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The Father, Son, and the Holy Bible

The problem with many Evangelicals is that we can come dangerously close to worshiping the Bible. As Evangelical theologian James Sawyer once said in jest, we worship the Trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Bible.

Now, by this I do not mean we actually set the Bible up in a shrine in our house, throw it away if it ever touches the floor, or put our hand on it when swearing an oath. Of course we are above that, right? What I think people like James Sawyer are talking about is that we put our Bibliology (study of the Bible) ahead of Christology (study of Christ), Pneumentology (study of the Holy Spirit), and Paterology (study of the Father). We hold the Bible in such high esteem that firm adherence to an Evangelical Bibliology (verbal plenary inspiration, inerrancy, and authorial intent hermeneutics) becomes the unashamed anchor to the Gospel. But, eventually, it can (and often does) become the Gospel itself. One may be perfectly orthodox in every area about which the Bible speaks (deeply believing in the deity and Lordship of Christ, the sinfulness of man, and Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection), but if they are not perfectly orthodox about the Bible, to many of us evangelicals, they are not orthodox at all.

Now, let me cease with the self-deprecation for a moment. When straw men are not being built against us (and when we are acting our age!), a high view of Scripture is easy to justify. For example, for many years the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) had only one point in their doctrinal statement that members had to sign every year—inerrancy. And, in my estimation, this was not a bad thing. After all, where do we get our high Christology? The Bible. Where do we get our high view of God? The Bible. Where do we get the Gospel? The Bible. So, in our best moments, we will condemn anything that smells of idolatry concerning the Scriptures. We know that the Bible is not the fourth member of the Trinity. The Bible is not actually alive, but it does accurately reflect the movements of a living God.

How does this translate into our witness? When we are sharing Christ with someone, I have never heard anyone require that they invite the Bible into their heart (although, to be fair, asking Jesus into their heart might cause some problems too!). At baptismal confessions in the early church, there was a renouncing of Satan, but no renouncing of those who deny inerrancy. There was a confession of Christ as Lord, but no confession of Paul as the author of the Pastorals. There was a symbolic burial of our old life but no burial of old books you used to read besides the Bible. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that the early church had a low view of Scripture. Far from it. I even believe that they held to a seed form of inerrancy. What I am saying is that one’s bibliology was not an essential component of the Gospel.

I am really saying nothing new or extraordinary here. I am trying to get people to present the message of the Bible (Jesus Christ and him crucified for our sins and raised from the dead), not the message about the Bible (inspiration, inerrancy, etc). The Gospel message does not require anyone to believe in either inspiration or inerrancy before it can become effective in their lives. When those we are sharing Christ with object to the Scriptures based on supposed inconsistencies, we are to show them that these inconsistencies, even if true, do not change the message of the Bible. The historic message of the Bible needs to take precedence over the theological nature of the Bible. And here is where I feel we Evangelicals, in our zeal and love for the Bible, taint the Gospel with unnecessary additions. These additions, more often than not, drag us down rabbit trails where we can end up losing Jesus altogether as we defend against thousands of claims of Bible contradictions. Further, I believe that this defense needs to be exclusively concerned with the historicity of the resurrection of Christ (“Resurrection Apologetics”). If Christ is risen from the grave, Christianity is true, no matter how many contradictions one thinks they have found. And if Christ did not rise from the grave, Christianity is false, no matter how harmonious the Bible shows to be. In short, I don’t have to convince anyone of the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture in order to introduce them to my Savior. I just have to make a case that the historicity of the story of Christ contained in the Bible is reliable enough to warrant their belief.

Deep breath . . . And here is where I am really trying to go with my argument.

Understandably, some people object to this line of reasoning, believing that I am shooting myself in the foot. Many would argue that the only way we can know about the person and work of Christ with certainty is through an inspired and inerrant Bible. Otherwise, according to these, we have no real assurance that what we believe is true. If there can be an error in the primary source for the Gospel, the Gospel itself loses its authority and power to convert. In short, as the objection goes, inspiration and inerrancy must be present or there is no Gospel.

