Wednesday, April 09, 2008

From my non-favorite quasi-creedal statement:

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy

Article XII.

WE DENY that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to
spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in
the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific
hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the
teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.

Article XIII.

WE DENY that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to
standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose.
We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such
as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or


How is it coherent to distinguish "irregularities" in spelling and grammar from errors in history and science? In other words, the Chicago Statement will allow for a Bible writer to misspell a word, but not to misquote a fact of history. Are these categorically different types of error? I don’t see how.

(Someone I know is studying Greek and Hebrew in seminary and vaguely claimed there may be a good answer for this because of something to do with ancient grammar, but he did not sound very confident when he said it.)


(Sigh), the postmodernists on the left, the inerrantists on the right…

Also, you might wonder why I go on and on about these relatively obscure things. The reason is because I believe Prov. 23:7.


Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

This is a comment not on the topic of your post (I'm sure you know where I stand on all this from our previous exchanges, actual vs factual, etc.), but on your statement that these things are important to you because you believe Proverbs 23:7.

I immediately went to my Jerusalem Bible to see what it is you believe, and the verse cited seems meaningless in this context: "It would be like a tempest in his throat. Eat and drink, he tells you, but his heart is not in it."
Whoa there! Did I miss something?

So I plunked the reference into Google and found another translation of the verse,"For as [one] thinks in his heart, so is he." Now, that makes sense! In fact, it's this translation that I have memorised, probably from reading it in spiritual books, because the (original) Jerusalem Bible is the only bible I've used on a daily basis all my Xtian life. And that verse sure doesn't carry anything like the same weight of meaning in the JB that it carries in others. A good reason to not limit yourself too much with Bible versions. Tho my use of the Jerusalem Bible is devotional and also studious, when having a serious study I've always used other versions alongside it, especially the Hebrew Tanakh and the Greek Kainí Dhiathíki.

Anyway, just some random thoughts on reading your worthy post.

Kenny said...

That is funny, Romanos. Not that it would be beyond me to cite an irrelevant verse.

Ben said...

My favorite irrelevant verse for all occasions: Exodus 8:2.

I'm such an obscure movie geek.

Actual serious note: it seems everybody these days wants to throw political classifications upon spiritual/theological issues. Here, for instance, we've got "left" and "right." Now I suppose there's a correlation between the theological groups you talk about and their political views. But still, I wonder if the left/right frame is too restrictive an understanding of spiritual/theological disagreements.

I dunno. Just a thought.

-Dave said...

Funny, I didn't think of left/right in that context, but rather as a visual idea - "on the one hand, on the other hand."

In other discussion on the issue, Article XII seems like an odd inclusion. Why not talk about the Exodus, or the time of the Judges, or the scope of the Egyptian emprie, or of Solomon's kingdom?

Why Creation and The Flood? What makes those worthy of particular mention?

Perhaps it's cynical, but I suspect the inclusion of those specific events to be a particularly political determination.

But... wouldn't misstating a historical fact be a substantive problem, while grammar or spelling may be technical problems only?

Is it a different sort of thing to say Zeus was the greek god of kite-flying, or to say that Zeus was the formost god in the greek pntheon? I think it is. Why do you see the two as the same?

kennyching said...

Well, to me, the theory behind inerrancy—verbal plenary inspiration—seems as if it should preclude any type of error, whether technical or substantive.

Further, there’s some places where Jesus and Paul make major theological points based on the ‘technical’ (Jesus’ use of “I AM the God of Jacob...” and Paul’s use of “Seed vs. Seeds” in Galatians 3:16). So, drawing the line between the technical and the substantive seems hard.

Mostly, it’s not so much that there’s no distinction between technical and substantive, but that it’s hard to see why the Chicago Statement allows for one but denies the other. Why insist that God cannot err when he inspires the substance of Scripture, but He can err when he inspires the technical portions?

-Dave said...

For what it's worth, on the first of your examples, I believe there is abundant evidence for anyone looking at it that I AM is not a typo, or an error, but the well-known personal name used of God.

If there were significance to the fact that you called yourself Kenny and I were to rhetorically make a point about the fact that you don't call yourself Robert, I think it would be clear that I'm not making a technical argument, but a substantive one.

Concerning Galation 3:16, I wonder if the argument is as stark as it sounds in English. Compare Galatians 3:29, where Paul uses "Seed" in a collective sense. If "Seed not seeds" were really the point, why use "seed" just a little further down?

I know it's an argument I've made before, but I'm trying to come at it from another angle - and I think for the grammar = inerrant argument to hold, you'd need an example of a unique usage (instead of the you-call-yourself-Kenny-not-Robert type of usage) to say that the argument being made in Scripture is in fact a turn on the technical abnormality, instead of the substance of what is being said.

And my first guess would be that they are comfortable allowing one and not the other boils down to the "in the original writings" argument. It's reasonable to suggest that even in the first copy of a manuscript, small errors may begin to creep in - especially when you are talking about long, handwritten copies - but the substance of the matter should remain trustworthy much longer.

Also, technical errors (like misspellings and grammatical errors) are "wrong" only insofar as we compare them to common usage. If I told someone in England where the "elevator" is, accurately, am I in any meaningful way wrong because the common word is "lift?" Substantive errors, on the other hand, can be compared to some truth or fact. There is a non-arbitrary right or wrong answer.

kennyching said...

I agree with your points, Dave, which basically I take to be that 1) it is possible to distinguish substance from technicality, and 2) that's probably why the Chicago Statement is comfortable with the distinction.

But my main point is that this just doesn't fit the theory of verbaly plenary inspiration. The argument goes "God inspired Scripture, and God wouldn't inspire error." And my problem is that clearly there are "technical" errors, so unless they're saying God didn't inspire the technical aspect of Scripture (which they're not), then verbal plenary inspiration doesn't make sense.