Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy 3

Intro | Part 1 | Part 2

link to full text of statement

Article 5 then holds together the ideas that revelation is progressive, but that later revelation doesn't contradict earlier revelation. Articles 6-10 are about the doctrine of inspiration.

At this stage, it becomes clear that actually the authors are using "inerrancy" as a catch-all term for their doctrine of Scripture, even though many of the features they describe are not directly connected to inerrancy and although "inerrancy" is not the best term for it (IMO). Hence they're using the term in two different senses in the same document:

  • as theological jargon to carry a lot of baggage about the understanding of inspiration, communication, etc.
  • in it's normal English sense - i.e. "the quality of being free from all falsehood or mistake" (definition of "inerrant" from the Exposition - odd since "inerrant" is an adjective and the definition describes a noun, which should be "inerrancy")

I think this distinction is an important one. In the past, certainly, my dislike of the term "inerrancy" has been because I do not think the normal English sense does sufficient work to cover all the bases it needs to. But its use as jargon means that more can be put into the word, which gives it that potential. It's still bad communication though.

As regards comments on Articles 6-10, I'm generally in agreement. They are holding together the idea that the Bible is both fully God's words and fully human words. Article 2 of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics makes the connection with the doctrine of Christ explicit.

However, I think 6-10 do contain a few potentially misleading generalisations.

ARTICLE 7:
WE AFFIRM that inspiration was the work in which God by His Spirit, through human writers, gave us His Word. The origin of Scripture is divine. The mode of divine inspiration remains largely a mystery to us.
WE DENY that inspiration can be reduced to human insight, or to heightened states of consciousness of any kind.

ARTICLE 8:
WE AFFIRM that God in His work of inspiration utilized the distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers whom He had chosen and prepared.
WE DENY that God, in causing these writers to use the very words that He chose, overrode their personalities.

I think to say that there is only one "mode of divine inspiration" is misleading. It is clear in Scripture that there are multiple modes, including visions (Revelation 1:9-11) and research by the author (Luke 1:1-4) as well as direct dictation by God (e.g. Revelation 2-3).

While there are certainly examples where it is clear God has used the distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers (e.g. the differences between the gospels), there are other cases where he does seem to have overridden their personalities.

Here is Jeremiah (clearly with his personality not overridden at this point), seemingly complaining to God about God doing just that at other points.

O LORD, you deceived me, and I was deceived;
you overpowered me and prevailed.
I am ridiculed all day long;
everyone mocks me.
Whenever I speak, I cry out
proclaiming violence and destruction.
So the word of the LORD has brought me
insult and reproach all day long.
But if I say, "I will not mention him
or speak any more in his name,"
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot.
Jeremiah 20:7-9, NIV

So, in general, I agree. But I think that in assuming that there is only one mode for Biblical inspiration, and then generalising from some parts where it is clear (e.g. the gospels) to the whole Bible is unwise, as there are other parts where it is clearly different.

Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Summary

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