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Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Liberals and Inerrancy Part Two

Steve Jones of Free Thinking Faith has taken notice of my lengthy article I posted earlier this week reviewing his position on inerrancy and biblical authority. He says he plans to write a response, though I can't imagine his comments being any different from the ones he made in another post to a reader named Dan.

At any rate, a couple of visitors to Steve's site posted their comments in response to my article on inerrancy. They raise some fair questions and I thought I would provide a brief response while I await Steve's.

VW writes:

Fred's first point states that "Because we know God is holy, righteous and incapable of lying, we are certain we can trust any revelation from Him as being truthful and accurate throughout and in all areas" Fine. But then he states that the existent of many copy errors proves that the bible is inerrant. In my mind, if God had so desired the Bible to be inerrant, there would be no flaws in the copies. Why would there be?

(Fred) VW apparently does not understand the nature of these "errors." I thought I made that clear in my article. VW is making the assumption these errors have a detrimental impact on the message of scripture. That they either cause God's revelation to be clouded or lost altogether. This has never been the case. Like I stated, copying errors happen in all handwritten documents. This includes extra-biblical ones, as well. However, the vast amount of textual evidence we have for scripture testifies to the consistency and continuity of God's written revelation. For example, after the Babylonian exile, three independent textual families grew from the Hebrew scriptures: One in Babylon, another in Egypt (remember, a group of Jews left by the Babylonians migrated to Egypt - Jeremiah 41-43) and still another in Palestine. After the return from exile some 70 years later, all of the available copies of the Hebrew Bible were gathered up and compiled into a standard text. Even between three separate textual streams, after diligent comparison, the OT text was found to be still intact and God's Word had not been lost.

We see the same thing with the NT documents, too. Textual scholars speak of the tenacity of these copying errors. In other words, once a copying error comes into the text, it never drops out. A copyist will note the discrepancies in the margin of his copy, and it becomes part of the transmission process. But, like I wrote, careful textual criticism can weed out these slight discrepancy to almost pure accuracy. Though we don't have the original autograph, we have a close enough facsimile of it that we can be confident in God's preservation.

VW continues:

He also attempts to show that the Bible is inerrant by quoting the Bible itself! (Although in his defense he only does it once)

(Fred) And what other source would VW recommend I quote? If God's Word is what it claims to be, a divine revelation from God Himself, and it testifies to God's nature, which He has established as trustworthy during His dealings with His redeemed people, why then can I not quote the Bible to demonstrate inerrancy?

VW concludes:

I am a scholar by no means, but logically I just can't buy the inerrancy argument. I do pray for guidance and revelation, so hopefully God will enlighten me in this regard.

(Fred) Pray for guidance and revelation? How do you know, VW, that the guidance you pray for is trustworthy? Is it established by a strong impression or some other subjective means? Subjectivity is opened to all possible interpretations. Is it your contention that God is still giving revelation today directly to individuals? The only way a person can be sure the guidance they seek is genuine is by wisely comparing it to an authorized standard, the Bible.

Then we have some comments by a fellow named Eddie,

Eddie writes

Even the Bible claims that every matter is established (proved) by the mouth of two or three witnesses. Logically this requires that we need external evidence to make such a claim, and a claim from the book itself as being inerrant is circular exaggeration.

(Fred) So is Eddie suggesting there is a greater authority to prove God's Word than God Himself? Eddie is misapplying the charge of circularity on my part. I would have been engaged in circularity if I had stated something like: The Bible is God's Word, because The Bible says it is God's Word. But, I didn't do that. I specifically wrote that God's Word is bound to God's character and nature which He has personally revealed in space and time to eye witnesses. The Bible contains the testimony of these eye witnesses who saw God reveal Himself, for instance in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. Furthermore, God has also consistently proven His faithfulness to His people. Psalm 78, for example, is a Psalm calling Israel back to remembering what God had done. God has proven His character by witnessing Himself to His own character - a character He has put on display by the acts He has performed. Thus, I can rightly conclude the Bible is God's Word, because God has personally stated that it is. That is what 2 Timothy 3:16 means.

