Thursday, December 18, 2008

A critique of inerracy

Anyone care to tackle some of these?


Anonymous said...

Try J.P. Holding. I really don't want to know how many articles he has on this.

Gregory said...

I don't believe that "inerrancy" needs be a part of the case for Christianity. I'm glad to see that William Lane Craig is of a similar opinion, and has removed Craig Blomberg's essay "The Historical Reliability of the New Testament" from his 3rd Ed. of "Reasonable Faith". He explains in his revised preface that the contradictory accounts of the Gospels do not disprove the core "facts" surrounding the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ....any more than conflicting accounts of JFK's assassination disprove that he was murdered.

Several things must be kept in mind when looking at these "debunking" type criticisms:

1) Translations and/or copies of the Old/New Testament are not inerrant

2) Critics are usually not trained in the original language, history or literary analysis of ancient texts; so their opinion about the Bible, in the "academic" sense, carries no more weight than yours or mine.

3) Critics are notoriously bad and/or dishonest literary critics, in general. Let me take one example from Scott Bidstrup:

Exodus 20:5 says "I will visit the sins upon the third, fourth generation"

But another scripture seems to say otherwise Ezekial 18:2

Answer: Exodus 20:5 isn't fully quoted. It says this:

"For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me; but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commands"

It's clear that God does visit the sins of the fathers upon the sons because the sons follow in their fathers footsteps. In other words, God did not punish the sins because of their father...but because they chose to sin like their father. Furthermore, verse 6 makes clear that not every son follows in his father's iniquity. Therefore, these statements ought to be seen as entirely conditional....if the son follows in the sin of his father, he will likewise receive the same punishment as his father.

4) Critics spend little time actually reading and thinking about biblical texts themselves. Instead, they get a hold of a copy of Thomas Paine's "The Age of Reason" and begin to regurgitate the arguments. What critics and Christians often do not know is that Thomas Paine had a litany of contemporaneous responses that adequately answered his criticisms.

The fact is, that every generation that has proceeded Paine has seen the same criticisms raised and then answered by apologists/theologians of their respective times. Gleason Archer and Norman Geiser are two current examples of apologists who have tackled these kinds of criticisms. 100 years from now, though, Archer and Geisler will be forgotten; just as the apologists in Paine's day were forgotten...while some critic mines Paine again and causes a whole new generation of apologists to respond to the same trite arguments.

I think a comparison of the various books "proving" bible contradictions will show that critics are far from "free thought" and independent thinking....I believe that such an analysis will show the very sort of rigid dogmatism that they claim Christians are guilty of.

5) Bible contradictions are a red herring. "Disproving" the accuracy of the bible does not disprove the existence of God....nor does it disprove Christianity. The events surrounding the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can still be known to be true, even if the primary text (i.e. New Testament) does not accurately record the details. There's plenty of extra-biblical data that demonstrate the truth of the Christian message:

1. the origin and survival of the Christian Church in the face of despairing circumstances.

2. no contemporaneous challenge and refutation of the Gospel message arose until well after the death and resurrection of Christ. The relevance of point #1 can be seen by the fact that the Apostles and New Testament era converts did not face critics who challenged the existence of Jesus or His miraculous life. There were certainly doubts that Christ was "God in human flesh"...but no one doubted that he was a prophet or a miracle worker. The New Testament era was not anti-supernatural...critics did not doubt the things Christ did, but rather "who" He claimed to be.

3. the early Church Fathers were associated with Apostles and eyewitnesses to Christ's miraculous life. They, at the very least, had good grounds for believing the truth and factuality of the Gospel message....because it "came from the horses mouth", as they say.

4. Non-Christian writers mention Jesus Christ as though He were a historical Tacitus, Josephus, the Talmud, Emperor Trajan, etc.

5. Miracles were part and parcel of the Churches experience, well beyond the Apostolic age. Tradition has it that St. Augustine was gifted, among other things, with healing people of sicknesses and distresses. In the 20th Century, St. John of San Fransisco was known for healing, prescience and levitation. These kinds of phenomenon, though strange to people in our day and age, were perfectly "natural" to people living before the Enlightenment. They are also one of the reasons why the Church designated them "Saints" with a capital S.

More could be said, of course; but I'll end my remarks here.