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A survey of the recent debate, defining inerrancy (including the relationship of hermeneutics and inerrancy), and its relationship to authority.
Doctrine of Scripture
A. The Debate of Recent Years: What's the Issue?
B. Defining Inerrancy
1. Technical Inerrancy
2. Kerygmatic Infallibility
3. Full Inerrancy
C. The Hermeneutical Component
D. Authority and Inerrancy
Course: Systematic Theology I
B. Key Passages and their Teachings
1. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
2. 2 Peter 1:20-21
2 Peter 1:20-21 is another very important passage that gives us some insight into the process by which inspiration has occurred. It helps us see this in very clear ways.
2 Pt 1:19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure,
The prophetic word made more sure; I take as his own experience of the transfiguration of Christ which he referred to in the verses previous.
2 Pt 1:19 . . . to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.
I take this as a reference to being with Christ, the Second Coming or being in his presence. So here we have the written Word until we stand before the living Word so we do well to pay attention to this sure Word.
2 Pt 1:20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, 2 Pt 1:21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
a. Scripture is not of human origin
Clearly that is the case as you can see in verse 21 where he says no prophecy of Scripture was ever made by an act of human will. It is very clear that he is stressing that here. Ultimately, you can ask the question of what accounts for this book we call the Bible. Obviously a whole lot of people wrote various parts of it. It is true that human authors are responsible for writing the books that they did that are here. But beyond that you have to say, it is not ultimately owing to what human beings decided to write. Ultimately, it is what God moved them to write. So it is of divine origin ultimately. That is why we call it in short the "Word of God" because he is the ultimate author, even though it is written by men.
Sometime the Bible is likened (there are some similarities) to Christ, the living Word to the written Word. Christ is fully God and fully man. The Bible is fully divine in the sense that God is the one ultimately behind every word of Scripture, all of it is, as we saw in 2 Timothy 3:16, inspired by God, but it is also fully human; individual authors wrote what they wanted to write, but ultimately it is from God. The ultimate reason is it's God's Word. I also believe myself that 1 Peter 1:20 stresses this, although this is not as clear, and it is more controversial. Verse 20 ends, "No prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation." (This is the NASB translation). The term that is used is ''epilyse_s'' which is a hapax (it is only used one time), so it is hard to be certain how to translate it. But if you look at how ''epilysis'' is used in other Koine literature it is translated variously as explanation or disclosure. Disclosure. Think of that term; no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own disclosure. In other literature it is used as origination. So you can see how the notion of interpretation, disclosure, and origination are similar. To interpret you disclose the meaning. But I really think that the emphasis in this context is not, no Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation. Look at the next word "for" (''gar''); for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will. What is he talking about? He is talking about its origin, where it came from. My understanding of verse 20 is that what he is saying is notice first of all that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of private disclosure or individual origination. I think that is the point he is making. It didn't come because Paul wanted ultimately to write it or Peter wanted ultimately to write it or Moses wanted ultimately to write it. For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. If you understand ''epilysis'' as one's own disclosure or one's own origination, verses 20 and 21 make this point that Scripture is not ultimately of human origin.
b. Humans nevertheless speak forth Scripture
This really is a human product. We should not understand the divine origin of Scripture in a way that undermines or cancels out or trivializes the human fabric of Scripture itself. For example, the gospels, all four gospels, Matthew, Mark Luke and John are all the Word of God. All are accurate representations of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Christ, and yet they are four different perspectives, four different theological emphases. You haven't had Greek very long before you realize some Greek in the New Testament is pretty easy compared to other Greek in the New Testament. That is why you usually start with John. John's Greek is easier than Hebrews and some of Paul's writings. It is just easier; it has a simpler construction and so on. How do you account for this? These are different men, different people, who wrote these things. The miracle of Scripture is that what you have is God's Word spoken in such a way that human beings actually wrote what they wanted. How did this happen?
