Tuesday, June 30, 2009

2. The Old Testament Canon (Critical Issues Series)

I've written more than one booklet and paper here. It's just more motivating for me to write, at least thinking I might have people listening. I thought of a small project yesterday in relation to the Bible part of the seminary curriculum.

I personally think a seminary trained pastor should at least have heard of the standard critical issues of the Bible. They don't need to know too much about those issues as they are really tangential to what ministry is overwhelmingly about. Indeed, I would argue these issues are tangential to what the Bible is primarily about for Christians.

And I don't say that because I am in denial, as if anyone with a brain or with faith knows that these issues have no substance but are simply the faithless schemes of godless liberals. I say that because the Bible as God's word is the Bible as Christian canon, and on this level it matters precious little whether there were sources that the Pentateuch edited into its current form. In that sense I am irritated to think of how much time both liberals and evangelicals have spent focusing on such issues in the twentieth century.

But there's no reason for IWU's seminary students to be ignorant either, as if we're afraid to bring such things up. We shouldn't be afraid.

So I'm proposing a piece of the puzzle in a "brief guide." Don't know if it will go anywhere officially. But I can slap it on my web page if not.

Chapter 1 would be introduction and would give my sense of what "critical" issues are and how a person of faith might engage them faithfully.
____________
Chapter 2: The Old Testament Canon
In our modern Bibles, the Old Testament is arranged in a series of roughly four sections: the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), the so called "Historical Books" (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther), what we might call the "Poetic Books" (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon), and the Prophets. The Prophets are then often subdivided into the "Major" Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel) and the "Minor" Prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Zechariah, Haggai, Malachi).

However, this is not the way these books were grouped at the time of Christ. Indeed, if we are to get our minds into the way Jesus talked about these books, we first have to recognize that no book existed at the time of Christ that was big enough to accommodate so many different writings. And they were all different writings. You may have noticed that even the Psalms are divided into five books (1-41, 44-72, 73-89, 90-106, 107-50). This material is simply too long to fit on a single ancient scroll.

Nevertheless, the Jews did divide these writings into groups. The contents of two of these groupings seem fairly well established by the time of Christ, namely, the Law and the Prophets. When Matthew 5:17 says that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, it is speaking of the two central collections of writings in the Jewish Bible. The "Law" refers to the Pentateuch or "five scrolls": Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. This grouping is of course the same as we use today.

However, from that point on, Jesus' grouping of the Jewish Scriptures (which Christians conceptualize as the "Old" Testament) differed from ours. The Jews divide the Prophets section of their Bible into two parts, the "Former" Prophets and the "Latter" Prophets. The Former Prophets contain much of what we call the Historical Books: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. Notice that Ruth, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther are not in this section of the Hebrew Bible.

To call these writings "prophets" perhaps reflects the fact that they were not understood as mere history. Indeed, from a historical standpoint, we would want to hear a good deal more than the 7 and 9 verses alloted to Omri and Jereboam II. These two northern kings ruled for decades and had incredibly successful reigns from a political standpoint. But they receive short shrift in Kings.

The Hebrew language is generally not written with vowels. Those Hebrew Bibles that have them follow the medieval practice of writing points underneath to signify them. What this means is that a Hebrew text tends to be significantly shorter than the equivalent text in another language. What were thus originally only one book, Samuel or Kings, thus became 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, when translated into Greek. Actually, in the Greek Old Testament, often called the Septuagint, these books are 1, 2, 3, and 4 Kings.

The Latter Prophets refers to the books we think of as the Prophets today. It did not include Lamentations or Daniel, however. On the other hand, The Twelve was the way in which the so called "Minor" Prophets were referenced. So when Paul says that God's righteousness has now been revealed apart from Law, although that righteousness was witnessed to by the Law and the Prophets, he means to say that the Jewish Scriptures had witnessed to the events that had recently taken place with Jesus (Rom. 3:21).

The third section of the Jewish canon is called The Writings, and it is basically a grab bag of smaller and perhaps in most cases, later books. Luke 24:44 may allude to this shape of the Jewish canon at the time of Christ when it says that Jesus had taught his disciples about the things to be fulfilled in him from "the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms." The Psalms here refers to the first and most prominent book of the Writings. As early as around 130BC, the prologue to the Greek translation of Sirach mentions the Law, the Prophets, and the "rest of the books," indicating that the three-fold division of Scripture was already in play then.

It is common to hear people say that the limits of the Jewish canon were set in the year AD90 at a place called Jamnia (Yavneh). The Romans had allowed the Jews to set up their religious headquarters at Jamnia after they had destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in AD70. The leadership of the Jews at this time would arguably have been overwhelmingly Pharisaic in nature. The result is perhaps that the rabbinic Judaism that gained power and flowed out of this period was far more a reflection of Pharisaism than a fair representation of the diversity of Judaism at the time of Jesus. We must be very careful, therefore, about presuming that the Jewish traditions we read about in later literature were actually the beliefs and practices of Jews across the board at the time of Jesus.

However, there really is no hard evidence of some "council" at Jamnia setting the limits of the Jewish canon. Indeed, the evidence would seem rather to suggest that the edges of Jewish Scripture remained somewhat fluid in the late first century AD. Jude 14-17, at this time, seems to quote the Book of Watchers as Scripture (1 Enoch 1:9). A good argument can be made that the Essenes considered 1 Enoch to be Scripture and, on the basis of Jude, that at least some early Christian Jews did too.

We have no reason to think the predominantly Gentile Christians of the earliest centuries would have used books like Wisdom, Sirach, and such as Scripture if they had not inherited this practice from at least some of the earliest Jewish Christians, probably Greek-speaking ones. The New Testament itself seems to draw in at least a few places on these sorts of books that did not make it into the canon of rabbinic Judaism.

And so it is that different Christian groups today have differing beliefs on the exact contents of the "Old Testament." Roman Catholics have seven additional books, the so called Apocrypha (Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees), including expansions of Esther and additions to Daniel. The Orthodox also have 1 Esdras and other groups like the Ethiopian church have more still. Martin Luther generally set the majority of Protestantism (with the notable exception of Anglicans) on a course that limits the Old Testament to the rabbinic, Jewish canon.

Perhaps it is easiest to map this Catholic-Protestant polarization best by looking back to a man named Jerome in the early 400s. He was the one who standarized the Latin version of the Bible in the early 400s, translating all the books from the original languages with an eye to existing Latin translations. Jerome considered the books Protestants call the Apocrypha to be a kind of second level canon or, as we now say, to be deuterocanonical rather than "protocanonical." At the time of the Reformation, Luther thus downgraded these books from having any Scriptural status at all. In response, the Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Trent (1545) then upgraded them to have protocanonical status. In that sense, the Anglican and Orthodox churches probably come closest to using these books in the way they were used throughout most of Christian history.

Seminary Vision (6-30-09):

The next of the IWU Seminary videos is "personalized."

So far we've featured the Missional, Communal, Integrated, and Spiritually Enriching vidcasts. Today we feature the Personalized one.

Three points immediately come to mind in how the program at IWU is personalized.

1. It requires you to do regular action research on your own congregation, youth group, small group, etc.

The research is thus not primarily hypothetical or case study-ish. It is sociological research you do with your congregation every week. The strategic plans you formulate are plans for a real church. And of course if you mess up, real people get upset with you. That's a personalized education.

2. You do not have to move from where you are.

You can do most of the program online, only coming to campus for two weeks out of the year to satisfy residency. That means you remain in your life space rather than uprooting to a vacuum.

3. You have 15 hours of electives that you can carve into your own specialty.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Seminary Vision (6-29-09): Spiritually Enriching

The next of the IWU Seminary videos is "spiritually enriching."

So far we've featured the Missional, Communal, and Integrated vidcasts. Today's video is the Spiritually Enriching one.

There are two principle ways in which we are consciously attending to the spiritual dimension of the MDIV degree.

1. A one hour spiritual formation course that accompanies each of the six core courses of the curriculum. These are written to lead a person through the actual process of change rather than just sending you off to read the Bible and pray:

a. Change and Transformation--asks how change and transformation take place

b. Self-Awareness and Appraisal--leads you to assess where you are at in your pilgrimage

c. Goal Setting and Accountability--has to do with identifying where you need to move to

d. Mentoring and Spiritual Direction--deals with this important component in getting there

e. Personal and Corporate Disciplines--here we get to the component that so many spiritual formation programs focus exclusively on. Even here, they usually focus only on the personal disciplines. In good Wesleyan fashion, we will bring in the means of grace and corporate disciplines too.

f. Recovery and Deliverance--focuses on the arrival and embodies a tradition that is optimistic about God's power to transform for real.

What a robust approach! Without even realizing it, so much spiritual formation is anemic!

2. The second element of spiritual formation is a philosophy that will work its way through the whole curriculum. There are those who are anti-seminary because they perceive it to be harmful or distracting to faith. Some try to stop their ministers from going for fear it will make them liberal and corrupt them. Others think it gets them out of focus and gets their priorities out of whack.

Is this true or an urban legend? I suspect there is some truth to it. But the problem for me is not that seminaries teach false things. The accusation that they subtly change priorities may have more to it and the rise of home grown seminaries on site at megachurches (e.g., Mars Hill) helps because teaching is done in the ministry setting, as ours will be by requiring them to be in ministry. The potential danger of the onsite church seminary is becoming ingrown, of course... and no church has the infrastructure of a university like IWU that is some 14,000 strong (online, records, support services, etc.).

My sense is that the Bible and philosophy are the main culprits in faith challenge at seminary, and having some expertise in both areas, I can't say that the problem is that these challenges are false. The problem is that our paradigms are not equipped to incorporate the challenges into our faith.

