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Friday, April 24, 2009


False Conceptions Of Scriptural Inerrancy In Contemporary Evangelicalism

By Forrest Wayne Schultz

A Review of G. K. Beale, The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008)
ISBN-13: 978-1-4335-0203-3 300 pp $20.00

The book under review is not a study of the entire picture of the many departures from inerrancy in evangelicalism; it is limited to an in depth study of only a few cases. It is of especial use for those readers interested in these particular cases and for those who wish to read a few detailed studies rather than shorter analyses of many different cases or broad generalizations.

The cases examined here do involve the erosion of inerrancy, as the book's title indicates. BUT, these men do not attack inerrancy as such or divine inspiration as such, at least not in the usual ways. Rather their views involve false conceptions of inerrancy and of inspiration. They do not attack inerrancy head-on, but they attack the definition of inerrancy.

The first case examined is that of Dr. Peter Enns, a former Professor at Westminster Theological Seminary. His case is indeed a complex one that requires special handling but the gist of his fallacious conception is easily stated. Like many people today Enns believes there are errors in Scripture but is unwilling to admit this. First of all, he claims that the Scriptural authors did not know these were errors, and that God did not care because He was only interested in the theology He was teaching in these Scriptures. In other words, Enns believes in the limited inerrancy view, i.e. the view that the inerrancy of Scripture is limited to its theological assertions. According to this limited inerrancy view Scripture may contain errors in matters such as geography or history or science, but these are considered to be of no importance because Scripture supposedly is only dealing with "spiritual" matters, which are in a different realm from "secular" matters. Secondly, Enns further muddies the waters by claiming that the ancient man had a different concept of "error" than the modern man. The point here is that Enns does not believe in inerrancy but does not want to admit it, so he resorts to the various strategems noted to escape being called a disbeliever in inerrancy. And he summarizes his view by claiming that the question is not "whether" the Bible is inerrant, but "how" the Bible is inerrant. This is a different and more subtle way of expressing the limited inerrancy notion, i.e. the "how" of the Bible's inerrancy is supposedly that it is only inerrant in theology. Beale discusses and critiques two cases where Enns makes his fallacious claims, namely in regard to the Genesis Creation Account and to the New Testament's interpretations of Old Testament passages. Surprisingly, though, Beale does not label Enns a limited inerrantist.

Beale's critique of Enns is far too lengthy and complex to discuss here except to say that Beale has shown that Enns is wrong. There is one statement, however, which Beale makes which is radically false and which is so important that I cannot refrain from comment about it. Beale (on page 40) claims that we cannot compare Christ with the Bible because the Bible, unlike Christ, does NOT have two natures, divine and human, but only ONE nature!!! Perhaps the most elementary principle of Bibliology is that the Bible is the Word of God expressed in the words of men writing under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit. Therefore it is crystal clear that the Bible has two natures -- divine and human, just as Christ has two natures -- divine and human. Just as Christ is The Word of God Incarnate, so the Bible is The Word of God Inscripturate!

The second case Beale discusses is somewhat surprising because this is not something new but has been around for a long time. This is the case in which it was shown long ago that one cannot believe in Scriptural inerrancy if he asserts a multiple authorship of the book of Isaiah.

The third case suprisingly is placed in Appendix I instead of in the main text. This is Steven Moyise's postmodernist notion which does not attack inerrancy in the usual way but which claims that we cannot know what the texts of Scripture are really saying because they only have whatever meaning the reader attributes to them. Strictly speaking this is not really claiming these texts are errant; it is actually claiming they cannot communicate their meaning to us (if they even have a meaning). This preposterous notion actually takes the whole subject out of the realm of truth and error altogether. In one sense it clearly denies that the Bible is the Word of God, but it does not do so in the usual way but does so by claiming the words of the Bible have no meaning at all.

The fact that there are supposed evangelicals around denying or doubting Biblical inerrancy shows how decadent modern evangelicalism is because this matter was clearly settled in 1978 when the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) issued its famous statement which clearly sets forth the truth of this matter in what is known as "The Chicago Statement On Biblical Inerrancy". The publisher is to be commended for printing this statement in its entirety (plus the ICBI's expostion of it) in Appendix II (pp. 267 - 279).

The third and final Appendix (pp. 281-283) contains quotations setting forth Karl Barth's belief that the Scripture is errant and fallible taken from his Church Dogmatics.

A bibliography and an author index and scripture index is provided on pages 285 - 300.


  • At Sunday, October 04, 2009, Blogger John said…

    The matter was clearly settled in 1978? Why, because a group of men agreed on a document? Surely, you do not believe those men were incapable of being wrong. Since they clearly could be wrong, it seems that the matter is not settled.

    A solid Evangelical who doubts inerrancy.

  • At Monday, October 05, 2009, Blogger Forrest Schultz said…

    I am not aware that any of the principles in that document had ever been disproven. If you can disprove any of the principles set forth in the Chicago Statement, please let me see them. Until anyone refutes any of them, I shall regard the Chicago Statement as true.




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