Monday, April 27, 2009

Latest Issue of Themelios

The new issue of Themelios 34.1 (2009) is available with several notable articles:

D.A. Carson offers a good editorial on the importance of distinguishing between the gospel and its effects. He states: "Failure to distinguish between the gospel and all the effects of the gospel tends, on the long haul, to replace the good news as to what God has done with a moralism that is finally without the power and the glory of Christ crucified, resurrected, ascended, and reigning."

This issue revolves around two article length reviews that engage recent books on Scripture (and they are many) by Robert Yarbrough "The Embattled Bible: Four More Books" and Jason Sexton "How Far Beyond Chicago? Recent Attempts to Reframe the Inerrancy Debate". I particularly liked Sexton's article that was sympathetic and fair to a number of authors that have got a rough ride in reviews. What was interesting is that Jason cites this blog, specifically my interview with Ben Witherington about Scripture, in a footnote. Thus, much to my surprise, perhaps "Euangelion" has become an academically reputable source as opposed to the collective rambling of the thoughts of myself and Joel Willitts.

There is also a review of Thomas Schreiner's New Testament Theology written by the prosaic Michael F. Bird.


Jason Sexton said...

Thanks, Mike. I wouldn't go too far with Euangelizomai's status, especially with such underrepresentation of systematic theology herein! (grin)

But frankly, you brought some clear, concise things out of BW3 that he didn't put in the book. So I'm super-grateful for your help in highlighting his position a bit further.

Eilidh said...

"Thus, much to my surprise, perhaps "Euangelion" has become an academically reputable source as opposed to the collective rambling of the thoughts of myself and Joel Willitts."

Excellent! Be prepared for some citations from Euangelion :)

Craig said...

Thanks for your review of Schreiner, Michael.Would you mind giving a bit of a comparison between the three major evangelical NT theologies that have appeared in recent years (Schreiner, Thielman, and Marshall)?

dopderbeck said...

How is Sexton's article the least bit constructive or helpful? "There are some problems with innerancy (cough, cough, mumble, mumble), but it's all good..." Same old stuff as far as I can tell.

dopderbeck said...

Jason and I have exchanged a couple of emails, and if Michael will indulge, perhaps we can air a question or two here.

Jason: in my view the various proposals of Sparks, Enns, McGowan, and Oldfield are more helpful than you seem to suggest in your article. In particular, they seem to me to diffuse a fundamental problem with the conservative evangelical approach, which is -- in my view -- its inability to deal with the reasonably assured findings of the natural sciences.

For example, it is clear beyond any reasonable doubt that there was never a universal flood in human history (whether truly "global" or simply anthropologically universal). Similarly, it is clear beyond any reasonable doubt that the Babel and Eden narratives cannot be "historical" in any literal sense. No reasonably informed person without an a priori axe to grind questions the basic scientific outlines of human evolution (though, of course, thoughtful people might question mechanism, or whether some particular biological features evidence "design").

What I'd be interested to hear is how your constructive proposal to preserve inerrancy would account for data such as this? The traditional evangelical approach reflected in the Chicago Statements cannot handle this data, as according to the Chicago Statements questioning the historicity of the Noahic flood is off-limits. My experience as a leader in evangelical church and school contexts for over 30 years confirms this.

I don't want to suggest that the faith-science interface is the one "big" issue. It just happens to be one that I personally have found both fascinating and bothersome, and which I have not seen my tradition of conservative evangelicalism handle well. At the same time, I'm quite sympathetic to the argument that giving up on any notion of inerrancy tends to erode proper Biblical authority. I sense that your answer will not be to prevaricate about the scientific data, so I look forward to your clarifications and comments.

Jason Sexton said...

Hi David. This is great. Thanks for the thoughtful, challenging, and clear questions. I’ll try to get to them point by point in order to, I hope, present something helpful for this dialogue, and also give a few more thoughts I have about this issue.