My response is that it is the person and work of Christ that is the ultimate authority, not really the Scriptures. Christ did what he did not because Scripture was written and made it so, but because historically Christ did what he did. The Scriptures have no causal authority when it comes to the Gospel.

But if we don’t assume an inspired inerrant text of Scripture, how can we be certain that the Gospel in the Scriptures is correct? If you are willing to grant a historical error here and there in the Gospel accounts, then this is a slippery slope. Where do you draw the line? How can we be sure that the historical account of the resurrection is not in error?

These are great questions. In fact, being an inerrantist myself, in a different context I would say that they are valid questions that need answers. However, I don’t think the possibility of an error needs to issue forth into the probability of an error. In other words, just because we may grant, for the sake of argument, that there might be errors of history in the Bible, this does not mean that everything is in error. We don’t treat other works of history this way, do we? Just think if we discounted all histories that did not pass the infallibility test. What would we know about history? That’s right. . .  Nothing. We understand that even the best histories are only basically reliable, not perfectly reliable. When it comes to the Bible, just because one Gospel writer says that there were two angels at the tomb and another records only one angel, this does not mean that the tomb was not really empty. Remember, concerning the main events, all the writers agree. They all have Jesus living a perfect life, teaching about God, dying on a cross, and rising from the dead. What exactly were his last words from the cross? Was Matthew right, or Luke? Who cares (at least right now)? I just want to talk about the things about which they agree.

Yes, but you are presenting an uncertain Gospel. One can never really be completely sure that they have the right story.

Yes, uncertainty may be a fact of life. But this is true even if you make inerrancy a prerequisite to the Gospel. Think about it. Here are four things concerning Bibliology that are not make-or-break issues for the Gospel and about which we are not completely certain:

1. The canon of Scripture: If you are a Protestant, you may believe that the very words of the Bible are inspired and inerrant, but here is the problem: you don’t have an inspired and inerrant Bible. In other words, whatever the Bible is, you believe the text is inspired and inerrant. But you don’t know with infallible assurance what the Bible is. How so? Because we have a fallible cannon. There is no inspired and inerrant table of contents in the Bible. Therefore, you have to live without the luxury of inerrancy when it comes to the canon. And last time I checked, the canon of the Bible is somewhat foundational to what the Bible is! But I don’t think this is a make or break issue for the Gospel . . . do you? I hope not. If you do, you will have to become Roman Catholic to get the certainty that you think is necessary.

However, like with the inerrancy of the text, I don’t think we have to go there. I trust that a study of the history of the canon can give us not only assurance, but warranted obligation to believe that we have the right books in our Bible.

2. The text of Scripture: Again, we don’t have any infallible manuscripts of the Bible. Of the six thousand plus New Testament manuscripts and fragments of manuscripts that we have catalogued, not one of them is without error. There is no place that you can go to in order to have absolute certainty about the text of the Scripture, Old or New Testament.  But this need not cause us despair as we can look into this issue, study it deeply, and come away with a firm conviction that we have the essential message, even if there are going to be some passages that may be forever lost in obscurity.

3. The translation of Scripture: Unless you are a King James Only advocate, you do not have a perfect, infallible, inerrant, or inspired translation of the Scriptures. Neither the NAS, NIV, ESV, KJV, nor NKJV are perfect. They all have mistakes. We don’t know where they are or we would fix them, but all messages have lost something in translation. Does this mean we are left only to uncertain despair? Well, only if indubitability (the belief that knowledge is only justified when we have absolute certainty) is your goal. Only if you cannot live with a bit of uncertainty. But all one has to do to regain confidence is to get involved in the translation process yourself. Once you do, you will see that it is not doom and gloom. We have every reason to believe that even the worst translations out there get across the general message of the Gospel.