So the approach to these topics we are taking in our MDIV is not to pretend that the issues aren't real (the fundamentalist dodge) but to appropriate some of the great possibilities of theological intepretation. We will not focus on the question issues but when we encounter them, we will be able to keep them in perspective. It is a great privilege to be born at a period when we are finally able to move beyond the dichotomies of the past!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Seminary Vision (6-28-09): Integrated

I've been featuring the IWU Seminary videos. So far I've looked at the Missional and Communal emphases of our new MDIV.

Today I want to feature the Integrated vidcast.

Don't get me wrong, a "disciplinary" approach has its place. Indeed, there is a possible world in which we have OxBridge style MAs in Bible, theology, and Church history up and running in a year's time. In them, you would be able to plum the depths of the most obscure and minute topic... if you can find a professor willing to advise you :-)

But what pastors need most in ministry is not a depth of knowledge in particular subjects. What they need most is the skill to integrate knowledge and skills in specific, concrete ministry situations, guided by godly and effective dispositions. It's hard to teach this skill, because it needs to be used in such diverse situations that you can really only model and practice it in general in preparation. The variety of specific outworkings of integration in ministry come at you like a pitcher with a wicked curve ball you've never faced before.

So we are convinced that the "siloed" approach to seminary education--each discipline separate and in its own place--has the significant weakness of forcing you to do all the integration of things together on your own. And little attention is paid to developing this essential skill.

The Bible means nothing to anyone today--or it means the wrong thing to people today--if you have not developed the skill of appropriating it to practice with integrity. Similarly, so much of the pop banter you read about flows nicely from a shallow understanding of Church history. And what good is theology other than a hobby if you don't know how to apply it?

Of course a similar problem exists with some practical courses in seminary. It is one thing to study anatomy and physiology in a textbook. It is a significantly different thing to find these things in a corpse. And it is quite a different thing yet to know what to do with a living person on an operating table. Most seminaries these days at least have you do practicums--that's like dissecting the corpse. We'll study while you're in a ministry capacity at your church.

So there are two key features of our program that ensure that integration takes place:

1. It is an "in ministry" degree. You have to be working in a local church at least 20 hours a week to be in our program. You will do action research with members of your youth group or congregation every week. "When would you say you were 'converted'?" "What was it about this church that convinced you to try it out?" "If these are the stages of a church's life cycle, where would you say we are?" "If these are the four types of forces that cause change in a local church, which one or ones would you say are most in play right now?"

2. Bible, theology, and Church history are incorporated into every week of the course, and there is an iconic Integration Paper in which you run a specific church problem through biblical exegesis, theology and Church history.

For example, in the same week you are looking at institutionalization as a phase of a church's life cycle, you will read a piece by Bud Bence in defense of Constantine. In the same week as you are talking about strategizing for mobilization, you will read excerpts from John Calvin and John Wesley and then compare and contrast classical predestination with Wesley's prevenient grace--how if at all does it affect who can be reached?

In this way, the various disciplines of theory across the board are presented in the context of practice.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Seminary Vision (6-27-09): Communal

I've been featuring the IWU Seminary videos. Yesterday I featured the short video on the Missional orientation of our new MDIV.

Today, I want to feature the Communal video. Some people are natural extraverts. They will make connections with the people around them without help. Others of us are quite as happy to stay in our own cacoons.

Building community is an important feature of any Christian group. This is particularly a concern if your learning group is primarily online. We've incorporated a number of features to our seminary to facilitate this element in the equation:

1. It is a cohort model.
... which means that you will take the bulk of your courses with the same group of 10-20 individuals. You will know each other well--and each other's churches--by the time you are finished.

2. Spiritual formation throughout.
Not only are you in a cohort with a small group throughout but you are in a sequence of spiritual formation classes together throughout. More on this later.

3. Yearly convocation
Every year in August, the entirety of the seminary faculty and student body will gather together to worship and fellowship together at the Marion campus. For some, this will eventually be the time of graduation.

4. Blackboard Community
The seminary has pushed for IWU to add the community function to its Blackboard platform and the university has agreed. We will therefore be facilitating interaction between students in different cohorts with each other in between convocations throughout the year.

Table of Contents: Jewish Background Literature

Leaving out the "Apocrypha" and the Dead Sea Scrolls (which are nicely and cheaply packaged for purchase--bracketed below), what Jewish "pseudepigrapha" are significant for New Testament background?

Here's a shot from around 200BC to AD200:

Pre-Maccabean
1. [Tobit]
2. [Sirach]
3. Alexandria: Artapanus
4. Alexandria: Ezekiel the Tragedian
5. Alexandria: Aristeas
6. Alexandria: Aristobulus*
7. 1 Enoch: Book of Watchers
8. 1 Enoch: Astronomical Book
9. 1 Enoch: Apocalypse of Weeks
10. Historical Sources: 1 Maccabees*
11. Historical Sources: 2 Maccabees*
12. Historical Sources: Josephus*

*post-Maccabean

The Maccabean Crisis
1. [1 Maccabees]*
2. [Daniel]*
3. [2 Maccabees]*
4. 1 Enoch: Dream Visions
5. [Judith]
6. [Baruch]

*relevant to crisis, regardless of dating

Early Essene Writings
1. Historical Sources: Josephus*
2. Historical Sources: Philo*
3. Jubilees
4. [4QMMT]
5. [Temple Scroll]
6. [Covenant of Damascus]

Qumran Writings
1. Historical Sources: Pliny*
2. [Community Rule]
3. [Habakkuk and Nahum pesher commentaries]
4. [Hymns]
5. [Messianic Rule]
6. [War Scroll]
7. [Songs of Sabbath Sacrifice]
8. [Florilegium, Testimonia, Melchizedek]

The Roman Era
1. Historical Sources: Josephus*
2. Psalms of Solomon
3. [Wisdom]
4. Philonic Corpus
5. 4 Maccabees

Later Apocalyptic Writings
1. Testaments of Twelve Patriarchs
2. Epistle of Enoch
3. Similitudes of Enoch
4. Apocalypse of Abraham
5. Testament of Job

After Jerusalem's Destruction
1. Historical Sources: Josephus
2. 4 Ezra
3. 2 Baruch
4. 2 Enoch
5. The Mishnah

What's missing or misplaced?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Seminary Vision (6-26-09): Missional

For the next few days, I want to feature one of the IWU Seminary videos, in addition to any other posts I make here.

Today, I want to feature the short video on the Missional orientation of our new MDIV.

The first major 6hr course in our new curriculum is called the Missional Church (there are two shorter 3hr one week intensives prior to this first course: an orientation to the MDIV and to ministry called the Pastor, Church, and World and a second course focusing on the varied layers of Cultural Contexts of Ministry).

The Missional Church course has been designed, not only by Norm Wilson--a career missionary and long time leader among Wesleyan Global partners... not only by an instructional design team including key people like Keith Drury, Russ Gunsalus, Dave Smith, and myself... not only with input from Bible, theology, and church history experts like Steve Lennox, Chris Bounds, and Bud Bence... but it will be taught this Fall by church growth experts Chip Arn (online) and Bob Whitesel (onsite), who have also been heavily involved in the specific form the course has taken online.

Books for the course include such titles as Treasure in Clay Jars, Missional Church, The Missional Leader, and The Master's Plan for Making Disciples. It covers topics like social justice, evangelism, church growth-health-planting-multiplication, and traditional missions. Action research includes assignments assessing where your church is in its life cycle and enabling you to strategize on how to connect with your community and close the "back doors" of your church.

Bible widgets look at a missional hermeneutic, the prophets and social justice, the Great Commandment by way of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the Great Commission of Matthew 28, and the expansion of the gospel in the book of Acts. Theology widgets include readings in people like John Wesley and John Calvin. Church history widgets include a look at Constantine and St. Patrick.

Racing to get the online version fully in place by the time the first online course opens August 21!

8.3 Philosophy of Science

Whether individuals could describe it or not, the scientific method is deeply ingrained in the consciousness of Western culture. Our teachers in middle school and high school at least tried to teach it to us. But we probably learn it more effectively from watching police and crime shows where they gather evidence and form hypotheses about "who done it." They test these hypotheses against the evidence, gather further evidence, test the hypothesis some more.

[textbox: scientific method, hypothesis, theory]

At some point they move beyond considering someone a "person of interest" and they will declare them a "suspect" in the case. Eventually they may arrest the person and put them on trial. Finally, a jury will, at least in theory, weigh the evidence again to decide whether guilt is the most logical conclusion given the evidence, at least "beyond a reasonable doubt." As we have argued previously, it would seem impossible to prove anything of this sort absolutely--the world of inductive thinking is a world of probabilities, not absolute certainties.

The process is so common sensical that it hardly seems something anyone would question. After all, isn't this the way we operate in our day to day activities? I hear a thumping on the roof. I go and investigate. Is it a burglar? Santa Claus? Too big for a squirrel. Not sure if it was heavy enough for a person. I go upstairs and look out the window. Oh, it's a raccoon.

On the other hand, most of us are scarcely consistent. Sometimes--perhaps more often than we might admit to ourselves--we form conclusions on the basis of almost no evidence at all. We "pre-judge" someone or something on some irrelevant basis. This is the stuff of prejudice. We see a person's color, race, or gender and presume that they must be a certain way. In chapter 2, we called this the informal fallacy of hasty generalization, with other fallacies often involved as well.

[textbox: prejudice]

Nevertheless, even if we are not good inductive thinkers, most Westerners would likely claim in theory that they consider this method of investigation legitimate and valuable. You'll remember from chapter 2 that inductive thinking is when you look at a collection of data and induce a general truth from it. We are so used to this way of thinking in science that it is hard for most of us to imagine a time when the best known thinkers were primarily talking about truth from a deductive standpoint, where you start with certain assumptions and then play them out in particular details.

