Discussion in 'Theology and Doctrine' started by Rexlion, Jun 16, 2020.
And here all this time I was thinking of....
: to have a petty quarrel
I'll stick with Augustine on all such matters.
For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honor only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it.
And I'll note once again that the dictionary definition of "inerrant" is "free from errors; incapable of erring." Which is exactly how Augustine describes the Scriptures: "completely free from error." He applied this to all of the "canonical books of Scripture," not just the Gospels or the O.T. (How anyone can claim that Augustine was only speaking to the 'inspired' nature of Scripture is beyond me.)
So if we can all agree that the original MSS contained the inerrant word of God, perhaps there is some hope that the Holy Spirit had sufficient power, will, and presence of mind to preserve inerrancy in His word for our sakes? Or should we suppose that He went to the trouble of making the MSS inerrant only to let all subsequent translations (and humanity) "swing in the wind"? Do we 'have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof' (2 Tim. 3:5)?
There is plenty in scripture easily twisted by those who lack understanding of it. That is no fault of scripture but rather of those who are interpreting it. To that degree I agree that scripture, (in that it contains everthing necessary unto warning, instructing, correcting faulty doctrine and leading a person to salvation and knowledge of God), does not err. Even if we may err in rejecting the salvation that it is amply capable of conveying to those who, with pure heart and humble attitude, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest it.
Nevertheless you still dodged the question. Never mind though, I said myself it's not worth falling out about.
Can you at least see though why I have a problem with people who try to tell me that every word of scripture is literally true and inerrant, (as they understand it)?
Ambiguity, can be very confusing, and sometimes leads to errors in understanding. It would be most uncharitable for me to expect an Ameriucan cousin beyond the pond to understand standard Royal Naval slang for an Artificer. Even English landlubbers sometimes pronounce it Articifer and have no incling of what one is.
At the least, we should recognize that the Byzantine text types are the least errant ones when compared to the Alexandrian copies. Even though the former comprise 99% of our extant copies and fragments, they contain far fewer deviations than the latter. The Alexandrian texts are littered with differences one from another and this does not speak well of the copyists' accuracy or their dedication to preserving the word of God.
I received a copy of John D. Woodbridge's Biblical Authority, A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal, and have read about 1/3 of it so far. I was surprised to find that the common objections to inerrancy all seem to find their origin in Rogers & McKim's work. These two men argued that the Bible is infallible only in matters of faith and practice, but that it (even in the original MSS) contains errors in scientific, historic, and geographic matters; they further maintained that this has been the historic position of the church. They rely upon a concept that God 'accommodated' Himself to our human shortcomings and limited intelligence by communicating to us in human words, and that God's intent was to reveal salvation truth about Christ without being technically correct or accurate with information about the material world; again, they say that this was the historic position of the church.
In addressing these ideas, Woodbridge points out several problems, some of which are:
Rogers & McKim, in quoting earlier works for support, tend to quote only the portions that lend support and to ignore the parts that don't.
They tend to minimize the value of legitimate, scholarly works which do not support their hypotheses.
They write from a specifically Presbyterian viewpoint while ignoring Roman, Orthodox, Lutheran, Wesleyan, and other historical viewpoints.
Footnotes, while plentiful, almost always refer to secondary sources rather than primary ones.
The two authors often substitute facile labeling for careful historical research.
Their logic is sometimes less than sound and unwarranted assumptions are made.
They rely on dubious presuppositions regarding the history of science.
I am inclined to think that Rogers & McKim's book fell into favor among the more liberal professors of theology in seminaries, from whence their ideas have been disseminated for enough years that they have reached a "common knowledge" status even among certain portions of laity.
It would be impossible to represent within a short forum post (or two or three) all of the reasoning contained in this book. I may point out a few details in a day or so, but I recommend reading Woodbridge's book to anyone who truly is interested in entertaining the possibility that Rogers & McKim's ideas, not the concept of Biblical inerrancy, might be the truly modern innovation.