First, I didn’t really address Pete Enns’s work at all, nor did I set out to, other than a few references that were actually more matter-of-factly stating his involvement (fn 2, et al). I appreciate him, and value his work and role in raising some hard questions, having the integrity to bring these to the table, and resilience to stick around for the conversation. But I concluded that “none of the aforementioned contributions crafts an acceptable Scripture principle for American evangelicals”... mainly because of the execrable attention paid to CSBI, which I argued cannot be done in the N American evangelical context without seriously revisioning the debate’s history. I explain this at 2.1.7. I am not ready to say that there are no helpful aspects of each of the works you mentioned, which I briefly tried to bring out for each in my ever-so-brief sketches of their contributions, but need to bring them into the context of a wider discussion that has no easy history. Perhaps you can show me where one of them is seriously and self-consciously trying to work from the CSBI, and then I’d be happy to say that their proposals deserve a better hearing for US evangelicals. Otherwise, I think them unhelpful insofar as they are far too revisionist for my taste. In this debate, one cannot easily jettison previous waves of the debate because some parts seem unpalatable, or whatever.

Second, re. “the reasonably assured findings of the natural sciences.” I think this might help to get at the difficulty you are facing (and presumably many others). It seems that here this comes back to a matter of one’s basis for assessing reality, which is really a matter of authority. Revelation (to use the traditional categories: “natural” & “special”) is reality – indeed, the primary reality for Christians. Now, when one has Spirit-effectingly come to understand that what God says in Scripture is the authority; does this then have less, more or equal weight as, say, Stephen Hawking’s observations of the natural universe? Here I’m not trying to deal with the question specifically, but want to raise the question of what our authority really is. I had a conversation with an assoc. professor of Chemistry from an unnamed university last week in Texas (who is very serious about his faith) – my challenge was to have him (perhaps after he gets tenure?) seriously engage his discipline theologically, since as Christians, affirming Jesus as Lord and the Bible as God’s Word, we can and should give a true (i.e., theological) account of all reality. And I think it unfortunate when Christians engage their disciplines and approach their vocations without the necessary engagement which seems to be such a privilege for us. For more on this see the handy little work ed. by Stephen R. Holmes, Public Theology in Cultural Engagement (UK: Paternoster, 2008).

Third, it seems that you move in a different direction away from this discussion (and into some major assumptions – a number of them!) when you get into your second paragraph. While I am sure that you have not met every “reasonably informed person” who may or may not have an axe to grind on this or some related issue, this sort of rhetoric is simply not helpful to the debate. It resembles an uninformed or malformed fundamentalism that effectively seems to come from a position having an a priori axe to grind. Or else it is much too ad hominem, for me. I appreciate the examples from Genesis, however one wants to interpret the biblical data, as “clear beyond a reasonable doubt” (I love the contemporary legal language here, btw, helping us further see where you are situated!). But you are now entering the realm of hermeneutics, which is a closely related issue, but not the issue of my article or this discussion. ***As an aside, you mentioned via email Iain Provan’s article in BBR 17/1 (as did Pete Enns to me in a recent email, and Charles Anderson in the edit process of my piece). The focus therein lies not on the CSBI at all. It does mention CSBI (1978) briefly on p. 6 n. 12, and another brief reference on p. 8 n.16. Provan's main concern deals with evangelicals and biblical hermeneutics, and so he's interacting with the 2nd statement (CSBH - 1982). An earlier draft of my essay had a fn mentioning why I was not referring at all to the 1982, 86 statements from the ICBI. It's a related issue, but one that my article couldn't tackle. It is important and does need to be considered – but not here. This is especially the case because the latter two statements had much less consensus (especially the CSBH [which, in my opinion, makes Provan’s article somewhat unhelpful – seriously, I cannot think of anyone today who affirms the CSBH]), and failed to adequately take into account a number of matters developing in hermeneutics at the time. On pp 44, I do assert that one needs to answer the question of “essential historicity,” and seek to lay out some implications in the previous section (p 43).

