Archive for the ‘Inerrancy’ Category

Calvin vs.(?) Turretin on Inerrancy

January 20, 2014

The doctrine of Biblical inerrancy is sometimes associated with Francis Turretin (the real one, not me, his fan).  There was an interesting article in the Autumn 2011 edition of “Foundations,” which addresses the question, “Did Turretin Depart from Calvin’s View on the Concept of Error in the Scriptures” (link to pdf of whole issue).  The author, Ralph Cunnington, does an excellent job of demonstrating and explaining that – in fact – both Calvin and Turretin were in agreement.  His conclusion states:

Calvin and Turretin both held to a view of the inspiration and authority of Scripture which affirmed that the Scriptures as originally given were without error in all that they affirmed. The view that Calvin only affirmed the infallibility of the saving content of Scripture rests upon decidedly unpersuasive grounds and conflicts with Calvin’s unambiguous statements to the contrary.
Furthermore, the contention that a radical disjunction exists between Calvin’s view of Scripture and that of Turretin remains unproven. While a shift in the form of theological discourse unquestionably took place in the seventeenth century, the content of orthodox doctrine remained substantially the same. Far from dispensing with Calvin’s doctrine of inspiration, Turretin sought to defend it against the new challenges that it faced in the seventeenth century. While his methodology may be questioned, we should be in no doubt that Turretin intended his doctrine to be an expression of continuity with the doctrine expounded by the Reformers.

But please read the article for yourselves!

– TurretinFan


Rebuttal to Craig’s Denial of the Historicity of the Guard Account

June 25, 2013

The Bible declares:

Matthew 27:62-66
Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, “Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.”
Pilate said unto them, “Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.” So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.

Matthew 28:2-4 & 11-15
And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

But William Lane Craig says, in response to the question “were there guards at the tomb”:

Well now this is a question that I think is probably best left out of the program, because the vast, vast majority of New Testament scholars would regard Matthew’s guard story as unhistorical. I can hardly think of anybody who would defend the historicity of the guard at the tomb story. And the main reasons for that are two:
One is because it’s only found in Matthew and it seems very odd that if there were a Roman guard or even a Jewish guard at the tomb that Mark wouldn’t know about it and that there wouldn’t be any mention of it.
The other reason is that nobody seemed to understand Jesus’ resurrection predictions. The disciples – who heard them most often – had not an inkling of what he meant and yet somehow the Jewish authorities were supposed to have heard of these predictions and understood them so well that they were able to set a guard around the tomb. And again, that doesn’t seem to make sense.
So, most scholars regard the guard at the tomb story as a legend or a Matthean invention that isn’t really historical.
Fortunately, this is of little significance for the empty tomb of Jesus, because the guard was mainly employed in Christian apologetics to disprove the conspiracy theory that the disciples stole the body. But no modern historian or New Testament scholar would defend a conspiracy theory, because it’s evident when you read the pages of the New Testament that these people sincerely believed in what they said. So, the conspiracy theory is dead, even in the absence of a guard at the tomb.
The true significance of the guard at the tomb story is that it shows that even the opponents of the earliest Christians did not deny the empty tomb, but rather involved themselves in a hopeless series of absurdities trying to explain it away by saying that the disciples had stolen the body. And that’s the real significance of Matthew’s guard at the tomb story.

This shows part of the soft underbelly of William Lane Craig’s excessive reliance on scholarship over revelation. The text itself treats the account as historical. There are no signals in the text that the account is mythical or parabolic. Indeed, the theory that the “vast, vast majority of New Testament scholars” would be adopting here is one that says that the text has its origins in the will of man rather than in the inspiration of the Spirit.

Let’s consider the two reasons that Craig gives. The first reason is Mark’s omission of the account. This is hardly a compelling reason. After all, while Matthew includes the vast majority of the material found in Mark, Mark contains less than three quarters of the material found in Matthew. Mark is simply a significantly shorter gospel. The guard at the tomb story, while significant to the conspiracy story and consequently to Matthew’s apparently Jewish primary audience, is not a central aspect of the resurrection account. It’s not only absent from Mark but also from Luke and John.

