Dissembling on Biblical Inspiration
In the last five or six years I have made a lot of acquaintances on the internet. Some of these I agree with on things theological but most I don’t. Of course this is to be expected and I try to roll with the punches. However, I have had several interactions with one of these acquaintances over the last two months that has disturbed me. I am going to write about some of that interaction while trying to apply the concept of unconditional love (agapaō), which I have been writing about lately, toward a fellow member of the Body of Christ.
I first met Jeremy Meyers online at his Till He Comes blog when he was still employed by the Grace Evangelical Society (GES). He was a soon-to-be graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and appeared to have a solidly dispensational understanding of scripture and all things theological. That began to change and after a while he posted an article on his blog which got him fired from the GES. After that he appeared to go through a difficult period in his life and by the time it was all said and done his theology changed a lot. He now seems to have a lot more in common with Emergent Church theologians like Brian McLaren than with L.S. Chafer.
That saddens me but that is Jeremy’s decision not mine. What does bother me is the large series of posts he has been writing on Biblical inerrancy (link here to see search results for his blog that contain the word “inerrancy”). I am going to provide links to several of these articles and state what he didn’t: the case for inerrancy is a lot stronger than he claims. In fact he knows that to be the case because of his theological training.
I suppose that the first order of business is to link to the “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy” which is really what he has a problem with. That statement is what conservative Christians currently use to define what they mean by inerrancy. It is a long statement but it basically boils down to: the Bible means what it says and says what it means.
I. Some Quotes From Jeremy’s Blog
Now what I am going to do is link to some of Jeremy’s posts with quotes. I will then provide some additional material as to why I think he is being misleading.
The first post of his that I am going to quote from is “One Verse Doctrines”:
Ironically, one of the key doctrines in Christianity is also based from one word in one verse in the Bible. This is the doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture. That’s right. ONE VERSE. And not only that, but the word in this verse is notoriously difficult to translate. The verse is 2 Timothy 3:16, and we will look at this verse in more detail later. And yes, I am aware that there are other verses which support the doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture, but the only verse which explicitly mentions “inspiration” is 2 Timothy 3:16 (and I will argue later that even this verse does not mention inspiration).
Here is the notorious verse in question:
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness,
2 Timothy 3:16
When Jeremy claims that the entire doctrine of inerrancy hangs on one word in one verse that is, for lack of a better word, a lie. Sure, Jeremy does say that other verses in scripture support the Inspiration of Scripture. He then implies that if 2 Timothy 2:16 is removed from consideration that the entire house of cards that is inspiration will come falling down (so much for the other verses!).
Here is another quote from his post “A New Take on 2 Timothy 3:16”:
The reason this verse is so critical is because it is the only verse in the Bible which specifically speaks of the inspiration of Scripture, and if we have misunderstood the verse, then we have misunderstood inspiration. And if we have misunderstood inspiration, then we have misunderstood how we got our Bible and how to use it.
If you do not like “All Scripture is God whispering…” and insist on continuing to use the word “inspired” might I suggest that at least you modify it to “inspiring”? The verse would then read: “All Scripture is inspiring and profitable…” I would be happy with this translation as well. It misses the “spoken voice of God” element, but retains the parallel between “inspiring” and “profitable” and shows that the verse is more about the function and purpose of Scripture, and not about the origin.
There is a lot more out there like this but I think you get the idea.
And, for the heck of it, here is a link to an article titled “How is the Bible True?” which I still marvel at. The billboard he shows is a Photoshop (it is not a real billboard) showing a purposely twisted translation of Deuteronomy 22:28-29. I understand that he wants to make a point but, if he really believes that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, couldn’t he have done it in a way that does not bear false witness regarding his Lord and Savior?
II. Matthew 5:17-20
Even before I did much research I knew better than this. There are multiple places where Jesus Christ Himself treated scripture as inerrant and I knew it (so does Jeremy). How about Matthew 5:17-20:
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy , but to fulfil .
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass , one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled .
19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
So, not one jot or tittle would pass until the Law is fulfilled (and it was fulfilled by Christ Himself). The jot and tittle here refers to tiny, little Hebrew letters (for more background click here). Moses wasn’t there to tell Jesus what was in the Law (Like Christ needed that) so He was relying on the written Law. Is Jeremy saying that Jesus was wrong to place His trust in that written Law? I think he is.
III Luke 16:19-31
How about Luke 16:19-31?
The Rich Man and Lazarus
19 “There was a rich man who would dress in purple and fine linen, feasting lavishly every day. 20 But a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, was left at his gate. 21 He longed to be filled with what fell from the rich man’s table, but instead the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 One day the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torment in Hades, he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off, with Lazarus at his side. 24 ‘Father Abraham! ‘ he called out, ‘Have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this flame!’
25 ” ‘Son,’ Abraham said, ‘remember that during your life you received your good things, just as Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here, while you are in agony. 26 Besides all this, a great chasm has been fixed between us and you, so that those who want to pass over from here to you cannot; neither can those from there cross over to us.’
27 ” ‘Father,’ he said, ‘then I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28 because I have five brothers—to warn them, so they won’t also come to this place of torment.’
29 “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’
30 ” ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said. ‘But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31 “But he told him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’ “
The Rich Man had Moses and the Prophets? Well, “Moses and the Prophets” is another way of saying the Old Testament (the Tanakh). The Rich Man’s eternal destiny hung on his believing God’s written revelation. Jeremy claims that scripture is “descriptive not prescriptive.” I think the Rich Man would take exception to that.