To be sure, we are seeing a resurgence of this older deductive approach to truth today, especially since postmodernism raises questions about whether we can really induce truth from our observations of the world. We live in a climate where it is acceptable simply to start with large, unproved assumptions and talk about reality from there. Some Christians, such as the radical orthodoxy movement we mentioned in chapter 2, see this situation as a great climate for Christian faith.

Many of postmodernism's criticisms seem to be valid, as we will see later in this section. However, our hunch is that the usefulness of inductive thinking will continue to predominate in the days to come. Its usefulness in expressing accurately what happens in the world, as well as in enabling us to do things in the world is too great for it not to continue. If every group simply starts with their own untouchable assumptions and proceeds from there, then such groups can hardly even talk to each other.

Historians often trace the re-emergence of inductive reasoning and scientific method to Sir Francis Bacon in the 1500s (1561-1626). But others might suggest that Bacon himself was riding a wave that goes further back to the theologian Thomas Aquinas in the 1200s (ca. 1225-74), and then beyond him to Islamic philosophers like Ibn Sina (sometimes called Avicenna, ca.980-1037) and Ibn Rushd (sometimes called Averroes, 1126-98). These individuals did use deductive reasoning to a significant extent. But their reasoning often began with some observation of the world, such as the fact that for something to move, it has to be pushed. In that sense, Bacon more represents the culmination of a trajectory rather than a completely new beginning.

Francis Bacon secured his name as the "father of scientific method" primarily because of a book he wrote called the New Organon. In it, he suggested that when trying to arrive at a conclusion on some matter relating to the world, a person should create tables of data. You would put data relating to something you were studying, like heat, in one column. Then you would put data relating to the opposite, like coldness, in another. Then you would test hypotheses against the columns, to see if your understanding matched the way the data played out. This grounded the study of the world in observation rather than in making deductions from "axioms" you assume as a starting point.

[Organon quote]

A few features of Bacon's approach are significant. First, he assumes that a person can be more or less objective or unbiased as he or she looks at the data. Secondly, he assumes that you can come to a definite and final answer to the question you are posing to the data. Both of these assumptions came under serious question in the twentieth century.

[quote: "knowledge is power"]

One of the main figures to question these two assumptions was Karl Popper (1902-94). Popper rightly pointed out that the very questions with which we come to some set of data colors the answers we will draw from that data. No one comes to a set of data without certain presuppositions or expectations. No one can look at a set of data with a God's eye view. No one is perfectly objective.

Secondly, Popper seriously questioned whether we could ever come to a final answer and verify that a scientific theory was true. A claim like "all snow is white" cannot be finally verified. The very nature of inductive thinking is open-ended. So it was that after Europeans had thought for years that all swans were white, they came across black swans in Australia. So Popper suggested that science was based on the quest not to verify theories, but to falsify them. Good theories were theories that, thus far, had resisted falsification.

In this approach, he rejected another approach that enjoyed a brief moment of popularity in the early twentieth century, logical positivism. [1] Logical positivists held that only things a person could observe and verify had any real claim to being called "true." The fundamental problem with this theory, of course, is that it cannot be observed or verified. It is thus incoherent on a most basic level. Popper's suggested that the best theories are those that have not yet been falsified is at least an improvement on logical positivism, although it still assumes that with scientific theory we are basically dealing with theories that are either "true" or "false."

However, by far the most significant philosopher of science in the twentieth century was Thomas Kuhn (1922-96). In the first edition of Kuhn's, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, he argued that no scientific paradigm is ultimately better than another. You will remember that a paradigm is a way of looking at a particular subject, like the diversity of animal species. To Kuhn, what we think of as scientific development is a kind of organized wandering from one paradigm to another, following a predictable process. In the second edition, he tempered his thinking a little, particularly over protests at the thought that creation science might be equally valid in comparison to evolutionary science. [2]

[text box: paradigm, normal science]

Kuhn's basic idea was that science operates most of the time according to a dominant paradigm, the normal science. So in the early 1500s, the dominant astronomical paradigm was that the sun went around the earth. In the 1800s, the paradigm of physics was Newtonian. In the twentieth century, the dominant biological paradigm was evolutionary. These are the lenses through which a particular set of data are viewed and organized.

So you are at the Grand Canyon and you see a set of layers of earth and rock. In the typical creation science paradigm, you might assume that these layers were laid down over a relatively short period of time, perhaps in the aftermath of a world wide flood. [3] Alternatively, such a person might suggest that God created the earth to have "apparent age." In other words, the earth may look like it is billions of years old, but it only appears this way because God made the earth and universe to look old. The dominant geological paradigm in these matters, of course, is that these layers represent millions of years of slow, largely uniform conditions in which layer was gradually laid down over time. [4]

According to Kuhn, the reason paradigms change is not so much because we get smarter or that science gets better. Rather, all paradigms leave explained or seemingly contradictory data. I like to call it "naughty data." After a paradigm has shifted, most "normal scientists" expend their energy trying to fit anomalous data into the new, dominant paradigm. Such operations may go for a long time without changing the current paradigm too much.

For example, evolution has been the dominant scientific paradigm perhaps for over a century now. But it has not gone unchanged. For example, while Charles Darwin (1809-82) suggested that the more complex organisms we know today evolved from less complex ones, he could not really explain how such changes took place. His version of evolution simply saw organisms gradually changing bit by bit, with nature over time selecting the bits that best helped organisms adapt and survive.

But Darwin's version of evolution could not really explain how the new changes came about in the first place. This element of evolutionary theory did not enter the equation until after Darwin, when the idea of mutation entered the scene. So we have here an example of "normal science" persisting, in this case, the paradigm of evolution. But when encountering a problem with the theory, normal scientists did not abandon the overall idea of evolution. Rather, they modified the theory to account for some "naughty data" that did not fit.

Kuhn suggested that there will always be anomalous data in relation to a dominant paradigm. This data is the seed of a paradigm shift, which Kuhn predicted would always take place eventually. At some point, Kuhn argued, someone would suggest a completely different way of looking at the data--one that focused on the data that did not fit the current paradigm.

[text box: Thomas Kuhn]

Of course normal science resists such radical rethinking. Copernicus' (1473-1543) suggestion that the earth went round the sun was not met with open arms by either the Roman Catholic Church or the scientists of the day. [5] Indeed, one of Kuhn's points was that it was not scientifically obvious at the time that Copernicus was correct. For example, his mathematical explanations of the planets' movements did not work as well as the "Ptolemaic" scientists who defended the normal science of the day--that the heavenly bodies moved around the earth. [6]

[insert figure of Ptolemaic universe]

But the math of the Ptolemaic scientists was much more complex than Copernicus'. So while they might account for the motions of the heavenly bodies more accurately, Occam's Razor was against them--the idea that the simplest explanation is usually a better explanation. As Christians, we should take warning. We Christians have paradigms about Christianity as well. We have paradigms of interpretations, for example.

A Baptist will emphasize certain verses that fit with their way of thinking and tend to de-emphasize other verses, "naughty verses," that do not fit as well. The same is true of a Methodist or a Presbyterian or a Reformed thinker. At the same time, we often find that Christians in a particular tradition expend a good deal of intellectual energy trying to account for the passages that do not fit their paradigm as well. Often new churches and denominations are born off such naughty verses. [7]

A great example of applying great intellect to account for problem data is that of mid-twentieth century fundamentalism and its understanding of inerrancy. In a famous book called The Battle for the Bible, Harold Lindsell took a very rigid view of how minutely the gospels of the New Testament need to fit together historically in order to be truthful. [8] In a famous example, he tries to explain how all four gospel accounts of Peter denying Jesus can be historically accurate down to the smallest detail and still fit together. Ingeniously, he suggests that Peter might have denied Jesus six times--three before a first rooster crow and three more before a second crowing! [9]

Lindsell's reconstruction is a great illustration of a paradigm ripe for a shift. Yes, he managed to account for some naughty data. He applied his significant intellect to problem data and found a way to make it fit into his paradigm. But his thesis was so complex that it begged for a paradigm overhaul. His scenario created a "fifth" gospel that is more different from any of the individual gospels than they are from each other! It is no wonder that evangelicals of the late twentieth century generally came to take a looser view of how minutely accurate the gospels need to be historically in order to be considered truthful or even inerrant.

In the case of the planets, Copernicus' heliocentric solar system (sun at center) did not fit all the details as precisely as the geocentric one (earth as center) defended by the math of the Ptolemaic scientists, but it was simpler and not far off. Less than a century later, Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) made the heliocentric math both simpler and more accurate by arguing that the planets moved around the sun in ellipses rather than circles. As Kuhn argued, however, what now seem to us as obvious steps forward in a progression of knowledge were not clear at all at the time.

According to Kuhn, paradigms shift in a political struggle between those who support the old paradigm and those who focus on data that does not fit. Since normal science operates by trying to fit anomalous data into the old paradigm, it usually resists strongly the advent of new paradigms that form around the problem data. The old paradigm establishment may keep new paradigm supporters from publishing or speaking at conferences or getting jobs. But if the new paradigm gets its foot in the door, if its supporters increase--usually among younger scientists--the older scientists will eventually die off.

So it was that Albert Einstein (1879-1955) never supported the radical version of quantum mechanics that developed in the 1920s and is now the normal paradigm of physics. "God does not throw dice," he once wrote in a letter to a fellow scientist. But Einstein has been dead for over fifty years now, and it would be hard to find a reputable nuclear physicist today who agrees with him on the issue in question.

