Sunday, October 25, 2009

An Errant Bible: The Gateway Heresy

One of the things I most appreciated about Dr. Danny Akin's sermon about the Axioms of a Great Commission Resurgence was his bold statement that there is no room in the Southern Baptist Convention for people who do not agree regarding the inerrancy of the Bible. It is an utterly unenforceable concept, but nonetheless a welcome clarification of what it means to be a Southern Baptist.

Inerrancy-fatigue has meant that there has not been much discussion in the blog world about the nature of the Bible. Indeed, inerrancy-fatigue may mean very little response to this blog post. Nevertheless, I have decided to reproduce a paper that I wrote some time ago on the topic of inerrancy. The paper amounts to an attempt to interact with the thoughts of James Denison, the official theologian of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and his attack upon inerrancy in a self-published paper entitled, "The Errancy of Inerrancy." It is longer than my standard post, so if such things bore you, I won't be offended if you just don't bother. Otherwise, enjoy.

An Errant Bible: The Gateway Heresy

Dr. Jim Denison has served as the official professional theologian of the Baptist General Convention of Texas since being installed as Theologian-in-Residence at BGCT by the administration of Dr. Randel Everett in January 2009. Dr. Denison’s ministry as theologian-in-residence, according to Everett, will “[reflect] an innovative approach to serving the needs of our churches in Texas while also being involved in ministry beyond the state.”

Mentioned in the press release, and doubtless a factor in his selection, are Denison’s past labors in communicating theology to lay people. Among his better known efforts in this regard are his published books, such as Wrestling with God: How Can I Love a God I’m Not Sure I Trust? Far less known, but perhaps more important, is a paper Denison published in 2005 entitled “The Errancy of Inerrancy: Historical and Logical Examinations.”

The nature of the Bible is a foundational point of Christian theology. Denison serves in a rare and prestigious position as the official resident theologian of a large state convention of Southern Baptist believers. The inerrancy of the Bible has become a topic of significant historical importance. Denison’s writings are factually flawed and tend toward sophistry. For all of these reasons, this paper will offer a critique of Denison’s denial of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.

Two possible approaches exist for refuting Denison. One approach would involve the authorship of a footnoted pedantic rebuttal fit for the academic community. I believe that this type of rebuttal is the less important of the two options. Denison authored his paper in order to take the denial of inerrancy down from the ivory towers of liberal academia (its indigenous habitat) and plead his case “in common-sense terms” for the benefit of “anyone confused by this issue” for whom “too little of [the denial of inerrancy] has been explained or made relevant to the church member.” Because Denison has made this argument for the lay community, the rebuttal also needs to be addressed toward the lay community. Besides, Denison’s paper is merely a regurgitation of points long since addressed within academic circles, making an academic rebuttal superfluous. It is appropriate for this rebuttal to take a non-academic, common-sense tone in setting forth the simple logical flaws of Denison’s main arguments.

Those main arguments are six in number:

  1. Denison argues that the word “inerrancy” has been defined and qualified in too many different and highly technical ways to be of any theological use; therefore, we ought to prefer to speak of the “trustworthiness” or “authority” of the Bible.

  2. Denison argues that the concept of inerrancy, since it is applied exclusively to the original Bible manuscripts, actually undermines the faith of believers in their own copies of the Bible.

  3. Denison argues that inerrancy is a recent doctrinal innovation not shared by those in Christian history whom we ought to emulate—that it is not among our theological “roots.”

  4. Denison argues that rather than the denial of inerrancy's leading to other heresies, the affirmation of inerrancy leads to unwarranted divisiveness.

  5. Denison argues that inerrancy is a philosophical position not supported by the statements of the Bible itself.

  6. Denison argues that the Bible actually is not inerrant; therefore, to apply the test of inerrancy to the Bible is to set the Bible up to fail at a test that it does not and would not apply to itself, and thereby to undermine one’s belief in the “trustworthiness” of the Bible.

FIRST, we consider Denison’s claim that the word “inerrancy” has been defined and qualified in too many different and highly technical ways to be of any theological use. In Denison’s own words: “it seems clear to me that any word with at least eight definitions and twelve qualifications has lost its value as a simple, common test of anything.”

Actually, Denison’s argument works against him, not for him. Yes, many different people have defined “inerrancy” in different ways. And yes, several inerrantists have offered a number of qualifications of the term “inerrancy” in order to forestall misunderstanding regarding the meaning of the term. Denison has suitably demonstrated that people with an impressive array of varied beliefs about the precise nature of the Bible can all claim to be an “inerrantist” in some fashion or another. Denison’s suggestion is that this complex state of affairs makes it not very meaningful for one to affirm that he is an inerrantist.

Yet even if this fact makes it mean less when someone affirms that he is an inerrantist, then it necessarily makes it mean more when someone cannot affirm that he is an inerrantist. The denial of inerrancy then means that, out of all the various definitions of inerrancy and with all of the various reasonable qualifications of inerrancy applied, a person still cannot find a way with all of that flexibility to affirm the word in any sense.

By the way, although Denison protests in this first section of his paper that the word “inerrancy” is so variously defined and over-qualified as to be meaningless, he seems to have no problem defining inerrancy while he is arguing against it in the remainder of the paper. Thus, shortly after declaring the word meaningless and excessively complex and qualified beyond repair, Denison simply states that “’Inerrancy’ may be defined as the view that ‘1. When all the facts are known, 2. they will demonstrate that the Bible in its autographs 3. and correctly interpreted 4. is entirely true 5. in all that it affirms.’” There you go. That’s precisely what I and so many other Southern Baptists mean when we speak of inerrancy, and Denison has defined it in a simple sentence. What’s so difficult about that?

Finally, we should observe that any word used to describe the nature of the Bible is going to wind up being subjected to a number of definitions and qualifications. The complexity is not a feature of the word; it is an aspect of the subject matter.

Denison doesn’t want to use “inerrant” but he does want to use “trustworthy” as an adjective to describe the Bible. Yet, is he suggesting that every last person who describes the Bible as “trustworthy” always means precisely the same thing by that affirmation? If so, he is wrong. I affirm the trustworthiness of the Bible, but I mean by the word something different than the belief that Denison articulates in his paper. By my meaning of the trustworthiness of the Bible (i.e., that you can trust anything you read in the Bible to be true), Denison does not believe in the trustworthiness of the Bible. Denison’s favorite word obviously has multiple definitions and is just as complex as “inerrant” ever could be.

Furthermore, just as clarifications and qualifications exist for the definition of inerrancy, Denison likewise qualifies his understanding of biblical trustworthiness. His trustworthy Bible actually is not trustworthy, according to Denison, for “an involved scientific explanation of the origin of the universe” or “a detailed system for the future” or as a chronicle of the reigns of the kings of Judah or as a narrative of what Judas did after he betrayed Jesus. In all of these respects, according to Denison, the Bible (whether the original manuscripts or the Bible you have on your shelf) is definitely not trustworthy. Denison’s concept of a “trustworthy” Bible is a highly qualified theory.

If these flaws so deeply damage the utility of the word “inerrancy,” they why do they not bother Denison in his use of the term “trustworthy”? Even after rigorous definition and careful qualification of both terms, to call the Bible inerrant is still to say something higher about its nature than to call it “trustworthy”—something higher about the nature of the Bible that not every proponent of a highly qualified and watered-down concept of the “trustworthiness” of the Bible is willing to say.

SECOND, we move to a consideration of Denison’s imaginative notion that the affirmation of inerrancy actually works to undermine Christian faith in the text of the Bible that the present-day believer actually holds in his hands. Again, to use Denison’s own words:

To summarize the threat which inerrancy poses to your Bible:

  1. By this doctrine, the Bible must be inerrant to be trustworthy;

  2. Only the original documents were inerrant;

  3. The copies on which we base our Bibles today are therefore “not entirely error-free”;

  4. Our Bibles therefore cannot be inerrant, and by definition are thus untrustworthy.

Denison’s assertion is entirely theoretical. He cannot produce teeming masses of people whose faith in the text of a modern Bible has been spoiled by the deleterious effects of having affirmed biblical inerrancy. On the other hand, the repeated experience of Southern Baptists in the real world has been that those who lack a trust in the truthfulness and accuracy of the Bibles in their hands are universally people who deny the inerrancy of the Bible rather than inerrantists. The person who is an inerrantist with regard to the original manuscripts but more skeptical with regard to the Bible he holds in his hand than are those who deny the inerrancy of the Bible? He’s a phantom existing only in Denison’s mind.

If Denison has never encountered anyone afflicted by this malady, then how did Denison come to identify and diagnose it? This portion of Denison’s argument is pure sophistry. Denison weaves an abstract philosophical argument by which he and those who deny biblical inerrancy are the true guardians of the trustworthiness of the Bible, while those who outwardly affirm the inerrancy of the Bible are the covert opponents of its trustworthiness and reliability. For someone who spends so much time arguing against Christians being confined by Aristotelian logic, Denison certainly seems insistent that his readers follow his purported logical framework to beware some danger of inerrancy that has proven to be entirely unrealized in actual existence!

How do inerrantists deal with the manuscript question? Both inerrantists and people who deny biblical inerrancy know that typographical and copying errors have been made in the production of Bibles down through the ages. We have thousands of manuscripts of the Bible, and the occasional differences are there for all to see. So, the fact of textual variants (another term for these typographical and copying errors) is not something that separates inerrantists from those like Denison who deny biblical inerrancy; rather it is a fact that we acknowledge together in the same way.

For some verses in the Bible, therefore, some manuscripts read one way and other manuscripts read another way. Only three possibilities exist for understanding this reality. First, perhaps in this postmodern relativistic age I could somehow choose to believe that each and every different reading is equally the entirely trustworthy word of God (to use Denison’s preferred term). Second, I might believe that the original wording is the trustworthy word of God, and that the later mistakes are not the trustworthy word of God. Third, I might believe that neither the original wording nor any of the later mistakes are the trustworthy word of God—that no reading is inerrant or trustworthy.

Which of those three positions do inerrantists advocate? We affirm the second option, believing that the original wording is the inerrant and trustworthy word of God, while the later mistakes are just that—human mistakes. It is at this point that Denison is attacking inerrantists for embracing the second option.