IV. John Calvin and Martin Luther on Inerrancy
Jeremy has also tended to treat the doctrine of inerrancy as some kind of modern innovation. I don’t think that really holds water:
This is the principle that distinguishes our religion from all others, that we know that God hath spoken to us and are fully convinced that the prophets did not speak of themselves, but as organs of the Holy Spirit uttered only that which they had been commissioned from heaven to declare. All those who wish to profit from the Scriptures must first accept this as a settled principle, that the Law and the prophets are not teachings handed on at the pleasure of men, or produced by men’s minds as their source, but are dictated by the Holy Spirit. (J. Calvin)
Study of 2 Timothy
by Wayne Binnicker
Here is a famous quote from Martin Luther before the Diet of Worms:
Your Imperial Majesty and Your Lordships demand a simple answer. Here it is, plain and unvarnished. Unless I am convicted [convinced] of error by the testimony of Scripture or (since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves) by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted [convinced] by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God’s word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us.
Martin Luther to the Diet of Worms
Would John Calvin and Martin Luther have signed the The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy? I have no idea and neither does Jeremy. However, I can safely state that Calvin and Luther had a much higher view of scripture than Jeremy does. The Protestant Reformation hung on a strong understanding of scripture.
V. Robert Dean on John 5:38-47
And finally, here is the transcript from Robert Dean’s study of John 5:38-47 (the full transcript can be found here). This passage is important and Dr. Dean develops the concept of the conditional perspicuity of scripture. The “bottom line” of this passage is that no one can, or will, understand scripture if they are not open to truth. The truth is there but we have to be open to it.
This is important in regards to what Jeremy has been writing for two reasons. First, he has been making a big deal about proving to the unbeliever that the Bible is true. Of course the Bible says that it is true but Jeremy and friends just laugh that off. I have become convinced that when an unbeliever, or apostate believer, says that they want proof that the Bible is true that what they really want is for God to suddenly appear before them and defend His word to them. Anyone familiar with Job Chapters 38-40 knows that isn’t going to happen. God will not tolerate being questioned like He is a child.
The second reason that this passage is important to this issue is that it shows that if someone doesn’t want to hear truth they are not going to believe it no matter how much evidence is provided. Jeremy does not appear to be interested in Biblical truth any more. If that is the case there is no point in my trying to reason with him.
I really want to quote all of Dr. Dean’s transcript but it is long and very few readers will have made this far. Therefore I am going to quote a couple of paragraphs which summarize the lessons to be learned from this passage. If anyone is interested in reading more then I urge them to follow the link above and read the whole transcript.
The Self-Authenticating Witness of Scripture; John 5:38-47
We sometimes think: If I had just said it right, if I just had the right piece of evidence, I could convince this person that Scripture is true. What we learn from this study of John 5 is that way of thinking is wrong, that that type of thinking has already capitulated to human viewpoint rationalism and to a concept of truth and validation and authority that is contrary to the Bible. What happens when we argue on the wrong basis is that we in some sense denude the gospel of its power, for at the very core of our thinking we are placing our thinking on the autonomous validity of reason or experience. We must remember that a wrong thing done in a right way is wrong and a right thing done in a wrong way is wrong and a wrong thing done in a wrong way is wrong. Only a right thing done in a right way is right. This is what we see exemplified in how Jesus answers the Pharisees in this section.
The principle that we are going to establish in all of this is that if we try to prove Christianity in a non-biblical way then our proofs are invalid and not Scriptural. Jesus is not going to prove on the basis of human systems. We saw the example of the reason in Luke 16. The Scripture conveys such power and authority in and of itself because it is the Word of God, it is self-validating, self-authenticating. If people don’t believe the Scriptures it doesn’t matter how logical arguments are, how overwhelming empirical data is. The issue is not reasoning, it is not experience, the issue is volition. They have rejected the truth. It doesn’t matter because the issues are spiritual, they are not mental, not intelligence, not experience; and they have exercised negative volition; they have rejected the knowledge of God at God-consciousness and have gone on to reject any gospel claims. When giving the gospel our confidence needs to be in the Holy Spirit and in the Word of God, and we should not worry about any inadequacies or lack of knowledge on our part because the issues are not based upon argumentation skills, knowledge or anything else.
Jesus is not backing off and saying he is going to defend His position and that He is going to prove it is true. What He is doing is proving that these Pharisees can’t live consistently on their assumptions. Their assumption is that Jesus is wrong because He healed a man on the Sabbath, and has violated Moses. And He says the Pharisees don’t believe Moses, they don’t believe in God, they have rejected the Scriptures, and they have no basis for accusing Jesus of anything in relationship to the Law of Moses. He has turned the whole argument on top of them and cut the ground out from under them. And He doesn’t cave in to their human viewpoint basis in trying to prove who he is. He is saying that His words are self-authenticating.
So Jesus clearly states that the Scriptures are the final authority. He has had the witness of God the Father, and now he is shifting to the witness of the Scriptures.
So the thing for us to understand is that our confidence does not reside in argumentation, in evidence; it resides in the Word of God. It is the Word of God that makes these things clear to people, but the Word of God has its own self-validating authority. So if you explain the gospel to somebody and they reject it, it is not because you don’t know enough, it is because they have made a decision to reject the truth. The responsibility is theirs. Our responsibility is to make the gospel as clear as we can. God the Holy Spirit will override any mistakes you make and will make it clear to the mind of the individual, and they will have to accept it or reject it.