Fourth, re. my “constructive proposal.” I actually didn’t offer a comprehensive one or make any claim to do so (read the first paragraph on p 41), but offered a number of components that I think should be part of a Scripture principle, and issues that need to be addressed when providing one (again, this is a doctrine of Scripture, not hermeneutical principles which are something quite different, though related). It seems that here you are trying to absorb the hermeneutical questions into a doctrine of inerrancy. I’d rather not do that. And here is where I think further difficulty may lie. I actually never said that I wanted to “preserve” inerrancy. That said, the doctrine of inerrancy as CSBI has expressed it, is still highly relevant. Revising it (which you suggested) is not an option (I cannot give all the reasons for this here, and it would be somewhat trivial to do so), but constructing a further doctrine of Scripture “from” it is what I think can be done in the US evangelical context. According to JI Packer, Feinberg, etc., it does seem like the doctrine of “inerrancy” may have a shelf-life, at least as the CSBI has articulated it. If it does not serve Scripture’s authority in the present, for the sake of the mission and advancement of the Gospel, then it seems that the desire to preserve it is unhelpful. This was a major point that I tried to argue throughout the article.

Finally, concerning the last paragraph, I think I understand. You are right on the final point. And the only way that I think inerrancy will be relevant 50 years from now is (1) when considered in light of the historical US evangelical framework that a doctrine of Scripture arises from, for us (considering earlier debates, and their relevance to contemporary articulations of theology, etc.), or (2) if there is another major scientific revolution which breeds accounts of reality that seek to discredit Scripture’s authority in light of whatever new phenomena might arise from such an ideology (though it currently does not seem that the tide might move in this direction, but only the Lord knows). Frankly, I am not looking to the empirical data outside of Scripture to determine my view of Scripture. Scripture itself, self-authenticatingly authoritative and Spirit-effectually appropriated, defines and describes the data. They do not perhaps describe the data in the language of the astrophysicist, or perhaps even the hard-line grammarian (or whatever other characterizations the doctrinal of inerrancy has received), or any other passing ideology whose tools men might employ to seek to muzzle Scripture’s authority – it just cannot be done.

One final thought – it may be helpful to consider the interchange between Pannenberg and Polkinghorne in previous issues of Zygon. This is an in-house debate, of course, but I really think that Pannenberg’s call for a more “top-down” approach to relevant data is where we need to be. After all, every scientist (and everyone else in every other discipline) is a theologian anyway.

dopderbeck said...

Jason, I think you make a number of basic mistakes here, or perhaps I'm misunderstanding you.

First, "revelation" is not "reality," nor is it the "primary reality for Christians." Reality simply is what it is. As Christians, we affirm that God is the primary source of reality, not scripture or anything else.

"Revelation" is what God discloses about Himself. God does not disclose everything about Himself. Therefore, "revelation" is not coextensive with reality. (I'm a Barth-through-Torrance person when it comes to natural theology).

Second, scripture is not "the" authority for a Christian understanding of reality if by "the" you mean "the only." Scripture, as you note, is special revelation, given for particular purposes. It does not purport to describe all of reality. It is therefore legitimate for Christians to look to other sources of authority in addition to scripture when attempting to offer a comprehensive account of reality. These include tradition, reason, and experience. From a Reformed perspective, of course, scripture is the "norming norm," but this does not mean, never has meant, and cannot mean that scripture is the only norm. There is nothing on that side of the tracks but fideism, which is an abandonment of the mainstream of the Christian tradition, a failure to exercise our God-given human responsibilities, and a path to intellectual and emotional suicide.

In this regard, re: your reference to Stephen Hawking, I would suggest that what contemporary science tells us about the physical structure and natural history of the universe bears more "weight" than scripture, because these are matters that simply are not within the purpose of scripture. Hawking, of course, is himself a red herring, because some of his particular cosmological theories get beyond the reasoned consensus of what science currently claims as reasonably warranted conclusions. I suppose we'll have to disagree about what conclusions from the natural sciences or other disciplines we can and, as a matter of epistemic responsibility, ought to take as reasonably assured or warranted. Those that I have alluded to, I think, are warranted to a degree that no reasonably informed person ought to reject them.