In this way it is similar to Matthew’s account of the temple tax (Matthew 17:24-27) that Jesus miraculously paid for himself and Peter with the help of a fish. That account likewise is not found in Mark, Luke, or John, and likewise is of particular interest to Matthew’s presumably Jewish primary audience.

Moreover, while the first half of the guard at the tomb account is in an easily separable pericope, the second half of the guard at the tomb account is woven into the account of the arrival of the women at the tomb, which is part that Craig would undoubtedly consider historical. Thus, the keepers of the tomb should also be regarded as historical.

The second reason that Craig gives is that the disciples did not understand Jesus’ resurrection predictions, and therefore it is unlikely that Jesus’ critics would have recalled these predictions. This analysis seems contrary to our common experience. Often, one’s harshest critics pay even more attention to one’s words than one’s own friends. Moreover, the disciples had a mistaken notion that Jesus first coming was to be like his second coming, in terms of being triumphant. They seemed not to accept his very clear predictions of his own death. By contrast, Jesus’ critics mocked his prediction of his death and accused him of paranoia (“The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?” John 7:20, for example).

Thus, the disciples were quick to overlook Jesus’ comments specifically predicting his resurrection. By contrast, Jesus’ critics hung on his every word. (“Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.” Luke 11:54) So, when they were thinking how to eliminate this movement, they were not depressed and in despair over Jesus’ death, but instead were focused on trying to stamp out the movement altogether.

Neither of Craig’s reasons, therefore, provide a compelling case for rejecting the historicity of the guard at the tomb account.

The clip from the John Ankerberg show can be seen in the embedded video, below.

By the way, Geisler got on Mike Licona’s case for denying the historicity of the mass Jerusalem resurrection account. Why hasn’t he criticized Craig for denying the historicity of the guard at the tomb accounts? In fact, William Lane Craig’s analysis of the account and its significance are significantly more harmful to the doctrine of inerrancy than Licona’s treatment of the mass resurrection as apocalyptic. Where is the consistency? Is Geisler simply unaware?


The Positive and Negative Claims of Sola Scriptura

April 1, 2013

I’ve noted a number of Roman Catholics who seem to think that the advocates of Sola Scriptura need to prove that Scripture teaches “Scripture alone is the infallible rule of faith and life.” I understand (I think) this mindset – if you’re advocating “Sola Scriptura” you should be able to prove it. Part of the problem is that some Roman Catholics don’t seem to understand that “sola scriptura” is a name for a bundle of doctrines. There are both positive and negative positions within that bundle.

The primary positive claims of Sola Scriptura are that:

a) Everything we need to know for salvation is taught in Scripture. (Sufficiency)
b) Everything necessary for salvation is taught clearly in Scripture. (Perspicuity)

We could summarize these as simply “sufficiency.”

The negative claim of Sola Scriptura is that there is nothing else like it. This is a universal negative. But there are also specific negative claims, such as:

c) Teachers that teach contrary to Scripture should be rejected. (Primacy)
d) The Bible does not err. (Inerrancy)

That the Scripture teach (a)-(d) really should be enough for anyone who properly understands Sola Scriptura. The general negative claim of “and there is no other like it” does not have the same kind of burden. In other words, having established that the Scriptures are an infallible rule of faith, we can be content to let all comers try to prove that their supposedly supplemental rule of faith is also one. It’s not strictly necessary for us to remove that possibility antecedently.

Indeed, it is illogical for people to suppose that the position of sola scriptura would be defeated, simply because the negative part of the claim were unproven. Until some other infallible rule is established, Scripture alone is the default position.

I mention all of the above without getting into the question of whether the general negative claim can be established from Scripture, but rather simply observing the lack of consequences in the case that it could not. In short, sola scriptura is not discredited until either the sufficiency of Scripture is disproven or some other rule of faith established.


Christian Liberty, the Roman Communion, and Inerrancy

January 27, 2012

As Christians, we have a lot of liberty.  We can eat meat or abstain from eating it.  We can drink or abstain from drinking.  Moreover, in things about which Scripture has nothing to say, we have the Christian liberty to have a variety of opinions.

