Thursday, June 28, 2012

Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 8

Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 1 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 2 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 3
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 4  
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 5

Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 1
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 2 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 3
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 4
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 5
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 6
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 7
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 8


What about infallibility? One of the real weaknesses of Millard Erickson's discussion on Bibliology is not what he discusses but in what he fails to either mention or discuss. There is nothing said, for example, regarding the perspicuity (or clarity) of Scripture which was one, if not the, central doctrine and bibliological issue of the Reformation. There is also little to nothing said regarding canonicity which still remains an issue of debate. Every since Marcion, the church has had to articulate the Christian, biblical canon of Scripture. What about Catholicism, Greek Orthodox, Mormonism, and even the rise of extra-canonical revelations from charismatics and others?

Infallibility is another issue that gets surprising little treatment. Today, many are challenging inerrancy (which Erickson defends and discusses) but try to affirm its infallibility. Is that even possible? Here is most of what Erickson has to say on the subject of infallibility and inerrancy:

The inerrancy of Scripture is the doctrine that the Bible is fully truthful in all of its teachings. Since many evangelicals consider it an exceedingly important and even crucial issue, it requires careful examination. In a real sense, it is the completion of the doctrine of Scripture. For if God has given special relation of himself and inspired servants of his to record it, we will want assurance that the Bible is indeed a dependable source of that revelation.


In a very real sense, inerrancy is part of the larger issue of infallibility. While often used synonymously in the past, it has in recent years been used as an alternative, meaning in some usages that the Bible was not necessarily accurate in all of its factual references, but that it accomplishes the divine purpose.


Speech-ac theory, however, as we noted in the chapter on theological language, has emphasized the variety of types of utterances in Scripture, or to put it differently, the different grammatical moods, in addition to the indicative. There are commands, wishes, questions, and other types of speech-acts in addition to affirmations. As Kevin van Hoozer indicates, infallibility means that in whatever mood Scripture is functioning, it adequately expresses God's command or question or whatever speech-act is involved. This follows from the doctrine of inspiration developed above. These types of utterances, however, are not ordinary capable of being assessed by the use of sources other than the intention of the one making the intention of the one making the speech-act. Thus, the subclass of speech-acts referred to here as affirmations or assertions has especially come under scrutiny, and it is with respect to them that the issue of infallibility takes the form of inerrancy. -247-248

This is essentially all that Erickson says on the subject of infallibility and it is only to briefly state that it is different from inerrancy and comes out of inspiration. For a systematic theology first published in the early 1980's, I find this distinguish and space spent on the subject to infallibility to be unfortunate.  What Erickson has here is good, but more could be said.

A more complete doctrine of Scripture acknowledges both as distinct, yet affirms that in many ways they are inseparable. If inspiration implies infallibility, then infallibility must assume inerrancy. Though theologians like neo-orthodox Karl Barth and endless liberals try to separate the two (preferring infallibility over inerrancy), we must affirm and understand both.

How we define infallibility has been a subject of debate. Some simply assert that it means that it is true. Certainly that is adequate in my book. Scripture is true. If that is the case, then it makes sense to affirm also that it does not error (inerrant). Others define infallibility as affirming that Scripture does not fail to accomplish its purpose especially in matters of faith and practice. This weaker definition seems to be more prevalent among liberals who come to Scripture believing that there are mistakes but still want it to matter. So maybe the sun didn't stand still, but that doesn't mean there isn't something in Joshua for us to learn. This is simply inadequate.

It is for this, and other, reason I affirm the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy:




Article XI
We affirm that Scripture, having been given by divine inspiration, is infallible, so that, far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses.

We deny that it is possible for the Bible to be at the same time infallible and errant in its assertions. Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished, but not separated.



For more on Erickson:
Blogizomai - Where to Begin?: Calvin on the Starting Point of Theology - The Knowledge of God & the Knowledge of Man
Blogizomai - Wherefore Art Thou Theological Giants?
Blogizomai - On Special Revelation: Dreams, Visions, Theophanies, and the Word of God 
Blogizomai - Is Hell Real?: The Difference Between Emergent Agnostic Doctrine & Orthodoxy
Blogizomai - Condemnation But No Justification: The Purpose of General Revelation
Blogizomai - The Reservoir & Conduit of Divine Truth: Carl FH Henry on Revelation
Blogizomai - Where is the Gospel? Charles Hodge & the Insufficiency of Natural Theology 
Blogizomai - Exegetical Theology or Theological Exegesis?: DeYoung on the Both/And


For more:
Blogizomai - The Gospel and the Story of Everything
Blogizomai - Repost Friday | What the Book of Galatians Taught Me About Politics: The Importance of Freedom, Personal Responsibility, and Community
Theology - "God's Word in Human Words": Full Series
Theology - The Real Divide:  Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 1
Theology - The Real Divide:  Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 2
Theology - The Real Divide:  Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 3
Theology - The Real Divide:  Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 4
Theology - The Real Divide:  Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 5
Theology - John MacArthur and the Authority of Scripture  
Blogizomai - The Book of the Prophet Habakkuk
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