Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Inerrancy And Unanimity

My latest habit, which hopefully I can shake soon, has been to check in on the often-confusing comment-free exchanges at the Boar's Head Tavern.

This interseting little post asked, "Inerrancy is supposed to help us achieve unanimity in doctrinal matters, yes? Has it?" And it left off impliedly answering in the negative.

One contrary reply said, "Agreeing in the most general terms that the Bible will be our authority does not mean we will agree about conclusions. But it does mean that I can have a discussion using the same source." I think that's selling Reformational view of the Bible short. The belief in the authority of an inerrant Bible is meant to support the proposition that the Bible is both necessary and sufficient to acquire a "saving faith". It is more than a kind of lowest common denominator of theological discussion.

I think, then, that the former question about the Bible and unanimity is a valid one -- if it is necessary to tell us and it does sufficiently tell us without error what we need to be saved, what are we to make of mutually exclusive formulations on how to be saved?


Tim A. Troutman said...

If there is such thing as truth, if not in the words of the Bible there must exist a Word/Logos of inerrancy which could theoretically be put into a string of inerrant words. In which case we would be left with all the same problems as he mentioned.

The fact that the supposed 'inerrancy' (I don't say it as if it weren't true) of the Bible hasn't led to unanimity on doctrine speaks more about the reader than the book.

The Bible is objectively true and without error. The Reformers were right about that. So whether one will accept it or not, we CAN point to the Bible and say here is what is true and if you disagree you're wrong. If some people disagree on that subject does it make it any less true?

Unanimity of interpretation hardly speaks of a said thing's truth one way or another. Most of the doctrines which are in question are fairly plainly spelled out in Scripture, yet still rejected. Other doctrines which cannot be believed any other way that has been revealed by the Church (and not Scripture) are much more difficult to prove by Scripture (the most obvious example being the Trinity).

The problems he mentioned are mostly Protestant ones (not that Catholics don't have the same sort of problems but on lesser scales) and caused by the individualism the Church warned against from the very beginnings of the Reformation.

The Bible is inerrant and sufficiently contains the full inspired Word of God in written form - but does that mean we rush to have every Joe Schmoe being their own Bible scholar? There is no lack of unanimity on issues of Baptism, on salvation, on sacraments in the Church. The Church has authoritative interpretations of all of those. There is only one way which they can be read. It is only those outside the Church who have problems with interpretation.

A certain man gathered sticks on the Sabbath. Should the Israelites stone him or not? Well what do the Scriptures say? They are inerrant. But a small group of Israelites says "forgive him". Another group says "stone him". Is there discrepancy or lack of unanimity on how to interpret the passage? No, God told Moses directly that he must stone the offender. There is no further discussion of how it is to be interpreted. The other Israelites may disagree, but this doesn't constitute any meaningful lack of unanimity on how to interpret the passage.

The magisterium (Moses) has spoken. The model continued into Jesus' day as you know, He ordered the people to obey the Pharisees because they sat in the seat of Moses and it continued thereafter with the Church or it abruptly ended with the death of Christ depending on what your view of the "Church" is and in which case you're back to square one on lack of unanimity.

Anonymous said...

Tim said: "The Bible is inerrant and sufficiently contains the full inspired Word of God in written form" I am not sure that is correct or perhaps it's not what you intended.

The Catholic teaching on this is that the Bible is is part of the Word of God. The other key part of the Word of God being Sacred Tradition. The full Word of God is made up of Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture, but I think it is incorrect to say that the Bible contains the full inspired Word of God in written form.
Here's the catechism on this:
One common source. . .

80 "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal."[40] Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own "always, to the close of the age".[41]
. . . two distinct modes of transmission

81 "Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit."[42]

"And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching."[43]

82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, "does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence."[44]

Tim A. Troutman said...

Yea I was wondering if someone was going to call me out on that one as I was writing it. You're right, I didn't word it properly.

Maybe just turn the "full" into an adverb.

Gil Garza said...

“The Bible is objectively true and without error. The Reformers were right about that.”

This is the first error that Protestants make when arguing inerrancy and inspiration. From this error in argument proceeds the entirety of Protestant claims.

Whether one agrees that the Bible is inerrant and inspired it certainly is not objectively true. The Bible is not inspired and inerrant because the Bible says so. This would be circular logic and silly. The argument from prescription was used by David Koresh to “prove” his insane ranting were inspired and inerrant. The Bible is not inspired and inerrant because it is inspiring, unlikely, majestic, prophetic or amazing. This may demonstrate that some parts of the Bible have those qualities; however it does nothing to prove the inspiration or inerrancy of all the books or all parts of all the books. What might happen to Philemon if that “proof” were applied to the entire Bible? Muslims use the amazing argument to “prove” the Qur’an is inspired and inerrant. Finally, the Bible is not inerrant and inspired because you may have a strong inner conviction that it is so or because the Bible has changed your life. This argument is not based on reason and may prove too much as it goes to show the efficacy of placebo, as well. Mormons use the argument of conviction to “prove” the inspiration and inerrancy of the scriptures of Joseph Smith.

The Bible is inspired and inerrant because an outside authority has declared it so. No document may be self-authenticating. What is this outside authority, you might ask? Bingo. The Catholic Church. The only argument that is logical goes like this: In the Bible may be found a story of salvation that is historically reliable and accurate. Jesus is the Messiah and Savior. Jesus founded a Church and gave this Church an authoritative, inspired, dependable and reliable teaching ministry. The teaching ministry of this Church that Jesus founded guarantees the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible and all its parts. Without the authentication of the Bible by the Church that Jesus founded, the integrity of the Bible begins to be doubted and its confusing, mundane, difficult and seemingly contradictory parts are jettisoned, one by one by believers.