Tuesday, November 20, 2007
The Phenomenon of Scripture
At the ETS banquet Andreas Kostenberger gave a good run down on the history of Evangelicalism in the United States (an important qualification!) through the publication of the book Quo Vadis Evangelicalism? which contains a number of plenary addresses by former ETS Presidents. (Say, did any one else note the irony of the fact that Quo Vadis was originally a Catholic novel and movie about how St. Peter returned to Rome to be martyred and how the designated ETS President was meant to be Francis Beckwith who converted to Catholicism ealier this year?).
Kostenberger made some remarks about a doctrine of Scripture which I found stimulating. I think he said something along the lines of: While some might want to focus on how the Scriptures came into being, we can still regard Scripture as inerrant as it arises out of a theological inference from the truthfulness of God. If God is truthful then his word will be truthful. What Kostenberger has in mind here is the book by Craig D. Allert A High View of Scripture who argues precisely for a phenomenological approach to the canon and a doctrine of Scripture over and against purely theological models.
Here's my thoughts: (1) I haven't read Allert's book yet, but I am definitely going to. (2) I have no problem with using theological reasoning from God to Scripture. For instance, I have no problem in inferring that the faithfulness of God translates in the faithfulness of his word. The problem is, however, when you then infer what that faithful, truthful, or trustworthy word will or must look like. Does inerrancy or infallibility follow logically from the faithfulness and truthfulness of God? I do not think it does. Even worse, you could use the same kind of a priori theological reasoning to argue for the KJV-only view or the Majority Text position. Anyone writing a doctrine of Scripture must hold in their hands a copy of Codex Vaticanus and ask, "Why does this exist and why does it look how it does?". Similarly, they should wrestle with the differences between the MT and LXX and note how the NT authors more often than not use the LXX even with its textual eccentricities. If the NT authors were so interested in the original autographs then why did they do that? Once one has a grip on the who, what, and how of Scripture, then one may speak of what God's faithfulness to his word does look like.