March 26, 2012

Our new pastoral candidate came and preached this Sunday. He seems like a good guy and is a talented preacher. I got to speak to him after a lunch where he and his wife and kids shared their story. He said that when he was in college ministry he held to the belief that the Bible was trustworthy, but not inerrant and has since moved into the inerrancy camp. I seem to have gone the other direction to some degree.

I believe that the translations we have currently are trustworthy when it comes to getting the message of the good news across. I do not believe that we have an inerrant version of the Bible (whatever that means). I could say that the original manuscripts were inerrant, but isn’t that essentially meaningless? We don’t have them so we could say that they were printed on unicorn hide written in velociraptor blood.

The important thing to me is that I can put my trust in what the inherent message of the scriptures is. God from the beginning has shown his creation more grace than we have deserved. That message is found consistently from Genesis through Revelation.

11 Responses to “Trustworthy”

  1. First and most important. I love and respect you, Scott. I am not attacking you nor do I mean to insult you in any way. On this subject tho I tend to be harsh. I do not mean it in any way toward you personally. Nor do I mean to demean anyone. We are all very valuable to God regardless of our rightness, wrongness or even beliefs. That said:

      Seems to me that we as a body keep taking steps backward and calling it enlightenment. The post modern culture infiltrates us and tells us that ALL we have is our flawed perspective and that everything else is just hopeful belief. I completely disagree.  We do have flawed perspectives yes. BUT we also have the image of God in us. God is a supernatural being that created everything. He that great HE the He that said he was the I AM. Who has existence within his own being! He planted his supernatural image in little flawed fleshly things? WOW. One of the blessings of that image is that: We CAN know things. It is a blessing from God himself. One of the things I can know is God’s word. A study of the texts confirms that the they are more than reliable. They are TOO reliable. One of the main arguments textual critics give for the inferior Alexandrian texts is that the Majority mss are just TOO good.  A normal book could not possibly have so many copies in so many languages from so many different places with so few variances (over 99 percent of all variants are spelling variants and no variants actually change the textual result). Any good scientific mind will tell you that just cant be so, they must not be real. They must have been altered to sync up. Real texts would have mistakes and more grammar flaws and be very different from each other… exactly what we find in the alexandrian mss. So we are left with two ways of thinking really. A Byzantine view that the Word of God is inerrant, miraculous and is perserved by the same Holy God that breathed it and promised to perserve it or an Alexandrian view that the word of God was perhaps miraculously delivered but we cant know, (it might have been written on unicorn tusks originally for all we know) but that not even God (or the version of him we choose to accept) can escape the scientific law of “change over time”. I choose to accept that we can know. That we can weigh the evidence and know. We can ASK, SEEK, and KNOCK and that the promises associated with those tasks will be kept. Does the KJV have some publishing mistakes? of course. But has the word of God been perserved in the majority text then to the english world through the KJV? I think the evidence screams yes. Is the gospel message perserved in the alexandrian versions? yes. People are saved by reading them. Finally, the word of God says we can trust it. It claims to be breathed not just inspired and that it will always be perserved. It also teaches that we can know and that knowing things is what God wants for us. It teaches that ambiguity and confusion is not of God. 
    The more we move away from certainty the more we weaken the foundation for those that come after. 

    My personal history was that I believed in the inerrant word of God until college then it fell apart until i did not trust the word of God at all by the time I was 30. Then in my 30s the Lord built my trust back on his word and then showed me how the devil tricked me into vain philosophies and now I believe in infallibility. (sounds like I am saying something about others there but I am not I am just talking about me). 

  2. Hey Brad!

    I think that “hopeful belief” falls somewhere south of where I am (assuming that your stance is north). I do trust that the Bible gives me (and the world) what it needs for the path of salvation. I haven’t studied the differences in the texts. Perhaps if I did I would be filled with the certainty you have. Probably not though, since I know people that have and they fall into a different camp than you do.

    I’ll definitely stand with you in your belief that the Bible is more than “just a book” (even though by its strictest definition that’s what it is). 

    So I have neither a Byzantine nor an Alexandrian view. I think viewpoints that reduce this to an either or argument do a disservice to the wider possibilities and  actively cause others to throw up their hands in disgust.

  3. I wish my husband had your faith.  No insult intended Scott. 

  4. Leigh, 
    Scott’s views often make me uncomfortable, and this is another one of those.  However, I’m not sure that it is a sign of less or lesser faith.  In fact, I think it may be easier to have faith in black and white things (the way you and I are used to them being) than in grey things.  We can have a comfortable and dogmatic certainty in things that are black and white, though it’s entirely possible it is a false certainty.  but when it come to grey areas, I think it is much more difficult to have faith in something that can’t be perfectly described and detailed.  that feels like a bigger faith.  and i think that’s why i struggle sometimes when I just can’t see something as black and white.  

