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(My response is in bold.)
I believe that David wrote his comment with good intentions, desiring to contribute to the conversation. I have no reason to doubt David's honesty,integrity, and goodness. Sadly, though David probably doesn't realize it, such a comment demonstrates that he has a very low view of the character and intellect of those who believe in the inerrancy of the Scriptures. I think that David meant well in commenting, and thought that he was being helpful. As we shall see, however, much of what has been said presents to us an unhelpful argument that is filled with ad hominem argumentation, straw men, and non sequiturs.
My own view stands with Frank Viola, who has stated that it is "unneccessary (sic) to use words like inerrancy or plenary to refer to the truthfulness of the scriptures." I think that this argument about whether or not the Bible was dictated, is every verse of it divinely written, etc. stems from how we see the Bible--whether or not we see it as a holistic narrative or a systematic theology book. And I will go further to say that, in my own view, to say the Bible is inerrant is most of the time a way of avoiding truly understanding the Bible.
There is nothing that prevents a person believing in both inerrancy and the fact that Scripture is a holistic narrative. In fact, holding to the Bible being a holistic narrative is good reason to believe that it is inerrant. After all, wouldn't we expect God to tell us the truth in a perfect manner as He tells us the story of how He has dealt with His people, and as He makes promises to His people?
At the same time, I know of no one who holds the belief that the Bible is a systematic theology. Perhaps there are a very few people who do believe that, but they are not representative of the majority who hold to the inerrancy of the Scriptures. To imply that those of us who do hold to inerrancy consider the Bible to be a systematic theology is a straw man.
There are five things we need to remember when reading the Bible.
1. The Bible is incarnational. The Bible was written through God inspiring, breathing His spirit into, human beings who then wrote the Bible. This is divine and human co-authorship, and if we are to call the Bible the written Word of God, we must then admit that it is indeed just as human as it is divine, for if it is Word of God then it takes after Jesus, the ultimate Word of God. Thus the Spirit of God is inspiring words that must go through the psyche of the men who were inspired, the time period in which they lived, and the issues important in that day before they reached the paper. That's not to say that it's warped or distorted, but that in the Bible we hear both God and man's voices, sometimes in union, sometimes in conversation, sometimes in monologue, and the Bible is usually clear about which is which.
The Bible is incarnational? Perhaps we could get a definition of the word.
As far as the Scripture being written through God breathing His Spirit into human beings who then wrote the Bible, we reply that God's people do indeed possess the indwelling Spirit of God. God did not, however, breathe into people and the people write the Scripture. The very Scriptures themselves are God-breathed. God-breathed out the Scriptures.
Did men write the Bible? Yes. Perhaps there are some who hold to some radical view that the Bible is so wholly Divinely-given that men were not involved, but that view would certainly be aberrant and unacceptable to the majority who hold to the inerrancy of the Scriptures. To insinuate that those of us who believe that the Holy Scriptures are inerrant do not believe that men were used of God to write Scripture is simply incorrect at best.
The assertion that men were inspired and the words had to filter through them does not take seriously the understanding that Scripture is inspired. The Bible does not tell us that men were inspired. It tells us that they were born along by the Holy Spirit, but it does not tell us that men were inspired. There is one inspiration, and that is the inspiration of the Scriptures. The very words are inspired. That is one reason that we hold to inerrancy: inspiration means that the result men being carried along by the Spirit is that the very words that they wrote were the words God willed to be given to us. Since those words are God's Words, and God cannot err or lie, those words do not err and are true.
