Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Erosion of Inerrancy

Jim Hamilton (SBTS Biblical Theology Professor) posted the following this morning at his blog:

This year’s Crossway Lecture at ETS was presented by G. K. Beale. Beale argued that Inerrancy is not a scholastic theological deduction made by interpreters of the Bible, but rather that it is an exegetical observation of a theological deduction that at least one biblical author has already made within the text of the Bible itself. Citing the logic of innerancy:

  • God is true and trustworthy, and he never lies, deceives, or makes mistakes.
  • The Bible is God’s revelation of himself.
  • Therefore the Bible never lies, deceives, or makes mistakes.

Beale argued that John has already made this argument and drawn this conclusion for us in the book of Revelation. The gist of Beale’s argument went like this:

Revelation 3:14 presents Jesus identifying himself as “the Amen, the faithful and true witness.”

Later in Revelation an angel commands John to “Write,” and then the angel declares to John, “These are the true words of God” (Rev 19:9).

Later still in Revelation the one “who was seated on the throne” commands John, “Write this down, for these words are faithful and true” (Rev 21:5).

And again we read in Revelation 22:6 that an angel says to John, “These words are faithful and true.”

From this string of verses, Beale argued that John has presented to his audience the very logic of inerrancy:

  • Jesus is the faithful and true witness, revealing what God has given him to show his servants.
  • John is commanded to write the faithful and true words of God.
  • Therefore the words that John has written are also faithful and true.

Beale then argued that based on the inter-textual connections between Revelation 3:14 and Isaiah 65:16, and based on the claims made in other texts in the Bible (such as Ps 119:137-42, and cf. Ps 119:103 with Rev 10:9-10) this logic is not limited to the book of Revelation.

I thought the presentation was compelling, and in my view it adds to the evidence supporting the position that the inerrancy of the Bible is not some foreign theological abstraction imposed on the Bible from the outside. Rather, Beale has demonstrated that the inerrancy of the Bible is an inductive, exegetical conclusion that arises from the claims the Bible makes about itself.

Beale has also given us an important new book on the inerrancy of the Bible, The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism: Responding to New Challenges to Biblical Authority.

Herein Beale takes on significant questions that have been raised in recent days regarding the world-picture/cosmology that is presented in the OT and the suggestions that the OT authors have assumed “mythological” elements of their cultural heritage, and many other issues. Beale is characteristically meticulous, careful, thorough, and biblical.

This is an important book that comes at a significant time.

The word of the Lord will stand forever, and we can thank G. K. Beale for helping us think carefully about how to resist the forces that would chip away at our confidence in the Bible’s reliability.

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