Article XIII

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’re looking at Biblical Inerrancy right now and at the moment, it looks like the waters are churning and the sharks are seeking to devour. Let us hope that soon some sanity will be regained and this will all end. Until then, I do think a study on Inerrancy has been beneficial and tonight, I plan to look at article XIII. It reads as follows:

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 material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.

People. Let’s start with that first affirmation. Inerrancy is about the truthfulness of Scripture. Well what is the specific content of that truthfulness? Inerrancy cannot tell you that. Inerrancy cannot tell you the what that is Inerrant. Inerrancy only tells you that the what is Inerrant. This seems to be something that’s been missing in all of this. If a person believes that the Bible teaches X and therefore, X is true, they are not violating Inerrancy. We can question their interpretation, but not whether or not they affirm or deny Inerrancy.

When we come with our view of the passage and say “This is my interpretation of the passage” we must be clear that’s what it is. It is our interpretation. Our interpretation is not inerrant. We could be understanding the text wrong and in that case, we need to be open to correction.

“But some of these views have been held for centuries!”

Granted they have, and that can place a weightier burden on the person who is making the claim, but that does not make the claim false. The way we determine if a claim is true or not is not by waving around Inerrancy like it’s a weapon, but by doing something unique. It’s called “Examining the claim.”

If someone thinks the claim is wrong, that is not enough. It is not even enough to argue it. Otherwise, we might as well say there are no good reasons to believe in Christianity because there are non-Christians. Before atheists get excited with that, we could just as easily say there are no good reasons to be an atheist because theists exist. It is not enough to say “Here are my arguments, therefore the other side is wrong.”

You can say you’ve given good reasons for the other side to think they’re wrong and they could most certainly be wrong, but if they do not find your reasons convincing, then you must look at why. In the current debate, because Geisler lists reasons for thinking the text is historical and therefore Licona is wrong, it does not follow that Licona is violating Inerrancy.

Well why does Licona hold that stance? It would be good for some people to actually read his material and figure it out rather than the comments I see on the Christianity Today article such as “He’s wanting to deny a miracle” or “He’s having a crisis of faith.”

Yes. Licona wrote a book demonstrating the greatest miracle of all only because he does not believe in a miracle of that power. He just obviously believes that it’s ridiculous to think God could raise a mass of dead people like that. Obviously if God could not raise the dead, then Matthew 27 if historical could not be an act of God, but if He can, then the possibility is there but not the actuality. Licona has written a whole book to demonstrate that God can raise the dead in at least one instance. He has even in his debate with Patterson pointed to a miracle of people coming out of comas suddenly due to prayer. Yes. He obviously has something against miracles.

Well it’s just a crisis of faith.

Over what? This is someone who took on the leading scholars in liberal thought head-on on their own terms and I must say having read his book, he wins the fight. He regularly enters into debates and excels at them. It seems people who make these statements seem to rule out one possibility.

Licona holds the position because of historical research.

Now he could be wrong in the position still, no doubt. That does not mean that he holds his position for wrong reasons. At what point then is he violating Inerrancy? It is at the point when he can look at the arguments and say something like “Okay. You all have convinced me. Matthew did intend to have the resurrection of the saints be seen as a historical event. I see my arguments do not work in this regard. However, I just believe Matthew was wrong in this regard and the event did not happen.”

That is when Licona is denying Inerrancy and not a moment before. In order to deny Inerrancy, he must believe that the Bible is wrong in what it teaches. How can he be denying Inerrancy if he says “The Bible teaches X, therefore I believe X.”? Granted, that does not mean he believes Inerrancy full throttle, but it is a necessary condition to believing Inerrancy. One can say the Bible teaches Jesus existed, and I believe Jesus existed, but that does not make one an Inerrantist. An atheist could say that and they are not an Inerrantist. An Inerrantist though cannot say “The Bible teaches X, and I believe in non-X.”

So what is it that the Bible teaches that is true? That is found in the area of research. That’s not just historical research but literary research as well. It will require much study, yes, but let us roll up our sleeves and do it. When someone comes with a contrary interpretation, before we raise the alarm about a threat to the church, let us instead say “Okay. That’s an interesting take. I’m skeptical of it now, but I’m willing to examine it.”

After that, we can also say “Is this interpretation, if true, in line with Christian orthodoxy?” For instance, let’s suppose someone came forward with an interpretation of Scripture that denied the Trinity. If we do believe we have the truth on our side and that the Bible does teach the Trinity, well we can examine the argument in its strongest form without fear.

The second question is also important for the issue of which beliefs are in line with orthodoxy. Fortunately, as far as I know, no one has questioned Licona’s salvation in the professional field because of his view, and I hope all would realize that that would be entirely out of line. The raising of the saints is not something that all of Christianity hangs on. (I mean the one in Matthew 27. I do believe that for Christianity to be true, that must include a future physical resurrection) We can then say to someone who has such a view “We believe you are in line with Inerrancy. We just think you’re wrong.”

