Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Nothing Could Be Closer to the Truth


The Holman CSB Posted by Hello

Please notice my new slogan. Please note that it's not a proclamation of my exegetical infallibility (I'll let you conclude that on your own) but rather a parody of something almost as ridiculous.

Check this out: The Holman Christian Standard Bible. All of the translators came to the Greek and Hebrew texts with a pre-existing doctrine of the Scriptures called "Inerrancy." Aside from being a silly idea, it is a recent invention, and in my not-so-humble opinion, a product of Enlightenment thought. I will craft a polemic on this some other time.

But because of this doctine, the Holman CSB carries this slogan: "Nothing Could Be Closer to the Truth." Instead of trying to avoid particular sectarian biases, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention as made it an attractive marketing point.

The SBC has joined the ranks of the Latter-Day Saints, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Roman Catholic Church in producing their own denominational bible translations.

And the Holman CSB is wholeheartedly endorsed by Pat Robertson.

So with that said, I present to you, "Captain Sacrament: Nothing Could be Closer to the Truth."

18 comments:

Allison said...

Why are you so adamantly opposed to the inerrancy of Scripture? I figure that's a broad question, but in all honesty, it sounds more like you are trying to continue convincing yourself.
You know...I really like you, Kyle...and I'm not saying this just because I disagree STRONGLY with you...I really want to know. Maybe this is one of those conversations for another time (the last one was pretty much one-sided because I'm new at this sort of thing)...Hope you don't take offense to what I've said...It's all love!

Kyle said...

No offense taken, Allison. Thanks for asking. :0)

I said in the post that I think the inerrancy question is a product of Enlightenment thought -- it is in itself the wrong question to ask.

One aspect of Enlightenment teaching holds that all truth worth knowing is quantifiable and based on laws. Truth is contained in a collection of true/false propositions.

If someone asks me whether I believe the Bible, I respond, "About what?" Some people talk about believing every word of the Bible. One cannot characterize the Holy Scriptures as being of the same genre of literature as the instruction booklet to an iPod. It is not "Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth." That is not a claim the Biblical literature makes for itself, and it is disingenuous to claim that it does.

It is a claim that one portion of the church, specifically the SBC, makes about the Bible. It is a recent innovation to the faith, and you know what I think about innovations these days. :0P

The teachings of the Church must come from the Scriptures. If the Bible stands over the Church, the Church cannot tell the Bible what it ought to be, and then read it and pretend to any level of objectivity.

It's not that I can't say, "the Bible is true." It's that I find it to be a meaningless affirmation, because the only alternative is "the Bible is false." That doesn't work either.

Jesus is the truth. The Scriptures are a completely reliable repository of the apostolic proclamation of the Crucified and Risen Lord. They stand in judgement of any church that doesn't submit to their teaching on what it means to submit to Jesus.

Does that answer a little bit of it?

Allison said...

So...the Bible is true, but only in regards to the Church's right belief and practice? ...The "other stuff", we have to judge ourselves?
Am I way off?!

John said...

It's things like this that make being part of a non-scripture-based religion all that more appealing. No one in Buddhism can "red letter" the words of the Buddha, but many of his teachings have been handed down in a direct line from him (very similar to Christianity). There is very little squabble over semantics because no one can be proven right or wrong. All sects agree that it's the substance of the teachings, not the precise wording that is the important part. It is truly a shame that matters like this have divided and polarized Christianity throughout the millennia.

OM MANI PADME HUM

Allison said...

Right. But there is a right way and a wrong way to believe...Without that absolutism, what assurance can we have?

Kyle said...

Yes, John, but is there an authoritative tradition of these teachings that has been endorsed by Pat Robertson? I think that's the real issue here. :0)

Alison, you ask about "other things," besides the right belief and practice of the Church. Can you describe what those other things might be, because I don't follow.

