Posts Tagged ‘Inerrancy’

I will never forget the first time I sat down with my great uncle to “talk theology.”  My uncle was a Methodist pastor for many years, the only time I got to see him was at family reunions, but I always had a great deal of respect for him—he was a kind and patient man.  So when he asked me if I would like to talk theology with him at a family reunion not long after I had decided to go to seminary, I was very excited. 

We were in the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico, it was a beautiful sunny day, and we sat down on the porch of the cabin that my family had rented to do one of my favorite things—talk about the Lord, but in an instant, my joy turned to remorse and deep concern.  The first thing my uncle said was “Drew, I don’t believe in the atonement.” 

I wasn’t sure if I heard him right because I was pretty young in my faith, but I thought surely he couldn’t be a pastor and not believe in the atonement of Christ!  So I asked, “What did you say?”  My uncle responded, “I don’t believe in the atonement, I don’t believe that Jesus had to die to pay the penalty for my sins.”  Perhaps my response was a little lacking in tact but looking back on it, I don’t regret what I said to him.  I said, “if you don’t believe in the atonement you aren’t saved.”  I was young in my faith but I firmly believed that Jesus died for my sins and that whoever believed in Him would not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).  I believed that Christ redeemed me from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for me (Gal. 3:13).  I believed the gospel that proclaims while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me and whoever would believe in Him will be saved (Rom. 5:8; Acts 16:31).

My uncle went on to tell me about how he went to a seminary in north Texas when he was close to my age and while there his whole foundation for theology was shaken.  He had professors who questioned the authority and inerrancy of Scripture which led him to follow a group of scholars who would later come together as “The Jesus Seminar” (Tyler wrote on this group a long time ago).  They were hoping to “rediscover” the historical Jesus and behind this attempt at rediscovery was the assumption that the Jesus of the Bible couldn’t possibly be the real Jesus.  This group claims to love Jesus and to believe in Him, just not everything he said and did.  In order to determine what Jesus really said and did, these scholars got together and read portions of the four gospels and then voted on how Jesus-like the passage was (I am not making this up).  They voted using colored marbles, as follows:

  1. Red marbles – Jesus actually said or did it.
  2. Pink – Jesus probably said or did something similar.
  3. Grey – Jesus didn’t do or say it, but the saying or action lines up with his ideals.
  4. Black – Jesus did not do or say it –the passage was added by translators years after Jesus’ death.

The Jesus Seminar even followed this meeting up with a color coded Bible, based on the votes cast.  Do you see what this does?  This makes man the ultimate determiner of who Jesus is and what he said.  Furthermore, it should be noted the all Scripture makes the claim of itself that it is divine and authoritative—Scripture is from God not from man (2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). 

Charles Spurgeon said this of some of the more “liberal” Bible scholars of his day, “The new religion practically sets ‘thought’ above revelation, and constitutes man the supreme judge of what ought to be true.”  This is the perpetual sin of man—to exalt himself over and against the Lord or at least make yourself the final arbiter of His truth . . . a god in our own image.

The Jesus Seminar was not taking the Bible seriously, but not only that, they were setting themselves above it.  If Scripture claims to be divine and authoritative and you immediately claim to have the authority and power to deem some of it human—you are contradicting yourself. 

If you follow the logic of The Jesus Seminar, you can see how my uncle ended up saying that he didn’t believe in the atonement, because if it is up to man to determine truth, man is immediately going to eliminate anything that makes him even the slightest bit uncomfortable.  The first to go are the portions that deal with issues of sin, judgment, and punishment.  Thus Jesus Seminar essentially landed itself in universalism and under their influence, folks like my uncle began preaching “another gospel” altogether (Gal. 1:6-8).  Though my uncle knew the gospel, by his own theology I feared that he did not know Jesus as Lord.  I told my uncle that I feared for his soul, I preached the gospel to him that day and plead with him to come to Christ and live—to me that was the only loving thing to do.

Read the Bible on its own terms before you fall to the temptation to exalt yourself over it.  The gospel and consequently the salvation of souls is at stake if you don’t.


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From start to finish, Scripture claims to be the Word of God.  We see this in a number of places.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that all Scripture is “breathed out by God” and works in the life of the believer to make him “competent, equipped for every good work.”  2 Peter 1:20-21 tells us that Scripture is not the product of human opinion but the men who wrote it were “carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Furthermore, this is the testimony of the Biblical authors themselves.  When we read the creation account in Genesis, we read one phrase over and over and over–“God said.”  The writer (Moses) is not reporting to us his theorys about creation–he is reporting what God has said–the Word of the LORD.  This same idea is repeated again and again throughout the rest of the Bible–what the Apostles and prophets report to us is what the Lord has said.  Over and over again we read the phrase “Thus says the LORD” because the Bible is not a collection of stories but a report of what God has graciously given us through the hands of his servants who wrote exactly what He intended.

