Thursday, August 16, 2007

Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy 6

Intro | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

link to full text of statement

The Statement ends with a prose "Exposition". Here are some edited highlights.

The theological reality of inspiration in the producing of Biblical documents corresponds to that of spoken prophecies: although the human writers' personalities were expressed in what they wrote, the words were divinely constituted. Thus, what Scripture says, God says; its authority is His authority, for He is its ultimate Author, having given it through the minds and words of chosen and prepared men who in freedom and faithfulness "spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (1 Pet. 1:21). Holy Scripture must be acknowledged as the Word of God by virtue of its divine origin...

Jesus Christ, the Son of God who is the Word made flesh, our Prophet, Priest, and King, is the ultimate Mediator of God's communication to man, as He is of all God's gifts of grace. The revelation He gave was more than verbal; He revealed the Father by His presence and His deeds as well. Yet His words were crucially important; for He was God, He spoke from the Father, and His words will judge all men at the last day.

As the prophesied Messiah, Jesus Christ is the central theme of Scripture. The Old Testament looked ahead to Him; the New Testament looks back to His first coming and on to His second. Canonical Scripture is the divinely inspired and therefore normative witness to Christ. No hermeneutic, therefore, of which the historical Christ is not the focal point is acceptable. Holy Scripture must be treated as what it essentially is—the witness of the Father to the Incarnate Son....

Mostly great so far. Slight irony in saying "Yet His words were crucially important" though - I thought his death was the crucially important bit of his revelation. Certainly Scripture seems to point at least as much to God as revealed particularly in Christ's death and resurrection as in his teaching. Yes, Jesus came to teach; he also came to die.

The New Testament canon is likewise now closed inasmuch as no new apostolic witness to the historical Christ can now be borne. No new revelation (as distinct from Spirit-given understanding of existing revelation) will be given until Christ comes again. The canon was created in principle by divine inspiration. The Church's part was to discern the canon which God had created, not to devise one of its own.

Logical error here. Yes, no new apostolic witness to the historical Christ can now be borne. But it does not therefore follow that no new revelation will be given until Christ comes again. No new normative, authoritative revelation - yes. But no new revelation at all - not proven.

By authenticating each other's authority, Christ and Scripture coalesce into a single fount of authority. The Biblically-interpreted Christ and the Christ-centered, Christ-proclaiming Bible are from this standpoint one. As from the fact of inspiration we infer that what Scripture says, God says, so from the revealed relation between Jesus Christ and Scripture we may equally declare that what Scripture says, Christ says.

Skirting close to, but this time just avoiding the danger of Bibliolatry (avoiding because of the phrase "from this standpoint"). But it's right that what Scripture says, Christ says.

We affirm that canonical Scripture should always be interpreted on the basis that it is infallible and inerrant. However, in determining what the God-taught writer is asserting in each passage, we must pay the most careful attention to its claims and character as a human production. In inspiration, God utilized the culture and conventions of His penman's milieu, a milieu that God controls in His sovereign providence; it is misinterpretation to imagine otherwise.

So history must be treated as history, poetry as poetry, hyperbole and metaphor as hyperbole and metaphor, generalization and approximation as what they are, and so forth. Differences between literary conventions in Bible times and in ours must also be observed: since, for instance, non-chronological narration and imprecise citation were conventional and acceptable and violated no expectations in those days, we must not regard these things as faults when we find them in Bible writers. When total precision of a particular kind was not expected nor aimed at, it is no error not to have achieved it. Scripture is inerrant, not in the sense of being absolutely precise by modern standards, but in the sense of making good its claims and achieving that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed.

So what Scripture affirms is now "that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed". If the aim of Genesis 1-2 was not to teach about science, how does that fit with the earlier comments about creation? It still is not clear how we are meant to tell what is meant to be hyperbole and metaphor, and what isn't.

Apparent inconsistencies should not be ignored. Solution of them, where this can be convincingly achieved, will encourage our faith, and where for the present no convincing solution is at hand we shall significantly honor God by trusting His assurance that His Word is true, despite these appearances, and by maintaining our confidence that one day they will be seen to have been illusions.

I agree. :o)

We are conscious too that great and grave confusion results from ceasing to maintain the total truth of the Bible whose authority one professes to acknowledge. The result of taking this step is that the Bible which God gave loses its authority, and what has authority instead is a Bible reduced in content according to the demands of one's critical reasonings and in principle reducible still further once one has started. This means that at bottom independent reason now has authority, as opposed to Scriptural teaching. If this is not seen and if for the time being basic evangelical doctrines are still held, persons denying the full truth of Scripture may claim an evangelical identity while methodologically they have moved away from the evangelical principle of knowledge to an unstable subjectivism, and will find it hard not to move further.

Yes. But I think that the Statement does not quite stop that as much as it intended to.



Daniel Hill said...

'If the aim of Genesis 1-2 was not to teach about science, how does that fit with the earlier comments about creation?'

It fits with the earlier comments by being compatible with inerrancy. The earlier comments were merely designed to rule out this position: the aim of the author(s) of Genesis 1-2 was to teach us about science and they got it wrong.

John said...

Which then leaves the statement compatible with either the view that Genesis 1-2 was not intended to teach about science, or that it was intended to teach about science and got it right.

But the way it is written, I'll bet that a lot of people don't see that. It looks as if it is designed to keep both 144-hour creationists and old earth creationists happy that theirs is the only view it allows.

Which is quite clever. And that's not a criticism.

Daniel Hill said...

I didn't interpret the Statement as teaching that 144-hour creationism and old-earth creationism were the only views it allows.

I interpreted it as saying that, whether Genesis 1-2 was intended to teach about science, or was not intended to teach about science, it got it right.

John said...

fair enough.