Inerrancy and Infallibility of Scripture

Discussion in 'Theology and Doctrine' started by Rexlion, Jun 16, 2020.

  1. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    I agree for the most part, however I think the last sentence might be questioned; "God-breathed" implies that the level or degree of inspiration is such that errancy and fallibility are, I think, necessarily excluded. I shall explain.

    All Scripture is breathed out by God (ESV). Every writing is God-breathed (YLT). When we look at the Greek word theopneustos which can be translated as "God-breathed," what degree of inspiration are we seeing? We see far more than a 'natural inspiration' in which men got some bright ideas on their own and wrote them down. We see more than 'dynamic inspiration' by which men were merely 'specially enabled to do their best,' because man's best is not good enough to lend divine authority to writings. 'Conceptual inspiration,' in which God might have given men concepts or ideas which the men then wrote down in their own words without further divine guidance, similarly falls short in authoritative weight.

    Some scholars have advanced a 'degrees of inspiration' theory which suggests that certain parts of the Bible (such as moral teachings) contain supreme revelation from God while other parts (such as matters of history and creation) contain only relative inspiration. John F. Walvoord points out a problem inherent in this view: "The weakness of this point of view, of course, is its subjective character, namely, that no two will be of one mind on the degree of the inspiration of any particular passage. The ultimate judgment is transferred from the statement of Scripture to the decision of the reader. A variation of this point of view is the moral or partial-inspiration theory which holds that parts of the Bible are inspired, but others are not. Scripture from this point of view is considered authoritative in matters of morals, but not in scientific matters. Here again, the interpreter is faced with the impossible task of distinguishing what portions of Scripture are inspired and what are not, and the ultimate authority rests in the opinion of the reader and not in the Scripture itself."

    A striking 'overshoot' is found in the 'mechanical theory' or 'dictation theory' of inspiration, which suggests that God dictated the Bible word-for-word and that the humans who performed the writing were little more than stenographers. Although certain portions of Scripture clearly were dictated (such as Exodus 20:1-17), most of Scripture could not have been so dictated because of the 'human factors' on display in the writings; we see the writers expressing their hopes, fears, feelings, and prayers, and such passages would lose their meaning had they been 'dictated' by God. (Unfortunately, this 'mechanical theory' is often erroneously associated with evangelicals. But very few Christians of any stripe subscribe to this theory nowadays.)

    The best theory of inspiration (and the one most commonly held by evangelical Christians, btw) is the 'verbal and plenary inspiration of Scripture' theory. Walvoord states it well:
    Those who uphold the infallible inspiration of the entire Scriptures as they were originally written by the human authors contend that nothing other than verbal inspiration—that is, divine guidance in the very choice of the words used—is essential to a complete and Biblical view. In terms of formal definition: God so supernaturally directed the writers of Scripture that without excluding their human intelligence, their individuality, their literary style, their personal feelings, or any other human factor, His own complete and coherent message to man was recorded in perfect accuracy, the very words of Scripture bearing the authority of divine authorship. Though human authors are recognized in the Scripture itself and their human characteristics, vocabulary, and modes of thought are often traced, the supernatural process of the inspiration of the Bible is deemed sufficiently operative so that the human author in every case uses the precise words that God intended him to choose, and the resulting product therefore contains the accuracy and infallibility of Scripture just as if God wrote it Himself. Usually added to the description of this theory of inspiration is the word plenary, meaning full, that is, that the inspiration extends equally to every portion of Scripture and that all parts therefore are equally infallible and equally authoritative within the limitations of the context. This point of view does not regard the human element in Scripture as introducing human fallibility. Any tendency to error was overruled and the human mind influenced so that even in its human experiences there was divine preparation and sovereign arrangement to produce the desired Scripture.​

    This particular understanding of "God-breathed" is well supported by God Himself; we can read for ourselves Jesus' view of the O.T. Scriptures and what He said about them. I have cited them previously, but the words of Jesus always bear repeating.

    Clearly, Jesus assigned 'verbatim' inspiration quality to the Old Testament when He said this:
    Mat 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
    Mat 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

    Luk 16:16 The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.
    Luk 16:17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.


