Inerrancy - Ann Arbor Christian Reformed Church

 If you had been there with a camera could you have
taken a picture of the snake talking to Eve?
 Did the sun stand still and the moon stop until the
nation avenged itself on its enemies? (Joshua 10:13)
 Is it literally true that “the world is firmly
established; it cannot be moved? (Psalm 93:1)
 If “Joshua took the entire land…and the land had
rest from war,” (Joshua 11:23) why do we read in
Judges that, after Joshua’s death, Israel had a lot
of fighting still to do?
 According to Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus
cleansed the Temple during the week of his
crucifixion. According to John, he did it at the
beginning of his public ministry.
Did Jesus cleanse the Temple twice?
When did he really do it?
Evolution and Biblical Inerrancy
1. John Schneider –Calvin College
 “In the last century, theologians of major Christian
denominations (Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholicism,
and mainline Protestantism) have managed to find ways
of formulating Christian theology to make it compatible
with the theories of modern evolutionary science.
 However, scholars in conservative Protestant
churches are still unsure how they could affirm the
Grand Evolutionary Hypothesis (A. Plantinga)
without compromising the biblical and
confessional core of their distinct traditions.
 In this article, I choose to focus on the most
fundamental source of difficulty, namely, that
evolutionary science seems to be in conflict with
the doctrine (of) the historical Fall. (This will entail
abandoning) belief in the verbal inerrancy of
 Does the CRC speak of biblical inerrancy?
 What is meant by it?
CRC statements:
1972 Statement on Biblical Authority (Report 44)
In both creation and Scripture God addresses us
with full authority. … As Reformed Christians
we must take both revelations seriously. Taking
Scripture seriously leads to recognizing science
as a legitimate expression of the cultural
Therefore we must seek to profit from and
make thankful use of the findings of science as
seen in the light of Scripture.
Motivated by these convictions we often discover
that the results of scientific investigation become
the occasion for reviewing and sometimes, upon
further biblical reflection, even revising certain
standing interpretations of the Bible.
The church may not, however, allow its message to
be made dependent upon the scientific
enterprise, nor allow scientific findings to dictate
its interpretation of the Bible…nor allow any
science, including theology, to determine what is
believable and what is not believable in the Bible.
CRC Synod 1983: Report on Our World Belongs to God:
a Contemporary Testimony
 In answer to modern criticism of the Bible the
evangelical Christian community has vigorously
defended the historic doctrines of the
authority, and infallibility of the
As evangelicals engage in this defense, they
themselves have been divided over the
insistence that inerrancy would be a firmer test
of faith.
The basic thrust of the term inerrancy has been
acceptable to the CRC…. When both terms are
understood as a confession of the full
trustworthiness and reliability of Scripture, that it
is without error in its disclosure of the history of
redemption, inerrancy and infallibility are nearly
equivalent terms.
But some consider inerrancy to be the stronger
affirmation. They then look for a precision and
accuracy in biblical revelation which meets the
standards of modern historiography.
Weaknesses in this view are that preconceived
notions of inerrancy may be imposed on the
For us, as for the Reformers, Scripture is
necessary for knowing the truth, it is sufficient
for salvation, it is clear in its witness to Jesus
Christ, and it is authoritative for living the
Christian life.
 32. The Bible is the Word of God,
the record and tool of his redeeming work.
It is the Word of truth,
breath of God,
fully reliable in leading us
to know God
and to walk with Jesus Christ
in new life.
CRC current website: What we Believe: The Bible
 We believe that the Bible is the authoritative
Word of God. It contains all that people in any
age need to know for their salvation. We call
the Bible God’s Word, believing that, by the
power of the Holy Spirit, God speaks to us
through this book.
Chicago Council for Biblical Inerrancy (1978),
adopted by Evangelical Theological Society
a. A Short Statement: (1 of 5)
 Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is
without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in
what it states about God's acts in creation, about
the events of world history, and about its own
literary origins under God, than in its witness to
God's saving grace in individual lives.
b. Articles of Affirmation and Denial XII (0f 19)
 We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant,
being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.
