Thursday, July 5, 2012

Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 10

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  
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 9
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 10


When we say that the Bible is inerrant, what do we really mean? Millard Erickson defines inerrancy as:

The Bible, when correctly interpreted in light of the level to which culture and the means of communication had developed at the time it was written, and in view of the purposes for which it was given, is fully truthful in all that it affirms. -259

That is helpful enough and satisfactory. No need to say more than what Erickson writes here. He goes on from there to expand on some principles . . . that will help us define inerrancy more specifically and to remove some of the difficulties (259).

First, inerrancy pertains to what is affirmed or asserted rather than what is merely reported. . . . The Bible reports false statements made by ungodly persons. The presence of these statements in Scripture does not mean they are true; it only guarantees that they are correctly reported. The same judgment can be made about certain statements of godly men who were not speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Stephen, in his speech in Acts 7 may not have been inspired, although he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Thus, his chronological statement in verse 6 is not necessarily free from error. (259)

Secondly, We must judge the truthfulness of Scripture in terms of its meaning in the cultural setting in which its statements were expressed (260). Here he is thinking of examples like exactness in quotations and also recognizing that numbers in ancient times were oftentimes used symbolically. This is contrast with our current culture which views these issues very differently. Thus, When we speak of inerrancy, we mean that what the Bible affirms is fully true in terms of the culture of its time. (261)

Thirdly, The Bible's assertions are fully true when judged in accordance with he purpose for which they were written. Here the exactness will vary . . . according to the intended use of the material. (261) Again, Erickson has in mind here numbers as an example. He uses the hypothetical case of a battle that involves 9,476 men. Would a report of 10,000 men be correct? How about 9,000 or 0,500? The answer is that it depends on the purpose of the writing. If the report is an official military document an officer is to submit to a superior the number must be exact . . . If, on the other hand, the account is simply to give some idea of the size of the battle, then a round number like 10,000 is adequate and in this setting is correct. (261) Erickson suggests that this explains 2 Chronicles 4:2 and also questions of chronological order in historical narratives (like the Gospels).

Fourthly, Reports of historical events and scientific matters are in phenomenal rather than technical language. That is, the wrier reports how things appear to the eye (262). The example given here regards the sun. Is it incorrect to say that the sun rose this morning? Technically yes because the "rising" of the sun is due to the rotation of the earth. The sun does not move. But at the same time, it is not inaccurate to speak of the sun rising, because that is a common way to speak that remains with us today. The writers of Scripture are not interested in reporting how, scientifically, something happened. Instead, they only report what happened. An ax head floated, the sun stood still, the waters parted, etc.

Fifthly, Difficulties in explaining the biblical text should not be prejudged as indications of error. it is better to wait for the remainder of the data to come in, with the confidence that if we had all the data, the problems could be resolved. (262) Erickson argues that many of the textual problems of a century ago no longer exist due to linguistic studies, archeology, etc. This does not mean that there are no more problems or that all of them will be resolved, it is best to wait until all the evidence is in.

This is a helpful way to explain his definition of inerrancy. Inerrancy is not an easy doctrine when one digs deep into the biblical text, but Erickson offers some real help in understanding what we mean what we say inerrant and how it applies practically.


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
Blogizomai - A New Kind of Christianity . . . Indeed: The Authority Question - Part 2



Blogizoami - Grudem on the Problems With Denying Inerrancy



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
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