Further, what things need to be absolute, and what doesn't? Remember that in the Baptist tradition, all kinds of questions are left to the conscience of the individual. I'm arguing for something more "conservative:" that where there is a truly important question that isn't clearly answered by an appeal to the scriptures (and there are many), one must look to the authoritative and settled teaching of the universal Church.

How you put that together in the C21, I don't know yet. But we figure it out together, that's the point. :0)

Peace!

Allison said...

By "other stuff", I was referring to the things in Scripture that don't refer to the right belief and practice of the Church.

So, I'm a little lost here. You don't believe that the Word is inerrant, yet the explicit things in the Bible pertaining to the way we should live are authoritative...and the things in life that aren't confronted by Scripture should be judged by the traditions and beliefs of the Church rather than one's conscience (the Holy Spirit)? Is that about right?

Assurance is necessary! I don't know about you, but if I lived my life in light of my own morality...considering that I am completely depraved and sinful...I'd be screwed. The Scriptures are my assurance that God didn't just leave me "to the wolves"...He knew I couldn't live the life He created me to live on my own. His Word is my commentary on the "abundant life" He always talked about. It is my guideline for living. Without It, and the conviction that It is completely inerrant, infallible, authoritative and sufficient...I'd be living life out of myself -- It wouldn't be worth it...It'd be empty and meaningless...and it wouldn't be possible. But His words are my assurance...and that's what makes "taking up my cross" daily worth it...because it's not 'of' me -- it's of Him.

Kyle said...

Alison, respectfully, you can't just claim there's "other stuff" without saying what it is. I don't think there's any such thing as the "other stuff," which is why I asked.

Maybe it will help to define some terms: when I say "tradition" (which I didn't in the post or comments), I refer to the faith as it has been received. Paul uses the greek word for "tradition" all the time, but in your bible it's translated, "teaching." Those translators only use the word "tradition" when they want to make the word sound negative. It's called a bias.

And I do think that when the scriptures are not particularly clear on something important that affects the way we live our lives together (baptists disagree all the time!), we must come to some agreement as the Body of Christ. Since the dictates of my conscience aren't binding on anyone else, or theirs on mine, we have to agree, and that agreement has to carry authority in the Community.

Also, I don't think my conscience is equivalent to the Holy Spirit. I know that's the recieved tradition in Southern Baptist churches, but that's not to be found in Scripture. Further, "Inerrancy" is not a biblical teaching, but rather the received tradition of some Southern Baptist churches.

Finally, two points about assurance.
1. If this doctrine is true, shouldn't it be because you can prove it from scripture, not because you need for it to be true?
2. Inerrantists say that the scriptures must be "perfect." But they have a definition of perfection that has everything to do with a modern worldview (treating the Bible like an instruction manual) and nothing to do with what the Scriptures say about God.

I think the word "inerrancy" is another way to say, "my interpretation of the Bible is perfect, and not to be questioned." There's nothing in that book about which I'm saying, "Ooh, the Bible is not to be trusted." You just have to accept the Bible for what it is and live accordingly. And inerrancy is a very unhelpful concept, because it doesn't describe what the Bible is. The idea that the Bible is either errant or inerrant is a false and irrelevant question. It doesn't fit those catagories.

Does that make any more sense?

I think it's dangerous to base one's faith in Jesus on certain unscriptural ideas about the Scriptures instead of what the Scriptures themselves say. I don't doubt Scripture. I reject this belief about Scripture.

Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow!

+ Alan said...

Woo hoo! Is this like a real live debate? Cool! And people aren't even being mean - wow, I'm impressed.

I'll throw this in just for kicks, as I say often, aawwww, that poor group of Christians for the first 400 years of the Church who didn't have "It" - what did they do? Did they each follow their own conscience? To the degree that it was formed in the Community, yes, probably.

We don't only have 2 choices here - either live out of the Scriptures alone or live out of our own flawed consciences. If I am planted firmly in the Community of the Faith, which is inhabited by the Word, Himself, my self should be formed properly and not left on its own. Peace.

Rick said...

