Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Battles for the Bible

The Bible is a virtual battleground – an Armageddon – and always has been. One common attack is upon the doctrine of “inerrancy” – that the Scriptures had been without error in their original writing. The challengers claim that the Bible never mentions the word “inerrancy” and that the Bible never teaches this doctrine. In this regard, let’s just consider a small number of verses:

• JESUS: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18). If there were errors in the originals, then Jesus couldn’t have been confident that everything would be “accomplished.”

• JESUS: "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God'" (Matthew 4:4-6). To claim that we need “every word” is to claim that it all comes from above, and that we are in no position to pick-and-choose according to our own “wisdom.”

• PAUL: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Paul is not suggesting, as some allege, that it was merely the writers of Scripture who were inspired, but then screwed things up when attempting to put their inspiration into words, all types of human errors crept in. Instead, Paul claims that the Scriptures themselves that were inspired.

• PETER: “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:19-21).

These verses do not allow much wiggle-room for those who wish to claim that the NT wasn’t about inerrancy. However, the CEs aren’t alone in disparaging that the Bible, at least in its original, had been fully God-breathed and consequently, without error. Emergent Church leader and pastor, Doug Pagett, buries this doctrine with a different shovel:

“The inerrancy debate is based on the belief that the Bible is the word of God, that the Bible is true because God made it and gave it to us as a guide to truth. But that’s not what the Bible says.” (“A Christianity Worth Believing,” 65)

How then does he get around Paul’s assertion that “All Scripture is God-breathed?” Pagett claims,

• “For Paul, the Holy Scriptures were alive; God was creating and re-creating through them. The Bible wasn’t a removed ‘truth text.’ It was a fully integrated piece of the Christian life, one that held authority because it was a living, breathing symbol of God’s continual activity.”

I certainly agree with Pagett that Scripture is not a dead letter, but a living truth. In conjunction with this, he claims that Paul and Timothy would have understood “God-breathed” as “God as creator and life-giver.” (65)

This may be true, but none of his argumentation throws a stone against the concept of inerrancy. Yes, Scripture is fully living, but it’s also without error! Why can’t it be both? As far as “truth-texting” – quoting individual verses to make a point – Jesus seemed to have no problem with this. He quoted numerous verses as the ultimate proof for His teachings.

The context of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 screams out for “inerrancy” -- “…so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” We can hardly imagine Paul saying this about a set of Scriptures that had errors. How could the presence of undetectable errors make us “thoroughly equipped for every good work?” We must contend with an entirely different reality if Scripture leaves out the word “no” and therefore reads, “There is darkness in Him?” Only the fact that Scripture is fully the product of our God – “God-breathed” – can we truly expect the Spirit to use it to produce in us “every good work.”

Pagett ascribes evil motives to those who insist that Scripture is without error – that we want a tool with which to bash others:

“I think there are people who argue for an ‘inerrant’ authoritative understanding of the Bible to support their prejudiced feelings about homosexuals.” (63)

We can also engage in this type of speculation about Pagett’s motives, but this would not be right. Instead, let’s just let the Scriptural evidence speak for itself.

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