In theory, Rome’s communion has a similar policy.  They have more rigid rules about eating (sorry guys, it’s Friday, can’t have the bacon cheeseburger), but in theory they have a lot of leeway in theology.  If there is no “defined dogma” then those in Rome’s communion are (generally speaking) allowed to believe whatever they like.  Moreover, if there is no “official teaching,” those in Rome’s communion are (again, generally speaking) allowed to express their opinion.

So, it is with some amusement that I have been watching a certain e-pologist for the Roman communion who has been spending his time in an extended blog war with one of Rome’s actual apologists over the latter’s promotion of some video.  The video speculates about whether the NASA footage of the moon landing is genuine.

Let’s be clear about something – Rome has no official teaching or dogmatic definition regarding whether the moon landings happened, or whether the footage of them is real.  So, in theory, members of Rome’s communion should be free to hold various opinions about the subject.

I feel a little sorry for the real apologist who finds himself at the receiving end of the abuse from e-apologist over his views on the moon landing.  The only apparent motivation for the abuse from the e-pologist is to make the real apologist look bad for holding views that a lot of people will think are kooky.  Maybe the views are kooky, but he’s supposedly allowed to hold those views.

What’s amusing is that this same e-pologist claims that it’s “not liberal” for people to hold the documentary hypothesis! (“Is it liberal to adopt the documentary hypothesis? Dogmatically, I don’t think so, from a Catholic perspective.” source)

Whether the documentary hypothesis is correct isn’t something that we Christians have liberty about – it touches on and denies inerrancy.  But what is Rome’s view on inerrancy?

In summary, the following can be said with certainty: … with regards to what might be inspired in the many parts of Sacred Scripture, inerrancy applies only to “that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation” (DV 11)

(Nikola Eterovic, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church” in an Instrumentalis Laboris form, 2008)(but note that this portion of the working paper was not ultimately approved, as per this report)

Of course, previously, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had stated without qualification that “the absence of error in the inspired sacred texts” (15 July 1998) was something to be believed De Fide on a par with “the doctrine on the primacy and infallibility of the Roman Pontiff.”  Of course, “without qualification” is the way that a traditionalist would view it.  “Without clarification” is how a modernist would view it.

I understand that the CDF has been given the task of further clarifying the Roman position on inerrancy, but whether they adopt the modernist view espoused in the working paper above, or the orthodox view of full inerrancy, it’s truly remarkable that Rome’s e-pologist(s) (I understand Mark Shea has added to the pile of abuse as well) find it appropriate to bash one more noble than themselves for holding views that are perfectly acceptable within their own communion.

It seems like a classic case straining at the gnat (holding to an unusual view of America), whilst swallowing the camel (the documentary hypothesis).

– TurretinFan

Does Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) Accept the Historical Innerancy of Scripture?

March 5, 2011

At least one Roman apologist was giving my friend, John Bugay, some grief because Mr. Bugay was citing the work of Peter Lampe. It was alleged that Peter Lampe is a “liberal” because he denies the innerancy of Scripture on historical points.

Whether or not that is true, I wonder if that Roman apologist would be willing to aim his “liberal” label-maker at Joseph Ratzinger, who appears to deny the historical accuracy of the gospels, and in particular that of Matthew in this selection from his forth-coming book:

In all essentials, the four Gospels harmonise with one another in their accounts of the progress of the trial. Only John reports the conversation between Jesus and Pilate, in which the question about Jesus’ kingship, the reason for his death, is explored in depth (18:33-38). The historicity of this tradition is of course contested by exegetes. While Charles H. Dodd and Raymond E. Brown judge it positively, Charles K. Barrett is extremely critical: ”John’s additions and alterations do not inspire confidence in his historical reliability” (The Gospel According to Saint John, p. 530). Certainly no one would claim that John set out to provide anything resembling a transcript of the trial. Yet we may assume that he was able to explain with great precision the core question at issue, and that he presents us with a true account of the trial. Barrett also says ”that John has with keen insight picked out the key of the Passion narrative in the kingship of Jesus, and has made its meaning clearer, perhaps, than any other New Testament writer” (ibid., p. 531).

