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Source: (consider it) Thread: biblical inerrancy
Freddy
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# 365

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quote:
Originally posted by Psyduck:
[Slap of gauntlet being thrown down.] I don't think it's possible to adopt a propositional view of revelation which doesn't degenerate* into an understanding that ultimately revelation is the Bible and not Jesus Christ.
*assuming that's not where it actually starts!

I think you're probably right Psyduck. Maybe that's why the word "fulfill" is so common in the New Testament.

But I don't know about the "and not Jesus Christ." Doesn't it rather make Him a sermon in the flesh?

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samara
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Is it possible for a person to be propositional? I think that's the "and not." On the other hand, it doesn't seem any less likely to me than considering a literary communication propositional.

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Freddy
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quote:
Originally posted by samara:
Is it possible for a person to be propositional? I think that's the "and not." On the other hand, it doesn't seem any less likely to me than considering a literary communication propositional.

If Jesus is "the way, the truth, and the life" it seems as if He must "propositional" - although I'm not sure what that means.

Another way to say it is that if He is God speaking and saying "let there be light" and is therefore the Word "without which nothing was made that was made" (John 1), then this is a more important way of seeing Jesus than we have been giving credit for.

It would also fit with His statement:
quote:
John 18.37 For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.
He is the truth, He bears witness to the truth, the truth sets us free. There is an intimate relationship here between Jesus as the Word and the truth itself that creates and reforms the world.

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"Consequently nothing is of greater importance to a person than knowing what the truth is." Swedenborg

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Freddy
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# 365

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quote:
Originally posted by Psyduck:
[Slap of gauntlet being thrown down.] I don't think it's possible to adopt a propositional view of revelation which doesn't degenerate* into an understanding that ultimately revelation is the Bible and not Jesus Christ.

*assuming that's not where it actually starts!

Psyduck, you slapped down this "gauntlet" months ago without really explaining your point. You seem to be responding to the Knox article that you linked several posts up.

On the surface it does seem as though Christ, and not the Bible, is the only Word of God. Therefore it seems as though if you see the Bible as revelation, then Jesus is not revelation.

This seems to me to be a uselessly shallow understanding of both Jesus Christ and the Bible. How hard is it to see Jesus as the divine truth? [Confused]

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"Consequently nothing is of greater importance to a person than knowing what the truth is." Swedenborg

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mousethief

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I don't see why God can't express Herself both through Her Son, as well as through words such as those recorded in the Bible? How small a box do we need for this God of yours, Psyduck?

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Barnabas62
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I'm re-opening this thread to provide an opportunity to re-visit this long running topic, in view of discussions in a current Kerygmania thread.

I haven't reviewed the whole of this thread but thought it might be worth starting the ball rolling on the extent to which a belief in biblical inerrancy is circular.

One of the lines of argument which interests me goes like this.

"The bible is authoritative, inspired and without error.

The confirmation for this is to be found in 2 Timothy 3 v 16. (Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether that is the meaning of that scripture)."

For me this is rather like me saying, "you can trust what I say". If you trust me, you can trust what I say. But the statement provides no basis for trusting me. There needs to be another reason to trust me. So finding confirmation about the inerrancy of scripture purely from scripture seems to me to be a circular argument.

Now some people who believe in biblical inerrancy do so on the basis of the authority of the church. Either through historical statements, or current statements. But that is placing a trust in the authority of the church and, in essence, subjecting the truth of scripture to that authority. This is not the "sola scriptura" POV as I have ever heard it explained.

These thoughts are simply intended to provide a basis for taking up some of the inerrancy discussions in the Kerygmania thread. I'm not in the least concerned if nobody takes them up!

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Oscar the Grouch

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One aspect of this which interests me (and which I am not aware has been discussed much) is what the various authors thought that they were doing.

With the exception of the prophets, it seems unlikely that very few would have thought that they were writing divinely inspired words. Paul was writing (often in the heat of the moment) to people and places about the issues he was concerned about. The gospel writers seem to have been writing to give accounts of the life of Jesus which reflected their concerns and interests. The history books appear to have been written to give the people of Israel a sense of how their history has been shaped by allegiance (or not) to their God.

The point I'm getting at is that this is very different from the Qu'ran (for example). Mohammed believed that he was writing words dictated by Allah. Right from the beginning, these words were held to be divine. But this is not so with the Bible (not even, I would argue, with the prophets who saw their words as being from God but not divinely inspired as Biblical inerrants would see it).