    Jesus referred to the Psalms (specifically referencing Ps. 82:6) as "Scripture" that "cannot be broken." Moreover, He viewed the O.T. as so authoritative that one single word (a word that some people would argue about today) decisively settled a disputation with unbreakable authority and finality:
    Joh 10:34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?
    Joh 10:35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;

    Dare we view the O.T. with a lower degree of "God-breathed" inspiration and authority than Jesus did? Dare we regard it as subject to human fallibilities or shortcomings when God the Son said that every letter, indeed even every accent mark, of the O.T. Scripture is permanently in its proper place by the will of God? Dare we suggest that God would permit His written Word to be less than perfect, less than infallible, or less than inerrant?

    That is how God the Son regarded the Old Testament. As for the New Testament, we have no such direct evidence from the the lips of Jesus. But I ask these questions:
    1. Having so inspired His Word through the pens and minds of His people for so many years B.C., what would prevent God from continuing to so inspire His servants (now also His children) to produce His Word with precision, integrity, and flawless results? Would He transmit the Gospel message with less care than He did for the prophetic foreshadowing of it?
    2. Since God inspired Paul to write that all scripture is God-breathed, if we should find that the N.T. fails to meet the same 'God-breathed' inspirational standard as the O.T., wouldn't we have to cease regarding the N.T. as "scripture" on the same level as the Old?
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2020
  2. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    John 10:31-42
    The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?’ The Jews answered, ‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.’ Jesus answered, ‘Is it not written in your law, “I said, you are gods”? If those to whom the word of God came were called “gods”—and the scripture cannot be annulled— can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, “I am God’s Son”? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’ Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.

    He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him, and they were saying, ‘John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.’ And many believed in him there.
    This passage in John follows on from the I am statement - I am the Good Shepherd - and the point here for the writer of 4G is the question consistently addressed in John, namely 'Who is Jesus'.

    Psalm 82
    God has taken his place in the divine council;
    in the midst of the gods he holds judgement:
    ‘How long will you judge unjustly
    and show partiality to the wicked?
    Selah
    Give justice to the weak and the orphan;
    maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
    Rescue the weak and the needy;
    deliver them from the hand of the wicked.’
    They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
    they walk around in darkness;
    all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
    I say, ‘You are gods,
    children of the Most High, all of you;
    nevertheless, you shall die like mortals,
    and fall like any prince.’
    Rise up, O God, judge the earth;
    for all the nations belong to you!​

    I think that there are a great many questions that are raised here. The Psalms were not regarded as law (torah) but as writings. Psalm 82 is interesting, and sits well within the Hebrew expressions of social justice, and within a firm belief of the superiority of the Yahweh over and against the Gods that other nations followed. It does, in some sense, seem to suggest an hierarchical polytheism, which is clearly counter to ideas of the Monotheism we declare to be the revealed truth of scripture. In John 10 Jesus takes the crowds complaint that Jesus has claimed a position above his station as a mere mortal and then asked them to take their own scriptures as the measure of what he has claimed.

    Now what he has claimed is - I am the Good Shepherd - and the stress that causes is bound in the - I am - for this is a core part of the Judaic comprehension of God as recounted in the theophany of the burning bush when Moses asked 'who shall I say has sent me?'.

    I have no doubt that Jesus did in fact hold a high view of scripture, however I don't think that is the point of John 10. Rather Jesus is challenging those who argue that they accord with scripture and yet fail to see reality or seek for justice. Healing on the sabbath, plucking corn on the sabbath, and also here in John 10 we find Jesus arguing that the law is not bondage but liberation, that we are not to be caught up in the letter of the law, but rather in great and fundamental principles that scripture puts before us.

    I do not suggest that @Rexlion is suggesting this, however, in my actual experience these theories of dictation or the writer held the pen which God moved, or that the Bible is the 'expired word of God' (by which they mean the words that came out of God's mouth perfectly recorded) have been but to me directly as a requirement for salvation, and that has come from a particular breed of Evangelical. Thankfully I have now come to understand that not all evangelicals hold such views, however there is what I regard as a strong band of them who do.

    I am certain that part of my strong reaction to inerrancy and infallibility claims for scripture is born in some of the bruises I carry from those encounters. The Bible is not about the Bible. The Bible is about God. The New Testament is about Jesus. John's Gospel concludes with a discussion between Jesus and Peter, where Jesus asks Peter if he loves him. I believe that the intent of the 4th Gospel is that we all hear Jesus ask that question to us personally.
     
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  3. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    The above statement is in fact a false dichotomy. All scripture is "God Breathed" Paul does not mention exceptions.