Now we must ask: who exactly were Jesus’ accusers? Who insisted that he be condemned to death? We must take note of the different answers that the Gospels give to this question. According to John it was simply ”the Jews”. But John’s use of this expression does not in any way indicate – as the modern reader might suppose – the people of Israel in general, even less is it ”racist” in character. After all, John himself was ethnically a Jew, as were Jesus and all his followers. The entire early Christian community was made up of Jews. In John’s Gospel this word has a precise and clearly defined meaning: he is referring to the Temple aristocracy. So the circle of accusers who instigate Jesus’ death is precisely indicated in the Fourth Gospel and clearly limited: it is the Temple aristocracy – and not without certain exceptions, as the reference to Nicodemus (7:50ff.) shows.

In Mark’s Gospel, the circle of accusers is broadened in the context of the Passover amnesty (Barabbas or Jesus): the ”ochlos” enters the scene and opts for the release of Barabbas. ”Ochlos” in the first instance simply means a crowd of people, the ”masses”. The word frequently has a pejorative connotation, meaning ”mob”. In any event it does not refer to the Jewish people as such. In the case of the Passover amnesty (which admittedly is not attested in other sources, but even so need not be doubted), the people, as so often with such amnesties, have a right to put forward a proposal, expressed by way of ”acclamation”. Popular acclamation in this case has juridical character (cf. Pesch, Markusevangelium, ii, p. 466). Effectively this ”crowd” is made up of the followers of Barabbas who have been mobilised to secure the amnesty for him: as a rebel against Roman power he could naturally count on a good number of supporters. So the Barabbas party, the ”crowd”, was conspicuous while the followers of Jesus remained hidden out of fear; this meant that the vox populi, on which Roman law was built, was represented one-sidedly. In Mark’s account, then, as well as ”the Jews”, that is to say the dominant priestly circle, the ochlos comes into play, the circle of Barabbas’ supporters, but not the Jewish people as such.

An extension of Mark’s ochlos, with fateful consequences, is found in Matthew’s account (27:25) which speaks of the ”whole people” and attributes to them the demand for Jesus’ crucifixion. Matthew is certainly not recounting historical fact here: how could the whole people have been present at this moment to clamour for Jesus’ death? It seems obvious that the historical reality is correctly described in John’s account and in Mark’s. The real group of accusers are the current Temple authorities, joined in the context of the Passover amnesty by the ”crowd” of Barabbas’ supporters.

Here we may agree with Joachim Gnilka, who argues that Matthew, going beyond historical considerations, is attempting a theological etiology with which to account for the terrible fate of the people of Israel in the Jewish War, when land, city and Temple were taken from them (cf. MatthÌusevangelium, ii, p. 459). Matthew is thinking here of Jesus’ prophecy concerning the end of the Temple: ”O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken” (Mt 23:37f.: cf. Gnilka, the whole of the section entitled ”Gerichtsworte”, pp. 295-308).

These words – as argued earlier, in the chapter on Jesus’ eschatological discourse – remind us of the inner similarity between the Prophet Jeremiah’s message and that of Jesus. Jeremiah – against the blindness of the then dominant circles – prophesied the destruction of the Temple and Israel’s exile. But he also spoke of a ”new Covenant”: punishment is not the last word, it leads to healing. In the same way Jesus prophesies the ”deserted house” and proceeds to offer the new Covenant ”in his blood”: ultimately it is a question of healing, not of destruction and rejection.

