Quote of the Day

Graeme Goldsworthy:

We believe the Bible to be the infallible word of God because the Bible itself tells us that this is the case. The immediate objection is that this is a circular argument — which of course it is! But is it really different from saying we know that God is God because he says he is? Can circularity be avoided and, if so, how? There are those who suggest it can be avoided merely by refusing to make assumptions, and by allowing the evidence to speak for itself. But this is to make another set of assumptions about what constitutes evidence and how it does speak for itself. If we refuse to start with the assumption that the Bible tells the truth in claiming to be God’s word, we must start with another assumption: that it does not or may not tell the truth and, therefore, it is not or may not be God’s word. If we seek to avoid the obvious circularity of this latter approach by saying that we must test the Bible by certain objectively neutral facts, then who determines what is neutral and which facts are applicable? In the end, it becomes human reason that judges what is reasonable evidence about the nature of the Bible. As soon as we admit this, then we see that it is a choice of two opposing circular arguments: one that assumes the ultimate authority of God and his word, and the other that assumes the ultimate authority of unaided human reason. We must examine these two positions more closely in pursuing the basis of valid interpretation of the Bible. Perhaps it will emerge that one position is really an exercise in futility in that it undermines itself by its own assumptions.

Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, 32-33.

B”H

8 thoughts on “Quote of the Day

  1. Nick there is an alternative that is the Ecclesial Hermeneutic as Acts 15 `it seems appropriate to us and the Holy Spirit` . Does the author consider this point of view that the Holy Spirit cannot lead the Church into error, the doctrine of infallibility of the Church that the Holy Spirit leads us the truth that Jesus reveals for us to glorify the Father

  2. Andrew: If he does consider it I haven’t seen it yet. I doubt that I’ll see it though since Goldsworthy is Reformed.

    Bryan: These things happen. Any particular reason?

  3. A number of reasons.

    1. The Bible says it’s infallible? Did I miss that verse that said “This collection of 66 books is infallible. ”
    2. Just the same as we believe God is God because he said he is? It’s not and I don’t know about you but I don’t normally run into anyone who calls themselves God and if I did I wouldn’t believe them just because they say they’re God. Does he hear a voice saying it’s God talking to him that he believes because it said so? Is he saying he believes the words in scripture attributed to God are because the words say so???
    3. I don’t follow the circular argument. It almost seems like saying everything is circular including so my beliefs are just as valid.

  4. Bryan: Gotcha. I can see how one might take issue with certain parts of what he said, but as to the basic point concerning assumptions, do you disagree with that? I can’t seem to think of any way around coming to the Bible either believing that it tells the truth or that it may/does not.

    And regarding #3, yes and no. Yes, it is saying that everything (every argument at least) is circular, but no, it’s not saying that they’re all valid. The valid ones will be internally consistent. The invalid ones will be inconsistent and self-contradictory. Leave those alone.

  5. ” I can’t seem to think of any way around coming to the Bible either believing that it tells the truth or that it may/does not.”

    Do you mean when you first come to the Bible or when you continually come to the Bible? When I first came to the Bible I didn’t come with the question of truth but of curiosity since I didn’t know what it was about and what it would say. Truth wasn’t the primary way of me approaching it.

    When it comes to believing the Bible is telling the truth it seems you come to that belief in one of the following ways:

    1. Someone told you it was true so you believed them without questioning them or the Bible.
    2. Someone told you it was true and over time it lined up with what you could validate as true so you believed the rest that you couldn’t validate was also true
    3. You didn’t come believing it was true or untrue but over time you found it lined up with what you could validate was true so you believed all of it was true.

    Now I don’t think you would say the first option is better than 2 & 3 yet he seems to be arguing for 1 and against 2 & 3.

    “The valid ones will be internally consistent. The invalid ones will be inconsistent and self-contradictory.”

    This sounds like you are arguing for some kind of coherentism view of knowledge. Is that the case?

  6. Bryan:

    Do you mean when you first come to the Bible or when you continually come to the Bible?

    Either/or.