c. God prompts the human speech of Scripture
That is seen in 2 Peter 1:21, "but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." God prompts the human speech. God prompts the speech of Scripture as the Holy Spirit moves them to write what they do. No doubt this process at various times was very explicit, with God instructing prophets and Apostles in various things they were to know and pass on to others. Other times, no doubt, the process was probably hidden to the Apostles; yet they strained and concentrated and wrote as carefully and precisely as they could. Imagine Paul writing Romans 3. What an incredibly dense, carefully constructed theological statement on sin, the cross, and justification. Imagine Paul straining to craft what he wanted to say as precisely as possible. There is no doubt he worked hard at it. Yet men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. I don't think Paul went on autopilot, saying, "Okay Holy Spirit, just have at it, my pen is ready, lead my pen to write what you want. No, he was thinking hard, working hard, and laboring at what he was doing. But what he wrote was what God wanted him to write. Men, moved by the Holy Spirit, spoke from God, so this is the marvelous miracle of biblical inspiration
3. 1 Corinthians 2:13
This last passage highlights these same points beautifully. This is a very interesting chapter. If you teach a Sunday school class sometime or a group and you want to cover revelation, inspiration, and illumination they all are spoken of in this one chapter by Paul. It is really quite interesting.
In Chapter 2, the topic of revelation really begins at verse 6, in which he says, "we do speak a wisdom." Although, he says earlier he doesn't speak the wisdom of the world; that is he doesn't speak in sort of rhetorical flair trying to convince people of the truth. Rather he says,
1 Co 2:6 Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 1 Co 2:7 but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 1 Co 2:8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 1 Co 2:9 but just as it is written, "Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love him." 1 Co 2:10 For to us God revealed them.
So this statement in verse 9, "Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard," refers to things in the past which were not understood, things which the rulers of this age had not understood. If they had understood they would not have crucified the Lord of glory but now to us, Paul says, God has revealed them. So our eyes see them, and our ears hear them now. This is revelation.
1 Co 2:11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so, the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 1 Co 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God.
So if you ask the question, how does Paul know the truths that he knows? It is because the Spirit has revealed to him what these truths are. We have the Spirit of God who knows the mind of God, and the Spirit of God has revealed to us what formerly was not known. This mystery--we now know it. That is revelation.
Look at verse 13, this is a verse that isn't often cited for the doctrine of inspiration but it is a marvelous verse.
1 Cor 2:12 The things freely given to us by God 1 Co 2:13 which things we also speak,
Now he is changing the subject from having received this revelation, from knowing this revelation now, to communicating it and expressing it to others.
1 Co 2:13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual with spiritual.
It is hard to know for sure, the NASB translates that as, "spiritual thoughts with spiritual words," which is probably pretty good. I would prefer, "combining spiritual truths with spiritual words." The idea clearly is that you have this knowledge, this revelation that was given, these concepts, these truths that have been revealed. Now the Holy Spirit doesn't stop there and say, okay Paul, now it's up to you to express it right; I have given you the knowledge of the truths, now its up to you to communicate it. No, the Holy Spirit continues working so that as Paul speaks the words he speaks are taught by the Spirit. He is able to communicate in Spiritual words, that is, Spirit-wrought language to communicate Spirit-wrought revelation and truth. So here we have this marvelous statement of the Spirit's work through the Apostle in communicating the truth to others as the Spirit leads him. Paul is moved by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit, teaching him how to speak of these things, speaks then from God.
It is really amazing. Revelation by the Spirit--that is how we even know these things. There is the communicator and the receptor. There is the message given and there is the message received. The Spirit moves in the message given. The Spirit enables the message received; that is illumination. So the Spirit gets all the credit for the whole thing. Isn't that amazing?
Inspiration is the marvelous doctrine in which, concurrently (sometimes called one of the examples of concurrence), God speaks his word, and human beings speak what they wish to speak. So Scripture is the product of both divine and human input with it ultimately being the Word of God throughout.
A. The Debate of Recent Years: What's the Issue?
For the most part we are past this debate now, but it was a debate that raged in the evangelical movement, particularly in the 1970's and 1980's. It was a very critical issue. What was at stake was the whole notion of the nature of the Bible. As we have talked about it here, as it being ultimately the Word of God. This lead one group of people to argue that because it is ultimately from God, it must be true because God doesn't lie. It was very easy for the Inerrantists to see that inerrancy was in fact an entailment of inspiration. If you hold that the Bible was inspired, doesn't it logically follow that the Bible is true? Or to put it differently, if the Bible is ultimately God's Word through the human authors and God does not lie, then must not that word spoken be true? That was one major group of people, and of course, Southern Seminary and much of the evangelical world has continued to hold to this position that inerrancy is an entailment of inspiration, when it is rightly understood.
