When to give, Where to stand

Wow.  Forgive my delay, but as we communicated offline: the post on your challenge to inerrancy required me to chew, swallow, and digest.  In truth, I’m still doing so.  I read it slowly several times, and thought over the course of several trail runs.  And yes – – I prayed.  I still do that.  Any agnostic, skeptic, or atheist should value your post.  It is of higher quality than so many I have read.  Maybe that is not strictly true.  But it is of more value to a Christian because you speak the language as a native.  Any Christ follower should carefully consider your post.  It was not written out of hate or ridicule.  It is an honest presentation of serious doubt and as such it, like you, deserves respect.

Where to even start?  I ordered David Fitzgerald’s book Nailed.  As you know, I’m willing to listen to adversaries, perhaps even enemies.  Be careful.  I assert before reading the book that your reasons are better than his.  Why?  You get to the heart of many issues.  Is biblical inerrancy a biblical teaching?  That deserves an answer.  Fitzgerald asks, “did Jesus exist at all, or is he like Zeus?”  Wow – – in a very different way.  You asked if writing is a valid way to communicate truth (I’m paraphrasing).  Your writing is.  I’ll read Fitzgerald and try to be objective.  Neither you nor I claim to be experts in biblical scholarship.  But – -both of us must realize that this man is on the fringe.  More after reading.  Maybe not.  As of now, your arguments are better.

I read (am reading) a book that was waiting for me.  N.T. Wright’s Simply Christian.  I realize that we should not argue from authority alone.  You probably wouldn’t put up David Fitzgerald or Bart Ehrman.  I probably wouldn’t put up John Piper.  He is so thoroughly convinced that he less to say to those who do not acknowledge Christ.  His arguments would seem circular, and in the truest sense of the word – – they are.  As a Christ follower, Piper has been so helpful to me in growing deeper in faith.  As an apologist who cares about skeptical friends, I need a different teacher.  I might choose Tim Keller.  He lives and preaches in Manhattan.  He defies the (un)truism that all Christians are conservative Fox News pundits.  I like him as a person and I read him with ease.  I like Piper too, but it is like reading Jonathan Edwards: rewarding, but difficult.  Both Piper and Keller defer to biblical scholars for scholastic arguments beyond the scope of their popular works.  That is where N.T. [Tom] Wright’s name kept coming up.

So, how can he help me reply to a sincere skeptical friend?  First, he offers a correction:

“The twenty-seven books of the New Testament were all written within two generations of the time of Jesus–in other words, by the end of the first century at the latest–though most scholars would put most of them earlier than that.  The letters of Paul are from the late forties and the fifties, and though disputes continue as to whether he wrote all the letters that bear his name, they are the first written testimony to the explosive events of Jesus himself and the very early church.”

I like this quote because it comes from one who has studied his field as much as I have studied mine.  I respect study and expertise, but again – – arguing from authority can be a logical fallacy.  I like this quote because it does not dismiss Ehrman’s claims that the authorship of several New Testament books are disputed.

What else helped?  This is an extended quotation from chapter thirteen (all emphases those of the author), but helped me to frame my thinking.

“It helps, in all this, to remind ourselves constantly what the Bible is given to us for.  One of the most famous statements of “inspiration” in the Bible itself puts it like this: “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Equipped for every good work; there’s the point.  The Bible is breathed out by God (the word for “inspired” in this case is theopneustos–literally, “God-breathed”) so that it can fashion and form God’s people to do his work in the world.”

In other words, the Bible isn’t there simply to be an accurate reference point for people who want to look things up and be sure the’ve got them right.  It is there to equip God’s people to carry forward his purposes of new covenant and new creation.  It is there to enable people to work for justice, to sustain their spirituality as they do so, to create and enhance relationships at every level, and to produce that new creation which will have about it something of the beauty of God himself.  The Bible isn’t like an accurate description of how a car is made.  It’s more like the mechanic who helps you fix it, the garage attendant who refuels it, and the guide who tells you how to get where you’re going.  And where you’re going is to make God’s new creation happen in his world, not simply to find your own way unscathed through the old creation.

