Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Jesus, Inerrancy, and Greg Boyd

In Spectrum, writer and pastor, Greg Boyd, embraces the concept of the Inerrancy-of-Scripture (Scripture is without error in its original writing), but he doesn’t apply this concept to the entirety of the Scriptures:

  • There is some disagreement among evangelicals concerning the question of factual errors in parts of the Bible that touch on things other than Christian faith and practice.
For instance, when the Bible makes statements on “matters of history or science,” it might be in error:

  • This essay defends the view that the Bible can and should be trusted as unfailing (infallible) in all matters that pertain to Christian faith and living. It cannot be considered inerrant, however, especially in regard to minor matters of history or science.
According to Boyd, Bible doctrine and theology does not depend on the accuracy of Bible history. However, this separation of history from theology is patently wrong. Just to look at one very obvious example – the theology of the Cross cannot stand without the history of the Cross - that Christ historically died for our sins. If He didn’t historically die for our sins, we are still in our sins!

However, to be fair to Boyd, he did specify the “minor matters of history.” admittedly, the Cross was not a minor matter. However, how do we determine when Bible history is of minor significance? History seems to be inseparably woven together with theology. Let’s take Peter’s warning of future judgment, where he bases his case on the historical judgments of the Bible:

  • For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly… then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment. (2 Peter 2:4-9)
If the history of the fall of the angels, the worldwide flood, and the destruction of Sodom are not historical, then Peter’s argument is built on a false and inadequate foundation. If these aren’t historical and actual, there is no reason to assume that the promised future judgment will also be actual.

Were Genesis 1 and 2 historical? According to Jesus they were. Even asked about the permissibility of divorce, He cited what God had historically accomplished:

  • He [Jesus] answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female [quoting Gen. 1:26-27],  and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ [Gen. 2:24]!  So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has [historically] joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)
Had God not historically created man and woman and then joined them together to make then one, as specified in the first two chapters of Genesis, His argument would have been fallacious. The Pharisees could easily have objected:

  • This is all mythological. Its theology doesn’t depend on actual events. God didn’t historically join them together. Consequently, by divorcing, we are not violating God’s actions and intentions.
Scripture never makes a distinction between what the Bible teaches about history and what it teaches theologically. It contains absolutely no indication that we cannot trust what it teaches historically. Therefore, its teaching on the full reliability of Scripture is a package-deal. Either we accept it all as the Word of God or we don’t. Jesus clearly accepted it in its entirety as the actual words of His Father. Therefore, when the devil challenged Him to turn a stone into bread, He retorted:

  • "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (Matthew 4:4)
Jesus didn’t regard Scripture as just partially inspired or partially inerrant. He understood that “every word” proceeded “from the mouth of God,” even its historical assertions. Consequently, it all had to be fulfilled:

  • 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. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:18-19)
Even the smallest details were of God. Therefore, all of it had to be obeyed and fulfilled! How then does Boyd justify not taking Scripture as had Jesus:

  • First, as it is found in Jesus and the earliest disciples, this unswerving attitude of trust in Scripture always relates to what Christians are to believe and how they are to live. Paul expressed the general attitude well when he argued that because Scripture is “inspired,” it is “useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” The ultimate goal of Scripture and the teaching that arises from it is to make “everyone who belongs to God . . . proficient, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17). The focus of inspiration is exclusively on faith and practice. Neither Paul nor any other biblical author was concerned with resolving whether the Bible represents history or the cosmos in a way that would qualify as “inerrant” by modern standards. This was not their concern, and we misuse their expressions of trust in Scripture when we try to make them address these concerns.
Boyd is misreading these verses:

  • 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 Timothy 3:16-17)
Paul explicitly states that all Scripture comes from God, not just those parts that Boyd regards as “how they are to live” and necessary for “faith and practice.” It is precisely because it is all “God-breathed” that we can be “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” If there were parts of Scripture that might not be accurate, these would undermine our Scriptural confidence and guidance to perform “every good work.”

Next, Boyd cites 2 Peter 1:21 to demonstrate that:

  • Nowhere do scriptural authors demonstrate any concern with the issue of how much control God exerted over the authors he used and how much of their limited, culturally bound perspectives he left intact.
Here, Boyd is arguing again in favor of partial inspiration. However, Peter would not be in agreement with Boyd’s assessment:

  • Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation [of the Spirit’s guidance]. 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 1:20-21)
These verses actually teach the very opposite thing that Boyd claims, that Scripture makes no claim to the extent of God’s inspiration of Scripture. Instead, Peter claims that no verses ever originated from the “will of man!”