Third, I think one must "look to the empirical data outside of Scripture" to inform (but not "determine") one's view of scripture. You are doing it here when you try to construct a theology of scripture. Nothing you say here is expressly stated in scripture itself. You are using at least two other sources of authority in your effort to construct this theology of scripture: reason and tradition. If that is not so, there's no point in this conversation at all, and we should just be quoting scripture to each other. It seems to me that this common criticism of conservative evangelical inerrantists is entirely fair: too often, they are arguing for the inerrancy of their theological construction of scripture under the ruse that they're simply describing scripture the way scripture describes itself. Nonsense!

Fourth, I don't agree that inerrancy can be cleanly separated from hermeneutics. If you want to argue for total inerrancy, you have a responsibility to explain what that means in light of the phenomena of the text and the relation of the text to other sources of knowledge. Saying "well, that's all heremeneutics" is a dodge -- frankly, an intellectually dishonest dodge.

Finally, I understand your sociological point about the CSBI and conservative American evangelicalism, but I really don't give a rat's patootie about that anymore. I care about Truth, not the social network of conservative evangelicalism. The social network of conservative evangelicalism is an enormous part of our problem in crafting a true and workable scripture principle for the mainstream of American evangelicalism. The use of the CSBI as a near-Magesterial litmus test for orthodoxy and as a tool for social conformity is close to idolatry, and of course, that sort of enforcement is exactly the purpose for which the "Battle for the Bible" crowd created the CSBI.

Insisting that we have to work within the trajectory set by the CSBI is like Martin Luther deciding that the Roman Magesterium is co-authoritative with scripture after all. I think it's past time for evangelicals who are serious about theology that engages with reality, who are tired of prevarication and category mistakes such as "scripture is reality," who want to stand in the long Christian tradition of faith and reason, to stick some nails in the Wittenburg Door of the CSBI.

Anonymous said...

Dbeck -
I'd agree w/ Jason that revelation is reality, and its God's prerogative to deem it as such, which he does time and time again in his word. In light of that, I'd caution anyone against, as you say, "the reasonably assured findings of the natural sciences" since Scientists are men and (can be) fallable, and their systems and epistemology are many times not as objective as they would have you believe.

dopderbeck said...

Sean -- so, when I look out my office window and see the building across the street, that's "revelation?"

No, that would be a category mistake. It's a building that I'm observing with my senses. God's grace allows me to observe it; but it's an observation of a created thing, not "revelation."

How my observation of that building integrates, if at all, with things God reveals, is the age-old question of the relation between faith and reason, or how faith seeks understanding.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect that is the silliest illustration/point ever. Give me a break.

dopderbeck said...

Why is it silly Sean? You said "revelation is reality." Therefore, according to your argument, the building I'm looking at must be revelation, as it is part of reality. Maybe the problem is that you and Jason are not expressing yourselves clearly, or that I'm just not understanding you.

Jason, would you agree that "revelation is reality" is a misstatement or at least is unclear? Revelation does not constitute reality. God Himself, and what God has created, is reality; God then reveals to us some things (but not everything) about reality.

Sean, if what you meant is that "revelation circumscribes what we can think about reality," I'd agree with you. What God reveals to us is always true, and, therefore, if we conceive of reality in ways that contradict God's revelation to us, then our thinking is wrong.

But notice that we must define clearly what exactly God has "revealed." We cannot therefore, I believe, cleanly separate a theory of revelation from hemeneutics, nor can we determine what constitutes "revelation" without carefully examining both the form and the content of what we believe to be divine communication.