4. Interpretation of Scripture: No one I know is an infallible interpreter of Scripture. Even the King James Only advocate has to admit uncertainty here. We have to live with the fact that we might have, and teach, wrong interpretations of the Scripture. But this does not mean that we cannot have a good degree of relative certainty about our interpretation. For the most part the Scriptures are not that difficult to understand. We often call this the perspicuity of Scripture. This does not mean that all of Scripture is easy to understand, only that the main teachings are clear enough that even a child can understand them.

In all four of these, we have to live with uncertainty. We need to get used to it. Even with an inerrant text of the Scripture we still have to live with our limits. If you cling to a modernistic, Cartesian ideal of absolute certainty, you are in trouble. But we can have sufficient warrant for our beliefs even when we are not mathematically certain that we are correct.

Why all of this? And I trying to slowly phase inerrancy out? Absolutely not. I am an inerrantist by theological deduction. I believe that the Scriptures are from God. I believe that God is perfect. Therefore, I believe the Scriptures, if we are going to have any meaning to inspiration, are inerrant. But I am not an inerrantist because I believe the Gospel is lost without it. In a world where just about every evangelistic atheist has on their resume, “Can bring to light 1001 Bible contradictions,” I want you to be able to get past this issue. It only ties the Gospel up in endless legislation.

As well, I want to reorient your perspective, if need be. The Bible is not the Gospel. We often accuse Roman Catholics of worshiping Mary and Eastern Orthodox of worshiping the Saints. Unfortunately, against their higher ideals, many times the accusation fits the bill. But while our highest ideals abhor the notion of worshiping the Bible, unfortunately, this charge sometimes fits the bill as well. We don’t worship the Bible. We can hold to a high view of Scripture (and we should) without having to deify it. God has revealed himself to us in Scripture, but he is not Scripture. We worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, not the Father, Son, and Holy Bible. Stick to the resurrection of Christ and you should be fine. But this assumes you are a student of the resurrection. Are you?

27 Responses to “The Father, Son, and the Holy Bible”

  1. for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name (Psalm 138:2, KJV).
    God views His word as an extension of who He is. One is not to worship His word but to meditate upon it (Psalm 119:148).

  2. Very timely post. I have recently come across people who claim that if one is truly saved then one will ipso facto believe in inerrancy. In their view, if one does not accept inerrancy then one is not truly saved.

    I do subscribe to inerrancy, but do not think it is necessary for salvation, which has gotten me into a few arguments (probably similar to your recent post on things that aren’t essential to being a Christian :)

    Thanks again for a great post.

  3. 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5.
    God is perfect. If you believe in this, then there should be no doubt that the Bible is perfect. Only “contradictions” we find in the Bible is due to our lack of the whole picture and lack of understanding. Just because we are the ones that are at fault and weak does not make the Bible less than perfect. This is where our faith has to step in and allow us to believe in the unseen and unknown. As we are given more understanding, we will eventually find out ALL truths and probably realize that there truly is no error in the Word of God. History has shown us this too. As archeological and historical findings give evidence to the truth of the Bible time and time again.

    Having said that, I agree that inerrancy is not necessary for salvation. But, I suggest to you that this is only “milk” for baby Christians. As we sanctify ourselves and get deeper into our relationship with God, we will understand that the Bible is perfect as God is perfect. As we start to eat “solid food” as Paul suggests, we will come to eventually understand the inerrancy of the Bible. Without this understanding, you will forever be a baby Christian only having “milk”.

  4. While Bibliolatry may be a risk, it is never one that can be determined from the outside. That is, if one really is guilty of it, only that individual can tell. Isn’t the difference between reverence for the Word of God and Bibliolatry paralleled in 2 Cor 3:6? One is the letter itself – which kills when we become the determiners of its use – the other of the Spirit which is is impressed upon us by the Holy Spirit. The Word comes from without and convicts. The letter is what we read and what we try to follow in our own strength and understanding.

