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Unread 03-05-2018, 07:15 AM   #1
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Inerrancy and Christian Unity

Hey guys, so our own Athanatos mentioned something that caused some thoughts that I think may be good to hash out and think about in 'public'.

We are all aware that there are a diversity of theological views here. There are Christians embedded firmly with the Reformed traditions here, Orthodox Christians, non-denominational, charismatic Christians, Baptist, Church of Christ, and many others.

We are all also aware that many of us approach the biblical texts from wildly different places. Our Orthodox brothers, for instance, view the Scriptures as having a different place within the faith than our Reformed brothers.

But, in particular, some of us view the biblical texts as inspired and/or inerrant. And, what these particular signifiers actually mean varies even further among those who may embrace those signifiers.

What I wonder is: can we still maintain intense and intricate theological discussions if we come from radically different places regarding the Scriptures? Is there room for a congenial and interesting discussion to take place, or are there so few touchstones between those who believe the texts are inspired and/or inerrant that little can actually be said?

Personally, I do think such is possible, and that fruitful dialogue can happen. But, I admit that I am not the easiest person to dialogue with, and that I can be unnecessarily slippery when it comes to discussing the biblical texts and, in particular, trying to connect the texts to theology. This is probably because of my training as a New Testament scholar, but also because of the particular space I occupy within the guild.

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Unread 03-05-2018, 08:59 AM   #2
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Unread 03-05-2018, 12:03 PM   #3
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I've often wondered this myself. So often, debates with particular kinds of sola scriptura adherents (like one I'm having right now that Athanatos/Jonathan witnessed on the FB wall of a local ANiC Anglican church whose pastor is a dear friend, and thankfully far less fundamentalist/biblicist than my interlocutor who may or may not be a member of his congregation) will often degenerate into:

Interlocutor: You believe in man-made tradition!
Me: Let's break that down a bit. What do you mean by man-made tradition?
I: A tradition that doesn't line up with the Bible!
Me: How do you know it doesn't line up with the Bible
I: By reading the Bible!
Me: Okay, but how do you know you're reading the Bible properly?

Such conversations generally prove intensely frustrating.

I find conversations with Protestants who see a high place for the Holy Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils to be far more interesting, because at least they consider the historic Church and Her teaching authority to be persuasive, if not binding. With such a one, an Orthodox Christian can get quite a bit further on points of agreement, methinks.

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This is probably because of my training as a New Testament scholar, but also because of the particular space I occupy within the guild.
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Unread 03-05-2018, 02:27 PM   #4
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To the original point of the question:

There are moral and theological issues that I don't think you can make a rock-solid case for based on Scripture alone, having reference to nothing outside of the Biblical canon. This means that, as I see it, Christian traditions that do not see Scripture as being nested within a larger Tradition - being, as my pastor put it, 'the heartwood of the Tradition but not the sum total of it' - are impoverished in their ability to establish and defend doctrine that they know they ought to hold, but can't adequately defend.

An example is the morality of abortion. There are references in the Old Testament to feticide and the punishment of it, and a reference in Psalm 139 about 'knitting together in my mother's womb'. However, the Christian tradition as a whole, drawing on texts like the Didache (which almost made it into the New Testament) and St. Athenagoras of Athens A Plea for the Christians (St. Athenagoras lived between 130 and 190, so certainly within living memory of the Apostles or their immediate disciples), who explicitly makes the connection that it's ridiculous to accuse Christians of cannibalism and murder, because we can't even bear to see a man executed justly for a capital crime, and we consider a woman who kills the child conceived in her to be guilty of murder.

These two cases (the Didache's authorship is usually dated to the very late first century or early 2nd century) make it clear that the Church took a very dim view indeed of the act of abortion, and did so from the very beginning. If you deliberately ignore those sources, you hamstring yourself from being able to make a rock-solid case on this particular matter that is firmly rooted in the Christian tradition.
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Granting peace to your apostles,
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Unread 03-05-2018, 08:06 PM   #5
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Unread 03-06-2018, 11:12 AM   #6
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As someone who decided to play denominationball in the somewhat toxic pool of a state convention's weaponized theology at a young age (and having obviously left it behind*), I have trouble discussing concepts such as inerrancy without projection.

Which is, of course, a wider part of this discussion; not necessarily about inerrrancy per se , but about trying to get everyone on level ground for a reasoned discourse. I know, for example, plenty of thoughtful people who can articulate exactly why they sign on to the Chicago statement, but I also know people who leveraged a well-intentioned concept for arguably evil ends. Giving the former a good faith hearing is more difficult because of my experiences/observations with the latter.






*I'll happily sign my name on the decrees from the Confession of Dositheus: We believe the Divine and Sacred Scriptures to be God-taught; and, therefore, we ought to believe the same without doubting; yet not otherwise than as the Catholic Church has interpreted and delivered the same. For every foul heresy accepts the Divine Scriptures, but perversely interprets the same, using metaphors, and homonymies, and sophistries of manís wisdom, confounding what ought to be distinguished, and trifling with what ought not to be trifled with. For if [we were to accept Scriptures] otherwise, each man holding every day a different sense concerning them, the Catholic Church would not by the grace of Christ continue to be the Church until this day, holding the same doctrine of faith, and always identically and steadfastly believing. "
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Unread 03-06-2018, 12:13 PM   #7
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What inspired this thread was that without the presupposition that the Scriptures are to be treated as having no genuine contradictions, I claimed that discussion is effectively neutered. Sure, you can have interesting discussion. Sure, you can be edified. Yes, you can understand Christianity better and deepen your relationship with God.