Which option does Denison affirm? From what Denison has written in the paper, we can rule out the first option: Denison does not believe that the later mistakes constitute the trustworthy word of God. He explicitly points out that he does not consider the “longer ending” of the Gospel of Mark to be trustworthy. He also indicates that he does not consider the typographical error that resulted in the “Wicked Bible” to be trustworthy. Denison does not believe that textual or typographical errors in the Bible are trustworthy.

Which of the other two options has Denison chosen? Either he believes that the Bible from which he preaches each Sunday is trustworthy where the translators have chosen the right readings and not trustworthy where they have not (the second option), or he believes that his Bible is not trustworthy anywhere (the third option). Denison seems not to choose the third option, so we can presume his affirmation of the second option.

If Denison agrees with this second option, then one wonders why he is criticizing inerrantists who hold the same viewpoint as his own. Wherever your Bible might contain one of the later mistakes, both Denison and I believe the same thing—that those words are neither inerrant nor trustworthy. Wherever your Bible contains the original wording, I affirm that those words are the inerrant word of God, while Denison somehow apparently believes that the original wording of the Bible may at places be erroneous yet somehow at the same time is trustworthy. These facts define our two positions.

THIRD, Denison argues that inerrancy is a novel doctrine of recent development and that we cannot legitimately claim it to be a part of our “roots” as Southern Baptists. This is among the weakest sections of the paper.

One of those weaknesses involves the criteria that Denison employs for evaluating figures in church history regarding their views of the nature of the Bible. For a person who lived in the past to be considered an inerrantist, Denison requires that he either employ the exact word “inerrant” or articulate something similar to the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy.

Denison’s ploy only succeeds if the inerrantist is willing to accept the entire burden of proof during the examination of the history of Christianity. Let Denison bring forth the history of those using precisely the word “trustworthiness” to refer to the nature of the Bible, and those who employ precisely the words that he favors to define trustworthiness and qualify it. Furthermore, let him produce those who speak of errors in the biblical text and discredit its treatments of the origins of the universe and human life. His standard for judging Christian History would cause any view of the nature of the Bible to fail, including his own.

When one is not straining at gnats and swallowing camels, the historical search is much less complex. For example, consider this comparison. Denison quotes Augustine as saying:

…none of [the biblical] authors has committed an error in writing. If in that literature I meet with anything which seems contrary to truth, I will have no doubt that it is only the manuscript which is faulty, or the translator who has not hit the sense, or my own failure to understand.

The simple definition of “inerrancy” that Denison himself quoted earlier says:

“Inerrancy” may be defined as the view that “1. When all the facts are known, 2. they will demonstrate that the Bible in its autographs 3. and correctly interpreted 4. is entirely true 5. in all that it affirms.”

The definition allows for the possibility that the Bible might not be interpreted properly or that all of the facts might not be known. Those possibilities correspond with Augustine’s statement about “my own failure to understand” or “the translator who has not hit the sense.” The definition speaks of the Bible in its autographs, corresponding with Augustine’s statement about “the manuscript” possibly being “faulty.” The definition states that, these conditions being met, the Bible is “entirely true…in all that it affirms.” Augustine says that “none of [the biblical] authors has committed an error in writing.” These two statements are different? I submit that it requires years of advanced study and careful indoctrination not to be able to see that these two quotations are essentially saying precisely same thing. Thankfully, most Southern Baptists are bereft of the necessary training to deprive them of their common sense.

A second weakness is present in this section as well. Denison takes great pains to place before us people in Christian History who have held a high view of the nature of the Bible, but who have also been guilty of holding erroneous positions in other areas of their theology. Denison summarizes, “In short, many of the so-called ‘inerrantists’ of church history interpreted the Bible in ways which would bother most Baptists and ‘conservative’ Christians today.” In making this important and often overlooked point, Denison is doing us a great service. A right view of the nature of the Bible does not guarantee a right practice of the interpretation of the Bible. Furthermore, the right interpretation of the Bible is as important as the right view of the nature and authority of the Bible. Some inerrantists have forgotten this truth, claiming that so long as a person is committed to inerrancy, inerrantists ought not to quibble over differences in interpretation. Denison’s arguments assist us greatly in correcting this naïve view.

However, it escapes me how Denison sees this point as undermining inerrancy. Yes, believing in inerrancy will not automatically make you a good interpreter of the Bible. Believing in inerrancy also will not cure warts, make your hair grow back, or enable you to make millions of dollars buying and selling real estate. These truths do not mean that affirming inerrancy is not valuable at all; they merely mean that these things are not the particular benefits of inerrancy that give value to the affirmation of inerrancy.

Denison has the formula backwards. It is not that affirming inerrancy is important because it makes me a good interpreter of the Bible; interpreting the Bible is important because I affirm inerrancy. God authored the Bible. He meant to communicate something through the words that He Himself chose when He caused men to write the Bible. Those words constitute the inerrant word of God, who finds me worthy of His message. The quest of seeking to find the one-and-only rightful interpretation of the Bible is an exercise in hearing the voice of God. Hearing the voice of God is an inordinately more important endeavor than is hearing the voice of “the Yahwist.” Therefore the inerrantist has far greater motivation to interpret the Bible rightly than does the modernist.

FOURTH, we look at Denison’s claim that the denial of inerrancy does not lead to a slippery slope of the compromise of other doctrines. Denison offers a fourfold rebuttal of the slippery slope theory. First, people can affirm inerrancy and still espouse doctrinal error. Second, there are instances of people who deny inerrancy and yet still manage not to apostatize completely. Third, because Baptist churches are autonomous, the teaching of an errant Bible in seminaries will not necessarily affect Baptist churches at all. Fourth, in real life one can question the accuracy of a statement or work partially without being compelled to reject it entirely.

Denison either misunderstands or misconstrues the concept of the “slippery slope.” Personally, rather than using the phrase “slippery slope,” I prefer to speak of the denial of biblical inerrancy as a “gateway heresy,” deliberately drawing from the characterization of marijuana as a “gateway drug.” Those who argue that marijuana is a “gateway drug” are not claiming that every person who smokes marijuana must necessarily move on to heroin. Neither are they claiming that every heroin addict also is a marijuana user. Rather, they are attempting to demonstrate that marijuana use leads to the use of other drugs often enough to be statistically significant.

Likewise, history demonstrates a clear statistical pattern of people who first reject biblical inerrancy and then reject other important Christian doctrines. One could cite individual anecdotes such as Southern Seminary Professor Crawford Howell Toy, who abandoned biblical inerrancy and eventually left orthodox Christianity. Another approach would be to analyze such groups as the homosexuality-affirming Alliance of Baptists and compare the percentage of their membership affirming inerrancy with the percentage of Southern Baptists affirming inerrancy. In doing this, the objective would not be to demonstrate that no exceptions exist, but simply to show that most who become heretics deny inerrancy first, and that the denial of inerrancy strongly predisposes one to deny other important Christian doctrines as well. One can agree with Denison that it is possible for a person to deny biblical inerrancy and yet cling to some of the Bible’s important teachings, yet we can also say that however possible this state may be, it often does not endure over the span of generations in the majority of those who deny the inerrancy of the Bible. The well-beaten path, trodden by Mainline denominations and institutions all around us, is from the denial of inerrancy to the denial of other vital Christian doctrines.

With regard to Denison’s argument from Baptist polity, he has the matter backwards. I agree with him that Baptist churches are normally quite resilient against the influences of liberal effete academicians. Nevertheless, even if we can guarantee that churches could remain impervious to the influences of liberal seminaries, our polity also requires us to guarantee that liberal seminaries should not be able to remain impervious to the influences of the conservative churches from which they once wrongly derived their income.

Denison’s statements about the tenability of rejecting the trustworthiness of the Bible in part, but not in whole, merits our attention. Consider his wording:

Fourth, the “slippery slope” theory rests on faulty reasoning. We’re told that if we admit there are questions with the biblical text regarding geography or science, we’ll soon slide into questioning vital areas of faith. If we cannot be sure how many angels were at the resurrection, soon we’ll be questioning the resurrection itself.

However, this reasoning doesn’t work in life. When you find typographical errors in a newspaper, do you question everything the paper contains? If you disagree with your pastor regarding his interpretation of a particular text, do you reject every part of his theology? By the “slippery slope” argument, once you’ve started down the precipice there’s nothing to break your fall. But the fact is, the slip doesn’t necessarily lead to a slope at all.

Denison’s argument fails at several points. First, his case only survives if one makes a stark and artificial separation between “geography or science” and “vital areas of the faith,” but such a neat division is unwarranted. Did God literally create Adam and Eve? Does the entire lineage of humanity trace back to one primeval couple? Were they created sinless? Did they fall into sin? Did their sin somehow affect the nature of their progeny? Is the nature of the universe itself affected by their sin? These are questions of cosmology, biology, anthropology, psychology, sociology, and even astronomy. These are scientific questions. Yet they are also spiritual questions, the answers to which affect the very gospel itself.

Denison’s case is further flawed because the nature of my newspaper or the nature of my pastor’s hermeneutics are not intertwined with the nature of God. The way I treat a publication or message is always intertwined with what I know about the character of the one who produces it.

Sometimes I encounter publications produced by those whom I know to be fallen, imprecise, errant people who are genuinely trying to produce a good and accurate publication. My local newspaper fits into this category. When I find a typographical error in my newspaper, I know that it is an error, but I do not conclude that the error was intentional, and its isolated presence does not make me any more skeptical as to whether the newspaper correctly reports the President’s activities yesterday. I conclude that the newspaper is generally accurate but occasionally flawed because I presume that the people who publish it are trying to be accurate but will make inadvertent mistakes.

Other people are deliberately dishonest. If I receive an email from a person I don’t know telling me about a vast fortune that he needs to transfer out of Nigeria, then I receive that message differently. I presume that the person involved is deliberately trying to deceive me. If I should enter into a subsequent conversation with the sender, I would presume every word to be a lie, simply because I know the sender to be a liar trying to deceive me.

Other people I consider honest but generally irresponsible. If they forward to me emails about FCC Petition 2493 and Madalyn Murray O’Hair and other similar matters, strongly chiding me that WE MUST ACT NOW, then I will soon conclude that they are well-meaning people but a bit reckless in their research. As a consequence, when they forward me an email about a missing child for whom we really need to be on the lookout, I am immediately skeptical.

