Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy

Discussion in 'Theology and Doctrine' started by Ananias, Oct 18, 2020.

  1. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

    Posts:
    609
    Likes Received:
    540
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    ACNA
    I am posting a link to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy on this board because it underpins much of my own point of view regarding Biblical truth and inerrancy. Whenever I discuss issues of Biblical inerrancy, truth, etc. you may assume that my views conform more or less to the statement above. (I understand that "more or less" is concerning, and I do have quibbles with the Statement as written, but my quibbles are fairly minor and do not affect my overall affirmation of the Statement.)

    I wanted to have an on-board post to link to in discussions, because I suspect this issue will come up quite often.
     
  2. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

    Posts:
    609
    Likes Received:
    540
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    ACNA
    @Rexlion advised me that the Chicago Statement may be held in some suspicion on this board due to it not being of Anglican origin. To assuage any concerns on that point, I point out that the Anglican theologian and Episcopal priest J. I. Packer was a signatory to this Statement.
     
  3. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    3,226
    Likes Received:
    1,639
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican Christian
    My memory was a bit sketchy. To clarify, I believe the comment made against the Chicago Statement was more to the effect of: it isn't of Anglican origin and therefore isn't binding on Anglican theology. (Never mind that it seems to be a well-reasoned, sound statement IMO.)
     
  4. Phoenix

    Phoenix Moderator Staff Member Anglican

    Posts:
    172
    Likes Received:
    186
    @Rexlion and I a while ago got into the subject of inerrancy, which turned into a very involved and fruitful discussion:
    https://forums.anglican.net/threads/inerrancy-and-infallibility-of-scripture.3948/

    I hesitated having a detailed conversation because of my official capacity, and yet the question of inerrancy needs clarification, especially for those who seek to stand up for the historic Christian orthodoxy on these matters.

    That thread discussed the fact of Scripture containing several genres of literature, only some of which fall under the rubric of propositional truth or error. Therefore the term inerrancy is (for those texts) a misapplication of categories; e.g., is the Song of Solomon inerrant or not?

    Furthermore, we concluded that the technical term inerrancy was not used throughout history (apart from a few exceptions) by orthodox thinkers when they had discussed Scripture. Thus the term, while well-intentioned, involves a category error and itself could fall to a charge of novelty.

    On the other hand, we would want to protect Scripture against the dangers of modernism and revisionism. To do that, the historic orthodoxy instead used this formulation: “the Word of God;” whether a chapter was poetic or not, it was trustworthy by ultimately coming from God. The other historic formulation was: “inspired,” in its technical sense, in-spired, originated from the Holy Spirit himself, and thus once again, trustworthy. These categories stood the test of time across the millennia, better protecting the same things as inerrancy, while avoiding its pitfalls.
     
  5. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

    Posts:
    609
    Likes Received:
    540
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    ACNA
    @Phoenix thank you for the clarification.

    I've always preferred the ESV rendition of 2 Tim 3:16 as "breathed out by God" rather than the KJV's "by inspiration of God" as the translation of the Greek θεόπνευστος (theopneustos, "god breathed"). Not only is it more literal, it also lends weight to the inerrancy argument.
     
    Phoenix likes this.
  6. Fr. Brench

    Fr. Brench Well-Known Member Anglican

    Posts:
    225
    Likes Received:
    320
    Country:
    United States
    Religion:
    Anglican (ACNA)
    From what I recall from the last time I looked at the Chicago statement, I found most of it to be perfectly acceptable to the Anglican formularies. I hesitate (and therefore wouldn't sign it myself, if asked) only because some of its language and tone points towards a particular hermeneutic that is more fundamentalist than is necessary. What exactly its authors mean by the "Literal" interpretation of Scripture, for example, is a big open question. Does this become a bludgeon on behalf of Young Earth Creationism? Does this turn the book of the Revelation into a sensationalist "history of the future"?

    So while the idea of inerrancy is generally fine, I fear that statements like these may bite off more than we can chew, and create limits where the Church's wisdom has historically not required them.
     
