Collin Hansen, editor at large for Christianity Today and author of Young, Restless, and Reformed, is having a conversation with Tony Jones, national coordinator for Emergent Village and author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier. I believe Drew is cooking up a review sometime in the future of
Hansen’s book, which I have not read. From the little bit of Jones’ book that I have read, I can say it is very useful for understanding what Emergents believe, though I take issue with the tone of some of his comments towards some great men of the faith (and his caricatures thereof).
The following quote of Hansen is from Day 2 of their dialogue (see Day 1 here), and I found it particularly interesting:
I was encouraged to read that you are committed to the inspiration and authority of Scripture. I was also surprised, because in The New Christians you write that evangelicals are “destined to a life of establishing the veracity of the Bible in the face of contravening evidence and opinion.” You then deconstruct a conservative argument for the veracity of the Bible as an example of “infinite regression,” the futile exercise of foundationalism. How do you evade foundationalism and still affirm the inspiration and authority of Scripture?
Even more interesting is the fact that Tony Jones did not answer the question (and successfully dodges another question about the atonement in his reply). I suppose we’ll have to wait and see if the coming days’ dialogue provides us with one. But so what if Jones is committed to the “inspiration and authority” of Scripture? I liked Hansen’s question (and would have liked Jones to answer), but I probably would have taken a step back and asked Jones to tell us what he means by “inspiration” and “authority.” Inspired like Shakespeare was “inspired” or inspired like 2 Peter 1:21 would define inspired?
There Peter describes the “prophetic word” (v. 19) as not being produced by the will of man, “but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Paul himself says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 2:16). It should be mentioned that while Paul was referring to the OT in this passage, Peter equates Paul’s writings with Scripture (2 Peter 3:16). Indeed, a careful reading of 1 Corinthians 7 will yield the fact that Paul saw his own judgment to be on par with a command from the Lord (7:12, 25, 40)!! When you hold all that evidence together, along with passages such as Matt 1:22; 19:5, Mark 7:9-13, and Acts 2:16-17 that attribute writings of the OT to the speech of God, then Peter’s assertion that the apostles had the right to author Scripture (2 Peter 3:2) is a profound statement equating their writings with the speech of God.
Suffice to say, the authors of the Bible certainly had a very high view of their writings. I think we should too.
It’s vital that we understand the distinction between:
A) Paul having been inspired to write a general message that contained the overall idea of the gospel.
and B) Paul having written, under the authority and guidance of the Holy Spirit, a work that was both human and divine, in no way compromising the role of either Paul or the Holy Spirit, so that the end product was exactly what God wanted it to be: an inerrant, inspired, and authoritative word.
It’s necessary to demand clarity and erudition in these matters because of the topic at hand. What’s more, how are we supposed to effectively live without meaning in our words? Show me one person who denies meaning in words and I’ll gladly agree that they have nothing meaningful to say.
Now when we say “inerrant,” what do we mean? Paul Feinberg explains it plainly for us:
Inerrancy means that when all facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences.
I don’t know what Tony Jones means by “inspired” or “authoritative” but I’d like to know, without any fudging of words, what he believes about inerrancy. What you believe about inerrancy dictates what you believe about authority. Is the Bible authoritative for everything or just for faith and practice? If you haven’t thought about this in a while, perhaps it’s time you did. What do you believe about Scripture? Is it a collection of writings that are a good moral guide or is it the “living and active” word of God, “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12)?
Voltaire once said, “One great use of words is to hide our thoughts.” Just because two men call something the same thing doesn’t mean that they perceive it as the same thing.
Perhaps we’ll get clarification from Jones, but it’s unlikely. Such issues are often too black and white for emergents of his stripe, but I could be wrong. In this case, I’d love to be wrong.