On the other hand, if a friend calls me on the phone stating that her own daughter is missing, then I’m not skeptical at all. My friend is in a position to know the truth and it is too important a subject for her not to have given the matter careful thought. My estimation of the messenger’s credibility, competence, and character determine entirely my expectations of the message.

If tomorrow I have the experience that Isaiah had, and I see the LORD high and lifted up and hear Him speaking to me, then I’m going to presume that every word is entirely inerrant. I will make this assumption apart from Francis Turretin, apart from any intent to divide the Southern Baptist Convention, and apart from any acquaintance with The Chicago Statement on Inerrancy. The cause of my presumption is solely and entirely what I know about the nature of God. I heard God say something, and I will die before anyone convinces me that it was not true. Denison understands this connection between God’s nature and His message well enough to articulate it himself:

It all seems so simple. God inspired the Bible and he doesn’t make mistakes, so there can be no errors in the Bible. The Bible is therefore “inerrant.”

Denison rejects this argument, but he never bothers to refute it. The question is simply whether the Bible is like the newspaper or the Nigerian fraud email or the FCC Petition email or the phone call from the friend or Isaiah’s vision. The answer to that question hinges entirely upon who God is and what role He had in the production of the Bible. It not only seems that simple; it is that simple.

FIFTH, we consider Denison’s argument that the Bible does not claim inerrancy for itself. Denison opines:

…inerrancy is neither a word nor an argument found in the biblical text itself. Does it seem right or wrong to create a question the Scriptures nowhere ask, and then make one answer to this question the only “biblical” position?

Once again, it becomes important at this juncture to bring forward the simple definition of inerrancy quoted by Denison:

“Inerrancy” may be defined as the view that “1. When all the facts are known, 2. they will demonstrate that the Bible in its autographs 3. and correctly interpreted 4. is entirely true 5. in all that it affirms.”

Does the Bible make this argument, or does it not? Denison claims that the only way to arrive at this argument is to “extend the argument beyond the text.” In one sense, Denison is correct. Inerrancy is a matter of systematic theology. In other words, to understand the entirety of the biblical claim of inerrancy, it is necessary to consider not just what the Bible says in one place, but to consider the aggregate of what the Bible says in several places.

Perhaps the most intriguing way to address Denison’s argument would be to take his own admissions about what the Bible teaches of its own nature, and see that Denison’s interpretation itself essentially adds up to inerrancy! To do so we take Denison’s argument in our own sequence, looking at how his own chapter builds an argument in favor of inerrancy.

Denison acknowledged in his chapter than the Bible has come to us by the inspiration of God. Every word of the biblical autographs is God speaking. Inspiration tells us about “the origin of the text,” Denison says. “This text and others like it guarantee that the Bible came from God.” Denison favorably quotes a passage that goes even further: “the Spirit of God rested on and in the prophets and spoke through them so that their words did not come from themselves, but from the mouth of God.”(emphasis mine)

The paper also analyzes the text of Numbers 23:19, which says, “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.” So far, Denison has told us that every word of the Bible comes from God, and that God does not lie. This seems to be a solid case for biblical inerrancy! How does Denison not agree?

The flaw in this logic is that “lie” and “error” are not the same thing. Webster defines “lie” as “to make a statement that one knows is false, especially with intent to deceive.” It defines an “error” as “something incorrectly done through ignorance or carelessness; mistake.” Thus Number 23:19 does not speak to the question of error/inerrancy, but rather to the trustworthy character of God.

If a person does not subscribe to inerrancy, this does not mean that he or she accuses God of “intent to deceive.” Even the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy claims that the Bible we have is “not entirely error-free” (Exposition E), but this does not mean that it deliberately deceives us. The author of Numbers 23:19 in no sense intended to address the issue of inerrancy.

So according to Denison’s very careful argument here, the words of the Bible may not be a “lie” because every word comes from God, and God cannot be accused of “intent to deceive.” However, “‘lie’ and ‘error’ are not the same thing,” and although the words of the Bible may not be a “lie” they may indeed be an “error.” God, according to Denison, is not someone able “to make a statement that [He] knows is false, especially with intent to deceive,” but He apparently is someone capable of “something incorrectly done through ignorance or carelessness.” God is not bad; He is merely incompetent!

The inerrantist, agreeing with Denison that God is the author bearing the responsibility for every word in the biblical autographs, maintains that our God neither lies nor makes mistakes. For this reason we believe the Bible to be inerrant. Denison has catalogued several (but not all) of the biblical passages that bespeak the high view we hold of the nature of the Bible. He employs several arguments to attempt to show that words like flawless, true, perfect, and faithful can be construed to allow room for errors in the Bible. What he cannot do—what no person has ever been able to do—is direct us to any portion of the Bible alleging flaws, weaknesses, or errors in any portion of the Bible in any sense. Once again, Denison’s only hope for success is to shirk the burden of proof and place it entirely upon his opponents.

Looking back to our simple definition of inerrancy, we concede that the Bible does not make statements about its own “autographs” or manuscripts. This is hardly surprising, since no book of the Bible had a manuscript problem while that book was being written. It also is no impediment to affirming inerrancy. Rather, it is because the Bible, speaking of itself in its original state, affirms its own inerrancy that we speak of the inerrancy of the autographs. Otherwise, just from the texts cited by Denison, without bringing in 2 Peter 1:15-21 and a dozen other passages, we find an excellent case for inerrancy right within the Bible itself.

SIXTH, and finally, we consider Denison’s chapter naming some of the specific assertions in the Bible that he considers erroneous.

Denison believes that “any clear reading of [the accounts in Matthew 27:1-10 and Acts 1:18-19 of Judas’s post-betrayal actions] shows that the two accounts do contradict each other in several places” and that one, or both, is in error, disproving biblical inerrancy. I have attempted in this paper to maintain a conversational tone and to avoid the inclusion of footnotes and the invocations of experts. To refute Denison’s characterization of the accounts of Judas’s actions in Matthew and Acts, however, I must call upon an expert. The expert whom I summon to refute Jim Denison is…Jim Denison. In his online article entitled “Isn’t the Bible Filled with Contradictions?” Denison defends the Judas narrative against the charge that it is contradictory:

"Matthew says that Judas hanged himself; the book of Acts says he fell down and died. Which is it?" Matthew's gospel does indeed record Judas's suicide by hanging (Mt 27:5). In Acts 1 Peter says, "Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out" (v. 18). It may be that Judas's body decomposed, so that when the rope broke or was cut, it fell as Peter describes. Or it may be that the Greek word translated "hanged" is actually the word "impaled" (both meanings are possible), so that Peter describes more vividly the way Judas killed himself. Either option is a possible way to explain the apparent contradiction.

The body of written work struggling with the problem of being self-contradictory is not the Bible; it is Denison’s own writings. When writing for the lost, he defends the Bible against the charge that it is self-contradictory. When writing for Christians and against inerrantists, he himself charges the Bible with inconsistencies and errors. I say this neither to be uncharitable nor to make unduly personal what is a discussion of ideas. Rather, I think that Denison’s online article is a stellar example of the fact that apparent contradictions in the Bible are reconcilable. I think it further reveals Denison’s instinctual understanding (as a good pastor) that the inerrancy of the Bible is indeed important, and that successful evangelism often requires showing that the Bible is God’s perfect word and is not in error.

Just as Denison has been able to reconcile the Judas accounts to his apparent satisfaction, his other supposed contradictions that disprove inerrancy are not so problematic as he would suggest. I carried off to college with me a copy of Gleason L. Archer’s Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Other similar works probably sit on the shelf of a bookstore near you or are available online. Each believer who is troubled by some alleged contradiction in the Bible owes it to himself to examine the strong evidence in favor of inerrancy before succumbing to the soothsaying of a document like Denison’s “The Errancy of Inerrancy.”

IN CONCLUSION, none of Denison’s six arguments disproves biblical inerrancy. As a Baptist, I’m thankful to live in a nation in which every individual is free to embrace the inerrancy of the Bible, to regard it as riddled with contradictions, or even to refuse to read it altogether. I affirm Dr. Denison’s right to come to his own conclusions regarding the nature of the Bible. I affirm his right to teach those conclusions and to publish them for the perusal of others. I affirm the right of the Baptist General Covention of Texas to hire him as their Theologian-in-Residence and to consider his attempts to undermine belief in biblical inerrancy as a service to the churches of the BGCT.

Thankfully, religious liberty in our nation also involves the right to consider Denison’s arguments, interact with them, and offer a vigorous critique. BGCT Theologian-in-Residence Jim Denison disagrees with what both the 1963 and the 2000 versions of The Baptist Faith & Message say about the Bible—that it has “God for its author…and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter.” His authorship, dissemination, and use of this paper represents his attempt to get Texas Baptist churches to join him in his error. In a land of religious liberty he thereby opens a conversation in which I may humbly disagree with him, point out his errors, and hopefully pray that the Holy Spirit will, as promised, lead him to all truth.

77 comments:

Dave Miller said...

I don't know if there is "inerrancy-fatigue" but it is a doctrine I think matters. Thanks for taking the time to write on this.

Your fingers must be calloused after all the typing.

Wonderful essay. Lots to digest.

CB Scott said...

Thanks Bart,

This is still "A Hill On Which To Die."

cb

bapticus hereticus said...

Belief in inerrancy is the de facto requirement for leadership (in its many forms) participation in SBC, and should any present-day leader deny such a concept, notice how fast he will be removed from office. That such is the will of the body is not disputed, given how will is affirmed in SBC, but will and wisdom do not always coincide. Not that wisdom is absent, but institutional isomorphism can be both a strange and powerful force that attenuates such for favor, instead, of the perception of legitimacy. While it does not follow that said forces must reflect irrational behavior, and may in fact, from a population ecology perspective, make sense, many times, however, said behavior also has a very selfish motive that is sanctioned by the collective other: the preservation of power. "Yes, we know the problems with such a doctrine, but enough perceived legitimacy for it exists among those that fund us to provide cover in which we are free to assert our 'differences'" say some in the dominant coalition.