    Is that what this is about?

  5. “My response is that it is the person and work of Christ that is the ultimate authority, not really the Scriptures. Christ did what he did not because Scripture was written and made it so, but because historically Christ did what he did. The Scriptures have no causal authority when it comes to the Gospel.”

    This ignores or forgets all of the things Jesus did “that it might be fulfilled”

    Jesus was bound to the Scripture, to act & speak according to what was written.

    (1 Cor 15:2-4 NIV) By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. {3} For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, {4} that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

    (John 19:28 KJV) After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.

    So then, the Scriptures did have causal authority.

  6. “Stick to the resurrection of Christ and you should be fine.”

    Not ashamed to say I love all scripture an find it all profitable for teaching me, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness

    May we have exactly the same view of scripture(s) as Jesus does, by the mighty power of the Spirit, being very careful in these tenuous times of many deceiving spirits. Scripture tells us: we can have the mind of Christ.

  7. Interesting post on an important topic, Michael. Since you redirect people from a focus on the Bible itself to a focus on the Gospel as centered in and proven by the resurrection, saying, “If Christ is risen from the grave, Christianity is true…”, here is one key question that raises:

    Whose form of “risen” do you refer to, Paul’s or the Gospel writers? Important additional q’s follow that, but that seems to be the next core issue.

  8. I don’t know. I figure that that would certainly not be the next question I would deal with after establishing his resurrection. I don’t know what he was wearing either. :-)

  9. But don’t get into a discussion about the resurrection here. This is just about whether or not authoritative infallible certainty is necessary for our faith to have warrant.

    Wait until the next post which will only be about evidences for the resurrection. I will give the shotgun approach and them deal with some specifics.

  10. An observation. The original article says :

    “The Gospel message does not require anyone to believe in either inspiration or inerrancy before it can become effective in their lives.”

    Your concern about bible-worship may have validity (at least if one brings an open mind to the article) but I would think the question must be answered “What would that look like?”. I confess that I haven’t found a clear detailing (in the article) of what that would be. And that could simply be because I’m simple. The closest thing I could find was your paragraph that dealt with our witness. And your statement quoted above is certainly true, but really, I fail to see how it deals with supposed bibliolatry.

    As you are probably aware – indeed, as your article suggests – the inerrancy of scripture is not something one brings to the table in leading another to Christ. My wife’s great grandfather was converted trying to investigate the claims in scripture so he could debate missionaries – in the middle of reading Jeremiah he was convicted by the Holy Spirit (“The heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked and who can know it…”) and was instantly brought to his knees and wound up having an immense impact in Japan and surrounding countries. No arguments of inerrancy were brought to bear – only the Spirit of God.

    If a non-believer believes the scriptures are inerrant, why is he a non-believer? If a believer doesn’t hold their inerrancy, where is his REAL standard for interpretation? Does he have a “little pope” inside him telling him what to believe and not believe? The test of inerrancy, I would think, is more an indicator of fidelity than one item on a checklists of requirements. It goes beyond the intellect – which was why Peter could say we have a MORE SURE word….

  11. Fair enough about waiting on resurrection issues until your next post on it specifically, Michael. (Preview: the “versions” I refer to are not minor variations, as you are probably conversant with.)

  12. “We often accuse Roman Catholics of worshiping Mary and Eastern Orthodox of worshiping the Saints. Unfortunately, against their higher ideals, many times the accusation fits the bill.”

    Eastern Orthodox do not worship saints. We do indeed have a deep affection for all persons, because we see Jesus Christ in all people. In saints, the goodness of the Holy Spirit comes flowing out and is felt by the soul. (This is not unique to EOs; you all know men and women of God who exude a holiness that is palpable.)