Another group of people, however, argued that inspiration is conceptual, and it doesn't relate necessarily to exact words, exact statements, exact propositions made, or exact factual claims that are made, but rather it relates to concepts.
I take you back to I Corinthians 2:13 to think about this. Remember Paul's point there, that he was taught in spiritual words. The point he making there is, yes, we have the concepts, we have the truths, but the Spirit moved us in what we actually said.
Interesting, but nonetheless, this other view held that inspiration relates to the concepts of Scripture, and so as human beings write it out and express it, you know they are human; and to be human is to err, so it is very likely that, in fact, these people (given their understanding of science, history, culture and lots of different things), might have gotten many of the details wrong, but nonetheless, the main message gets through.
When I was at Fuller, this issue was huge; that along with the women's issue were the two big issues on campus during my years at Fuller Seminary. My main professor was Jack Rogers whose claim to fame (I suppose) was a book that he wrote with Donald McKim entitled, ''The Interpretation and Authority of the Bible'' in which he argued at length (it is a long book) that inerrancy is a rather recent invention by Scottish common sense realists and the history of the church is marked by a view of conceptual inspiration, not verbal plenary inspiration, as I taught you earlier. Conceptual inspiration means that the concepts are from God and they are right, but how they get expressed are wrong in a number of places, so we just have to understand that there are human beings doing this.
I sat in on every class that Jack Rogers taught on these things, so I could learn as best I could what he was arguing, and it was very interesting. I became more convinced in the more conservative position the longer I listened to the argumentation.
By the way, at that very same time John Woodbridge, who teaches at Trinity Divinity School (a colleague I would have later in life; I taught at Trinity years later after being at Fuller), wrote a book-length book review of the Rogers McKim proposal. Can you imagine being so disturbed with a book that you write a book to respond to a book? Well John Woodbridge did that in a book entitled ''Biblical Authority''. What he demonstrated in this book was how thoroughly flawed the historical research was of Rogers and McKim, and that, in fact, the church's position consistently throughout history in concept was the inerrancy view, even though inerrancy may or may not have been used as a term. The concept of the truthfulness of the Bible, because it is the Word of God, has been held throughout the history of the church by most Christian theologians and leaders. Woodbridge took pains to show this, to show where Rogers and McKim took statements out of context deliberately (well it appears that way); certainly what they did was isolate partial statements, but when given the full statement, it would give an entirely different understanding of a certain person's perspective and the like. So it really was quite devastating, I believe, to the Rogers and McKim proposal. The book by Woodbridge basically showed that it was inherently flawed and unreliable as a theory.
Well, in the debate that took place, the question being asked was, "How should we understand this book?" People sort of lined up with either it is fundamentally a human book in which divine concepts are accurately presented but in humanly flawed ways, or it is fundamentally a divine book in which God moved in the hearts of human beings so that they would write correctly.
There was a lot focus on what is sometimes called the "phenomena" of Scripture. So you take a look at actual portions of the Bible and assess whether or not it is true. I will give you one example of how this went. Steven Davis still teaches philosophy at I believe Claremont Graduate School in Claremont California, which is very close to Fuller. He was a friend to Fuller Seminary. (At Claremont he was a right wing conservative fundamentalist, I suppose. Within evangelicalism he is a left wing evangelical. It depends on where you are in the spectrum, what spectrum you are looking at.) So Steven Davis was very friendly to Fuller Seminary. Fuller Seminary was getting so much of the attack on the inerrancy issue (they and the Southern Baptists by the way). Harold Lindsell wrote a book, ''The Battle For The Bible'' (you might want to look at that sometime just for historical interest). He just passed away a year ago or so; he was one of the founding professors at Fuller Seminary. He wrote this book in which he both exposed the nature of the shift in the theological position at Fuller Seminary where they deliberately took inerrancy out of their statement of faith. He also exposed what was happening in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). He has a very interesting discussion of Southern Baptist life and his tremendous fear that the SBC would go the way of the PCUSA and the United Methodist Church by giving up inerrancy. Of course that written in about 1975, and he was right; he had reason to fear. But thank the Lord, God was gracious and spared this denomination from ruin as would likely have happened other wise.