  5. What makes you uncomfortable? Is the Bible not trustworthy? 😉

  6. No insult taken my dear. While I don’t want Brad’s faith, something like it would be nice.

  7. Hi Auntie Leigh,

    I think I prefer Scott’s faith.

  8. Hi Brad,
    “Uncle” Scott is I think on the right track.  A little background, I graduated with a BA degree magna cum laude in Classics (i.e. Greek and Latin) from a conservative Christian college.  I received my MDiv from Duke Divinity School.  This by no means makes me an expert, but I think that I do have a rather considered opinion on these matters. 

    As far as the majority texts are concerned, they are late and because of that somewhat less reliable.  Just because there are a lot of them around only means that there are a lot of them around.  I recommend to you the United Bible Society’s Greek New Testament, 3rd edition.  I believe that the text conveys as accurately as possible the actual autographs of the New Testament documents.  Does this mean that I think that the UBS edition is infallible?  By no means.

    I think that one also needs to separate the whole concept of knowing from the equation.  That is an epistemological question.  Personally, I find that one can never truly “know” anything.  We can interpret what we receive through our senses, but it is always filtered through our idiosyncratic filters.  I would suggest that we can “believe” strongly, but that we cannot “know”.

    I believe that Jesus was the Son of God, etc.  I believe that strongly.  When it comes right down to it, I would not be so bold as to say that I “know”.  My wife calls me a reverent agnostic.  I may be guilty as charged.  I do, however, BELIEVE that the Bible is trustworthy.

  9. I sympathize with your struggle visavis the inerrancy camp regarding the scripture, Scott. It can be difficult to conceptualize the existence and text of scripture with those things that it claims about itself. I think trustworthy is a good start, but it’s important to understand that many other doctrines are trustworthy as well. Books such as the Tao te Ching, the Koran, and the Book of Mormon are trustworthy works of philosophy while being in steadfast philosophical and historical opposition to the Bible. 

    One of the most important and rewarding areas of Biblical study is that of its historicity and the implications thereof. You say that we don’t have the original manuscripts, and that you don’t know just what inerrancy means. Study on the historicity of the scripture reveals that we have perfectly faithful recreations of the original works, still in the original languages of Hebrew and Greek. No other work of religious doctrine can make that claim and provide extant proof the way Scripture can.

    Inerrancy as a doctrine refers to the complete accuracy and internal consistency of Scripture. Essentially, if it says something, that statement is reliable historical fact or demonstrable observation. The spiritual and philosophical authority of the text derives from the accuracy of its historicity and the consistency of its record into the modern day.

    Two excellent resources on the inerrancy of scripture and the historical provenance of the text are: Evidence that Demands a Verdict, and The Case for Christ. I think you would find the research rewarding.

  10. “Books such as the Tao te Ching, the Koran, and the Book of Mormon are trustworthy works of philosophy while being in steadfast philosophical and historical opposition to the Bible”

    I suppose that’s true to a point. I’ve read chunks of all three and have tried to establish an understanding of their worldviews and I don’t see them answering the big questions about life/the universe/everything that the Bible does. So I don’t find them trust worthy. There’s some truth in them. Two of the three cribbed heavily from Judeo-Christian beliefs/writings after all. So it wouldn’t make sense if they didn’t.

    “if [the Bible] says something, that statement is reliable historical fact or demonstrable observation”

    I’m not so sure that I agree since I think the Bible contains a good many stories that I don’t believe are a “reliable historical fact” or a “demonstrable observation”. For example I think the Song of Songs is a work of beautiful fiction. I feel the same way about Job. I don’t think it makes the worth of those stories any less. And don’t get me started on the creation story.

    I’ve read Stroble’s works and they’re readable certainly, but hardly convincing. Have you read anything by Ehrman? He’s also very readable and is more of a scholar (though some of his scholarship is slipshod). 

    My point is, I don’t feel like I can say any of the scripture we have is “inerrant” because not only do we not have the originals (though we do have excellent copies) we also have translations that battle one another over non-trivial things. I have to use multiple translations in any serious study to see where something pans out and that’s just in English.

    I think the translations we have are sufficient, as Brad said, to lead us to salvation and to teach us the Christian life and how to live it. So, it is trustworthy. 

  11. Hi Winston,

    I think that you may overstate the historicity  of scripture.  We MAY have perfectly faithful recreations fo the original manuscripts, but if you read my post above you have my bona fides, and I am not convinced that we would be able to unravel what that original recreation may be.  There are different manuscript families with many differences.  While they do not rise to the level of contradicting each other, they certainly do pose the question as to which is the most accurate rendering of the original.  My own belief is that all families have points at which they are more accurate, but I am not sure that we can tell which is which. 

    While I really like Josh McDowell, I can’t say that I always agree with his conclusions.  Interesting stuff, however.  Inerrancy is a chimera that is not worth chasing in my opinion.

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