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Unread 02-27-2017, 11:57 AM   #1
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Inerrancy

Is inerrancy something that could be established, or is it in principle something you must assume or hold tentative even in the face of evidence to the contrary?

It seems to me that if the Scriptures are inerrant, there's no inerrant method by which we'd be able to verify or establish it. in other words, if you are trying to establish it, you will only be frustrated. The best you could possibly do is say "there's a high probability" that it is inerrant, but in fact any and every apparent contradiction would drive that probability down. So, it seems like externally, there's no way to establish it: inerrancy would just entail that apparent contradictions are theological puzzles that need to be untangled, and their resolution is at each point potentially less plausible than the prima facie reading.

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Unread 02-27-2017, 03:55 PM   #2
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Furthermore, why would you need to assume that the Scriptures themselves are inerrant? The books that go into forming the canon of Scripture are a product of the teaching authority of the historic catholic Church (which, I believe, subsists in the Orthodox Church). The Tradition that she maintains (to which Scripture is absolutely central, undoubtedly!) and the authority by which she teaches that Tradition, is what we should be considering reliable.
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Unread 02-27-2017, 05:18 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IsaactheSyrian View Post
Furthermore, why would you need to assume that the Scriptures themselves are inerrant? The books that go into forming the canon of Scripture are a product of the teaching authority of the historic catholic Church (which, I believe, subsists in the Orthodox Church). The Tradition that she maintains (to which Scripture is absolutely central, undoubtedly!) and the authority by which she teaches that Tradition, is what we should be considering reliable.
(It seems to me that the definition of Scripture and the historical formation of the canon are irrelevant to my question.)

Regarding reliability of sources: I think we have reason to regard tradition on a lower authority than the Scriptures, and that their authority is conferred by Scripture; you believe we need to acknowledge the authority of tradition in order to recognize the authority conferred to the Scriptures by the church. Or, to nuance more fully: Scripture determines the legitimacy of tradition and the status of any given church (denomination or individual body); whereas I take it that your view --correct me if I'm wrong or still lacking nuance-- Scripture is constituted by what the Church recognizes as God's word by her authority.

To answer your initial question -- methodologically, it seems that of those who hold to inerrancy (a sizable chunk of Christianity) many do so because of external checks. This seems problematic for the reasons stated in my first post. But if we hold inerrancy, then that seems problematic as well, because it is vital to be able to check the practice and doctrine of the church against traditions made by men.
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Unread 02-27-2017, 08:53 PM   #4
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I think that it would depend on how you define establish. We know that if you drop an apple, it falls down. Not for any reason except that it has happened every time we have ever done it. We observe and it is established. But, if someone has never had the same experience, for them it cant be established.

Scripture is not alone. We have the Holy Spirit. Scripture is established through the Holy Spirit. Sure, the facts can be checked against what we know today but scripture is more than the facts. Scripture is our guide to God and life. The more we learn, the more that our facts change. But our relationship with God is testified through the Truth of the Holy Spirit. Without that personal experience, we cannot be convinced. With the Holy Spirit, the Truth is established.
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Unread 02-28-2017, 01:32 AM   #5
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i am a firm believer in defining terms before engaging in conversation. what exactly does inerrant mean? are we talking factual accuracy, moral accuracy, cultural accuracy..? scripture is comprised of so many types of literature which all serve different purposes that we do ourselves a disservice when we don't define our terms.

do i believe scripture is inerrant and profitable for doctrine, reproof and instruction in righteousness? absolutely. do i believe all of it is factual history? nope, because scripture doesn't make that claim about itself. i believe a great deal is historical, but as you well know, debate rages over whether it is factually accurate or theologically-driven tradition or (more likely) some combination, plus all sorts of other genres mixed in.

so...COULD it be established as inerrant? 1. i think it depends on which part(s) you mean, and 2. i think tlj's comparison wth gravity being "proved" is spot on in demonstrating proof because a lack of evidence to the contrary. i don't think anything can ever be definitively proven once and for all, but we can have reasonable assurance of many things.

so...all that to say i think i agree with your assessment. =)
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Unread 02-28-2017, 02:48 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by athanatos
(It seems to me that the definition of Scripture and the historical formation of the canon are irrelevant to my question.)
It's not, actually, it only because the very way that the canon was formed is of a piece with the question of what exactly the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy is for. What doctrinal 'work' is it intended to accomplish, in other words?