When in Matthew’s account the ”whole people” say: ”his blood be on us and on our children” (27:25), the Christian will remember that Jesus’ blood speaks a different language from the blood of Abel (Heb 12:24): it does not cry out for vengeance and punishment, it brings reconciliation. It is not poured out against anyone, it is poured out for many, for all. ”All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God God put [Jesus] forward as an expiation by his blood” (Rom 3:23, 25). Just as Caiaphas’ words about the need for Jesus’ death have to be read in an entirely new light from the perspective of faith, the same applies to Matthew’s reference to blood: read in the light of faith, it means that we all stand in need of the purifying power of love which is his blood. These words are not a curse, but rather redemption, salvation. Only when understood in terms of the theology of the Last Supper and the Cross, drawn from the whole of the New Testament, does this verse from Matthew’s Gospel take on its correct meaning.

– Joseph Ratzinger (under the name Benedict XVI), “Jesus of Nazareth – Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection” (source)

I don’t endorse the paragraphs above. Moreover, it does appear that Ratzinger is denying the historicity of Matthew’s account. He states that Matthew is “going beyond historical considerations” and “Matthew is certainly not recounting historical fact here.” It is interesting that he defends John against the charges that he appears to then make of Matthew. What will our Roman apologist friend do?


>Peter Abelard on the Inerrancy of Scripture in Contradistinction to the Errancy of the Fathers

August 14, 2010

>When it is clear that even the prophets and apostles themselves were not complete strangers to error, what is so surprising, then, if among such manifold writings of the Holy Fathers some things seem to be handed down or written erroneously, for the reason given above? But just as these holy ‘defendants’ should not be charged with lying if at one time or another, not from duplicity but from ignorance, they make some statements other than what the real truth would have them think; so in the same way something that is said for love while giving some instruction should not be imputed to presumption or sin, since it is well known that all things are distinguished by God according to intention, just as it is written (Matthew 6:22), “If thy eye be sound, thy whole body will be full of light.” Whence also this passage St. Augustine in his treatise on Church discipline: “Have love,” he says, “and do what you will.” And this on the Epistle of John (In Epist. Ioan. ad Parthos, tract. V, 7) “Those who have no love are not of God. Have whatever you wish, but if love is the only thing that you do not have, then nothing avails you. If you should have nothing else, but you do have love, then you will fulfill the Law.” And further (tract. VII, 8), “Therefore a single brief precept is commanded of you: Love, and do what you will.” And this from the first book of On Christian Doctrine (I, xxxvi, 40), “Whoever seems in his own opinion to understand the Holy Scriptures or any part of them, such that with this understanding he does not build up that twofold love of God and of his neighbor, then he does not yet understand. But if someone has derived from there an idea such that it is useful for building up love, then although he may not have said something that the author whom he is reading is proven to have meant in that spot, still, he is not dangerously deceived nor is he lying at all. For lying involves the intent of speaking false things.” And in the Against Lying (Contra Mendacium, xii, 26): “Lying is a false meaning in what is said, combined with the intent of misleading.” And in the Enchiridion, chapter 23 , “No one is rationally judged to be lying when they say something false that they believe is true, because, inasmuch as one believes it, one does not deceive but is oneself deceived. Likewise, someone who holds false opinions, carelessly accepted in place of true ones, ought to be accused not of lying but of sometime rashness. On the other hand, anyone lies who says a true thing, while believing that it is false. For insofar as his intent is concerned, because he does not say what he believes, to that extent he does not speak the truth, even if what he says may actually turn out to be true. Nor is someone free from lying, if they unwittingly speak the truth, but lie insofar as their knowledge and intent.” And this (Enchiridion 22): “Everyone who lies speaks in contradiction to what he believes in his mind, with the intention of deceiving.” And also, in Book Two of his commentary on the Gospels (Contra Mendacium x, 24): “That Jacob managed at his mother’s bidding to seem to deceive his father; if examined carefully, is not a lie but rather a mystery. For a truthful [i.e. allegorical] meaning can in no way rightly be called a lie.” Indeed in this passage the spiritual teacher only accepts as a lie a transgression which God, who is the judge of hearts and passions, weighs according to the intent of the speaker rather than according to the quality of the speech, paying attention not so much to what is done as to the spirit in which it is done. According to this, anyone is guiltless insofar as they think sincerely and without falseness and do not speak deceitfully – just as it is written (Proverbs 10:9), “He that walketh sincerely, walketh confidently.” Otherwise even the Apostle Paul might be accused of lying when he follows his own judgement rather than the truth of the matter as he writes to the Romans saying (Romans 15:28), “Therefore when I have completed this, and have delivered to them the proceeds, I will set out by way of you for Spain.” Thus it is one thing to lie and another to be mistaken while speaking and to stray from the truth in one’s words due to error, not to malice.

