Why Affirm Biblical Inerrancy and Ignore Missing Original Manuscripts and Other Errors?

Sadly, it is no longer a surprise for Malaysians to come across pastors and seminarians who reject the historic doctrine of biblical inerrancy. The two common reasons given for rejecting inerrancy are (1) we cannot ignore the historical errors or discrepancies found in the Bible. Examples of discrepancies include the confused sequence of events describing Jesus’ healing of blind Bartimaeus, the death of Judas, Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple and Luke’s ‘erroneous’ dating of the Roman census at the time when Quirinius was the governor of Syria etc. and (2) we do not have the original manuscripts of the Bible. All that we have today are flawed copies.

(1) Alleged historical errors
These alleged discrepancies are straw men. We may conclude that the biblical text is in error only if we can demonstrate that it is in conflict with clear and unambiguous evidence given in other reliable historical sources.  However, the evidence from the extra-biblical sources remains inconclusive and its interpretation is disputed among scholars.  There is no necessity to presume that the biblical sources must be in error just because we are presently unable to integrate seamlessly the biblical accounts with other historical accounts. In instances where there is controversy among scholars (e.g. the conquest of Canaan by Joshua), there is room to maintain an agnostic position in the details, pending further information gleaned from more archaeological research and historical investigation. Continue reading “Why Affirm Biblical Inerrancy and Ignore Missing Original Manuscripts and Other Errors?”

In Defence of Prophetic Authorship and Unity of the Book of Isaiah. Part 2/2

I. Summary of Defence of the Isaianic authorship by Gleason Archer
[Gleason Archer, the legendary professor of Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Chicago (he modestly told me in 1984 that he only knew 28 languages although rumours were that he knew many more), wrote the following discussion as a supplement to his rebuttal of the critical arguments for source division of Isaiah 1-39 and Isaiah 40-66 based on “Alleged Differences in Theme and Subject Matter,” and “Alleged Differences in Language and Style.”]

Additional Proofs of the Genuineness of Isaiah 40–66

1. First of all it should be noted that Jesus ben Sirach (48:22–25) clearly assumes that Isaiah wrote chapters 40–66 of the book of Isaiah. E. J. Young notes, “The tradition of Isaianic authorship appears as early as Ecclesiasticus.

2. The New Testament writers clearly regard the author of Isaiah I and Isaiah II to be one and the same. Many of the New Testament quotations could be interpreted as referring to the book merely according to its traditional title, but there are other references which clearly imply the personality of the historic Isaiah himself. Continue reading “In Defence of Prophetic Authorship and Unity of the Book of Isaiah. Part 2/2”

In Defence of Prophetic Authorship and Unity of the Book of Isaiah Part 1/2

The Authorship of Isaiah: A Straight-Forward Biblical Defence
by Dr. Leong Tien Fock, (PhD in Semitic Languages and Literatures)

Assessment of current scholarship, both critical and conservative

According to An Introduction to the Old Testament, an “evangelical” book that is slightly “liberal,” by Tremper Longman III and Raymond B. Dillard (2006: 309-10):

In many respects, contemporary critical opinion about Isaiah has recovered from the excesses that characterized scholarship in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The consensus among critical scholars has moved in the direction of acknowledging much of what was dear to conservatives: that Isaiah is not the result of a haphazard accident and internally contradictory, but rather the book as a whole shows a unity of themes and motifs. The tenor of much of the debate has shifted from focus on dissecting the text to recover sources and settings to efforts to expound the coherence and unity of the text as it exists. Arguments from conservatives for unity of authorship based on common themes and vocabulary have now in large part been taken over and pressed into service as arguments for a redactional unity in the book [italics added].

To be sure, critical and conservative opinion remain divided on the issue of authorship. Although there is a growing consensus about the overall unity of Isaiah, for critical scholarship it is a unity forged through a history of redaction rather than a unity that derives from a single individual author. Continue reading “In Defence of Prophetic Authorship and Unity of the Book of Isaiah Part 1/2”

Evaluating Theological Interpretation of Scripture

An interview with Brian Collins, author of Scripture, Hermeneutics, and Theology: Evaluating Theological Interpretation of Scripture. Greenville, SC: Exegesis & Theology, 2012.

You may download a free PDF of the book HERE (a whopping 448MB).

Highlights from the interview. LINK

Modern Historical Critical Methods Renders the Bible Irrelevant
Collins cites Don Carson, “Historical critical methods that are “anti-supernatural” and “determined by post-Enlightenment assumptions about the nature of history” do render the Bible irrelevant. Notably, that is what those methods were designed to do. In short, modern historical criticism has failed in its promise of objective interpretation while also rendering the Bible irrelevant. Theological interpretation of Scripture must integrate exegesis and theology to regain the relevance of Scripture today.

To regain an interpretative method that respects the authority of Scripture and its relevance, Collin begins with A.N.S Lane’s historical survey of the major views on Scripture and tradition in church history. Continue reading “Evaluating Theological Interpretation of Scripture”

Christian Scholarship & Deliverance from Chronological Snobbery

One of the criticisms that ‘progressive’ Christians level at orthodox Christians is that they are anti-intellectual since they oppose the idea of applying insights drawn from critical theory and social sciences to interpret the Bible. This criticism is surely unfounded. For orthodox Christians, “All truth is God’s truth,” and the scholar of the Book should also be a scholar of many other books. As such, they would welcome any interdisciplinary exercise that seeks to enrich our understanding of Bible on its own terms. However,  orthodox Christians who engage in interdisciplinary studies should be clear about their presuppositions and priorities so as to avoid compromising their faith inadvertently.