That is why, although I’m not unhappy with what people are trying to affirm when they use words like “infallible” (the idea that the Bible won’t deceive us) and “inerrant” (the stronger idea, that the Bible can’t get things wrong), I normally resist using those words myself.  Ironically, in my experience, debates about words like these have often led people away from the Bible itself and into all kinds of theories which do no justice to scripture as a whole–its great story, its larger purposes, its sustained climax, its haunting sense of an unfinished novel beckoning us to become, in our own right, characters in its closing episodes.  Instead, the insistence on an “infallible” or “inerrant” Bible has grown up within a complex cultural matrix (that, in particular, of modern North American Protestantism) where the Bible has been seen as the bastion of orthodoxy against Roman Catholicism on the one hand and liberal modernism on the other.  Unfortunately, the assumptions of both those worlds have conditioned the debate.  It is no accident that this Protestant insistence on biblical infallibility arose at the same time that Rome was insisting on papal infallibility, or that the rationalism of the Enlightenment infected even those who were battling against it.

Such debates, in my view, distract attention from the real point of what the Bible is there for.”

So, where does that leave me in my reply?  I haven’t answered one of your key questions – – does 2 Timothy 3:16-17 refer to the New Testament, which by the admission of my scholar of choice had not yet been codified?

Let’s go back to our current presuppositions and hold them in an open hand.  I presuppose that there is a supernatural, a creator of and purpose for creation.  I don’t argue against the mechanism of Big Bang cosmology, age of the earth, or mechanism of biologic natural selection of salutary mutations.  But I do, in my supernatural beliefs, hold that there is a Holy Spirit who can and does give wisdom to imperfect men.

Are we at an impasse?  We both acknowledge our presuppositions and the possibility that we are wrong.  We are both in circles, but I believe that our circles can and will intersect in common ground.  Perhaps we can reconstruct Gould’s non-overlapping majesteria for our benefit and for the benefit of our readers.  More likely we’ll make something new – – an area of intersection.  That’s what this blog is about – – that intersection.

The extended quote above represents my heart more fully than the Chicago Statement.  Why?  Because I want to pretend that Romans is true.  Why?  Because I think the Christian approach to gay people, skeptics, agnostics and atheists is wrong.  Why do I think this?  I think this on the basis of scripture and that is basis on which I’ll argue to my tribe.

Are you willing to start in the center of the bullseye before working outward?  Show me your objections to Romans 1 and the interpretation that I’ve offered.  Start there.  If scripture is unreliable, perhaps it will be self evident.  If we respect gay people for different reasons, then lets explore that common ground.

Your friendship remains a blessing to me – – pushing me to understand, grow and care.




  1. I almost feel like Wright is missing the importance behind infallibility and inerrancy. Of course, I don’t even hold textbooks I study to those standards–why should I care whether or not those terms describe my Bible? I should, and I do–because it’s a question of who wrote it. Was it God? Was it men? Was it God speaking through men? Did its writers and compilers have any agenda at all? If God wrote it, I would expect perfection. If men wrote it, I would expect biases and mistakes. If God wrote it through the minds and hands of imperfect men, I would still expect it to be cohesive and without error–yet highly relatable. If God could move through men to heal diseases and cast out demons, could he not move through them to write this revelation perfectly?–it is all we have of him. Without this, what makes it any different from any other holy book?

    I’m not just getting hung up on details when I insist on inerrancy and infallibility. I can even allow explanations of some things, like “Genesis is an allegory.” For me, this is really an authority issue. If this is God’s revelation, it has to look different to me than a work of men. If it is perfect, cohesive, complete–then I could consider that it is inspired by God. And if it is inspired by God, I can surrender everything to the source of those words.

    I need a reason to believe that this book should have authority in my life. So far, I haven’t found it. I’ve been moved by poetry. I’ve been changed by fiction. I’ve been challenged by a blog post. I’ve been encouraged by a letter from a friend. All words of men. I can only be saved by God, and only with the assurance that the words you build your life on are more than words of men.

