Inerrancy, Idolatry, and Debates, Oh My!

Anyone who’s anyone in the world of biblioblogging has no doubt been keeping up with the barrage of recent posts concerning inerrancy (broadly stated).  So in keeping with the spirit of my last round-up-esque post about all the talk of fundamentalism, I’d like to offer another mini-carnival until the canonical one turns up (where are you?!!).  I’m going to try to follow everything as best I can and then offer a quote from a book I just started reading that appears somewhat relevant to the issues at hand.  OK, so here goes…

  • Jim West was the center of controversy once again as he continued his stand against fundie-ism by issuing a simple challenge to the fundamentalists to prove the doctrine of inerrancy from the Bible — no deductive reasoning allowed — all philosophical speculation was to be checked at the door. 

  • Apparently Bryan L. answered the challenge with his own little challenge in the comments that went into comment purgatory only to be set free by the indulgence of being re-posted on his own blog. 

  • John Hobbins responded by sharing why he is a fundamentalist according to Jim’s definition stating that on certain points of his post, Jim was just plain wrong — he even goes so far as to quote West’s idol (and I mean that in the most un-idolatrous way possible ;)) Zwingli and his description of scripture as being without error! 

  • Doug Chaplin just couldn’t sit idly by so he decided to take Hobbins to task and challenge his language of inerrancy suggesting that words like authoritative, trustworthy, normative, inspired, and useful would all serve a better purpose than the loaded term inerrancy

  • So then West had to jump back in to defend the honor of his beloved Zen master and tell the world how Zwingli was no fundamentalist despite Hobbins defamation

  • This caused Hobbins to violate Deuteronomy 18:11 and conduct a séance in which he channeled Jim West on inerrancy

  • Well our beloved larger than a skinny man* life Chris Tilling called for some sensitivity on the part of all us errantists and issued 9 points of consideration regarding the whole debate. 

  • Having already broken the law John saw fit to continue his trend of disobedience to Deut. 18, this time channeling Chris Tilling on inerrancy.

  • Update 12/17/07 (10:15 AM):

    John Hobbins is a Communist!!!  Oh, and he also jumped back in the discussion explaining to us why he is a fundamentalist, inerrantist, and a calvinist in a very thoughtful and ‘confessional’ post.  Of course I have to think that the way he qualifies ‘inerrancy’ makes it something other than what most people perceive inerrancy to be, but that’s ok.  He also take a moment to briefly comment on this post and my other one (thanks John!) and draws attention to posts from Andrew Compton, Drew, and Trainee Pastor that I had not come across.

  • Update 12/18/07 (2:31 AM):

    Jim Getz weighed in with a post on the error of inerrancy in which he says: “As a biblical scholar I’ve become convinced that the entire discussion of inerrancy is irrelevant and erroneous from the outset. There were no autographs to begin with.”  This post is definitely worth checking out!

  • Update 12/29/07 (3:39 PM):

    Esteban Vázquez  gives us some of his thoughts on the varieties of inerrancy while defending John Hobbins’ right to have heavily nuanced view of it.  He was also kind enough to point us to an article by Gordon Lewis that Bob Bradshaw has made available on his wonderful Biblical Studies blog.

    Chris Tilling offers a few points of response to Hobbins’ channeling of him from a couple of weeks ago.  I would note that Tilling (much like me) seems to have a problem with ‘strict inerrancy’ of the CSBI variety. 

And this is pretty much where it stops (at least I haven’t seen any more activity up to this point)… Oh, I had asked a question regarding presuppositionalists and inerrancy but nobody (only John Hobbins and Jeff Downs — Thanks guys!) answered it. -( 

Now this leads me to the quote from the very fantastic book that I’m reading, The Triune God: An Essay In Postliberal Theology by Willaim C. Placher (shouts out to PPC & WJK!).  He says:

. . .[A]fter the Reformation, in a divided Christian world, each party wanted to be able to argue for its own correctness, which meant drawing matters of faith into a realm where decisive argument was supposedly possible. Protestant orthodoxy, for example, took the doctrine of Scripture–in the hands of Luther and Calvin a way of challenging tradition–and turned it into a theory of propositional authority. The Westminster confession of 1647, which unlike previous Protestant statements of faith began with the authority of Scripture rather than with God. . . [p. 20]

B”H

* Along with Tilling I am chubby, so I understand the pain that can come from being ridiculed for being chubby like Tilling is.  That is why I struck the comment above where I called him larger than a skinny man — not because he isn’t — but because I would never want to hurt his feelings by calling him chubby publicly on my blog. 

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6 thoughts on “Inerrancy, Idolatry, and Debates, Oh My!

  1. Hobbins is a right frustrating lad. The argument is clear as day: How can something that one admits has errors be inerrant at the same time? I have heard appeals to the inerrant nature of God, that God does not “lie” as if human errors in the transmission of the text would make God a liar, that for scripture to be authoritative it must be inerrant, that for scripture to be reliable it must be inerrant, that God elected or determined the human error to be present in scripture for some mysterious reason, etc. Not only are these lousy arguments that are utterly irrational, they do not address the initial question but creatively dance around it. It’s a rather uncreative and boring argument and the more language I hear around it that never answers it, the more I am convinces that an inerrantist cannot answer it but for an appeal to the aforementioned strategies.

    Disappointing at best.

    Why can’t we all agree that scripture is an imperfect, but unique medium for the revelation of God’s works in the world and God’s relation to human beings – in particular those whom God has chosen?

  2. Coming in from a different but not altogether tangential perspective, I’ll just point out that for scripture to be reliable it must be inerrant sounds really bizarre to a scientist.

    Scientific knowledge is clearly reliable — in the sense of “something you can rely on to make decisions about your actions” — but no scientist would claim it is inerrant. Indeed, from a scientific mindset it is the error bars that make scientific knowledge reliable, and any knowledge that claims to come without error bars is automatically suspect.

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