Although Kuhn's theory applies to paradigm shifts in science, the basic principles clearly apply to paradigm shifts in any field of knowledge that involves the organization of data. For example, one important shift in the study of Paul's writings in the New Testament has flowed naturally from greater attention to passages in Jewish literature that view God's relationship with Israel as one of grace rather than as something Israel primarily earned or worked to achieve. When certain interpreters focused on the importance of God's grace in Judaism, the seeds of a paradigm shift came into play. And it is predictable that they have encountered angry resistance by the "normal scientists" of the old paradigm. [10]

In the years since the Protestant Reformation, Lutheran and Calvinist interpreters had interpreted certain passages in Paul to oppose human "works" as having any role at all in God's acceptance of us, in our "justification." Accordingly, not only did these interpreters accentuate any passages in which human action seemed to play a role in God's acceptance, they also read Paul and the New Testament in such a way as to deny any role of works in God's acceptance there. But of course, there are any number of New Testament passages that connect God's final acceptance of us to our actions in this life, both in Paul and elsewhere (e.g., Matt. 25:31-46; Rom. 2:5-6; 2 Cor. 5:10; Jas. 2:24-25). And so the "new perspective on Paul" in its various forms has both emphasized that Judaism was also a religion of grace and that Paul had a significant place for works in his understanding of God's acceptance of us.

There is therefore much in Kuhn's approach to science that is helpful in understanding the way in which scientific paradigms change. We can wonder, however, if he were not too pessimistic in his sense that such paradigms were not really headed anywhere. For example, quantum mechanics--even though it may very well be superceded at some point--certainly accounts for the workings of the world on a vastly different scale than Newtonian physics did. As we mentioned in the first section of this chapter, it may still only be an "expression" of what we observe in the world, a kind of scientific myth. But it is a myth that has served and continues to serve us very well. Quantum mechanics is a vastly more useful scientific approach to the world than Newtonian physics was. And in that respect, surely it deserves to be called a better, even a "truer" theory than Newton's.

[1] The best known logical positivist was A. J. Ayer (1910-89).

[2] "Creation science" here refers to those Christian scientists who argue for a relatively young earth with only a minimal amount of evolution around the level of individual species or orders.

[3] This paradigm is called catastrophism, the idea that the earth's geology is best explained on the basis of world wide catastrophies, particularly a world wide flood.

[4] A paradigm we might call uniformitarianism. Certainly mainstream geology also would allow for major earth catastrophies as well. A common theory for why the dinosaurs went extinct involves a rather large asteroid hitting the earth and changing its climate.

[5] We should point out that the Roman Catholic Church today actually has scientists on retainer and could not in any way be described accurately as being against science. For example, Roman Catholic thinkers would more likely engage themselves in how evolution might connect to Christian faith than with trying to disprove it.

[6] "Ptolemaic" here refers to the Greek astronomer Ptolemy (**), who argued that the planets, sun, and moon moved in perfect circles around the earth.

[7] The Seventh Day Adventist Church is a great example of a church formed around naughty verses. This church worships on Saturday because they emphasize the fact that the Sabbath in the Bible always refers to Saturday. They have noticed verses in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4 where Paul speaks of death as sleep and so do not believe we are conscious in between death and resurrection.

[8] **

[9]**

[10] In my opinion, we are currently witnessing continued resistance by the old Pauline paradigm in such "Ptolemaic" works such as John Piper's The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright (Crossway, 2007), and the two volume work edited by D. A. Carson, Peter T. O'Brien, and Mark Siefrid, Justification and Variegated Nomism (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001, 2004).

Thursday, June 25, 2009

IWU Seminary on Video!

Here are some great videos sharing the vision of the new seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University.

If you don't want to go through them all, here are the individual vids:

Introduction
Missional
Communal
Integrated
Spiritually Enriching
Personalized
Economical
Leading Edge

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Nice Post by President of OWU

Nice thought by Everett Piper, President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University. I would say that his thinking and mine are a little like Paul and James sometimes: we agree but are emphasizing different pieces of the puzzle.

For example, he says, "I have maintained for years that those who say that an objective defense of truth is obsolete are dead wrong. To abandon apologetics and, thereby, embrace the relational at the expense of the rational is simply a false dichotomy."

I agree. This is a false dichotomy. The relational is not anti-rational and any abandonment of there being better and worse answers to questions is foolhearty. There is such a thing as right and wrong, just and unjust, and as Christians who love our neighbors it is our responsibility to work for them in effective and fully Christian ways.

Again, "They don’t need nor will they accept some watered down 'generous orthodoxy' that really is nothing but a lie born of Man’s oxymoronic canonization of the relative."

I agree. Any watered down sense of generous orthodoxy that leaves us with nothing in our hands because it has all washed away is worthless. The phrase I use is "identity within diversity." We know who we are and what we believe with full awareness and love toward the myriad of other identities and beliefs, at the same time humble at the realization of the limitations of our own knowledge.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Reading the Bible Canonically as Scripture

Well, I never intended to get into such controversial issues in those last posts, especially since I see so many of them as tangential to what we should be talking about when it comes to Scripture. I'm in Arizona and then California for a few days for a family wedding, and didn't want to leave my blog fixed in the mud. So here's a quick thought on what it might mean to read the Bible Christianly and canonically.

1. We read the Bible more as a single book than as individual books.
This is of course how Christians throughout the centuries have read the Bible. In my opinion, fundamentalism and early neo-evangelicalism have tried to continue to read the Bible in this way without making the necessary hermeneutical adjustments. To read the Bible as a single book, once one is more fully aware of their historical particularity, requires a person to loosen their meanings somewhat from their historical contexts.

This loosening of concrete historical meaning to read the Bible as a single book need not deny the historical particularity of the books themselves as individual moments of inspiration. We just need to be open to a slightly different meaning for them, including a different significance, when we read them as a whole.

2. The unifying principle of this canonical reading is a story, the story of creation and redemption.
The significance of Adam, Moses, Jesus, and the church is a significance they take on in a unified story. Historically, Adam and Moses did not have the same significance in their particular books historically as they have in the Christian story. And the nature of the church and the full significance of Jesus, have involved much outworking in the days since the final books of the New Testament were written. The Christian story is anticipated by the snippets of the individual books of the Bible, but the story as a whole is "extra" biblical.

3. The authoritative import of Scripture derives from a mysterious intersection between the text, the Holy Spirit, and the Church.
And all three are essential Christian ingredients. The text in itself is susceptible to multiple patterns of meaning. This is true of individual texts but the polyvalence of the text multiplies massively as we begin to ask how individual texts might be integrated with other biblical texts.

By the Church, we refer to that mysterious body of Christ and the communion of the saints that does not coincide exactly with any physical or political body. But all true believers today are in a body with all the true believers of the centuries, and the Spirit speaks through that collection to lead it to understand the Bible as God wills in any given time and place.

So it is not the Bible alone, nor any specific church or churches alone, but the mysterious intersection of these groups from which the Bible as Scripture derives, the book of Scripture as a whole read canonically, through the eyes of the Spirit speaking through the Church. The original inspiration was infallible and inerrant for given times and places and given circumstances in the flow of revelation. But the most authoritative, inspired, infallible, and inerrant word of God in human language is the canonical one, the meaning and import of the text inspired in the Church through the Spirit.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mosaic Authorship of the Pentateuch and Inerrancy

Patty David had a good follow up question on the Facebook edition of the third Chicago Statement post (hope you don't mind me responding this way :-). I thought I would dedicate a whole entry to the question of Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, the gospels, and the Chicago statement.

Here is her thought, "Is it too simplistic to hold that Genesis became 'inspired' at the time Moses put the Pentateuch together (presumably during the wilderness wanderings if you're not a JEPD advocate)? If Moses indeed met with God for 40 days on Mt. Sinai and in the tabernacle, isn't it at least plausible that God is the one who told him which accounts to include (maybe even 'tweaking' them so that what was written was actually true)? And wouldn't the Israelites have at that time, when God commanded them to keep the book of the Law, begun to view this material as inspired and authoritative?"

Here's what I am arguing for:

1. In my opinion, we don't even get into any really thorny issues if we consider the legal material of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy to go back generally to Moses. In other words, when Jesus says in Matthew 8, "Go offer the gift Moses commanded you," we believe that part of Leviticus does go back to Moses.

But here's my thought here. Believing this does not require us to conclude that Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy in their current form was compiled by Moses. From a standpoint of inductive Bible study, none of these books want to be read as if they were written in their current form by Moses, since Exodus through Deuteronomy are about Moses. And Genesis doesn't mention or have anything to do with Moses.

I put it this way in my earlier post: Thinking that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, given the way it is written, is a little like thinking that Jesus must have written the gospels since they are about Jesus.

Another problem is that the earliest instances of the Hebrew language we know of date from about 1000BC. In other words, it is not at all clear that Hebrew existed in anything like the form it appears in our Pentateuch at the time of Moses.

So in answer to your question, I don't have a problem per se with the idea of God telling Moses which traditions to include in the Pentateuch. The question is whether all this material was assembled in this way at the time. Jeremiah doesn't even seem to be aware of Leviticus!! (Jer. 7:22). A good argument can be made that when Joshua and Kings refer to the book of the Law, they only mean Deuteronomy or part of Deuteronomy (cmp. Deut. 31:26 with Josh. 1:8). It is only from the time of Ezra that we find the phrase, "the Book of Moses," presumably including the books we now think of as the Law (Ezra 6:18).

As far as Israel is concerned, they seem to know almost nothing of the fine points of the Law from the times of the Judges to Josiah. Even Elijah violates the Law regularly by offering sacrifices outside of Jerusalem. I find it hard to believe he had a clue he was doing something wrong. The same with Gideon and a host of others who seem to offer sacrifices with no clue they should only be doing it at the tabernacle.