So does this make a difference? If not, why not?

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Barnabas62
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Oscar

A good question. Just to give one example, it's a very relevant question in the context of 2 Tim 3 v 16. The "graphe" to which the author referred to in 2 Tim 3 v 16 (you can take him as Paul or an editor/redactor/follower and it makes little difference) seem very unlikely to have have included the words of the 2 Tim letter.

This is presented as a personal letter to a close disciple. In so far as 2 Tim 3 v 16 is authoritative and inspired (whatever it may mean) it can only be seen so on the basis of the apostolic authority - or the authority of the church. Which is of course a central point in this sort of argument.

On your more general point, I want to give some more thought to the OT prophetic writings. Whatever their origins and editing they are often presented with great "thus says the Lord" confidence. The strong suggestion is that there was a community confidence that folks did hear from God. Was there a similar community belief that the hearing was infallible? It seems softer to me than that. More like the notion that if someone has been marked out as a prophet, what he says should be heard with respect. But then you have the remarkable illustrations from the book of Amos which show that what he said was not so heard - and he was "dsismissed the field". The picture is one of a community, later in its history, being told by its leadership, "God does speak through his prophets and look at what happens if we don't listen to them". That is a powerful argument in favour of prophetic voices - but not infallible words.

That's for openers, Oscar. There's probably a lot more to be said.

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ken
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quote:
Originally posted by Oscar the Grouch:
With the exception of the prophets, it seems unlikely that very few would have thought that they were writing divinely inspired words.

On the face of it, the Fourth Gospel claims to include the testimony of "the disciple who Jesus loved" and that his testimony is a true witness to what Jesus said and did. The book seems to me to imply that these are divine words, direcxt frm Jesus the Logos incarnate. So the book claims to contain God's word to us.

I think that the epistles of John, and also the Revelation, also claim to be or at least contain God's word to particular situations. NB this is not an attempt to argue about their traditional common authorship - just to point out that they all seem to claim to be God's word.

At least some bits of Paul's letters claim to be "from the Lord". During the Reader's course I'm doing I was amused to realise that the more catholic-minded of the students (and also the teachers) assumed that this meant that these teachings were oral traditions handed down from Jesus through the Apostles. Things Paul had learned from the Church. Evangelicals and fundamentalists have tended to assume Paul was claiming direct inspiration from the Holy Spirit, to be speaking prophetically. Things the Church was learning through Paul.


NB as I was wittering on about on the other thread, a serious claim to infallibility or inerrancy of the Scriptures has to mean that each text is what it claims to be, not that every single verse is equally some instruction from God to us now. That's just a silly abberation that even sensible fundamentalists tell jokes about. Usually ending in "go thou and do likewise".

An inerrantist can safely assume that the words of Lemuel's mother in Proverbs are indeed the words of Lemuel's mother. Whether or not they are useful for establishing doctrine depends on what we believe about the divine inspiration of Lemuel's mother, and not on the divine inspiration of Holy Scripture.

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Ken

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Alan Cresswell

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quote:
Originally posted by Oscar the Grouch:
One aspect of this which interests me (and which I am not aware has been discussed much) is what the various authors thought that they were doing.

With the exception of the prophets, it seems unlikely that very few would have thought that they were writing divinely inspired words.

I'm not entirely sure the intention of the original authors is all that relevant to the question of inerrancy. It's conceivable that God could speak directly through human authors who are unaware of this happening; they think they're just dashing off a quick note to a friend, yet God could still be using that note as a means of speaking his word. That, of course, doesn't in anyway address the question of whether that message from God (however conveyed through human agents) is necessarily inerrant.

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Callan
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As Ken mentions, there's a passage in 1 Corinthians (ch7) where St Paul distinguishes between his own opinions on marriage, celibacy and divorce and a command from the Lord. Was St. Paul inerrant when he was saying that he wasn't, in a given instance, speaking inerrantly? [Biased]

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Oscar the Grouch

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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
It's conceivable that God could speak directly through human authors who are unaware of this happening; they think they're just dashing off a quick note to a friend, yet God could still be using that note as a means of speaking his word.