Nevertheless, Boyd asserts:

  • An honest examination of Scripture leads to the conclusion that the Bible is thoroughly inspired but also thoroughly human. The human element in Scripture reflects the limitations and fallibility that are a part of all human perspectives and all human thinking… The Bible’s theological message is unfailing though its view of the cosmos is scientifically incorrect.
Although Scripture does bear unmistakable indications of “the human element,” This does not necessary mean error. For instance, Paul’s writings clearly bear these indications in his vocabulary, associations, and human feelings. However, despite these elements, Paul asserted:

  • And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
Do we understand how Scripture can both reflect the humanity of the writers and still, in its entirety be the Word of God? No, but this was clearly the view of our Lord:

  • He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:44-45)
Never, did Jesus warn His disciples that there were certain aspects of Scripture that couldn’t be trusted. Instead, Scripture was the final authority:

  • Jesus replied [to the Saducees], "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. (Matthew 22:29)
According to Jesus, whenever we deviate from Scripture, we are in error.

Boyd reasons that because of the alleged contradictions, Scripture cannot be entirely inerrant:

  • Yet a third way in which we see the fallible humanity of biblical authors is found in the way they contradict each other on minor matters. Space allows for just one example.
Here is Boyd’s one example:

  • Compare the following Synoptic accounts of Jesus’ command to his seventy missionaries.
 • “Take . . . no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food” (Matt. 10:9–10).

• “Take nothing for [your] journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in [your] belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics” (Mark 6:8–9).

• “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money— not even an extra tunic” (Luke 9:3).

For Boyd, these represent a contradiction. Do you see it? I don’t! Even if these verses do represent an apparent contradiction, this isn’t of utmost importance. Even if we fail to find the optimal way to reconcile verses that seem to contradict, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t a satisfying way to reconcile the verses. Boyd would have to prove that there is no possible reconciliation. However, he is miles away from doing this.

Perhaps even more problematic for Boyd is the example he cited. At first he had claimed that the Bible is without error when it comes to matters of “faith and living.” However, the example he cited does pertain to “faith and living!” What does this suggest? That Boyd doesn’t really believe than any of the Bible is unassailable or inerrant. He therefore argues:

  • If the Bible must be inerrant in order to be inspired, as inerrantists teach, then the credibility of the Bible hangs on one’s ability to resolve every error in the Bible. This is an unfortunate posture to assume, especially in our post- Christian age, for most people readily see that the contradictions and premodern aspects of the Bible are difficult, if not impossible, to account for adequately. This inerrantist view of inspiration thus hinders effective apologetics and evangelism.
We need not deny that Scripture contains perplexing challenges for our understanding, but we should not expect it to be otherwise! Science also contains perplexing problems. For example, on the one hand the laws of science are completely deterministic. On the other hand, there is indeterminacy on the sub-atomic level. Do we reject science because of its many perplexities? Of course not! Do we reject Scripture because of its many perplexities? Not at all!

Instead, if we claim to be followers of Jesus, we need to stand where He stands – on the full authority of Scripture. When He sent out His disciples – the Great Commission – He instructed them to teach everything He had taught them: “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you"( Matthew 28:20). This also included His teachings about Scripture!

We, therefore, cannot pick and choose, as does Boyd, placing our judgments above those of Scripture.

However, Boyd believes that by entertaining this high and Messianic view of Scripture, we denigrate the Messiah:

  • The inerrancy theory tends to shift the focus of faith away from Jesus Christ and toward the accuracy of the Bible. This is bibliolatry. According to the Bible itself, faith should rest on Jesus Christ, not on one’s opinion about the degree of accuracy of the Bible.
Boyd charges us with “bibliolatry” – the worship of the Bible. However, we cannot separate God from His Word any more than we can separate God’s justice from His love. If we seek to love God, we cannot love Him by cleaning His clothes or by cooking Him a meal. We can only love Him by abiding in His Word, His commandments:

  • Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him… If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” (John 14:21-24)
Boyd’s teachings can only destroy those who follow him and even the church.

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