Sorting through the conflicting legends on this theme is a difficult task but there are many things we know for sure as this article by C Michael Patton explains.
Robert M. Bowman Jr. (born 1957) is an American Evangelical Christian theologian specializing in the study of apologetics. In an article (here) he writes:
Kyle Roberts, a theologian at United Theological Seminary and a former evangelical, has written a blog article on Patheos entitled “Seven Problems with Inerrancy.” Roberts is an example of a growing number of theologians who argue that we should retain faith in Jesus Christ and even confess Scripture to be “inspired” or “the Word of God” while rejecting the belief that Scripture is inerrant. In this response, I will point out seven problems with Roberts’s position.
Note that I will not be arguing for the existence of God, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, or even the status of the books of the Bible as Scripture in this article. I am addressing the views of people who affirm these things but deny the inerrancy of Scripture. My contention is that those who affirm those basic elements of Christianity are being inconsistent if they do not also accept the inerrancy of Scripture. I offer seven reasons in support of this conclusion.
1. Jesus Christ believed that Scripture is inerrant.
In an essay of over 1,700 words, Roberts offers various criticisms—actually far more than seven—of belief in the inerrancy of Scripture, yet he never addresses or even mentions the question of what Jesus Christ thought on the matter. This omission is quite common among Christian critics of inerrancy.
These critics often insist that Christ, not Scripture, is the central focus of Christian faith. Roberts, for example, asserts that “the Bible creates an occasion for us to narratively engage the story of Jesus–but it is the living Jesus that is the goal.”
Fair enough. Evangelicals certainly affirm that Jesus is the central focus and subject of Scripture, including the Old Testament, and that its goal is to lead us to faith in Jesus, as Jesus himself taught (Luke 24:27, 44-47; John 5:39-40). However, if we are serious about following Jesus Christ, we must accept his view of Scripture.
Just as evangelicals accept Christ’s claim that all of the Scripture is centered on him, they also accept Christ’s view that Scripture is the unerring Word of God.
To learn how Jesus viewed Scripture, we must consult the most reliable sources of historical information about Jesus’ teachings and actions—the Gospels in the New Testament. A progressive or liberal Christian who believes that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave as reported in the canonical Gospels presumably would be willing to consult the Gospels at least as valuable sources of information about what Jesus said and did. When we do this, we discover that Jesus clearly accepted the conventional Jewish belief, taught especially by the Pharisees, that Scripture is unerring revelation from God.
Near the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount—which progressive and liberal Christians often assert epitomizes what it means to follow Jesus—we find that Jesus said the following:
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:17-18).
That is a clear articulation of the traditional ancient Jewish view of Scripture as verbally inspired by God. The rest of the Gospels consistently attest that Jesus held this view.
Thus, that Jesus held to the inerrancy of Scripture is as certain as any fact about his teaching. If we were to reject the Gospels’ testimony as to Jesus’ view of Scripture, we would have no basis for knowing anything about Jesus’ teaching. An atheist or agnostic might be able to accept this conclusion, but it makes no sense for progressive Christians, most of whom speak very highly in particular of the Sermon on the Mount, to reject what the Gospels report concerning Jesus’ view of Scripture.
2. Christian non-inerrantists ignore or distort nearly two millennia of Christian affirmations of the absolute truth of Scripture.
Critics of inerrancy commonly allege that it is supposedly of recent vintage in the history of Christianity. We are often told that inerrancy is a distinctively modern theory of the nature of Scripture driven by Enlightenment rationalism. For example, the fifth objection that Roberts gives to inerrancy is that it “is simply too modernistic and ‘objectivist’ in orientation.” If that were true, it would be grounds for at least questioning the idea of inerrancy. However, it’s simply not true. Consider what just three of the greatest figures in church history said on the subject:
It is to the canonical Scriptures alone that I am bound to yield such implicit subjection as to follow their teaching, without admitting the slightest suspicion that in them any mistake or any statement intended to mislead could find a place.
Augustine of Hippo: “It is to the canonical Scriptures alone that I am bound to yield such implicit subjection as to follow their teaching, without admitting the slightest suspicion that in them any mistake or any statement intended to mislead could find a place” (Letters 82.3).
