Inspiration, Criticism, and Fallacious Understanding

Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World Modern critics of Scripture argue that since we only have copies of the words God inspired, we don’t have God’s actual and inspired word.  Bart Ehrman said it like this: “If God really wanted people to have his actual words, surely he would have miraculously preserved those words, just as he had miraculously inspired them in the first place.  Given that he didn’t preserve the words, the conclusion must be that he hadn’t gone to the trouble of inspiring them” (Misquoting Jesus, p. 211).

The book Truth Matters deals with this criticism quite well.  Here’s one part of the response to the critics’ argument:

“…Peter Williams has said, ‘Words do not lose inspiration by being copied.’  So if by working through the wide assortment of surviving manuscripts, we can reasonably deduce that what we’re looking at in our Bibles are genuine replicas and translations of the original sources, then why are these words so suspiciously second-rate, just because God didn’t keep the first ones – the first parchments – under glass in the archives?”

“In fact, Bart Ehrman’s statement quoted above about the inspiration of the Bible (or lack thereof) is based on a fallacious understanding of the doctrine of inspiration.  Christians believe that the words written in the original autographs were inspired, not the material entity (the specific piece of papyrus or parchment).  Therefore, we don’t need the original manuscript in order to have the original words.

“Again, a textual critic can certainly prove the point that particular manuscripts have been altered in a number of places.  Anyone worth his scholarly salt would agree.  But no way can they demonstrate how, among the thousands of manuscripts we can study and research and access through our biblical software, the original words of Scripture have utterly vanished.  Gone.”

“On the one hand the people who cling to them (the arguments for a corrupt text) insist that nobody can know for sure what was actually contained in the original autographs.  ‘Show me one,’ they say, ‘and then we’ll talk.’  But then they confidently argue how these numerous variants – this one, that one, and the other one – couldn’t possibly be original to the text.  Well, how can they know this to be true if they don’t have any idea what the original said?  How do we know a watch is not a Rolex unless we know what a Rolex is – and believe that Rolex watches exist?  Talk about inconsistencies….”

Well said!  Reminds me of Romans 1:18ff.

Bock, Chatraw, and Kostenberger, Truth Matters, p. 131-132.

shane lems

Holy Scripture

I like how Packer summarizes the historic Christian view of Scripture.

“…The teaching of the written Scriptures is the Word which God spoke and speaks to his Church, and is finally authoritative for faith and life.  To learn the mind of God, one must consult his written Word.  What Scripture says, God says.  The Bible is inspired in the sense of being word-for-word God-given.  It is a record and explanation of divine revelation which is both complete (sufficient) and comprehensible (perspicuous); that is to say, it contains all that the Church needs to know in this world for its guidance in the way of salvation and service, and it contains the principles for its own interpretation within itself.”

“Furthermore, the Holy Spirit, who caused it to be written, has been given to the Church to cause believers to recognize it for the divine Word that it is, and to enable them to interpret it rightly and understand its meaning.  He who was its Author is also its Witness and Expositor.  Christians must therefore seek to be helped and taught by the Spirit when they study Scripture, and must regard all their understanding of it, no less than the book itself, as a gift of God.  The Spirit must be acknowledged as the infallible Interpreter of God’s infallible Word.  ‘The supreme Judge…in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.'”

This quote was taken from Packer’s Fundamentalism and the Word of God, p. 47-48.  The entire book is worth reading, by the way.

shane lems

Two Good Reads

A few weeks back I finished this historical biography on Anne Bradstreet (1612-1642) by Faith Cook: Anne Bradstreet Pilgrim and Poet (Carlisle: EP Books, 2010).  This is a great introduction to an amazing Puritan woman’s life, times, and writings.  Anne came to America with some of the first Puritan refugees in the 1630s and faced the tough shores of the American East coast.  Her life was filled with death – many of her children, siblings, and friends died at young ages.  Her poems often reflected this unavoidable reality along with the truth of life after death:

All men must die and so must I
This cannot be revoked
For Adam’s sake this word God spake
When he so high provoked
Yet live I shall, this life’s but small
In place of highest bliss
Where I shall have all I can crave
No life is like to this.

I enjoyed this book; I’ve not read many books about this time period in America’s Puritan history, so it was fascinating.  I recommend it for anyone who enjoys historical biography along with excellent poems of Christian piety.  Faith Cook is a superb author and biographer.  This book will not disappoint.  It would be a good one for a women’s book club at your church.

Another EP book I want to recommend is Every Word Counts by Tom Barnes (Carlisle: EP Books, 2010).  This new book was written in response to the ongoing discussions and debates about the nature of Scripture, including inerrancy, authority, and infallibility.  He starts by very briefly mentioning the Beale/Enns debate, along with other authors like A. T. B. McGowan, John Webster, and Timothy Ward, just to name a few.

This book is helpful because Barnes simply goes through scripture highlighting what it says about itself.  When we talk about if, how, and why scripture is inerrant/infallible, we have to do so in scripture’s own terms.  Of course, this is a key truth to the whole debate.  Barnes talks about Jesus’ use of the OT, the “true” aspect of scripture, inspiration, how scripture is a treasure, and how the church should respond to scripture.  It was pretty straight forward and clear.  In fact, I think it is much more helpful than Beale’s The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008) because it is easier to read, more level-headed, less polemic, and didn’t overstate premises as much as Erosion.

In summary, Every Word Counts is a great book to read and study if you want a good scriptural summary on the Bible.  I’ll hand this one out to Christians who do have questions about scripture – it will answer quite a few of those questions and give the reader an appreciation for and love of the Bible along the way.

Note: Thanks to EP books for sending me these review copies.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

Following Maps

“Knowing is neither a matter of building foundations nor of weaving webs but of following maps.  ‘Following maps’ is a better image because it recognizes the priority of the canonical text and its relationship to reality – just these maps – over one’s use or reading of it.  Moreover the drama of doctrine is precisely that of using the biblical maps to negotiate one’s walk on the way to truth and life.  The map calls attention to the fact that the church’s interpretive framework is canonical before it is communal.”

“At the same time, these maps or interpretive frameworks serve various real-life purposes.  Indeed, the whole purpose of the map is not simply to inform but to be useful.  In similar fashion, Scripture is neither a textbook of propositional truths that serves as the foundation for knowledge nor a narrative that relies on its position in the church’s web of belief for its meaning and truth.  Scripture is rather a canonical atlas: a collection of maps that variously render the way, the truth, and the life.”

Kevin Vanhoozer, Drama of Doctrine, p. 294.

By the way, Vanhoozer’s latest is out and it’s called Remythologizing Theology: Divine Action, Passion, and Authorship.  However, the price tag is so horribly high (over $100!!) I doubt it’ll be read much until the cost comes down.  I can’t wait!

shane lems

sunnyside wa