But, if Eddie still insists I am arguing in a circle, then I would also call upon Jesus Himself who testified to the authenticity of God's Word in His various sermons and discussions during His teaching ministry, as well as the testimony of God's prophets and apostles, both of which bore the marks of being God's messengers, see for example Paul's own testimony concerning himself in 2 Corithians 12:12.

Eddie must have a low opinion (some may say unbelief) of God's sovereignty and a poor understanding circularity to charge me with illogical exaggeration.

Eddie concludes:

I have no doubt that large portions of the Bible were edited by the Catholic Church for obvious reasons. Kings have kingdoms to protect, and only when you begin to view Scripture in the light of the politics of the day do the facts begin to speak for themselves.

(Fred) How does Eddie even begin to justify this conspiracy theory? By appealing to a Michael Moore view of American politics? This in fact is a genuine example of exaggerated circularity. What proof exists to affirm his conviction that the Catholic Church intentionally altered the biblical texts? Who was involved with it? When did it take place? I am only guessing Eddie means the ROMAN Catholic Church and not the little "c" catholic Church. If that is the case, the text of scripture was affirmed and in circulation among God's people several hundred years before the ROMAN Catholic Church named their first pope.

Additionally, here is another example where KJV Only advocates and liberals merge in their philosophy of scripture: both groups adhere to speculative conspiracy theories about how the scripture came into being. The KJV onlyist believes a cabal of nefarious heretics snuck false doctrine into the text. The liberals believe powerful political figures manipulated the text. But, the aluminum foil hat view of textual criticism just does not stand up under the crushing weight of the historical evidence. Perhaps Steve will be able to help out Eddie in his forth coming article. I look forward to it.

2 Comments:

Anonymous VW said...

Fred,

1) I did understand your point in the nature of copy errors. However, you missed mine. The point is that if God intended the Bible to be inerrant, I see no reason why there should be copy errors whatsoever. Your statement was "Like I stated, copying errors happen in all handwritten documents" Not in the Word of God, if it is indeed inerrant!

2) I don't mind if you quote from the Bible, but to offer the Bible as evidence of the inerrancy of the Bible is a circular reference, and certainly in error.

3) Are against me praying to God for Wisdom in interpreting the Bible?

12:38 PM, July 22, 2005  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

VW writes: 1) I did understand your point in the nature of copy errors. However, you missed mine. The point is that if God intended the Bible to be inerrant, I see no reason why there should be copy errors whatsoever. Your statement was "Like I stated, copying errors happen in all handwritten documents" Not in the Word of God, if it is indeed inerrant!

(Fred) I remain unconvinced that you are getting my point. Steve's original contention is that the Bible cannot be considered inerrant because the autographs are gone. Hence, no autographs, no certainty, and thus, no inerrancy. Biblical textual criticism has shown that with a comparison analysis of all the textual witnesses of scripture (which we have many thousands of) the originality of the biblical autographs can be restored to near pristine conditions. Steve, and other non-inerrantists are wrong.

VW continues: 2) I don't mind if you quote from the Bible, but to offer the Bible as evidence of the inerrancy of the Bible is a circular reference, and certainly in error.

(Fred) No, you are still mistaken as to what circularity is. Return to what I said to your response. The Bible is a testimony of God's character which He has revealed in history. I can appeal to the Bible as evidence of inerrancy because God, the supreme, sovereign source outside the text who inspired it, has revealed Himself to His people. The Scriptures are inerrant, inspired,and infallible because God has told us they are. Where did God tells us that? In the testimony of the scriptures.

VW Concludes: 3) Are against me praying to God for Wisdom in interpreting the Bible?

(Fred) Nope, but seeing that your position begins with a lack of trust in the record of scripture itself, i.e., it is errant. Don't you find it unusual to pray for wisdom about an error filled document?

1:30 PM, July 22, 2005  

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