    When I first came to the Bible I didn’t come with the question of truth but of curiosity since I didn’t know what it was about and what it would say. Truth wasn’t the primary way of me approaching it.

    That seems to be what he follows up with, i.e., thinking we can approach a text without assumptions just to let the evidence speak for itself, but that’s just another set of assumptions. In your curiosity to find out what it was all about didn’t you wonder whether or not that was the case? That’s the basic point. Either the Bible is what it’s cracked up to be or it isn’t (or at least maybe it’s not).

    Now I don’t think you would say the first option is better than 2 & 3 yet he seems to be arguing for 1 and against 2 & 3.

    I don’t think he is arguing for your first option. The argument isn’t based on the trustworthiness or authority of some external source, but rather of the authority of Scripture itself.

    This sounds like you are arguing for some kind of coherentism view of knowledge. Is that the case?

    I don’t know enough about coherentism to feel confident in answering your question but I’ll give it a shot. My understanding of it is that if one part of the whole is flawed then the whole is flawed. I don’t know that I’d necessarily say that. I allow that people can be (and are) inconsistent in what they believe (how else could atheists care about morality?). I’d say that discovering inconsistencies should lead us toward finding a consistent system. Who knowingly wants to believe stuff that’s self-contradictory?

  7. “That seems to be what he follows up with, i.e., thinking we can approach a text without assumptions just to let the evidence speak for itself, but that’s just another set of assumptions.”

    I wouldn’t say I was trying to let the evidence speak for itself when I first started reading the Bible because that wasn’t even a concern in my mind. Once you know what the Bible is like I don’t think it’s really all that easy (or maybe even possible) to somehow come at it with a neutral reading unless you don’t care what it says one way or the other.

    “In your curiosity to find out what it was all about didn’t you wonder whether or not that was the case? That’s the basic point. Either the Bible is what it’s cracked up to be or it isn’t (or at least maybe it’s not).”

    Again I didn’t know what to think about it other than wonder what it was. I guess I thought it would be more systematic and organized because it seemed to me like it would need to be like that to be used in the way it was. I guess I wondered what the fuss was about it and why so many people thought it worthwhile to quote.

    “I don’t think he is arguing for your first option. The argument isn’t based on the trustworthiness or authority of some external source, but rather of the authority of Scripture itself.”

    He says “If we refuse to start with the assumption that the Bible tells the truth in claiming to be God’s word, we must start with another assumption: that it does not or may not tell the truth and, therefore, it is not or may not be God’s word.”

    1.) He is advocating starting with the assumption when you read the Bible that (1) it claims to be the word of God and (2) that it’s telling the truth in this claim. If you’ve never read the Bible the only way to start with those assumptions is if you are told to by someone, not the Bible. So if you first approach the Bible that way you are choosing to believe what someone told you about it. Now you can choose to believe that no matter what you read in the Bible (even if you never come across it saying it is the word of God) and if so then you are believing those propositions simply because someone told you to regardless of whether you ever find it claiming to be the word of God.

    2.) So what happens if you find that the Bible actually does claim to be the word of God? If you believe it but without any compelling evidence (there’s no other compelling reason within it to believe it is the word of God other than it saying so) but simply because someone told you that it was true that it was the word of God then I guess you are still basing your belief on what someone told you since the primary reason you believe that it is truly the word of God is because someone told you to (after all, we don’t go around believing any and every book that claims to be God’s word is).

    3.) If you then choose to believable both those propositions because you (1) actually found the Bible claimed to be the word of God and (2) found the Bible true in what you could verify and assumed it was true in everything else,. including its claim to be the word of God, then you are no longer believing those propositions simply because someone told you to or even because the Bible claimed them, you are believing them because you found the Bible satisfied some criterion of truth that you personally have (even if you couldn’t describe that criterion). This is probably what describes most of us if we think about it but it seems to be the opposite of what he’s advocating.

    Sorry this is so long but I wanted to make sure I fully explained what I was getting at. We’ll leave the coherentism discussion for another time.

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