    It is all 'profitable' for teaching, (including all the really bad examples of godless human behaviour found in it, along with the warnings against such debauchery). The bible doesn't only teach inspired words on correct bahaviour. It contains many words describing very bad and incorrect behaviour too, these lessons are just as equally 'inspired'.

    It is all profitable for reproof and correction of godless behaviour and faithless living, and for training in righteousness, but obviously some of it does not perform that particular function very well. (Try teaching morality and right living from the inspired writing of Genesis Chapter 5.)

    It is profitable for completing the servants of God and equipping and skilling them for service but the first 9 chaters of 1 Chronicles would be a chronic choice if you were looking for teaching material intended to 'equip' anyone for service. Just being forced to read those first 9 chapters would bore most young disciples to death and render them pretty useless rather than 'equipping' them with anything except perhaps developing an impressive attention span and commendable diligence, in completing a thoroughly boring and unrewarding task.

    As to the notion that all and any biblical statements relating observations of the ancients, concerning the scientific working of the cosmos, are infallibly, factually, correct, and if they are refuted by modern scientific observation, they must needs be right and science must therefore be wrong, that is just plain lunacy.

    Or rather it is crass ignorance in the guise of and donning the garb of, common sense. I have no time for such foolish inherent nonsenses.

    The heavens declare the glory of God;
    and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
    Day unto day uttereth speech,
    and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
    There is no speech nor language,
    where their voice is not heard.
    Their line is gone out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
    Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
    His going forth is from the end of the heaven,
    and his circuit unto the ends of it:
    and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.

    Poetry is not science, and does not supersede scientific truth, even when it is 'inspired' biblical poetry.

    The earth is not set on pillars, even if some people once really thought it was and may have written it down in the scriptures. Job 9:6, Ps.75:3. It ain't necessarily so.

    There is no question. of course "the ultimate authority rests in the opinion of the reader and not in the Scripture", if the opinion of the reader is an insightfully informed opinion. How else can anyone divine the sense of what they read? How else is the reader to decide if he is reading scientific fact or poetic metaphor? Prov.4:7. To think otherwise would be to leave everyone the apparent intellectual inferiors of, and interpretational slaves to the ignorance of every Biblical literal inerrantist and young earth cosmologist who cannot tell the difference between poetic truth and scientific proof.
    .
     
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  4. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    This leaves me a bit confused. I described six different theories for the way in which scripture might have been inspired; for clarification, are you inclined to favor the 'degrees of inspiration' theory? I think that's the one you are defending and supporting, but I don't want to misunderstand.
     
  5. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    πᾶσα γραφὴθεόπνευστος​

    I do have a little difficulty with the way this is being treated in this discussion.

    It might validly we rendered as All God Breathed Writing and perhaps doesn't carry the implication of a canon of scripture which at the time of the writing of 2 Timothy had not been settled for either the new or old testament.

    It might also be rendered as All Spiritual Writing which also does not carry the implication of canon.

    This does not mean that I object to the traditional rendering All scripture is inspired by God but once you want to start hammering doctrines and 'those things that must be believed' based on the rendering and a degree of ignoring the context that the canon had not been established, I sort of feel it problematic.

    I would take it the John's Gospel was written some time later than 2 Timothy, and that then begs the question as to whether it was one of the works inspired or not in the mind of the writer or 2 Timothy. Now as a fan of 4G I would have to say emphatically that I think 4G is some of the highest theology we have in the New Testament, and that it is very much inspired and inspiring.

    I don't need to defend the canon of scripture, and I don't need a range of doctrines to defend the canon of scripture with, scripture is strong enough not to need me to defend it, and the message of scripture continues to be heard, despite the incredible mess we have made talking about it. We are all called to be hearers of the word. Maybe indeed it is God breathing in our ears and on our hearts that really makes the difference.
     
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  6. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    What you state here is pretty much the way I see it too. It matters not a jot to me whether a bible writer might have been convinced the earth rested on 'pillars' and the sun revolved across it in 'it's circuit', from a 'place' in the east, disapearing into a 'place' in the west. This, in my opinion is not relevant to the bible's usefulness or utility, it's power to amply, infallibly and inerrantly satisfy the wants and needs of the poor in spirit, to whom the Kingdom of Heaven belongs.