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    1. CC – – As always your comments are thoughtful and welcome. I’m going to post again and expand 2 Timothy 3:16-17 before going back to Romans. I’ll invite you, like Pascal, to consider what we have so far in Romans 1. I would offer that it (the text, not my exegesis) is somehow different in a qualitative way from what others have written. The mystery of inspiration and amalgam of God’s heart using human vessels is perplexing. I agree. But consider the power of these words and what they have moved many to do. Then consider the power of their corrective power when they bring people back to the heart of God for others. I maintain the Christianity and Christians have much to repent for. But it can almost always be traced to following scripture not closely enough – – not too closely. Does the God of the Bible display wrath? Yes. Is it held in relief by mercy. Yes. My reason for this book having authority is that it brought me closer to the God that loves me and you. I don’t worship scripture, but I would not have known of Jesus without it and that changed and is changing my life.


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  2. Why bring me back to a beautiful letter? If the gospels aren’t true, does Romans matter at all? Powerful fiction can change a life.

    Meet me where I am. Then we can talk.

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    1. If the gospels are not true, then Romans matters not at all and Paul, while brilliant joins the long roll of deluded genius.

      Of course I’ll meet you where you are. Where do we go?

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      1. Can you argue for scripture without using scripture itself or personal testimony? Is it even fair for me to ask that?

        I enjoy reading about your personal experience the way I enjoy following friends on Instagram and seeing them experience life in pictures that don’t include me. I’m happy for you, and sometimes envious–but I can’t relate. Your testimony of the life-changing power of scripture is interesting, but it can never convince me. I have to encounter God myself.

        So where do we go? Where am I? Currently, I’m struggling with the whole idea of canonization and reading to understand the process by which my Bible came to be. I didn’t have a problem with this when I studied it in college, but as I revisit it, I am so far dissatisfied. It was born of argument and compromise and the yeas and nays of mortal men.

        What would it mean for you to meet me where I am? Argue without using personal experiences that I have not had, and argue without using scripture that has not earned my trust. I fear that this is too much to ask. Do you have anything left to argue with? Can we go anywhere from here?

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        1. I know that we can go on in healthy discourse. I don’t know if I can provide you more than the argument and compromise and yeas and nays of mortal men. If you yearn for a book of scripture that claims eternal existence and direct transmission to men, then the Noble Quran or Book of Mormon would meet the criteria.

          Allow me to unfold a piece of irony. I would like to argue from Aristotle’s telos – – what is the thing there for? But – – I can’t. The canonization of Aristotle does not allow us to consider his words. The extant manuscripts of Aristotle are far further removed from him than the gospel manuscripts are from Jesus. And his editors were just as motivated to advance his wisdom.

          Russell has challenged me to read people that I really don’t agree with. Erhman has helped me and NT Wright concedes some of the points he makes. If all of the Pauline epistles are not Pauline, then are they big fat lies? I’m more leery of the next book, Nailed (not by Erhman), but I’ll read it. Why? Because it challenges my biases.

          Balance your reading about canonization by reading someone who believes it gave us a reliable record. NT Wright strikes a nice balance between too popular and too scholarly. The Goldilocks of theologians? Better yet, invest the time (I know – – of more value than money) to review the course on sacred texts that Russell and I did. Many of the thoughts swirling in my head about canonization and other sacred texts started there.

          I’m going to move forward with Romans. I’m not doing it to leave you behind. But – – whether you accept Jesus or not, you may want a philosophy to guide your life and teach your children. I know that atheists can be moral and delightful people. Russell is. I’ll expound one path – – what scripture motivates me to do – – who it motivates me to be. If you find a better path, teach me. I’m not afraid to know.


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          1. I’ll agree with you about Aristotle–I wouldn’t stake my life on the idea that all we have attributed to him is actually his. But do I care? Does it matter? Not really–we benefit from those contributions (whoever they belong to) just the same–and he didn’t claim to be the Son of God. He doesn’t ask me to surrender my life to him without proof that he is who he claims to be.

            I do try to balance my reading (that’s how I went from Christianity to atheism in the first place) and will look into your recommendations as time allows.

            Of course you’ll move on through Romans in the mean time. You are above all a teacher, not an evangelist–and I’m the student who slows the class down.

