It has been a good night.
Tonight, at Grace Baptist Church in Salt Lake City, I listened to a sermon, a theological overview, and an exhortation by Dr. Kevin Bauder on the issue of biblical inerrancy.
I agree with Kevin. Inerrancy is a watershed issue and a fundamental to my Christian faith.
One third of American evangelicals don’t believe in biblical inerrancy. Another third of American evangelicals don’t believe that it is a heart issue to get upset over. And then there is the last third who consider the doctrine of biblical inerrancy to be foundational.
Are you curious to hear about a key biblical text shared on this issue and then the four stages of development surrounding this debate in the last four decades in America?
Each morning, I get on my exercise bike and read sections of Scripture (OT, Psalms, Proverbs, and NT).
Days Inn has an exercise bike, so I read in Judges about Jephthah and the Ammonites. I worshiped in Psalm 100. I gleaned wisdom from Proverbs 27. And I was instructed by Paul in II Corinthians.
I particularly noted Paul’s example at the end of chapter 2: “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.”
This is my prayer as l live in the I-15 Corridor – that I would not be a corrupter of the living words of God.
God spoke to me this morning on that exercise bike.
Does denying that the universe was created in six 24-hour days imply a denial of biblical inerrancy?
How about regarding the books of Job and Jonah as (inspired) fiction?
So genre is irrelevant?
And what about all the explaining away y’all like to do when it comes to certain things in the New Testament? (Or, for that matter, statements in the Old Testament: Malachi 1:11, for example.)
1. Not necessarily, but I have great difficulty in seeing how the Scriptures can communicate any other way.
3. No. Genre is very relevant to the inerrancy and hermeneutical debate.
But Greg, let’s take for instance “evangelical” Kenton Sparks and his book, God’s Word in Human Words.
I can’t even consider his position on inerrancy – “evangelical”. It is not good news. Kenton would have me fit my Christian faith within the framework of the many who corrupt.
Todd: To clarify, how would you sum up Sparks’ position on inerrancy?
Regarding genre, if we acknowledge that we must take genre into account, what is the problem with regarding Job and Jonah as fiction? (Since, on their face, that is what they are.) Aren’t Jesus’ parables also inspired fiction? Or are we saying that fiction is somehow a genre unworthy of being inspired?
Greg, Sparks writes, “One could reasonably say that the Bible does not offer a single, well-integrated univocal theology; it offers instead numerous overlapping but nonetheless distinctive theologies!” Sparks desires to maintain the label of evangelical but his hermeneutical approach to the text is similar to TT.
Genre is important. And determining the genre is a hermeneutical art. But the whole Bible is not just story telling – important as that was in the teachings of Christ. Job and Jonah have authority for our lives because the texts are rooted in historical fact and inerrant record. I disagree with the assumption that, on their face, they are fiction.
Todd, of course Job and Jonah have authority in our lives, but I disagree that this authority is rooted in historical fact. You would agree, no, that Jesus’ parables, while fiction, are nonetheless authoritative and indeed, inerrant?
Okay, so if stories in one Biblical context can be acknowledged as fiction and yet understood be authoritative and even inerrant (in terms of the truths they set forth), why not in the other context?
Regarding the Sparks quote on multiple biblical theologies: I think I agree. Consider, for example, the extended debate in the OT histories between one set of texts regarding the desirability of kingship in Israel and another set of texts in which God is portrayed as opposing same. Here is my understanding: the Bible is like a lens through which we look to understand God, the Church, etc. However, this means we look THROUGH, not directly AT, the Bible in this sense. This is in line with the Orthodox understanding of ikons, both the pictoral kind in particular and ikonology in general, which would include the Bible.
How is Job or Jonah cueing the reader that the content is parabolic?
We can discuss that, Todd, but isn’t the basic question whether or not God would inspire fiction? Since we agree that the Eternal Son of God used fictional parables as a major teaching tool, why not Job, Jonah, the Genesis creation stories, and other similar biblical writings?
Some consider the whole Bible fiction . . . but that it moves you in the same way as “The Christmas Carol”.
Todd, some indeed do, but that is not defensible from either a historical or literary standpoint.
I am reminded of the phrase, “rightly dividing the word of truth.”