    Tiffy and Shane R like this.
  7. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

    Posts:
    609
    Likes Received:
    540
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    ACNA
    I have quibbles with some of the language as well (and for exactly this reason), but again: we end up arguing not about theology, but about what the word "literal" means. C. S. Lewis talks about this in his book Reflections on the Psalms. How is one to interpret a poem or song "literally"? Or a proverb? Or one of Christ's parables? Clearly these parts of scripture are inerrant, but are they "literally true"?

    Our problem, then, is trying to figure out if "true" and "inerrant" are the same thing where the Bible is concerned. Or if our modern notion of "truth" is even compatible with truth as understood by the authors of the Bible (or Jesus Christ himself).

    I aver that this problem is ours and not something that needs to be "fixed" in the Bible. Our modern confusion about the Bible would have confused the ancients in turn. Our problem lies in our inability to inhabit their mental world, to understand their cosmology, and even to understand God's Word as intended by the divinely-inspired men who wrote it. Biblical Greek and Hebrew are dead languages (though Aramaic soldiers on, surprisingly enough), but even apart from that, the idioms and modes of thought are alien to us moderns. We cannot think the way the authors of the Bible thought any more, at least not without help.

    The Bible is not a code, or a cryptogram, as I keep saying; it states what it means quite plainly in most cases. The confusion is ours, not theirs. This exact problem is why the Bible must be taught to modern people, by teachers of sound doctrine and strong theology.

    [EDIT] Tightened up some language.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2020
    Fr. Brench and Stalwart like this.
  8. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

    Posts:
    2,677
    Likes Received:
    2,471
    Country:
    America
    Religion:
    Anglican
    Such a great post, and it mirrors my own thoughts exactly. And also, for that reason we can’t just take what the Bible seems to say on the surface in the God-inspired KJV translation (...), and glibly go about pretending to have reinterpreted God’s revelation. I know that goes against a lot of the martyrology oriented on the Reformation (“just give us the Scriptures”, that kind of thing); but to attribute this surface-based mindset to the Reformers couldn’t be further from the truth. Those people went on to learn Ancient Hebrew, classical and Koine Greek. They’ve gone to insane sacrifices and lengths to inhabit the world of the ancients. Today, their successors walk into a church in a tshirt, brush crumbs off their softcover NIV, as they proceed to worship with strobe lights. To assert that “simple”, “plain”, surface and easy meanings of Scripture are appropriate (especially if they alter existing teaching) is an inversion of the Reformation and the history of Christendom as a whole. We don’t need more soft Christianity. We need hard Christianity.
     
    Shane R likes this.
  9. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    1,568
    Likes Received:
    868
    Religion:
    ACNA
    Or even better lets look back to the early church. They did not have to learn how to understand the language or the culture because they lived it.
     
  10. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,501
    Likes Received:
    1,121
    Country:
    UK
    Religion:
    CofE
    This is exactly what's wrong with the 'literalist's' interpretational method, or rather with the non-'literalists' interpretation of the 'literalist's' interpretation of scripture.

    When 'literalists' use the term 'literalist', they really mean that they have a high view of the truths contained in the scriptures and apply the advice contained therein to their own living morality and spiritual development. i.e They do not simply regard what they read in scripture as just some old-fashioned ideas in an ancient book, rightly tossed out by intelligent readers, ever since the enlightenment.

    The above definition would put me firmy in the 'literalist' camp, I think, if perhaps on the outskirts, somewhere near the latrines, knowing my luck. :laugh:

    When non-'literalist' bible scholars, (I use the term loosely meaning anyone who loves God's word, the bible, and studies what it contains, some of them literalists in a good way, others not literalists in any way at all), use the term 'literalist' we really mean those people who, though they have a high view of scripture - (and mostly successfully apply the advice contained therein to their own living morality and spiritual development), - wrongly interpret some of what they read in Holy Scripture and seek to impose their wrong understanding of it on others. The main function of this particular kind of 'literalism' being, for them, the impossibility of others to answer back against their interpretation of scripture, because it is irrefutably the directives of God Almighty and they are merely God Almighty's chosen agents to teach the unenlightened God's directives, with no possibility of answering back in disagreement with their views.

    This is why the use of the words 'literal', 'literalist' and 'literally' are confusing the real issues of how scripture should be reverently understood and applied in one's life.