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  3. Hi Pascal,

    Thank you for your response.

    You said,

    “You asked if writing is a valid way to communicate truth (I’m paraphrasing). Your writing is.”

    Thank you, but I’m not a great writer, and even the best writers have problems with reader’s missing their intent. My real question is not whether truth can ever be communicated through writing. It’s a minor area of curiosity more than a point, but I was wondering if you think writing is the best way for God to communicate Truth to us. If there is a God and his intent is to convince us of his will, couldn’t he use a better method. It seems like there’s a lot of back and forth by believers (because of the Bible) about whether God wants us to believe in him. For example…

    God wants every person to be saved. 1 Timothy 2:4
    God chooses those he will save. John 6:44, 2 Thes 2:13
    He deliberately confuses some others (2 Th 2:11) and causes some people to not believe in him. John 12:40
    It is Satan that causes this. 2 Cor 4:3-4
    Free will? Yes. Dt. 30:19, Jos 24:15
    No. Acts 13:48, Rom 8:29-30, Rom 9:11-22, Eph 1:4-5, 2 Th 2:11-12, 2 Tim 1:9

    I am not saying that free will and predestination cannot be reconciled. I’m saying there is a reason people take different positions, and some hold those positions tightly enough to justify killing in order to preserve them. The reason for the inconsistent opinions is the Bible itself.

    Like most contradicting topics in the Bible, we find believers picking verses somewhere along the spectrum. Most seem to settle on the idea that there is a line that God cannot cross. If he’s too convincing, he robs us of our free will and the worship only feels good to him if we choose to worship him in spite of our doubts. He doesn’t want mindless worship. He leaves us with just enough doubt that faith is required to believe in him but not so much doubt that faith is impossible. So says the believer, but this is demonstrably false from my point of view. Faith cannot overcome all doubt. To test this, try having faith that God really will physically restore your ailing, aging loved-ones back to health right now in this life. Try to believe it fully as if your eternity depends on it. If you find it is too unlikely to be believed in spite of your desire, you know the limitations of faith.

    God can’t be too convincing or he’ll create mindless machines who love him only because they are programmed to do so. But did God steal Moses’ free will when he spoke to him from a burning bush, turned his staff into a snake that ate the snake-staffs of the Egyptians, killed a firstborn in every house in Egypt (and other plagues), parted the Red Sea, led his people by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, fed his people with manna and quail, appeared to him in person, etc.? These miracles and personal presence were surely far more effective form of communicating truth than words from another mortal, especially those in a book written long before we were born, pre-science, and containing stories that sound like fairy tales (angels breeding with women to create giants, talking animals, other gods, witches, demons rather than electrical currents in the brain, etc.), contradict science and logic, etc. Did those who witnessed miracles in Bible times become ineligible for salvation?

    If we wrote in a language where every symbol only had one meaning and each meaning could not possibly be confused with any other, then it would be a better medium for communicating truth. High-level languages like English or any other human speech loses much to ambiguity. Any language that allows for the same word to be used both literally and for allegory, hyperbole, symbolism or some form of abstract representation suffers from this problem. Case-in-point, you used an N.T. Wright quote to correct an meaning that I didn’t intend.

    Fitzgerald questions whether Jesus existed. Is he on the fringe? I suspect so, but I’m not sure. And it also depends on how you’re defining that and how you’re offsetting for the base rate of mostly Christians doing the biblical scholarship. What about Moses? Did he exist? Is his non-historicity a fringe belief? If not, does that affect your certainty at all?

    “I realize that we should not argue from authority alone.”

    I couldn’t agree more. I respect experts, but Science is descriptive, not prescriptive, so depending on your definition, there are no real authorities in my world-view. Certain experts can offer opinions based on evidence which I will deferred to unless I have sufficient counter-evidence, any decision based on their expertise is assigned a probability of truth, given their experience. Their opinions are subject to evaluation and rational inquiry by all, and bolstered or refuted by communities of scientists working together to disprove each others ideas so the more plausible ones rise to the top. By contrast, the worldview of a theist holds the argument from authority at its foundation. You say we should not argue from authority alone, but you’re holding a position that’s based on authority plus what? What are the other factors in the argument that do not boil down to appeals to authority (.i.e the Bible, your interpretation of your feelings that you ascribe to the movements of the Holy Spirit, both of which stem from the ultimate authority – God)?

