Thursday, August 16, 2007

Packer on Inerrancy

When evangelicals call the Bible "inerrant," part at least of their meaning is this: that, in exegesis and exposition of Scripture and in building up our biblical theology from the fruits of our Bible study, we may not (1) deny, disregard, or arbitrarily relativize, anything that the biblical writers teach, nor (2) discount any of the practical implications for worship and service that their teaching carries, nor (3) cut the knot of any problem of Bible harmony, factual or theological, by allowing ourselves to assume that the inspired writers were not necessarily consistent either with themselves or with each other. It is because the word "inerrant" makes these methodological points about handling the Bible, ruling out in advance the use of mental procedures that can only lead to reduced and distorted versions of Christianity, that it is so valuable and, I think, so much valued by those who embrace it.
James I. Packer

(hat tip to CQOD)

Helpful quote, but I disagree. The word "inerrant" does not make those methodological points. The theological baggage attached by some to that word leads to those (correct) conclusions though.


Daniel Hill said...

Why do you think that 'the word "inerrant" does not make those methodological points'?

Concerning (1), if one denies something that the biblical writers teach one is thereby stating them to have erred.

Concerning (2), if one discounts any of the practical implications that the teaching of the biblical writers has one is thereby stating them to have erred (since anything with a false implication is false, and to discount something is to treat it as not true (for one)).

Concerning (3), if one cuts the knot of a problem by assuming that the inspired writers were not necessarily consistent, one is thereby stating that they were possibly inconsistent, i.e. that they possibly erred.

John said...

I think my point is that the use of the word "inerrant" assumes certain hermeneutical points - for example relevance to any modern situation. One could believe, for example, that Galatians is inerrant as a reporting of what Paul wrote to Galatia, but that it is irrelevant for today.

Daniel Hill said...

I think 'inerrancy' means that the Bible is without error in all that it affirms. It has, rightly, no commitment to whether Paul affirms in the epistle to the Galatians truths of universal application or ones only applicable to churches like the ones in Galatia.

John said...

But if that is true, doesn't that make Packer wrong?

Daniel Hill said...

No, I think Packer's right; he never says that it's part of the meaning of 'inerrant' that everything, or, indeed, anything in the Bible applies to us today.