If only such a position had been taken at the start. As one looking at this debate most every day, (I grant I do have the bias of being married to Licona’s daughter as always) I have often thought how much better it would be if Licona had had this time to spend preparing for debates and doing research on the resurrection rather than have to answer constant charges that kept him from further ministry.

Just as sad now is that the skeptical world is writing about this debate now also and telling us that this is what evangelicalism is like. You’re not allowed to follow evidence where it leads. You have to tow the line and don’t you dare go against the system. Don’t offer contrary opinions!

And frankly, who can blame them for thinking that?

Why should they look at us and think that we are people who are willing to follow the evidence where it leads when we are ruling out conclusions not liked from the start? Can we honestly tell them that we believe that a full look at an issue will lead to Christianity being true if they think we have stacked the deck in advance? When I meet someone skeptical, I tell them without question to please read the best they can on both sides. I have no fear. If you believe your view is true, you can walk into a bookstore and buy any book without fear.

Wouldn’t it be great to learn this?

As for the latter part of the article, I think this one is highly important as well. How many skeptics have said that the Bible doesn’t get the definition of pi right? How many have made statements about astronomical phenomena not realizing that the Bible speaks in observational language instead of technical language. The Bible has hyperbole when it tells us we are to hate our families to be a disciple of Christ.

At any rate, today’s has been long, but I have been reading on the controversy and this controversy is why I’m doing this study. It is so much simpler than we really think it is. May we restore some sanity to this and restore our witness to the world.

We shall continue next time.

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5 Responses to “Article XIII”

  1. Mike Gantt Says:

    Nick, you may have heard of Thom Stark’s The Human Faces of God, which is an attack on inerrancy.  I am in the midst of writing a review of it and thought at least some of what I’ve written might be relevant to your thinking on the subject.

    To summarize my position, I adhere to the view of inerrancy that I infer Jesus held more so than to the view of inerrancy as staked out by the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, especially as interpreted by Norman Geisler.

    I review Stark’s book in serial fashion.  Here’s the first installment.

  2. apologianick Says:

    I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Thanks for the comment.

  3. J Says:

    http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=36523

    Nice Try. But as we use to say growing up in WV, “that dog won’t hunt.” What is the point of having an inerrant text if one is free to use method with reckless abandon? After all, it isn’t the symbols of the text, but the meaning they convey that is of utmost importance here. It is in Licona’s best interest to recant.

    • Mike Gantt Says:

      J Says,

      All I know of Mike Licona is what I’ve seen on YouTube and read in various places, but I do know this: If you are applying the term “reckless abandon” to him, then you do not know him at all.

      Apart from who is right or wrong in this issue, it is manifestly clear that Licona is animated by a spirit more gentle, humble, and Christlike than that of his accusers.

      His dog may or may not hunt, but this hunter deserves more respect.

  4. apologianick Says:

    Well J, to begin with, it is not reckless abandon. Licona has used material that his first century audience would recognize. Your problem is you’ve taken the biblical text and plopped it down in the 21st century and said “The people in the 1st century would think just the way I do and would understand the text the way that I do.”

    That could be the case, but that needs to be argued for instead of assumed. I actually contend that they wouldn’t. For instance, Isaiah 40 prophecies about the messenger of the Lord. It says every valley will be raised and every mountain made low. Do you think the Israelites would recognize the messenger because mountains would suddenly lose height? If not, how did they take it? Can we say John the Baptist did not fulfill the prophecy because the Mount of Olives was still standing?

    You say with reckless abandon. No. Mike is not using reckless abandon. He’s using material from the first century. You can ask then “Well how would we know that?” Who says we would? The question is, “Would the original audience have known that?”.That is what good historical study gets at and that is what we need to do. We need to really study the text as its writers and listeners would have understood it. Keep in mind what someone said about this.

    “A statement does not mean what the reader takes it to mean to him. It means what the author meant by it.”

    That was what Geisler himself said. Then by his standards, let’s find out what it meant to the first century audience and we don’t do that by finding out what it means to an audience 20 centuries later.

    Now you finally say it’s in Licona’s best interest to recant. Why? Are you saying Licona should say “Well I believe that all the evidence points to A, but to avoid what I’m getting, I’ll go with B instead.” This would be what Geisler called the Averronian method.

    Are you going to say we should tell atheists and others to follow the evidence where it leads, but then believe that we can tell our own to not do that? If you truly believe in Inerrancy, you should have no problem with investigating Mike’s claim, because in doing so, the Inerrancy of the text won’t be in danger. If his claim is true, then you will just have to change your interpretation. If no, then oh well and if that’s the case, it will come out.

    Scholarly debates are won by debating evidence and not by using heavy-handed tactics.

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