Thomas Aquinas: “Only to those books or writings which are called canonical have I learnt to pay such honour that I firmly believe that none of their authors have erred in composing them” (Summa theologiae 1a.1.8).
Martin Luther: “Everyone knows that at times they have [the early church fathers] erred as men will; therefore, I am ready to trust them only when they prove their opinions from Scripture, which has never erred” (Weimarer Ausgabe, 7:315). Continue reading
Leonardo de Chirico pastors a Reformed Church in the heart of Rome, Italy. His talks here are helpful summaries regarding some of the major divisions between the Protestant and Roman Catholic faiths.
Why are some evangelicals converting to Roman Catholicism? What is attractive about Roman Catholicism? What are the differences between what Roman Catholics and evangelicals believe? Are the differences substantial? This talk explores and evaluates why evangelicals find Catholicism appealing, clarifies important differences and helps evangelicals better understand their own identity.
Is the Roman Catholic Gospel the “same” or “another” Gospel? On the one hand, there is an apparent “common orthodoxy” presumably based on common understanding of the gospel; on the other, there is a profound difference on the meaning of its basic words (e.g. Christ, the church, grace, faith, salvation, etc.). This talk explores the contours of the Gospel as they emerge from the long tradition of the Roman Catholic Church and provides an evangelical assessment of the Roman Catholic Gospel as far as its biblical and apologetic significance are concerned.
Why are Roman Catholics so enamored with Mary? Why did Pope John Paul II cry out to Mary when he was shot? How is it that Mariology is a major feature in both traditional and present-day Roman Catholicism? Where did Mariology come from and what is theologically at stake in it? This talk answers these questions and highlights the need for a biblical reformation in Mariology.
In his recently published book A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Papacy, Leonardo de Chirico considers the individuals who have filled the position as pope and how the Roman Catholic Church has defined their role. He also provides evangelicals with insight into the ecumenical significance of the Papacy and its prospects in our global world. This discussion evaluates the book and continues the dialogue on the Papacy with input from a number of evangelical leaders.
My latest interview on the Iron Sharpens Iron radio program is now posted here at this link.
We got to talk about some important issues, dispensing with many man-made traditions along the way.
Ligonier.org: On August 25th, we were joined by Dr. John MacArthur, president of The Master’s Seminary, and Dr. Stephen Nichols, president of Reformation Bible College. We discussed the urgency to stand with conviction in a time of rapid cultural change.
Benjamin L. Merkle serves as professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He is the author or co-author of numerous books, including Why Elders? A Biblical and Practical Guide for Church Members (Kregel, 2009) and 40 Questions about Elders and Deacons (Kregel, 2007). In an article entitled “Should Women Wear Head Coverings?” he writes:
Many complementarians build their case for rejecting women elders/pastors on Paul’s argument from creation in 1 Timothy 2:13–14. Paul’s prohibition cannot be culturally limited, they argue, since the apostle doesn’t argue from culture but from creation. He argues from the order of creation (“For Adam was formed first, then Eve”) and from the order of accountability in creation (“Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived”). Based on Paul’s inspired reasoning, then, complementarians conclude women may not “teach or have authority over men” (v. 12) in the context of the local church.
But can’t this reasoning also be applied to 1 Corinthians 11:8–9, where Paul makes a similar argument from creation to bolster his position? In the context of 1 Corinthians 11, he demonstrates that women need to have their heads covered while praying or prophesying. To prove his point, he argues from creation, saying that the woman was created from man (“For man was not made from woman, but woman from man”) and for man (“Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man”). Isn’t it inconsistent to reject Paul’s appeal for women to wear head coverings while affirming his command for women not to teach or have authority over men, since in both contexts Paul uses virtually the same (creation-related) reasoning?
This apparent inconsistency is raised by Craig Keener when he writes, “Although many churches would use arguments [from the order of creation] to demand the subordination of women in all cultures, very few accept Paul’s arguments [in 1 Cor. 11] as valid for covering women’s heads in all cultures. . . . We take the argument as transculturally applicable in one case [1 Tim. 2], but not so in the other [1 Cor. 11]. This seems very strange indeed.”