First, the Bible as the infallible word of God should function as the background controlling belief in the integration of faith and contemporary knowledge like critical theory and social sciences. Continue reading “Christian Scholarship & Deliverance from Chronological Snobbery”

Biblical Inerrancy Pertains to “Original text” and NOT “Original Codex.”

Now and then a biblical studies student tells me that he does not believe in biblical inerrancy because we no longer have the original manuscripts (autographs), and there are undeniable copyist errors in the existing manuscripts. But surely, this objection is based on a confusion of categories? After all, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is based not on “original codex” as on “original text.” I assume that the doubting student is assured that contemporary textual criticism gives us  confidence in accepting the restored text represented by Nestle Aland/UBS Greek New Testament to be practically speaking an accurate representation of the original text (not codex). One may likewise extend one’s confidence in the restored Old Testament text  Continue reading “Biblical Inerrancy Pertains to “Original text” and NOT “Original Codex.””

Sheep Dog Alert: Beware of ‘Progressive’ Christianity?

Dog-Thoughts as we enter into the Year of the Dog: Part 3

I feel a sense of ambivalence whenever I read Roger Olson. His expertise in historical theology is beyond doubt. He is an excellent communicator which is not often found among theologians. But I find him rather intemperate and lacking measured judgment in his polemics against Reformed theology.

Surprisingly, I find myself nodding my head in hearty agreement when I read Roger Olson’s post on the subtle dangers of so-called ‘progressive Christianity.’ Surely, there must be truth when a Calvinist is in agreement with an Arminian! I invite my readers to ponder carefully some of Olson’s observations on ‘progressive Christianity’ given below:

Nine Signals of Liberal Protestantism Disguised as “Progressive Christianity.” Continue reading “Sheep Dog Alert: Beware of ‘Progressive’ Christianity?”

Theology Must be “Pray-Able and Preach-Able” to Build Faith

Theological studies can be hazardous as students are exposed to critical ideas that question the integrity of the Bible. Students who choose to study in secular universities are advised to fortify their understanding of faith since their faith will be challenged by some secular university professors. However, it can be alarming when students studying in Christian colleges find out that some of the lecturers who profess evangelicalism and talk about their church experience cast doubts about the total reliability of Scripture. In this case, it is not the secular professors but the ‘Christian’ professors who surreptitiously undermine the students’ belief in the inerrancy and infallible authority of the Bible.

Parents may be heartened when they listen to Kevin DeYoung as he shares in the Panel on Inerrancy: Q & A on how he managed to remain steadfast in believing in the authority of the Bible. What gave him pause and prevented him from being led astray by “paycheck inerrantist” (professors who sign the college doctrinal statement that affirms the infallible authority of Scripture in order to safeguard their jobs, but who in reality believe otherwise) was the faith inherited from his parents and the realization that what was taught in college deviates from the pristine faith learned through biblical-based pulpit preaching and that “this isn’t what my parents would believe.” (28 min)

If I may share something personal – When I went to seminary in 1984, I was determined never lose the “innocent but authentic faith” which I learned from inductive bible study and expository preaching in my Christian youth, regardless of all the sophisticated knowledge which I hoped to learn in due course. Whatever learning and theology I adopt must satisfy the criteria of preach-ability and pray-ability, as only such theology can build the faith of God’s people. Continue reading “Theology Must be “Pray-Able and Preach-Able” to Build Faith”

Liberal Transformers vs Evangelical Translators of Theology

It is possible to conclude from the last paragraph of my previous post, “Seven Characteristics of Liberal Theology,” that I am suggesting that evangelical Christianity has no interest in becoming relevant to contemporary society. This misunderstanding should be set aside as evangelicals seek to present a Gospel that is not only relevant to society, but also faithful to Biblical revelation.

Historically, liberal theologians ended up transforming or rather trans-mutating the Gospel to accommodate its teaching to the sensibilities of society and culture. In contrast, evangelical theologians engaged in translating the unchanging revealed truths of the Bible as they present a Gospel which confronts society and culture. In short, the issue between liberal and evangelical theology is whether the truth of Christian revelation has been preserved or transformed in the process of making Christianity relevant to modern society.

Millard Erickson gives a helpful contrast between evangelical translation of the Gospel and liberal transformation of the Gospel: Continue reading “Liberal Transformers vs Evangelical Translators of Theology”

Seven Characteristics of Liberal Theology

Some of my readers wonder what I have in mind when I refer to liberal theology in my discussions. It is indeed challenging, if not problematic when we try to define a ‘movement’ that does not accept authority (including biblical authority), rejects defining creeds and doctrine and displays an amorphous social mission. As Gary Dorrien aptly explains in his authoritative 3-volume work, The Making of American Liberal Theology (Westminster Press, 2001-2006),

The essential idea of liberal theology is that all claims to truth, in theology as in other disciplines, must be made on the basis of reason and experience, not by appeal to external authority. Christian scripture may be recognized as spiritually authoritative within Christian experience, but its word does not settle or establish truth claims about matters of fact. [vol.2. p.1]

Daniel Day Williams offers a classic definition of liberal theology,

By ‘liberal theology’ I mean the movement in modern Protestantism which during the nineteenth century tried to bring Christian thought into organic unity with evolutionary world view, the movements for social reconstruction, and the expectations of ‘a better world’ which dominated the general mind. It is that form of Christian faith in which a prophetic-progressive philosophy of history culminates in the expectation of the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth. [ Gary Dorrien, vol.1, xix.]

This definition anticipates that liberal theology evolves with its evolutionary worldview.  Gary Dorrien complements Williams’ definition as he captures the intellectual presuppositions that drives the evolving agenda of liberal theology: Continue reading “Seven Characteristics of Liberal Theology”