Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

4 Comments

  1. Drew, thanks for directing us to the Moreland article. I want to read it in depth, as well as the sections on inerrancy in Philosophical Foundations of a Christian Worldview.

    As you know, I have applied to Fuller. Though I am not applying to the school of Theology, I imagine that I will be continually invited to succomb to the spirit of the age, whatever that is, currently permeating the school.

    Not to create division or to take steps back in an effort to peaceably reconcile, or rather, to peaceably appreciate and acknowledge diverse forms of discourse, but the lover of wisdom must state what he sees. I see that there are, in the end, only two spirits, only two causes, two movements: that of Christ and of anti-Christ.

    We will see where it is that Fuller, as a whole, is moving. I will see whether or not I feel the invitation to succomb is purification or temptation. I welcome your help in examining the issues dialectically, along with me.

    Here is an excerpt regarding inerrancy from an article on Fuller’s website about “what they believe and teach:

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  2. “http://www.fuller.edu/provost/aboutfuller/believe_teach.asp

    “It was for this reason that the Fuller Bylaws appropriately provided for the possibility of changing the Seminary’s Statement of Faith. The current Statement, approved by our trustees and faculty in 1972, is our attempt to hear and obey the Scriptures as they teach us their basic truths. Any changes made had as their intent a more -not less-biblical expression of Christian truth. We see this move not as a shift but as a corrective.

    At times, some Christians have become unduly attached to the precise wordings of doctrine-whether of events in the last days, the meaning of baptism, or the use of a catch phrase like “the inerrancy of Scripture.” But it is well to remember that all our formulations of Christian truth must ultimately conform not to some preset statement but to the Scriptures, all parts of which are divinely inspired. Thus, sloganeering can never be a substitute for the careful, patient analysis of what God’s Word teaches, including what it teaches about itself.

    This being true, when it comes to a loyalty to the trustworthiness, the inspiration, the authority and the power of Scripture, we at Fuller are convinced that our commitment matches anything to be found in contemporary evangelical Christianity. As for a doctrine of Scripture, which is always pivotal to evangelical faith, we have only one aim: to believe and to teach precisely what the Bible teaches about itself. We seek to be thoroughly biblical in our view of the Bible and have phrased as follows our understanding of what the Bible says about itself:

    “Scripture is an essential part and trustworthy record of divine self-disclosure. All the books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, are the written Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice. They are to be interpreted according to their context and purpose and in reverent obedience to the Lord who speaks through them in living power.”

    In our attempt to discover what the Bible says about itself we have clearly distinguished our position from non-evangelical approaches. When we affirm, for instance, that “Scripture is an essential part and trustworthy record of this divine self-disclosure,” we separate ourselves from the typical view of neo-orthodoxy that sees Scripture not as a revelation but as a witness to the revelation that took place when God encountered his people in the course of history. Similarly, our belief that “All the books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, are the written Word of God …” stands in sharp contrast to the usual neo-orthodox affirmation that the Bible only becomes the Word when the Spirit brightens its truth for the eyes of a believer.

    The gap between our view and theological liberalism is even wider. Our confidence in the trustworthiness of the basic facts of biblical history -like Christ’s virgin birth and bodily resurrection -moves us miles from where liberals are, as do our doctrinal affirmations about human sin, Christ’s redemption and the final separation of the wicked from God’s presence. Our statement on the inspiration of both Old and New Testaments as the written Word of God puts a wide gulf between us and those liberals who have customarily held that the Bible merely contains the Word of God.

    Were we to distinguish our position from that of some of our brothers and sisters who perceive their view of Scriptures as more orthodox than ours, several points could be made: 1) we would stress the need to be aware of the historical and literary process by which God brought the Word to us; 2) we would emphasize the careful attention that must be given to the historical and cultural contexts in which the various authors lived and wrote, as well as to the purposes which each had in mind -convinced as we are that the Spirit of God used the human abilities and circumstances of the writers in such a way that the Word which results is truly divine; 3) we are convinced that this investigation of the context, purpose and literary genre is essential to a correct understanding of any portion of God’s Word; 4) we would urge that the emphasis be placed where the Bible itself places it -on its message of salvation and its instruction for living, not on its details of geography or science, though we acknowledge the wonderful reliability of the Bible as a historical source book; 5) we would strive to develop our doctrine of Scripture by hearing all that the Bible says, rather than by imposing on the Bible a philosophical judgment of our own as to how God ought to have inspired the Word.

    We recognize the importance that the word inerrancy has attained in the thinking of many of our scholarly colleagues and the institutions which they serve. We appreciate the way in which most of them use the term to underscore the fact that Scripture is indeed God’s trustworthy Word in all it affirms. Where inerrancy refers to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the churches through the biblical writers, we support its use. Where the focus switches to an undue emphasis on matters like chronological details, precise sequence of events, and numerical allusions, we would consider the term misleading and inappropriate. Its dangers, when improperly defined, are: 1) that it implies a precision alien to the minds of the Bible writers and their own use of the Scriptures; 2) that it diverts attention from the message of salvation and the instruction in righteousness which are the Bible’s key themes; 3) that it may encourage glib and artificial harmonizations rather than serious wrestling with the implication of biblical statements which may seem to disagree; 4) that it leads those who think that there is one proven error in the Bible (however minor), to regard its whole teaching as subject to doubt; 5) that too often it has undermined our confidence in the Bible by a retreat for refuge to the original manuscripts (which we do not posses) whenever problems cannot otherwise be resolved; 6) that it prompts us to an inordinate defensiveness of Scripture which seems out of keeping with the bold confidence with which the prophets, the apostles and our Lord proclaimed it.

    The Bible is absolutely crucial to our evangelical stance, and so is our participation in Christ’s worldwide mission. As evangelicals, we believe men and women are lost without Jesus Christ; we believe that terrible judgment awaits all who reject Jesus as Lord and Savior.”

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  3. Andrew, I am specifically curious what you think about this statement from the school.

    Is the “infallibility” here affirmed different in relevant ways from the “inerrancy” affirmed and defended by Moreland?

    A few observations:

    “Where the focus [of the word innerancy] switches to an undue emphasis on matters like chronological details, precise sequence of events, and numerical allusions, we would consider the term misleading and inappropriate.”

    Does Moreland affirm the accuracy of chronological details, sequence of events, and numerical allusions?

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  4. By using the example of the apparent contradiction between the statements of Acts 7:14 and Genesis 11:26-12:4, Moreland does seem to be defending the claim that even the “smaller” chronological details of scripture are to be upheld as accurate, or, more modestly, that suspending judgement with regard to the apparent incongruity is rational

    From: Section 2 (“P.80”)
    “It is very important, then, in deciding whether some belief is a rational one, that I base my answer on the proper set of relevant evidence. We will see shortly that in deciding whether a problem in the phenomena of Scripture is a real or apparent error, the relevant set of evidence includes other passages of Scripture and the doctrine of inerrancy itself. Only a misunderstanding of induction and its normal role in science and other “inductive” enterprises would cause someone like Fuller to think that Gen 11:26–12:4 and the doctrine of inerrancy are not members of the proper evidential set for deciding about what to make of Acts 7:14.”

    “2. The doctrine of inerrancy is not rationally justifiable because it places the Christian apologist in an untenable epistemic situation: he cannot be rationally justified in believing inerracy until he has solved all the problems in the phenomena. On the other hand, a critic of inerrancy is rationally justified in denying inerrancy if he can find just one problem that defies “rational” solution. Clark Pinnock puts the point this way:

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