Great post! "Dude, you are messin' wif the Word."
What are people so afraid of? Like another comment said, "what did folks do for the first 400 years?"

Keep 'em coming!

Peace,
Rick

Bill Bean said...

Good discussion. I must say that Mclaren's stuff, especially in Generous Orthodoxy, is helping my own wrestlings with this. Inerrancy and inspiration aren't the same thing. Assurance and certitude aren't the same thing. It really seems to me that the doctrine of inerrancy/infallibility/perfection/etc... is a substitute for faith. I'm discovering that I don't need those doctrines to live under the authority of Scripture. I will say that I completely understand how distressing it is when you first hear something like this and start to wrestle with it. The level of that distress, to me, was revealing of how much faith I had put in Scripture as opposed to God.

Allison said...

Right. The Bible does not claim inerrancy explicitly -- the word is not used, obviously. However, there are certain biblically-based conclusions that can be drawn from (you knew this verse was coming) 2Tim. 3.16...All Scripture is "God-breathed"...God is THE Truth (Jn. 14.6, etc.)...His words are Truth (Ps. 119.160, etc.). How could something spoken from the very mouth of God have any indication of error? I think we'd both agree --it cannot.

My convictions and beliefs don't come from the Southern Baptists. My convictions and beliefs must come from God's Word...and in order to create, shape, and strengthen them...must I not first believe that my source is incapable of error?! Not only do I NEED it to be incapable of error -- it is...it says it is.

Just forget I'm Southern Baptist (considering it really has no bearing on this conversation...that's not my Source)...and let's keep talking.

I honestly can't remember any of the other comments you made because I can't see them while I'm typing this comment...BUT...if there's anything specific that you wanted me to reply to, type it out again. And if I see anything else I want to reply to, I'll just post again.

Very much looking forward to seeing you tomorrow, too! Woohoo...Irish jigs...You HAVE to dance with me! ;-)

Allison said...

I am NOT saying that one's interpretation of the Scriptures is always correct. The Scriptures say what the Scriptures say. To say that the Word is inerrant -- without error -- is not to say that one's interpretation is inerrant...We're human and subject to infallibility.

Allison said...

Kyle, I realize you're not saying the Bible IS erred -- I think you're saying that it's not an issue because it's not something the Word says in defense of itself. But I believe that inerrancy is an important conviction to hold, considering what I said two comments up.
I believe that without the Spirit's power and influence in our lives, we can't gain an accurate understanding of Scripture. I'm not sure what the reference is, but somewhere in 1Corinthians 2, it talks about how the Spirit searches the "deep things of God"...and that as Christians, we have the Spirit -- among many other purposes -- in order to understand the things of God. I do believe there is a right way and a wrong way to interpret God's Word...and unless we faithfully pursue a life led by the Spirit, our "understanding" of Scripture will be only an inaccurate understanding. But why would I even WANT to study and know His Word if I didn't believe every word in it was Truth? I think the fact that the Bible is not prone to error, is something that must be confronted even though the Bible doesn't explicitly claim that of itself. As I said before, Scripturally-based conclusions of the Word's inerrancy may be drawn...That has to be my beginning foundation.

Kyle said...

Allison, as you requested, I am repeating a couple of points that I think you didn't address:

"You can't just claim there's 'other stuff' without saying what it is. I don't think there's any such thing as the 'other stuff,' which is why I asked."

Further, you keep saying that you need the set of ideas you describe as "inerrancy" in order to trust the Bible. Just because you would like something to be true doesn't mean that it is. Would you help me understand what you think "inerrancy" is and for the moment, leave off on why it's necessary?

I think a definition of terms would be more helpful at this point.

Allison said...

Okay, okay, okay...Forget I ever said "other stuff" (unless for some reason you think it's necessary that I define it...it's not really the subject though, I don't think).
Inerrancy, as I've heard it defined and agree, means that what the authors willed to convey with regard to matters of fact are all true and will never lead us astray.
When all the facts are known, the Bible (in its original writings) properly interpreted, in light of which culture and communication means had developed by the time of its composition, will be shown to be completely true in all that it affirms, to the degree of precision intended by the author, in all matters relating to God and His creation.
Now, with regards to this Holman Bible crap -- I don't think very highly of the SBC or most people intertwined with it...so, my opinion will most definitely be negative...I'll just leave what you said alone.
I've defined inerrancy...are we on the same page now?

Kyle said...

Allison,

I’ll start by saying that I agree that the Holman “Christian Standard” Bible is irrelevant to the discussion. What’s more, I hope you know that I don’t blame you for it. :0) I don’t think I considered you a Southern Baptist anyway (in terms of opinion), so I apologize if I painted you with that brush.

My thesis is that the doctrine of “inerrancy” is both irrelevant and unhelpful. It is irrlevant because it talks about the Bible in ways that aren’t accurate, and unhelpful because it doesn’t say anything meaningful. Rather, it’s just a particular way of saying that the Bible is “nice,” and we ought to do what it says, whatever that might be. It’s a purely theoretical affirmation, and has no specific application, except to canonize some individual’s opinions.

1. Irrelevant. If you limit inerrancy to “matters of fact,” you’re taking out a good deal of content. I imagine that it covers things in the gospels, along the lines of “Jesus said x” and “Jesus did y.” But what do you do when Paul says to be subject to all governing authorities (Rom. 13)? This is not a statement of fact, so it makes no sense to say that Romans 13 is “true.” It would make sense to say that Paul’s directive to obey the government is right and binding today, but not that it is “true.”

In the same vein: “completely true in all it affirms.” Psalm 51 affirms an attitude of repentance before Yahweh. But Psalm 51 is not “true.” It’s a psalm.

You can say it about some things. The Paul affirms in Romans 5 that Christ is the second Adam, imputing to us obedience rather than disobedience. This is indeed true. But categories of true and false only logically apply to some parts of the Biblical literature. Altogether, to say that “the Bible is true,” as if it were a collection of true/false propositions that could be empirically measured (the assumption of your definition is that one day they could be) is meaningless.

2. Unhelpful. The terms of this definition are subjective, so there’s no proving or disproving it, nor any way to apply it. No one has seen the original writings. The extant manuscripts are the best we’ve got to hand. It is therefore an argument about something that doesn’t exist. “Properly interpreted” is another thing. How does one determine what is proper interpretation?

I think this is problematic because of the reasons I’ve seen people invoke inerrancy. This is not something I’ve seen you do, but this is the purpose I think the teaching serves: to give divine authority to an individual’s “plain reading” of scripture, or their refusal to read it.

Why should women remain silent in churches?
Because the Bible is inerrant.
Why is sex before marriage forbidden?
Because the Bible is inerrant.

First, the Corinthian women were not silent in the assemblies, and Paul did not tell them to be silent, only to follow common practices of modesty. 1 Timothy contains the rule on silence, but doesn’t carry with it a theology. Without reasoning attached, why assume the author is talking about all women in all situations, as opposed correcting to some (now) obscure problem local to Ephesus?

Second, I do think sexual relations outside of marriage is consistent with Christian discipleship. But I defy anybody to find chapter and verse. It is a condition assumed by Jesus teachings on marriage, but one must interpret passages.

Inerrancy just serves as an escape from the work of study and interpretation.

In addition to these arguments, please reconsider my earlier affirmation in terms of application and usefulness (remember that even if inerrancy is useful, that doesn’t make it true):

“Jesus is the truth. The Scriptures are a completely reliable repository of the apostolic proclamation of the Crucified and Risen Lord. They stand in judgment of any church that doesn't submit to their teaching on what it means to submit to Jesus.”

What good thing does inerrancy offer that something like this would lack?

Thanks again for this dialogue.

Allison said...

Sorry, Kyle. I've got a lot of stuff going on right now...I'll get back to this eventually.