    I may be wrong, but I don't think the Author of 2 Tim.3:16 had any notion in mind that God had closed the canon of what he calls 'the writings'. That would not happen for yet another 400 years or so, and we can by no means be certain that God has indeed decided to no longer 'inspire' writings. It is just that the church considered they had had enough already and a line had to be drawn somewhere in history, so the church is under no obligation to consider any other writings 'inspired by God'.

    In fact the writer of 2 Tim.3:16 might even have been considering his own letter to Timothy to be inspired, as indeed we do today. What he wrote was most certainly considered by him to be profitable to Timothy, in each and every respect attributable to 'inspired writings', otherwise he wouldn't have bothered taking stylus to papyrus or parchment. If that is indeed true then John's Gospel and Revelation should be equally valued by the church and used for all the equipping purposes mentioned by the author of 2 Tim.3:16. Which was why they were subsequently considered by the church to be inspired, so it included them in the canon.
    .
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2020
  7. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    These statements, though pious and well meaning, are not really any help in establishing the status of scripture in the estimation of its readers or defending it against its detractors.

    Many are misled by the way in which they read and understand the letter of the law and the literal words of scripture. If an idiot reads scripture the idiot will still have the understanding of an idiot and will not necessarily become wise. Prov.17:10. The scriptures are not therefore misleading but many readers are misled by their own foolishness.

    How is scripture 'misled'. Many of it's authors had views that were a product of their time along with inspired views and visions which were far ahead of their own time.

    Is it sure, safe and a reliable guide in ALL matters. Obviously not, though it certainly contains everything necessary to salvation, it most certainly would not provide any reliable information at all, enabling the calculating of a passage to the moon and back for three intrepid astronaughts. It did however make that journey itself, in company with one who went there.

    So not a guide in ALL matters.

    Likewise, pious and well meaning but overenthusiatic in its ebullient claims for scripture. Scripture is never deliberately misleading, but certainly contains examples of falsehood, deceit and double dealing which the foolish could emulate and copy. Some foolish people may even believe because something is stated in The Bible it must therefore, as a statement, be true. They would get no further than Genesis chapter 3 verse 5 before making a fatal error. Gen.3:4-5.

    There have been many copying errors and some mistakes in translation of the bibles that exist. None though are detrimental to it effectiveness or it's ability to convey the truth of God's message to mankind. God in his omnipotence would obviously see to that, but entirely is therefore a factual overstatment.

    Entirely trustworthy in ALL it's assertions?

    Once again probably an overenthusiastic assertion in itself. Certainly trustworthy in it's assertions concerning the Way to Salvation and everything concerning the spiritual condition of mankind and the remedy for overcoming mankinds spiritual and moral dis-ease and demise. . . . . .i.e. God's Grace!

    But trustworthy in medical and anotomical knowledge? I don't think so.

    Trustworthy in all it's Physics, Geographic, Biological, Botanical, Geological, Archeological assertions. Probably not, (and almost certainly not the maps at the back), but those fields of study are not its thesis nor its primary concern. It should not be surprising that it wastes little time on those disciplines and concentrates on what is its greatest concern, The Salvation of Mankind.
    .
     
  8. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    And yet I see this as being a fabulous passage in terms of understanding the motivation of sin.

    But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die;
    for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’​

    The problem here is that there has been no understanding of the grace of God, for we read earlier

    Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness;
    and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air,
    and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth,
    and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’
    So God created humankind in his image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.​

    The essence of the fall is the rejection of the gift/grace of God in being made in the image and after the likeness, and wanting to become a self-made beings answerable to none.

    My point is it does not matter if the story is true (whatever that might mean) or not, because the truth is in the story.

    This is true of the parable of the Good Samaritan, it does not matter if it happened or not, because the truth is in the story.

    Why do we stand for the reading of the Gospel? because in the Gospel we encounter Jesus. We need to get out focus off the what of scripture and onto the who of scripture.
     
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  9. Phoenix

    Phoenix Moderator Staff Member Anglican

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    Are we all agreed then, that this formulation does the work of inerrancy or infallibility without the baggage of the latter, and also has the ancient pedigree which we as Anglicans are always enjoined to attach to our formulations.


    This is a worthwhile find, and if there were more statements like this, we could at least say with a clear conscience that the concept was part of the traditional formulation of Scripture. Let’s keep searching.
     
  10. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    "Inspired," as I've pointed out, is interpreted in too many different ways to nail down the concept. Even "word of God" does not have a single, universally embraced view.

