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More on this inerrancy thing.

I'm curious - is there anyone here who believes that the Bible they regularly use, meaning the translation they read, be it ESV, NASB or whatever, is fully inerrant and/or verbally inspired? Unless we have some KJVO folks lurking, I'd hazard a guess that the answer is no.

If my guess is accurate, do we still treat our versions as authoritative?  

If so, does that mean that we believe that God can effectively communicate through scriptures that are flawed, meaning not just errant, but also not verbally inspired?

If that's the case, then on what do we base the doctrine of inerrancy, other than our own presuppositions, which may be flawed?

If God is willing (evidently) to use flawed scriptures to change the world, and has done so since scripture was given, why do we think he must have given perfect scripture in the autographs? If eliminating human error was important in the autographs, why was it not important in transmission?  Really, if God wanted and ensured inerrancy in the autographs, why drop the ball in transmission?  Was he tired from the inspiration thing?  It all just slipped out of his control once so many people started making copies? Of course not.  It seems obvious to me that inerrancy in transmission is not something God required.   So why do we think it's essential in the original writing of those same texts?  if it's not a big deal to God, why is it such a big deal to us?

When I posted similar thoughts on Jason's presupposition thread, he replied:

Never the less, just let me say at present that we are close enough to the autographs to have reasonable confidence in our Greek text. That means that any good translation gives us the same benefits.

 

If "close enough" is good enough for us to use for teaching, correcting, rebuking and training in righteousness (and I believe it is), then why not apply the same standard to the autographs?

Tags: Inerrancy, autographs, transmission

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Infallible has a meaning already.  It means "without the possibility of error" or "incapable of error."  Importing something else into the meaning means you are talking about "something else."

 

Carry on.

 

Dave Z said:

Jax Agnesson said:

I am taking the word inerrant to mean 'not failing to communicate the intended message'.

I'd call that infallible, and it's basically the position I hold.

From Dictionary.com.   I'm using meaning number two with a dash of number one.  You're using meaning three.  One and two together beats three.  

I win. 

 

 

in·fal·li·ble

  
[in-fal-uh-buhl] 
adjective
1. absolutely trustworthy or sure: an infallible rule.
2. unfailing in effectiveness or operation; certain: an infallible remedy.
3. not fallible; exempt from liability to error, as persons, their judgment, or pronouncements: an 
     infallible principle.
4. Roman Catholic Church. immune from fallacy or liability to error in expounding matters of faith 
    or morals by virtue of the promise made by Christ to the Church.

 

These are intriguing distinctions, Dave. i would have supposed no 3 to apply to God, as it emphasises incapability of error: God simply can't be wrong. Our interpretation of His Scripture can be wrong, and often is. And we are so desperate to get it right, we will even come to blows about it.

Since God designed us, God designed and therefore knows our capabilities and our limitations; and since He also designed the means of communication, (the laguages and the Scriptures)  He cannot have 'tried and failed' to create the level of understanding we have; which is very little. He isn't like me or you, trying to explain something to a child, or even to a memberr of a different species, like dog or hamster. He is God. if He wanted to communicate something unmistakeably, He could have done so. And He hasn't.

Dave Z said:

From Dictionary.com.   I'm using meaning number two with a dash of number one.  You're using meaning three.  One and two together beats three.  

I win. 

 

 

in·fal·li·ble

  
[in-fal-uh-buhl] 
adjective
1. absolutely trustworthy or sure: an infallible rule.
2. unfailing in effectiveness or operation; certain: an infallible remedy.
3. not fallible; exempt from liability to error, as persons, their judgment, or pronouncements: an 
     infallible principle.
4. Roman Catholic Church. immune from fallacy or liability to error in expounding matters of faith 
    or morals by virtue of the promise made by Christ to the Church.

 

Theopedia

Because we can't have enough authoritative Internet definitions.



Dave Z said:

Do I understand correctly that you're arguing that we don't understand the message?

Yes. That is exactly what I am saying. There are and have been so many peole and armies warring about the meaning of Scripture that any claim of 'understanding' seems very tenuous eo me. Does a Catholic understand the message of the New Testament, or a Baptist? Does a Jew understand the message of the Pentateuch, or a Muslim?

Is eating pork an abomination inthe Lord's sight. or isn't it? The Jew and the Muslim would say Yes. Any variety of Jew, and any variety of Muslim, probably, would agree with the whole pig-eating ban. The Catholic and the Baptist will be too busy discussing theology down at the hog-roast.  Yeee haw!

What did Jesus mean by 'Thou art Peter, and upon this rock....etc'? Ask a Catholic, then ask a Protestant. Any variety of Protestant.

God hasn't made Himself very clear, has He?

Jax Agnesson said:

God hasn't made Himself very clear, has He?

 

There's more than one way to look at that, including application, as you yourself observed:

If Paul is pondering the situation in Timothy's church, (having regard to the plight of widows who are over the age at which they might reasonably hope to remarry, considering what sort of benevolence the church can financially afford to dispense, and so on,) he might well have been inspired by his God to rule 'not less than sixty years old' etc. But even if God dictated those precise stipulations, that wouldn't mean God would dictate the same precise stipulations to a church leader pondering similar questions today. There is therefore no literal or necessary connection between inspiration, literal truth, etc,  and applicability.