    When we recognize the Spirit in someone, being a “kissie-huggie” bunch, we kiss and hug. Since saints who have reposed are not dead but are alive in Christ, we kiss their icons, understanding that the love will pass through and be recognized by that saint. This is a Christian tradition that can be traced back to the catacomb era.

    (The Protestant and EO traditions interpret “alive in Christ” – Matthew 22:32 – differently.)

    Love for saints does not detract from our love of God. (e.g. love of your children does not diminish the love you feel toward your spouse. In fact…the opposite usually occurs.) Also, our tradition does not mistake the Maker from the handiwork.

    Wishing all Western Christians a blessed Holy Week and Easter. Christ is Risen! Indeed He is risen!

  13. I think too many people here are seeing the word “Word” in the Bible and thinking that when it talks about the Word of God, it must mean the Bible. No. I think when they want to talk about that, they used a term like “Scriptures.” The Bible is a Word of God, but it is described in the Bible as Scripture. The ultimate Word of God is Jesus. The Jews had a rich tradition of the Word of the Lord and it did not always refer to the books. They talked about the Word of the Lord active in creation, and surely no one thinks they thought the Torah created the world!

    Inerrancy is important, but it is not essential. You can demonstrate Jesus rose with an errant Bible. If not, then I think we simply have fideism, something Jesus would have opposed.

  14. ‘In the beginning was the Bible. And the Bible was with God. and thew Bible was God.’

    The Bible came about as a need to recalibrate the preached Word of the gospel.

    God’s Word is (1st) Jesus Himself.

    Preaching and teaching about Jesus.

    The consolation of believers, one to another.

    And the Bible.

    Basically, in that order.

  15. The Bible is a collection of writings deemed to be scripture. The writings considered a part of this collection vary among different Christian groups (Protestant, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, etc.).
    I believe that the doctrine of “inerrancy” is neither taught within scripture about the Bible nor is it consistent with any evidence we have of the Bible. We have no inerrant manuscripts and thus no evidence for inerrant originals. Since we can trust our “errant” Bibles for adequate testimony for our faith, why even develop this doctrine of “inerrancy” that only divides Christ’s church and often prematurely ends opportunities to present the gospel to others?

  16. The thing that strikes me as almost funny about this debate is the fact that while so many are ready to die on the hill of inerrancy, they know full well that the Bible they pick up to read on a daily basis is errant. (Well, except a handful of KJV only-ites)

    The Church triumphant, marching through the centuries, as terrible as an army with banners, marches and has always marched, with errant translations based on errant manuscripts.

    AND YET GOD CHANGES THE WORLD!!!

    How can this be?

    I think it’s fair to say that every believer of the last 18 centuries has come to faith in a world in which inerrant manuscripts do not even exist. (I’m being very generous there and assuming that a handful of autographs might have been preserved into the second century, though we have no real reason to believe that)

    AND YET GOD CHANGES THE WORLD!

    Perhaps the true power lies not in scripture, but in the source of scripture – the God who communicates, and the Holy Spirit who indwells every true believer.

    IMO, the irony of the inerrancy argument is that God is somehow unable to communicate effectively without an inerrant text. IOW, we don’t know what to believe without inerrancy. Frankly, I think the whole position tends to denigrate God, making his communication dependant on the text, instead of the text being dependant on his communication – God, in effect, is silenced by error.

    What kind of God is that?

  17. Michael,

    You said:

    “I am really saying nothing new or extraordinary here”

    With this, I completely agree :-)

    Of course, all of your points have responses in the corpus of work on inerrancy.

    However, I think your expressed concern about an evangelical emphasis on inerrancy and the gospel is overstated. No one I know suggests a belief in inerrancy is the gospel. I’m not sure who you’re aiming your arrows at.

    Inerrancy doesn’t save, no one suggested it did. But consider these comments from John Frame:

    “Only in biblical religion is there a God who is absolute and who also speaks to his creatures. And in his speech he brings himself to us….And God is always with and in his word. When we read his written word, we encounter him; when we encounter him, we hear his word.” The Doctrine of God, pg. 474

    You seem to prefer a minimalist approach where we boil everything in Scripture down to 1 Cor. 15:1-3. However, this approach robs the sinner of a more complete knowledge of the God who speaks.