But if given any set of passages that apply to your life and appear to contradict when taken together, there is no point in trying to show that they are not in genuine conflict because Į\_(ツ)_/Į it might just be a wild goose chase finding out the "truth" when it you allow that it is an error.

But it is worse: it is very difficult (impossible?) to determine what claims God has made regarding your life as a Christian if, after all, Paul may have commanded you in error, or Jesus didn't ever intend to communicate what is in the text. Yes, there's tradition, but without the anchor of an inerrant Scripture, all you need to do is get into a denomination convinced that the tradition needs to change and then -- poof! -- the passage you found difficult to accept or had questions about is magically no longer a problem for you. Methodologically, you can serve your sin by using the church to ignore passages as "erroneous." **

I think the fact that God's word is true and trustworthy, to the point of being without error regarding that to which it speaks, is the most basic common ground we have with the historic church. There's other common ground, but getting rid of this would be like getting rid of your coat and pants in frigid winter but keeping your watch, glasses, glove, scarf, and undies, in order to keep warm.

[edit]
** This is not some theoretical or abstract hypothetical. This is exactly what is happening in mainline Protestant churches on a number of issues.
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Unread 03-07-2018, 05:21 AM   #8
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How are we defining 'inerrant'? I mean, are we required to maintain that every jot and tittle down to the number of soldiers in a given battle that seems to be discrepant across passages is actually true?
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You descended into the tomb, O Life Immortal,
You destroyed the power of death!
In victory You arose, O Christ God,
Proclaiming rejoice to the myrrh-bearing women,
Granting peace to your apostles,
And bestowing resurrection on the fallen!

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Unread 03-07-2018, 08:49 AM   #9
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Quote:
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How are we defining 'inerrant'? I mean, are we required to maintain that every jot and tittle down to the number of soldiers in a given battle that seems to be discrepant across passages is actually true?
While I am sure you can find some fundie out there who says exactly that, it would be a cartoon of what a serious inerrantist believes. The Chicago Statement is a good starting point, though it's not the end of the discussion.
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Unread 03-07-2018, 09:22 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IsaactheSyrian View Post
How are we defining 'inerrant'? I mean, are we required to maintain that every jot and tittle down to the number of soldiers in a given battle that seems to be discrepant across passages is actually true?
Are jots and tittles what the text claims? The ink stokes are mere vehicles of meaning.

Number of soldiers in battle discrepancies (I take it between 1 kings and 2 Chronicles?) I don't know how to resolve them. I'd need to consult commentaries. But what I am not going to do is claim that a genuine contradiction in the Scriptures, only apparent ones.
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Unread 03-08-2018, 07:01 PM   #11
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Unread 03-08-2018, 07:17 PM   #12
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What annoys me and irritates me. Is how we have all different views, leading to different denominations.....

I mean like at the end of the day. Do we really believe that our view is absolute and everyone else is wrong?
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Unread 03-09-2018, 08:29 PM   #13
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The more I think about my earlier response, I wanted to clarify I am OK with saying I believe in functional inerrancy in that I'm always going to side with scripture even if I qualify some readings by saying that the obvious atheist arrows criticizing them/fundie weirdness leaning on them are dumb wooden readings.
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Unread 03-10-2018, 11:43 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dogfood View Post
What annoys me and irritates me. Is how we have all different views, leading to different denominations.....

I mean like at the end of the day. Do we really believe that our view is absolute and everyone else is wrong?
I think this is a very important concern and I am tempted to say it merits its own thread. Not a recommendation as a Mod, but as a way of saying "I hope this discussion gets off the ground".

Tentative answer: I regard what I believe to be true, and that implies that people who disagree are wrong. But what I believe to be true does not mean I have 100% confidence it is true, especially not at every point.

My confidence about the Resurrection is higher than my view on how exactly God saves, which is higher than who are the proper subjects of baptism, which is higher than whether immediately before Christ's return we can expect many Jews converting. It's okay to believe millions of people who call themselves Christians to be wrong on a number of things, but yet also be open to what Scripture and historic tradition have said. I have seen over-confidence in pastors, seminary professors, peers, and myself -- and it is not right. We should be able to say "The passage has two legitimate interpretations, and I believe strongly in X over Y for these Z reasons". This way you recognize that you aren't just asserting it and you recognize that people who you believe are wrong aren't bonkers or insincere or outright heretics. They are just mistaken.
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Unread 03-10-2018, 11:51 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheProdigalModern View Post
The more I think about my earlier response, I wanted to clarify I am OK with saying I believe in functional inerrancy in that I'm always going to side with scripture even if I qualify some readings by saying that the obvious atheist arrows criticizing them/fundie weirdness leaning on them are dumb wooden readings.
Could you say more?

Like, how is this not just inerrancy?
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