Sunday, February 17, 2008

Inerrancy and rebellion

"The oneness of allegiance to God and faithfulness to Holy Scripture has been known to the community of faith from its very inception; the infallible authority of Scripture is indeed a first-order doctrine. To abandon the intellectual aspect of this authority--"inerrancy" in its broader terms--to make the transition from the reliability of Scripture to its unreliability, in Berkouwer's words, would be a step entirely inimical to all genuine Christian theology. It would constitute ethical, as well as intellectual, rebellion against the Lordship of Christ in his dialogical relationship with the Church." (Douglas Farrow, The Word of Truth and Disputes About Words, 77)

Although Farrow says that inerrancy does not necessarily mean total factual inerrancy, he places pretty high stakes on one's opinion regarding scripture. I think these terms of rebellion in the context of one's belief about scripture go too far. I'm also very wary about the allegiance to God = allegiance to scripture formula. The proposal sets forth what's spiritually at stake in the inerrancy discussion and the stamping of a formula for the evangelical ultimatum with church history's imprimatur implies that one has no right to see any continuity between themselves and what has come before if one falls on the wrong side of the debate. These are strong words indeed.

The history of science and Christianity shows up a number of scientific discoveries that were thought to be "inimical to all genuine Christian theology" and after a generation or two understood not to be so inimical. Surely the articulation of a doctrine describing the nature and authority of scripture comes further down the line than first order theoretical considerations, especially given the actual experience of most Christians, evangelical Christianity included.