So my first point is that I don't think there is much to worry about in terms of inerrancy if we at least believe the legal material goes back to Moses but was put into its current form later. Of course it's not hard to see from the data of the last two paragraphs why some have suggested that some of the material does not actually go back to Moses, when it would seem that the vast majority of spiritual leaders of Israel were vastly aware of very key items (like only sacrificing in Jerusalem, the sacrificial rules of Leviticus) until the time of Ezra!! See my third point below.

2. I'm also convinced that we tend to bring a literary worldview to documents that were part and parcel of an oral world. Oral cultures tend to pass on tradition with core material that stays fairly constant, with a good deal of variety around the edges. So it is no surprise to me that, for example, we have some minor variations between Deuteronomy and Exodus when they treat exactly the same material.

And from a practical standpoint, the question of Scripture is, by its very nature, a question about us today at a given moment in time. I thought of the requirement of Greek in the curriculum. The standard way of thinking is, "They should be able to read the real biblical texts as they were actually written in their real original languages." But in terms of usefulness, you have to wonder about the fact that 1% of those forced to take it actually can use it 5 years later to any significant degree.

In the same way, something might be 100% inspired, inerrant, infallible, the greatest truth that holds the secret to everything... and if I am not capable of understanding that, it means nothing to me. The most important moment of inspiration, from the standpoint of any individual reading Scripture, is the moment of reading it. I hope you will hear what I'm saying when I say that the original inspiration of Scripture is completely pointless if we as readers are not inspired today to read it in the way God is speaking to us today.

The fact that we as Protestants--especially outside the holiness and Pentecostal traditions that are open to "more than literal" meanings--have spent so little time thinking about this part of the equation demands some fundamental hermeneutical rethinking!

3. I see no problem with #1 as far as inerrancy. In the name of truth, as I've written in post #3, I think we need to give our Old Testament scholars room to explore more canonical models of reading the Old Testament without necessarily forcing them to think a certain way about the precise historicity of the material. I want to allow this because 1) they're not stupid or faithless, 2) we want to listen to the texts more than to preconceptions about what they can and cannot tell us, and 3) because the original meaning really does turn out to be secondary to the canonical meaning, which is not located in the ancient near east, but a) in the New Testament use of the Old and b) in the Christian use of the whole.

Those are my thoughts today, open for critique, correction, and affirmation :-)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Conclusion: One Wesleyan View of the Chicago Statement

It occurred to me that the somewhat scattered nature of my run through the Chicago Statement didn't really leave you with any real positive sense of what inerrancy might mean if one is not defining it narrowly in the manner of the Chicago Statement.

Here are the previous entries running through the Statement from a broader Wesleyan, rather than Calvino-Wesleyan perspective. Both perspectives can legitimately claim to be Wesleyan, although I would argue that a more open ended sense of inerrancy is more in keeping with the Wesleyan tradition in general.

1. Preface and Summary Statements
2. Articles 1-10
3. Articles 11-13
4. Articles 14-19

Where does this leave us?

The more general approach to inerrancy admits of degrees. One might, for example, allow for a little more looseness on the precise historicity of biblical stories. Yet one might still pretty much accept the biblical narratives as historical. To allow more room does not mean one will allow much more. Frankly, although most Wesleyans do not pay much attention to harmonizing accounts. I suspect most Wesleyans pretty much take the biblical accounts as they are.

And I suspect most Wesleyans, even though they don't focus much on the Bible in relation to science, probably have serious questions about evolution. And there are very few Wesleyan scholars who would see some biblical writings as pseudonymous, written under the authority of a dead figure from the past like Paul, Peter, or Daniel.

I suppose the biggest difference is the emphasis or attention. The Chicagoan tends to focus on these sorts of issues. They become defining issues. Most Wesleyans, as Wesley, the nineteenth century holiness writers, and indeed Christians throughout the centuries, have assumed these things. But there is a significant difference between assuming them and orienting one's approach to the Bible around them.

But let me tell you where I am at as a tracker of things hermeneutic. The very issue of inerrancy to some extent leaves me a bit speechless, because I think the very issue is raised on the basis of some fundamental confusion over how meaning works, particularly in relation to the library we call the Bible. I can think of three distinct ways in which the meaning of the Bible is inerrant and infallible.

1. There were the individual, distinct meanings of each book of the Bible, written at a time and place, addressing particular contexts, taking on meaning in a socio-cultural matrix of the past, in a flow of revelation.

So Genesis was written at a time and place. It seems likely that it was not simply written from beginning to end, but that sources were used, were edited. Were those sources inspired? Who used Genesis initially? If the book of the Law lay dormant in the temple for years, then I find myself wondering when books like Genesis became inspired Scripture. Was it at a point centuries after the writing? Was it when God led Jews to use it? The meanings it would have had from its inception to the time when Jews began to consider it Scripture are bound to have changed.

So when did Genesis first take on an inspired meaning, inerrant for God's purposes for a particular audience? We can say it was when it was first edited, but if it wasn't used for a few centuries later, when it would have taken on slightly different meanings, that inspired, inerrant, "original" meaning would have been directed at virtually no one. So was the first inspired meaning when it started to be used as Scripture?

Or was it the meaning it took on as Genesis became part of the Law, the Pentateuch, if indeed it was at a different time? Or was it the significance Genesis took on in the late intertestamental period? Was the meaning Genesis had as interpreted in the book of Jubilees (ca. 160BC) inspired for the Essenes of that day?

Or is the inspired meaning of Genesis the meaning it had for the New Testament authors, which is quite different from its original meaning at some points. Paul's allegory of Hagar and Sarah would have been unrecognizable to any Jew from Genesis' writing to the time of Christ.

Can you see why the question, "Is the Bible inerrant?" leaves me with a puzzled look on my face. It presumes, Moses sat down one day and wrote Genesis and was thinking the same things that Paul was when he read Genesis, which is what my pastor preached this morning. The question of whether the Bible is inerrant must yield to the question of what meaning of the Bible is inerrant.

Certainly, in God's hands, Scripture always accomplishes what God wants it to do (it is infallible) and anything God wants to communicate through it is true (it is inerrant). But the question of the Chicagoan seems a question founded on such a vast misunderstanding of the situation that I hardly know what to say. "Yes," I answer, like if my son asked me whether a touchdown is better than striking out.

2. The Christian meaning
This is where we are in Christian hermeneutics, the recognition that there is a Christian way of reading the Bible as a whole. Many evangelicals are moving in this direction, although Protestant baggage makes it hard for many to go the whole way. As a child of the nineteenth century holiness movement, I'm already there knowing where it's headed.

The problem with the canonical approach of a person like Brevard Childs or Kevin Vanhoozer is that they have difficulty recognizing that the organizing principle of a canonical reading of the Bible as a whole cannot ultimately come from the texts themselves. The texts in themselves are diverse and thus are susceptible to multiple canonical readings. What this means is that we cannot read the Bible as a unified whole without some "control" outside the biblical texts themselves.

And for this, we must look to the Christian lenses that developed in reading Scripture in the centuries following the writing of the New Testament itself. This is the bridge evangelicals find so hard to cross. But it is a hermeneutical necessity. You can either acknowledge that you read the Bible in the light of Christian glasses, as I do, or you can pretend you do not--and of course read the Bible this way anyway. Those of us who read the Bible as a unified book have a "rule of faith" that we use to organize its material.

Evangelicals and Protestants do not get their theology from the Bible alone and never have. There are rules, as we saw in relation to the NIV translation. In short, there is a reading of the Bible that Christians have actualized on the basis of common Christian tradition throughout the centuries.

Have there been variations? Certainly. Does there seem to be a commonly agreed core including things like the Trinity, creation ex nihilo, the Fall of Satan, etc? Yes. There is a Christian way to read the Bible as a whole. It is different from the original meaning of any one passage, although hopefully there is a strong degree of continuity with various parts.

Is this Christian meaning infallible, insofar as God uses it in His Church? Absolutely! Is this Christian meaning inerrant, insofar as God communicates through it to His Church? Absolutely!

You can see how far removed this "more than literal" use of Scripture is from the minutia of the Chicagoan, who is worried about jots and tittles of the original meaning of verse x. In that sense, the Chicagoan focus is worried about moss at the base of some tree in a forest over which the canonicist is flying in a helicopter.

3. Personal and Group Inspiration
And the Holy Spirit can and does speak to us as individuals, groups, and even denominations. He quickens the text, makes it become the word of God to you and me personally. Whatever He does with the text, it will not fail to be done (infallible). And whatever He communicates to you and I, it will be true (inerrant).

In short, Scripture is a sacrament of revelation, a divinely appointed meeting place between God and us. God can speak through anything, including a street sign. But He has set these words of Scripture aside especially as a place to meet with us, to make the ordinary words--like the ordinary water of baptism or the ordinary bread and wine of communion--to become the word of God.

So Scripture was the unfailing word of God to the varied contexts to which God has spoken through it in the past, and it becomes the unfailing word of God as God speaks to us through it today.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

One Wesleyan view of Chicago Inerrancy Statement 4

I'm glad this is almost over, trying to contrast a broad Wesleyan understanding of inerrancy in contrast to a narrower, more Calvinist Chicago Statement of inerrancy. There are some Wesleyans who are happy with the Chicago Statement, and they are legitimately Wesleyan. There are others for whom the word inerrancy should not be specified too much, because there are many specifics we can disagree on while still affirming the authority and truthfulness of Scripture.

Here we are so far:

1. Preface and Summary Statements
2. Articles 1-10
3. Articles 11-13

Getting very close now...