Inerrancy in the SBC is final and is thus alien to the preamble of the 63 confession: "That we do not regard them [i.e., doctrines that follow] as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility." Preferring 00's accountability preamble to the provisional preamble of 63, current SBC will be viewed by future generations as a people that choose the certainty of the past apart from its traditions over a need for free, continuous, theological reflection in which a tension among the people and the person promotes the vitality of both.

Baptist Theologue said...

One illustration/analogy that has worked for me as I try to explain the importance of inerrancy is the following:

"Suppose the 40 best Greek chefs in the world met together 2000 years ago and published a cookbook containing 66 recipes. Because the cookbook was written in Greek, various translators have published it in other languages. Some minor mistakes were made in translation and copying processes, but the translations are still bestsellers because customers believe that the original text was without error and was the ultimate authority for good cooking, and they also believe that the process of textual criticism is continually moving the current translations closer to the original text. Some scholars, however, have used a form of higher criticism to question the origin of the cookbook and its original accuracy. Potential customers who believe such higher criticism have decided that they do not want to buy current translations of the cookbook because they no longer believe that the original cookbook is authoritative for good cooking. They view the original cookbook as a legendary work of truth mixed with error, and they now look for other sources for recipes that reflect the best scholarship of their era. Translations of the cookbook are no longer bestsellers in countries where such higher criticism is generally accepted."

Baptist Theologue said...

P.S.: Maybe I should have added some Hebrew chefs into the mix, but the all-Greek staff simplifies the cookbook concept. I guess no analogy is perfect.

Joe Blackmon said...

Belief in inerrancy is the de facto requirement for leadership (in its many forms) participation in SBC, and should any present-day leader deny such a concept, notice how fast he will be removed from office.

I'm sorry, I'm failing to see where this is a bad thing.

By the way, bh, are you from Enid? You sure talk like it.

peter lumpkins said...

Bart,

Your essay is appreciated, the nature of biblical revelation a hill never presumed to be established. Moderates/Liberals inevitably but mistakenly assume conservatives who embrace inerrancy naively hold inerrancy to be the demise of biblical battles, when in fact, inerrancy only authenticates the battle. For if Scripture is but a mixture of truth and error, what separates it from your blog posts?

If Scripture *IS* God's Word, we are bound in blood to hammering out carefully constructed hermeneutics to justify our deductions and applications...we vow in death's face to peel away textual variants as much as possible...we swear by heaven to note any nuance which makes for meaning. This is stuff that makes for literary war.

Conservatives who embrace inerrancy have taken a hard path. If one text appears to contradict another, bound we are to wrestle the text, engage the text, argue with the text...poke it, prod it, test it...attempt the impossible--exhaust the text. Who is the blithering fool who'd waste time doing such if the truth of each text was but inconsequential?

Grace Bart. We now expect a much needed follow-up:

"The Sufficiency Of Scripture and Whether it is Abused by 21st Century Conservatives Who Embrace Inerrancy"

With that, I am...
Peter

bapticus hereticus said...

Joe: By the way, bh, are you from Enid? You sure talk like it.

bapticus hereticus: I would be very, very surprised if Wade advocated for those not believing in inerancy to hold a leadership position in SBC.

Big Daddy Weave said...

If there isn't room in the SBC for those who reject inerrancy, where does this leave the leadership of two of the largest state Baptist conventions - the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Baptist General Association of Virginia?

It is a bit of an odd scenario in that SBC leaders like Akin are pushing this GCR and the GCR Task Force is likely to make recommendations that will affect the state conventions yet the leaders of two of the largest state conventions are really not wanted as participants in Southern Baptist life.

While Akin might conclude that there isn't a place at the table for those who don't toe the inerrancy-line, he clearly is dependent on the money coming from Texas and Virginia.

Kinda of like saying:

"You're not welcome here but by all means keep sending those checks"

David R. Brumbelow said...

Bart,
Great article. We should never back down on the truth, and the importance, of inerrancy. Each generation needs to be taught.

We need such information as this in the hands of preachers and laymen. I think you ought to put this post in a book. After all, it's already long enough :-).

Seriously, I think you should consider publishing this information and if there is any I way I could be of help, I'd be glad to do so.
David R. Brumbelow

volfan007 said...

Big Daddy,

If someone wants to send money, then let them send it. We also take credit cards.

David

Anonymous said...

Big Daddy:

Sinc its founding the leadership of the SBC has always been willing to accept money donated by those who had different perspective.

The only difference now (since the CR) is the level of candor displayed by those in leadership when it comes to theology, and the view of inspiration, in particular.

In the old days, moderates at state offices and in Nashville gladly accepted contributions from congregations and a people that were often times more conservative than they.

For example, the folks in Louisville and some of the other seminaries, the CLC etc. then accepted the money from Nashville gladly.

When it came to clarity on issues such as the inspiration of scripture, however, the leaders were mum, and produced such lackluster efforts such as the 1925 BFM and its 1963 re-write.

With respect to Southern (as an example), this is exactly the opposite of what was intended when the school was founded. Boyce, Broadus et al. wrote a "creed" for the seminary (yes, they used that word). For the express purpose of making sure that all the faculty who taught there would be theologically orthodox. Even that did not work, as later profs exercised a level of "liberty" never intended. This went on for about 70 years or so until the CR began to have its intended effect.

"Inerrancy", as promoted by the CR, has only been the dominant theological principle in SBC life for about 20 years now. By my count, it still has 50 more years just to get even.

There is no question that most Southern Baptists believe in inerrancy, and that they believe in it enough to make it a requirement for leadership. So what's the big deal?

No one is forcing the conventions in Texas and Virginia to give to the SBC. They can do as they wish.

The only difference here is that everyone knows what the proponents of inerrancy believe about scripture, why they think it's important, and that they believe it should be used as a test for leadership.

In the old days, those in charge (or those whom they sheltered) would have never had such a forthright conversation about inspiration. The reasons were obvious.

At least the inerrantists are transparent about their theology.

Let people give where they want to give.

What's wrong with that arrangement?

Louis

Joe Blackmon said...

Here's the deal, the folks in Texas and "Virginny" can make a simple choice--openly embrace the correct biblical position of inerrancy or don't expect a seat at the table. If they don't want to believe correctly then they are where they deserve to be--on the outside looking in. The fact that these two state conventions exist and some members of them apparently still want a voice in SBC life simply proves that the Conservative Resurrgence was needed and that it didn't go far enough.

Tom said...

Would love to have a link to Denison's 2005 article. Anyone have it?

Bart Barber said...

Howdy, folks,

I'm conventioning in Lubbock with the SBTC. My apologies for interacting so little. I will, however, address a couple of the comments briefly—those which would most benefit from a comment by me.

Aaron (Big Daddy),

My brother, your statements are not without merit, but they can also be applied to the next tier below. BGAV and BGCT don't just bail on the SBC in large part because a great many of their member churches would be unlikely to affirm the BGCT leadership's position on this question and leave the SBC with them.

Thus, although your statement is accurate that "[Akin] clearly is dependent on the money coming from Texas and Virginia," the statement begs for the clarification that BGCT and BGAV do not have money, they simply forward the money of the churches.

And it is they, those churches, who more than anyone else ought to be informed fully about these matters so that they can act in an informed manner.


Tom,

Dr. Denison's paper has not been made available on the Internet. It was published in the newsmagazine of Texas Baptist Committed, but that publication is not available on the Internet. Copyright restrictions prevent me from posting it online.

Your best recourse is to contact the BGCT and ask Dr. Denison to send you a copy.

Michael Hand said...

Excellent, gracious, and thorough. I agree with the brother suggesting a book be written. The multiple-views series from zondervan are most helpful. Maybe a similar format would be useful, placing positions side by side. Truth resonates when it's read along the side of the disonance of error. Your critique of Denison is a good model. Very helpful.

Mark said...

"But we, who have heard by the Scriptures that self-determining choice and refusal have been given by the Lord to men, rest in the infallible criterion of faith, manifesting a willing spirit, since we have chosen life and believe God through His voice. And he who has believed the Word knows the matter to be true; for the Word is truth. But he who has disbelieved Him that speaks, has disbelieved God."

Clement of Alexandria (150 - c. 215)

ANF Vol. II, The Stromata, Bk 2, Chapter IV, 'Faith the Foundation of All Knowledge'


Nothing new about that

Tom Parker said...

Bart:

You said--"Indeed, inerrancy-fatigue may mean very little response to this blog post."

Bart, IMO people are tired of this issue. It was a tool to takeover the SBC and it worked. "All of the Liberals including the missionaries are gone" from the SBC who would not say, sign off, etc. that the Bible is inerrant.

So please help me what is the problem about inerrancy. Surely the CR has removed all of those that do not believe in inerrancy within the last 30 years. Is it not time to move on to more important issues?

I just don't see a problem in the current SBC with inerrancy, so why bring it up again.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Great post, great rebuttal. Glad you're standing firm in faith and persevering, where others are wilting and fading from what some call "inerrancy fatigue".

"Gateway heresy" ... I like your replacement for the word "slippery slope" a lot!

David R. Brumbelow said...

I'm not tired of the issue of inerrancy. It is a vital, key doctrine.

A generation has been born that does not know of the Conservative Resurgence and why it was important. They need to be taught. We all need to be reminded.

Give up the fact that the Bible is "completely true and trustworthy," and you have ultimately given up everything. It is the foundation of what we believe.
David R. Brumbelow

Tom Parker said...

David Brumbelow"

You said--"a generation has been born that does not know of the Conservative Resurgence and why it was important. They need to be taught. We all need to be reminded."

I wish that the current generation would know about the CR but I would want them to know the whole story and not just the CR side.

30 years to spend on an issue is 30years to long.

David, I'm really glad that you are not tired of this issue but i would venture to say many are.

But I'm confident the issue will be kept in the forefront as Bart has brought it back up again.

volfan007 said...

We must always encourage people to the truth, because liberalism is always trying to creep back in. Heresy, apostates, false teachers, liberal theologians, liberal views, are all tools that the Devil uses. And, Satan never gives up the fight to distort the Word of God, and to lead people astray.

So, even though the CR is thirty years old, the fight is still out there....to never go that way again...as are many Churches and denominations.


Thanks Bart for this post, even though it was a little wordy. :)

David

Joe Blackmon said...