I wonder what the purpose of God would be to make up a story (fiction) about real people (non-fiction) in history. For example, Jonah has an actual lineage, we know who his father is (Amittai), and Jonah’s actual existence is also seen in the historical account of 2 Kings (14:25), and is even a reference used by our Lord Jesus himself (Matthew 12:38-41, 16:4; Luke 11:29-30, 32).
Jesus, being an actual historical person, and claiming to be God, would be considered a liar or insane if he believed that a fictional story (Jonah and his mission) was true. So, unless Jesus is a liar (or an impostor), and the author of 2 Kings is also a liar (if Jonah in actuality does not exist), we have to rightly divide the word of truth and believe that the historical person of Jonah existed, and that the book containing his story is not fiction but rather the infallible, inerrant, and historically accurate Word of God. I don’t believe in a God (Jesus Christ) who is a liar, or a deceiver.
Similarly, if we are rightly dividing the word of truth, we are not looking through God’s Word as if it’s message is irrelevant unless “correctly” applied in our lives. The message is relevant no matter if we believe or not. Likewise, when people are having a conversation, you don’t look past their words in order to interpret what they are saying, unless they are being deceitful and not straightforward. God doesn’t deceive us. And to believe that we are deceived if we believe in a historical Jonah is contrary to God’s truth.
God is straightforward. Creation was 6 days, Jonah was a real person. Job likewise was a real person. Miracles are possible. If God is not all powerful, then he can be manipulated. I am certain, or rather I have certitude along with the testimony of God’s Holy Spirit, that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the God of the church is all powerful. This God can insert supernatural acts into the natural systems which He created. If he could not, he would not be the God of the Bible, and the Bible would no longer be inerrant, inspired, or relevant. This simply is not the case with a God who is good, and true, and love.
Btw, Greg, let me introduce you to Richard. He is a pastoral intern in our church. I call him, Beau. And he is a blessing in our church family.
Hey Beau. Nice to meet you, so to speak. Given a handle like that, I would guess that you have some connection to down here (South Carolina). Are you a student/alum of Bob Jones? I’m originally from Montana, but ended up down here thanks to the U.S. Navy and the fact that I my wife is from SC. All of this by way of Marquette University in Milwaukee.
U ask why God would inspire fiction involving a historical figure. If we encountered such a work outside of the Bible, we would term it an historical novel. So why not? Why do we associate “fiction” with “untrue”? Fiction is simply a literary way of communicating truths of a sort not easily communicated by more “scientific” genres, such as history, philosophy, or genres which are explicitly scientific according to the contemporary understanding of that term. But let me back up a minute: according to Christianity, as opposed to Islam, and to some extent Judaism, the ultimate revelation of God is God Himself become human, Jesus the Christ, the Eternal Word of God, not a document. Given that, the Bible as “the word[s] of God” falls into the category of “secondary revelation”. There are many reasons why God became human, but one big reason is that “no one can see God [per se] and live.” Since this is the case, all of our encounters with God must be mediated in some way. This is what I mean by the need to “look through” the Bible, to look through ikons, in order to “see” God.
It is not that God is not straightforward, but rather that we cannot encounter God directly in this sense and survive the experience (although our Lord says, in the Gospels, that part of the reason He teaches in parables is to confuse some people). So where does that leave this question of biblical fiction? Well, part of the point is that no media or genre, whether history, poetry, fiction, philosophy, theology, powerpoint presentations, or whatever, can exhaust the revelation of God to humanity made to us by way of the incarnate God the Son. Also, the primary vehicle of even secondary revelation is not the Bible per se, but rather, “the memory of the Church”, aka The Tradition, of which the Bible is the cornerstone, but which includes other things, as I spelled out in a response to Blake. Also, please note that this discussion is separate from any question of God acting supernaturally. That goes without saying. However, God also acts “naturally”. Further, Jesus does not affirm that He believes Jonah to be literally and historically true. He does not address the question. He rather simply draws an analogy between Jonah (as portrayed in the story) and Himself to make a point about his upcoming resurrection.
In a sense, this conversation is a bit ironic, don’t you think? Y’all will go to great lengths to defend what you believe to be the literal, hypertextual “truth” of every word of the Bible, or at least your truncated version of it, but when it comes to various very clear statements in the New Testament (and some equally clear prophecies in the OT, such as Malachi 1:11), statements which demonstrate a continuity in belief and practice between the Church of the First Century and the Apostolic Church[es] of the succeeding centuries over against beliefs and practices of Christian communities emerging from the Reformation, you go to equally great lengths to neutralize them and to attempt to explain them away. As one former Evangelical leader who is now an Orthodox priest puts, “All of Orthodoxy is found in the Bible, but much of it is in verses we did not underline when we were Evangelicals.” Again, nice to meet you. I look forward to conversing further.
