Thursday, March 20, 2014

Inerrancy Summit

There is going to be a big conference to focus on defending the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. Lots of big names coming out. John MacArthur is leading it but he says Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Sinclair Ferguson, Carl Trueman, Iain Murray, Ian Hamilton, Derek Thomas, Miguel Nunez, Steve Lawson, RC Sproul, Mark Dever, Paige Patterson, Steven Nichols and Kevin DeYoung will be speaking. That is a pretty impressive list.What brings them all together? MacArthur puts it this way:
Current publications demonstrate that the true doctrine of inerrancy is under attack. Some of these attacks are subtle while others are more blatant, but anything that undermines the absolute inerrancy of Scripture destroys the foundation of all Christian truth. Trusting the Bible is everything. Next year's Summit will address this crucial issue, and give it the attention it deserves.
It makes me continue to wonder how long evangelical Christianity has. When I was young nobody questioned biblical inerrancy. OK, maybe the odd scholar did but scholars say lots of weird things. Mostly it was assumed. We never had to defend it. It was just taken from the reformation that scripture was the one sure source of truth. Now we are seeing it being attacked. Questions are being asked deeper and deeper inside the evangelical fortress.

MacArthur is right that this is a foundational doctrine. Protestants base their faith on the absolute trustworthiness of scripture. Yet in precisely what sense is scripture true? Is every historical detail 100% accurate? If you believe that then there are some problems. If you back off on that then how much can you back off and how do you know when you have gone too far in that direction? Some are to the point where scripture cannot tell the story of a miracle in a way that they will believe it is historical. So precisely where on this continuum do you say someone is no longer approaching the bible in a Christian way? Have they gone to far when they interpret Genesis 1-11 to allow for some form of evolution? Then it comes back to authority. Who has the right to say?

Scripture has an odd place for protestants. They believe you are saved by faith in Jesus not by faith in the scriptures. So the bible is not really necessary but then again it is. Not to believe in Jesus but rather to make sure your belief is based on the truth about Jesus. That is one reason we need the church as well. So if say we can believe in Jesus and not accept 100% of what the church says then why can't we believe in Jesus and not accept 100% of what the bible says? It seems arbitrary to accept one infallibility claim and not the other.

The reality is that Jesus never commanded his followers to trust the New Testament. The fact that it is God's word is something the church arrived at over time. Yet protestants don't believe in arriving at infallible truth over time. If we can trust absolutely that the Holy Spirit led Christendom to the truth in one area then why not others? Would we need a more general idea that some subset of Christian tradition is protected by the Holy Spirit? The trouble is that is precisely what Catholics believe and they explicitly rejected at the reformation.

So the foundational doctrine of inerrancy can't really stand the scrutiny it is starting to get. It is special pleading. Accepting the consensus of the church on the bible and yet rejecting it on the sacraments and the papacy. Why can't someone sincerely say the sinner's prayer and still believe the bible is a good but imperfect book? The trouble is that if people do that they are likely to conclude the bible is in error precisely when it talks about their favorite sins. 

It shows evangelicalism losing ground. Things that it never questioned are being questioned. Precisely the opposite of what is healthy. The faith should grow and become more sure of more things as the generations pass. Catholicism does that.

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