That is, of course, very true. However, it strikes me as being rather odd that people should be so "deceived" in this way by God. "You thought that you were writing a letter to friends, but actually you were writing God's infallible words"

That seems to me to be taking us dangerously close to the kind of theories about "divine dictation" which Christianity has (on the whole) always steered clear of - where the writers are little more than living pens. Surely the writers' intentions must be part of the overall picture?

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Alan Cresswell

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quote:
Originally posted by Oscar the Grouch:
quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
It's conceivable that God could speak directly through human authors who are unaware of this happening; they think they're just dashing off a quick note to a friend, yet God could still be using that note as a means of speaking his word.

That is, of course, very true. However, it strikes me as being rather odd that people should be so "deceived" in this way by God. "You thought that you were writing a letter to friends, but actually you were writing God's infallible words"

That seems to me to be taking us dangerously close to the kind of theories about "divine dictation" which Christianity has (on the whole) always steered clear of - where the writers are little more than living pens. Surely the writers' intentions must be part of the overall picture?

Of course the writers intentions are part of the overall picture. The distinction I think is with one word added to the last sentance of your first paragraph. "You thought that you were writing a letter to friends, but actually you were also writing God's infallible words" Though, maybe not with the 'infallible' in there - that presupposes something about the nature of the words of God; are they infallible or inerrant? The evangelical would affirm the 'infallible', though not necessarily the 'inerrant'. Other Christians may feel no need for either word to apply to the words of God.

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
I'm re-opening this thread to provide an opportunity to re-visit this long running topic, in view of discussions in a current Kerygmania thread.

Like Baranbas62, I have not reviewed this whole thread. To paraphrase Freddy: that’s the longest thread I’ve ever seen... Indeed, Freddy is one of the few consistent runners on the thread and has made some valiant efforts to resolve the issue; maybe he can summarise!

I fear this discussion may fail for the want of two things:
1] An agreed working definition of inerrancy; and
2] An agreed working definition of the word ‘true’ in this context.

On [1], we could do with Ed Form providing a definition he is happy with and that we could then discuss – otherwise we will be wasting a lot of type running in circles. If one is not forthcoming, then I guess the best option is the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI - mentioned on page 5 of this thread), which has the merit of being signed up to by a good spectrum of evangelicals (though by no means all).

On [2], I really believe that this is where we will hit a brick wall.

The CSBI argues that inspiration guarantees the truth (and consistency) of the bible. This, as I understand it, would be Ed Form’s starting point, too. In answer to the objection that we no longer have the original texts (the autographs), the Statement affirms that the text of the bible can be determined with great accuracy.

When it comes to defining inerrancy, things start to get sticky. The Statement defines it as being “free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.” What does this mean? That the human authors – acting under the auspices of the Holy Spirit, had no intention to deceive? I don’t think that is in doubt. Does it mean that the authors might have been mistaken in some things? Definitely not, says the CSBI. Then how do we determine which interpretation is valid? What method do we use? Even if the text of the bible is completely without error (whatever that means!), interpreters are human and we do not have to search on the shelves of Christian bookstores for long before coming across interpretations of the same passage that are mutually incompatible – even where the interpreters come from the same methodological background. Here the CSBI fudges.

At the top of page 6 of this thread Freehand made an interesting point with regards to finding evidence for saying the bible is without error: the bible should be consistent – it should not contradict itself. As noted above, this, I think, is where Ed Form is coming from. If the bible is true in all that it affirms, then it should be consistent throughout.

It’s another point made by Freehand, though, that I think gets close to where the bible really comes from: the bible would be inerrant if it was shown to work. That is how I see it - the bible expresses its function more in terms of activity, not state (which smacks more of Greek philosophical debates rather than biblical). The bible says more about what is does than about what it is. The key text here is Isa. 55:10-11; God’s word is compared to the water cycle – it comes from God, achieves a purpose, then returns. That matches pretty neatly the activity of Jesus (also understood by Paul) – coming from God, achieving the purpose for which he was sent, before returning.

For this reason, I am more comfortable with the word “infallible” than “inerrant” when it comes to modelling the bible. The former is more dynamic a concept, the latter too static. If anything, inerrancy should be seen as a sub-set of infallibility: How do we know the bible is true? We do when it achieves the purpose for which it is given. This is somewhat similar to the test for true prophets – they will be true if their activity is validated by the achievement of the purpose (i.e. if what they predict actually comes about).

