Tag Archives: inerrancy

Perspicuity

That is a big Latin based word that basically means clear. Within Christianity coming from the Reformation (Lutheran, Reformed, Baptist), it is a doctrine – the perspicuity or the clarity of scripture. Wikipedia actually does a decent job here. I’m going to get out the old “Big Book of Doctrine” in the LCMS, Pieper’s Dogmatics. “According to scripture, the perspicuity of Scripture consists in this, that it presents, in language that can be understood by all, whatever men must know to be saved.” 2 Tim 3:15-17 forms the backbone of this definition. “You have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Note what that doesn’t say. That doesn’t say that everything in scripture is immediately understood. What is necessary is clear – Jesus Christ. Everything else is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training – i.e. its progressive, you will come to know the truth if you remain in the word.

Pieper is also interesting as he lists a few reasons why even clear scripture might remain obscure:
1) The language is unknown. “Like with any other book, we must penetrate into the Bible by reading it diligently”.
2) Hearts are hostile to its message.(Matt 11:25, 2 Cor 4:3-4) If you think you know better and won’t be instructed, it won’t make sense. (Big terms: a ministerial use of reason vs. a magisterial use of reason. Is reason your servant or the master.)
3) Prejudice against certain doctrines. “They paste over the words of Scripture a human interpretation.”

The main point is that scripture is a “lamp unto my feet and the light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). Scripture illumines if we let it.

The reason I bring that up is because of a few links:
1) Strange Herring talking about Rachel Held Evans a noted female evangelical blogger. Ms. Held Evans tries to “live biblically” for a year. Her definition of living biblically seems to amount to taking strange passages from the OT that we don’t follow as law anymore. Her point in her book is inerrancy. Paraphrasing the argument: we choose which parts of the bible to lift up and which to let go, so we should use a more reasonable method of doing that. The problem for Ms. Held Evans is not really inerrancy but perspicuity. In some ways her heart is not open to its message. She want to take a magisterial approach to the bible. She is pasting her thoughts over the bible and refusing to take a serious “in the language” approach to the scriptures. What she ends up doing is mocking them. Which is exactly what a true outsider, as Strange Herring starts with, can see.

2) The comic posted is from Scot McKnight’s place. And it is a humorous attempt to capture what we are talking about. What he talks about in that post is a mature example of being in the language of the word and using reason in a ministerial way. Using reason to say, lets look at comparative literature of the time period and them come back to the bible is reasonable in a helping way to understand its meaning and our own dark spots. The metaphor detecting device is just scripture itself in its context. Become familiar with the language of scripture and it becomes clear.

3) And then Brian McLaren, who has been put in a situation I hope and pray I never am. As a leader in christian thought circles, he’s been forced to choose between family and the Word of God. Jesus warned about such things. (Matt 10:34-36) His answer has clearly become pasting over those areas of scripture that are uncomfortable. For all his talk of “the other”, he’s making Christians who won’t confirm his pasting as truth into the other.

It is not that McLaren and Held Evans are outside of grace. But they are outside of reading scripture clearly and in a dangerous place. You are always in a dangerous place when you have ceased to take scripture as the lamp and instead placed your reason and experience as a better source of light.

Biblical Inerrency

John Bayer asks in the comments –
“…Also, Raymond Brown is criticized by tradionalists for denying Biblical inerrancy. Is this criticism unfounded? What is the Lutheran view and particularly what is Parson Brown’s position on Biblical inerrancy…”

To the first question, the criticism is not unfounded. Raymond Brown absolutely would deny a tradionalist statement of inerrancy. When I wrote that Raymond Brown was a critical scholar, you’ve used the technical/theological term for what that was pointing at. Raymond Brown puts reason over scripture to the point that if there are percieved “errors” the problem is with Scripture and not with the interpreter. Raymond Brown is not beyond using the text as we have it to “peer behind and reconstruct” the “original text” in his understanding. This form of Higher Criticism is why I could not recommend Raymond Brown for a layman. (Sorry, that sounds snobby.) It is also why I thought it fair to point out that I was reading him. Many people would not find him kosher. That said, I have found Raymond Brown to be helpful and insightful, especially if you know his starting point. He is a writer that one can argue with, sometimes loudly.

To the second point, a hearty and loud yes! to scriptural inerrency is my personal confession. I’m going to sketch out that case really quickly here, and maybe elaborate a little over the next few days.

A. Inerrency of scripture is the universal testimony of scripture (2 Timothy 3:15-16 and 2 Peter 1:20-21 as the clearest examples, Luke 24:44, John 2:22, Acts 1:16, and several other supporting passages)

a.1. Yes this is a circular argument, but all interpretation/understanding of our world begins somewhere. To make a mathematical analogy, all geometry rests on axioms taken as truth. Arguing with Euclid over parallel lines never touching is lunacy, because that is an axiom of Euclidian Geometry. The interpretation cycle of the church begins with Jesus Christ as the revelation of the Father. Christ testifies that the scriptures are all about him. They are Christocentric and every word they contain was or will be fulfulled in Christ (Luke 24:44). Scripture is the bedrock and norm or everything including itself. Scripture interprets Scripture, or Sola Scriptura.

B Inerrency of scripture is a statement of faith. Just like the universal church, the Una Sancta, is a statement of faith. Ultimately you cannot “prove” revelation. Like the message of the Gospel, revelation is accepted or rejected. The Nicene Creed states in the 2nd article that “on the third day He rose again accoring to the Scriptures” putting forward the Scriptures as the valid and true testimony of Christ. It also holds in the 3rd article the “Holy Spirit… who spoke by the prophets” which affirms the old testament Scriptures. The creeds, the rule of faith and the summation of the scriptural witness which we confess, hold the scriptural testimony to be true.

C. Our recent Synod’s writings on inerrency give a fully rounded view. This link takes you to the Commision on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) document on “The Inspiration of Scripture. Pages 10-11 address inerrancy. The money paragraph in my mind is the quotation in II.A.2 (p 11):

Inspiration was not mechanical dictation but rather an operation of the Holy Spirit
that allowed a function to each author’s individuality in writing the Scriptures.
Therefore the predication of inerrancy to the Bible does not imply that when the
New Testament reproduces and applies Old Testament statements this must
always occur by means of verbatim quotations, or that there must be verbal
correspondence between parallel accounts of the same event wherever they are
found either in the Old or the New Testament.
Each writer inerrantly imparted God’s truth as the Holy Spirit moved him to do so
in his own way, from his own perspective, and for his own purposes. Far from
impugning the veracity of the Scriptures this multidimensional application of
whatsoever was spoken aforetime and this multidimensional view of events
reported serves to impart more fully the truth which God reveals for the
edification of His people. The Biblical conception of inspiration does not see
these differences as errors, but as inspired variety which we should recognize
with thanksgiving and study prayerfully imploring the Spirit’s help so that we may
receive all the instruction He wishes to imparts.

This is getting a little long, so I’ll stop there. If anything is really unclear, let me know, or if anyone wants to take me to task.