Surely the CR has removed all of those that do not believe in inerrancy within the last 30 years.

If I'm not mistaken, Rex Ray from over at Wade's blog goes to a church that is still SBC and he is constantly blubbering about how he doesn't believe the Bible is inerrant.

Further, you've made the point several times that surely the CR has run all the liberals out of the SBC. Is FBC-Decatur still in the SBC? Did Broadway Baptist leave the SBC on its own accord or was it kicked out (as it should have been)? If the answer to the first question is "Yes" and the answer to the seoond question is "Kicked out" then there appears to still be liberal churches in the SBC.

"Oh, then why do they take their money?" I think it's a good thing to take their money. It says "Yes, we will use your money to further the kingdom of God and at the same time not allow you any leadership positions due to your unbiblical theological beliefs". The better question would be "Why do they stil keep giving money if the SBC is so ridiculously off base?" Answer--they want to make sure they keep a toehold in the SBC hoping the pendulum swings back their way.

Tom Parker said...

Joe B:

How have you gathered information about the CR? How old were you in 1979?

Lee said...

BDW: If there isn't room in the SBC for those who reject inerrancy, where does this leave the leadership of two of the largest state Baptist conventions - the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Baptist General Association of Virginia?

Lee: It leaves them exactly where they are today, trying to gauge how many churches are going to leave their convention this year, what kind of impact that is going to have on the budget, calculating moves to try to slow down that movement and convince churches that they should stay, and to try and cover up or ignore the worst problems. I don't know what the figures are in Virginia, but in the BGCT, over 4,000 of its remaining churches remain uniquely aligned and fully supportive of the SBC, in spite of the direction that the convention's leadership has tried to go in the last decade.

Joe Blackmon said...

Tom,

Various websites, blogs, discussions with people both pro and anti.

I turned 7. I think I was in 1st grade. I am now 25. Ok, I'm 25 for the 12th time.

Steve Young said...

Bart,
Some are wondering "why bring it up?" One of the reasons is that a leader of the largest State Convention has "brought it up." It is also imporatnt to "bring it up" when history is considered. Professor Toy began orthodox and drifted. Clark Pinnock started out very conservative and drifted. Southern Baptists may not be a creedal people, but we are a confessional people and as long as we are confession what we believe there must be an anchor. The Bible is an anchor.
Thank you for the time to remind us about theological movements, and for the well reasoned arguments.

Steve Young
Montana

Tom Parker said...

Joe:

You say--"I turned 7. I think I was in 1st grade. I am now 25. Ok, I'm 25 for the 12th time."

Your comment implies that I have asked you 11 times before. Not true, to the best of my knowledge I've never asked you before.

So before you make such comments, slow down, think about way you are saying before you hit submit.

BTW, I know I'm not popular with this group because I see this issue differently, but that is not my concern.

I believe I could fellowhip with you guys, but I believe you would shut me out and bar the door.

Thats what the CR has done and quite well--shut people out.

It was and is wrong to do this.
Inerrarancy, the role of women in the church, the list gets longer every day as to who may not have a part in SBC life.

Joe Blackmon said...

Tom,

Come on man. It was a joke. I turned 7 in '79. That would mean I was born in...'72. That would make me...37. Or, as I tell everyone "25 for the 12th time". I don't have birthday's...I celebrate the anniversary of my 25th birthday. Honestly, I didn't mean that you had asked me over and over ad nauseum. I was just kidding.

I should have made that more clear. I usually tell folks "That's not a lie, it's creative accounting". I guess I figured you would have just done the math in your head and figured out how old I was and realized that was a joke.

My wife tells me my humor takes too much thought so it's not funny. However, I handle that in a very mature way--I plug my fingers in my ear and say "I can't hear you I can't hear you Na na na na".

That was a joke too. Don't go telling my wife I said that.

Tom Parker said...

Joe B:

My bad.

Joe Blackmon said...

Tom,

It's no problem. I just figgered when you took the CPA exam was probably before they allowed calculators to be used** and that it must be second nature to just do math in your head. Now me, I don't believe in doing math. Haa haa I make Excel do all that work for me.

**I used to joke with one of my accounting professors who talked about not being able to use a calulator on the test "Yeah yeah, we know. Up hill, in the snow, both ways AND you were thankful."

David R. Brumbelow said...

Tom,
If I were a moderate or a liberal I would want everyone to stop talking about inerrancy and the Conservative Resurgence. Hopefully they would forget about it and the reasons for it and let down their guard. Then we would slowly drift back to where were were in the 1960s and 70s with increasingly liberal doctrine.

Southern Baptists have historically believed in inerrancy. We returned to that historic belief in the Conservative Resurgence. We affirmed that inerrancy is true and it is important. I pray we do what it takes to stay true to that commitment.

Tom Parker said...

David:

You said:"If I were a moderate or a liberal I would want everyone to stop talking about inerrancy and the Conservative Resurgence. Hopefully they would forget about it and the reasons for it and let down their guard. Then we would slowly drift back to where were were in the 1960s and 70s with increasingly liberal doctrine."

I do not think that this keeping inerrancy in the forefront of people's minds has anything to do with liberals and moderates.

They have been washed from the SBC ship and the ship is not going back to the original destination. They are not concerned about inerrancy in the least, they have moved on to serve the Lord elsewhere. But that is just not enough for some in the SBC. This is just a scare tactic by those in charge of the SBC.

You truly believe that there was all of this "liberal doctrine" you speak of before the CR and I truly believe there was some but not nearly as much as those that salute the CR would especially have those who did not live through this period believe. But it sure helped in the takeover of the convention. Just joking, but I can see right now PP and PP orchestrating the 1979 SBC and Bold Mission Thrust becoming an immediate casualty.

The SBC is not going back to "Liberalism" and I think most of "you" know that.

But it sure keeps people stirred up. Huh, maybe that is truly the plan.

Funny my word verification is budge. Seems like that is an appropriate word for this blog.

Neither side is ever going to budge.

Anonymous said...

Tom:

I for one would in no way want to shut you out.

But here's the rub, as I see it.

If we were going to pool our money, and build shelters for the homeless, clean up towns, have activities for kids in the community (all good things), life would be really easy.

But, if groups of Christians are going to get together and run theological seminaries, educate the next generation of pastors, print literature, send missionaries, that requires a candid discussion of theology and whether we can live with differences.

I do not want to pool my money with someone to run a seminary with whom I have deep theological differences. It's not because I hate them or even dislike them.

But I really am an inerrantist. I (unlike Young Joe) was in my first year at a Baptist college in 1979. I was taught by men who obtained their PhDs at Southern. They are very nice people. But they have a very different view of what the Bible is, and what it is not.

These men make great neighbors and friends. But my differences with them theologically would make it impossible for use to run a theological school together.

If you have not yet read the History of Southern Seminary that just came out last summer, I would encourage you to read that. I am not trying to be condescending. I am sure there is much you can teach me. But that book clearly illustrates that all the way back to E.Y. Mullins day the faculty at Southern (which was representative of the "liberal" wing of SBC life) had a different view theologically of much of their constituency.

There seems to be 3 public responses to that:

1. No, they didn't. They were just like all Baptists. That's what Dr. McCall used to say, "All the professors here at Southern believe the Bible."

2. Only a few did. That's the Russell Dilday approach. I think he told Bill Moyers on T.V. that only a dozen or so professors in our seminaries hold these views...

3. It doesn't matter. Priesthood of the believer and religious liberty that Baptists enjoy mean that we should never look into these matters.

To number 1 I say - that's not my experience at all. And apparently wasn't the experience of enough Southern Baptists to make a difference.

To number 2 I say - well, why didn't you deal with those dozen or so? Is that an indicator of your tolerance for error? If so, won't it grow if the faculty have the say-so on new hires?

To number 3 I say - That's fine that you believe that, but I don't agree. I am still stuck with the conviction of wanting to propagate a the gospel and a certain belief about the Bible. I can't in good conscience pool my money with people.

I am sure that you have heard all of this a million times. But I still wanted to write it.

Louis

Anonymous said...

Funny that someone wants to accuse Bart of bringing this issue up again. He's only responding to an article in which someone of the opposite side brought it up.

Anyway Bart has written a really brilliant piece. Excellent. Very helpful. Thank you.

Justin said...

Bart,

#6 Reminds me of an E. Earle "The Pearl" Ellis quote: "Any fool can find a contradiction in the Bible, it's the job of the theologian to show that it's not a contradiction."

Tom Parker said...

Anon:
You said--"Funny that someone wants to accuse Bart of bringing this issue up again. He's only responding to an article in which someone of the opposite side brought it up.

Anyway Bart has written a really brilliant piece. Excellent. Very helpful. Thank you."

Why respond at all? Nothing is threatening innerancy that I know of.

What complimentary words towards Bart. Why not own them and sign your name. I'm sure Bart would like to thank you. I owned my words by attaching my name, surely you can do likewise.

Anonymous said...

Hey Bart,
Excellent article! Can I reproduce it for our guys in Australia?
It is a needed corrective here.
Many thanks,
Steve

BUNSW Baptist Pastors Forum said...

Hey Bart,
Excellent article! Can I reproduce it for our guys in Australia?
It is a needed corrective here.
Many thanks,
Steve

Dave Miller said...

Louis, your experience was much like mine. I was in a Baptist college with professors from Southern (mostly) and Southeastern. They taught that the Bible was full of historical and scientific errors, that it was a book of human opinion about God. They denied the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. They denied that Jesus was the only way to salvation. They denied the existence of a personal being called Satan.

What I believed, they denied. I don't know how many of them there were. But they were there, and at least 3 of our seminaries had been essentially taken over by liberalism.

Frankly, I am not tired of inerrancy, but I AM tired of the mantra of a few people that "the CR was about power."

First of all, you are calling me and a bunch of other people liars when you say that. I'm telling you, I have never cared about power in the SBC. But I did care that people like my college professors not be produced in our seminaries anymore.

I was there in 1979 and several of the bigger SBCs during the 80's and early 90's. I didn't go there for any reason other than the fact that I did not want liberalism to have my convention.

I have no doubt that there were some members of the CR who were seduced by the prospect of power, but it is historical revisionism to say that power is what drove us.