Quote:
Regarding reliability of sources: I think we have reason to regard tradition on a lower authority than the Scriptures, and that their authority is conferred by Scripture; you believe we need to acknowledge the authority of tradition in order to recognize the authority conferred to the Scriptures by the church. Or, to nuance more fully: Scripture determines the legitimacy of tradition and the status of any given church (denomination or individual body); whereas I take it that your view --correct me if I'm wrong or still lacking nuance-- Scripture is constituted by what the Church recognizes as God's word by her authority.
This is fundamentally a paradigmatic issue. If, and only if, you assume sola scriptura, do you need to agonize over whether every jot and tittle of the Holy Scriptures is 'inerrant' in a fashion that would satisfy a 21st-century scientific worldview.

You've characterized my view properly, I think, except that I would add that Scripture is not alone in the Church's view.

Think of it like a tapestry. The tapestry is beautifully woven with intricate designs all over it, but at its centre is the focal point, the thing that holds it all together. The Scriptures are the centrepoint of the tapestry that is the Tradition of the Christian faith, handed down to us by Christ and the Apostles. The Church's mission is to hold forth that beautiful tapestry of the Tradition to the world, so that they may behold the face of Jesus Christ.

I'd just ask the question - regarding inerrancy, where does it actually get you? The Scriptures are free from material error - so what, exactly?

Quote:
To answer your initial question -- methodologically, it seems that of those who hold to inerrancy (a sizable chunk of Christianity) many do so because of external checks.
What exactly is meant by 'external checks'?

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This seems problematic for the reasons stated in my first post. But if we hold inerrancy, then that seems problematic as well, because it is vital to be able to check the practice and doctrine of the church against traditions made by men.
Yes it is, which is what the Church has been doing for 2000 years, contra guys like Arius, Nestorius, the Iconoclasts and the Popes of Rome circa the 10-11th century or so (and obviously beyond).

The problem is exactly that the these heretical groups departed from the authority of the Church and became communions unto themselves, following traditions of men indeed! The monophysites in the 5th century, the Roman Pope who declared that he had authority over the whole catholic church, and the Protestants who reacted to the abuses of the schismatic Roman church (and thus, are really a schism from a schism...).

Otherwise, who is to decide what constitutes a 'tradition of men'? The individual believer and their Bible? Going that route lands you with thousands of groups, each claiming that every other group's traditions are man-made. But the very doctrine from which this division comes is itself a 'tradition of men'.
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Last edited by IsaactheSyrian; 02-28-2017 at 05:18 AM.
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Unread 03-03-2017, 06:28 PM   #7
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It's not, actually, it only because the very way that the canon was formed is of a piece with the question of what exactly the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy is for. What doctrinal 'work' is it intended to accomplish, in other words?
I think that I disagree. Biblical inerrancy has little to do with how the canon was formed. Regardless of how it was firmed, what establishes it as inerrant is the testimony of the Holy Spirit to the individual. And if that were not enough, as if we are so far gone that we mistake the testimony of the Holy Spirit, we have the testimony of the great men who came before us.
Quote:
This is fundamentally a paradigmatic issue. If, and only if, you assume sola scriptura, do you need to agonize over whether every jot and tittle of the Holy Scriptures is 'inerrant' in a fashion that would satisfy a 21st-century scientific worldview.
If you assume that the Holy Scriptures are not "inerrant", then you must question each and every part of what scripture teaches. That assumption is what is agonizing. Because the certainty is missing. Each teaching would then be questioned.

On the other hand, if you assume the scriptures are inerrant, then you have certainty within yourself. You can then use scripture as intended for "for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness".

Quote:
You've characterized my view properly, I think, except that I would add that Scripture is not alone in the Church's view.

Think of it like a tapestry. The tapestry is beautifully woven with intricate designs all over it, but at its centre is the focal point, the thing that holds it all together. The Scriptures are the centrepoint of the tapestry that is the Tradition of the Christian faith, handed down to us by Christ and the Apostles. The Church's mission is to hold forth that beautiful tapestry of the Tradition to the world, so that they may behold the face of Jesus Christ.

I'd just ask the question - regarding inerrancy, where does it actually get you? The Scriptures are free from material error - so what, exactly?
Tradition is great. But if the centerpoint of the tapestry is flawed, how is the tapestry going to remain. That loose thread would unravel the whole tapestry.