One quick example of Rogers & McKim's tendency to selectively quote reputable works: they frequently cite Prof. Bruce Vawter as an authority, yet the authors never deal with this statement from Vawter's Biblical Inspiration, P. 132-3:
"It would be pointless to call into question that biblical inerrancy in a rather absolute form was a common persuasion from the beginning of Christian times, and from Jewish times before that. For both the Fathers and the rabbis generally, the ascription of any error to the Bible was unthinkable....If the word was God's it must be true, regardless of whether it made known a mystery of divine revelation or commented on a datum of natural science, whether it derived from human observation or chronicled an event of history."
Failing to address such a clearly contradicting statement from one of the authors' admitted authorities seems, in my opinion, to be a sign either of careless research or of disingenousness.
Clement of Rome wrote, "you have studied [OT] scripture which contains the truth and is inspired by the Holy Spirit. You realize that there is nothing wrong or misleading in it." (First Letter to the Church at Corinth, 1st. Century A.D.)
Justin Martyr wrote, "...I am entirely convinced that no Scripture contradicts another. I shall admit rather that I do not understand what is recorded, and shall strive to persuade those who imagine that the Scriptures are contradictory to be rather of the same opinion as myself." (Dialogue with Trypho)
Irenaeus commented concerning the works penned by Luke, "For no person of common sense can permit them to receive some things recounted by Luke as being true, and to set others aside, as if he had not known the truth." (Against Heresies) One could make that same point about the things recounted by Matthew, Mark, John, Paul, Peter, and James as well as the O.T. writers. No person of common sense can receive some as true while rejecting some as untrue, if this be the word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Theophilus wrote that all of the Bible book writers were guided by the Holy Spirit and that all "spoke harmoniously and in agreement with one another." The Ante Nicene Fathers)
Yet, here's the point Woodbridge makes: Rogers and McKim do not address these early churchmen's statements at all. Statements that tend to run counter to their hypotheses are often ignored, as in these instances.
Now, I would like to add a point of my own. It can be seen from the early Fathers' writings (these three and many more) that they held Scripture to be without error, that is, inerrant. There are those who would say that this inerrancy only pertained to the original manuscripts (which may well have still been extant for at least a couple of centuries). But this overlooks Jesus' own statement that His words would never pass away. If God the Holy Spirit inspired the writers to put down the words, can we suppose that God would allow His words to pass away over time and be lost to humanity by this day and age? Are we to suppose that God does not have the power or the will, not just to give mankind a perfect message, but to preserve that perfect message? Are we to suppose that the word of God is corruptible? I think not. While there undoubtedly are some corrupted versions in existence today, I cannot believe that all of them are corrupted.
I am not at all certain that the question is as simply binomial as you suggest. If I do not argue that the scriptures are inerrant that does not mean that I am arguing that the scriptures are untrue.
After 4 weeks of teaching the account of the death and resurrection of Jesus in a special needs school SRE, I asked the question 'How did Jesus die?' and the naughtiest child in the class jumped up and said 'Judas stabbed him in the back'. I hasten to add that what I had been teaching was a far more conventional rendition of the accounts in the New Testament. The child's answer in one sense does not accord with that account, yet strangely in another sense it does.
The account of the foundation of the world in Genesis can be true and ahistorical at the same time. The problem isn't the veracity of scripture, but rather a binomial perception of reality.
Clement of Rome did not regard the writings of Paul as scripture, though he was clearly aware of at least some of the Pauline corpus. What he did regard as scripture was the LXX. Justin Martyr also quoted for the LXX.
Whilst in no sense do I wish to call into question the position of Article 6, the position of arguing for inerrancy as you do does leave open the question of the inerrancy of those books in the LXX that are not in the Masoretic Canon, which would be those books we would most normally refer to as Deuterocanonical:
The Third Book of Esdras,
The rest of the Book of Esther,
The Fourth Book of Esdras,
The Book of Wisdom,
The Book of Tobias,
Jesus the Son of Sirach,
The Book of Judith,
Baruch the Prophet,
The Song of the Three Children,
The Prayer of Manasses,
The Story of Susanna,
The First Book of Maccabees,
Of Bel and the Dragon,
The Second Book of Maccabees.
Origen and Chrysostom likewise wrote statements that could easily be understood as supportive of inerrancy, but Rogers & McKim once again engage in selective quotations of secondary sources to support their thesis.
But let's jump to Augustine, for he wrote many illuminating things on the subject. Here are some quotes of Augustine:
"For the most disastrous consequences must follow upon our believing that anything false is found in the sacred books..."