Harold Lindsell had written that book, and Fuller Seminary was under the spotlight, so Steven Davis wanted to help Fuller Seminary, and he wrote a little book called ''The Debate About The Bible'' that came out in the late 70's or so. And in this book he has a chapter in which he says you know all I have to do is give you one mistake and that disproves the claim that the Bible is inerrant. I mean, face it; it is an absolute claim, right? So all you have to do is find one, and you can no longer rightly claim that the Bible is inerrant. So he says, I am going to give you five; I am going to overdo it. So he has this chapter called, "The Case for Errancy." And he lists these five mistakes that, in his mind, are clear-cut mistakes, undeniable. Guess what number one is? Number one is when God commands the Israelites, as they go into the Promised Land across the Jordan River and enter Canaan, to kill all the Canaanites, including women and children. Steven Davis says this is clearly a mistake, that is, to claim that God commanded them to do it. He goes on to say (this is a rough paraphrase of it), that they have patriotic sentiment; we are Israel, we deserve the land, those people don't deserve to be here; they deserve to be killed. To confuse patriotic sentiment with the will of God is a common mistake, but it is a mistake nonetheless, he says. So here is number one on his list of mistakes in the Bible. What you realize right off the bat is, if you hold to this view, that the Bible needs to be read in such a way as to discern what is true and what is not in the Bible, then all of sudden we realize that this Bible no longer has absolute authority over our lives. Don't you see it so clearly in that example? We come to Bible, and we judge on moral grounds that God could not have said that. How do we know that? Obviously we didn't gain it from the Bible because it declares God saying, go into Canaan and wipe out the Canaanites. So how do we know that. Obviously we must know that in some other way than the Bible itself. So when we come to the Bible, we come with an authority, in this case a moral authority by which we evaluate what is morally acceptable and what is morally unacceptable in the Bible.
His other ones were not quite so striking as that one. If I remember correctly, he cited the apparent discrepancy in Kings and Chronicles where one passage reads that Satan incited David to number the people, and in the parallel passage in the other book it says that God moved David to number the people. How could you have a more blatant contradiction than this; you are talking about the same episode. On one hand, it says that Satan incited him, and on other hand it says God moved David to number the people. It's a contradiction, right? Well don't be so quick to make that judgment. How would you answer the question how do we account for Job's misery? Isn't that a complicated question? Would it be right to say Satan did it? Yes, there are clear grounds biblically for saying that Satan did this to Job. Would it be correct to say God directed the misery of Job? Yes, God had absolute divine prerogative whether Job would suffer and how much he would suffer. He gave assent, without which it would not have happened. Can you see there you have God and Satan, and there is not a contradiction. So don't jump to conclusions. Steven Davis thought the mustard seed of Jesus, the smallest of all seeds is an error. Well is it? It depends. Article 13 of The Chicago Statement On Biblical Inerrancy, which is in the back of Grudem's volume, is very nuanced. It expresses that when we say the Bible is true in all that it affirms; we don't mean that there are no metaphorical statements in Scripture, no phenomenological claims in Scripture. A phenomenological claim would be one like this: Last night we were outside, and I said to my wife, "Jody look at the beautiful sunset." Now you scientists who are listening to this might think, aha, he just spoke an inaccuracy because you see the sun is not setting. We still say it, even though we know better, don't we? We still talk about the sunrise and the sunset, but it is purely phenomenological; that is the way it appears to us, right? We still talk that way. So is it possible that biblical authors can speak in phenomenological ways. The mustard seed in their experience in that part of the world was the smallest seed known. Given the context for the kind of language Jesus was using, was that as legitimate a use of language as my telling Jody to look at the beautiful sunset? Yes, I think so.
