Monette at the papyri lab at Oxford University holding Oxyrhynchus Papyri 3523.

Earlier this week I wrote a post inviting readers to discuss the doctrine of inerrancy (see “Inerrancy questionnaire”) and yesterday I posted the response sent to me by Michael Halcomb. The second person to respond is my friend Greg Monette, a Ph.D. student at the Oxford Centre for Missions Studies. This is what he said:

Do you use the word “inerrancy” to describe your understanding of Scripture? Why or why not? (If not, can you explain your “doctrine of Scripture?”)

I don’t use the word inerrancy. It’s a new doctrine that has only been around for a little over a hundred years. Besides, the Chicago statement is very new. The Early Church Fathers didn’t seem to have much of a problem with harmonizing every apparent problem in the biblical text. It might be a post-enlightenment thing to want to have everything 100% unambiguous and orderly.

Also: Not to go back to the whole Geisler/Licona thing because that was an absolute disaster for fundamentalists (not surprisingly). Inerrancy becomes sort of a “sneaky” way to smash someone if they don’t line up with your particular interpretation of some verse or passage. I have rarely seen an inerrantist balance the fruits of the spirit with the application of their position on inerrancy. All of a sudden, love, joy, peace, patience etc., goes out the window and people give themselves permission to start calling other people names. It’s not worth it and I think it may cause damage to the kingdom.

I must say however that I like the general idea of inerrancy as it pushes people to have a high view of Scripture. That being said, I don’t think many Inerrantists have a high enough view of Scripture. They have a theology that they have to fit Scripture into. If that doesn’t happen, then it must not be the correct reading. Inerrancy undermines an authoritative reading of the Bible.

If you were to provide a brief definition of the doctrine of inerrancy what would it include?

The bible is completely true in everything it says with zero room for error of any kind.

Can there be a doctrine of inerrancy divorced from the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy? If so, what are the “practical” consequences? If not, why?

Yes, I believe there could be. After all, defining something as having no errors of any kind is as much a matter of interpretation as it tries to be an objective statement. There is plenty of room for interpretation.

How does your doctrine of Scripture impact your hermeneutics? Can you use Genesis 1-11 as a case study/example?

I think F.F. Bruce said it beautifully:

F.F. Bruce: “I should not find the career of a Bible teacher so satisfying as I do if I were not persuaded that the Bible is God’s word written. The fact that I am so persuaded means that I must not come to the Bible with my own preconceptions of what the Bible, as God’s word written, can or cannot say. It is important to determine, by the canons of grammatical, textual, historical and literary study, what it actually does say.

“Occasionally, when I have expounded the meaning of some biblical passage in a particular way, I have been asked, ‘But how does that square with inspiration?’ But inspiration is not a concept of which I have a clear understanding before I come to the study of the text, so that I know in advance what limits are placed on the meaning of the text by the requirements of inspiration. On the contrary, it is by the patient study of the text that I come to understand better not only what the text itself means but also what is involved in biblical inspiration. My doctrine of Scripture is based on my study of Scripture, not vice versa.” (In Retrospect, pg. 311)

Study the Bible first, worry about theology after. Don’t let the tail wag the dog.

What do you think of these answers?