It is nice to meet you as well. You certainly know how to organize an argument. Well, I actually do not hail from Bob Jones, but I am currently taking classes through Moody Online. I come from San Diego, and I was in the Air Force for almost 5 years. I recently separated from the Air Force, and now I am living in Idaho Falls while finishing my Bachelors.
With regards to addressing your comments, I may not be able to immediately. I have some other work to attend to for now, but I do look forward to continuing this conversation.
No problem, Beau. I’m gonna be kinda busy myself for the next 24 hours or so.
Why are uninspired works of Historical Fiction called by that name, and not inspired works believed by some to be of the same Genre?
Well, no matter how “historical” fiction may be, it’s still not true. The events are true, and some teaching principles may be drawn from the story, but at the end of the day, it’s still a false story. I don’t see God as making up a story about a historical person. Why wouldn’t God just tell us what really happened in the real story? Is there something to hide? Is there some other reason, God is telling us a fictional story? On this point, I have to believe that a true and loving God desires to be truthful and honest to people. Some “fictional” stories have teaching value, but I don’t see how Jonah and Job are fictional. To deny the truth of creation accounts as well makes Moses a liar. I don’t think that is the case.
So, lets say that we accept that parts of the bible are fiction. Well, we as fallible people are then the judge of what is fiction and what is historical reality. So, all truth is subjective, and the Bible can no longer be trusted as to which parts are true, and which are not. This is where the whole argument boils down to. Personally, I don’t want to judge God’s Word. That places me above the author (The Holy Spirit), and makes the truths of the Word (Jesus Christ) subject to me. That doesn’t sound like a good place to be.
There is a contemporary definition of scientific. I’m not sure what you are defining science as, but I define science as a method for discovering truth by testing the physical and natural world. Now, I am no scientist, but I have taken a few science classes, and I certainly can make assertions based on the world I see, therefore, I can see absolutely no possibility that a literal 6 day creation is fiction. I used to be an agnostic, and an evolutionist, but then I came to know the truth. It is presented in Genesis. And it is not an allegory. So, if Genesis is fiction, and allegory, what is the purpose of that? Did God not see fit to tell people the truth about the entire situation? I think God gave people true information that helps them to live. Does believing in evolution help a person to live? Are you going to evolve into something better? I beg to differ, all the evidence suggests that mankind is not advancing, but rather regressing. Sure we have better technology, but better than what? Do we know how the pyramids were constructed? Could we re-produce them today? Absolutely not. We don’t know. How did Egyptians have batteries? I have no idea, except that people were far superior in intellect than modern people. I agree that evolution exists, we are evolving in to a completely inferior race than our forefathers. That is fact.
Sorry, I took a few rabbit holes on that one, but I simply can’t believe that a book such as Genesis is an allegory for evolution.
You said that the ultimate revelation is the incarnation of the Son of God.
I completely agree, but how do you know that Jesus existed? End of story…unless the Bible is true. If it is not true, you have no idea how you can possibly know anything about the person of Jesus. If what you are saying is correct (that historical Bible stories are fiction) then how do you know that Jesus was a historical person? How do you know what He said? How do you know what He did? How do you know that He is God’s Son except that He said it, in the Bible?
So the “idea” Logos was with God in the beginning (John 1.1). But then the Logos put on flesh and dwelt among men. His testimony is absolute truth. But unless you believe in an inspired and inerrant Bible, you don’t know anything about the Logos as He dwelt among men. You actually know nothing about Him, or God the Father for that reason. This is why the Bible is inspired, historically accurate, and inerrant.
The “word(s) of God are secondary revelation”.
Explain “secondary revelation”. I believe the object of all revelation is God, and His Son Jesus. Because I can’t physically see Jesus, or God the Father, I concede to the fact that Bible Study is the only way we can know anything about God. In that way, I can agree that Jesus as revelation is first, and The Holy Spirit reveals truth about Jesus, but He does this through His inspired, inerrant Word (which you are claiming as secondary revelation). Basically, you’re saying that a written document that is a perfect representation of the Logos(God’s Word) is secondary to Jesus incarnation as primary revelation. I’m just attempting to clarify.
