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Archive for January, 2014

Franke’s concern with inerrancy as formulated in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI) is that it has been used in such a way to silence the plurality of voices in Scripture in order to formulate a central system in which one must resolve all incoherent or seemingly contradictory statements in Scripture. He explains:

I have often been dismayed by many of the ways in which inerrancy has commonly been used in biblical interpretation, theology, and the life of the church, as though it served as some kind of panacea for resolving difficult and complex questions related to Christian faith and life in the world.

He is further concerned by the way inerrancy has been used to judge who is “in” and who is “out of” evangelicalism. He also does not think that inerrancy does not express “the core idea of the authority of Scripture as a witness to the mission of God.”

He says that inerrancy should:

[P]reserve the dynamic plurality contained in the texts of Scripture by ensuring that no portion of the biblical narrative can properly be disregarded or eclipsed because it is perceived as failing to conform to a larger pattern of systematic unity.

Franke’s argument rests upon his doctrine of God. He maintains the creator-creation distinction. Who God is cannot be ascertained without knowing what God does. God is therefore a being-in-act. God is love; the Trinity has eternally existed in a relationship of mutual love. God is missional. He demonstrates his love by the Father sending his Son and the Father and Son sending the Spirit.

Language is a social-cultural construct and is not able to completely describe the eternal, universal God.

As such, each language, is a particular conceptual scheme that lacks the capacity and universality required to provide a description of God or ultimate truth that can be thought of as absolute.

Since God is wholly-other, the language used to describe God is perspectival in nature. Scripture contains many voices, in their unique social cultural construction, describe God’s revelation. Scripture is a witness to that revelation.

Scripture is not static, however. Scripture, as Franke cites Goldingay, “calls a new world into being.” Franke caveats with this statement:

However, the point needs to be stressed here is that this capacity for world construction, while bound closely to the text, does not lie in the text itself. Instead this result is ultimately the work of the Spirit speaking in and through the text as the instrumentality of world creation.

The Spirit through the means of Scripture seeks to transform the world into the ideal world.

Inerrancy, as cited above, ought not to transform the text into something that it is not. Scripture is a collection of witnesses to God’s revelation. One voice is not allowed to dominate: “Inerrancy means that none of the texts of Scripture should be forced into conformity with others for the sake of systematic unity.” No one should try to construct a single system of theology since such an idea runs counter to the way the God revealed himself to humanity.

While I think Franke is right in that we must be careful not to subordinate the voices of Scripture to each other. Proof-texting is one the ways in which Scripture has been take captive and put into service in a foreign context in which it was not born to serve. Such hermeneutics have created a “diaspora” of verses to elucidate systematic formulas.

I do have two major concerns. First, I do not know how we judge when a witness is faithful or not. I don’t see how we are allowed to say “true” or “untrue” if truth does not have some relationship with, for lack of a better term, “the real world.” Secondly, Franke does not really define inerrancy. I know what it should do, but I don’t know what it actually is. I would like to know!

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Vanhoozer formulates this definition of inerrancy:

I propose the following definition: to say that Scripture is inerrant is to confess faith that the authors speak the truth in all things they affirm (when they make affirmations), and will eventually be seen to have spoken truly (when right readers read rightly).

His understanding of inerrancy is based, in part, on Augustine’s famous assertion about the biblical text:

And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand.

Vanhoozer maintains that one must hold to a “well-versed” inerrancy – an inerrancy that places emphasis on the communicative acts of Scripture: “Well-versed inerrancy acknowledges that biblical truth involves form as well as content.” His form of inerrancy requires that the reader, from a position of faith (a right reader), seek to understand the form of the literature (read-rightly) in order to properly understand what Scripture is communicating.

Scripture communicates artfully; it employs irony, rhetoric, metaphor, and various other literary genres to communicate to us. We are not properly understanding the Scripture’s communicative act, if, for instance, we take irony literalistically. Such reading is naive.

Vanhoozer’s analogy of the map is a great illustration of the point:

Truth is indeed about reality, but there is more than one way to render reality in language. We have truth ‘when what is said is that this is how things are.’ The map of the Paris metro is about the Paris metro – is says, ‘This is how the Paris metro is’ – but ‘the way the words go’ (if maps could speak!) is not like the way a picture corresponds. The tracks that take tourists to the Eiffle Tower are not really orange, as they are on the map, nor are they only a centimeter wide. Most users understand the convention. Truth is the ‘fit’ between text and reality, between what is written and what is written about, but one can speak about (map) the same terrain in many ways.

Thus, one can speak about reality in different ways. If I may borrow from Moberly to add to Vanhoozer (I don’t think I am mixing threads here), fiction is not necessarily synonymous with false. Fiction also communicates truth even if it not historical. Coming back to Scripture, Scripture, especially the narratives do more than just communicate historical realities. To limit those historical narratives to the genre of Modern historicism is to turn a deaf ear (Vanhoozer’s analogy) to Scripture’s communicative act. Thus, determining the historicity of the narrative as false does not necessarily break Vanhoozer’s formulation of inerrancy.

I think Vanhoozer’s formulation is helpful because it pays close attention to the “literariness” of Scripture and lets Scripture be what it is: God’s speech-act defining, rebuking, exhorting, teaching, etc. The only question I have is does Scripture’s communicative act require that originating narrative be historically true? Michael Bird asks, “How much hyperbole or artistry would disqualify the account from being historical?” How closely must the “artistry” be tied to a historical referent?

Vanhoozer’s definition is a right-adjustment for evangelical reading. Historical questions should not be allowed shout out Scripture’s own communicative act.We must not give up on determining historical realities. We must begin, however, with hearing Scripture speak instead of assuming what it is speaking about.

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This is another resolution motivated by a book that I would like to be able to read: this work by Helmut Ziefle. I’m really keen on achieving this resolution because it will help in researching for my thesis/PhD. I love learning languages, so I’m sure this will be fun.

I’m using German Made Simple. There are about 45 lessons in this book, I think I can do at least 2 a week. So that puts me close to the middle of the year when I finish this. Hopefully, I will be able to do some basic reading and vocabulary building exercises after that and maybe even struggle through Modern Theological German Reader.

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