At root, I think the real discussion needs to take place around language and how God uses language to communicate with humans. Inerrancy is a secondary issue to that.

Nigel

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Alan Cresswell

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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
the bible expresses its function more in terms of activity, not state (which smacks more of Greek philosophical debates rather than biblical). The bible says more about what is does than about what it is.

That's a good point. As I think I've already said on this thread (I've certainly said it repeatedly over the years), when I read the 1 Tim verse that says Scripture is "God-breathed" I can't help but draw parallels with the Garden of Eden narrative where God breathes into the clay man to give him life. That is, rather than "God-breathed" being a past event where God inspired someone to put something into writing, "God-breathed" becomes a statement that God has taken existing writings and given them life. It's not just a past event, but an ongoing God-breathing as He speaks into lives today when Scripture is read, expounded on, and practiced.

As the writer to the Hebrews says, "For the word of God is living and active" (Heb 4:12).

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Barnabas62
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Nigel M

In the absence of any specific clarification from Ed Form, we do have this Christadelphian summary to go on. Which is one of the reasons why I re-opened this thread on the inerrancy tack, rather than on the question of infallibility. The linked summary states that Christadelphians hold an inerrancy position based on the Bible as the sole message from God. My conclusion from the Keryg thread was that Ed did hold this position (or something very close to it) and it did control both his analyses and his responses to the analyses of others who held different views on authority and inspiration.

I want to add my agreement to Alan Cresswell's re "activity rather than state". You made a very good point.

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ken
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CSBI said:

quote:

We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.

Which, it seems to me, is a concise way of saying what I said, and disagrees with what Ed Form was saying.

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Ken

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by ken:
CSBI said:

quote:

We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.

Which, it seems to me, is a concise way of saying what I said, and disagrees with what Ed Form was saying.
Ken,

I think Ed Form's take on this - judging by the argument in some of the posts in Kerygmania - is that if passages from the OT are referred to in the NT (especially if metioned by Jesus), then that validates the historical authenticity of the OT event. So, e.g., Jesus referred to Jonah, which means that the Jonah / great fish event must have been 'historical'. Equally this applies to the creation of Adam and Eve, because Jesus quotes from Gen. 2 when expressing his views on divorce.

This argument appears to be reflected in the Christadelphian statement on the bible, linked to by Barnabas62 in his last post, were it says:

" Christ is linked with the prophet Jonah (in Matthew 12:40, for example) and even with the first man, Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22). If you take the story of Christ as true then you must accept the stories of Jonah and Adam."

This principle appears to override that of linguistic genre.

What do you think? I think the argument is a variation on the debate that has been going on between biblical theologians and history-of-religion scholars for decades: is the historical development of Israel's religion - which has many theologies, according to some - capable of collation into a unified biblical theology? There have been many who answered that question with a resounding "No!", from both conservative and non-conservative sides. By the 1990s academics were pretty much in despair about this divide and were calling the state a 'crisis'. Some have risen to the challenge, but so far I am not aware of any work that succesfully bridges the gap (NT Wright and James Dunn do a pretty good job re: the NT, but the OT is a different kettle of whales).

Nigel

[ 03. November 2006, 06:53: Message edited by: Nigel M ]

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mousethief

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So if I quote (say) The Horse and His Boy and refer to something in that story, does that prove I believe it really happened? It's inane. Jesus quoting Jonah no more proves he thinks it's historical than my quoting The Lord of the Rings means I think there really was a guy named Frodo who dropped a ring in a volcano.

[ 03. November 2006, 07:23: Message edited by: MouseThief ]

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balaam

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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
This argument appears to be reflected in the Christadelphian statement on the bible, linked to by Barnabas62 in his last post, were it says:

" Christ is linked with the prophet Jonah (in Matthew 12:40, for example) and even with the first man, Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22). If you take the story of Christ as true then you must accept the stories of Jonah and Adam."

Then we'd have to accept the good Samaritan and the prodigal son as real people. And that people could not only have specks of dust in their eyes, but large roof beams as well.

Just because Jesus said it, it doesn't mean he took it literally.

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ken
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What Mousethief said.

More generally, I don't know of Jesus and the disciples thought it was a fictional story or not. But whether or not they did makes no difference to what Jesus meant by quoting it. He was using an example familiar to them.

Do we have to take the Song of Solomon as a historical account of a particular love affair?