It is very important to look at these things carefully, and examine my own heart on this. I would encourage you to consider it as well. Give Scripture the benefit of the doubt. When you come across difficulties that you think are hard to explain, my goodness, realize what an audacious thing it is to draw the conclusion, that it is a mistake. Think how much you claim to know to be able to support that charge of inaccuracy. Wow, do you really know enough to say you know that is a mistake, or do you hold it in abeyance and allow thoughtful Christian people to continue working, do you continue working to see if there might be a way of understanding this in which there is consistency and accuracy in it?
B. Defining Inerrancy
So there are these two sides: is this fundamentally a human book or fundamentally a divine book? Of course it is both, but the inerrancy people are going to say it is fundamentally divine, and therefore is truth. This has led, then, to different understandings of inerrancy and different definitions of inerrancy. The three I am going to give you match pretty closely to what Millard Erickson has in his textbook.
1. Technical Inerrancy
This is the view that was advocated by Harold Lindsell himself in his book ''The Battle For The Bible'', and a small number of evangelicals have argued this. Most have not. What Lindsell was arguing is that the Bible can be subjected to the scrutiny of contemporary scientific understanding and be shown to be true on the grounds of contemporary science.
So not just six days of creation and things like that but all kinds of things. People have tried to point to Ezekiel's wheels and all kinds of things saying this is really expressing some kind of technical scientific point. I hear this sometimes in relation to biblical prophecy, that it really has these very accurate depictions of historical things that are taking place.
Well, there is one major problem, and I am not saying that the Bible may not be scientifically accurate on certain things; in fact, if it is speaking of science, it will be. But of course that is a big if, isn't it. When is the Bible speaking about science? That is a hermeneutical question, and you have look at each text. But here is the main problem with the technical inerrancy position: what "canons of contemporary science" do we use to adjudicate whether Scripture is accurate according to that understanding? Do we have such a thing as a uniform fixed permanent standard of "scientific accuracy"? I don't think so. Ask the people who held scientific theories 40 years ago where they are now. Most of them are out the window. You know this, don't you, that science as a discipline is constantly evolving, and theories are being challenged, they are tested by additional data and new data comes in. Thomas Coon in his ''Structure of Scientific Revolutions'' has shown us that there are massive movements in philosophy of science that lead one to the conclusion that on no one point can we say that this is the scientific view, and it is right; therefore, we are going to adjudicate other things on the basis of it. It just can't be done. So technical inerrancy seems to me to be a very flawed thing.
Similarly, in technical inerrancy there was a move to see the historical statements of the Bible as accurate according to the canons of contemporary historical research. Well, you know, the biblical authors didn't footnote like we do. If you have studied the use of Old Testament passages in the New Testament, you realize that there were ways of applying and making use of biblical texts that we have to work at comprehending. It is not easy to just take contemporary standards and go back and apply them. And furthermore, it really does violate (in fact both of these things do) so-called scientific standards that are accurate today or so called historical standards of research that are accurate today. You know what it does; it violates the nature of the Bible itself, in which our concern ought to be to understand what authors mean, as they intend to be understood. Do they intend this as a scientific statement? Well if not, how wrong of us to scrutinize their statement by scientific standards. Do they intend this to be an exact quotation, as we would? If they don't, how wrong of us to subject what they say to that kind of canon. So honestly, if you are going to be fair with the text itself, the very first thing we have to do is understand what the Bible itself teaches and what the authors intend to teach, not apply contemporary standards of accuracy back upon them.
2. Kerygmatic Infallibility
This is the view of Fuller Seminary. The ''Kerygma'' of the Bible is true. The primary message and gospel witness, the preached Word of the Bible is true. I remember sitting in Jack Rogers classes at Fuller Seminary and he would say, "You know, the Bible is clear. Creation: God made a good world. The fall: we messed it up. Redemption: he is reclaiming it. The Bible is clear; it gets the main point across." Fine, but Dr. Rogers, what about the Bible guiding us in the roles of men and women; how well does it do there? His colleague at Fuller Seminary at the time, a very able and fine theologian who taught there many, many years, wrote a book on this. Around 1975 Paul Juliet wrote ''Man As Male and Female'' in which he argued that when Paul wrote Galatians 3:28 he got it right. There is no distinction be male and female, slave or free Jew or gentile, no distinction between them; he got that right. That is the Magna Carta of the women's movement, says Paul Juliet.
