Does the Link Between Inerrancy and Evangelical Identity Obscure and Frustrate Both?— An Excerpt from "Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy"
Yesterday we introduced to you a new, timely resource for discussions on biblical truth and interpretation, Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy. It represents some of the finest, cogent work on evangelical reflection on inerrancy, facilitating understanding of these perspectives, particularly where and why they diverge.
The five contributors include Al Mohler, Kevin Vanhoozer, Michael Bird, Peter Enns, and John Franke. Each of their essays consider the present context and the viability and relevance for the contemporary evangelical Christian witness; whether and to what extent Scripture teaches its own inerrancy; the position’s assumed/implied understandings of the nature of Scripture, God, and truth; and three difficult biblical texts, one that concerns intra-canonical contradictions, one that raises questions of theological plurality, and one that concerns historicity.
Below is an opening excerpt from this crucial new evangelical resource. It explains the necessity and scope of this project, as well as its concern: "Our project is concerned that this link between inerrancy and evangelical identity can obscure the meaning of inerrancy and frustrate the vitality of evangelical faith." (10)
The Bible is central to evangelical faith and witness, and, for many evangelicals, inerrancy is crucial to securing the centrality of the Bible. Inerrancy has been commonly viewed as the doctrine upon which evangelicalism stands or falls. Perhaps the most obvious example is the doctrinal basis of the Evangelical Theological Society, which, until relatively recently, was just the doctrine of inerrancy (the doctrine of the Trinity was added in 1990). The assumption seemed to be that there was a direct correlation between believing in the accuracy of Scripture and reading Scripture accurately. When we approach Scripture in faith, we are motivated to harmonize apparent discrepancies and persist into historical or scientific data to see the vindication of the Bible. Challenges raised by critical scholarship are products not of the text but of suspicious scholars dissatisfied with or hostile to Scripture or Christianity.
Inerrancy, then, is not a mere statement about Scripture for evangelicals. Since Scripture is the source of evangelical faith, and since inerrancy is ultimately a matter of reading Scripture faithfully, inerrancy is often regarded as the essence of genuine faith. If should come as no surprise that inerrancy is resurfacing as evangelicalism is increasingly fragmented and contested, submerged between “emergence” and “resurgence.” All indications are that evangelicalism is once more poised to “battle over the Bible” and focus afresh on the doctrine of inerrancy. This time, however, evangelicals are not battling mainline Protestants; they are battling themselves.
Our project is concerned that this link between inerrancy and evangelical identity can obscure the meaning of inerrancy and frustrate the vitality of evangelical faith. Because inerrancy is seen as the guarantor of evangelical identity, many of the conversations about it are negative in thrust, focusing more on what could be lost if inerrancy, or at least a certain version of inerrancy, is not maintained. Moreover, inerrancy is not simply a stand-alone doctrine; it is interconnected with others. Unfortunately, the electricity of the debate obscures these other doctrines, limiting the conversation and diminishing evangelical faith. There is great risk, then, that inerrancy may become the only cipher for a certain account of what it means to be an evangelical.
Accordingly, for the sake of the health of evangelicalism and the vibrancy of its faith, this book aims to concentrate not only on the doctrine of inerrancy but also on the key doctrines that inform what it means to say that Scripture is inerrant. In other words, we want to encourage conversations on the doctrinal rationale of inerrancy and its Scriptural warrant rather than on why it may or may not be detrimental to evangelicalism. For in the final analysis, our beliefs should be motivated by theological and biblical reasons rather than by sociological ones. Said simply, we should hold to inerrancy not because it secures evangelicalism but because it teaches evangelicals about God and how to put faith in him. (9-10)
Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy
by J. Merrick and Stephen M. Garrett
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