Article 18: Grammatico-historical exegesis is the bomb... no treatment or quest for sources that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching or rejecting its claims to authorship.
I've decided to go slightly out of order today. Article 18 is, in my opinion, is another potential example where Chicagoans say one thing and seem to do another. There is lip service given to "grammatico-historical exegesis," which at least aims at the original meaning. But whenever the pursuit of the original meaning hits a bump, the normal rules of exegesis are suspended and a clean up crew is called in.

What is grammatico-historical exegesis? It's a name I frankly didn't hear at Asbury or at Southern Wesleyan. I must have read it somewhere during my Wesleyan education, although I couldn't tell you where. I first really heard it used as a polemical term in a blog debate I had with a Reformed pastor from Michigan who called himself, "Once a Wesleyan." In other words, as a lifelong Wesleyan who went to a Wesleyan college and seminary, got a PhD in New Testament, and taught for about 8 years at a Wesleyan college--then I first really heard this Calvinist term.

I can use the term if you want me too. In my mind the phrase means interpreting passages using a knowledge of grammar and historical backgound. It is a phrase, again, with a fundamentalist Calvinist ethos surrounding it. Those who use it, as we might expect, mean more than what I just said, just as they mean more when they use the word inerrant.

In my mind, it should differ not at all from the "historical critical method," which is often blasted as filled with heinous "higher criticism." OK, fine, I'll call the method "historical-cultural method" then. In the end, those who use these phrases all claim to mean the same thing--trying to read biblical texts in their literary and historical contexts.

The phrase reminds me of a quote from Melanchthon, which says that exegesis is nothing more than the application of grammar to the biblical text. And of course Melanchthon is absolutely wrong! Exegesis does involve grammatical analysis, but words only have meanings in contexts. "Context is everything." Take away the "historical" part and you inevitably are substituting yourself and your traditions.

And thus so many of those who use this method, John Piper or Wayne Grudem, for example, are really practicing grammatico-fundamentalist-tradition exegesis. Piper makes this clear in his critique of Tom Wright's view of justification. It is not historical background but Reformation tradition that he uses as the context of his exegesis.

You can tell from Article 18, that "grammatico-historical" is meant to distance exegesis from "source criticism." Source criticism is the investigation of sources behind certain biblical documents. The word "criticism" is unfortunate, for all it means as far as I'm concerned is that you are making decisions (kritikos) about things.

Source criticism of the gospels does not seem to be too controversial a thing, where the dominant hypothesis is that Mark was written first and then Matthew and Luke used it as a skeleton, along with some other source of Jesus' sayings. For the Chicagoan, source analysis of the gospel cannot be used to "dehistorize" anything. This seems to me a straight jacket for a gospel scholar, and I don't think I am smart enough to pull it off if I were at a Wheaton or Moody.

Let me just give a small example. Mark 6:1-6 tells of Jesus' rejection at Nazareth. It has the key line, "What is this wisdom... Is not this ... the son of Mary, brother of..." In Mark, the incidence is narrated after the healing of Jairus' daughter and the woman with a hemorrhage and before the sending of the 12 and the telling of John the Baptist's death.

In Matthew 13, the setting is slightly different, although the same elements are all nearby. We have similar key words, "Where did this man get wisdom... Isn't this the son of the carpenter? Isn't Mary his mother...," which tells us we are looking at the same story. As in Mark, the telling of John the Baptist's death follows.

But in Matthew it comes right after Jesus talks about parables (which in Mark is chapter 4) and material on the mission has come further back in Matthew 10 (instead of just after in Mark). The healing of the daughter and the woman with a hemorrhage are back in Matthew 9.

It boggles the mind to suggest that these are different events where the chronology is not quite the same as Mark. I'm sure there have been extreme Chicagoans who have suggested such, but we have the inescapable conclusion for anyone interested in truth that Matthew and Mark simply do not narrate Jesus events in quite the same order--which means at least one of them is less historical at certain points than the other.

I doubt most of us care. Most Wesleyans don't. I doubt most Chicagoans do in terms of this story, although the Calvinist Lindsell might have back in the day.

The real questions come then when we get to Luke. In Luke, Jesus begins his ministry in Nazareth. It's the "inauguration" scene where he picks of the scroll and reads, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me." If I remember correctly, my NIV Study Bible doesn't list Luke 4 as a parallel to Mark 6. Why? Because it is significantly different from Matthew and Mark in its historical setting.

Let me play this out a little so you can see that "higher criticism" was not just a bunch of anti-supernaturalist, evil kooks ripping up the Bible. Luke 4 has very similar key lines to Matthew and Mark. They are amazed at his gracious words (i.e., his wisdom) and say, "Isn't this Joseph's son?" So we have in Luke 4, as in Matthew 11 and Mark 6, an initial contact of Jesus with Nazareth and an initial reaction to Jesus of amazement because he grew up there and a rejection of him.

Source criticism would say that these are three versions of the same event, especially since the general conclusion is that Mark was written first and that Matthew and Luke used it. But there are a number of potential "dehistorizations" in pursuing this line of thought. Luke has a rather expanded scene that he uses to set the tone for Jesus' entire ministry. Did Matthew and Mark not know this? Or was Luke novelizing the story a bit to bring out the essential nature of Jesus' ministry, putting it as the first event as a kind of keynote message?

All that is to explain the "dehistorizing" potential of looking at sources and supposed oral traditions behind the gospels. The Chicagoan says you just can't go there, even if normal reasoning makes a bee line for a certain conclusion. The Chicagoan insists on this because truthfulness to this person is connected to historicity. I believe this is a faulty standard. Who said that truth equals historicity? I don't know the answer to the Luke 4 question for sure, but the story stands true as one summary of Jesus' good news either way, even if Luke novelized what in his sources was a very bare bones event.

Source analysis of the gospels has generally been more allowed than source analysis of the Pentateuch. I can only think of two reasons: 1) the fact that Jesus refers to Moses material and thus raises the question of Mosaic authorship and 2) because Pentateuchal criticism hit the fan first. This gets us to Article 16 where we indeed will argue that fundamentalism and the inerrancy movement of the mid-twentieth century was a reactionary response to negative higher criticism.

So the suggestion that there are strands of sources behind the Pentateuch, wielded by German hands not experienced as faith-full, was experienced as a challenge to Christianity in the 1800s. Today it wouldn't have to be. I see the negative reaction to it largely a product of the circumstances in which it was introduced, including the shock of Christian thinkers who were caught completely off guard.

But again, when you place the Abraham stories that use Yahweh in one column and the Abraham stories that use Elohim next to each other, it's awefully easy to wonder if these are different versions of the same story. I was more than happy to go into New Testament--and to spend my time in Paul and Hebrews--so I didn't have to worry about these sorts of things.

Maybe there are reasonable answers to such questions from the Chicagoan side. I used to insist that there had to be. But I wasn't smart enough to figure them out. And though many smarter than I have suggested ingenious walk arounds these sorts of things, their suggestions often seem more in the category of possible rather than probable.

What I'm about here is openness. I'm not insisting anyone change their conclusions on the specifics above. But I wonder if the Chicago statement shuts down legitimate discussions and potentially negates any claims we have to being people of truth. The stories of Genesis, in my opinion, can be poetic and true, and God can speak through them no matter how poetic they are. Parables are not historical and they are true. As I've said before, error is a question of standard and target. What was God aiming at? Certainly He hits the target every time.

Article 15: Jesus' teaching of Scripture cannot be dismissed...
Absolutely. But what did the Chicagoans mean by this statement? Did not Jesus speak in the language and categories of his audience? If not, how would they have understood him?

I read recently of the Wesleyan expectation of righteous living. In a brilliant analysis, someone said that we 1) have a lower sense of what God's standard is but 2) have a higher sense of His expectation that we keep it. This plays itself out in relation to Jesus. We as Wesleyans believe that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be "tempted in every way, and yet be without sin" (Heb. 4:15), just as Jesus.

These words, of course, are used in Hebrews of Jesus. But because we believe Jesus was truly and fully human, we do not believe that the life he lived, also under the power of the Holy Spirit, is a life that we cannot live also, by the power of the Holy Spirit. The implication with regard to Jesus is as I have just shared: 1) we potentially have a lower sense of Jesus' earthly perfection and yet 2) have a higher sense of the potential for us to keep it.

This dynamic might consistently play itself in our understanding of Jesus' knowledge on earth. Clearly he was not omniscient on earth, for he did not know the day or the hour of his return (Mark 13). Presumably Jesus did not know he was the second person of the Trinity at the age of 12, perhaps not even that he was the Messiah until his baptism. In order to be fully human, he had to submerge his omniscience somewhere that his conscious mind would not choose to access it. It is hard at least for me to imagine that Jesus in his human understanding did not come to knowledge of such things as he walked through life in communion with the Father.

The purpose of this small thought on Wesleyan Christology is to argue that we would not need to suggest that Jesus' knowledge of the world was absolute in order for him to be completely sinless. Indeed, it is hard for us to believe that Jesus was fully human if he was not capable of forgetting where he left his car keys from time to time. These are thought experiments and I do not put them forth as anything but thoughts--they may be wrong and I welcome being shown that they are. But as the Calvinist has an incorrect standard for sin--anything short of absolute perfection (cf. the faulty NLT translation of Rom. 3:23)--so I would argue the Calvinist Chicagoan might have an incorrect standard for Jesus' earthly knowing.

Article 16: Inerrancy has been integral to the Church's faith forever, not invented by scholastic Protestantism or a reactionary position in response to negative higher criticism.
Here we get at an incredibly crucial point and a sore spot for the Chicagoan. I have heard strong reactions to the idea that fundamentalism was a historical reaction to late 1800s higher criticism and early 20th century modernism. The Chicagoan sees himself preserving what the Church has always taught.