"The authority of the Divine Scriptures becomes unsettled... if this be once admitted, that the men by whom these things have been delivered unto us, could in their writings state some things which were not true..."
"For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honor only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it."
"Therefore everything written in Scripture must be believed absolutely."
The only way Rogers & McKim could get around Augustine's plain statements concerning the error-free character of Scripture was to 'explain away' what they thought Augustine meant by 'error.' They wrote, "Error, for Augustine, had to do with the deliberate and deceitful telling of that which the author knew to be untrue." In other words, 'errors' became 'deliberate lies.' This (in my opinion, ridiculous) re-defining of 'error' is absolutely crucial to Rogers & McKim's entire line of reasoning. To support the idea, they rely heavily upon Augustine's correspondence with Jerome. If this idea falls, their entire book falls. Thus, Woodbridge devotes several pages to an examination of it.
One telling passage in Augustine's correspondence to Jerome is the following: "I do not need to say that I do not suppose you to wish your books to be read like those of prophets or of apostles, concerning which it would be wrong to doubt that they are free from error. Far be such arrogance from that humble piety and just estimate of yourself which I know you to have." Augustine told Jerome that he, Jerome, was humble enough and realistic enough to know that his own books aren't perfect like the books of the Bible, for the latter is error-free but ordinary human writings like Jerome's necessarily contain some errors. Now, if Augustine's definition of 'error' is 'a deceitful lie,' he just accused Jerome of being a liar! But Augustine was actually writing in a diplomatic fashion and was trying to improve their personal relations with this letter.
Augustine wasn't calling Jerome a liar at all. Augustine continues, "Now if, knowing as I do your life and conversation, I do not believe in regard to you that you have spoken anything with an intention of dissimulation and deceit, how much more reasonable is it for me to believe in regard to the Apostle Paul, that he did not think one thing and affirm another..." Augustine says, I know you're honest when you're writing, and so much more so was Paul. In other words, there is no reason to think that Bible writers would intentionally include lies. So how could this ever be Augustine's definition of Bible 'error'?
Woodbridge writes, "Rogers and McKim's definition of Augustine's concept of error... is based on a misreading of the Augustine/Jerome correspondence. It does not accord at all with the biblical scholar's attempts to resolve "contradictions" (a point Woodbridge establishes previously at some length) in the biblical texts whose origins Augustine does not expect to stem from purposeful deceit by the biblical authors." Consider, for example, that in his Harmony of the Gospels, Augustine addresses numerous textual problems but never once raises the issue of possible willful lies by the writers.
For additional support, Woodbridge also cites Hans Küng, whom Woodbridge characterizes as "no friendly partisan of biblical inerrancy," and who wrote the following about Augustine: "It was above all St. Augustine who, under the influence of Hellenist theories of inspiration, regarded man as merely the instrument of the Holy Spirit; the Spirit alone decided the content and form of the biblical writings, with the result that the whole Bible was free of contradictions, mistakes and errors, or had to be kept free by harmonizing, allegorizing, or mysticizing. St. Augustine's influence in regard to inspiration and inerrancy prevailed throughout the Middle Ages and right into the modern age." Woodbridge further states that this perception of Augustine can be traced back to Richard Simon, who lived from 1638 to 1712. And Woodbridge adds a comment via footnote, "We do not know of any St. Augustine scholar whether Roman Catholic or Protestant who argues that St. Augustine restricted the concept of error in the Scriptures to purposeful deceits."
Well, Woodbridge at least made the point that the "scripture" Clement referred to was the Old Testament. So, yes, it would have been the Greek.
Why do you say that? I don't follow. Why assume that he would have considered those books canonical? Had anyone declared them as such by Clement's day?
But this statement is not contradicting. To state that Early Christians and before them Jewish believers commonly held a view that the Bibles they had, (not the bible we now have incidentally. That dates from as late as 365AD.), "must be true", does not state that the bible actually IS scientifically true, in every statement to be found in it, but merely that that is what people generally believed it to be before the scientific errors were able to be detected and confirmed as factually in error as human scientific knowledge increased.
It is foolishness indeed to promote our forefather's scientific ignorance as a form of superior faith or evidence of biblical inerancy. It was indeed just ignorance. Not that the human race has gotten significally wiser, spiritually speaking though. It has got significantly wiser scientifically speaking.