    You said you shouldn’t appeal to authority alone, and then you mentioned a quote from another authority. You said, “First, he offers a correction:” but I see no correction in that quote. I said how old I thought (probable, not certain belief) “based on what I’d read” that the oldest existing original writings we have were. Your N.T. Wright quote is talking about when those originals were written, which is a different matter.

    I see a few potential problems with his quotes, though. According to this Bible dating, some of the books of the Bible may have been written after the first century. Let’s look at this more closely. From what I’ve read, a “generation” is typically understood to be between 20 and 25 years. N.T. Wright states that all the books were written within two generations of the time of Jesus. That would mean, by my estimation, 40 to 50 years. Jesus probably died in either 30 or 33 AD. Which would mean that some people would interpret his words to mean all the books were written by 70 AD. Even 83 AD is less than 99 AD (which is the end of the century). Basically, Wright seems to be asserting things that make the situation sound better than it is. He’s claiming matter-of-factly to know what many other scholars don’t, and rather than give credence to their differing conclusions, he says that all the books were written before 100 AD at the very latest. That’s not how objectivity works. There is supposed to be a probability of truth for a hypothesis, along with a degree of certainty and margin of error.

    What you provided from Wright was just an excerpt, so I don’t know without seeing the bigger context, but in that quote Wright essentially asserts that these other scholars are wrong. He acknowledges that Paul may not have written all of his letters, but my guess is this is putting a positive spin on the level of doubts of Pauline authorship for many of those works. His failure to mention, at least in your excerpt, the ranges and uncertainty in the biblical historian community seems to indicate a bias toward making the Bible seem as trustworthy as possible. I agree that he is far more qualified than I am to make these claims, but how can he be certain of those dates when some other scholars aren’t? Maybe he is justified in his certainty on these topics, but I’m at least skeptical, just like I am of all authorities that seem biased for nonobjective reasons. See the quote about fooling ourselves from Why I Respect Pascal. How can we be certain that his ideas about when the books were written aren’t a victim of motivated reasoning, which is part of The Problem. Being a historical document, isn’t certainty about the Bible unjustifiable? It’s my understanding that most scholars aren’t certain in the historicity of any other ancient text. You’ll only fine certainty when the scholars entered their field with the knowledge that their religious text is absolutely reliable.

    It’s interesting that he says all Paul’s letters were written by the 50s when Ephesians, if it is a Pauline letter, is estimated around 65, but other articles indicate between 70 and 80 if it was not from Paul.

    He says, “explosive events of Jesus” and “the very early church” in the same sentence. The word “explosive” is commonly used with “growth”, as in “explosive growth” of the early church. I don’t know if that’s where he’s going (he left it ambiguous), but if so, this is another assertion that may lack enough evidence to justify that level of certainty.

    You mention that arguing from authority can be a logical fallacy. That’s only if it is done incorrectly. I think arguing from authority is always a logical fallacy when that authority is obviously biased towards the opinion we want him/her to validate, and that bias is based on non-objectively-justifiable factors. It is presently my view that religious historians of any text are almost always biased towards finding the truth in their scripture while skipping over its mistakes. Maybe that’s just my bias, but I can defend and justify this belief. I’m not sure that my issues with Wright’s quote matters other than to demonstrate his possible bias which would help us judge whether or not we might be justified to use his words as a stand-alone authority on this topic. I just wanted to point it out.

    “…the Bible isn’t there simply to be an accurate reference point…”.

    Whatever else it is, it must be that. If it is not accurate, then what are we doing? Anything else he might say after this, regardless of how nice if sounds, is sitting on a broken foundation. The Bible can’t equip God’s people if it isn’t accurate. If it isn’t True.

    “The Bible isn’t like an accurate description of how a car is made.”

    It doesn’t have to be a description of how something is made, but it does need to be accurate in what it does say. If he’s not going to defend this, what is his real opinion on inerrancy? And by extension, what is yours?