  18. @ Dave Z
    “I think it’s fair to say that every believer of the last 18 centuries has come to faith in a world in which inerrant manuscripts do not even exist.”
    “Perhaps the true power lies not in scripture, but in the source of scripture – the God who communicates, and the Holy Spirit who indwells every true believer.”

    Well said, excellent.
    In addition, when I gave my life to the Lord there was so much I was ignorant of, six day creation, inerrancy (what’s that?) almost all doctrines except the understanding that I was a sinner in need of forgiveness, only this could be accomplished by the death of Christ and I needed to accept Him alone as my Lord and Saviour. I didn’t know I needed all this other stuff to be really, truly, completely, saved.
    Was I saved that night? I believe so.
    I was at a meeting tonight (seriously) where a former criminal gave a very clumsy alter call after his testimony which he didn’t even deliver that well. In a room of thirty, three (one educated person I would NOT have expected to especially after the delivery) gave their lives to God, and three rededicated themselves after falling away. Hallelujah.
    THAT is the power of the Holy Spirit at work.
    Now some will say “but how will they know they are truly saved without inerrant scriptures?”
    Well, that’s between them and the Holy Spirit.

  19. Michael,

    While I totally appreciate your looking at both sides of the story, I still wonder how an an ‘errant’ Bible which is supposed to be God inspired can contain errors, except perhaps in translation. I too will be looking forward to the specifics in your next post. So I will not comment further until I read and consider the post you have promised.

    God bless and lead you to the right answers.

  20. I personally think that the return to Scripture as the primary basis of authority for protestant believers has led to over-compensation. I believe the Bible is inspired, authoritative and perfect (in the sense that it communicates to us what God intended it to communicate, it points us to the Word – Christ). I think it’s perfection is not like an intricate watch where all pieces fit perfectly, literally, and there are no contradictions. The Gospels are a good illustration of this, the same story is written in different ways with varying information at times. It does not really matter if all the events are perfectly matched or harmonized, what matters is that they give us a perfect picture of Christ and one that is consistent throughout.

  21. Michael,

    I do understand and appreciate the thrust of your argument here. Does one need to uphold to inerrancy to believe the truth claims of Christianity? No. Can we allow the gospel presentation to get bogged down in details regarding apparent discrepancies? Yes.

    However, I think the wording of your point #1 does your argument, and what I know to be true of your position, a disservice. You indicate that we don’t have an infallible and inerrant bible, only one we believe to be so. I’m assuming you’re referring to the original autographs? Now for a gospel presentation argument, I don’t know that it helps or case to say ‘we are not sure’ or ‘it doesn’t matter’ which is how that paragraph reads.

    Also, the statement that the canon is fallible undermines the very basis of Christianity’s truth claims. That Christ arose is the signifying event of Christianity but not disconnected from the testimony of the event and his person attested by the prophetic and apostolic witness. If that is fallible we are in a heap of trouble. Again, is that what we want to present to someone we’re presenting the gospel to? There seems to be too wide a gap between inerrancy and a trustworthy message that is leaving the basis for the Christian message on shaky ground that I don’t believe you intended.

  22. Point 1 only has to do with the canon.

    My point is that saying we have to have inerrancy in play or we won’t have absolute certainty about what we believe is lacking the perspective of the bigger picture. Even with inerrant originals, we don’t have an inerrant canon, inerrant manuscripts, inerrant translations, or inerrant interpretation.

    Therefore, if we have to have absolute certainty to be confident in our faith, we are in big trouble. We cannot even become Catholic and solve this as the Catholic is errant himself and subject to interpreting the interpretation of the Church wrong.