 We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are
limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes,
exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and
science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses
about earth history may properly be used to overturn
the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.
[Thom Stark: The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals
When It Gets God Wrong (and Why Inerrancy Tries To Hide It?)]
Guidelines for Interpreting Scripture
1. Pray for the Holy Spirit: “The same Spirit who has
spoken through the mouths of the prophets must
penetrate into our hearts to persuade us that
they faithfully proclaimed what had been divinely
commanded.” Calvin, Inst. 1.VII.4
2. What kind of language is being used?
Figurative? Sarcasm? Literal?
3. What is the literary genre of the text?
Poetry? Letter? Narrative history? Fictional
history? Biography? Wisdom proverb?
4. Who is the expected audience?
Jews? Gentiles? God?
5. What is the purpose of the text?
Encouragement? Rebuke? Worship?
Apologetic? Teaching? Proclamation?
6. What relevant extra-textual knowledge is there
Contemporary texts, archeology, science
7. Progressive revelation:
What is God like? Image of God, resurrection,
God’s presence, etc.
8. Accomodation:
 God speaks of things “according to our capacity for
understanding them, not according to what they are.”
 “The communication of God’s word to its first rude
audience, for Calvin, explained many otherwise
puzzling biblical texts, especially those which seemed
to deal with natural phenomena in unscientific ways.
Such passages should be interpreted figuratively,
figures being, Calvin thought, appropriate to the
earliest stages of human culture… (Bousma, John
Calvin, 124)
Phenomenological language
The world is described as it appears:
The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.
Your throne was established long ago;
you are from all eternity.”
(Ps 93:1,2; cf. 96:10; 1 Chron. 16:30)
 What did this mean for its original audience?
They would have heard the author using the
common belief that the earth is solid and stable
to state the theological truth that God’s reign is solid
and stable.
Phenomenological language
Three-tiered universe:
The heavenly realm, the earthly world, the underworld. Cf. Phil 2
Diseases often explained as caused by evil spirits:
"My son is possessed by a spirit that has robbed
him of speech. Whenever it seizes him it throws
him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes
his teeth and becomes rigid. Jesus rebuked the
spirit: You deaf and mute spirit, I command you to
come out of him and never enter him again.
–Mk. 9:17-25
Incarnational Approach
 An incarnational model of (scriptural interpretation)
is one that expects Scripture to have an
unapologetically thorough human dimension
analogous to Jesus’ complete humanity.
 An incarnational model presumes a book like Genesis
to express itself in ancient conventions. And such an
ancient, contextual expression is not an
embarrassment but an indication of how willing God
is to meet us where we are…. —Peter Enns
Are there conflicts/tensions in the Bible?
If a particular interpretation of a passage leads to a
conclusion that is contrary to other parts of Scripture,
that’s an indication that the interpretation may be
incorrect. —Haarsma
 Ethnic or universalistic emphasis
(Gen 12, Ezra, Ephesians, Paul vs. Peter)
 Universal salvation/particular salvation
 Righteous vs. wicked in Psalms, Job, Jesus
 John & Hebrews? (Scott McKnight)
Is Scripture Sometimes Wrong?
The Bible makes statements about the physical
world that are false. The mustard seed is not the
smallest of all seeds. The earth is not
stationary…. –Denis Lamoureux
Genesis 1-11 makes statements about the activities of
God and humans that are false. The Creator never
made the universe and life in six days, he did not
destroy the entire world with a flood…. –D. Lam.
These ancient historical paradigms are incidental
vessels employed by the Holy Spirit to deliver
Messages of Faith.
The attribution of divine (creative and judgmental)
and human (sinful and righteous) acts in Gen 1-11
are cast in ancient motifs which were inherited by
the Hebrews.
—D. Lamoureux
Human Origins Seminar Series at Calvin College

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