One of the interesting things about my life is that I have the pleasure of inhabiting a number of intellectual worlds that, by and large, don’t often come together. As an employee of a moderately evangelical campus ministry, a teaching elder in a mainline presbyterian denomination, a chaplain at a university, and someone who lives in the South I regularly interact with people right across the theological spectrum. It’s invigorating and, sometimes, frustrating.
Take the issue of the inerrancy of the Bible, for example. In its simplest form the doctrine holds: “Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1994). This assertion, simple though it might appear, is actually quite a difficult proposition to establish. It has at least three constituent elements: (1) establishing the original manuscripts, (2) establishing the affirmation, and (3) establishing fact. These three elements bring in textual criticism, hermeneutics, and historiography. What seems, on its face, a simple affirmation has turned into a complex interdisciplinary exercise largely beyond the scope of the average Christian. Of course, this complexity certainly doesn’t negate the importance or the validity of the doctrine. It does, or at least it ought, to give us pause before using the term.
In my denomination and on the university campus the term “inerrancy” is closely associated with fundamentalism of the Jerry Falwell variety. In my campus ministry the term is rarely mentioned. Among evangelical in the south the term is widely used and often closely associated with fidelity to the gospel.
The recent meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society featured a panel discussion featuring several theologians and biblical scholars. Of the several who participated, the presenter whose views fall closest to my own at are those of Kevin Vanhoozer of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I’ve enjoyed his writing for a while now and had the privilege to have his daughter Emma, herself a scholar and also a poet, as a student in Graduate Christian Fellowship.
His views are presented in this video. His proposal is a form of inerrancy that he refers to as Augustinian. At the end of the day it is difficult to establish whether or not the Bible is demonstrably inerrant. Perhaps the wiser choice is to follow the lead of Gerald Bray. In his systematic theology God is Love (Crossway, 2012) he argues that the Bible ought to be treated as “functionally inerrant.”
2 Replies to “Inerrancy: an Augustinian view”
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Hi all. I listen to these guys piously talk about the inerrancy of the Bible, and yet not one of them REALLY believes such a thing exists as a complete, inspired, inerrant and 100% true words of God Bible in ANY language – translated or untranslated. Not one of them will ever show you a copy of what they honestly believe IS (present tense) the 100% true words of God. Not Kevin Vanhoozer, nor John MacArthur, nor James White, nor R.C. Sproul, James Price nor Dan Wallace.
And most of these men are now promoting the new Vatican Versions whose underlying Greek text is the “inter confessional” Critical text that is under the direct supervision of the Vatican. Talk about irony!
Are you a Bible believer or a Bible agnostic? Most Christians today are bible agnostics. Don’t believe it? Then take this simple Bible Agnostic Test you will find in my article about – “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy = just more Evangelical mumbo jumbo signifying nothing” –
Then let us know if you know which recorded historical events are the inerrant and 100% true facts as found in today’s Bible Babble Buffet versions.
“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Luke 8:8
“But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” 1 Cor. 14:38