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”

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.””

R.C. Sproul’s Analysis of Methodology In Defense of Biblical Inerrancy

Given below is one of the most cogent arguments for  the authority and inerrancy of the Bible:

The Classical Method
Premise A – The Bible is a basically reliable and trustworthy document.
Premise B – On the basis of this reliable document we have sufficient evidence to believe confidently that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Premise C – Jesus Christ being the Son of God is an infallible authority.
Premise D – Jesus Christ teaches the Bible is more than generally trustworthy: it is the very Word of God.
Premise E – That the word, in that it comes from God, is utterly trustworthy because God is utterly trustworthy.
Conclusion – On the basis of the infallible authority of Jesus Christ, the Church believes the Bible to be utterly trustworthy, i.e., infallible.

This method does not involve circular reasoning. Circular reasoning occurs when the conclusion is already present in the first premise. The argument itself is not an infallible argument as each premise involves matters of inductive or deductive reasoning by fallible rational creatures. There is neither a formal apriori assumption nor a subjective leap of faith in the method. Rather, the method is involved with careful historical, empirical investigation as well as with logical inferences. Continue reading “R.C. Sproul’s Analysis of Methodology In Defense of Biblical Inerrancy”

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”

Inerrancy of the Bible: Defined and Defended. Part 2

Related Post: Inerrancy of the Bible: Defined and Defended. Part 1

II. Inerrancy was Affirmed Throughout Church History
Michael Bird refers to a recent historical thesis advocated by Jack Rogers and Donald McKim who assert that inerrancy is a recent a recent development which emerged from conservatives when they reacted defensively to the challenge of the Enlightenment. However, the truth is that the doctrine of inerrancy is not recent phenomenon as it has been affirmed throughout church history. The careful documentation and thorough study by John D. Woodbridge, Biblical Authority: A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal (Zondervan 1982) demonstrates conclusively that Rogers and McKim’s historical thesis is flawed as it is based on skewed handling of historical sources. Woodbridge confirms that while inerrancy was not a major feature in the development of doctrines, nevertheless the Church has always affirmed inerrancy as a matter of fact. Continue reading “Inerrancy of the Bible: Defined and Defended. Part 2”

Inerrancy of the Bible: Defined and Defended. Part 1

I. Clarification of Terms

E.J. Young provides a precise definition for each of the terms “inerrancy” and “infallibility” of the Bible:

Infallible: “By the term infallible as applied to the Bible, we mean simply that the Scripture possesses an indefectible authority. As our Lord himself said “it cannot be broken” (John 10:35). It can never fail in its judgments and statements. All that it teaches is of unimpeachable, absolute authority, and cannot be contravened, contradicted, or gainsaid. Scripture is unfailing, incapable of proving false, erroneous, or mistaken.”
Inerrant: “By this word [Inerrant] we mean that the Scriptures possess the quality of freedom from error. They are exempt from the liability to mistake, incapable of error. In all their teachings they are in perfect accord with the truth.” [E.J. Young, Thy Word Is Truth (Eerdmans, 1957), p. 113]

For our purpose, we shall use Paul Feinberg’s celebrated definition of ‘inerrancy’:  “Inerrancy means that when all facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences.” Paul Feinberg, “The Meaning of Inerrancy” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1979), 294.

However,  some Western theologians who no longer believe that the Bible is inerrant  prefer to describe the Bible as “infallible”. In the process, they use the word “infallibility” as a short-hand for “limited inerrancy”, that is, the view that the Bible contains historical and scientific errors while remaining infallible in matters of faith and salvation. Unfortunately, this redefinition is a departure from classical theological discourse when the word ‘inerrancy’ meant the Bible does not err, and “infallibility” meant the Bible cannot err.

In contrast, Article XI of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI) emphasizes: “We affirm that Scripture, having been given by divine inspiration, is infallible, so that, far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses. We deny that it is possible for the Bible to be at the same time infallible and errant in its assertions. Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished, but not separated.” The two terms ‘infallible’ and ‘inerrant’ are, in context, inextricable. In short, inerrancy and infallibility affirm that the whole of Scripture is true and not only parts of it. Finally, the focus of inerrancy is not limited to issues of factual accuracy in Scripture. It is primarily concerned about the authority of Scripture. Thus, CSBI begins in Article 1, “We affirm that the Holy Scriptures are to be received as the authoritative Word of God.” Continue reading “Inerrancy of the Bible: Defined and Defended. Part 1”