And they can make a superficial case because Christians over the centuries have indeed tended to assume that the details of the text were historical. But here's where I wonder these thoughts involve a faulty understanding of how meaning and language work. Let's call it the picture theory of language.

In the picture theory of language, words tend to correspond to things, like a picture in a bubble above your head when you hear the word. In that sense, words are tied down to specific meanings in a rather simple way. Translation becomes correlating sounds to the bubbles above your head. You think that Greek or Hebrew simply give you different words for the same bubbles.

In my opinion, this is Newtonian semantics and it underlies a lot of the Chicago statement. We basically then expect that the New Testament reads the Old Testament with the same bubbles over their heads, that the Christians of the ages did, and that we today do.

The quantum revolution for me here came from Wittgenstein. His basic understanding of meaning is far too obvious to question. Meaning is a function of the way words and sequences of words are used. In other words, they take on meanings in specific concrete contexts, cultures, and symbolic universes. These meanings aren't keyed to some Platonic bubble, and words rarely translate from one language to another with the same precise connotations.

The Chicagoan sense of meaning thus seems flat, two-dimensional. This is true no less of its sense of 1) what the words meant in contrast to what they mean to us, 2) what words in one part of the Bible mean in contrast to what words in another part mean, and 3) in what the word inerrancy means to them in contrast to what similar words throughout church history might have meant. More on #2 in the next article.

What I am saying is that it doesn't matter whether you can find words in Wesley where he talks about errors in the Bible or if you can find places in Christian writers where they assume the historicity of various details. The real question is whether these statements "did" the same things in those contexts that the word "inerrancy" did in the mid-twentieth century.

Certainly the flavor of the Chicagoan seems colored by the fundamentalist modernist controversy. I raised this question at the symposium. Clearly the late nineteenth century holiness authors operated with a different hermeneutic from Stephen Paine. I'm not qualified at this point to say exactly what all the differences are. But I raised the question to point to at least one conclusion we will certainly draw from the comparison--whatever sense of error they might have had, it wasn't the same.

I thus find myself shaking my head at the Calvinist Harold Lindsell when he protests that Christians have always believed in inerrancy, even though the word comes from nineteenth century Reformed thinkers who themselves arguably used the word differently than Lindsell himself. I shake my head like a modern physicist reacting to someone insisting that Democritus knew about the atom in the 400s BC because he used the word atomos in relation to a fundamental building block of the world.

Article 14: Affirmation of the unity and internal consistency of Scripture.
Here is another point of contradiction, I believe, within the Chicagoan hermeneutic, enabled by a faulty view of language. It says it wants to read individual passages in historical context. Yet it wants to read individual passages in a canonical context.

Kevin Vanhoozer has been on a pilgrimage from a focus on the original meaning of the Bible toward seeing the Christian meaning of Scripture as a matter of the whole of the Bible as a divine speech-act. I think I know where this line of thought will end, although I wonder if Vanhoozer will ever take the final step.

I as a child of the nineteenth century holiness movement was easily able to take the final step long before Vanhoozer as a Reformed evangelical. The final step is to recognize that there is necessarily a discontinuity between the meaning of the words of the Bible when read canonically--in the light of the whole--and the meaning of the individual books read in their historical-cultural context. This follows naturally from the fact that meaning is a function of context, and a canonical context is simply a different context from the varied original ones.

But the long and short of it is that the Christian reading of Scripture is really the canonical one and it seems to me light years away from the Chicago Statement and its priorities. Reading the Bible as a whole with Christian glasses is such a fundamentally different way of reading it than the Chicagoan preoccupation with precise authorship, correlation to specific scientific positions, and questions of authorship. It seems such a monumental step backwards to focus on these things at this point. A canonical reading of the Bible allows us truly to read the Bible the way Christians really have throughout the centuries and yet without ignoring genuine issues raised by historical criticism. Read canonically, those issues don't go away. They just become largely irrelevant.

Article 17: The Holy Spirit does not operate in isolation from or against Scriptures.
I've already pointed out that the Wesleyan tradition is more open to pneumatic exegesis than the Calvinist Chigagoan would ever be. There's a great quote in Vanhoozer's Is There a Meaning in This Text that well fits this article of the Statement--the Spirit can blow when He wills but He cannot blow wherever He wills. In other words, the Spirit can't make the text mean something it didn't mean before.

Poppycock. The Spirit can do whatever He wants, including making the biblical text mean things it never did before. The word "against" is pretty strong and I would not use it of such new meanings. But certainly contexts can differ enough to where Holy Spirit inspirations can appear to go against biblical teaching.

In general, the Spirit is first a matter for the Church at large and only secondarily for the individual. In that sense, drastically novel leadings I would expect to be confirmed on a massive scale. I think the Spirit did that with slavery where, although not exactly in contradiction to Scripture, but going beyond it, the Spirit led not only Christendom but the world to abolish it. The same movement is underway in relation to the empowerment of women. Such things do not go against Scripture although they go beyond where it ended (I would argue they are still on its kingdom trajectory nonetheless).

Article 19: Signing is not necessary for salvation but it is vital to a sound understanding of the whole of Christian faith.
Not necessary for salvation, absolutely. Vital to a sound understanding? Some Wesleyans will say yes. Some Wesleyans like myself will say that it focuses on issues that, at best, are tangential to what is important (which is hearing God speak through His word) and at worst skew the very nature of the Bible, set up our children for faith crisis, and (possibly) reflect poorly on God as a God of truth.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

One Wesleyan view of Chicago Inerrancy Statement 3

Previous posts looked at:

1. The Preface and Summary Statements
2. The first ten articles

This morning I want to look at 3 more articles of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy. My purpose is mostly "in house" for my church, The Wesleyan Church, although I am glad to dialog with others. My claim has been that some Wesleyans legitimately understand our affirmation of inerrancy to be defined in relation to the kinds of things the Chicago Statement affirms and denies.

At the same time, I argue that many Wesleyans, including most of our Bible scholars and denominational leaders, legitimately have a more general sense of inerrancy, not limited to the specifics of the Chicago Statement. My argument has been

1) that the very term "inerrancy" entered into our tradition from the outside as somewhat of a foreign (Reformed) body in our tradition, a cultural artifact of the mid-twentieth century largely at the urging of a single individual. Of course Wesley was only a "hair's breadth" from Calvin, so there can be such a thing as a Calvino-Wesleyan. I'm just not one of them :-)

2) that The Wesleyan Church has never connected its use of the word to the Chicago Statement, a statement that, again, is primarily a product of Calvinist circles (who have emphasized it, who signed it, where its original is kept, etc...) and that the vast majority of Wesleyans have never heard of it, and

3) that from my perspective it is a good thing we aren't limited to it, because the statement itself functions on the basis of a number of oversimplifications that at least seem debatable.

Wesleyans affirm that the Bible is inerrant, but there are those for whom this is a technical term and there is the vast majority where this is a general affirmation of the authority and truthfulness of God's word. I am not an "errantist," nor am I a "pick and choose-ist," nor am I a "only becomes the word-ist."

But I am a hermeneutist. Error is a function of intent and purpose, not of measurement against some supposed absolute, timeless, and universal framework of truth, not least that of a collection of mid-twentieth century white males in defensive mode against encroaching cultural threats. And every part of the Bible--including its statements on faith and practice, on things pertaining to salvation--was revealed within the categories of its original audiences at a particular point in the flow of history. And we cannot be fully evangelical in our beliefs unless we allow for the continued outworking of the significance of Christ in the church beyond the pages of the New Testament.

Articles 11-12
The 11th reiterates the truthfulness of Scripture and has nothing really objectionable in what it explicitly says. It is in what it specifically implied for these individuals, as I've said. Similarly, #12 distinguishes infallible and inerrant but does not consider them incompatible. OK, fine.

Here let me do a rare thing and compliment Kevin Vanhoozer for his distinction between what the terms inerrant and infallible might mean. "Infallible" for him means that divine speech acts in the Bible accomplish what they set to do. "Inerrant" then is restricted to those instances where the purpose of the divine speech act is to communicate truth, in which case such claims are true.

I think these are fine definitions that Wesleyans can adopt. They are sufficiently broad that they allow for us to have a discussion about what exactly the function of various Scriptures are as divine speech-acts, as well as of what communicative speech-acts are meant to affirm. These definitions thus allow for the sophistication of a quantum discussion, while also accommodating the Newtonians among us.

The problem in my opinion is that such breadth of possible meaning undermines the very purposes of raising these terms by the "Chicagoan." The Chicagoan wanted nothing of this sort left open for vagueness or discussion. Indeed, the very purpose of these 19 articles was to nail down the boundaries of what is allowed so that we can tell clearly who is in and who is out, what is true and what is not.

And so no doubt among Wesleyans there are those who think we already know the answers to all the key questions and that allowing for discussion of those questions will only bring harm. And there are Wesleyans who wonder if the answers are more profound than previous generations anticipated and, in any case, see closing off our minds to the questions--especially in our current context--to be a grave mistake for the faith of our children and for our witness to the world around us.

Article 13
This article affirms the "complete truthfulness" of Scripture and then says what it is not worried about in this regard. I don't find anything to object to in this statement except what these authors were thinking when they said "complete truthfulness." The lawyer like mentality of the article's writers shows up here:

"Complete truthfulness" for them is not negated by 1) lack of modern technical precision, 2) grammatical or spelling irregularities, 3) observational descriptions like sun rise, 4) reporting about falsehoods, 5) hyperbole and round numbers, 6) arranging material in a topical fashion, 7) varying selections of material in parallel accounts and 8) free citations.

