Saturday, December 17, 2005

On My Way Home

"One stage of your journey is ended - another begins." Gandalf, The Two Towers

It's been a busy two weeks at school, what with final assignments and packing and what not. Today, my dad and I start the long drive home. Prayers for our protection would be appreciated.

Lord willing, I'll be back home for Christmas - and back at this blog.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Musings on the CSBI Part IV

Part III of the CSBI is laid out in articles of affirmation and denial. I am going to focus on those articles I would like to see clarified or reconsidered.

Article V

We affirm that God's revelation in the Holy Scriptures was progressive.

We deny that later revelation, which may fulfill earlier revelation, ever corrects or contradicts it. We further deny that any normative revelation has been given since the completion of the New Testament writings.

Article XVIII

We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.

We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads or relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims of authorship.

Here we get into those "hermeneutical" issues that Peter keeps bringing up. ;-} The relation of the Old Testament to the New - the question of the applicability of the Mosaic Law to the Church and the present world - is a hermeneutical question of the highest import. If we are no longer to stone Sabbath breakers, use bitter waters to decide cases of adultery, or not eat pork, have not those commandments been "corrected" and "contradicted"?

"Grammatico-historical" exegesis of Hosea 11:1 alone yield the exegesis of it that Matthew used? The exegesis of the Old Testament by the New is usually *typological*, not grammatico-historical. I do not want to see GH exegesis disposed of, but used in conjunction with the NT pattern of OT exegesis. This, BTW, would also have the advantage of taking care of a lot of dispensational excesses. ;-}

The question of how to read the OT comes down to whether or not we read the Bible Christologically. I would like that to have been made more explicit here.

Article XI

We affirm that Scripture, having been given by divine inspiration, is infallible, so that, far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses.

We deny that it is possible for the Bible to be at the same time infallible and errant in its assertions. Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished but not separated.

Article XII

We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.

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 affirm the propriety of using inerrancy as a theological term with reference to the complete truthfulness of Scripture.

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 spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of metrical, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.

The whole question of what standard of truth is being used as the canon of inerrancy is again raised. Here they qualify what does *not* qualify - modern technical precision, exact quotations, etc. So what *does* qualify?

This question also impacts the article on creation and the flood. And again, the hermeneutical angle is prominent. How are we to interpret these chapters of Genesis? Does observation of creation today have any valid place in that interpretation?

Article XVI

We affirm that the doctrine of inerrancy has been integral to the Church's faith throughout its history.

We deny that inerrancy is a doctrine invented by scholastic Protestantism, or is a reactionary position postulated in response to negative higher criticism.

The affirmation of the truthfulness and inspired nature of Scripture *has* been the concensus of the Church throughout its history. But the nature and intensity of the inerrancy debate in the past 100 years, I think, *does* have some bearing on the dual rise of scholasticism and liberalism - both being sides of the same Enlightenment coin. The framework of Enlightenment thinking was tailor-made to spark this debate, and fed both sides of it.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

What *Is* the Bible, Anyways?

Fellow tipster Jim at the Tavern asks some very good questions about the Bible.

What saves? What sanctifies? Is it the paper? The binding? The leather cover? The words on the page? The page numbers? The cross references? The running commentary by Saint Scofield? Further, is it the whole BIble that saves me, or just particular verses? Are some verses more salvific than others? Are people who memorize more scripture than me more sanctified? Is there a minimal subset of the Bible needed to save people? Is that why we print and hand out the Gospel of John? Can you be saved by the RSV? The NIV? The Jerusalem Bible? The KJV? Do we have to be able to read the original languages?

Someone will come back with, "we're talking about the content of the Bible, not the physical book." But then, I ask, where is the content? what is the content? What are we talking about? The ideas that the bible conveyed in the Bible certainly are ideas about how salvation and sanctification are accomplished, but are we saved by the ideas? It seems to me that runs up against the problem of mental competence; we're back to being saved by subscribing to a set of principles, rather than being saved by (Christ).

Making such propositional statements about something that's understood by faith is problematic. It seems more than a little silly to me, and I suspect it might be the source of grave errors.

Musings on the CSBI Part II

Continuing my series on the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, I now turn to the Summary Statement.

1. God, who is Himself Truth and speaks truth only, has inspired Holy Scripture in order thereby to reveal Himself to lost mankind through Jesus Christ as Creator and Lord, Redeemer and Judge. Holy Scripture is God's witness to Himself.

I do like the Christocentrism of this first clause. The centrality of Christ to understanding the Bible is the critical issue - something Our Lord Himself taught.

2. Holy Scripture, being God's own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: It is to be believed, as God's instruction, in all that it affirms; obeyed, as God's command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God's pledge, in all that it promises.

It would be nice if they offered a definition of "infallible" up front, rather than assuming it. And the Scriptures "require" a lot of things - the OT law is a prime example, are Christians bound to any or all of *its* "requirements"? A blanket statement like #2 here makes cannot be made, without some hermeneutical qualifications.

3. The Holy Spirit, Scripture's divine Author, both authenticates it to us by His inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning.

A biblical truism (II Cor. 3; I Cor. 2). But as Paul Hazelden points out in his commentary on the CSBI, "I have had far too many nutters telling me they know something is true because the Holy Spirit gives them an 'inward witness' to its truth." I think the use of the plural here in this clause is the key - the Spirit works in and through the Church in all ages, and we ought to weigh our insights with theirs, especially in the core matters of the Faith (Trinity, Christ, the Cross). We do best if we do not read the Bible in a vacuum, by ourselves.

4. Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God's acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God's saving grace in individual lives.

Wholly and verbally? I don't think this is supportable even by Scripture itself. As the author of Hebrews says, God spoke to the prophets in many and diverse ways (Heb 1:1-2). Did God dictate the Psalms to David? There are certainly places where God dictated His word out - Sinai being a prime example. But that is not the only paradigm to understand where Scripture came from.

And again, the question of hermeneutics comes in. I will grant that God does not tell us lies about His works. He created the world, it did not arise spontaneously out of nothing. But what exactly *does* Scripture tell us about God's acts in creation? Ask Henry Morris, and Hugh Ross, and you'll get two diametrically opposed answers. Hermeneutics again raises its ugly head. The assumption of some sort of blanket perspecuity seems to be lurking in the background of this clause, and I think this will come back to the fore again as this goes on.

5. The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited of disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible's own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.

Ah, the dialectic of "either/or". Either "total divine inerrancy" (and again, inerrancy is not yet defined here), or "(t)he authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired". I'm familiar with this sort of thinking. I used to engage in it myself. Everything is black and white, logical, and if something is not totally one thing it is totally another.

Note the clause about "the Bible's view of truth". Again, a key part of the arguemt is left undefined. What *is* the Bible's view of truth? Cartesian rationalism? Correspondence Theory? Coherence Theory? Propositionalism? I don't think any of these categories completely contains the Biblical revelation.

We are into deep waters here. I am not convinced it is meaningful to talk about a 'view of truth contrary to the Bible's own' because it is at least possible that the Bible contains a number of views of truth. - Paul Hazelden, A Response to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy

What I take away from this is that there are a lot of assumptions below the surface in this document that need critical attention.