Friday, March 14, 2008

ETS/EPS regional meeting

I was able to give a paper today at the regional ETS/EPS meeting that suggested that Kuhn's theoretical proposals help show that inerrancy is a paradigm in crisis. Fittingly enough, this year's meeting was held at WTS. It seemed to me that the topic of my paper elicited a good deal of interest. In my session, every chair was occupied and some participants were sitting on the floor in order to listen. A recurring concern during the q&a seemed to me to be What are we supposed to tell the church while the younger evangelical scholars go about their business of doing extraordinary science? Everyone seemed to me to feel some measure of paralysis in regard to this predicament. I think there are plenty of cultural factors that play into this overwhelming sense of paralysis.

For starters, I think the metaphor of "no errors" contributes conceptually to the problem, especially given our postmodern condition. The Bible can never be wrong. No, never! Unhappily, a socially constructed belief is masquerading as if it were revealed eternally by God. God is saying Scripture is inerrant; God is saying that Scripture has to be perfectly right or the whole faith suffers. If it ever appears otherwise, that means the believer is off his spiritual rocker. The inerrantist culture promulgates beliefs such as these and drives home the meta-belief that God is allegedly saying all this. My observation is that a lot of people want to go back and talk about this with a critical eye, but the culture does not allow such talk, or if it does, the talk predetermines that the results of such conversation must land one back of the ETS/EPS side of the issue. My hope is that more scholars and students will find the strength to break through this sense of paralysis and help work toward the invention of a more progressive metaphor for the authoritative quality of scripture. "Having no errors," I believe, has lost (or is very, very close to losing) its anagogical staying power.