The Bible is useless without inerrancy. You cannot seek correction from something that you are uncertain about. You cannot be reproved of something that you can argue with.
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What exactly is meant by 'external checks'?
External checks would be the Holy Spirit without whom we can know nothing.

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Yes it is, which is what the Church has been doing for 2000 years, contra guys like Arius, Nestorius, the Iconoclasts and the Popes of Rome circa the 10-11th century or so (and obviously beyond).

The problem is exactly that the these heretical groups departed from the authority of the Church and became communions unto themselves, following traditions of men indeed! The monophysites in the 5th century, the Roman Pope who declared that he had authority over the whole catholic church, and the Protestants who reacted to the abuses of the schismatic Roman church (and thus, are really a schism from a schism...)
And here you have outlined the problem of withholding scripture from the people. There have been great abuses in the past. Because of that, the leaders of the church cannot be fully trusted. The only one that cannot let you down is Christ alone.

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Otherwise, who is to decide what constitutes a 'tradition of men'? The individual believer and their Bible? Going that route lands you with thousands of groups, each claiming that every other group's traditions are man-made. But the very doctrine from which this division comes is itself a 'tradition of men'.
True. But it also leads these diverse groups to a foundation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The traditions may be man-made. But the author and finisher of our faith is Jesus Christ. As long as that remains, we may have our differences but we are all fellow heirs.
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Unread 03-04-2017, 12:07 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beanbag View Post
i am a firm believer in defining terms before engaging in conversation. what exactly does inerrant mean? are we talking factual accuracy, moral accuracy, cultural accuracy..? scripture is comprised of so many types of literature which all serve different purposes that we do ourselves a disservice when we don't define our terms.
I would say all three: factual, moral, cultural, insofar as the genre intends to be factual, moral, or cultural. When Daniel prophesies about a kingdom using the image of a ram charging, we aren't taking that to be factual (that a kingdom is an animal with horns), but the underlying point (by means of symbolism) certain claims are factual. E.g., that kingdom will get into a war. If that kingdom did not go into war, then the prophecy would be falsified (that is, errant) and the Scriptures not inerrant.

So, yes, we'd need to make sure we know which books (or which passages within books) are in which genre. Those categories are not neat and tidy, nor does the text usually give an indicator when it switches. (okay, maybe usually, but not uncommon for it to fail to indicate)

The tradition of reading, here, does a lot of work in sorting that out.

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Originally Posted by tlj009 View Post
I think that it would depend on how you define establish. We know that if you drop an apple, it falls down. Not for any reason except that it has happened every time we have ever done it. We observe and it is established. But, if someone has never had the same experience, for them it cant be established.

Scripture is not alone. We have the Holy Spirit. Scripture is established through the Holy Spirit. Sure, the facts can be checked against what we know today but scripture is more than the facts. Scripture is our guide to God and life. The more we learn, the more that our facts change. But our relationship with God is testified through the Truth of the Holy Spirit. Without that personal experience, we cannot be convinced. With the Holy Spirit, the Truth is established.
By "establish", I guess I meant that one be rationally compelled to believe, on the basis of analysis or evidence or what have you. That is, could someone offer a case or argument in favor of inerrancy, by which one could objectively say "Yes, the Bible is inerrant."

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Originally Posted by IsaactheSyrian View Post
It's not, actually, it only because the very way that the canon was formed is of a piece with the question of what exactly the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy is for. What doctrinal 'work' is it intended to accomplish, in other words?
It does the work of negative critique upon the teachings of men. RCC, EO, Protestants, and others all interpret Scripture, sure, but when they can contradict Scripture they invalidate themselves. If, say, the Scriptures are not inerrant, then when the EO or RCC or Protestant doctrine "corrects" Scripture regarding some claim, they would actually be more faithful to reality than Scripture on that particular claim.

The doctrinal work is that no church can stand in judgment of Scripture, but rather the Scriptures judge the church.

Quote:
This is fundamentally a paradigmatic issue. If, and only if, you assume sola scriptura, do you need to agonize over whether every jot and tittle of the Holy Scriptures is 'inerrant' in a fashion that would satisfy a 21st-century scientific worldview.
I wonder, why would inerrancy (or infallibility for that matter) be of concern to people prior to the 21st century, then?

Quote:
You've characterized my view properly, I think, except that I would add that Scripture is not alone in the Church's view.
Great! Not at all surprised by that clarification.