This is why Paul could say, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed,” (Gal. 1:8) because Paul knew that what he had delivered to the Galatians was not mere opinion but the infallible, eternal, unchanging Word of God.

So if this is true, that the Bible is God’s Word, then what do we do with it?

You have two options.  Either accept it as the Word of God and give your life to studying it, knowing it, and applying it diligently to every aspect of your life or reject as God’s Word and face the consequences.

Most people, even many who profess faith in Christ, want to pick a third option that really isn’t an option at all.  Most people want to regard the Bible warmly but spend little time or effort studying it, knowing it, and applying it.  This can be seen in the lives of many in the church who treat the Bible as a burden–something that takes away from their TV time.  Or perhaps another wearisome duty on your “Christian” to-do list.

Consider the Words of the prophet Jeremiah:

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. -Jeremiah 15:16

Indifference is not an option in response to God’s Word.  If you treat the Bible as a burden you don’t rejoice in it, you don’t love God’s Word.  God’s Word lays forth for us who God is, therefore if you are indifferent toward God’s Word, you are indifferent toward God.

Consider John’s revelation from God concerning the Church at Laodicea:

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. -Revelation 3:15-16

To be indifferent toward the Bible, God’s Word, is to hate it.  To hate God’s Word is consummate with hating God himself.  This is a terrifying place to be–not because I have said so but because of what God promises in Revelation concerning those who are lukewarm or “indifferent.”  He will spit you out of His mouth!  But it is not to late.  If this is you, cry out to God for mercy and do it now!  Repent, turn from sin and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!

Maybe you love God’s Word but you know that your love for it needs to be kindled, you know it needs to grow.  Because we are talking about the perfect, inspired Word of God, your relationship to this Word must change.  It must grow.  God’s Word must become more and more of a delight.  What are you doing to treasure God’s Word more.  Maybe you don’t understand much of it–perhaps you need to seek out an older brother or sister in the Lord and ask for help.  There is nothing wrong with needing help, what is not an option is indifference.  God promises terrible things to those who do nothing.

Pour into God’s Word, ask a brother or sister for some accountability in doing so because the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Mat. 26:41).  Satan and your flesh are working feverishly to keep you out of God’s Word.  Every child of God needs help, we need help from each other and we need help from the Lord to make us like Jeremiah who delights in God’s Word.  We need the Word of God like a newborn baby needs milk (1 Peter 2:2).  The Word of God is not a helpful additive in the life of a believer, it is THE vital nutrient without which we will die.

If all this is true of God’s Word, the scariest thing you can do in response to this blog post is . . .  nothing.

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I have been blogging for over a year now and I really haven’t said much about the Doctrines of Grace.  What are the doctrines of grace you ask?  Some call them the 5 points of Calvinism, the Cannons of Dort, TULIP or ROSES.  I like the term Doctrines of Grace (or DoG) because I do think that each point highlights God’s all sufficient grace as the only adequate remedy for sin.  I know I got all fired up around the time of the John 3:16 conference, but other than that, I haven’t really blogged much on these doctrines for a number of reasons.  First I don’t feel that these doctrines are primarily what define me as disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, therefore I have never felt the need to write every other post on Calvinism.  Secondly, the doctrines of grace are controversial amongst evangelical Christians.  There are many people who disagree with me on these doctrines who I would call beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ.

So why am I taking up these doctrines on my blog?  Firstly, though the Doctrines of Grace do not define me as a disciple of Jesus Christ, they do challenge and encourage me as a follower of Jesus.  They move me to worship, praise, and adore Christ my savior.  They move me to evangelize because I know that my God’s Word will not return void and that God will draw people to himself from every tribe tongue and nation–the results of God’s powerful Word being preached to the nations are not in doubt!  The primary reason I am now blogging about the DoGs ( on a side note, “Where my DoGs at?” or “Who let the DoGs out?” would make excellent titles for Reformed Christian rap songs) is because the DoGs are found all over the place in Scripture.  I firmly believe that these all-to-often neglected doctrines are found in the Scriptures–if that is the case, then we as believers ought to address them, come to grips with them, and apply them to our lives.

