the truth, but it’s wrong throughout. That certainly instills a lot of confidence in God, doesn’t it?

      You said:

      “I have spent the last 15 years of my life dedicated to retelling the story found in the bible – I am a preacher of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and I have served two churches in a full-time capacity since I went to grad school to study the Bible.”

      That’s truly sad. A minister of the gospel who doesn’t believe the Bible. I hope the faith of those dear sheep was not decimated by your unbelief.

      You said:

      “You need to develop a category for people who love the trinitarian God revealed in Jesus, love the gospel and haven’t sold out just because they don’t see things the way you do and use your vocabulary.”

      I do, unbelievers or Christians with little faith and grace.

      1. Al Bennington says:

        Raja,

        Here’s how your thinking works: Raja’s position is God’s position.
        Therefore anyone who disagrees with Raja disagrees with God. Therefore Raja can never be wrong. And Raja gets to triumphantly tell everyone who disagrees with him that they are an unbeliever or dangerous or a heretic. This way of thinking has not produced good fruit throughout history.

        Reality works this way: Al disagrees with Raja’s view, Raja disagrees with Al’s view. Someone is right and someone is wrong in this discussion (lest you accuse me of relativism which I’m sure you’re keen to do). We will find out one day. The truth is out there. I could be wrong. I can admit that possibility.

        But you are using an invincible rhetorical power play. You have constructed an imaginary world in which it is impossible for you to be wrong. Dialogue is impossible with someone who can’t admit that their view might need some correction.

        I can’t continue to have a conversation with you (who could?) in a discussion where it is impossible for you to be wrong. I can’t submit to your rules of engagement.
        Peace.

        1. Raja Dani says:

          Al,

          This is not “my” position on the inerrancy of Scripture, it is the orthodox position. Just ask Justin Taylor, or anyone else here. You’re just attempting to frame it as “my” position, but it doesn’t aid your argument.

          Reality works this way: You assert an unorthodox position on Scripture, then you actually have to argue for that position instead of simply denying inerrancy with your opinion in lieu of an argument.

          This has nothing to do with my ability to be wrong. I’m wrong all the time, however, you still haven’t disproved inerrancy or mounted an argument for Al’s doctrine of divine inspiration.

          You can pursue your exit strategy, but I don’t think requiring you to make a cogent argument for denying biblical inerrancy is an unreasonable rule of engagement. Unless, of course, you can’t really mount one.

          Best,
          RD

  13. Raja Dani says:

    J Lo,

    Of course our knowledge of God the Father is dependent on the OT being inerrant. What do you think the Jews thought? You replace “inerrant” with “reliable” to make the OT palatable, otherwise you would toss it over your shoulder like any other religious book. Denial of the OT witness is denial of the Trinitarian God, and a rejection of Jesus Christ as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. Without the OT witness, you have a warped understanding of Messiah and a truncated view of Christ, plain and simple.

    The issue of the Levitical code and women speaking in church, Bible translations, etc. are just red herrings.

    The fact is, what you like in the Bible you say, “This is the Word of God” and what you don’t like you say, “This is the word of men”. In the end, you get to make up the God you like, and discard the God who is…

    1. J Lo says:

      Any knowledge we have of God is dependent on the revelation of Jesus Christ. While Christ reveals Himself primarily through the Bible (and I agree this necessarily includes the OT), this also occurs through the inherited tradition of the Church and direct encounter by the power of the Holy Spirit. It seems to me like you are putting the Bible on equal (perhaps superior) footing with Christ when you suggest that it is the only way one can come to knowledge of God. It is our most reliable source and the one that must norm all others, but not the only source.

      In fact, my use of “reliability” comes closer to the verbage of 2 Tim 3:16 than does your use of “inerrancy.” Technically, inerrantists are the ones replacing terms unless you can show me where it is found in Scripture. It did not even come into usage until the modern period, which suggests that is the attempt by modern Christians to make the Bible more palatable in light of scientific and historical claims.

      It seems like the issues I brought up are only red herrings because you do not know how to answer them. By avoiding the question it appears that you are just as guilty of picking and choosing as anyone else. I acknowledge a mystery that you replace with false certainty, so who is making God into his own image after all?

      1. Raja Dani says:

        J Lo,

        The only infallible and inerrant revelation of Jesus Christ we have is the Scriptures. Neither church tradition (as useful as it may be), nor our subjective experience of the Holy Spirit is to be unquestioned or unexamined under the light of Scripture. I never said that special revelation is the *only* way one can come to the knowledge of God, unbelievers are held accountable because they have natural revelation. However, neither unbelievers or we ourselves can come to know Him unless He reveals Himself to us.