    Inspired, 'God Breathed', (not literally, but a metaphor representing the way the Holy Spirit hovered, (another metaphor), around and within the authors of the writings, influencing, (not forcefully directing) their thoughts, insights, emotions and motives, resulting in a narrative which is "useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work."

    NOT so that forceful and manipulative religious types can have an irrefutable source of draconian edicts with which to impose their will upon others. (Like the Pharisees tried to do).

    No doubt even the Anti-Christ will be a 'biblical literalist' of the classically worst possible kind, using the number 666, (or perhaps, 616, as some manuscripts supposedly infallibly read), 'literally' as a demonically clever means of identifying his opponents, with a view to successfully eradicating them.

    ___________


    @Stalwart:
    Or, for that matter glibly go about pretending to have interpreted God’s revelation, backed up by previous generations possibly mistaken understandings of it. (e.g. Allegorical interpretations which became fashionably prolific at certain periods in the history of the church and clearly contextualised interpretations which were specifically written to certain specific people in a certain time period but not necessarily intended to be binding upon everyone in the church for eternity.)

    But many of the bad sort of 'literalists' assert that “simple”, “plain”, surface and easy meanings of Scripture are appropriate, as I have pointed out previously in this post, and they are not by any means advocating that 'simplicity', in order to (alter existing teaching), but to more rigidly enforce it on the mere assumption that it is (how it has always been, and should continue to be, for ever and ever, amen.) These are of the Pharisaical school of scripture interpretation faction, who still confidently throw their weight about in the church.

    If by 'hard' Christianity you are meaning 'taking the road less trod carrying a cross', then I agree with you.

    If by 'hard' Christianity you are meaning draconian imposition of rigid ecclesiastical discipline or implying that the Christian 'Walk' should be a necessarily 'hard' struggle against liberal attitudes and behaviour then I would point you to this. Matt.11:28-30. Jesus never struggled against 'liberal' attitudes, he struggled against authorities.

    "Jesus answered, `My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my officers had struggled that I might not be delivered up to Jews; but now my kingdom is not from hence." John 18:36.

    I don't much like the sound of 'Hard Christianity' it sounds rather like an oxymoron to me. Particularly if 'hearted' is insinuated after 'hard'.
    .
     
  11. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

    Posts:
    609
    Likes Received:
    540
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    ACNA
    Viewing scripture through the "metaphor" lens gives rise to a manifold problem.

    1. Is the metaphor grounded in a hermeneutic of the ancients or in the modern hermeneutic? Does the author's intended meaning transmit to the modern reader? Or does the modern reader's understanding of the metaphor govern its meaning? (This is a fancy way of asking, "Does this verse mean what the author says it means, or what I say it means?")

    2. Is the Bible itself sufficient to give meaning to the metaphorical reading you're assigning to it? If not, what hermeneutic are you applying? Doesn't this imply that the Bible is insufficient in itself, and thus non-authoritative? This is essentially to require an extension to the Biblical canon. Who gets to decide what the "authoritative" texts are in this new canon?

    3. Is the "metaphorical" reading of the Bible applied evenly, or just to passages one doesn't like? Is the story of Genesis and creation only a metaphor? How about the Great Flood of Noah? Did Christ really raise Lazarus from the dead, or is this just a metaphor? If Lazarus was not raised, then neither was Christ raised; is the resurrection of Christ also a metaphor? (1 Corinthians 15:12-14). If not, why not? Why accept one outlandish tale at face value but not another?

    A careless "metaphoric" reading of the Bible opens the door for all kinds of demons to swarm in. The Bible says what it means and means what it says. Thousands of years of careful study, prayer, and intellectual effort by people far wiser than we have left no stones unturned in the Bible; each verse has been carefully examined, turned over, and polished to a high shine. Modern readings that seek to overturn centuries of settled consensus are to be rejected unless they can mount a formidable, broad-based consensus.

    Now, you may say "But what about the Reformers?" Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Thomas Cranmer's great insight was that Christianity needed to go back to the authority of the Bible, after its teaching had been twisted by the Roman Catholic Church and the authority of men placed over the authority of scripture (the Magisterium). The Reformers reasserted the centrality of scripture; they did not overturn it. The Bible is sufficient unto itself. This is one of the fundamental underpinnings of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura.