Michael Halcomb (see response here) and Greg Monette (see response here) have already answered my questions on the doctrine of inerrancy. Today I am sharing the answers given by Bobby Grow. He is beginning his Ph.D. studies at South African Theological Seminary in Systematic Theology. He has received a MA from Multnomah Biblical Seminary in Portland, OR. Recently he finished co-editing a book with Myk Habets titled Evangelical Calvinism: Essays Resourcing the Continuing Reformation of the Church. (Princeton Theological Monograph Series Eugene, OR.: Pickwick Publications) that will be available this May. Also, he blogs at The Evangelical Calvinist. This was his response to my questions:
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 grew up ardently advocating for this terminology; it has only been over the last few years that I have taken a different approach to my doctrine of Scripture vis-á-vis an ontology of Scripture. While maintaining my identity as an Evangelical (Reformed) Christian, and some of the received history that this entails (including the intention that inerrancy sought to capture–e.g. the trustworthiness of Scripture); I would probably eschew emphasizing the language of inerrancy relative to my position (even though I remain sympathetic to it, and those who still feel the need to use it).
In a nutshell: I see Scripture within the realm of soteriology (salvation), and no longer (as the classically Reformed and Evangelical approach does) within the realm of epistemology (or a naked Philosophy). Meaning that I think a proper doctrine of Scripture must understand itself within its proper order of things. So we start with 1) Triune God, 2) The election of humanity in the Son (Covenant of Grace), 3) Creation, Incarnation (God’s Self-revelation), 4) The Apostolic Deposit of Christian Scripture (e.g. the New Testament re-interpretation of salvation history [i.e. Old Testament] in light of its fulfillment in Christ). This is something of a sketch of the order of Scripture’s placement from a theological vantage point (I don’t think the tradition that gave us inerrancy even considers such things). So I see Scripture in the realm of Christian salvation (sanctification), and as God’s triune speech act for us provided by the Son, who comes with the Holy Spirit’s witness (through Scripture). Here is how John Webster communicates what I am after:
“First, the reader is to be envisaged as within the hermeneutical situation as we have been attempting to portray it, not as transcending it or making it merely an object of will. The reader is an actor within a larger web of event and activities, supreme among which is God’s act in which God speaks God’s Word through the text of the Bible to the people of God, as he instructs them and teaches them in the way they should go. As a participant in this historical process, the reader is spoken to in the text. This speaking, and the hearing which it promotes, occurs as part of the drama which encloses human life in its totality, including human acts of reading and understanding: the drama of sin and its overcoming. Reading the Bible is an event in this history. It is therefore moral and spiritual and not merely cognitive or representational activity. Readers read, of course: figure things out as best they can, construe the text and its genre, try to discern its intentions whether professed or implied, place it historically and culturally — all this is what happens when the Bible is read also. But as this happens, there also happens the history of salvation; each reading act is also bound up within the dynamic of idolatry, repentance and resolute turning from sin which takes place when God’s Word addresses humanity. And it is this dynamic which is definitive of the Christian reader of the Bible.” (John Webster, “Hermeneutics in Modern Theology: Some Doctrinal Reflections,” Scottish Journal of Theology, 336)
So I see Scripture as God’s second Word (Jesus the first and last Word) for His people the Church. From this perspective inerrancy becomes a non-starter, since Scripture is no longer framed apologetically; but instead, Christically, and positive witness for the Church.
If you were to provide a brief definition of the doctrine of inerrancy what would it include?
Millard Erickson has provided the best indexing of innerancy[s]; he has: 1) Absolute Inerrancy, 2) Full Inerrancy, and 3) Limited Inerrancy (see Millard Erickson, “Introducing Christian Doctrine [abridged version],” 61). Realizing that there is nuance then when defining a given inerrancy; I would simply assert that inerrancy holds to the plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture; meaning that Scripture is both Divine-human speech, or Divine revelation (or Gods Words). And since God cannot lie, Scripture must be totally without any error; because if it has error then God has lied.
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?
I think the Chicago Statement, given its recognition for literary and genre analysis of the text of Scripture has effectively allowed for the possibility of qualifying inerrancy to the point that you might end up with my current view ;-).
How does your doctrine of Scripture impact your hermeneutics? Can you use Genesis 1-11 as a case study/example?
I would simply say that I see Genesis 1–11 as the first instance of the LORDs first Word of grace; viz. we have God introduce himself as the personal God who created, and for the purpose of creation communing with him by and through the Son (Gen. 3:15). So, no, I don’t follow Henry Morris and the Institute of Creation Research in defending a wooden literal reading of this section of Scripture. I see it literally, but as God’s introduction of himself to his Covenant people such that His people might know what he intends for his creation; viz. that we commune with him through the Son. It is through this purpose for creation that all other idolatrous parodies (like those in the Ancient Near East) fall by the way side and are contradicted by creation’s true purpose, in Christ.
What do you think of these answers?