Friday, July 06, 2007

A Forthcoming Book on Scripture

Towards the end of the year, IVP will be publishing a book on Scripture by my colleague Rev. Prof. Andrew McGowan, principal of HTC. This book constitutes a revamp of the doctrine of Scripture and does several things such as argues that a doctrine of inspiration should be situated as part of the doctrine of God (i.e. God speaking) rather than being part of a bibliology. More controversially, McGowan argues for a "European alternative to inerrancy" based on the works of Orr, Bavinck, and Kuyper. McGowan tries to get passed the inerrancy vs. errancy debate that characterized the 1970s and 80s. This is a fascinating volume and is well worth reading for those who want to get beyond the Bible-wars.


Eric Rowe said...

One may well believe that inerrancy is not a good doctrine. But you can't just "get past" the debate. Your position always either will or will not allow for the Bible to assert falsehoods as though they are true. If McGowan does not make any such allowances, he believes in inerrancy. If he does not make such allowances then he doesn't believe in inerrancy. Either way, he is very much within the debate.

antony said...

That’s great news. I’ve been looking forward to this book ever since I read his essay in SBETh some years ago. Thanks.

Exiled Preacher said...

Looks interesting. I've been wondering what is meant by an "European alternative to inerrancy" since you used the phrase in your interview.

ReformedChristian said...

A rose by any other name smells just as sweet. I read Prof McGowen's doctrine of Spiration as part of the HTC Doctrine of Scripture class. I have yet to read Orr's contribution via the Fundamentals.I would think we should have a catholic argument for inerrancy that can be understood in the UK, in the US and even Upside down as opposed to a European verison. Nonetheless I should get the book when I can afford it. But I shall probably buy your's first.
Stephen <><

Gerschi said...

Hi there,

even though it’s been some time since you’ve published this particular blog, I hope it’s still o.k. to respond to it. You are looking for an “European alternative to inerrancy”? I just want to direct your attention to two articles by Heinzpeter Hempelmann, the former director of the Theologisches Seminar der Liebenzeller Mission, which were published in the periodical Theologische Beiträge and should be available for free download at the journal’s homepage. The two articles are:

„Adolf Schlatter als Ausleger der Heiligen Schrift. Sieben hermeneutische Impulse. In: ThBeitr 35/1, (2004), 17–38.”

„Plädoyer für eine Hermeneutik der Demut. Zum Ansatz einer Schriftlehre, die von der Schrift selbst zu lernen sucht. In: ThBeitr 33/4, (2002), 179-196.“

If the second article is no longer online (I wasn’t able to find it right now.) look for his „Was heißt "bibeltreu"? 18 Thesen und 10 Säulen einer Hermeneutik der Demut“.
This article was published in Hermann, Christian (Hrsg.), Wahrheit und Erfahrung – Themen buch zur Systematischen Theologie, Bd.1: Einführende Fragen der Dogmatik und Gotteslehre, Wuppertal 2004 together with other articles showing the variety of approaches to scripture within evangelical Germany: Clemens Hägele, Die Schrift als Gnadenmittel – Schriftlehre nach dem Vorbild Adolf Schlatters; Thomas Schirrmacher, Bibeltreu oder der Bibel treu – Glaubwürdigkeit und Irrtumslosigkeit der Heiligen Schrift; Thomas Jeromin, Geistliche Schriftauslegung.

Hempelmann's approch is by no means fool proof but (from my point of view) very exciting.