I believe that all Scripture is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21) and all of it is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”  Therefore, if the Bible teaches the DoGs, then they must be profitable for training us in righteousness and equipping us for every good work including taking the gospel to the nations.  Therefore, the doctrines of grace do matter.  They are not to be feared, though they are difficult, a right understanding and appropriation of them will result in the bearing of much fruit for God’s kingdom! If we abide in Christ and His Word abides in us–we will bear much fruit (John 15:5)–this includes the portions of His Word which deal with controversial doctrines!

I won’t pretend that the DoGs are not controversial, especially in Southern Baptist life (in which I find myself as an SBC pastor), but I also won’t pretend that these doctrines are not addressed extensively in Scripture.  Just because something is controversial doesn’t mean it is not true, nor does it mean that it is not worth fighting for.  Even if there were just one clear Scripture on election, I would still seek to submit myself to its truth and apply it to my life as a Christian.  For instance, there are only a handful of Scriptures that speak directly to the immorality of homosexuality–does that make it any less true?  No of course not!  I do think that certain truths are addressed at great length in the Bible because of their importance for us as believers and because of what they communicate about almighty God and the human condition.  I think this is the case with most, but not all the doctrines of grace.  For instance–election and total depravity are addressed quite extensively, limited atonement, however is less frequently discussed doctrine in the Bible.

For the record, I am a 5 point Calvinist most days of the week–sometimes I find myself drifting away from limited atonement (I hate the title “limited” atonement” by the way).  I just want to be clear that the Bible calls all Christians to be fervent evangelists and that the gospel is to be preached to all people and everyone who believes the gospel of Jesus Christ WILL be saved!

Here is the skinny:  you might be surprised to find that the doctrine of election is a central doctrine in the Bible, so in a series of short posts, I intend to show that the Bible’s references to election are many and are found in many more places than Romans 9 and Ephesians 1–they are all over the place!  So I intend to post on what Moses, Matthew, Mark, John, Peter, Paul, Luke, and James have to say about election–probably each of these biblical authors will receive their own post.  Once we have established the Bible’s thorough teaching on election, then I will likely write a few short posts on some of the most controversial passages of Scripture that are often pitted against the DoGs. With the help of some of my friends here at Elect Exiles, I hope to address other important DoGs such as irresistable grace (I prefer effectual calling) and total depravity (or better yet, radical corruption).

Finally, I am also taking up the doctrine of election because others are talking about this doctrine in ways that I do not feel represent what I believe fairly and honestly–so instead of twiddling my thumbs while I and others who value the doctrine of election are misrepresented, I will just tell you what I believe and show you from Scripture!  I hope these posts prove to be helpful resources to you and above all, I hope they point you to Christ!

If you completely disagree with my take on these verses, by all means, please leave a comment in the comment meta explaining why.  I simply want to submit to and benefit from the teaching of Scripture, even if you think I am completely wrong, the passages of Scripture I will cite must be addressed–so at the very least, I hope these posts will help us all to be better Bible readers and theologians and I hope that they result in more faithful kingdom living until our Lord returns or calls us home!

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I wrote over the weekend about the dialogue on Christianity Today’s website between Tony Jones and Collin Hansen. The dialogue has continued and it’s been alright, though most of the questions being asked are going unanswered in what increasingly looks like nothing more than a good example of charity in conversation between “emergents” and “non-emergents” (if you’ll excuse my categorization). I wanted further clarity on Jones’ view of the inspiration and authority of Scripture, which has been a murky phrase in theological circles, especially in the past two centuries.

So on Wednesday, Jones had the following to say:

I’ve been reading some of the young, Reformed bloggers write about our conversation, and one sentiment has stood out. Several have written that my affirmation of God’s sovereignty, the inspiration of Scripture, and the Atonement is not good enough. “What does he really mean?” they ask. “I don’t think he really means what I mean!” So, I ask you, do you think that any affirmation of the historic, creedal beliefs of Christianity by an Emergent will be good enough for the young, restless Reformeds?

I’m not concerned with being appeased. I don’t harbor ill will against Jones and I appreciate his call for epistemic humility to a certain extent. Far too often, both the Reformed and the non-Reformed will attack one another’s positions viciously and it becomes a caricature of what brotherly Christian dialogue should look like. You really see this a lot with the language used in the polemics between Calvinists and Arminians (“they don’t believe in the sovereignty of God,” or “they don’t believe in prayer and evangelism,” etc.).

But simple definition of terms is never too much to ask, especially when you make it a point to be so ambiguous about a great many things and associate with people like Brian McLaren who have some ‘different’ takes on the gospel.