    “Ironically, in my experience, debates about words like these have often led people away from the Bible itself and into all kinds of theories which do no justice to scripture as a whole…”

    He said, “ironically”, which makes it seem like he doesn’t understand why people who start discussing inerrancy and infallibility often are led away from the Bible. The answer is people who are discussing these words are doing so for a reason. They want to know if they can trust the Bible. It is not discussing biblical inerrancy that leads people away from faith. Don’t take his view as a justification for dodging the issue. Proponents of the Bible have stated that they can trust it because it is the perfect word of God. Either that claim can be sustained or it cannot. Those who find it cannot often leave the faith. I don’t see any irony there. N.T. Wright seems to be saying that if we start discussing why the Bible can be trusted, we’re missing the point of scripture. That is not a satisfactory answer. We must each make up our mind. Is the Bible without error, or might it have some error (in the intent of the originals writings)? We must acknowledge the problems listed in the Inerrancy? post. It is not a distracting topic that misses the point. It is the foundation of trust for the whole Bible.

    Wright said,

    “the insistence on an ‘infallible’ or ‘inerrant’ Bible has grown up within a complex cultural matrix (that, in particular, of modern North American Protestantism)…”

    It’s unclear, but whatever N.T. Wright thinks about inerrancy, he probably refutes Article XVI of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.


    “We affirm that the doctrine of inerrancy has been integral to the Church’s faith throughout its history. We deny that inerrancy is a doctrine invented by Scholastic Protestantism, or is a reactionary position postulated in response to negative higher criticism.”

    Wright concluded,

    “Such debates, in my view, distract attention from the real point of what the Bible is there for.”

    We’re talking about why scripture should be trusted. You previously said,

    “If scripture is unreliable, then any notion of a savior is fictitious. If there is no savior, then believers in that savior join admirers of the Easter Bunny…”

    And then,

    “I’ve completed only 1/16th the book of Romans. It is fair to pause and ask why I trust what I read in the first place.”

    Do you agree with Wright that the topic of Biblical inerrancy is merely a distraction?

    “So, where does that leave me in my reply? I haven’t answered one of your key questions – – does 2 Timothy 3:16-17 refer to the New Testament, which by the admission of my scholar of choice had not yet been codified?”

    Pascal, my friend, you haven’t answered any of my key questions in the Inerrancy? post. I’d like to pause here to recap some of them, but it’s easier to just refer you back to that post. Here’s the conclusion from there…
    Since a) the conclusion can never be justified with a greater certainty than the strength of the weakest premises, b) each weak premise accumulates to degrade the overall probability of truth, c) there is ample evidence of motivated reasoning for biblical inerrancy, d) the Bible doesn’t claim to be inerrant, and e) most of the premises are each either invalid, unknowable or demonstrably false – the conclusion for the claim, “the Bible is inerrant” is unsupportable for basic belief, much less certainty.

    The questions I raised in that post are not rhetorical. I really am interested in your answers to them. Your thoughts, not your go-to apologists thoughts. It’s perfectly fine if your thoughts line up with Wrights. I’d just like a more clear response to the questions. So far I’m not entirely certain where you’re giving and where you’re standing. Would you be willing to explicitly answer the questions I list there?

    Now back to this post…

    “Let’s go back to our current presuppositions and hold them in an open hand. I presuppose that there is a supernatural…”

    I’m not sure of your intent with this phrasing, but you might be implying that I presuppose that there is no supernatural. If that is what you mean, I should clarify. I have no presupposition on the existence of free agent outside of our universe or of a sufficiently advanced natural agency within our universe that could seem to us like God. I simply do not hold a position. Either are possible. But to what I think is your larger point, I specifically do not reject any biblical claims because I reject the possibility of a supernatural. I do not reject the possibility of a supernatural. I do recognize that highly improbable things are highly improbable, and that, for each description of a supernatural event in the Bible, a natural event is more likely. Not necessary, just more likely. Is that a presupposition? It depends on which definition you’re going for.