    Therefore, we have to learn to be comfortable with probability. Bit this is nothing to get excited about as 1) this is the only option we have everyday for all areas of life, 2) the evidence is/can be strong enough in each one of these area that belief is not only justified, but demanded.

    We can be sure of the canon, text, translations, and interpretation of the inerrant original even if we can’t have indubidible certainty.

  23. I have heard presentations before where they basically give reasons to trust and believe the Bible, then after that I was urged to trust in Christ because the Bible says it so. I think this approach is backwards, it glorifies the Book and basically asks me to put my faith in it and, oh by the way, put my faith in Jesus.

    I cannot bring myself to say that the Bible is “errant”, but I can see it as speaking to me in ways that are not staightforward, in ways that require much more than a literal wooden reading (pretty much like you would read an instruction manual). The Gospel of John is beautiful, it was written with style and depth as opposed to the synoptics which read more like eyewitness testimony (whis is actually beautiful as well). My old fundamentalist past would flatten all this out and treat it pretty much as text to be consumed.

  24. So how do we know which parts are right and which parts aren’t?

  25. So God can’t pass down an accurate Bible? Professing to be wise, some have become fools. Bible idolatry is a dumb word. Doubt is not to be winked at, read the book of James.

  26. @Don, that is why the Father sent the Holy Spirit to guide the Church in all things, including interpreting the Holy Scriptures. Step 1 would be to make sure that you are part of the Church.

    @Robert Holley, the Bible is not the Koran. It is not word-by-word, absolutely perfect dictation of God’s Will or Christian theology. Just google “Biblical errors” and you will see that, while it is inspired, it is not “perfect” as we humans define perfection. The Bible is to be interpreted through Christ’s Church, His Body.

    In the 1st century AD, the fact is that NO ONE INDIVIDUAL chuch had a “complete” canon of the Bible, exactly the same as what is sitting on your desk at home! Yet, somehow, the Church as a whole was guided by the Holy Spirit and, as a whole, remained perfect and did not falter.

  27. Whatever view we hold of the divine authority of Scripture must make room for the following facts:
    1. The distinction which St. Paul makes in 1 Cor vii between ouk ego all’ ho kurios [not myself but the Lord] (v. 10) and ego lego oux ho kurios [I myself say, not the Lord] (v. 12).
    2. The apparent inconsistencies between the genealogies in Matt. i and Luke ii; with the accounts of the death of Judas in Matt. xxvii 5 and Acts i 18-19.
    3. St. Luke’s own account of how he obtained his matter (i 1-4).
    4. The universally admitted unhistoricity (I do not say, of course, falsity) of at least some of the narratives in Scripture (the parables), which may well also extend to Jonah and Job.
    5. If every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of lights, then all true and edifying writings, whether in Scripture or not, must be in some sense inspired.
    6. John xi 49-52 Inspiration may operate in a wicked man without him knowing it, and he can then utter the untruth he intends (propriety of making an innocent man a political scapegoat) as well as the truth he does not intend (the divine sacrifice). [It seems to me that 2 and 4 rule out the view that every statement in Scripture must be historical truth. And 1, 3, 5, and 6 rule out the view that inspiration is a single thing in the sense that, if present at all, it is always present in the same mode and the same degree. Therefore, I think, rule out the view that any one passage taken in isolation can be assumed to be inerrant in exactly the same sense as any other: e.g., that the numbers of O.T. armies (which in view of the size of the country, if true, involve continuous miracle) are statistically correct because the story of the Resurrection is historically correct. That the over-all operation of Scripture is to convey God’s Word to the reader (he also needs his inspiration) who reads it in the right spirit, I fully believe. That it also gives true answers to all the questions (often religiously irrelevant) which he might ask, I don’t. The very kind of truth we are often demanding was, in my opinion, not even envisaged by the ancients.- Quoted in Michael J. Christensen, C. S. Lewis on Scripture, Abingdon, 1979, Appendix A.]

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