But then he says (and here is the problem), Paul was very influenced by his pharisaic background, so in other things he wrote, he really didn't comprehend yet the fullness of the gospel that he was preaching. So this was the case when he wrote I Timothy 2:12, "But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet." Or when he wrote Ephesians 5:22, "Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord." Well you know what, Paul got it wrong there. So we have a canon within a canon. We have some parts that are right and some parts that are wrong. So Dr Rogers, how well does the Bible work to guide us on male/female relationships? The answer is, not very well. We have to pick parts of it that are right and other parts of it that aren't. In Kerygmatic Infallibility, the main message is true, but a lot of the details may be wrong.
3. Full Inerrancy
This is the position most evangelicals have come to. This is encapsulated in The Chicago Statement of Inerrancy, which by the way, all of the faculty here at Southern, as part of the interview process, have to sign an agreement to that Chicago Statement on Inerrancy. So we are all (At Southern Baptist Seminary) inerrantists, in the sense of the Chicago Statement, which is very carefully crafted. I commend it to you to take a few minutes and read carefully to see what it is arguing. Essentially, what it says is that everything the Bible teaches or claims to be true, we accept as true.
That does not mean that you take a metaphor in the Bible and you treat it as literal. No, take a metaphor as a metaphor. It doesn't mean that there aren't phenomenological statements in the Bible; it doesn't mean that Scripture's authors don't use round numbers. You know, how many were in church today? I think there were 200. I don't say 201 or 198. We use round numbers; they use round numbers, so we ought not make them say something that they are not saying. Respect the language game that they are using; respect the kind of discourse they are using. And when you do that, rightly understood all that they teach, all that they claim to be true, is accepted as true.
C. The Hermeneutical Component
One of the greatest benefits that came out of this inerrancy controversy is that hermeneutics rose to a place of critical importance. When we have understood the biblical authors correctly, we accept what they say as true. Then the question becomes, how can we understand the biblical authors correctly? So hermeneutics (this process of interpreting texts, getting at authorial intent, at what the author intending to say in this) becomes for evangelicals one of the main burdens on their hearts. The main task of their mission is to come to clearer, better, sounder understanding of the authors intended meanings of passages.
This whole question of hermeneutics has dominated evangelicalism since the end of the inerrancy controversy in the mid 80's. In the last 20 years, one of the main issues evangelicals have focused on is hermeneutics.
D. Authority and inerrancy
When I was at Fuller, I heard many, many times this claim: the authority of Scripture is not affected, not hampered or harmed by a denial of this inerrancy doctrine that you conservatives insist upon. We deny inerrancy, but we affirm the full authority of the Bible. I heard it many times, in many ways, and I didn't believe it then, and I don't believe it now. It just is impossible.
The book edited by Norman Geisler, ''Inerrancy'', came out of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, a group that came together to work on this issue. In the book, Paul Feinberg (who teaches at Trinity Divinity School) has a marvelous chapter entitled, "The Meaning of Inerrancy." It is worth getting and reading; it is great. In that chapter Paul uses this as an analogy: Suppose you came into a very busy train station, Grand Central Station or something like this, and as you walked in the door someone handed you a schedule for train departures and arrivals - all the different gates and everything. And they said to you that this just came off the press and I've been told there are a couple mistakes in it. You would look at them, and what would be your nature question? Where are they? Where are the mistakes? And the person says to you, I don't know where they are. So here you have this train schedule, and you want make sure that you get to the right gate and meet the right person, and now you are told there are a couple of mistakes in it. Well, doesn't that undermine the authority of the document? A couple of mistakes doesn't mean nothing in it is true, but it does mean that you are responsible for trying to figure out what parts are true and what parts are not. That is the point. So if you don't have the confidence that all of it is true, then it cannot function as an absolute authority for you. You become the authority in discerning what is acceptable and what is not, even if you admit that most of it is true. Even if there are only a couple of mistakes, they question the authority of the whole document. It doesn't question the truthfulness of most of it. Do you see the difference? You can believe most of it is truthful. It questions the authority of the document. So it becomes suspicious; we have to figure it out.