If you are interested, here is some further information. The „Hermeneutik der Demut“ was heavily attacked by some proponents of the inerrancy position and this led to some discussion within evangelical Germany. Hempelmann had already published a popular version of his position in his book Hempelmann, Heinzpeter, Nicht auf der Schrift sondern unter ihr - Grundsätze und Grundzüge einer Hermeneutik der Demut, Bad Liebenzell 22004 (2000). The first response was a devastating critique (and distortion of H. position combined with much ad hominem argumentation) by Möller, Reinhard. An Bibeltreue nicht zu überbieten? Eine Stellungnahme zur Diskussion über die CTL-Seminare Chrischona, Tabor und Liebenzell, Dornach 2001. Möller is connected to the STH Basel. A second critical response, but distancing himself from Möller’s polemics, very clear, very fair and in a brotherly tone was Schirrmacher, Thomas, Irrtumslosigkeit der Schrift oder Hermeneutik der Demut?: Ein Gespräch unter solchen, die mit Ernst Bibeltreue sein wollen, Nürnberg 2001. Schirrmacher is teaching at the FTA Gießen and is rector of the Martin Buccer Seminar Bonn. Hempelmann answered kind in tone but sharp on the issue with a theological criticism of Chicago I from the position of a “biblisch-reformatorische Theologie” in Gemeinsame Liebe – Wie Evangelikale die Autorität der Bibel bestimmen, Bad Liebenzell 2001. The rector of the FTA Gießen, Helge Stadelmann, edited a small volume in which lecturers of that institution from different departments answered to Hempelmann’s criticisms: Liebe zum Wort. Das Bekenntnis zur Biblischen Irrtumslosigkeit als Ausdruck eines bibeltreuen Schriftverständnisses – Zum Gespräch mit Heinzpeter Hempelmann, Nürnberg 2002.
For reviews cf.: ThBeitr. 33/5, 2002, S. 305-306 (on Schirrmacher); ThBeitr. 34/2, 2003, S. 105-108 (on Hempelmann, Gemeinsame Liebe and Stadelmann) and JETh 17, (2003), S. 298-303 (on Schirrmacher, Hempelmann, Gemeinsame Liebe, and Stadelmann).

BTW in Hempelmann you will find a very strong and nuanced defender of the bodily resurrection of Jesus – and he is a German! :-)(Wirklich auferstanden! Zur Relevanz der historischen Rückfrage für das christliche Osterzeugnis. In: ThBeitr 37 (2006; Heft 2), 62-79.

Thank you very much for your exciting blogs!

God bless,

The Pook said...

I've read Andy's book and although I wouldn't necessarily agree with everything he says, I think he's right about infallibility. I have also spoken personally with him about it, and I know that he's no crypto-Barthian or liberal. He affirms everything in the Westminster Confession and holds to the plenary inspiration of Scripture. He has been unfairly pilloried and misrepresented by people who have not read the book or have not understood it.

Some are taking chapter four and five out of context. They must be read in the light of his earlier chapters on van Til's presuppositionalism v. 2oth century modernist evidentialism. One friend I spoke to said he had ONLY read chapter four and five as he had been told that was the most important part of the book (meaning that's the part most relevant to the inerrancy debate).

This is a shame, because it obscures the many other useful suggestions Andrew contributes, such as the call to develop a more robust evangelical theology of tradition. Ditching the 'inerrant' terminology is only one of the issues he brings up for discussion. And remember, he clearly says this is a discussion paper, not a theological fait accompli set in concrete. He is trying to stimulate debate and making a contribution towards that debate.

I will concede that some of Andy's wording could perhaps have been better chosen. Applying adjectives like "scholastic" to the Westminster Confession of Faith is not the way to win friends and influence people in Presbyterianism. In fact it's like holding a red rag to a bull. Nor do I think it accurately reflects what he is trying to say about the WCF. When I hear that word I immediately have visions of medieval Catholic theologians like Aquinas, or debates about angels on pinheads.

I accept Andrew's argument that Inerrancy (with a capital 'I') is fundamentally (pun intended) a 19th and 20th century American phenomenon and not the position of Calvin and other reformers, or even of the Westminster divines.

I see his thesis as actually upholding chapter 1 section 4 and 5 of the Confession, by restoring the emphasis found there. WCF 1.5 holds up the human witness to and 'evidences' for the bible (including "the entire perfection thereof") as only the minor premise for our faith in it as the Word of God , but then it gives the major premise as "yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts." In the end I think that’s the main substance of Andrew’s charge against Inerrantism – that it turns the traditional Reformed emphasis on its head by making the MINOR premise in the WCF (human witness and evidences) into the MAJOR one (which in the Confession is Holy Spirit conviction). He also argues that it falls into the trap of debating with the materialists on their own ground by thinking that Science can ‘prove’ the Word of God just because their opponents think that Science can ‘disprove’ it.

Now I’m not saying I agree wholeheartedly with his entire argument at every point, but I do see his ideas as something that can be debated, discussed, and disagreed with, still within the scholarly ambit of normal evangelical theology, and not as a heresy to be rejected out of hand like higher criticism or liberalism. I think PTC Sydney has done the right thing by continuing to have him come next month so people can interact with his views, rather than cut off debate completely as has been the approach of PTC Melbourne, who have cancelled his speaking visit there (which was on an entirely unrelated subject I might add).

We're looking forward to having Andy with us again here in Australia next month, and especially when he comes "down under Down Under" to visit us here in Tasmania.