    I find it ironic that none of us is likely to accuse the word of God being fallible or errant, yet the exact opposite words (the antonyms) are reacted to with negativity. But I can see, and accept, the fact that any one of us on the forum (and any reader thereof) will decide for himself what he thinks; some will embrace the descriptives I've put forth here, and some won't. That's the way people are. (If it were easy to get Christians to agree on all such things, we wouldn't have hundreds of denominations, right? :) )

    One more descriptive word that I think applies to the Bible: it is authoritative. Does anyone have an allergic reaction to that word, I wonder? :jedi: LOL
     
  11. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    Not an alergic reaction but nonetheless a mental alert to the way the term might be abused by some 'inerrantists' or anyone who will put their own chosen meaning to the word authoritative.

    The Bible is authoritatve in the same way as your GP is authoritative when telling you you are fit and well after a medical check up, or telling you to cut down on your alcohol and food intake if you want to live until next Christmas, or informing you you may have cancer.

    This authority comes from the fact that your GP has had training and experience in medical matters which you may be totally ignorant of. That knowledge and wisdom are there to serve you, not to subjugate and control you. The scriptures serve us in the same way that "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath". Mark 2:27.

    The Bible is not authoritative in the same way as a gang leader, conquering King or dictatorial tyrant may be, by virtue of their power of command and control over others who serve them.

    Which of these definitions of the word authoritative would you like to apply to the bible, and which not.

    authoritative: having the sanction or weight of authority; authentic; accepted; approved; definitive; reliable; dictatorial; decretory; demanding.

    I would say the problem is not with the Bible or scripture. I would say the problem is with our inability to define and tie it down with the words of a language.

    Unsurprisingly a bit like God who breathed it really.

    Your problem is in wanting to "to nail down the concept" in the first place. Why do you want to do that?

    And will God let us "nail it down"? :) :no: probably not, I think.
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    Last edited: Jun 27, 2020
  12. Phoenix

    Phoenix Moderator Staff Member Anglican

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    Historically it seems to have had only one meaning. In-spired, “Spired” within by the Spirit (the Holy Ghost). It’s true that in modernity we have started applying it loosely (perhaps explaining why people are looking for another word), but for the first 1700 or so years I’d hazard a guess that it had only the one meaning we want here. You don’t find the church fathers calling a painting or a piece of art inspired, as they were far too precise to allow such loose language. The question is, do we want to formulate a new word, or recapture and entrench the traditional one.


    This appears to have been less corrupted than “inspired” and you don’t find it applied loosely, even today. Traditionally it seems to mean, literally, God’s word spoken (through the Holy Ghost) to the writers of Scripture.

    This is why when Biblical skepticism began to gain steam in the early 20th century, modernist theologians like Karl Barth tried to claim that the Bible wasn’t the Word of God, but merely contained the Word of God.

    If we return the word to its original scope and stretch it back again to cover the whole of Scripture, we gain everything that was sought by inerrancy or infallibility, since, if a God wrote the Scriptures through his mediators, that means that every word and comma of it, even the poetry and metaphor and inaccuracies, are perfect, were intended as such by God, and impeccable in every way.
     
  13. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    I would still be of the opinion that THE Word of God, with an uppercase THE and a capital 'W', is actually uniquely and solely Jesus Christ and not just a book all about him. I agree though that The Bible and the scripture it contains is more than just a library of the words of God. In fact there are many other people's words in it as well, including the words of Satan and many of those enthralled by him, such as the Pharisees, Sadducees, corrupt priesthood and Roman Authorities, all princes of this world who never knew Jesus The Christ: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory, and themselves taken captive and judged by God. 1 Cor.2:8. John 16:8-11.

    That might be going a little too far, in my opinion.

    I would agree that God has allowed for human imperfection in the process of the transmission of God's perfect intentions, as carried to us, through the words of all the scripture. Any inaccuracies, and even, (dare I say?), any illicit interpolations, omissions and inconsistancies, (assuming there are any), are there because God has consciously and deliberately allowed them to be there and to remain there. They can be assumed, (if they actually exist), to perform a function which is commensurate with the will of an omnipotent God, perfectly capable of preventing them, therefore even those, (if they exist), are also perfect, since everything within the will of God is perfect, who is, according to the highest possible Biblical authority, also himself perfect. Matt. 5:48.
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  14. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    If the word of God is not authoritative, then it carries no weight. If God simply had a non-authoritative message written down, He may as well have been rambling on about His feelings without any sense of importance, and people have no reason to regard anything it says as having an effect on them. If the Bible has no weight of authority, it has no relevance to mankind; it's just a collection of random sayings and meaningless advice.

