A Response to James White On Defining Inerrancy

Has James White’s critique of my position in Defining Inerrancy been accurate? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

By now, it should be no secret to readers of Deeper Waters that I am the co-author of the Ebook “Defining Inerrancy“. I thank everyone who has bought a copy and I hope many of you will write positive reviews on Amazon and your own blogs and web sites.

Some of you have also contacted me to tell me that James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries has apparently read our book and spoken about it on his latest podcast. I was not surprised to hear that the review was not a positive one, but at the same time, it is good to have press anyway.

So what is being said?

To start off, one line of White’s which I agree with is that of “If I’ve learned one thing from Norm Geisler it’s that I don’t want to be like him.” The more and more I have seen of this, the more and more I have been embarrassed by my former admiration.

In White’s review, he wanted to save most of what he had to say for the final chapter which happened to be written by me. When told about it I was told “Well he certainly got your viewpoint wrong.” Those who I shared it with who I consider mentors all were saying the same thing.

It’s important to point out that White does say he agrees with Geisler on the interpretation of Matthew 27. It should be pointed out that so does my co-author. Holding thinks that this is a real event that happened. What’s my position? The interpretation of Matthew 27 is actually the focus of the Master’s thesis I am working on so at this point, I am claiming agnosticism. It would be foolish to give a public viewpoint before really digging in and doing the research directly.

The final chapter that White wishes to comment on is the chapter I wrote called “Lordship over Scholarship?” In giving a sense of it he says that I am quoting Geisler and says “Geisler says further ‘As evangelicals we must beware of desiring a table at the seat of contemporary scholarship which is riddled with presuppositions that are antagonistic to Evangelical Christianity.’ “(White agrees 1000%)

White then wants you to hear my response.

“On the contrary, I think we should eagerly be desiring that. How are we supposed to make an impact in the world of scholarship if we don’t want a seat at the table. Imagine what it could mean for Christianity if Christians were seen as trusted authorities in each field. Instead of fearing antagonistic presuppositions, what happened to correcting them with real scholarship?”

White says that paragraph really concerns him and is muddled in an amazing way.

Not a shock that White hones in on presuppositionalism.

Now I am not a presuppositionalist at all, but it does not mean that recognizing presuppositions play no role whatsoever in my thinking. White thinks that to sit at the table of scholarship is to compromise and give in to the presuppositions and to say there is a moral neutral ground. He also says that it is saying we should lay aside our commitment to the absolute Lordship of Christ and to the radical elements of that.

I think those of you who know me well are recognizing that I have no desire to do something like that. White tells us that Geisler recognizes that sitting at the table of scholarship is doing that and then adds “But I don’t know where Nick Peters is coming from.”

At this point, it would have been better off if he didn’t know where I was coming from to try to contact me. I’m not hard to find. My blog is there. My own podcast is there. All of them are ways to contact me. If he has no idea where I’m coming from, all that needed to be done was to ask.

Instead, White will proceed to talk about a position assuming that that is mine even though by his own words, he does not know where I am coming from.

White says he hopes I am saying that we should be seeking to challenge those presuppositions, but that that wasn’t what Geisler was talking about.

It’s a shame White didn’t go with his first inclination of what he hoped I was saying. What he hopes I am saying is in fact what I am really saying in that chapter.

White repeats my saying how are we supposed to have an impact if we don’t sit at the table? White suggests that we do so by showing that the presuppositions that they accept are in fact incoherent and by critiquing their worldview. Now I would not do it in a presuppositional way, but I would in fact challenge them.

White then thinks that my statement about having a Christian be a trusted authority in each field is problematic. Can that be given outside of the worldview?

Sometimes, yeah.

Who is it that heads the Human Genome Project? A Christian like Francis Collins. What I am saying is simply what C.S. Lewis said. Imagine what it would mean if the most learned authority in any particular field was a Christian and that in order to learn about a position, unbelievers HAD to go to Christians because Christians put the best material out there.

“I want to learn law!” “Well read this book by this Christian lawyer.”

