Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Inerrant traditions

"We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.

We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizlng, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship." (The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Article XVIII)

Inerrantists frequently try to skirt the issue that to get to an allegedly originally inerrant text requires an inerrant biblical hermeneutics. Grammatico-historical exegesis is commonly proffered as the way to get to scripture, in order that the amount of eisegesis involved be somehow reduced to some acceptable minimum. (Let's not forget that evangelical bibliological construction is [must!] always done with one eye toward apologetics.)

In my book I try to show that the inerrant teachings in question never turn out to be the direct teachings of scripture. On the contrary, they turn out to be the rather arbitrary interpretive judgment calls of the leaders in the inerrantist evangelical tradition--it does not matter what part of that tradition in which one happens to find him(her)self. Catholics are a little more perceptive here (and much freer to raise the issue):

"In conclusion, there is no plain sense of Scripture as many Evangelicals understand the phrase. However, Scripture becomes more plain when read in the context of the Apostolic Church, but outside of this context, the true meaning may or may not be plain to the average reader. Unfortunately, usually when someone says 'just read Scripture and its plain meaning,' she means 'read the Bible like I read it, which is plain enough to me (obviously), and if your "plain reading" doesn't line up with my "plain reading," you are deceived or even stupid' even though the message is supposedly plain to begin with! This is the ultimate problem I have with appealing to the generic 'plain meaning' of Scripture." (

And so what we have really is "inerrant" traditions fighting "inerrant" traditions, all putatively proclaiming what the Bible says plainly. This is not exactly what I signed up for when I first bought in to inerrantist Christianity. We are all catholics at heart when it comes down to it, standing on the promises of our traditions.