    It is all the above!
    "Having the sanction or weight of authority"-- the Bible is the message sanctioned by God, and most certainly carries authoritative weight. The Bible establishes the correct set of moral values for mankind, and there is no naysaying those values because they are given to us by God! When God speaks, people had better listen; what could have more weight of authority than the words of our Creator?
    "Authentic"-- surely the Bible is no fakery. It is the genuine word of God.
    "Accepted"-- this is mere confirmation by man of the greater Truth established by God. It is accepted by the church, but this is not what makes the word of God authoritative. The authority of God's word rests within its nature and the nature of the One who gave it to us. Nevertheless, the confirmation of men moved by the Holy Spirit is a small positive factor in the Bible's authority.
    "Approved"-- approved by God, yes, this is part of the word's authority. Approved by men? Barely a factor.
    "Definitive"-- this goes hand in hand with "having weight of authority." When we have any doubt concerning what is right or wrong, what is God's will, what is man's role and duty, etc., we find the decisive answer in the Bible.
    "Reliable"-- is God's word reliable? You bet! We can depend on what God has spoken to mankind in those pages. We can rest our very lives upon the promises God has recorded for our sakes.
    "Dictatorial"-- we 'democratic-minded' people may balk at this, but truly the way of salvation is "God's way or the highway." We either follow His straight and narrow Way to eternal life, or we will by default find ourselves on the broad, easy pavement to perdition. Of course God does not force anyone to go His Way, but He will force any who choose otherwise to accept the consequences of their decision.
    "Decretory"-- oh, yes! The word of God is most definitely a decree!
    "Demanding"-- you bet it is demanding to be a Christian. God demands complete holiness. His standard is utter perfection. Since none of us can possibly qualify on our own, God demands that we make a choice: accept the gift of Jesus' complete holiness imputed to us, or refuse it and trust in our own righteousness (which is as clean as a used menstrual cloth).

    In my opinion, a belief system that builds its doctrine initially upon the word of God but later ceases to acknowledge the inherent authoritativeness of that message is a weak tisane brewed tepidly and is far removed from the robust faith of its forebears.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2020
  15. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    I would flag this as a straw man argument, as the authoritative nature of the canon of scripture has not been challenged by anyone in this thread, and neither is it the purpose of the thread to discern.

    Numbers 22:22-40
    Balaam, the Donkey, and the Angel
    God’s anger was kindled because he was going, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the road as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. The donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand; so the donkey turned off the road, and went into the field; and Balaam struck the donkey, to turn it back on to the road. Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it scraped against the wall, and scraped Balaam’s foot against the wall; so he struck it again. Then the angel of the Lord went ahead, and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam; and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and it said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?’ Balaam said to the donkey, ‘Because you have made a fool of me! I wish I had a sword in my hand! I would kill you right now!’ But the donkey said to Balaam, ‘Am I not your donkey, which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I been in the habit of treating you in this way?’ And he said, ‘No.’

    Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed down, falling on his face. The angel of the Lord said to him, ‘Why have you struck your donkey these three times? I have come out as an adversary, because your way is perverse before me. The donkey saw me, and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away from me, surely I would by now have killed you and let it live.’ Then Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, ‘I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now therefore, if it is displeasing to you, I will return home.’ The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, ‘Go with the men; but speak only what I tell you to speak.’ So Balaam went on with the officials of Balak.

    When Balak heard that Balaam had come, he went out to meet him at Ir-moab, on the boundary formed by the Arnon, at the farthest point of the boundary. Balak said to Balaam, ‘Did I not send to summon you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honour you?’ Balaam said to Balak, ‘I have come to you now, but do I have power to say just anything? The word God puts in my mouth, that is what I must say.’ Then Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth. Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep, and sent them to Balaam and to the officials who were with him.​

    Now I think this a great story, and indeed it is part of the canon of Scripture accepted by Jews, Samaritans, Orthodox, Roman, Anglican and indeed all the congregations of the reformation. Some will want to read this as a newspaper account recording the events of the day. Others of us might look for the symbols and the meaning of the account. You almost certainly need to read the passage before to account for the meanings in the account. My point however is just because one may not take it as actual history, does not call into question the authority of the canon.