I can agree that we can’t see God directly, and therefore revelation is the only means by which we can see Him. But, I disagree that we are looking through the Bible as if we are looking past what the words actually say. I don’t know if that is what you mean, but what I’m saying is that since the Bible has an author (the Holy Spirit), the words say something. For that reason, they mean something. Maybe I misunderstood “looking through”, but I understand the Bible as revelation that is looked at. You understand God by understanding the words of the Bible. But, being that God is infinite, there may be much more the Holy Spirit meant, but that we simply cannot understand. That is why the Bible can be read many times by the same person, and finally, God will reveal a hidden truth to a person when He wants to do it. But, the truth is not beyond the words. The truth is found in the words. The words mean something.
I completely agree that no human “can exhaust the revelation of God to humanity made to us by way of the incarnate God the Son”, and I in no way am saying that I completely understand God.
“The primary vehicle of even secondary revelation is not the Bible per se, but rather, ‘the memory of the Church'”
I completely disagree. The Bible is not “the memory of the Church”. Where does that leave the Old Testament? The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to humanity. Are you saying that we are to trust testimonies of church fathers over the authority of the text itself? And if so, which church fathers? The ones who were heretics? Paul said to test everything against the testimony of the Scriptures (1 Thess. 5.21)
You said that this conversation is “separate from any question of God acting supernaturally.”
I completely disagree. Why do you think the books of Jonah and Job are fiction? I suggest that this is because of a presupposition that either Jonah’s story could not happen, or did not happen. So the question becomes: Is God able to do the things claimed by the Book of Jonah or not? Was Jesus able to calm a storm and walk on water or not? These questions if answered negatively are denials of two things. 1) God is true, and the Scriptures are true. 2) Because these stories seem unlikely, God did not do these miracles. If God did not do these miracles, then we can see them as allegorical fiction, and they then lack absolute truth, but gain pragmatic truth which is subjective to the reader. One can maintain that these stories are true if the principles can be applied to their life. They aren’t true because God said so. These are the conclusions which naturally follow from claiming that miracles in the Bible did not happen. For that reason, I say that the issue of “inspired fiction” necessarily is an attack on absolute truth, and God’s supernatural ability to intervene in human history.
“God also acts ‘naturally'”.
I completely agree.
“Further, Jesus does not affirm that He believes Jonah to be literally and historically true. He does not address the question”
True, but by authoritatively quoting the stories, he is validating them. I guarantee the Jews of Jesus’ day did not question the historical accuracy of the Pentateuch, or Jonah, or Job. These were all presupposed by them. By the way, those books belonged to the Jews before any Christian got their hands on them.
“He rather simply draws an analogy between Jonah (as portrayed in the story) and Himself to make a point about his upcoming resurrection”
I agree, but this does not mean the story is fiction. I agree with Todd, The books of Jonah and Job give the reader no indication that they are fiction. And I disagree with you that at face value that is what they are. You are making a statement about the content of the books based on a presupposition. This is why I say that that presuppostion is that God did not do those miraculous things. Take it for what it is wort.
“In a sense, this conversation is a bit ironic, don’t you think? Y’all will go to great lengths to defend what you believe to be the literal, hypertextual “truth” of every word of the Bible, or at least your truncated version of it, but when it comes to various very clear statements in the New Testament (and some equally clear prophecies in the OT, such as Malachi 1:11)”
I don’t see how Malachi 1.11 ties anywhere into the conversation, but you’ve used that example three times within this conversation. Please explain, I seem to be out of the loop on that reference.
It is nice to meet you as well, please understand I am simply defending my belief in Biblical inspiration, and inerrancy. I just don’t agree that the Bible can be seen as inerrant, but containing a false story about a historical person.
Also, I was busy writing a term paper towards the last part of the week. I apologize for taking so long to respond.
Beau, a nice thing about these discussions is that, unlike college, there are no deadlines. 😉
I like that very much!
Speaking of parables . . . I just noticed for the first time the other day, the Greek word for “figure” (KJV) and “symbol” (NASB) in Hebrews 9:9.
Then a discussion in our early prayer meeting this morning led to talk of bloody sacrifices and then the story of Abraham being willing to offer up Isaac.
Hopping to Hebrews 11:19, I saw that Greek word again, parabolei, in reference to Abraham offering up Isaac.