I believe this is one of the fundamental mistakes in Jason's article as well is among many conservative inerrantists and other philosophical theologians (I'm thinking here of Paul Helm).
Jason (like Paul Helm) argues that we must construct a theory of revelation and scripture a priori and impose that theory on the phenomena of scripture, at all costs. The only way this is possible, however, is if we have direct, unmediated communication (revelation) from God. We of course do not have direct, unmediated communication from God, because of the ineffable ontological gulf between humans and God. We always have only communication by which God condescends to human limitations and which reveals God through analogy. Therefore, we must attend to the form of God's communication as we formulate our second-order theological theories about what is implied by "revelation." And when we do that with scripture, it becomes immediately apparent that "inerrancy," at least as expressed in the CSBI and notwithstanding the CSBI's nuances and qualifications, is not a very helpful theory.

Many theologians once believed that if scripture is revelation, it must be perfect in every respect, because God is perfect. They theorized that the form of Greek used by the NT writers therefore must have been a pure, angelic form. Subsequent scholarship showed that they were wrong, and that Koine Greek was in fact a "low" everyman's form of the language. Not only that, some of the scripture writers used bad grammar!

Once you have acknowledged this fact about the form of language and grammar used by the Bible writers (as nearly everyone, except perhaps some KJV-only folks, does today), then it seems to me any a priori top-down approach to constructing a theory of revelation and inspiration collapses. By accepting the obvious facts about Koine Greek, you've already admitted that there is not a univocal correspondence between text and revelation, such that any theory of inspiration must interact with the phenomena of the text rather than merely dictating what the phenomena must be. I believe statements like the CSBI have already jumped the shark at this point

Anonymous said...

I can't speak for Jason, so I won't, but I believe Scripture is what Scripture says it is, because God is the author. Plain and simple. God's "condescension" - in the case of Koine Greek - is not to the detriment of his nature, neither to what he already claimed in the OT, in Hebrew no less! Taking on Koine Greek has little impact on the key - what you actually say with that Koine Greek! Kinda like a country preacher who preaches a profound sermon...heck isn't that what Jesus was and did? Please, please take the antidote the venom of the neo-higher critical bug...there's nothing "higher" about it.

dopderbeck said...

But it's not that "plain and simple," Jason, because God inspired human authors. Everyone, even very conservative inerrantists, even the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, agrees that this is so. Now, the interesting and difficult question is whether God's "authorship" of scripture implies dictation or "verbal plenary inspiration" of a sort that erases or supersedes the human-ness of the human authors. And scripture itself doesn't really "say what it is" in this regard.

2 Tim. 3:16, the closest we have to a direct statement of what scripture is in scripture itself, uses a neologism, theopneustos, so citing that passage simply begs the question of what the "inspiration" (or "spiration" as A.W. McGowan puts it) of scripture implies, particularly when it is clear -- from the colloquial form of language used if from nothing else -- that the humanity of the human authors was not erased when the text was encoded.

(Not to mention the other exegetical difficulties with this passage, including that it can only directly be applied to the Old Testament -- the only "scripture" existing when this was written -- and that the construction "All scripture is" in some translations is contested by some who would render it "All scripture that is...").

Take another specific example from scripture itself: 1 Cor. 1:14-16. Paul says there, "I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other." What does it mean for God to have inspired Paul to (a) make a mistake about whom he baptized; (b) correct that mistake; and then (c) state that he doesn't remember whether he baptized anyone else? Is God the "author" of Paul's confusion here, confusion that is enscripturated in 1 Corinthians? Does a dictation or even a plenary verbal theory of inspiration make any sense in relation to this sort of passage? It seems to me that this is one of many, many examples that an a priori theory of inspiration cannot handle, and that scripture itself doesn't address in any comprehensive way.

Re your reference to "higher" criticism: I suppose you mean "historical" criticism? If so, I partly agree -- we evangelicals, and others who take the Bible as scripture, need to address efforts to "get behind" the text as secondary to our theological hermeneutic, and we need to be very aware of the presuppositions of the critics. But I would not agree that we can simply dismiss historical, or even less so form and redaction, criticism simply by referring to an a priori theory of inspiration or to supposed proof texts such as 2 Tim. 3:16.