    In my experience those who argue for the inerrancy and infallibility then seem follow with the requirement to take this account as the history of actual events. I didn't want to write this post, but I can't run away from what needs to be said. If I try to run away God will find an impediment and bring me back to the task. And that my friends is why the story of Balaam, the Donkey, and the Angel is true without being history.
     
  16. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    I guess I misread Tiffy's reasoning. I zeroed in on the words, "The Bible is not authoritative..." This, combined with language which limited its authoritativeness to certain contexts. As you can tell, I maintain that the Bible is unqualifiedly authoritative by its very nature, being a message from the ultimate authority, Almighty God. And the word "subjugation" was used (a straw man indeed), even though no definition I've seen would include that concept in "authority;" it is instead implicit in "tyranny." But I jumped to the wrong conclusion overall about the post.

    Botolph, why doubt that Balaam's donkey actually talked (a historical event)? Just because it's supernatural? You have me pegged; I'm convinced that this actually happened. I also believe that Jonah actually got swallowed by an aquatic creature and spit back up at Nineveh; Jesus even referred to the event as factual. Fantastical, yes. Supernatural, yes. But the power of God is not limited by our puny imaginings.
     
  17. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    It is not about doubt. It doesn't need to be historical to be true. I think I am encouraging us all to have a bigger understanding of truth.
     
  18. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Technically and philosophically I will agree with this, however I think the example of Balaam's donkey is an unfortunate choice because we do not have evidence in the context to indicate that it is a parable or poem or anything other than an actual past event. As Christians who believe Jesus' words that God can even make rocks cry out in praise to Him, there is good reason to believe that He made a donkey speak, for the word of God records the event in the manner of an historical account.
     
  19. Phoenix

    Phoenix Moderator Staff Member Anglican

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    There is a middle ground between concluding that all unexpected things are unreal, and that all events recorded were real no matter how unexpected. Namely, we ask those readers who were closest to the cultural context, in consulting their insight.

    We today have a greater understanding of what a 'meme' is, what life with social media is like, the experience of a post-modern world and a spacefaring culture -- than some expert who will live 1000 years from now. That expert should consult today's people in order to enrich his own understanding of those concepts. Without interrogating us and our records, and merely consulting his own imaginings, he will be far poorer, if not incapable of grasping what those things were, and how we understood them.

    This is why Anglicans privilege the Church Fathers, namely with these great thinkers we have not only powerful conceptions in theology, but a practical and handy shortcut into understanding what the assumptions and the culture in Scripture looked like. For Balaam's donkey, we should consult neither @Botolph nor @Rexlion nor @Phoenix, bu Clement of Alexandria, the Didache, Irenaeus, Polycarp, and even the non-Christian sources such as Josephus and Philo of Alexandria. They will tell us if it was seen by the people of its time as a parable/metaphor, or an actual historical event.
     
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  20. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    True, but even if all those people you mention truly believed it to be an actual historical event, that in itself would not make it so.

    The fact is that it became for the compilers of scripture a significant event, whether the ass actually spoke or Balaam imagined it speaking, or not.

    The basis of the event and its effects concerning the history of Israel can only be either historical or mythic, and by mythic I am increasing it's importance as a text, not dismissing it as being merely fictional. Mythic as a theological term means having symbolic significance hidden in the narrative expressing an intangible truth unable to be preserved and conveyed by other means. Stories must have all their elements preserved or else they lose their meaning. Like a joke without a punch line does not work, all stories must retain their fixed structure. This makes them very enduring, even timeless.

    Jesus being the Vine, the Door, the Resurrection and the Life for example are mythic expressions rather than being literal expressions of historical fact. Nevertheless Jesus Christ IS Actually the resurrection, is actually 'the door' through which resurrection becomes available to us, is actually the 'vine' supporting our spiritual existence, without remaining in which, we spiritually wither and die. Biblical truth is paradoxically at one and the same time surprisingly robust and enduring while also being tantalisingly evasive to those who would misuse it or deliberately misconstrue it.

    Whether something written in a canonical book was believed to be historical by our forbears does not make it necessarily so for us today. We certainly cannot assume though, even if we are convinced that a specific canonical scripture was probably not an actual historical event, that the passage concerned has no meaning or purpose in being in the scriptures. All scripture is profitable, therefore all has place, purpose and meaning.
    .
     
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