Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Short Programmatic Argument for Biblical Inerrancy



 1. Meaning of the term inerrant: The sixty-six books of the Protestant canon are divinely-inspired, and therefore inerrant (since God cannot lie) in the original writings (autographs). This process of inspiration is confluent: God used the writers to communicate exactly what God wanted, yet did so without overriding their personalities. For a detailed analysis, see Carl Henry, God, Revelation and Authority, volumes 2-4 especially.
2.       There are cogent arguments from nature and humanity that an personal-infinite God exists.
3.       If (2), then this God could inspire writings to say what he wants them to say. See Part II of Groothuis, Christian Apologetics and Francis Schaeffer, “Is Propositional Revelation Nonsense?” in He is There and He is Not Silent.
4.       The text of the New Testament has been reliably transmitted to us today (textual criticism). See chapter 19 of Christian Apologetics.
5.       The New Testament passes the tests of reliable history. See chapter 19 of Christian Apologetics.
6.       The New Testament presents Jesus as God-incarnate, given Jesus’ claims, credentials, and achievements
7.       Jesus endorsed the divine authority of the Old Testament, directly and indirectly. See chapter 20 of Christian Apologetics.
8.       Therefore, the Old Testament is divinely inspired/inerrant. See chapter 20 of Christian Apologetics.
9.       Jesus authorized the Apostles to preserve his teachings. See chapter 20 of Christian Apologetics.
10.   Therefore the New Testament, which is apostolically authorized directly or indirectly, is divinely-inspired/inerrant. See chapter 20 of Christian Apologetics.
11.   Therefore, the sixty-six books of the Bible are divinely-inspired/inerrant. See chapter 20 of Christian Apologetics.
12.   Bonus, while textual transmission has not been inerrant, it has been very reliable. Thus, we can say that the best translations today are infallible; that is, they will not mislead us on anything to which they speak.
13.   I wrote this from memory, but every Christian should have some understanding of the epistemological basis of their worldview! No “leap of faith” is needed.

5 comments:

Sam said...

I have a question about a couple of steps. In step 7, you said Jesus endorsed the divine authority of the Old Testament, directly and indirectly. Jesus did quote from parts of the Old Testament and spoke of the "writings and the prophets" as if they had divine authority, but as far as I know, Jesus didn't give a list of which books are inspired and which aren't. So how do we go from Jesus endorsing parts of the Old Testament to Jesus endorsing all of the Old Testament books that are in the protestant canon? After all, Jesus didn't mention all of them, did he?

Also, in steps 9 and 10 you say that since Jesus authorized the apostles to preserve his teachings, the New Testament is divinely inspired. But doesn't this depend on the books of the New Testament either being written by the apostles or at least endorsed by the apostles? Hebrews is anonymous, and Luke was not an apostle.

Takis Konstantopoulos said...

I agree with the statement that God cannot lie. However, is it valid to use this as a proof that the books of the Bible are inerrant? Would it not be much stronger of an argument to actually test that the Bible is inerrant by the very writings themselves? I would appreciate your opinion on this. Thanks.

Mikhail Lastrilla said...

There are problems with several steps here:

2) With one exception, theistic arguments don't show that a God with infinite attributes exists. The cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments only justify us in positing an extremely powerful, extremely good being, not an omnipotent and omnibenevolent being. These arguments don't even prove an omniscient being - and surely the doctrine of inerrancy depends on God being omniscient. The only exception would be the ontological argument, and needless to say, this is a very controversial argument, and I am hesitant about making inerrancy depend on such a contested argument.

5) It isn't clear what kind of deity Jesus incarnated. Supposedly he is the God of the Jews. But is the God of the Jews a God with omni-attributes? Since we aren't assuming inerrancy at this point, we don't have good reason to think this God has omni-attributes. So even if Jesus is this God, it's unclear whether he has these attributes. And if we can't tell whether he has these attributes or not, then how do we know whether we should believe all that he teaches?

(After all, if the Jewish God isn't omniscient and omnibenevolent, why should we think it impossible for him to communicate false information?)

7) The passages where Jesus endorses the OT's authority don't clearly teach inerrancy. Saying these passages endorse inerrancy seems to be reading inerrancy into the text. Furthermore, Jesus' actions sometimes went against what the OT taught, which makes it even less likely that he believed the OT was inerrant.

Even if these three problems can be resolved, we will end up with a conclusion with a low probability (Plantinga's problem of dwindling probabilities). History deals only with probabilities, so this argument for inerrancy can only give us a probably true conclusion. We can hold such a conclusion only tenuously, and we can't hold it with complete certainty.

Thus, if a Biblical passage teaches something counterintuitive (say, God commands murder), it will be more reasonable for us to reject inerrancy than to reject our moral intuitions, since inerrancy (given this argument) will only be held with a low probability, while our intuition that murder is wrong will be close to certain. My point is, even if this argument succeeds, it can only give us a tenuous, uncertain conclusion, one that is easily overturned given our intuitions and given the weaknesses of some of its steps.

Mikhail Lastrilla said...

There are problems with several steps here:

2) With one exception, theistic arguments don't show that a God with infinite attributes exists. The cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments only justify us in positing an extremely powerful, extremely good being, not an omnipotent and omnibenevolent being. These arguments don't even prove an omniscient being - and surely the doctrine of inerrancy depends on God being omniscient. The only exception would be the ontological argument, and needless to say, this is a very controversial argument, and I am hesitant about making inerrancy depend on such a contested argument.

5) It isn't clear what kind of deity Jesus incarnated. Supposedly he is the God of the Jews. But is the God of the Jews a God with omni-attributes? Since we aren't assuming inerrancy at this point, we don't have good reason to think this God has omni-attributes. So even if Jesus is this God, it's unclear whether he has these attributes. And if we can't tell whether he has these attributes or not, then how do we know whether we should believe all that he teaches?

(After all, if the Jewish God isn't omniscient and omnibenevolent, why should we think it impossible for him to communicate false information?)

7) The passages where Jesus endorses the OT's authority don't clearly teach inerrancy. Saying these passages endorse inerrancy seems to be reading inerrancy into the text. Furthermore, Jesus' actions sometimes went against what the OT taught, which makes it even less likely that he believed the OT was inerrant.

Even if these three problems can be resolved, we will end up with a conclusion with a low probability (Plantinga's problem of dwindling probabilities). History deals only with probabilities, so this argument for inerrancy can only give us a probably true conclusion. We can hold such a conclusion only tenuously, and we can't hold it with complete certainty.

Thus, if a Biblical passage teaches something counterintuitive (say, God commands murder), it will be more reasonable for us to reject inerrancy than to reject our moral intuitions, since inerrancy (given this argument) will only be held with a low probability, while our intuition that murder is wrong will be close to certain. My point is, even if this argument succeeds, it can only give us a tenuous, uncertain conclusion, one that is easily overturned given our intuitions and given the weaknesses of some of its steps.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

ML:

This may sound like a cop out, but my book, Christian Apologetics answers all of these objections directly or indirectly.