Apologetics: March 2007 Archives

It's become fairly commonplace that someone will claim that the concept of inerrancy is a relatively recent development in the history of Christianity. Some trace it back to the 19th century and then claim that anyone beforehand held some weaker view of the authority of scripture. I'm not sure how this got started, but it's been popularized by people who are otherwise good scholars, such as George Marsden. I've had it on the backburner for at least several months now to put together a post on this issue, but I haven't managed to get the impetus to do it until a commenter on this post threw this canard at me. So here is what I consider to be absolutely clear statements from some historical figures long before the 19th century holding to views that seem to me to be pretty much the same view as the inerrancy of the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy, which has become a standard account of contemporary evangelicals mean by the term.

Now I've always thought the biblical authors would be shocked at any suggestion that there were errors in any genuinely divinely-inspired scripture. I think there are reasons for thinking this in the various parts of the canon. But Jesus and the authors of the epistles very clearly saw the psalms as authoritative in a way that they would base arguments on particular words. Clearly they took the psalms seriously.

I find it extremely hard to take Psalm 119 seriously without concluding that its author held (at least what at the time was considered) God’s word to be absolutely infallible. It doesn’t take reading very far into the psalm to see that. Verse 13 says that all the laws come from God (which the Torah itself repeatedly stresses). Throughout the psalm there are statements about how trustworthy God’s word and law are, e.g. v.86 “all your commands are trustworthy”, and v.139 says they are fully trustworthy. V.89 says it’s eternal and in the heavens as if some might have thought that it was a merely humanly authored set of documents that are temporary or not fully what God would want expressed, and v.91 explains the continuance of the laws in terms of everything serving God, including the laws, which were authored under his sovereign decree. In v.118, straying in any way from God’s decrees deserves God’s rejection, which amounts to saying that God rejects any deviation from them, i.e. seeing any of them as in error. According to v.151, all of them are true, and v.172 says all of them are righteous, with v.142 tying them together: “your righteousness is everlasting and your law is true”, which in Hebrew parallelism connects the truth of the laws to the righteousness of God. The contrast of v.163 between hating falsehood but loving God’s law amounts to saying that none of the laws are false. I don't know how to accept all of that while denying inerrancy.

The Dawkins Delusion

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I'm not sure how I missed this, but it's one of the most intelligent (not to mention one of the funniest) parodies I've ever seen of anything.

The commentary on the irresponsible documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus continues after its airing. See here for links to some of the pre-game discussion. Mark Goodacre liveblogged the Discovery Channel special, and Jim West also treats the documentary segment by segment.

Ben Witherington has a nice summary of the problems with it. Andreas Kostenberger has a similar evaluation, including a Q&A format about the documentary based on questions he'd asked ahead of time about what they'd be willing to include that might count against their case. Craig Evans responds , and Bruce Chilton comments here and here. Chris Weimer has a very clear presentation of difficulties in the argument and presentation of issues in the film.

Matt Jones gives a seminary student's perspective on the documentary and the Ted Koppel debate afterward. Other responses to the Koppel aftershow include Mark Goodacre's and Kevin Wilson's.

For more links, see Tyler Williams' roundup.

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