If God on occasion does allow this to happen even to the holy ones themselves, as we have said, in those situations that would cause no damage to the faith, it does not happen unproductively to those by whom everything is undertaken for the good. Even the ecclesiastical teachers themselves, diligently attentive and believing some things in their works needed correction, grant to posterity the license to emend or not to follow them; if somehow these teachers were not able to retract or correct in their works. Whence even the teacher Augustine, cited above, in Book One of his Retractions (prologus 2): “It is written,” he says, “you do not avoid sin by loquacity.” And also “The apostle James says (James 1:19), ‘Let every man be swift to hear but slow to speak’.’” And ” (James 3:2) ‘For in many things we all offend. If anyone does not offend in word, he is a perfect man.’ I do not claim this perfection for myself even now, when I am an old man – how much less when as a young man I began to write.” And in the prologue to Book Three of the On the Trinity (proem 2): “Do not defer to my writings as if they were canonical scriptures, but whatever you would find in the canonical scriptures that you did not believe, believe steadfastly. But in my writings I do not want you to accept with assurance something that you had not been taking as certain unless you now understand it as certain.” And in the letters to Vincentus Victor, Book Two (De Anime et eius Origine iv, 1): “I cannot, nor should I, deny that just as I might be blamed for many things in my conduct by fair judgement without rashness, so I might be blamed for many things in my writings.” And again in his letter to Vincent (Epist. 95, x, 35), “Do not desire, brother, to collect calumnies against such clear divine witnesses -– either from our writings, or from Hilary, or from Cyprian and Agrippinus, because this type of writing should be distinguished from the authority of the canon. For they are not to be read as if it were not permissible to disagree with the testimony presented in them, if in some place they should claim to know otherwise than the truth demands.” And again to Fortunatianus (Epist. 148, iv, 15): “Nor ought we to regard the arguments of anyone, no matter how Catholic and well-regarded, in the way we regard the canonical scriptures, that is (with all due respect to these men) as if we were not permitted to refute or reject something that we find in their writings where their opinions differ from the established truth. I wish my readers to hold the same attitude toward my writings as I hold toward the writings of others.” And again in the Response to Faustus (Contra Faustum, Book 1, Chapter xi): “We are far from saying that Paul sometimes erred and changed his opinion as he advanced. For one could say that the books we have written, not with the authority of commanding but in the exercise of utility, are not comparable to the [canonical] books.” And again (Contra Faustum, XI, v): “For we are the ones of whom the Apostle said: ‘and in any point you are minded otherwise, this also God will reveal to you’ — this type of writing of letters should be read not with a compulsion to believe but with the freedom to evaluate. However, so that the room for this freedom is not excluded, and that very healthy task of treating difficult questions and translating their language and style is not denied to later authors, the excellence of the canonical authority of the Old and New Testaments has been distinguished from that of the works of later authors. If there should be something in the Old or New Testament that seems as if it were absurd, you may not say that the author of this work did not possess the truth, but that the manuscript is corrupt, or the translator has made a mistake, or that you do not understand. But in works of later witness, contained in innumerable volumes, if perhaps some things are thought to deviate from the truth because they are not understood as they have been expressed, in these works the reader or listener has the freedom of judgement to approve what seems good or disapprove of what offends, and therefore when it comes to things of this type, unless they are supported either by sure reasoning or canonical authority, so that what is either argued or narrated there may be shown either to be entirely so or to be potentially so, if it does not seem good to someone or they do not wish to believe it, they are not reproached.”