A closer examination of the two texts, however, shows it’s consistent to reject the need for women to wear head coverings (1 Cor. 11) while affirming they are not to teach or have authority over men (1 Tim. 2). The reason for this distinction is that in 1 Corinthians 11 Paul only indirectly uses the argument from creation to affirm head coverings for women. The direct application of his reasoning is to show that creation affirms gender and role distinctions between men and women. Therefore, Paul’s argument from creation which demonstrates men and women are distinct cannot be culturally relegated. The application of this principle (i.e., head coverings), then, can and does change with culture. In contrast, the argument from creation in 1 Timothy 2 applies directly to Paul’s prohibition, and therefore is not culturally conditioned. Continue reading
Steve Weaver (Ph.D., SBTS) serves as the senior pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky. He also serves as an adjunct professor of church history at Southern Seminary. A revised and expanded edition of his dissertation was recently published as Orthodox, Puritan, Baptist: Hercules Collins (1647-1702) and Particular Baptist Identity in Early Modern England (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015). In an article entitled “Standing on the shoulders of giants: The preacher and his books” he writes:
One of my favorite quotes is from Sir Isaac Newton, discoverer of the law of gravity. In a letter to Robert Hooke on February 5, 1676, Newton wrote, “If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Newton saw farther than anyone had before, precisely because he was willing to learn from those who had gone before him. Just imagine what life would be like if all anyone ever knew was the knowledge they accumulated on their own. There would be no electricity, no light bulb, no telephone, no computers, no cars, no airplanes, no space travel, and, gasp, no iPhone.
But because men learned from those who had gone before, these inventions and many more were possible. Sadly, many preachers like to work in an anti-intellectual vacuum, gleaning nothing from the God-gifted men who have gone before them. God has especially equipped the body of Christ with teachers, evangelist, and pastors. I thank God for men like Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Augustine, Anselm, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Newton, John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and a host of others, who are, without a doubt, God’s gifts to the church. By studying the writings of these gifted men, we are enabled to “stand on their shoulders.”
The Word on reading
I believe that there is actually a biblical admonition to learn from others found in Ephesians 4:11-13 where Paul explains how the resurrected and ascended Christ has gifted his church.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
I don’t think what Paul said here applies only to those living in our contemporary generation. Nor do I believe that it only applies to those in the same location. The church universal is much larger than our local congregation. It extends to all those saints, past and present, from east to west who have placed their hope in Christ and his sacrificial atonement. Therefore, the teachers, evangelists, and pastors from whom we have the privilege of learning stretch across the 2,000 years of church history (chronologically) and from pole to pole (geographically). In order to access this rich heritage, we need to read books.
Baptists and books
Historically, Baptists have recognized the importance of learning from the works of others. In his book on pastoral ministry, The Temple Repair’d, the seventeenth-century English Baptist pastor Hercules Collins provided his readers with a list of recommend books. Furthermore, when young men in his Wapping church expressed a desire to begin preaching, they were provided with key biblical and theological works. Collins believed that ministers must labor in their study of the Word of God because of the exalted nature of their work as ministers. Commenting on 2 Timothy 2:15, he wrote,
“We should study to be good workmen because our work is of the highest nature. Men that work among jewels and precious Stones ought to be very knowing of their business. A minister’s work is a great work, a holy work, a heavenly work. Hence the Apostle says “Who is sufficient for these things?” O how great a work is this! What man, what angel is sufficient to preach the gospel as they ought to preach it! You work for the highest end, the glory of God, and the good of immortal souls. You are for the beating down of the kingdom of the devil, and enlarging and exalting Christ’s kingdom.”
Do not be idle and lazy in the things of God Continue reading
Lee Gatiss is Director of Church Society, adjunct lecturer at Wales Evangelical School of Theology, and Research Fellow of the Jonathan Edwards Centre Africa at the University of the Free State, South Africa. He has put together a series of blog posts on the subject of Reprobation at Reformation21. They are interesting reads for sure:
I was interested to see that TGC have launched in Australia. I hope and pray it will be a great support and encouragement to gospel-minded people down under.
On their shiney new website, there is an article posted two days ago on the great Anglican theologian, W.H. Griffith Thomas by my friend and birthday buddy, Michael Jensen.