Nor is it too much to ask for clarification if he intends to use that phrase, “the inspiration and authority of Scripture.” The history of the doctrine of inerrancy in the 19th and 20th centuries illustrates this point well.

Many sought to do away with inerrancy, claiming that it was nothing but an overreaction to biblical criticism by American theologians like B.B. Warfield and A.A. Hodge. The late-nineteenth century trial of Charles Briggs by the General Assembly of the PCUSA and the outlandish Rogers/McKim proposal are two cases of this history. What was recognized as ridiculous in the 19th century became established liberal Protestantism’s creed in the late 20th century. They would (and many do today) espouse the “inspiration and authority of Scripture” but they held to bastardized views of inspiration and authority.

As Charles Hodge said in response to Darwinism, “When a drama is introduced in a theatre and universally condemned, and a little while afterward, with little change . . . it is received with rapturous applause, the natural conclusion is, that the change is in the audience and not in the drama.”

Such is the case with modern views against inerrancy and the sufficiency and authority of Scripture. This is important to remember today as the emergent crowd consistently promotes “new” ideas. In reality, many of these views are often re-painted 19th and 20th century liberalism.

So no, Tony Jones. I’m not asking you to affirm any creeds (nor should anyone else for that matter). You can affirm creeds all day long and reserve different interpretations of those creeds. All I’m asking is that you define your terms like any good theologian should. I’m not waiting here to denounce you as a heretic and pounce on any point I see as aberrant. You can hold to whatever view of Scripture you please, just be forthcoming. That’s all.

Epistemic humility? Certainly, but with a dose of conviction please. Clarity must characterize these interactions if there is to any genuine dialogue occurring. I’d like to see genuine dialogue.

For more information on the subjects discussed in this post, read this (where the quotes come from), this, and this. Or you can read a little bit about some of these things here.

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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.

(HT: JT)

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We are all probably a little bit more postmodern than we are willing to admit. I, for instance will admit that my taste in music is quite post-modern—I listen to a little bit of everything and much of it I could not begin to tell you what it is about. We are living in world impacted by postmodern philosophy and values. To ignore this reality is to do a great disservice to our responsibility to live “honorable lives” among the unbelieving world (1 Peter 2:12). But should Christians become “postmodern” to reach the postmodern world? Dave Tomlinson, author of The Post Evangelical, says yes—evangelicalism is dying and evangelicals must become “post-evangelicals.”

Post-EvangelicalIn The Post-Evangelical, Tomlinson asserts that we are living in a thoroughly postmodern world where Christianity must change if it is to thrive in our present culture. Thus Tomlinson calls for an abandonment of traditional evangelicalism in favor of what he calls “post-evangelicalism.”

I have chosen this book as the subject of the first of a series of posts planned on the emerging/emergent church because it reflects early emergent thinking. Tomlinson originally released this book in the UK in 1995 when the emergent church movement was beginning to crystallize. Tomlinson released The Post-Evangelical in the U.S. four years ago in 2003. This is an incredibly interesting book because the US version includes commentary from people like Doug Pagitt (a famous emergent pastor who shares many of Tomlinson’s concerns) and Mark Galli (an editor of Christianity Today who does not agree with many of Tomlinson’s views).

Tomlinson’s book feels a little like “10 Things I Hate About Evangelicals.” For as much as he claims the post-evangelicalism provides a more compassionate alternative to cold, dogmatic evangelical churches, Tomlinson is very demeaning and cold toward evangelicals. If anything is unacceptable to Tomlinson it is evangelical churches who think they have a monopoly on the truth, yet Tomlinson seems to maintain a monopoly on the idea that evangelicals are fools. If that sounds harsh, read the book, Tomlinson wants churches to show grace toward everyone but he shows no grace toward evangelicals.

I am going to write two more articles on The Post Evangelical, in these posts I will address the two issues that Tomlinson devotes entire chapters to. First, Tomlinson asks the question, “Are post-evangelicals liberals in sheep’s clothing?,” and Secondly, “is the Bible the Word of God?” These are two important questions. The first question could be rephrased like this: “is the emergent church anything new?” In other words, is the emergent church saying anything that hasn’t been said before—is it really possible that the emergent church could revolutionize Christianity and the world? Tomlinson thinks it can—I will address this issue in my first post. The second question addresses whether the Bible is the proper foundation for Chrisitanity? Is the Bible inerrant? Tomlinson says “the inerrancy debate is a waste of time” (112). In my second post I will address Tomlinson’s view of Scripture and how this affects his theology and ultimately what Tomlinson sees as the foundation of the emergent church.

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