        If you assert the self-testimony of Scripture is simply that it’s “reliable”, but not “inerrant” you have a very odd position on divine inspiration.

        Your red herrings are certainly answerable, are you kidding? However, they are not pertinent to this subject and I don’t have time to run off on your rabbit trails. God has spoken clearly in His Word. You deny that He has except where it suits you…

        1. J Lo says:

          Raja,

          Judging from the amount of words both of us have contributed in these comments, I don’t think time is the issue with the “red herrings.” Again, I would suggest that the burden of proof for replacing reliable/ trustworthy/etc. with “inerrant” in 2 Tim 3:16 falls on those who would suggest the change. Odd for the non-inerrantist to make that point. It seems I’m the one seeking clarity here, and you’re the one denying it where it suits you.

          I would also like to point out that unbelievers being held accountable because they can gain knowledge of God through natural revelation completely contradicts the notion that we can only come to know God through God’s special revelation. While you affirm this explicitly, you fall prey to this inconsistency in the last sentence of the first paragraph. It seems as if you only have a use for natural revelation when it comes to discussions about holding unbelievers accountable.

          I have done what you asked Al to do in mounting an argument against inerrancy, but you’ve refused to engage it. Unless you do, this will be our last exchange until the next controversial issue emerges.

          Peace.

          1. Raja Dani says:

            J Lo,

            So your argument is that you think a Bible with errors asserts *without error* in 2 Tim 3:16 that it is only “reliable”, but not inerrant. Given your premise, my counter argument is that 2 Tim. 3:16 is in wrong in this regard and that it is only Paul’s interpretation.

            Your position is refuted with a simple internal critique which reduces it to mere subjective opinion on your part.

            Not much to engage. Care to try again?

            1. J Lo says:

              Raja,

              I think you’ve misunderstood my overall point that inerrancy puts a claim on the Bible that the text does not make for itself. You may think that my reading of any verse of Scripture, therefore, becomes self-defeating. Fine. Still, all you’ve successfully proven is that one can affirm inerrancy if you’re willing to reduce 2 Tim 3:16-17 to the subjective opinion of Paul. You’ve not actually shown how you would argue for inerrancy from your own premise, which was my question. Is that really the way you want to counter my argument?

              Furthermore, your argument is also self-defeating. If the very words of the Bible are completely sufficient and without error, then why must you add a word (inerrant) to them to get your point across? Shouldn’t a literal reading of the text suffice?

              Finally, in terms of logic, saying that the Bible contains some errors is not the same as saying the Bible contains only errors. (By the way, usually I speak of these as “tensions” not errors. These tensions are, however, too blatant for me to affirm what most inerrantists want to affirm.) My agenda is not to reduce the Bible to merely a collection of errors. Far from it, I try to point out only the tensions that the text itself makes apparent. You’ve asked how I choose what to keep and what to get rid of and have implied that I just get rid of what displeases me. In actuality, I engage the tensions that every careful reading of the Bible brings to the surface and do not attempt to harmonize them as inerrantists do. That is our major difference. To overturn any part of Scripture requires the precedent of another part of Scripture.

              For instance, I do not affirm creationism. This is not because the findings of modern science contradict it. It is because there are two creation accounts (Gen 1:1-2:4a; 2:4b-25) that cannot be fully harmonized. Clearly, if these two accounts say different things, either one is wrong or both are. Or we could stop trying to read every passage of Scripture as a literal account of what happened, and affirm the important theological claims being made. And I do affirm that God created the world and everything in it. This is one example. I could provide more if that would be helpful.

              1. Raja Dani says:

                J Lo,

                The Bible “claims” it is “God-breathed” and that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s interpretation (2 Pet. 1:20-21). Jesus “claims” that man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that falls from the mouth of God.

                Now, you have to explain to me how a Word breathed out by God, or inspired by the Holy Spirit, can be errant and be defiled by the very men God chose to use to inscripturate it. You will need to explain how God could not overrule the weaknesses of the instruments used to write His Word, and therefore has His mouth foiled by mere men.

                Secondly, you will have to explain how Jesus can assert what he does about how man lives by every Word of God, but it is up to him to discover just what exactly that word is.