I don't think so.

And like the Chicago people I don't think you rule yourself out from being "inerrantist" just by recognising that it might be a collection of poems from different stories, or entirely or partly fictional, or just plain exagerrated (as love poems and sex stories often are)

OK, I can see the "thin end of the wedge" argument. "Opening the floodgates". We have a hard enough time as it is defending the historicity of the bits of the Bible we want to be historic in order to establish doctrines. So once we say "well, actually, this bit was just some ancient folk-tale and probably wasn't ever meant to be historical description" then we risk everyone dismissing all the rest of the Bible.

But tough. That's the way the Bible is. We have to deal with it.

Some bits are relatively uncontroversial. the Song being one of them.

Esther as well - after all it practically starts "Once upon a time in Persia", the Jews didn't generally recognise it as Scripture till after the time of Christ (and then put it in the "writings" section rather than the "law" or "prophets"), it doesn't mention God once.

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GreyFace
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Barnabas, earlier you were talking about bases for believing in inerrancy and I think you might have missed one.

Is it possible that some people are using direct experience? That is, they believe they have encountered God in inerrancy-based interpretations of scripture more fully than in other modes?

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by GreyFace:
Barnabas, earlier you were talking about bases for believing in inerrancy and I think you might have missed one.

Is it possible that some people are using direct experience? That is, they believe they have encountered God in inerrancy-based interpretations of scripture more fully than in other modes?

What does it mean to encounter God in an interpretation of scripture?

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by MouseThief:
Jesus quoting Jonah no more proves he thinks it's historical than my quoting The Lord of the Rings means I think there really was a guy named Frodo who dropped a ring in a volcano.

I spent a few happy hours today trying to imagine MT as the fourth member of the trinity, just so I could sleep safe in the knowledge that Frodo did, indeed, lose a finger in real space-time.

quote:
Originally posted by Ken:
Do we have to take the Song of Solomon as a historical account of a particular love affair?

Ken, please! Surely the Song of Songs is a picture of Christ and the Church?!

quote:
Originally posted by MouseThief, Balaam & Ken:
It's inane.
Just because Jesus said it, it doesn't mean he took it literally.
But tough. That's the way the Bible is.

Hey! I quite like this harmonisation-from-different-sources thing after all!

Actually, guys, we're on to the language-use territory, which is where I honestly think the issue lies. Virtually all of language is metaphor: a sliding scale of pictures, analogies, etc. Sometimes we are told that we are at the far end ("Jesus then told a parable", "That was a joke, people", etc.), sometimes not.

The book of Esther begins by making historical assertions. The gospel of Mark has a very light touch to begin with by comparison. Even Job's introduction is more historical than Mark's. How about Genesis 1:1? More or less historical sounding than Mark? Or Job?

So how do we infer historical reporting? And how do we gauge where along the linguistic spectrum the author is pitching his piece: Completely unbiased reportage, propaganda or somewhere in between? Is truth merely the recounting of historical facts or something else? What is actually ‘true’ in the bible – and how can we tell?

And – perhaps more importantly for this discussion – what role does God have in language use? I think some are genuinely afraid of having a God who might not speak clearly to them; a God who might go with the flow when it comes to human interaction and permit the human authors to tell stories, to use their knowledge of Jewish poetry to embellish and bounce concepts around, etc. Such language use does not readily lend itself to theology. We can’t know God, or know what he wants us to do, so well under those circumstances. You lose something of closeness to God when you lose certainty in language – or so it is feared.

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mousethief

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Ah, so it's because Christ was God that he's not allowed to refer to people from fiction. Kind of an unfortunate restriction, innit? He certainly seemed replete with fictional tales of his own.

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GreyFace
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quote:
Originally posted by MouseThief:
What does it mean to encounter God in an interpretation of scripture?

I'm not entirely sure, I'm kind of groping around the edges of an idea.

If God "speaks to people" when they hear the scriptures read or when they read them for themselves, and I think it's fair to say that many people believe that happens (note my careful wording - I'm not really interested in going there) then what they hear is filtered by the usual mechanisms of interpretation. I see no reason why one can't choose to hear or read scripture with a particular interpretive attitude in mind, and that the attitude might have an effect on either how God is perceived to be speaking or how clearly what is being said can be grasped.

Am I making any sense, or just rambling?