It would be helpful if those who insist on this "incarnational" view of Scriptures would remember the words of B.B. Warfield who warned us about this:
"It has been customary among a certain school of writers to speak of the Scriptures,
because thus “inspired,” as a Divine-human book, and to appeal to the analogy of
Our Lord’s Divine-human personality to explain their peculiar qualities as such. The
expression calls attention to an important fact, and the analogy holds good a certain
distance. There are human and Divine sides to Scripture, and, as we cursorily
examine it, we may perceive in it, alternately, traits which suggest now the one, now
the other factor in its origin. But the analogy with Our Lord’s Divine-human
personality may easily be pressed beyond reason. There is no hypostatic union
between the Divine and the human in Scripture; we cannot parallel the
“inscripturation” of the Holy Spirit and the incarnation of the Son of God. The
Scriptures are merely the product of Divine and human forces working together to
produce a product in the production of which the human forces work under the
initiation and prevalent direction of the Divine: the person of Our Lord unites in itself
Divine and human natures, each of which retains its distinctness while operating only
in relation to the other. Between such diverse things there can exist only a remote
analogy; and, in point of fact, the analogy in the present instance amounts to no more
than that in both cases Divine and human factors are involved, though very
differently. In the one they unite to constitute a Divine-human person, in the other
they coöperate to perform a Divine-human work. Even so distant an analogy may
enable us, however, to recognize that as, in the case of Our Lord’s person, the
human nature remains truly human while yet it can never fall into sin or error because
it can never act out of relation with the Divine nature into conjunction with which it
has been brought; so in the case of the production of Scripture by the conjoint action
of human and Divine factors, the human factors have acted as human factors, and
have left their mark on the product as such, and yet cannot have fallen into that error
which we say it is human to fall into, because they have not acted apart from the
Divine factors, by themselves, but only under their unerring guidance"1
2. The Bible is Jewish. Every author of the Bible was Jewish. Jewish worldview, concerns, and culture is prevalent throughout the entire Bible. We can't read the Bible with Western eyes or mindset, and we also can't say something as conclusive as "the Bible is inerrant" without taking into account that much of the Bible is focused as a message to Israel and not primarily to us, though it does have important applications for our lives.
This argument is a non sequitur. It simply does not follow that, because the Bible is Jewish and written by and to predominately Jewish people (Note that I said "predominately Jewish",because Luke was a Gentile. David errors when he asserts that every biblical author was Jewish.), it is not inerrant. What does ethnicity have to do with the presence or absence of error? Does David mean that Jewish people could not, or would not, be used of God to give us His Words in truth and accuracy?
To insinuate that the Jewish origin and character of Scripture means that it cannot be inerrant is to at least insinuate the Jewish people could not get it right. Does David truly wish to say such a thing as that?
This argument seems to insinuate that those of us who believe that the Scriptures are inerrant read the Bible "with Western eyes or mindset". It also seems to insinuate that those who don't hold to inerrancy do not do so. One only need to contemplate this for a moment to see that this is a subtle ad hominem argument, because it insinuates that those of us who hold to inerrancy are either unable or unwilling to remove our cultural blinders when we read the Scriptures. Sadly such a statement as this actually tells us more about the the character and knowledge level of the one making the argument. It demonstrates that the one making the argument has neither taken the time nor expended the necessary effort to read the works of God's people (both ancient and contemporary) who embrace the inerrancy of the Scriptures. Had he done so, he would recognize that there are many who hold to the inerrancy of the Scriptures who also knew much about the times, customs, religion, and history of the Jews.
To insinuate that those of us who believe in the inerrancy of the Scriptures do not take "into account that much of the Bible is focused as a message to Israel and not primarily to us" is a puerile argument that truly has nothing to do with inerrancy. It also demonstrates that the one making the argument has not seriously considered the very words of Scripture which tell us the following:
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)
“For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.” And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.”” (Romans 15:8–12)
Obviously the Bible is not only to Israel, but to the Church as well. Of course, if it were to Israel alone, it does not follow that it must not be inerrant.
3. The Bible is a library. The "Bible" is not one book. It's a collection of books with a wide variety of literary genres and thus a wide variety of intention, target audience, style, and purpose. To say the Bible is inerrant and to not consider that not every book of the Bible is intended to say the exact same thing--not that they are in disagreement, but they have different purposes and context--is again to essentially say that we are not going to really look at the Bible for all it is.
To simply state that the Bible is a library with a variety of genres, etc. does not relate at all to the issue of inerrancy. Those of us who believe in inerrancy are students of hermeneutics. We recognize that we will do well to consider various background issues and genres as we study the Scriptures. To insinuate otherwise is another subtle ad hominem which seems to say that we either do not have the will, or do not have the intellect, to consider these things. I repeat that this argument demonstrates that the one making the argument is not well read in the writings of Bible believing inerrantists.
