Thursday, July 28, 2016

Some Recent Comments on Inerrancy

Last November (2013) the theme for the Evangelical Theological Society was given over to the topic of the inerrancy of Scripture.  The recent issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society contains a few pieces from the November meeting.

Robert Yarbrough delivered his presidential address entitled, "The Future of Cognitive Reverence for the Bible" (JETS 57/1: 2014, 5-18).  Yarbrough's essay is worth reading in full but I wanted to highlight just a few items.  I especially appreciated his definition of "cognitive reverence":
"I call this 'cognitive reverence' in that is privileges Scripture over human reason, experience, and tradition, without in any way denying that reason, experience, and tradition are necessary and welcome factors in how we go about understanding Scripture." (p. 8)
This is exactly the right stance for evangelicals to take in regards to the Bible.  If we affirm that the Bible is God's revelation to humanity then "cognitive reverence" is precisely the correct way to approach the Bible.  I have often thought in terms of "epistemic priority" that should be granted to the Scriptures but Yarbrough's "cognitive reverence" has a nice nuance.  "Reverence" is due to the living God and Yarbrough's phrase reminds us of this.

Yarbrough concludes his essay in this manner:
"I do not deny that we need continual refinement in our views.  Challenges and opportunities arise constantly.  The Chicago statements on inerrancy and hermeneutics, while compelling, can be improved upon.  But I think Jesus' response to the devil is suggestive for our response to calls to lighten up on our high view of the Bible.  'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God' (Matt 4:4 ESV).  Jesus regarded Scripture as words from God's mouth.  That should be understood analogically, of course, and not crudely literally, but the integral link between God and divine enscripturated speech remains.
"I am optimistic that Jesus' approach to the Tanach, already revered as holy in his day, retains value for Jesus' followers as they approach the whole canon of writings acknowledged in the Bible of the church.  Let me put that more strongly: in light of Jesus' dogged recourse to written Scripture from his temptation to his scriptural words from the cross, how is something like inerrancy not an entailment of discipleship?  Kevin Vanhoozer poses the question this way: 'how can we follow Jesus if we cannot follow with the utmost trust the words that oriented his own life?'"  (p. 17, emphasis added)