Thursday, November 29, 2007

"God breathed" in the light of Romans 13:1

Most of you know I do not believe in the so-called "Inerrancy" of Scripture. That said, I've had to wrestle with the argument, based on 2 Tim. 3:16, which says "all Scripture is God-breathed." That argument basically says, if God inspired Scripture, how could God have inspired any errors? Good argument; I'll grant that.

But I have, if not a perfect answer, a verse that helps me. Romans 13:1 says "there is no authority except that which is established by God." Yet, no one claims that all governments are "inerrant" just because they are established by God.

So how could God inspire Scripture that was not "inerrant"? I'm not sure, but perhaps it's in the same way that He could establish a government that was not inerrant.

Or, perhaps, to go further, the same way in which He could create a universe that was not perfect.

This isn't so much an answer to the question, but rather an attack on the logic of the question.


Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

I know we've discussed this before, so I know that at some level you're struggling with this idea of "biblical inerrancy," for you to blog about it again. I probably don't have anything to help you. The verses you've cited are probably help enough. But I remember reading something that C. S. Lewis said, which reverberates with logic in me still.

He said that God took up a human literature to be the vehicle of His written Word, just as He took up a human body and soul to be the (how can I say it) instrument (?) of His incarnate Word. Just as the fulness of His divinity in the Logos suffered the humiliation of being reduced to our humanity, nonetheless remaining God of God, so the fulness of His inerrant truth in that same Logos suffered the humiliation of being reduced to human language, nonetheless remaining Truth of Truth. Or as we say in Greek, phos ek photós, theón alithinón ek theoú alithinoú.

Just as Jesus the God-man in assuming our full humanity (hiding His glory) must have experienced most everything we as men do (though sinning not), eating, drinking, sleeping, feeling hot, feeling cold, feeling tired, hungering, thirsting, longing, happiness, sorrow, taking pleasure in people and things, enduring physical discomfort (maybe even sickness), feeling pain, suffering death; so the Word of God in being clothed in our language and hence our thoughts underwent a similar diminution, according to the nature of its transmission in that medium, yet without change, without forfeiting its inalienable truthfulness.

There's no easy way around the questions that an active mind can ask about the Word of God. All we can do is continue asking, knocking on that Door, knowing full well that the Answer will be forthcoming, much sooner than never.

kennyching said...

R- I like the way you describe this dimunition...that makes much sense to me...but I'll continue to think about it.

I wouldn't exactly say that this issue is a struggle for me: rather, the people with whom I generally fellowship make it a struggle for me by writing things like "innerrancy" into their doctrinal statements, and jokingly throwing words like heresy my way when I explain why I don't believe innerrancy is correct.

Also, to me the issue is a good example of the way in which Evangelicals struggle with thinking--they're better than most because at least they believe in truth, but still they could be a lot better--and so Innerrancy is a good place to try to get at some philosophical issues that I'd like to see more Christians comfortable with.

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Yes, I see what you mean when you say "the people with whom I generally fellowship make it a struggle for me." The avoidance of doctrinal statements about the scriptures can be a strong point when there is already a universally accepted doctrinal statement about essentials: the symbol of Nicaea. That's where Christian Orthodoxy has positioned itself, and when its members stay there, simply teaching, believing and practicing what the scriptures say without speculating on them, all is well. But even in Orthodoxy, at least in America, the making of divisive pronouncements in (often unself-conscious) imitation of Western (primarily evangelical) categories of thought and speculation, is beginning to challenge the simplicity of this ancient, apostolic faith.

It seems to me that our business as Christians is not to pontificate on matters beyond the plain meaning of scripture.

The Councils (the first seven or eight, but really, the first four would've sufficed) did their best to cover everything that us simpletons (idhiótes, the Greek word meaning "laymen") couldn't figure out on our own (the Holy Spirit leading) without the help of the "great doctors and theologians." Thank God, that over the centuries the Orthodox Church has mostly stayed out of the way of those who both knew their Lord, and wanted to follow Him, without qualification believing in the Word of God as it is.

That's why I still identify myself as "Greek Orthodox".

Kenny said...

I appreciate the spirit (and, of course, the Spirit) of you Greek Orthodox faith.

I suppose the reason I still identify myself as "Evangelical" is because although I think Inerrancy is problematic, it generally leads to reverence for Scripture and an attempt follow It, which is a high virtue in my mind.

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Amen to your last comment. That's also why I identify myself to my brother Orthodox as an "evangelical Orthodox", and again, thank God, they know what I mean and accept it. But there are some, nonetheless, who think the primary use of divine scripture is to be an object for veneration only. To them the fathers retort, "Don't just kiss the Book, read it!"

Anonymous said...

Does it have to be error. Couldn't it be misunderstanding, on our part of course?

kennyching said...


No, it doesn't have to be error. One response I get when I tell people I don't believe in Inerrancy is "well, what errors do you see?" I'm not saying there are errors; what I am saying is that I'm not committed to there being no errors.

To me, one of the most harmful things about Inerrancy as it's commonly understood is the idea that if there's anything amiss at all in the Bible, then the whole faith crumbles. This logic is based on the idea that if any part of the Bible is flawed, then how can you trust any of it? I reject Inerrancy, in part, because it causes people to think like this.