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by GreyFace:
Barnabas, earlier you were talking about bases for believing in inerrancy and I think you might have missed one.

Is it possible that some people are using direct experience? That is, they believe they have encountered God in inerrancy-based interpretations of scripture more fully than in other modes?

From personal experience, I believe we can draw a distinction which the Barthian neo-orthodox draw. What God reveals is God, not propositional truth about Himself. The difference may be illustrated by example. Adrian Plass observes that many folks go to church having heard a rumour that God forgives. Reading that in the bible may constitute awareness of a propositional truth. The experience of forgiveness is another matter. The story of the Prodigal Son may become very real and very personal. Literature becomes life.

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Nigel M
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I think - regarding the recent exchanges in Kerygmania - that as far as the revival of this issue goes here I can only echo B62's comment in the last paragraph of this post.

Nigel

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I know this is butting in something chronic, but hey? This is my angle.

Drum roll...

If there's no God, whatever the Bible says is absurd. We're all stuffed.

If there's a bad God, I'm not interested, whatever the Bible says. We're all stuffed.

If there's a good God, and I earnestly hope there is, he will reveal himself, quite possibly thru imperfect channels. I hear the voice of this good God in the Bible, especially in Jesus. I hear it in the Church, especially, I'm finding to my wide-eyed surprise, in the Roman Church.

I believe the Bible inasmuch as it speaks of a good God who will make all things well. Bits that suggest otherwise, I reinterpret or reject.

I'm like a fossicker looking for the gleam of gemstones in the gravel and the mud.

[ 22. November 2006, 06:13: Message edited by: nurks ]

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Lyda*Rose

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Good post, nurks. Very up-front and sincere. [Cool]

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quote:
Originally posted by Lyda*Rose:
Good post, nurks. Very up-front and sincere. [Cool]

Thanks. It's the only approach that makes sense to me.

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Freddy
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quote:
Originally posted by nurks:
I believe the Bible inasmuch as it speaks of a good God who will make all things well. Bits that suggest otherwise, I reinterpret or reject.

I like that.

When you begin from the assumption that God is good, and when you accept that He reveals Himself in the Bible, then it makes sense to reinterpret the parts of the Bible that seem to present a different view.

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anteater

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A key statement in the Chicago definition is:
quote:
Scripture is inerrant, not in the sense of being absolutely precise by modern standards, but in the sense of making good its claims and achieving that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed.
In particular the phrase "that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed" gives sufficient room to allow a wide range of flaviours of inerrancy, and I would take a small bet that many of the signatories no more believed in the literal Garden of Eden, Jonah being swallowed by a fish etc, than I do.

This is good, of course, and non-inerrantists have to avoid setting up straw fundies.

What is really disppointing is the lack of any real attempt to show that this doctrine follows reasonably from the scriptural testimony to itself, which as has been repeatedly noted, is meagre. And inerrancy is nowhere stated, as we get fed up of reminding these people. The words exist in which is could have been asserted. If in doubt consult the Koran.

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Barnabas62
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This is such a long thread that this story may be in here somewhere already, but anteater's post reminded me of it. The biblical scholar F F Bruce (who was correctly reckoned to be a conservative evangelical) was interviewed towards the end of his life and asked the test question. "Do you believe that the Bible is inerrant?". He answered "I prefer the word 'true'".

The issue with the word inerrancy is that it throws a blanket over the many ways in which communication can be true, or express truth. Given the oral traditions underlying much of scripture, folks who were used to those traditions knew that the truth was in the telling of the stories. The blanket claim for a legal-like accuracy has often been welded onto this understanding and has produced much confusion.

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Matt Black

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Good point. Apologies if I've given this example before, but my late grandmother used to let me sit up with her when I was a small boy to, as she put it, "watch the sun go down". Years later, I discovered that the sun didn't actually "go down" but rather stayed put and the earth revolved which gave the appearance of the sun "going down"; however, this startling revelation didn't mean that I branded my grandmother a filthy liar and stopped trusting her.

I find that helpful with regard to the Bible.

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Freddy
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quote:
Originally posted by Matt Black:
this startling revelation didn't mean that I branded my grandmother a filthy liar and stopped trusting her.

This is an excellent comparison. Life is full of similarly apparent contradictions, from Newtonian physics to unconditional love. The Bible's portrayal of God as jealous and violent falls neatly into that category, in my opinion. I believe that understanding this phenomena helps to reconcile many things about religion.