It is a non sequitur to assert that the Bible cannot be inerrant due to its being "a collection of books with a wide variety of literary genres and thus a wide variety of intention, target audience, style, and purpose."
4. The Bible is a metanarrative that involves many sub-plots and other stories. The Bible tells one grand story--a God who created a world for himself to dwell in and reign in and a human race to do it with, in, and through and how he got humanity to a place where He and they were on the same page. But within that are many stories--the story of human civilization and society, the agricultural revolution (really read Genesis 3 from a historical perspective), the story of Israel and the Abrahamic calling and mission, the progression of empire, the tale of religion and spirituality, etc. All of those stories make up this grand story, but need to be studied in depth themselves to be understood. Again, I propose that to simply say, "The Bible is inerrant," is to simply decide not to try and understand the Bible for all its worth, because to say that is to blend all of these stories together rather than seeing them as divergent tributaries that eventually return to the river of their source in the great waterfall, Jesus himself.
Again, I say that it is both an ad hominem argument and a non sequitur to say, "I propose that to simply say, "The Bible is inerrant," is to simply decide not to try and understand the Bible for all its worth, because to say that is to blend all of these stories together rather than seeing them as divergent tributaries that eventually return to the river of their source in the great waterfall, Jesus himself."
I also reiterate that to write such a thing shows that the one making the argument is quite ignorant of the wide range of writings by people who hold to inerrancy. Had David been acquainted with writers such as John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Gill, or B.B. Warfield, to name a few, he would not imply that those of us who hold to the inerrancy of the Scriptures do not study the Scriptures seriously.
5. The Bible wasn't written in English. Much of our English language is saturated with our own worldview and opinion. When we translate the Bible we often translate it to satisfy Western worldview, which is easy to do with Western language, and thus we lose the Jewish worldview and language of the original Bible. In so doing, when we call the Bible "inerrant," we may actually be calling our translation "inerrant" and the ideas presented by our translations inerrant rather than the Bible itself.
I think that the best of linguistic scholars acknowledge that there is some information that is lost in translation. To imply, however, that translation causes us to totally lose sight of the worldview and background of the Scriptures is greatly inaccurate. To then transfer this assertion to the inerrancy argument and assert that we may be calling our translation inerrant is a straw man argument. I know of no one who asserts this. In fact, most who hold to the inerrancy of the Scriptures affirm that a translation is inerrant so long as it accurately represents the autographic text.
Realizing this--that the Bible is a collection of books by Jewish authors who were writing books primarily intended for their contemporaries to relate something God was saying to the people through members of their own nation that were written in Hebrew at different times and usually not with the intention of bringing them altogether--we should realize that the inerrancy debate is of secondary importance. The primary realm of study ought to be on understanding how the themes of these scriptures remain consistent and come together after their divergence, understanding what those themes, those narratives, those stories, teach us about God's heart and purpose, understand why it matters when the writers are in unison with God's voice and when they're not, etc. then whether or not every single word was dictated by God. Because inspiration does not involve dictation, it involves the Spirit of God speaking through real people, involving their individuality and personhood in the words.
Again, David seems to think that those of us who believe in the inerrancy of the Scriptures do not recognize the thematic unity of the Bible. Had David simply read some of my blogs on http://pastoralmusings.com , he would know that such an argument holds no water. I wrote extensively on the thematic unity of the Bible quite a while back.
To state that the inerrancy debate is of secondary importance is to misunderstand the debate. The debate is not merely regarding the text of the Scripture. The debate is whether God has spoken to us and spoken truthfully. It involves the very character and power of God: does God speak truly, and would He speak the truth to us without error? That is the issue that is before us, among other things.
While presenting the argument against inerrancy, David tells us what the primary realm of study ought to be. In making such a statement he implies that those of us who believe in inerrancy focus on inerrancy to the exclusion of the big picture of the Bible. This is subtle, but it is another straw man that does not truly represent us.
Finally, most all of us who hold that the Scriptures are inerrant accept that God spoke through real people, used their personalities, gifts, individuality, and their culture. We simply believe that God did that and gave us an inerrant Bible.
1 Revelation and Inspiration, Volume 1, page 81, by Benjamin B. Warfield.