Saturday, July 14, 2007

Maybe I do believe in inerrancy.... least as articulated in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy:

This is a choice passage from the expository statement:

"So history must be treated as history, poetry as poetry, hyperbole and metaphor as hyperbole and metaphor, generalization and approximation as what they are, and so forth. Differences between literary conventions in Bible times and in ours must also be observed: since, for instance, non-chronological narration and imprecise citation were conventional and acceptable and violated no expectations in those days, we must not regard these things as faults when we find them in Bible writers. When total precision of a particular kind was not expected nor aimed at, it is no error not to have achieved it. Scripture is inerrant, not in the sense of being absolutely precise by modern standards, but in the sense of making good its claims and achieving that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed."

However, there are some surprising claims here:

1 - Inerrancy can include incorrect citations.

2 - Inerrancy can include imprecise factual statements if such factual statements would not have been considered a big deal to the human author.

Some observations:

This is fine with me, but it's funny to call it inerrancy. Do we really believe God would misquote Scripture?

This clearly allows for not taking Genesis literally if a writer in that milieu would not have necessarily written literally.

This makes dubious many sermons and doctrines I've heard from Evangelicals basing doctrines out of fine points of grammar or word choice. For example, many cessasionists base their belief on the word "perfect" in 1 Cor. 13.

So, where this seems to leave the inerrantist saying that 'sure, there might be a mistake in the text (by our contemporary definition), but God chose a writer who he knew would make that mistake, and so it's still inerrant.'

So in this sense, I'm okay with inerrancy, but it's a silly doctrine as opposed to simply saying that the text is authoritative based on the validation of Christ and his appointed apostles.

1 comment:

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

The paragraph you quoted sounds fine to me, and I also liked your final paragraph. I think sort of the same way.

For Orthodox, the issue of "Biblical inerrancy" is, like most other Western notions of exactitude, not a major consideration. For us, the Word of God is just what it claims to be, and we read, listen and retell the Bible stories from the Old Testament gleaning (hopefully) what God wants us to get from them, without paying too much attention to such questions as are of interest to Bible scholars, historians, scientists and the like.

When I'm with non-Orthodox Christians, I personally fall in line with the Biblical inerrancy believers because in practical terms, most of them agree with Orthodox notions of the Word of God without realizing it. I'm not talking about people who use Bible inerrancy as a prop for their personal and sometimes very errant interpretations of the scriptures. I mean the majority of Bible-believing Christians (if I may call them that).

Anyway, thanks for the good blog post, and helping to keep me informed of what's going on in the evangelical churches.