It was a passion for the purity of the Word of God.

I did not want to let those who denied the scriptures have control of our seminaries!

That was my motive, Tom and whomever else wants to know. It was about inerrancy. It was about having a denomination that did not follow the mainline protestant denominations down the trail of liberalism into spiritual death.

I have no doubt that some CR proponents went too far. But that does not change the fact that the CR was a miracle of God's grace. Never before has a denomination been rescued from descent into liberalism like ours was.

I have been critical of some of those CR leaders in the days since the CR. I have disagreed with some of them in recent days.

But that does not change what I feel about what they did 30 years ago.

Thank God for WA Criswell, sometimes a lone voice crying in a wilderness of spiritual drift.

Thank God for Adrian Rogers - a man of grace and character who stood for truth in spite of withering opposition and mischaracterization - a man I respected, even revered, until the day he went to heaven and even since.

Thank God for Bailey Smith and Jerry Vines and Morris Chapman and Charles Stanley. None of them were perfect but every one of them stood for truth and against error.

I am even thankful for Paige and the Judge. They were the special forces of the CR. I haven't agreed with much that Dr. P has done in the last 5 years or so, but he was there when the SBC needed him.

I am sorry for those who were hurt by the CR, innocent men and women who loved the Word but sided against the CR and got caught in the cross-hairs. It was unfortunate.

But do not ask me to be ashamed of the CR.

Do not ask me to condemn what I believe to be a great work of God.

Do not try to tell me there was no liberalism in the SBC. I knew better - firsthand.

Do not tell me the CR was only about power. It wasn't.

That's my rant for today.

There's a lot that divides us, but we can all join together to say this.

GO YANKEES! Beat the Phillies!

Tom Parker said...

Dave Miller:

You said--"Do not tell me the CR was only about power. It wasn't.

It may not have been about power but it was about power. It was a complete takeover of a denomination--How is that not about power?

I know you believe the CR lock stock and barrell but there are many of us do not. I have very strong feelings for what it did to our SBC and continues to do so.

You say--"I am sorry for those who were hurt by the CR, innocent men and women who loved the Word but sided against the CR and got caught in the cross-hairs. It was unfortunate."
That truly is small comfort to those whose lives were destroyed by the CR. You will never know the damage done to these people, their families, their churches, etc. I am sorry is not enough.

I look for the CR to destroy more lives because as this Blog shows the fight for inerrancy must go on, the battle must continue.

Dave, I wonder how disillusoned you would be if someday you find yourself not conservative enough for the SBC and you are put out--ie, you are labeled a Liberal. This is not hard for me to imagine.

Bart Barber said...

Tom Parker:

Not speaking for everyone here, but for my part, your words would be more powerful if they were combined with any compassion for all of the people marginalized, bullied, and otherwise harmed BEFORE the Conservative Resurgence by your heroes.

Bart Barber said...

Steve,

Go right ahead, brother.

Bart Barber said...

Great discussion taking place here while I'm at convention. But I'm having a great time, too, such that I wish you all could be here.

Tom Parker said...

Bart:

You said to me--"Not speaking for everyone here, but for my part, your words would be more powerful if they were combined with any compassion for all of the people marginalized, bullied, and otherwise harmed BEFORE the Conservative Resurgence by your heroes."

Thanks for the slam. Who are your heroes that have marginalized, bullied, and otherwise harmed people AFTER the CR?

I can guess two of your main heroes that everyone who supports the CR almost worships.

Bart Barber said...

Tom,

You haven't been slamming here?

I know people who, as college students, were THROWN OUT of Baptist colleges and universities simply because they were inerrantists and were deemed to be "trouble." I know a guy who tried to go to the mission field with the IMB, and after unsuccessfully trying a dozen other ways to deny him, finally just said point-blank that they were not going to appoint him because he was a Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary graduate.

I, personally, with my own ears, experienced the belittling of my fidelity to the inerrant scriptures by professors. Others reading could probably testify to the same.

What's more, I know for a fact that RIGHT NOW the vast majority of the state Baptist colleges and universities will not hire ANYBODY who obtains a degree from a SBC seminary. SBC liberals have been the West Coast distributors of persecution for half of a century, all buttressed by and cloaked in the smug presumption that conservative=idiotic.

Now, you want to talk about injustices committed and people wrongly harmed during the Conservative Resurgence? Fine. I believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, not the inerrancy of the CR. I agree that not everything was handled correctly at every juncture and that people have been wrongly hurt.

The difference, so far as I can tell, is this: In saying so I'm wishing that the absolutely necessary CR had been accomplished perfectly, while you seem to be wishing that it had been defeated. And if that's what it boils down to—a simple regret that your side lost—then it would add to your credibility if you had any soft spot in your heart for the people hurt by YOUR side as well as the people hurt by mine.

Grosey's Messages said...

Hey Bro Bart.. now your paper is online here... that makes you an international scholar.
Steve

Tom Parker said...

Bart:

Thanks for your thoughtful response. But really for me it is not about sides and who should have won or lost, or who did actually win.

Sadly those that believe the CR was necessary and those that do not believe it was necessary will ever reconcile.

I've probably worn out my welcome here so I will cease and desist on this issue.

r. grannemann said...

Is there room in the SBC today for anyone who believes the development of the OT obscures the identity and sometimes authorship of the original text, or that a 3 hour old embryo "might" not yet have a soul, or that 20th century science basically got it right, or that it is not appropriate to have the President of the United States address the national convention, or that the obscene antics of Britney Spears should not continually be highlighted in Baptist Press or the Obama administration compared to Nazis? Well, no there isn't.

Not complaining, because that's just the way it is. So forgive me if I think that in spite of the problems facing the BGCT, it is the only hope for us "liberals" who still believe in the power of Jesus to save and think of ourselves as free-church Baptists.

volfan007 said...

Tom,

I was there during the CR as well. Like Dave, I was there to get the liberals out of power... to get the SBC back to the Bible and sound doctrine. I was not there to gain power for myself, nor to become an SBC entity head, nor anything else. And, like Bart, I know firsthand of many, many conservative Ministers who were bullied and persecuted by the liberals and moderates who were in control back in that day. I know of many firsthand experiences of conservatives who were ostrasized by the liberal/moderate crowd due to them believing in the inerrancy of Scripture. So, dont bring that stuff in here. Dont try to get people to get weepy eyed over how bad the liberals were treated by those big, bad, bully conservatives. It wont fly with those of us who were living in that day.

Also, I'm glad that the liberals dont feel welcome in the SBC anymore. I hope that they never feel welcome in the SBC anymore, unless they are willing to repent of their heresies and errors. Then, I would welcome them back with open arms. But, as long as they want to throw doubts on the Bible, and mislead people into doctrinal errors, and even lead people into the fires of Hell, itself; no thank you. We dont want them.

David

Anonymous said...

r.granneman:

You have hit the nail on the head and that brings me back to my earlier point.

You are arguing for a religious denomination that is comprised of pro-life and pro-choice people, but has a Christian Life Commission, now ERLC, that addresses the abortion issue.

How in the world can that work if either side has any conviction about things?

Truth is, it never worked anyway.

Dr. Valentine at CLC was a founding member of the religious coalition for abortion rights. So, in the old days, the CLC and SBC programming was pro-choice, contrary to the majority of Southern Baptists convictions.

You are also arguing for a denomination in which some of the people believe in the verbal/plenary inspiration of the Bible, or inerrancy, and others believe in a view of inspiration that says the Bible is true religiously (whatever that might mean from person to person), but not true historically.

And yet, these 2 groups are going to run seminaries together.

We haven't even started talking about doctrine yet and the impact of all this on the mission of the organization. Differences there will cause further problems.

As an example, you might like to read David Gushee's (a Mercer prof) latest column in Associated Baptist Press where he says that Baptists need to get away from focusing on individual salvation and move toward community solutions to the problems of today. I am sure that his idea of mission is profoundly impacted by is theology and view of the Bible. And I dare say that Baptists would disagree profoundly on the direction that he would have us go. It's not a Bold Mission Thrust, or Gospel Resurgence direction for which we fund thousands of SBC missionaries.

One of two things will happen in the scenario that you propose.

1 - there will be a dominant perspective, and the people whose perspective is not dominant will have to accept their minority status and focus on the things shared in common, and advocate for change in the meantime, or

2) if the minority's opinion is essential to their belief system and the practice of their faith, the minority will have to relocate and work with others of like-mind.

I really don't see any other way if the people are truly convictional about their beliefs.

The best thing is for people to be honest about their convictions and what's important to them. That way, they don't get inappropriately yoked together in the first place.

Louis

Anonymous said...

From a layman's perspective, these posts about "inerrancy" and the Bible are very confusing.

The world "inerrant" means "free of error".

I have lived 55 years hearing about the Bible, reading the Bible, reading books about the Bible, and hearing preachers preach about the Bible. Very simply, based upon this experience, the Bible is NOT inerrant or free from error.

It only takes one error to disqualify the Bible from being inerrant. There are many errors the scribes made when making manuscript copies and we do not have any of the original documents. Therefore, the Bible that mankind has is NOT inerrant.

And besides, it appears to me that it is irrelevant as to whether it is inerrant or not. I have heard thousands of preachers preach about what the Bible means. None of them agreed exactly on the same meaning for the Bible verses that they preached about. So even if the Bible was inerrant, as soon as a preacher started to preach about it, the hearer would hear something that was NOT inerrant.

To me, the Bible is a testimony to faith in God. The testimony of the faith of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus opens my heart to faith in the same God. God saves me and loves me and saves the world and loves the world. I do not need an idol of an inerrant Bible. I worship only God himself.

volfan007 said...

Anonymous,

Are you a SB?

If so, we see the reason to continue the inerrancy fight.

David

PS. A personal illustration appears for us all to see.

Joe Blackmon said...

Is there room in the SBC today for

Let's take these one at a time:
anyone who believes the development of the OT obscures the identity and sometimes authorship of the original text

Nope.