Wernher Magnus Maximilian Freiherr von Braun is a good example of scientific knowledge outsripping moral intelligence, as he worked on weapons of mass destruction while overseeing and helping organise the cruel death camps at Nazi rocket production sites. He was a willing tool of the most godless and spiritually ignorant regime in modern times. His research was meticulous and his disengenousness, while ambitiously working for the Nazi regime, obvious.
It seems to me that Vawter, in that quote, explicitly disavows the view that what "must be true" does not apply to scientific truth. Thus, when Rogers & McKim fail to address the quote in any fashion whatever, they are engaging in 'cherry picking.'
Here is another quote from Vawter which the authors ignore. This quote has to do with Vawter's analysis of Origen's stance on the subject: "It seems to be clear enough that, in company with most of the other Christian commentators of the age, he [Origen] most often acted on the unexpressed assumption that the Scripture is a divine composition through and through, and for this reason infallibly true in all its parts. He could say, in fact, that the Biblical texts were not the works of men but of the Holy Spirit (De princ. 4.9, PG 11:360), and that from this it followed that they were filled with the wisdom and truth of God down to the very last letter..." (emphasis mine) This quote shows Vawter's view to be that no parts of Scripture fail to be "infallibly true," and this would logically include the parts that deal with historic and scientific details.
Add this to the previous quote from Vawter: "It would be pointless to call into question that biblical inerrancy in a rather absolute form was a common persuasion from the beginning of Christian times, and from Jewish times before that. For both the Fathers and the rabbis generally, the ascription of any error to the Bible was unthinkable....If the word was God's it must be true, regardless of whether it made known a mystery of divine revelation or commented on a datum of natural science, whether it derived from human observation or chronicled an event of history." I fail to see how these words from Vawter are not an explicit refutation of the idea Rogers & McKim advance, the idea that observations in Scripture of science and history are exempt from the concepts of truth and inerrancy.
The authors' cherry-picking treatment of Vawter's work is just one example of many such. The issue goes to the quality and honesty of their research and their lack of scholarly neutrality.
Even I can see how those words from Vawter do not explicitly refute the idea Rogers & McKim advance, the idea that observations in Scripture of science and history are exempt from the concepts of truth and inerrancy.
Obviously it is quite possible for God to convey the spiritual truth necessary for mankind's salvation, and suffucient revelation of Himself, to make that revelation of spiritual truth infallibly inerrant, in it's intended purpose, WITHOUT making every Bible writer a scientific genious posessing the physics, mathematics, geological, geograhical, palentalogical and biological wisdom of the ages and a full comprehensive and faultless knowledge of the history of the universe. It just simply would not be necessary for God to do all that to save mankind and to tell them God has done it for them.
Unless we assume that God spends His valuable time doing completely unnecessary things we have no reason to assume that the bible is inerrant in every statement concerning every area of human inquiry into God's creation, just those directly concerned with the salvation of the human race.
That is the claim of Rogers & McKim. My question to you is, how far back in history can you trace this claim? What other theologians or Bible scholars in past centuries expressly advocated it? Or does it seem to originate with these two authors?
Does it matter? Isn't it obvious that the Bible does not contain all knowledge, only all knowledge necessary unto salvation. That being so why would it need to contain inerrant knowledge of anything other than that which is directly applicable to the salvation of mankind?
If other information contained therein has no bearing on salvation, (pillars of the earth, storehouse for hailstones, Balam's donkey conversation being literally factual, all Cretans being liars and lazy gluttons etc.), why would it be ncessary for it to be 'inerrant'. All of it could be absolutely erronious in any literal sense and still have not the slightest bearing on what the bible says concerning the salvation of mankind or it's inerrant purpose intended by God the Holy Spirit. Isa.55:11.
Actually seems to support the "inspiration" thesis.
And we can certainly say that there is nothing wrong in the Scriptures. Trees clapping to God doesn't fall under the category of being "wrong".
Right, nothing about it is self-contradictory, because all of it is written by the Holy Ghost, as St. Augustine says. Still seems to support the "inspiration" thesis more than anything else.
Nice support for the "inspiration" thesis.