Anonymous said...

I'm flattered you confused me w/ Jason =)
Its not a priori at all...God claims these things in his word - re-read Ps 119 where the Psalmist attributes these characteristics/qualities to God's Word - Law, Prophets and Writings. But, alas, I'm at work and these allegations have been all answered before, so I won't repeat them here. You know as well as I do that inerrancy doesn't negate the humanity or the human side of the Scriptures, but in admitting, which I think you'd have to if you believe the Word, that the origin of the Scriptures is of God thu man, then you'd have to not come down so hard on the side of "man".

dopderbeck said...

Sean, where does Ps. 119 discuss verbal plenary inspiration, much less dictation? I don't see it there. I think you're importing some rationalist concepts into Ps. 119, based on your a priori theological construction, that are foreign to the Psalmist's thinking and purpose.

I don't think total interrantists have adequately "answered" the tings I brought up in the prior post. In my view, the "answers" of total inerrantists to these and many issues are mostly lame rationalizations. This is one of the main contributions Enns and Sparks have made, I think: they force us to look honestly in the mirror and ask if we really think the many of the explanations we have on offer seem honest and compelling.

Well, we at least agree on this: the Bible is God's written word, provided through inspired human authors, and is normative and authoritative for the faith and practice of the Church. If you insist that the CSBI, or some other formulation of total inerrancy, is necessitated by this affirmation, then we'll just have to disagree on that. To me, that isn't a ground for breaking fellowship or for suspicion. Would you agree with that?

Jason Sexton said...

@ Dave: The “Jason” mix-up in your 3:14 comments (while interacting with “Sean” and not with anything I said) seems to be indicative of your “monologue” so far…. at least, with my stuff.

You have actually misunderstood so much of what I said in the comments here and in the referred to article, as well as what I was actually hoping to do in that piece. You specifically focused on minor points and completely disregarded my emphasis on theological engagement, which I suggested as a means of accessing the things we are addressing here (note I did not designate a priori or a posteriori, though you happily chose to place me in one particular category, which I do not hold in the manner that you insist). And yet you are eager to subject theology, as a discipline, to others that are less-than-distinctly sub ratione Dei. (cf. your comments on the nature of “reality” in relation to “revelation” – and note also that I did not begin to nuance these, or speak of degrees, but simply threw out the “classical categories,” as an example of how we could have potentially further explored that conversation).

Assuming your questions and desire to dialogue were genuine, and you didn’t come with an agenda simply desiring to spout your own opinions (though I’m seriously starting to wonder) you may want to take the time to consult the book and articles I referred you to in order to gain a better understanding of what I was saying.

This is all part of a much larger discussion that I am not convinced you are interested in understanding (which is why I had the first section in that article, btw – something that I strongly hoped would be heeded by readers who would track further with a few ways that I see the debate moving forward in potentially healthy and helpful ways).

Your confident assertions about your own epistemological bases are much more certain than mine, apparently, so much so that it does not seem like the Spirit has any role in the impenetrable fortress you seem hopeful to someday construct (perhaps in attempt to have a view of all things that might be more credible in the eyes of the audience you are most comfortable with – i.e., the “reasonably assured,” “consensus” crowd).

Of course, I did not intend my article to be the last word on the subject, nor everything I believe about the issue of Scripture’s inerrancy. I wrote the article to serve the church. I did not give my understanding of the role reason plays in theological engagement, or how theology relates to philosophy or biblical studies. You have read so much into what I actually said. What concerns me here is that you are actually doing theology in a manner hardly obliging, and do not want to subject your scrutiny to anything other than what you find “reasonably assured,” “consensus,” with characterizations of any of your conversation partners who do not agree with you on nearly each point you have set forth here (“no reasonably informed person ought to reject,” “nonsense!”). In this way, you want your respondents to say what you want them to say, without actually reckoning with what was said, especially when they do not conform to the boxes that they must help you to “tick” off in your half-baked pursuit of this issue.