, or that a 3 hour old embryo "might" not yet have a soul,

Most definitely not.

or that 20th century science basically got it right,

I'd need more info on this, but do you mean that evolution is true and that God did not speak the world into existence out of nothing? If "yes" then "no".

or that it is not appropriate to have the President of the United States address the national convention,

Depends on who the President is. As long as he has the correct views on abortion and homosexual rights,(No on both) I'm ok with him. So I'm going to have to give a "Maybe" on this one.

or that the obscene antics of Britney Spears should not continually be highlighted in Baptist Press
Never liked Spears. I'll go "yes" on this one.

or the Obama administration compared to Nazis?

I think you meant that the Obama administration should not be compared to Nazis. I'd say "no". It's this little thing called "Free Speech". And I can't stand Obama so I certainly don't want to have to listen to someone defending him.

So the tally is:
6 Total Questions
4 No's
1 Yes
1 Maybe

Yeah, I'd say there is no room for someone like that. However, the Cooperate with Anyone Baptist Fellowship would LOVE to have someone like that.

Joe Blackmon said...

So forgive me if I think that in spite of the problems facing the BGCT, it is the only hope for us "liberals" who still believe in the power of Jesus to save and think of ourselves as free-church Baptists.

And by "free church" you mean "free of doctrinal accountability".

bapticus hereticus said...

bapticus hereticus: Anonymous, your October 28, 2009 1:50 PM post is very well said and would likely be supported by many, many baptists, SBCers included. Thanks.

There are a number of conceptual issues concerning the notion of inerrancy; among them is what qualifies as an original autograph. That should keep folks occupied for a good many years; however, we know the outcome: "ugh, we can't reach agreement."

But here is where it becomes interesting for the most fundamentalist among us:

"Hey, this is an original; says so right here!"

OK; does it have any errors?

"Well, it differs from what we have in a few places, and what we know about a few other things, there is definitely an oops or two."

Well, it can't be an original, can it?

"Why not?"

Because the/a theory of/belief in inerrancy will not allow for such empirical data.

"Then apart from being a faith statement, there is no way to falsify the doctrine of inerrancy?"

No sir, inerrancy cannot be falsified, praise God.

"OK, neither, then, can it be verified."

You, you liberal unbeliever!

“But I believe Jesus saves and is Lord, and I have staked my life on it. Scripture testifies to my need for Jesus and has been nothing short of inspirational for helping me walk with the Lord. C’mon, brother, let’s lead this thing together while we still have strength.”

Sorry, friend, but you don’t believe in inerrancy; thus we have no basis for sharing leadership of common ministry.

Rich S said...

Denison makes a very detailed argument. But I don't think it passes even a common sense test. If someone tells me that something has errors, flaws or contradictions,I am not going to view it as trustworthy. You can slice and dice and parse those words however you want, but I am not trusting it.

Bart Barber said...

Anonymous,

Inerrancy is not idolatry. If I leave a note for my son asking him to complete certain chores, he does not have to choose between having regard for me or having regard for the message that I sent to him. My message, having been written by me, is something that I expect him to respect just as he respects me. To place an artificial cleavage between God and what God has told us is nonsensical.

Now, to the second point. Inerrantists and non-inerrantists alike acknowledge and deal similarly with textual anomalies. I would encourage you to look back over my post more carefully, for it addresses this topic at some length.

Finally, it is not helpful to pretend that the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is inconsequential. Here's the simple fact: The great preponderance of the biblical text is not unclear by any textual consideration.

So, we have some passages in which textual problems cause the meaning of the passage to be in doubt. There are just so unbelievably few of these passage.

The doctrine of inerrancy is important for the entire remainder of the Bible—those passages in which we're confident of the original text of the Bible. Where we know what the original text of the Bible says, inerrantists and others treat those words differently. Are they the inerrant and authoritative word of God, or are they not?

bapticus hereticus said...

Bart: Inerrancy is not idolatry. If I leave a note for my son asking him to complete certain chores, he does not have to choose between having regard for me or having regard for the message that I sent to him. My message, having been written by me, is something that I expect him to respect just as he respects me. To place an artificial cleavage between God and what God has told us is nonsensical.

bapticus hereticus: Concerning the note as note from Pop to Bud: does Bud regard Pop incapable of mistake and absent of noise in the communication process? If no, Bud does not respect the note as he does Pop, for the note does not substitute for richer forms of communication and expression of relationship (i.e., meaning). The note, nonetheless, has efficacy, but it is not Pop.

Concerning scripture: Written by the finger of God is not writing by the finger of God. While it is language that conveys importance, it is not language to be taken at face value. While I don't take literally the words, I do take literally the message of the words: "Hey, folks, listen!" We sometimes lose the message for the words, and as Whitehead suggests, we err by embracing the fallacy of misplaced concreteness.

Concerning the meaning of original autographs: given the progression of oral to written traditions and layers of written tradition, what would constitute an original? All for continuing the digs to find what we can and make sense of it, but given the involvement of fallible individuals in the development of the written tradition (note: while we prehend God, thus making religious knowledge possible, the efficacy of our prehension is captured well with “seeing darkly“ and our command of facts concerning scientifically verifiable events can be problematic, too), I suspect the "originals" are prone to error, as well. No matter; what I have is sufficient. Didn't the Stones sing about having what we need instead of what we want? Probably not going to sing that in church, however.

r. grannemann said...

Louis,

I think I agree with what you are saying about needed agreement for cooperation; my piece was just summary (or maybe a rant) of reasons (without arguing my points) of why your "side" isn't thinking correctly about the issues (I would put a smiley face here if I could remember how to do it).

Concerning abortion, my more recent thinking is that the Bible never says "when" in the womb a fetus becomes alive. Without brain waves and the ability to make any independent movement an embryo is clinically dead (worthy of some protection from Natural Law considerations, but not the equivalent murder if destroyed). Statistically 1/3 of fertilized human eggs never implant in the womb (naturally discharged from the womb is a few days). If a few days old embryo is a human, then we should do everything in our power never to create any which might not be born. Therefore every couple should desist from sex, because 33% or the time it aborts at child -- unless you think the ends justifies the means and you are so entitled to a child that you are willing to murder another child to have one.

But this is wrongheaded thinking since God would not make the normal process of having children be a process which often results in murder. This is a Natural Law argument that an embryo smaller than a tenth of a pinhead is a living being with a soul.

Thanks Louis for your well reasoned comment. I am leaving town early tomorrow morning and won't be able to look at these blogs again until next week.

r. grannemann said...

Joe,

Concerning develpment of the OT text I quote R.E. Harrison in his Introduction to the Old Testament (considered a champion of conservative scholarship) pp 219-220:

"From the evidence presented by the Qumran discoveries it appears that there were at least three distinct types of Biblical text in circulation among the Jews of the Second Commonwealth (i.e the time of the second Temple). This development, which already has done much to shake the foundations of traditional literary criticism, depending as it did upon a standard "fixed" text, has made it clear that the Massoretic form was representative of only one body of Hebrew literary tradition. Even the Torah existed in a number of textural forms, contrary to the views held by some scholars of an earlier generation, as has been demonstrated conclusively by the fragments of the Pentateuch recovered from 4Q."

Anyway, glad you at least agreed with me about Spears.

Anonymous said...

r.granneman:

Thanks for the reply.

I know that you are out of town, but still wanted to post something to you. Hope you have a nice trip.

We'll pick up on the issues another day.

Take care.

Louis

David Muir said...

I would say that Inerrancy refers to the quality and source of the dcument in question.Therefore if God is the author and God is truth ie not only to who and what he is but tells the truth about the universe and its form,about the mannishness of man,his nobility and his cruelty,is true regarding History,science,the cosmos,etc.If he is a liar it does not matter what terminology one uses,Christ has not died and rose again,w we are still in our sins nad sans teeth,sans eyes, sans everyrthing, we go backto the time pluschance plus nothing that accidentally put us here for no credible reason we can discern.Trustworthyness seems to have an implication to me of the one doing the trusting-what criteria is he going to apply to a statement,let's say for example the moon is a great pumpkin in the sky.We know from the history of the scientific exploration of space that rockets and people inside them have not only gone to the moon but arrived safely back on earth.Did it look like one,did it taste like one,did it have roots, was it measured and observed to grow in the interim between flights,etc etc.Freedom from proof leads only to freedom from proof and so we call nonsense by its name-non sense.In any assumptions biuas and prejudice have to be allowed for(see Michel Polanyi Personal nowledge" If God is not to be trusted then we have an epistomological problem trusting anything he says or does or thinks or is.Dennison's case is eheavily flawed but worse possibly awaits him for if God is true when he says leaders will be judged more harshly then he better get on his southern baptist knees bless him and start to repent.If of course he is right then he won't go to heaven for this isn't one Choose you this day whom ye will serve.

David Muir said...

I would say that Inerrancy refers to a view or/and statement regarding the quality and source of the document in question.Therefore if God is the author of the Bible and God is truth (He says He is)ie not only to who and what He is but tells the truth to us about the universe and its form,about the source and mannishness of man,his nobility and his cruelty,is telling the truth regarding everything including History,science,the cosmos,etc.If He is a liar it does not matter what terminology one uses,Christ has not died and rose again,we are still in our sins,and sans teeth,sans eyes, sans everything, we die.The time plus chance plus nothing that accidentally put us here for no credible reason we can discern no longer matters and actually never did.Man then is a useless passion.Trustworthiness seems to have an implication to me of the one doing the trusting-what criteria is he/she going to apply to a statement,let's say for example the moon is a great pumpkin in the sky.I spoke to A J Ayer shortly before his death three weeks later and his own verification principle could not itself be verified,sans Language,sans Truth, sans Logic.We know from the history of the scientific exploration of space that rockets and people inside them have not only gone to the moon but arrived safely back on earth.Did it look like one,ie a pumpkin,did it taste like one,did it have roots, was it measured and observed to grow in the interim between flights,etc etc.Freedom from proof leads only to freedom from proof and so we call nonsense by its name-non sense.In any assumptions or presuppositions bias and prejudice have to be allowed for(see Michel Polanyi Personal Knowledge" If God is not to be trusted then we have an epistomological problem trusting anything He says or does or thinks or is.Dennison's case is heavily flawed but worse possibly awaits him for if God is true when he says leaders will be judged more harshly then he better get on his southern baptist knees bless him and start to repent.If of course he is right then he won't go to heaven for there is not one.He will not go to Hell for there is not one.Perhaps he would prefer the primordial slime as his source for his own being.There really are not many options on the table.An infinite/personal God creating us in His own image and a world to live in which can be weighed, tested, known, trusted,or an impersonal beginning based on time plus chance plus nothing, natural selection itself inescapably being the result of chance.the form and order around would seem to contradict that.If all is an accident an extremely convenient accident and how fortunate for us.I woder if you can calculate the odds of that happening Mr Dennison.Choose you this day whom you will serve.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Barber:

I believe that "bapticus heriticus"'s response is theologically and philosophically better than anything that I could say.

