Thursday, August 16, 2007

Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy 4

Intro | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

link to full text of statement

Articles 11-13 are the heart of the document.

ARTICLE 11:
WE AFFIRM that Scripture, having been given by divine inspiration, is infallible, so that, far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses.
WE DENY that it is possible for the Bible to be at the same time infallible and errant in its assertions. Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished, but not separated.

ARTICLE 12: WE AFFIRM that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.
WE DENY that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.

ARTICLE 13: WE AFFIRM the propriety of using inerrancy as a theological term with reference to the complete truthfulness of Scripture.
WE DENY that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose. We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.

This is also where I think the statement gets too fuzzy. Article 11 says that the Bible is "far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses". Scripture cannot mislead, but people can misunderstand it and so be misled. There is also the key question of how it is determined which matters it addresses.

How, for example, do these articles relate to poetry such Psalm 19:4-6?

In the heavens [God] has pitched a tent for the sun,
which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is hidden from its heat.
Psalm 19:4b-6, NIV

Yes, I can accept that it is poetry and so we do not take God having pitched a tent for the sun literally. But how can we on the one hand say that is poetry so we don't have to take it literally and on the other say that the accounts of the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead are historical rather than pious unhistorical myth teaching a spiritual truth (as some argue)? Who is to classify the genre of literature? Yes, I believe Jesus rose bodily from the dead. But I don't think even with this statement's expanded use of the term "inerrancy", that it can do the work it is meant to do. It seems to me possible to agree with this statement and yet deny key doctrines it is meant to be defending.

Article 12 says "We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood." Quite right. What Scripture teaches is correct. The Statement does however allow scientific hypotheses about earth history to clarify the interpretation of the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood, which is quite possibly something some of the people who wrote it would also disagree with.

Article 13 says "WE AFFIRM the propriety of using inerrancy as a theological term with reference to the complete truthfulness of Scripture." Once again, I am uncertain what it means for a poem employing metaphor to be truthful. Or a love song, for that matter.

I rather imagine that the second half of Article 13 is meant to deal with this problem. But if it allows for hyperbole (which it should), how can we contradict those who argue that the description of Jesus walking on water was just hyperbole?

Part 5 | Part 6 | Summary

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