                I never said your position was that the Bible only contains errors, I said that given your position how do we know what those errors are? You cannot very well appeal to the Bible to defend your position when you deny the Bible is inerrant. Anyone can respond by saying, “And how do you know that statement is true?”

                While your argument is self-defeating, mine is not. I never said the actual *word* inerrancy had to be in the Bible for it to be biblical. That is an incorrect understanding of the doctrine of inerrancy. The concept is in the Bible given it’s self-testimony. *Trinity* is not a biblical word, but God has revealed Himself to be a Triune God..

          2. Raja Dani says:

            Just to follow up on your point about special and natural revelation…one cannot know God savingly via natural revelation alone (special revelation is necessary), however natural revelation is sufficient to hold an unbeliever accountable for knowing that God exists. This is basic theology 101.

          3. Raja Dani says:

            One last thing, below is 2 Tim 3:16. If you wish to argue against inerrancy by using this text, please advise me where you get the pronouncment that the Scriptures are “reliable” but not inerrant:

            “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

            Thanks

            1. J Lo says:

              True. Your point about general and special revelation is Theology 101. However, when you get past Theology 101 you find that matters are not so simple. :) One cannot come to saving knowledge without special revelation. So if a person never encounters this special revelation (a free gift of God), then he/she can never come to saving knowledge. Yet we’re supposed to feel better about this because they have some natural, non-saving knowledge at their disposal to give them a glimpse of what they’re missing? I imagine quite a few people would find that problematic. I’m not arguing against the notion that special revelation is saving knowledge, nor am I arguing that general revelation is. I’m saying that maybe we don’t give God enough credit for generosity in this department.

              Touche. You caught me on 2 Tim 3:16. I actually looked at that earlier this morning and noticed the absence of “reliable” too. I think I may have internalized a youth lesson that used it as a synonym for the NIV’s “useful” (where yours put “profitable”). However, I would point out that it doesn’t include “inerrant” either. By the way, I generally like the ESV, but it seems to unnecessarily draw out “breathed out by God” in this case to affirm a certain theological point. Even the NASB uses “inspired.”

              1. Raja Dani says:

                “Inspired” means “God-breathed”

                I assume then that you have internalized your whole position on the Scriptures from an incorrect Youth lesson that made a big impression on you.

                Since the whole thing was built on an error in the foundation, I expect you will be taking a fresh look into this matter?

                Best,

                RD

  14. J Lo says:

    Raja,

    You would assume wrong if that is your assumption. Funnily enough, my youth minister was/is an inerrantist active in a SBC church. Clearly I would read the Bible quite similarly to how you read it if all my thoughts originated there. This is an issue I’ve put a great deal of thought into for a long time, and I will continue to remain open to the thoughts of others – including yours. We all misspeak, and we are all influenced by things in our past. Surely though, even you would admit that while “reliable” is not the best synonym for useful/profitable, it does capture at least part of what Paul is getting at here. It’s not wholly incorrect as you imply.

    I will give you credit that you have encouraged me not to use “reliable” as a shorthand for my position anymore. First, it’s not biblical, which is important to me despite what you may think. Second, I think it has given you the wrong idea about my overall picture of Scripture. If it came across that “reliable” simply eliminates “inspired,” I apologize. The difference between us is not that I do not have a view of inspiration; I have a different view of inspiration. Perhaps I haven’t been clear enough about that in this context.

    However, my arguments remain valid with a change in vocabulary. It does not follow that I would come over to your camp because I let in a bad synonym. I simply replace the shorthand “reliable” with “inspired” and “useful/profitable/effective.” I am at least willing to attempt to be more faithful to the actual words and spirit of this verse by letting it correct my conversation. Would you be willing to do the same and get rid of “inerrant”?

    My only point in drawing attention to “breathed out by God” is that it lengthens the more common “God-breathed” (of which “inspired” is a viable synonym). I could be wrong, but that seems like an attempt by the conservative ESV board to place more stress on verbiage that many readers naively interpret to mean “inerrant.” I would stress that this is an interpretation.

    1. Raja Dani says:

      J Lo,

      I was being somewhat facetious in my comments about the youth lesson, etc.

      The argument for biblical inerrancy does not rest on this text alone. I have advised why in my previous comments in response to yours above…about 7 comments up.

      If I have at least gotten you to correct your vocabulary, I have at least accomplished something.

      Best,

      RD

    2. Raja Dani says:

      Also, I’m not sure what the big difference is between “God-breathed” and “breathed out by God”. What possible difference could be asserted and how is this a matter of interpretation on the translator’s part?

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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