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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

on bible inerrancy

Dr. Ken Schenck of Indiana Wesleyan University offers some of his thoughts, from a Wesleyan perspective, on the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy.

The Chicago Statement is something I've seen before, and I recall being uneasy with many of its statements. There were some I disagreed with, but even those where the words did not seem objectionable, something did. Dr. Schenck gives voice to what I couldn't find the words for:

In a theme I will no doubt express throughout this series, the problem with the Chicago Statement is neither its spirit nor its basic affirmations. It is that it underestimates the profundity and complexity of God's Truth. God is smarter than it accounts for, in my opinion. It is a statement of arithmetic in a glorious God-created world of calculus.

For example, where the Chicago Statement says:

Holy Scripture, being God's own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God's instruction, in all that it affirms, obeyed, as God's command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God's pledge, in all that it promises.

Dr. Schenck notes:

Absolutely! Indeed, this statement sounds characteristically Wesleyan in terms of our holiness tradition. The problem of course is that the Chicago statement does not understand this statement in a characteristically Wesleyan way. The nineteenth century holiness interpreters understood the Spirit's speaking potentially to be a "more than literal," spiritual meaning the text could take on. Similarly, Wesley understood the Spirit to inspire understandings of the text for us in a way similar to how He did the original inspiration.

The Chicago Statement means nothing of this sort. In fact, all the signatories would have soundly rejected this characteristically Wesleyan hermeneutic.

The Chicago Statement, on the other hand, continues thus:

Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God's acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God's saving grace in individual lives.

The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible's own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.

In other words, if I don't believe in a talking serpent, the sun standing still during a battle, or a giant fish that swallowed a man and spit him out on the beach, I've compromised my faith. The letter of the law is just as important as the spirit.

But isn't this the same Bible that explicitly denies that very doctrine? If I'm not mistaken, there's something in one of Paul's letters about how the letter kills, but the Spirit brings life. (Possibly somewhere around 2 Corinthians 3:6.)

The value of the Bible is found in the way it speaks to our lives today, not in its ability to infallibly transmit historical data about the past. To insist that we must accept both or neither is, as Schenck says, to underestimate God.

If you're at all interested in discussions of inerrancy, I recommend you read the whole series, linked above.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

in which i agree wholeheartedly with george w. bush

From The Raw Story:

"I think that God created the Earth, created the world; I think the creation of the world is so mysterious it requires something as large as an almighty and I don't think it's incompatible with the scientific proof that there is evolution," he told ABC television.

Asked whether the Bible was literally true, Bush replied: "Probably not. No, I'm not a literalist, but I think you can learn a lot from it."

"The important lesson is 'God sent a son,'" he said.


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