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Callan
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Originally posted by Anteater:

quote:
A key statement in the Chicago definition is:

quote:
Scripture is inerrant, not in the sense of being absolutely precise by modern standards, but in the sense of making good its claims and achieving that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed.
In particular the phrase "that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed" gives sufficient room to allow a wide range of flaviours of inerrancy, and I would take a small bet that many of the signatories no more believed in the literal Garden of Eden, Jonah being swallowed by a fish etc, than I do.
That seems to me to be a covert abandonment of the doctrine of inerrancy. I think the Bible achieves that measure of focussed truth which God intended us to have. I'm not an inerrantist because of the errors of fact which appear to be compatible with that.

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Callan:
My initial reaction to "sophisticated inerrantists" who can combine theistic evolution with inerrancy, was to say that it was doubletalk.

But I've changed my mind on that. Inerrantists are perfectly entitled to agree that scripture is multi-faceted, and that the intention of bible writers is often unclear, and yet still believe that when we work out what it means, it is true.

I do not hold this position, since there are many things about which I think everybody would agree the Bible is teaching it, but where I think it is in error. But I much prefer thoughtful inerrantism to fundamentalism.

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balaam

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Call me a "sophisticated inerrantist" then.

Consider this often abused scripture:
quote:
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (New International Version - UK)

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

It not only says that scripture is inspired (naturally it wasn't part of scripture at the time it was written) but also what scripture was inspired for.

A view of inerrancy which takes a view of scipture beyond this, into fields such as scientific theory, I find an abuse of scripture.

The Bible includes the boundaries of how it should be used, we'd do well to stay within those boundaries.

So I believe, for example, that the Book of Job was inspired in order to teach, rebuke, correct train and equip. I don't have to believe that Job existed to do this. But neither do I have to drop my belief in inerrancy either.

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Jolly Jape
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quote:
Originally posted by Callan:
Originally posted by Anteater:

quote:
A key statement in the Chicago definition is:

quote:
Scripture is inerrant, not in the sense of being absolutely precise by modern standards, but in the sense of making good its claims and achieving that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed.
In particular the phrase "that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed" gives sufficient room to allow a wide range of flaviours of inerrancy, and I would take a small bet that many of the signatories no more believed in the literal Garden of Eden, Jonah being swallowed by a fish etc, than I do.
That seems to me to be a covert abandonment of the doctrine of inerrancy. I think the Bible achieves that measure of focussed truth which God intended us to have. I'm not an inerrantist because of the errors of fact which appear to be compatible with that.
It seems so to me too, Callan. In which case, why not abandon the "i" word completely, and go for something more descriptive of their real beliefs, such as "inspired" or even, a la Bruce, "true". Is it merely a means of preventing those of more fundamentalist persuasion from breaking fellowship with them? If so, is there not a certain amount of duplicity on display here.

Incidentally, though I could go with "authoritive", "inspired" or "true", I couldn't subscribe to the Chicago definition because of this:
quote:
achieving that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed.
(emphasis mine). ISTM that the truth conveyed by scripture can often be transmitted in spite of or even in the face of the (human) authors' intentions. The book of Ezra springs immediately to mind as a stark reminder of how, even with the best intentions, we can get it wrong.

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Matt Black

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That's kind of the reason I prefer 'infallible' to 'inerrant'; the former encompasses notions such as 'true', 'authoritative', 'trustworthy' etc whereas the latter also explicitly claims 'without mistakes' (whether or not it also insists on a literalist interpretation, which I don't believe it does), for which I can't quite muster the necessary intellectual integrity.

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saytr
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I believe the Bible to be inspired by the Holy Spirit to holy men and prophets. I believe it to be basically inerrant.

How it is interpreted is another thing alltogether. I dont for instance believe in a literal 7 days of Creation and Ive learned to harbour doubts about some books like Job as being literal fairy tales... but I could be wrong... so all I can basically say is that I believe the Bible to be the word of GOD revealed by GOD via the Holy Spirit and possibly by Angels also.

Thanks
Jimbo

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anteater

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Saytr:
I'm interested in what leads people to the rather odd view that a particular set of writings is infallibly correct.

Are you able to explain why you believe that? Or is it the case that you just take it as axiomatic?