Unfortunately, you’ve got some significant and gaping mix-ups that will make it difficult for you to go any further in a dialogue on this topic. E.g., the Battle for the Bible “guy” didn’t even sign CSBI. And who told you “θεόπνευστος” was a neologism? (cp., e.g., TDNT, 6:453)

I also never stated “how” one comes to hold to a doctrine of inerrancy. Frankly, there are a multitude of dynamic variables at work in the Spirit’s activity of sanctifying God’s people, which includes the generation of constructive theology that serves the church’s active mission in the world. And I was very intentional to state components of a doctrine of Scripture, and descriptive features of inerrancy’s relevance (among other things) without trying to offer an exhaustive treatment of the matter.

The inerrancy debate has already been plagued by enough talking over one another. Perhaps the time now is not for us to continue to argue about these things (which I see going absolutely nowhere in this blog thread, btw!), but to pick up our Bibles and read them for the sake of knowing the One who spoke/speaks there - that time spent seems so much better than anything we can solve here. Perhaps we should read it more and obey more what it says, and pray that He would sanctify the church through the 3rd wave of this debate, empowering us for the present mission – perhaps that is precisely what He is waiting for us to do now . . .

In light of this last comment here, I appreciate the comment from your last post and think that you ended on a good note – it would still, however be really helpful to have begun there, letting it govern your tone throughout. None of our theological constructs will ever be inerrant – are you sure you actually read my article - I continue to have my doubts? (grin)

Jason Sexton said...

Alas, I just read Sean's comments (who I'm starting to like already - must be a Californian or something close!) and noticed that he was referring to a number of things that happened to find their way into that Themelios article - you sure you read it, Dave?

Either way, perhaps we can continue to carry this conversation on over some neeps and tatties (or haggis for the brave souls!) next time one of ya's happens to voyage over to St Andrews....

dopderbeck said...

Jason -- what a shame that you seem more interested in ad hominem than conversation. If you want to point out some specific things that you think I missed, please do so, and I'll try to respond.

Ranger said...

Can you please try responding to what David has said instead of just attacking him? You may think he's misunderstanding you, or not interested, or has a derisive tone, or whatever...but that doesn't justify your ignoring his arguments.

He has made some very good points and I would be interested to hear someone respond who is as well versed in the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy as you are.

I've read your article, and David brings up some points that you didn't address. Why not share your thoughts on them for the benefit of other readers instead of just insulting?

Jason Sexton said...

@ Ranger:

Thanks for chiming in on this. I'm trying to get my mind around this myself, and, without giving it an undo amount of attention (which we may already be dangerously close to), respond appropriately to the tone and content on this thread. There are many unhelpful voices in the inerrancy conversation (I’m not specifically referring to this thread), though a number of helpful ones too.

Also, I didn’t invent the doctrine (but inherited it) so do not claim to be able to answer every question or deal with every problem, especially with the CSBI (which was written the year I was born, btw!). But there is a stream of theological development within US evangelicalism that we are working within. This doctrine has developed and been nurtured within US evangelicalism, and therefore is the church’s doctrine. When I wrote that article, it was with the intent to access and assess the inerrancy phenomena theologically, which I think is the best (though not only) way to access and assess it.

An interdisciplinary note about how I think the conversation can continue to move forward: when theological construction is done, pointing out problems that other disciplines generate for theology is sometimes, though not always, a dead-end, especially when they ask theology to conform to their expectations/language/criteria/categories/assumptions, etc. It seems like this is a basic difficulty of the inerrancy debate, though is also true of theology, in general. I’m not sure that Dave is adequately taking this into account (though many others in this debate are).

BTW - the revelation/reality point is moot for me. And I do not want this conversation to get swallowed into an abysmal hole. Nor do I want to deal with every tangent we could possibly go on.