They don't seem to be saying that. What they keep saying is that it was written by the Holy Ghost and is perfect, without contradiction, inspired by an omnipotent/perfect author.
This seems to me different from a postmodern claim that every line of Scripture should be judged according to a scientific standard -- unless we claim that the scientific standard is the standard of perfection. And if we do that, then we fall into the postmodern errors of scientism which the atheists have fallen into. I don't care how our Scriptures compares with the claims of science. Let science be science, with all of its flaws and imperfections, and let the Scriptures be Scriptures, with all of its richness and spirit-breathed by the one true God.
I think both of you are missing the point, namely that the sometimes illiterate authors of Scripture, including the fisherman Peter who wrote the Epistles of Peter, these didn't have to be geniuses in order to write down genius. That is because the words they wrote were inspired by the Holy Ghost himself, and the authors were merely the natural vessels for the supernatural agency.
Their natural skills and accomplishments are literally irrelevant to the process of writing Scripture, because they were little more than the vessels through which the one true God made sure that his revelation was set down.
Let me interject a bit of ++Rowan Williams:
"In the beginning was the Word." Before anything, God is a God whose life pours out in the intelligence of love, necessarily and always. Every created word, even the words we use to speak of this eternal truth, will be struggling breathlessly to keep up with the Word itself, himself. The English Reformation often made use of the phrase "God's Word written" to describe scripture. And we should not take this to mean a mechanical dictation; rather it says that when human language writes what God does and says in all his acts throughout history, the Bible is what it looks like. Wax bearing the imprint of what I called just now the weight of the Word. To read or rather to hear that Word in our reading and hearing of scripture is not to thumb through a volume of records and commands but to absorb scripture's language in such a way, at such a depth, that we sense that weight and accept the burden and the joy of labouring at a lifelong response to it.
The evidence is Clement used the LXX, and the books included in the LXX include the Deuterocanonical texts. When Clement quotes from the OT it is from the LXX.
It would seem logical as such, in the absence of any contra indicators to conclude that this was a statement about the LXX in it's entirety. The Hebrew canon was not really resolved until late 2nd or early 3rd century, so some time after Clement, and the Masoretic Canon was not really settled till some time between the 7th and 10th century.
I am quite comfortable with the declaration of Article 6 as I read it, where I understand that these books are to be included in the wider canon, however they can not be used to establish what must be believed unto salvation. Given your determination to argue for the infallibility or scripture+, I am asking, in light of you inclusion of an argument from Clement, if you are using Clement's argument on the canon as Clement understood it, or an a narrower canon as understood later.
Oh, it should matter a great deal to an Anglican who values the teachings of the early church and shuns modern theological innovations.
Rogers & McKim's book appears to be the source document from which the ideas spring... the ideas that "error" should be redefined, that the Bible's inerrancy only applies to the salvation message, and that there are technical errors in Scripture. These ideas of Rogers & McKim can be traced back to Karl Barth(!), G.C. Berkouwer, and the United Presbyterian Church USA. But no further than that! In other words, the aforementioned ideas are a modern innovation and do not find support in the early church teachings. Rogers and McKim attempt to 'shoehorn' the words of Origen, Augustine, Luther and Calvin into fitting their thesis, but they do so by ignoring many plain evidences to the contrary from those same writers. Really, people need to read Woodbridge's book for themselves to see the evidence, for to do justice to the facts I would have to reproduce half of the book; there is too much evidence to detail here, and anyone who has an open mind will have to pursue the truth for themselves.
I will conclude this post with a quote from Historical-Critical Method by Edgar Krentz:
"It is difficult to overestimate the significance the nineteenth century has for biblical interpretation. It made historical criticism the approved method of interpretation. The result was a revolution of viewpoint in evaluating the Bible. The Scriptures were, so to speak, secularized. The biblical books became historical documents to be studied and questioned like any other ancient sources. The Bible was no longer the criterion for the writing of history; rather history had become the criterion for understanding the Bible. The variety in the Bible was highlighted; its unity had to be discovered and could no longer be presumed. The history it reported was no longer assumed to be everywhere correct."This represented a paradigm shift in belief about the nature of the Bible. It is a modern shift, an innovation, and a withdrawal from the beliefs held by the church for 1,700 years. This is what you people are defending!!!!!!!