(292-304) And thus he calls the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments documents about which it is heretical to say that something in them contradicts the truth. Indeed, concerning these Scriptures he writes thus in his fourth letter to Jerome (Epist. 40, iii, 3): “In the explanation of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians I find something that pains me deeply. For if even white lies were permitted to the Holy Scriptures, what authority would they retain? How, I pray, could this view be set forth concerning the same Scriptures by whose weight the contentious depravity of falsehood is crushed?” And again, to the same man also about Holy Scripture (Epist. 28, iii, 3): “It seems to me a most dangerous thing to allow that anything in the sacred books may be a lie, that is, that those men who preserved and wrote the Scriptures for us should have lied about anything in their books. For if a single white lie is admitted anywhere in so lofty an authority, then no particle of these books will remain which will not be explained as the idea or practice of the author’s mind, using this most dangerous example whenever anyone finds something difficult to practice or hard to believe.”

St. Jerome, also, when he preferred some ecclesiastical doctors to the rest, thus counseled us that they should be read in order to judge among them rather than merely accepting them. Whence this advice of his in his letter to Laeta concerning the education of her daughter (Epist. 107, 12): “The works of Cyprian she ought always to hold in hand; the works of Athanasius and the book of Hilary to tread with an unhindered foot; let her enjoy the treatises and talents of those in whose books the piety of faith does not waver. The others she ought to read so as to judge rather than to accept.” So also in speaking on Psalm 86, as if clearly offering his authority on all these writers, Jerome says (Tractatus de Ps. 86): “‘the Lord will tell, in the writings of the leaders and the princes, those who were in her [i.e. Zion]’. He did not say ‘those who are in her’ but ‘those who have been in her’. ‘Of the peoples’ is not enough, but he also says ‘of the princes’ –- and of what princes? Of ‘those who have been’. Thus you may see how the sacred Scripture is filled with holy mysteries. We read the Apostle saying (2 Corinthians 13:3), ‘Do you seek a proof of the Christ who speaks in me?’ What Paul said, Christ said (‘For he who receives you, receives me’ – Matthew 10:40) in the Scripture of the princes and ‘in the Scripture of the peoples’, which is the Scripture for all people. You may see what he says: ‘those who have been’, not ‘ those who are’, so that with the exception of the apostles whatever else is said afterwards is separate, and does not possess authority afterward. Therefore, however holy someone may be who lived after the apostles, and however well-spoken, he does not possess authority.” And the same author writing to Vigilantius (Epist. 129, 11): “Whoever reads works of many treatises ought to be like a trusted moneychanger so that he rejects any coin that is false and lacks the image of Caesar and is not marked by the public mint; but the coin showing the face of Christ in the clear light he stores up in the pouch of his heart. For what ought to be pondered is not the predecided opinion of the teachers, but the logic of the teaching, as it is written (1 Thess. 5:21), ‘Test all thing; hold fast that which is good.’” However, this is said in reference to the commentators, not in reference to the canonical Scriptures, in which one should have undoubting faith. Jerome also wrote to Paulinus concerning the holy teachers in the Good Man Concerning the Good Treasure of the Heart (Epist. 58, 1, 10): “I am silent concerning the rest, both the dead and those still living, over whom others after us may judge either way.”

– Peter Abelard (1079-1142), Sic et Non, Prologue, lines 249-329 (copied with permission from the linked source)

A Second Anathema Against Biologos

July 27, 2010

Another – and independent – reason that I do not consider Biologos “one of us,” (see the first anathema here) is its policy of permitting and promoting articles that deny inerrancy, such as the work of Kenton Sparks. Again, I realize that true believers can be misled by false teachers, but it is a serious departure from the fundamentals of the faith to deny that Scripture – in the original autographs – is inerrant. To deny that is, in effect, to reject the Word of God.

Sparks goes so far as to say:

The factual contradictions within Scripture or between Scripture and extrabiblical sources cited in my previous blog are not, in my view, the most serious difficulties that Christians face in the Bible. More troublesome are those cases where a biblical text espouses ethical values that not only contradict other biblical texts but strike us as down-right sinister or evil.