“I want to learn botany! “Read this book by a Christian botanist.”

“I want to learn economics!” “Read this book by a Christian economist.”

The Christians should be seeking to dominate academia and be the most learned people that they can be.

White goes on to say that there are many people who are embarrassed by the open confession of the Lordship of Christ over every area of knowledge.

Again, this is the kind of accusation that it would have been good to make absolutely sure of before making a statement about it. This especially since he has no idea where it is that I’m coming from and yet seems to know exactly where I’m coming from.

White has said how Dan Wallace endorses the book. I am sure Wallace would have told him as well that White’s position on me is false. In fact, on the same blog where Wallace reviews our book, he also has a link up to where he was interviewed by me on my show.

What is my position? My position is this. That if Christianity is true, and I am convinced it is, good research will show that it is true. If we are doing our history right, it will line up with Christianity. If we are doing our ethics right, it will line up. If we are doing our philosophy right, it will line up. If we are doing our science right, it will line up. If we are doing our hermeneutics right, it will line up.

Chesterton once said something along the lines that if Christianity is not true, it is of no importance. If Christianity is true, it is of great importance to everything out there. I agree entirely. Since Christianity is true, it means Christ has something to say about every area of our lives.

Thus, I am not just a husband. I am a Christian husband. I am not just someone who studies history. I am a Christian who studies history. Every facet of my life is to be submitted to Christ entirely. When I study, Christ has something to say. When I take Allie out on a date, Christ has something to say. When I watch TV or a movie, Christ has something to say. When I play, Christ has something to say. When I drive, Christ has something to say. (Probably has a lot to say to me then especially)

What will I do when I approach a non-Christian? I have told people they are allowed to have their own interpretation. Everyone does, and sometimes we’re wrong. What they are not allowed to do is have their own data. You do not get to dismiss data because it goes against your worldview. You do not get to give it a place it should not have because it goes with your worldview.

So what do I do when I come to the table? I talk about the data. Joe Friday is my kind of approach. Just the facts. Then we discuss the facts. This is also why I think it’s important to have a philosophical background so you can properly interpret the data. Suppose someone brings up miracles not happening for instance. I point to research done by Craig Keener in this field and say it does not work to just dismiss them because they disagree with your worldview. I’m not allowed to do that. Why should you be?

And while I am not a presuppositionalist, I spend plenty of time questioning the worldviews of people who I encounter as to why I should take the stance. As an Aspie, I really can’t stand it when I spot something that is an inconsistency and when people treat Scripture by a different standard than they do other historical works, I don’t bend on that.

Now if someone does not come to Christ if the evidence is there, then naturally there is some other reason they are not, be it emotional or volitional, and it would be foolish of anyone to claim emotions play no role in their thinking. We are all whole human beings and unless we have some condition such as being a sociopath, we are all affected by our emotions, though some are more affected than others.

What happens if we retreat from the world of academia? That’s what we did when evolution showed up. We made a knee-jerk reaction and we’re still paying for it today. When liberal scholarship showed up at our Seminaries, instead of facing it head on, we retreated and set up our own new Seminaries. Colleges, Universities, and Seminaries once firmly held by the Christian worldview are now bastions of secular thought.

I wonder how many people have been lost because of that?

Christ told us the gates of Hell would not stand against the church. Gates are defensive measures. We should in fact be the ones on the offensive and putting those who are not Christians on the defensive. To do that, we will have to learn the best ways of doing history, science, literature, philosophy, and any other field. We will have to climb to the top more and more and present the data that if anyone denies it, it is clear that they are someone who refuses to see. (Think of the Christ-mythers who put up the most ridiculous standards of history.)

I’ve told my wife several times that we could reclaim America for Christ easily. What would it take? Christians waking up. Christians getting up and actually doing something instead of secluding themselves from the culture entirely and running into their little safety bubbles. I’ve written about this in this post. When Christians retreat, it’s no shock that the world gains a stronger voice.