Quote:
I'd just ask the question - regarding inerrancy, where does it actually get you? The Scriptures are free from material error - so what, exactly?
It means that there is an anchor whereby traditions, churches, leaders, and congregants may be judged. The Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox all claim to have the right tradition and that the others have departed. What grounds them all is that they can arbitrate these very claims, to some extent, with recourse to Scripture.

Quote:
What exactly is meant by 'external checks'?
Unlike what tlj009 said, I meant something like evidence. E.g., someone says the Bible is factually inaccurate regarding the location of some city; someone else replies, "no, see we have evidence that shows that the Bible was not mistaken here". Thus, whenever a charge of inconsistency or factual inaccuracy comes along, the Scriptures are vindicated only if we can show that there is evidence in favor of the Bible. This method, seems to me at least, subject to the wisdom of man, such that we become the judge of Scripture and we determine that the Scriptures have errors (or doesn't have errors) by happening to have the right evidence.

In other words, if we found something that would suggest that Jesus had a wife or that Paul was a schismatic, that would rattle our confidence in the claims of Scripture. Those "external checks" are verifying (or falsifying) Scripture.

To me, that seems highly problematic.

Quote:
The problem is exactly that the these heretical groups departed from the authority of the Church and became communions unto themselves, following traditions of men indeed! The monophysites in the 5th century, the Roman Pope who declared that he had authority over the whole catholic church, and the Protestants who reacted to the abuses of the schismatic Roman church (and thus, are really a schism from a schism...).
Surprisingly, I'm not ignorant of church history, just because I'm a Protestant!

I'd hold that the RCC, while having errors, nevertheless proclaimed the gospel and had (diverse but orthodox) understanding of sacraments and ecclesiology, and that these orthodox teachings were clarified and expanded upon in the Reformation, not invented. Developed, yes, but not out of coherence with Scripture and the doctrines of the church catholic. Same goes for EO, to some extent. (FWIW, I think many Protestants are simply unfamiliar with EO, and if they got past a lot of the terminological differences, they'd realize a wealth of wisdom and richness and many brethren in the faith ... I can also say the same for RCC, but it is harder).

Quote:
Otherwise, who is to decide what constitutes a 'tradition of men'? The individual believer and their Bible? Going that route lands you with thousands of groups, each claiming that every other group's traditions are man-made. But the very doctrine from which this division comes is itself a 'tradition of men'.
I think I can assign some readings from Protestant reformers in order to answer this question. For example, Luther was by no means willing to say that the individual could just interpret Scripture just between them and God. Moreover, Reformers as well were deeply concerned with the fracturing that would occur if the RCC did not get back on track. If anything, it has gotten very very bad in the exact ways that the Reformers were worried about.

But while institutional (hierarchical, governmental) unity is desirable, it is not a necessary condition for the church's legitimacy. Rather, it is that the church preach the Scriptures, practice orthodox sacraments and liturgy, and disciple their people into maturity and grace. (in short: Word, Sacrament, and Discipline)
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Last edited by athanatos; 03-04-2017 at 03:19 PM.
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Unread 03-04-2017, 06:29 PM   #9
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Then no, I don't think it is possible to establish inerrancy. Mainly because our knowledge is so limited. The assumption on each and every point wi always be against scriptures until proven without a shadow of doubt. Scripture covers too many topics over too much time. Even if each could be proven, it would take forever to do so. It would also negate faith. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Empirical proof of every thing in scriptures would eliminate that need for faith.
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Unread 03-10-2017, 09:29 PM   #10
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Hey y'all. Sorry, things have been a bit rough for me lately, so I haven't been responding. I plan to, but in the meantime, y'all might benefit from listening to this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piVdrtgo7Xw

Fr. Josiah Trenham, himself a former Presbyterian, is a great scholar who wrote his PhD on St. John Chrysostom, though I disagree with him about a handful of things (mostly the emphases he places on some things he doesn't go into in this video, like how the Orthodox church should react to the LGBT movement), goes into a really solid discussion about the Orthodox view of authority vis-a-vis the early Protestants. It's a bit long, but if you've got an hour and a bit to spare, it's really good.

He's a priest of the Church of Antioch, who pastors St. Andrew Orthodox Church in Riverside, CA.
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Last edited by IsaactheSyrian; 03-11-2017 at 08:20 AM.
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