The idea that there are true factual contradictions within Scripture (in the original autographs) is a serious error. Many folks, however, who hold to such an opinion stop there. They allege that there are trivial factual errors and nothing more. This is still a serious error: Scripture is the Word of God, and God does not make even trivial factual errors.

Scripture tells us that the hairs of our head are numbered.

Matthew 10:30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

Luke 12:7 But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

God does not just have infinite cognitive power, he’s attentive to details.

And that also extends to the Word of God:

Matthew 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Luke 16:17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.

Likewise, and perhaps most critically, God’s word cannot be broken, thus we can rely on it:

John 10:35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;

Similarly we see that God’s word is pure:

Psalm 119:140 Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.

Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.

Psalm 18:30 As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.

In that last verse, “tried,” has the sense of “refined,” something without any impurities.

Nevertheless, while claims that there were trivial factual errors (to be clear, things like using round numbers are not errors) in the original is a serious error, to allege that the original Scriptures contradict one another with respect to moral teaching is essentially heretical.

Scripture itself plainly teaches:

2 Timothy 3:16-17
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Sparks concludes the portion of his article to which I’ve linked above with the claim: “Even more in our day than his, it is clear that Biblicistic inerrancy is an intellectual disaster.” May I respectfully but strenuously insist that it is clear that the rejection of inerrancy is a spiritual disaster.

I also don’t agree with Sparks that inerrancy is an intellectual disaster. I’m not one of those people who say, in tones that sound pious, that we must sacrifice the intellect to maintain the faith. The use of the intellect is perfectly compatible with the doctrine of inerrancy. In fact, on the contrary, the attitude that Sparks displays in his article of refusing to let “Evangelicals” explain why apparent contradictions are only apparent contradictions, and not actual contradictions, is one of intellectual laziness – a true intellectual disaster. The result is that Sparks is making shipwreck both of the faith he apparently professes and of his own intellect.


Augustine the Inerrantist (and Justin too)

March 19, 2009

Nick Norelli at Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth has an interesting post on Justin Martyr and his view of inerrancy (link). I would, however, respectfully disagree that Justin’s is the strongest statement of inerrancy we see in the early church. I find similarly strong statements in other church fathers, such as in Augustine who affirmed both inerrancy and Sola Scriptura, even while affirming the fallibility of Peter and recognizing that the New Testament was consciously written as Scripture:

5. But he answers, “What did Paul find to criticize in Peter?” What else but what he said himself, what he wrote himself? He himself composed a letter as a record, he left it to posterity to be read in the Church. What can I safely believe in the divine books, if I don’t believe what is written in that letter? It’s an apostolic letter, it’s a canonical letter. It’s a letter from Paul, who labored more than them all; not he, though, but the grace of God with him (1 Cor 15:10). So it’s a letter from the grace of God. And if we recall who was speaking in him, it’s a letter from Christ. Or do you wish, he says, to have experience of the one who is speaking in me, Christ? (2 Cor 13:3). Listen, and fear. He said “experience,” not a pretense. But if you don’t think that’s enough, listen to his own public assertion, in which he even calls God to witness. This is how he started the tale of what he was going to point out, as though foreseeing that there would be some people who queried the truth of it: But what I am writing to you, he said, see before God that I am not lying (Gal. 1:20). So then, when he calls God to witness like that, is he lying, seeing that without any calling of God to witness the mouth that lies, it says, will kill, not the body, but the soul (Wis 1:11)? I beg you, don’t let Paul be killed in the soul for Peter’s sake; they were both killed together in the flesh for Christ’s sake.

Augustine, Sermon 162C, Section 5 (The Works of Augustine, Sermons III/11, New City Press, 1997, p. 169)

I realize that a few people are going to read everything Augustine said in that section and home in on the allusion to Wisdom 1:11, losing track of everything else that was said. I hope that if you’re one of those people you’ll think about re-reading the paragraph, setting that issue aside. Although Augustine does seem to allude to (or even quote from) a verse from the Book of Wisdom, he doesn’t identify that book as the canonical Scriptures here. Instead, the canonical Scriptures being discussed here are Paul’s own epistle to the Galatians.


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