And of course, we absolutely don’t surrender in our convictions. Of course, not every hill is worth dying on. If the hill you are willing to die on is pre-tribulationism or the age of the Earth or the usage of tongues in the church today, then you are fighting the wrong battle. Your position in fact is to be fought on the hill that says the triune God revealed Himself in Jesus of Nazareth and that when Jesus died, the Father raised Him from the dead. Jesus is now king of this world.

We are to follow the Pauline principle of defeating arguments and bringing them under the Lordship of Christ. It’s not a question of Lordship or scholarship. It’s both. Our Lord is not honored by poor scholarship. He is not honored by poor science. He is not honored by poor philosophy. We are to give him the best of our labors and that includes the best of our academic and intellectual endeavors.

I hope this sets the record straight. For those who wish to think I am compromising on Christian principles after listening to White, who has absolutely no idea where I’m coming from, I hope this sets the record straight. I also hope you’ll realize that while I seek to give the best, I will fail repeatedly at this as will all of us and this is where I depend on those inside and even outside the faith to correct me. As Benjamin Franklin said “Our critics are our friends. They show us our faults.” If an unbeliever can point to a legitimate error in a position I hold, I need to respond to that somehow just as much as if a Christian does it.

After all, if one sits at the table, one had better be prepared to make the case that needs to be made.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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15 Responses to “A Response to James White On Defining Inerrancy”

  1. Ronald Dupree (@rgdupree2) Says:

    I heartily agree with you Nick. I’m very thankful for your work.

  2. jamesbradfordpate Says:

    It’s odd that White takes that position, considering the debates with skeptics and liberals in which he has participated.

  3. labreuer Says:

    My father taught most of my Sunday School classes, and was very big on contrasting “God’s way” and “the world’s way”. I would add to that: “How you get from one to the other.” You seem to believe a path exists, instead of a gaping chasm. I’m glad, because that seems to be the biblical model. People knew about God, but worshipped ¬God, and thus slowly drifted away, accepting delusion after delusion along the way. Well, it strikes me that there ought to be a way back that isn’t one massive jump. If someone cannot start filling in that “way back”, it strikes me as a failure to understand both ways sufficiently well.

    My current focus on this project myself, which was provoked by Os Guinness’ The Gravedigger File and Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue, is what precisely the Enlightenment did with its mechanization of the world and Baconian focus on control and what the consequences are thereof. The Ockhamian acceptance of nominalism also appears to play a big role.

  4. Steve Says:

    I was actually pretty appalled by Dr. White’s harsh tone while giving his criticisms on The Dividing Line. I realize he is passionate about theology, but he came off as quite the jackass, in my opinion.

  5. Boxing Pythagoras Says:

    Hey, Nick, I hope you’ll forgive the tangent, but do you have any plans to bring Defining Inerrancy to the Nook? It’s my preferred eReader, and I would love to get my hands on this book. Thanks!

  6. James-Durham Says:

    Did you see that White responded to your blog? Do you plan to respond?

  7. TMD Says:

    That was a great point in the article. If Christianity is true, then good research will show that it is true. Lordship of Christ does not mean that we are forbidden from doing critical scholarship. Indeed, by being involved, we can better shoot down bad theories.

    Logicians will often do work on logics that they do not believe are literally true, but are interesting nonetheless. You don’t have to believe that something is literally true in order to do work on it.

    • James-Durham Says:

      While this is somewhat true it actually misses the point. Peters original chapter dealt with the issue of presuppositions and scholarship. White responded to what he saw as inadequacies in Peters position. None of it had to do with the role of logic but the role of presuppositions driving different so called scholarly positions.

      Btw I still think Peters should respond. While he said he would look into it, I’ve heard a growing number of people say how they wish he would so White doesn’t look like the final authority on the debate between the two. I’m just letting you know that more people want a response!

  8. Really Recommended Posts 7/11/14- Inerrancy, Men, a young earth?, and more! | J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason" Says:

    […] A Response to James White on “Defining Inerrancy”- An interesting post showing that maybe we, as Christians, should desire a place at the table such that we can offer an internal critique of non-Christian thought. Check out this thought-provoking read! […]

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