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Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy!
Rather than simply give a review of this book in a single post, I’ve decided to do a series review:
- When The Bible Speaks, God Speak: The Classic Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy
- Inerrancy, However Defined, Does Not Describe What The Bible Does
- Inerrancy is Not Necessary For Evangelicalism Outside The USA
- Augustinian Inerrancy: Literary Meaning, Literal Truth, and Literate Interpretation
- Recasting Inerrancy: The Bible as Witness to Missional Plurality
Today is kind of an overview, introductory post of sorts. Inerrancy is quite the hot topic, and the release of this book coincided with the topic being the theme of this year’s national ETS meeting. There was a panel discussion by the contributors to this book and you can download that online if you are interested.
In the introduction to this book, editors Merrick and Garrett lay the foundation of inerrancy’s role as a doctrine. Their specific concern is to locate it in relation to other doctrines. As they explain,
We wonder if there are some unintended consequences to misplacing the doctrine of inerrancy, that is, extracting it from its context of teaching about Holy Scripture and locating it at the beginning of a doctrinal statement. Placing inerrancy at the fount of doctrine can suggest things about the nature of doctrine itself. It can indicate that doctrines are merely facts or theories. Doctrine of course accords with reality, but it is not a mere fact. (13)
They then locate inerrancy as part of a doctrine of Scripture, and part of a larger doctrine of revelation. They then explain that “one of the aims of this book is to restore focus on these doctrinal issues so that debates about inerrancy enrich evangelical theology and faith, facilitating deeper understanding” (21). With this focus, contributors were asked to treat four topics (22):
- God and his relationship to his creatures
- The doctrine of inspiration
- The nature of Scripture
- The nature of truth
Contributors were also asked to develop their position on these issues in reference to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI). They were also asked to submit 3 texts that they believed constituted a challenge to inerrancy. The texts needed to be drawn from 3 categories:
- Those dealing with the factuality of Scripture
- Those dealing with canonical coherence
- Those dealing with theological coherence
The resulting texts are Joshua 6, Acts 9:7 vs. Acts 22:9, and Deuteronomy 20 in relation to Matthew 5. For the contributors, the editors selected two systematic theologians (John Franke and Kevin Vanhoozer), two biblical scholars (Michael Bird and Peter Enns), and one historical theologian (Albert Mohler). When their contributions came in and were reviewed, the resulting outline was created:
- Perspectives on Inerrancy and The Past (Mohler and Enns)
- Inerrancy in International Perspective (Bird)
- Perspectives on Renewing and Recasting Inerrancy For Today (Vanhoozer and Franke)
On Twitter, I quipped that you could review the book as follows:
Mohler: Inerrancy! Enns: No. Bird: Yes, but more catholic! Vanhoozer: Yes, but more classic! Franke: Yes, but more context!
— Nate Claiborne (@nateclaiborne) January 11, 2014
This of course was after reading Mohler’s essay and the responses, but I think it will hold as we work through.
Taken together, the contributions create a project that the editors think “must be regarded as a first step towared disentangling inerrancy as the primary link to evangelical identity” (24). Their hope is that “this will generate new conversations about inerrancy that consider previous questions as well as new ones, enriching the lives and faith of evangelicals” (25). Finally, the conclude:
This book is not an end in itself but a means to an end, that end being a charitable, fruitful conversation designed to enrich the life and faith of evangelicals. Our hope is that its readers will gain a sense for the theological and hermeneutical decisions on which fresh conversations need to take place, for the health and vitality of evangelical faith. (25)
We’ll see whether they move in that direction or not as we work our way through. The plan is post once a month until I’ve covered all the contributors. Next up then, look for the post on Mohler’s account of inerrancy and the pushback on February 13th.