However, as a layman, I understand things much more simply.

It seems to me that your contention is "The Bible is inerrant".

Based upon what I have been taught, "inerrant" means "free from error". It is the only definition given in the unabridged version of The Random House Dictionary of the English Language that I own.

From my perspective, you agree with me that the Bible is NOT inerrant.

From your own words, "The great preponderance of the biblical text is not unclear by any textual consideration."

Inerrancy does not equal a "great preponderance" standard. Inerrancy simply means "free from error." Inerrancy is an exacting standard. The Bible is not inerrant if the "great preponderance" of the Bible is inerrant. The "great preponderance" would mean tha only PART of the Bible is inerrant.

Again, your own words, "So, we have some passages in which textual problems cause the meaning of the passage to be in doubt. There are just so unbelievably few of these passages".

The standard of an "unbelievably few" does not equal "inerrant".

Again, "The doctrine of inerrancy is important for the entire remainder of the Bible." Ok, then preach that, "Some of the Bible is not inerrant but some of it is." Which is to say, "The Bible is not inerrant."

You may define inerrancy differently. So be it. If so, the average layman deserves to know the facts that contradict the plain, clear definition of "inerrant".

Some of the facts are:

1. Mankind possesses approximately 5,800 Greek manuscripts that contain part or all of the New Testament, approximately 10,000 Latin manuscripts that contain part or all of the New Testament, and approximately 9,300 manuscripts in other ancient languages. None of these manuscripts have exactly the same words.
2. There are somewhere between 200,000 and 400,000 variations in these manuscripts. There are more variations than there are words in the New Testament.
3. There have been many accidental copying mistakes and there have been intentioinal additions, deletions, and changes to the written words by both church members and professional scribes. Many of the intentional changes were theologically motivated.
4. While the New Testament was largely written in the first century A.D., the oldest manuscript that we have that only contains parts of the New Testament comes from around 200 A.D.
5. No human alive today has seen the orignal books of the Bible, nor knows EXACTLY, without any error, what words were in them.

If in the face of these facts, you still contend that the Bible is inerrant. So be it. However, preaching "inerrancy" when the average layman will think that "inerrancy" means "free from error" is misleading. If I were a preacher, I would not want my preaching to be misleading.

Joe Blackmon said...

Anon 12:06 PM

If you want to believe the way you believe, you would be welcomed with open arms in a Cooperate-with-anyone Baptist Fellowship church. I suggest you go there.

David Muir said...

inerrancy frres free from error and that includes history the cosmos, man and science.If I as a father wrote to my son three sentences which one would be less inerrant than the other one
1 I love you
2 love you more than
3)i love more than the

Clearly here there are textual variants but of course christianity fortunately is not a religion only it is a relationship
and we can test ot whether things are true or not so for instance prophecy,if its true,it comes about if not it doesnt .In God the ever reliable David

Rey said...

This is one of the best defenses of inerrancy that I've seen online; great job, Bart.

Anonymous said...

Joe Blackmon,
As an interested non Baptist I appreciate the straight forward way you answer questions.
When you talk about room in the SBC for people with certain beliefs do you include only leadership positions or do you include membership in your churches? Obviously any voter or executive deciding on a candidate for elected office or for employment should use their own life experiences and beliefs when judging those candidates.

You said "do you mean that evolution is true and that God did not speak the world into existence out of nothing? If "yes" then "no"."

How about someone who believes that God did speak the world into existence out of nothing, but also believes that Man did evolve from some primordial soup? Is a belief in inerrancy wide enough to cover someone who believes that Adam and Eve are allegorical? Can an allegory be a inerrant way of delivering truth?

Anonymous said...

Bart,

This is one of the best defenses, definitions of biblical inerrancy I have ever seen. It very clearly states the case for those of us who believe we serve an inerrant (omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient) God. The specific word "inerrant" is simply the latest word to describe the Bible as it has been believed and taught by godly men and women for generations. It's use is necessitated by the insistence of some believers that they be given "wiggle room" to tweak other words like "authority" and "inspired" to mean something less than what the word "inerrancy" communicates.

I too have heard most of these tired, worn arguments against inerrancy that Dr. Denison used in his paper. You very eloquently and thoroughly refuted each one in turn. Now it seems that the concept of "inerrancy" is being denigrated by those who claim it was merely a vehicle for a political takeover of the SBC by men who (it is implied) could have just as easily used some other hot-button issue as their weapon to gain power. Whether that is true or not (I tend to believe it has some truth in it, but I don't believe a power struggle was the motivation for a majority of conservatives) is absolutely irrelevant to the question of inerrancy of the Bible, imo.

Some have commented that they are tired of this discussion. Me too. But the devil never tires of finding new ways to convince people that the Bible is something less than what it really is: God's Word. What I really grow tired of is all the "discussions" which usually quickly devolve into denigrating debates over well-worn issues that have been debated time and time again. I could make my list, of course. But that would only ignite a firestorm, as everyone defended their (may I be allowed to say?) "pet" issue.

Of course, doctrine is important, in fact, critical. Debate is necessary, in fact good. Iron sharpens iron. But few spiritual issues in my lifetime have been nearly as critical as that of biblical innerancy.

Inerrrancy is indeed a "hill on which to die." Let's take it to the next step and make is a "hill on which to live" as well.

Great work, Bart! Thanks.

EA IMB M

Steve Young said...

No one wants to admit to a "slippery slope," but sometimes one exists. Clark Pinnock has ridden a slippery slope to heresy.
If Adam and Eve are allegorical figures, what does Romans mean "by one man sin entered the world," and is it also allegorical that the death of one man paid the price for many?
I just looked again at my copy of the "Preceedings of the Conference on Biblical Inerrancy 1987." Pinnock was a presenter and a responder - so was Adrian Rogers. Dr. Roger's personal appeal to Dr. Pinnock to return to his former position is worth the book - and this long before Pinnock postulated that God was still learning.
Steve in Montana

Anonymous said...

Ever wonder whether first-century Christians required someone to confess belief in inerrancy as a requirement for membership (good standing) in their congregation?

I don't find in the NT adherence to inerrancy as a primary criteria or necessary requirement for Christians to fellowship together. I think we err in elevating adherence to this belief as necessary for church membership. To do such would smack of legalism.

Do you find such a requirement in the NT?

Perhaps the Apostle Paul's treatment of "disputable things" in Rom. 14 speaks to this in the minds of folks like Jim Denison, who himself exhibits in practice a high view of Scripture, but thinks inerrancy becomes excessively divisive.

I would suggest that the one confession we can require of all members of our church is "Jesus is Lord" and baptism by immersion. And if Jesus is our Lord, then his high view of Scripture is important, but he nowhere in the NT did her require new believers to adhere to inerrancy as a requirement to salvation.

I have no problem with wanting Seminary professors to hold to inerrancy, but I think we err in requiring new Christians to confess that belief.

Joe Blackmon said...

Perhaps the Apostle Paul's treatment of "disputable things" in Rom. 14 speaks to this in the minds of folks like Jim Denison, who himself exhibits in practice a high view of Scripture, but thinks inerrancy becomes excessively divisive.

If he does not believe in inerrancy, he does not have a high view of scripture.

Joe Blackmon said...

How about someone who believes that God did speak the world into existence out of nothing, but also believes that Man did evolve from some primordial soup? Is a belief in inerrancy wide enough to cover someone who believes that Adam and Eve are allegorical? Can an allegory be a inerrant way of delivering truth?

I would say that someone who belived in evolution did not believe in inerrancy. I would also say that someone who believed that Adam and Eve were allegorical and not real people did not believe in inerrancy.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mr. Blackmon,
Can I ask you another question?
If a belief in evolution excludes one from being an inerrantist, does it also exclude one from being a member of your church? Should it exclude one from membership in your church?
An interested non Babtist.

Joe Blackmon said...

Anon,

That's an interesting question. I don't think it would or could, really. I mean, the church I currently go to believes that Genesis chapters 1-11 are as historically accurate as any other historical narrative in the Bible. I would suspect that someone who believes in evolution who came into a church that didn't would probably decide before too long that "Woah, these folks don't believe like I do. I think I'll just go somewhere else."

Anders said...

I want to comment reg. “inerrant Bible”

First some important information: A analysis (found here: www.netzarim.co.il (that is the only legitimate Netzarim)) of all extant source documents and archaeology using a rational and logical methodology analyzing the “gospel of Matthew” proves that the historical Ribi Yehosuha ha-Mashiakh (the Messiah) from Nazareth and his talmidim (apprentice-students), called the Netzarim, taught and lived Torah all of their lives; and that Netzarim and Christianity were always antithetical.

Regarding “NT”:

“Even according to the most authoritative Christian scholars, e.g., The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, acknowledges:

"A study of 150 Greek MSS of the Gospel of Luke has revealed more than 30,000 different readings… It is safe to say that there is not one sentence in the NT in which the MS tradition is wholly uniform… But there are many thousands which have a definite effect upon the meaning of the text. It is true that not one of these variant readings affects the substance of Christian dogma" ("Text, NT," 2nd edition (Abingdon, 1962).

Of course Christians redacting the Jewish texts made Christian redactions to make the Jewish texts compatible with "the substance of Christian dogma." Duh.” [Quote from the previous mentioned Netzarim-website.]

Clearly the “NT” is not inerrant.

The Nәtzâr•im′ never changed their mind about it, maintaining that only the Jewish Ta•na"kh′ is Scripture and only their own TheNәtzâr•im′ Hebrew Ma•tit•yâh′u (NHM) was a legitimate account of the life and teachings of Rib′i Yәho•shu′a.

The Nәtzâr•im′ haven't changed from this position, and won't change from this position.

Anders Branderud