[ 02. September 2007, 17:59: Message edited by: anteater ]

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Freddy
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quote:
Originally posted by anteater:
I'm interested in what leads people to the rather odd view that a particular set of writings is infallibly correct.

Are you able to explain why you believe that? Or is it the case that you just take it as axiomatic?

While I do take it as axiomatic, it also makes logical sense to me.

I think in terms of the implications. What are the implications of the possibility that there is written information that comes directly from God? What are the implications of there being no such information?

I also think in terms of whether God exists. If He exists what would be the best way for Him to conduct Himself? If He does not exist do we have adequate explanations for what we observe?

If there is such a thing as infallible revelation, does the Bible fit the description? Does something else fit it better?

I don't know why you call it a "rather odd view." The vast majority of people on earth believe something like this. If you don't believe that such things exist then you are in a small minority.

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saytr
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Well mate,
What I did was to examine the prophesies in the Bible and check things out on the internet and try and get approximate dates for the Books containing those prophesies. Well you could say this is rather taking things at face value, but I also looked at History and studied it for a while and I could generally match things up with the Bible and History. Generally if the Bible was errant it would be full of innacurate prophesies etc. So I came to the conclusion that GOD had inspired the work that is the Bible and protected what was handed on via the scribes.

I do find some things in the Bible to be almost like fairy tales and sometimes I believe word for word what happened and sometimes I doubt events... almost double minded sometime but generally I accept that the Bible is GOD speaking to holymen who then expressed in their words the situation and stuff that was happening or going to happen as GOD was telling them like when GOD the Son spoke about the temple in Jerusalem etc not a stone left standing on stone... with the date of the Gospels approx 30-50 AD this prophesy dates approx 30 AD then fulfillment was remarkable and true in AD 70.
So that is why I believe that the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit and why I believe that Jesus Christ is GOD INCARNATE, you could say I take a lot on faith.

Thanks
Jimbo
quote:
Originally posted by anteater:
Saytr:
I'm interested in what leads people to the rather odd view that a particular set of writings is infallibly correct.

Are you able to explain why you believe that? Or is it the case that you just take it as axiomatic?


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Louise
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A quick note to point out to anyone who missed it elsewhere, that Saytr turned out to be a sockpuppet and has been planked - so his posts on this thread are probably best ignored.

Louise
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Louise
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bumping up this thread

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quote:
Originally posted by Jamat:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
With a metaphor, it's not always straightforward to restate literally.

Essentially and for practical purposes, metaphor is a direct comparison in which one element of the comparison is used to elucidate meaning. eg a tempestuous exchange (acrimonious.)
Simile is the same thing only the comparison is indirect using 'like' or 'as.'eg a storm like atmosphere round the dinner table.

"A storm-like atmosphere" is a metaphor, containing a simile. You're not literally reporting on the atmosphere.
If you say that the conversation at the dinner table was like a stormy atmosphere, then you're using a simile. And that's not an indirect comparison. That's as direct as a comparison gets.

A simile takes a definite idea and compares it to something else definite in order to describe the first idea. Both ideas are explicitly referred to. A simile is as direct as it gets.

A metaphor takes a definite idea and uses it to describe an idea that is not definite. Only the description is explicitly referred to. The thing that is compared is not directly referred to, and is not necessarily directly available.

It usually takes a lot longer to explicate a metaphor than it does a simile.

Using tempestuous for acrimonious is a dead metaphor and not a good example.
Let's take a live one: 'To take up arms against a sea of troubles' - 'arms' and 'sea' do not directly refer to anything that has already been mentioned.
'The tree looks like it is clapping its hands' means that its branches are waving about. 'The trees of the field shall clap their hands' is not a report on the future movements of the trees' branches.

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Jamat
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The trees of the fields clap their hands is a metaphor for the fact that God's glory is literally demonstrated in his creation which is the fact right?

There is a use of an image here whereby the trees are personified (another subset of metaphor) to be compared to people with arms.

So the point of all this is? Or do you just want me to tell you you are right? You are, but so am I in this instance. Can we leave it there?

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Martin60
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That's entirely up to you mate.

And anadromously, how can one be sophisticatedly inerrantist about the God revealed in Jesus ordering the genocide of the Amalekites through His most faithful prophet Samuel?

I used to be able to do it.

Lost the knack.

Is there a way back?

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