 

What you're speaking of Jax, IIUC,  is a redefinition of humanity, to have us become objects on which God imposes his will, in this case, imposes on us his message.  It's akin to programming a computer, where the computer can only output the info that is input, but we are more than computers.  We are a complexity that is beyond our own understanding.  I still say God's primary message is fully understandable.  We can quibble over details, but the main point is clear, as I have said a couple of times.  

I have to be off for a while now.  I'll check in when I can.



Jax Agnesson said:

Yes. Understood. But I have not designed or created puppies or children. My powers of communication are limited. God's aren't limited, except as He pleases. So He has been pleased to leave us guessing, knowing that one result would be bloodshed over our fuddled interpretation of His commands. This has to be part of His plan, in that it could have been averted simply by making His wishes more understandable. I have no such power. 

Sorry Dave, I don't see the relevance of this to the question at hand.


With that comment you have quoted, I was arguing that,  even if a piece of Scripture is taken to be the Word of God, that doesn't necessarily mean it is to be interpreted literally in the same way at all times. But how does this 'invitation to interpret' help us towards, rather than away from, any kind of certainty about God's message?

If the Lutheran, the Baptist and the Roman Catholic are equally good interpretations, then so are the Reform, Hasidic, Sunni, Shia, etc. And why not take the Mahabarat and the Guru Grath Sahib? What is it that all Christians can say in common that God has communicated to them particularly, about what He wants from them, that is different from what all the other faiths (and most of the agnostics and atheists) also recognise as right behaviour??


If Dave Z said:

Jax Agnesson said:

God hasn't made Himself very clear, has He?

 

There's more than one way to look at that, including application, as you yourself observed:

If Paul is pondering the situation in Timothy's church, (having regard to the plight of widows who are over the age at which they might reasonably hope to remarry, considering what sort of benevolence the church can financially afford to dispense, and so on,) he might well have been inspired by his God to rule 'not less than sixty years old' etc. But even if God dictated those precise stipulations, that wouldn't mean God would dictate the same precise stipulations to a church leader pondering similar questions today. There is therefore no literal or necessary connection between inspiration, literal truth, etc,  and applicability.

 

Regarding the meaning of "infallible" - I understand that the theological community tends to use a particular definition of infallible and that some see it as a stronger term than inerrant.  Rey has pointed that out on more than one occasion.  But I don't think one group's definition redefines the word for everyone (at least not right away - consider the word "gay").  

Every dictionary I checked, including American Heritage and Merriam-Webster, lists at least 3 possible definitions, one of which is the meaning I intend when I use the word.  That meaning is not "incapable of error, but "incapable of failure."  I prefer that because it addresses the purpose of scripture, not just its nature.  

So the fact that Theopedia or Jeremy Pierce or Fuller Seminary hold a different definition does not somehow negate my usage, which is fully in accord with the accepted definitions.  

Okay, looked at the link. But in the discussion I have been familiar with "infallible" has been used in what this article calls the "Fuller" way. Note that is not a way that is "more full" but connected with a seminary named "Fuller" (which at times seems emptier to me... unless you specify a certain something that it is full of... then, it has assuredly been fuller... But I digress).

 

I know Rey and some have been saying "infallible" is in fact stronger because it say Scripture is incapable of being false rather than just not being false. Frankly, I don't see much point in this. The text is a fait accompli. It is WRITTEN. So it either is true or false as it is now. It isn't going to be meaning anything different in the future, so what it CAN or CANNOT do is no more important than what it DOES or DOESN'T do.

 

In fact I'd even submit it's a little less important--in a way.  If I'm on a ship--let's call it Titanic--if I am given two statements on my trip across the Atlantic (1) it can't sink (2) it didn't sink... Frankly, I'm glad for (1) but even more comforted when (2) has been accomplished. I suppose if someone tells me (2) happened because (1) is true, then well, everything is peachy. However, I'm not altogether safer because it couldn't sink than I am because it didn't sink.

 

I guess we can say that Scripture couldn't err because the HS was superintending it's writing. God cannot lie or err when He speaks. So as far as that goes, God's communication is infallable, in the sense of incapable of erring. But the people who wrote it, in themselves, certainly could err. So the human factor in itself introduces fallibility, one might say.  The end result, though, is the fact that it did not err, through to the written text. It is more important that the HS made sure it didn't err, than to say that the process is incapable of producing error... I think, anyway.

 



Rey Reynoso said:

I must admit I also think this. To paraphrase Winston Churchill about the Battle of Britain ("never have so many owed so much to so few") and apply the idea to the enormous cost of failing to believe the right thing: "never have so many depended for so much on the basis of so little". Jesus's parable about the eye of the needle does I fear apply not only to the rich man but to the vast majority of men, women and children.
Jax Agnesson said:

 

I was aware of the existing definition, and was extemporising on it as I think it applies in this context. Specifically, if an important message is framed, delivered or disseminated in a way that makes it more difficult to understand than it could have been,, wouldn't that be an 'error'? Taking as given the idea  that God is not only the originator of the message, but the designer of  the channel of communication (Scripture) and the creator of the recipients (ourselves)?


If, after thousands of years, we still haven't understood the message very well, is it not better to assume that an omnipotent and omniscient God must have intended us not to understand it very well, rather than supposing he just failed to communicate as well as He would have wanted?


And given that intention, would it not follow that the idea of an original inerrant graphe is not reasonable? A message designed so that it will become indecipherable is surely not free of error; but in the context of an originator who can know with certainty the fate of the message, there is no such thing as an oversight. That there exists today no way of being certain of God's message implies that God intended that we should not know His message with certainty.

 

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