See what fascinating attention to detail these scholars had! But you can also read between the lines to what they did not think would be "completely" truthful. Here are the issues they had in mind:

1. historicity
#7 above allows that the gospels have "selected" different material from the life of Jesus. But it would be very clear from the Calvinist Harold Lindsell's Battle for the Bible that it was important for these signatories that you be able to harmonize the four gospels on the level of historical detail. By the way, Paul Rees--son of one of the founders of the Pilgrim Holiness Church--wrote the Preface to the evangelical Jack Rogers' response to Lindsell's fundamentalist approach.

You've heard no doubt the old story of four people on different street corners describing an accident and conflicting a little on the details. I haven't found that analogy very helpful for a long time now, not least because only one of the gospels claims that it comes more or less directly from an eyewitness (John; Luke claims indirectly). Even if we go with traditional authorships (the first three gospels are anonymous and John never tells us who the Beloved Disciple was), only Matthew and John would be eyewitnesses.

But more to the point, it is not clear to me, from comparing the gospels themselves, that their primary function was to relate history, although certainly in my mind this was one of their purposes. Their primary functions were to proclaim and teach Christian faith (Matthew, Mark), to defend Christianity in relation to despisers and doubters (Luke-Acts), and to bolster the faith of a particular Christian community (John 20:31). They engage with history to do these things, but they are not written primarily to document history.

Here is where the Chicago Statement says something very profound that I do not believe it carries out. It says, "We deny that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose." Ironic--that's exactly what I would say. The problem is that, when it comes to specifics, we differ on what that "usage and purpose" was in some cases. I would say the standards of truth and error they largely brought to bear on the Bible were modern standards.

I do not think that precise historicity, to where we need to worry about harmonizing the details of material relating to history, is an appropriate standard. Indeed, such harmonizations almost always create "fifth" accounts that differ from the actual accounts more than they differ from each other. This is typically (that is, in the hands of a Chicagoan) an ironic practice that ends up disregarding what the individual accounts say in deference to someone's idea of what they should say.

Here is the bottom line for me and most: I have found it impossible in my pea brain mind to accommodate the historical standard of the Chicagoan and to listen to each gospel, to Acts and Paul, to Kings and Chronicles, etc. So I have chosen to listen to the Bible rather than to this cultural artifact of the mid-twentieth century. I listen to the Gospel of John when it seems to say Jesus was crucified the morning before Passover. And I listen to Matthew, Mark, and Luke when they seem to say Jesus was crucified the morning after. The Chicago Statement, ironically, would require me to ignore one or the other and find some ingenious and far fetched, usually hilarious scenario that, in the end, would do violence to all the gospel accounts.

Thus, in my opinion, far from respecting Scripture, in practice the Chicago Statement will consistently require me to do violence to Scripture, to rip it, to rape it, to cut things out--all ironically in the name of a high idea of the Bible. The approach deconstructs itself because it requires me 1) to ignore Scripture to sustain it and 2) it makes a mockery of our claims to be interested in truth. You tell me which approach truly loves the Bible more! Is it the one that is willing to listen to its most likely interpretation or the one that frequently forbids you to let it say what it seems to say in the name of some "high idea" of it?

2. scientific matters
The topic of evolution seems to have been a driving force in the origins of fundamentalism. As I've mentioned before, the problem for many at that time was not so much the question of Genesis as 1) the outworking of social Darwinism in society and 2) the fact that evolution was a tool used against Christianity. Nevertheless, I don't want to pretend that I do not find it hard to fit evolution with my faith. There are real issues here, I think.

The problem for me on the other side is that the overwhelming majority of those who know the evidence and the history of the scientific discussion are united on the topic from a scientific standpoint. And as far as bias is concerned, it seems overwhelmingly clear to me that it is we Christians who have a clear presupposition influencing our conclusion far more than that of the evolutionists themselves. Evolutionists come from incredibly diverse contexts and thus can't be lumped together into some monolithic conspiracy theory or anti-supernaturalist framework. They operate in a conflictual world and thus might actually be motivated to disprove each other on this issue if they could to make a name for themselves. And evolutionists include among their number a good many Christians who have a vibrant faith.

I'm simply not qualified to pass judgment on such issues scientifically. But I find it deeply problematic to tell a Christian scientist that he or she simply cannot go there because of a particular reading of Genesis 1--and one that seems to divorce it from its near eastern context at that. I've said before that the real biblical problem with evolution is not Genesis 1 but Genesis 2 and 3, as Romans understands them. I've heard some ingenious suggestions by theistic evolutionists here. But my basic point is that, if we are really interested in truth like we say we are, we had better be very careful about what discussions we close off here out of hand. How many grad students in biology, genetics, paleontology, geology, etc. do we consign to potentially irresolvable faith crises in the process--especially when you and I are not qualified to judge the evidence scientifically?

I wonder if the view of Genesis 1 that arose in the 1970s by Calvinists like Henry Morris and Duane Gish (yes, they signed this statement) would have looked familiar to generations of Christians before them, let alone to ancient Israel. Yes, I went to their debates in the 70s and 80s. Yes, I was cheering them on. I was somewhat disappointed--even though I was rooting them on. Even as a high school student longing for them to go in for the kill (against Kenneth Miller), I found them surprisingly unconvincing (kept quoting philosophical statements of evolutionist rather than getting down to the evidence). I wanted to get up and take over for them because I thought they were messing it up.

My grandfather--who was almost certainly more conservative than anyone reading this blog--was sympathetic to the gap theory, which the Calvinist group of Chicago signers would find abhorrent in their literalness. The gap theory is the idea that Satan fell between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 and that then God started all over again in 1:3. He might have put the dinosaurs in between the first two verses. My point is that Morris' approach is not the only conservative Christian or Wesleyan one. It is one, just not the only one.

A literal reading of Genesis 1 has God separating the waters above from the waters beneath and then putting the sun, moon, and stars in between. Is that what we must believe? You go straight up past the sun and stars before finally getting to primordial waters at the top of the creation? It certainly isn't the pretty picture on the cover of Henry Morris' Scientific Creationism! At the very least, we must surely consider Genesis 1 to be somewhat poetic.

My point is not to argue for evolution, not at all. My point is to leave this question open for scientists of faith and theologians of faith to continue to explore. Are we really so sure we know what God thinks on these issues and intended to say in these biblical texts? If so, on what basis? On the basis of an interpretation that doesn't even try to read what these texts would have likely meant at the time they were written but blindly reads them as if they were written today in the context of an evolution debate?

3. genre matters
A key issue for the Chicagoans was that when Jesus referred to the books of Moses, or said "Isaiah says," or when 2 Peter says "Peter to x, y, z," that we must take these as literal attributions in order for the Bible to be truthful. In other words, we must conclude that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, that Isaiah wrote chapters 40-66, and that Peter literally wrote 2 Peter.

In my opinion, the first two issues are more significant than the third, although probably more people get bent out of shape over the third. In class I privilege literal authorship, but I have a hard time understanding why it would contradict inerrancy to say that, for example, Ephesians is an inspired encapsulation of Paul's thinking on the unity of the church directed at the churches of Asia a couple decades after his death. What if everyone knew this at the time? How would that be lying or untruthful? It would be a genre thing.

But them's fighting words. Fair enough. I don't understand. Inerrancy is not a matter of how something looks to us but of how it looked to them when it was inspired. Anyway, not something I'm interested in fighting for.

I understand the Moses and Isaiah issue better, because of how Jesus refers to them. The question is whether this was just the way people referenced these books and Jesus was following suit. Or is it necessary for us to assume that Jesus would not have spoken in the categories of the audience in a way that was not actually the way it happened?

In terms of the books themselves, however, we can understand why the issue came up. The Pentateuch itself does not say Moses wrote it. Genesis doesn't mention him, and Exodus through Deuteronomy refer to him in the third person, not as if he was writing it. It even narrates his death. In terms of listening to the Pentateuch itself, it is not telling us that Moses was its author any more than Jesus is the author of the gospels because he is the main person they are about.

In Isaiah, the prophet is not mentioned after chapter 35. Chapters 36-39 are almost word for word identical to four chapters in 2 Kings. The last 26 chapters picture a time several centuries after Isaiah. These chapters themselves--which would have been on a different scroll from the first chapters--are not worded as prophecies of the distant future. They do not present themselves as prophecies from Isaiah about two centuries later. The issue is the packaging (that the book as we find it in our Bibles has the heading, the vision of Isaiah) and the fact that Jews at the time of Christ referred to Isaiah as the author, including Jesus.

I consider this a very serious question, because it has to do with Jesus. So do we ignore the very rules the Chicago Statement itself endorses--the "grammatico-historical method"--when it comes to situations where one part of Scripture refers to another part in a certain way? From the standpoint of inductive Bible study, we would not conclude that Moses authored the Pentateuch. But the Chicagoan assumes that if Jesus referred to this material as from Moses or Isaiah, they must have been the author.

The difference between them and me is that I'm not sure I want to assume Jesus would not have used the conventions of his day in referring to these books. It is a question of whether we, in the name of truth and the Bible, are willing to allow for a broader range of intent by God rather than restricting it to a more narrow literality. Again, the Chicagoan wishes to end the discussion. In my opinion, the broader inerrantist is more interested in what is true. He or she does not preclude the position of the Chicagoan on a particular issue--indeed, because we are interested in the truth we must be open to them. But I personally think it does little to say we are about the truth if we aren't open to the evidence at hand.

Well, that's too much already so I'll have to do one more post. Sorry. I don't really enjoy the topic. I just thought this was an appropriate time to clarify yet another thing I appreciate about my church and its wisdom in not closing down discussions like this one. We don't specify how to baptize or what end time view you have to have. We insist you live a righteous life by the power of the Holy Spirit, that you truly love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself, that you do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with your God, that you fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the all of humanity.

Nope, nothing in there about the 5 points or the Westminster Confession or the 39 articles.

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