So... what are the top 2 arguments that Dave made that you think need to be addressed?

Ranger said...

@ Jason

Thanks for the response. I'd say his top 2 arguments are:

1. The reference to the passages within Scripture that seem to go against plenary, verbal inspiration.

2. The underlying argument of how our doctrine relates to other fields of knowledge.


Jason Sexton said...

Ranger – that’s cool, and the help is much appreciated.

I think I can only give very unsatisfactory answers to the arguments here, unfortunately, because they each demand such exacting work to give a faithful response that will serve to move this debate forward (which is no easy task, and I hope is beginning to be seen as such [grin]).

1. I am certain that Dave and every other evangelical holds to Scripture's full divine inspiration (cf. Larson, Cambridge Companion, 7-9). But to go beyond that description and perform a thorough exegetical analysis of what Scripture says about itself is quite a task. I think some of this (especially in a biblical-theological framework) will be addressed in forthcoming volume by Don Carson that I fn’d in my piece, aimed for 2012. Also, I am aware that Mike Bird and Michael Pahl are editing a work with some really good contributors called, "The Sacred Text" (Gorgias Press, 2010) which also looks to be very good from what I’ve seen so far. Though some of this latter work will be addressing the issues from without the US (and some will do it from within), I am sure that it will be a quite sound, fair, and helpful treatment of relevant issues like this one that you re-raised from Dave’s thread. (One can expect nothing less from Mike Bird!)

2. This second issue really hits a key tension point on the head (and perhaps the chief tension point making conversation the most difficult), which I think is going to need to be methodologically dealt with before we can really move forward in the most helpful ways (I tried to acknowledge this from the beginning of my comments here). Inerrancy certainly touches other fields of knowledge (and is, indeed, a response to questions raised by some), but is chiefly a theological development. Theology engages other disciplines, and is potentially able to converse constructively and accurately with every discipline. Further, it also flows from and solicits the greatest corrective invitation from Scripture itself, which holds the authority. Again, I think some of the upcoming authors in both works I mentioned (with some big-names and some of the most competent scholars who could be working on this topic), from a transatlantic perspective, will have much more to say than I could on this issue, and I am confident will do it in very helpful ways that will continue to bring glory to Christ, and good to us as we seek to obey the Lord for our mission down here.

For now, perhaps we should be praying for them, waiting patiently and eagerly for the Lord to do much in our understanding of and setting forth of his Word.

dopderbeck said...

Friends -- I'm really sorry that my comments at points were too strident. I also did make a couple of mistakes (including, as Jason noted re: theopneustos -- not a "neologism" as I said, but it is a hapax in the NT). As Jason and I have chatted on and offline, I think our approaches reflect some degree of disagreement concerns the relation of theology to other disciplines. I disagree, quite strongly, that theology should, or even possibly could, simply deliver its results in isolation from other disciplines. I think this is a legacy of the fundamentalist-modernist controversy, and it has left us with what Mark Noll properly calls the "scandal of the evangelical mind." Like many evangelicals of my generation, I've struggled, quite hard at times, with how the doctrine of scripture I inherited can interface with other avenues of pursuing truth, particularly the natural sciences. I surely don't have all the answers to that, and I think Jason and I agree that this is a fair sort of question for future evangelical articulations of the scripture principle. We probably disagree on the extent to which "extra-Biblical" information should influence theology, or whether that influence falls on the doctrine of scripture, hermeneutics, or both -- but let's let that be ok and work at this perhaps from different angles but in the unity of the Spirit.

Jason Sexton said...

Well said, Dave.


Anonymous said...

my brutha...I'm a San Jose native =) living in Seattle now.

Jason Sexton said...

Alas - my senses did not fail me (just watched Wolverine the other day with my son and kinda' got into it, I'd say)!

Just a stone's throw away, "Santa Clara's" on my birth cert. (grin)

Anonymous said...

Ahhhh...yes, know it well, though I've not been back in many, many years.