Here is another way to think of it. People who hold the full inerrancy position, that most evangelicals hold, really have two main questions to ask when they do their Bible interpretation and Bible study. One question is what does the Bible mean? That is a hermeneutical question. How do we understand what the author intended by what they say? And second, how does it apply to our lives? Those are the two main questions you have. What does the Bible mean, and how does it apply to life?
If you hold the Kerygmatic Infallibility position, where there are errors in the Bible and we have to discern where they are, then you have three questions instead of two. First you ask what does the Bible mean? But before you ask the question of how to apply it to life, you have to ask a second question: Is it true? And then third, if true, how do you apply it to life?
If you are reading 1 Timothy 2, according to Paul Juliet, and you read verse 12, you ask, what does it mean? Well, it says that women are not to exercise authority over men; it is pretty clear what Paul means. The second question, is it true? No, says Paul Juliet. That's Paul's pharisaic background showing up again. So, of course, you don't ask the third question of how it applies to life because it doesn't; you scrap it.
If we are going to be people under the authority of the Bible, all of the Bible, without question, without reservation, what ever it says, then you have to hold to the full inerrancy of Scripture, otherwise it will not be an authority for us.
Illumination refers to the work of the Holy Spirit by which he makes the Scriptures understandable and applicable to an individual's life. It is the work of the Holy Spirit by which he makes the Scriptures understandable and applicable to the believer's life.
Obviously that means that revelation has already occurred and inspiration has already occurred. The truths are there; the truths have been communicated, and now we have them inscripturated; we have them in the Bible. So illumination is the work of the Holy Spirit to help an individual see and understand and accept and embrace what Scripture teaches.
I have given you a biased definition of illumination. Here is how it is biased. Some would not like the phrase "understandable and". They would rather see illumination strictly as the Holy Spirit making the Scriptures applicable to an individual's life. Understanding what the Scripture say is not a matter of illumination, but whether we apply them to our lives is a matter of illumination. I dispute that claim. I believe that Scripture indicates that both are involved. Understanding and application are both involved in illumination.
B. Need for Illumination
I think that you can see the need for understanding and application to both be involved in illumination in 1 Corinthians 2
1 Cor 2:14 But a natural man
A natural man. This is the ''psychikos<?i> which Paul is contrasting with the ''pneumatik_s'', the person who has the Spirit. I think the point is the natural man is the person devoid of the Spirit. I think that is the most natural way to understand what he saying.
1 Cor 2:14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
It looks like he is making two claims here in this verse, and I see it borne out in the rest of Scripture. There is a level of understanding and a level of embracing. Both understanding and acceptance is involved in Holy Spirit illumination.
1. Moral Antipathy (Truth known but rejected)
In terms of expecting it, it is very clear that Scripture teaches that we have, because of sin, what you might call a moral antipathy to spiritual truths or a moral revulsion, a moral resistance to spiritual truth. If this is the case, that we have a moral resistance to spiritual truth, doesn't this indicate that the truth is known and therefore detested? It is known and therefore we find it repulsive.
Think for example, one of my favorite passages is John 3
Jn 3:19 "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. Jn 3:20 "For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
If you hate the light, doesn't that indicate you have to know something of what you hate. If I say I want you to build up a very fervent hatred for "Blick," can you do it? Really get repulsed over it, "Blick." You can't, because you don't have a cotton pickin' idea of what "Blick" is. You can't like it; you can't dislike it. You can only hate something if you know it sufficiently to know it is not what your tastes are. I love my wicked deeds, and I don't like the light.
2. Spiritual Blindness (Truth not known)
The Bible teaches people, by sin, are blind to the truth.
2 Cor 4:4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
They can't see it; they don't get it. In fact, this is one of the puzzles in Scripture in trying to understand the whole notion of Christian epistemology, how we come know things and what role the Spirit plays in this.
You have one stream of teaching that indicates the truth can be known and hated, and here you say the truth cannot be known. Which is it? It seems to me it is both.