    You said,

    “The extended quote above represents my heart more fully than the Chicago Statement.“

    The long quote you’re referencing from N.T. Wright (this comment is already too long so I’m not going to quote it here) is beautiful and I see why you identify with it. However, when I examined it I read the takeaway about inerrancy to be that its a distraction and leads people away from the message of the gospel. Therefore we shouldn’t engage in the discussion about inerrancy. It seems like he likes the idea that the Bible is inerrant, but he thinks the concept grew out of later attempts to make it so (e.g. maybe not a biblical concept). Did I interpret him correctly? Is that the view that you support more than the Chicago Statement?

    “Why? Because I want to pretend that Romans is true. Why? Because I think the Christian approach to gay people, skeptics, agnostics and atheists is wrong. Why do I think this? I think this on the basis of scripture and that is the basis on which I’ll argue to my tribe.”

    First, I respect you goal here and I support you. A few thoughts (leaving aside what I think you mean by “pretend”). You want Romans to be true because if it is, you can demonstrate that many Christians aren’t correctly interpreting what you think is the Bible’s real message. But if the Bible isn’t inerrant, how does that change your ability to argue for better treatment of others? If the Bible isn’t true, you can still argue that people are treating those groups incorrectly, right? Either way, do you agree that one reason Christians interpret the Bible differently is that there are verses (writing is a poor medium) that, at least on the surface, seem to say opposing things about the topics you mentioned?

    “Are you willing to start in the center of the bullseye before working outward? Show me your objections to Romans 1 and the interpretation that I’ve offered. Start there. If scripture is unreliable, perhaps it will be self evident. If we respect gay people for different reasons, then lets explore that common ground.”

    I think inerrancy is the center of the bullseye. Romans is mainly a theoretical document, so it doesn’t have as many outright physical contradictions as other books, but I’ve seen more than enough philosophical issues in Romans 1. I’ll get on this soon. I think the point of identifying where we stand on inerrancy has been made clear. If we hold that it is inerrant we won’t be able to objectively assess the weight of the issues I will bring up. If we’re thinking in discrete terms of yes and no rather than probabilities and uncertainties, we will seek first to preserve our existing “yeses” and deny our existing “nos”. The doctrine of inerrancy is self-preserving because it requires that we deny errors with at least as much zeal as we support inerrancy. The danger is that each successful refutation of a potential error can increase our faith in inerrancy. Doesn’t this sound very much like the self-deception quote.

    One final note: in my opinion, the Bible cannot be assumed to be inerrant. Belief in its inerrancy must be justified before I can get far with it.

    So what are you giving? Where are you standing? Is the Bible inerrant or not? If so, how are you getting past the objections raised in the Inerrancy? post? Are you willing to take a closer look at those claims and justify your own position? That really would help me. Even if you don’t support the Chicago Statement fully, the objections in my post still apply. Until you attempt to confront those objections it sounds like your answer is something like, “Inerrancy doesn’t really matter, let’s move on.” I don’t think that’s what you believe, but I’m probably finding it as difficult to work through your beautiful prose to illuminate your basic points as you are to process my endless words. 🙂 How about this… I’ll try to write shorter if you’ll try to include one or two more direct answers. Deal? 🙂

    If inerrancy doesn’t resonate with you, what about concepts like “reliable, trustworthy, truthful?” It all seems to end up in the same place to me. I want to be able to trust the Bible, but I find I only really could when I thought the whole things was inspired and trustworthy. Maybe there’s a way to trust it and acknowledge errors. I think some have done this. Maybe there isn’t but full biblical reliability is somehow justifiable, even in the supernatural claims. I just don’t see how. Please teach me. Show me where my questions are misguided or my answers are unjustified. Show me the right way to consider this topic, but please back it up with reasons that are objectively meaningful. I appreciate your time and willingness to confront these very difficult topics.

    “Your friendship remains a blessing to me – – pushing me to understand, grow and care.”

    Yours, too. I’m immensely grateful for your dedication and friendship. Thank you for engaging in these important discussions. 🙂 Be well.

    Gentleness and respect,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thinking. Dammit Russell – – you always make me think. Breakfast tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll post before we meet. This conversation stream and your last post/comments are healthy – – and I’m thankful.


      Liked by 1 person


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