One of the things Griffith Thomas says, and which for some reason Michael chose to zero in on in his summary of the man, is that there is no mention of the darker side of predestination in the Anglican formularies. Or as WHGT put it when commenting on Article 17 of The Thirty-nine Articles, “There is no reference to Reprobation or Preterition, neither of which is part of the Church of England doctrine.”
Now, I don’t especially like talking about this sort of thing. It can be difficult pastorally, and you always have to hedge everything around with qualifications and asides to guard against misunderstandings. And there isn’t a consensus even amongst the more Reformed type of evangelicals about how precisely to formulate this sort of thing. So it isn’t something I personally would choose to bring up if I was trying to build a coalition around central gospel truths. I would pass over it.
All that being said, it is a little disconcerting to read this sort of thing, and to be told that “there are scant Scriptures that might be said to teach a doctrine of reprobation.” OK, so Article 17 does not explicitly cite:
1 Peter 2:8, “[those who do not believe] stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.”
2 Peter 2:12, “But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction.”
Jude 4, “certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Revelation 17:8, “the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world…”
But in such scriptures, the doctrine of reprobation does seem to many interpreters to surface in a most remarkable way. If it doesn’t, if there is some other explanation for what these verses say, then perhaps we ought to be educated on that, rather than them simply being dismissed as “scant.” They are, after all, about as scant as the number of verses directly addressing practising homosexuality, or whether you should marry a non-Christian.
We don’t usually accept the argument that “where number of verses addressing a subject is small, dismiss the doctrine,” or call it “mysterious,” or say there is “no reference” to it. After all, how many times does God need to say something for us to listen? Continue reading
James Bishop in an article entitled “Former Atheists Speak. 44 Quotes” writes:
Here follows a list of quotes I’ve collected and compiled from over the last two or so years (my digital quote library is bursting at its edges!). There is no particular form that these quotes take, rather each is from the unqiue story of each former atheist. Where possible, I’ve left links that readers can follow to find out more about each conversion testimony, or articles that they’ve authored. The others are predominantly from books that i’ve read.
Wallace is a cold-case homicide detective, assistant professor of apologetics at Biola University, Christian case maker and author. He was once a vocal atheist.
“In the end, I came to the conclusion that the gospels were reliable eyewitness accounts that delivered accurate information about Jesus, including His crucifixion and Resurrection. But that created a problem for me. If Jesus really was who He said He was, then Jesus was God Himself. If Jesus truly did what the gospel eyewitnesses recorded, then Jesus is still God Himself. As someone who used to reject anything supernatural, I had to make a decision about my naturalistic presuppositions.“
-Warner Wallace (‘Jesus Is Evidence That God Exists.’)
“If skeptics were willing to give the Gospels the same ‘benefit of the doubt’ they are willing to give other ancient documents, the Gospels would easily pass the test of authorship.”
-Warner Wallace (‘Cold Case Christianity.’)
Frank is a mathematical physicist and cosmologist, holding a joint appointment in the Departments of Mathematics and Physics at Tulane University.
“When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced atheist. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would be writing a book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them. I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my own special branch of physics.”
-Frank Tipler (‘The Physics Of Immortality.’)
Alister is theologian, scientist, and a priest. He has delivered various lectures and presentations on God, faith, and science.
“Atheism, I began to realize, rested on a less-than-satisfactory evidential basis. The arguments that had once seemed bold, decisive, and conclusive increasingly turned out to be circular, tentative, and uncertain.”
-Alister McGrath (‘Breaking the Science-Atheism Bond.’)
“Christianity offers a worldview that leads to the generation of moral values and ideals that are able to give moral meaning and dignity to our existence.”
-Alister McGrath (‘Christian Quotes: Alister McGrath.’)
Lee was once a self-described militant atheist who worked at the Chicago Tribune. He is now a widely known Christian author, journalist, apologist and pastor, as well as author of the book Case For Christ.
“It was the evidence from science and history that prompted me to abandon my atheism and become a Christian.”
“To be honest, I didn’t want to believe that Christianity could radically transform someone’s character and values. It was much easier to raise doubts and manufacture outrageous objections that to consider the possibility that God actually could trigger a revolutionary turn-around in such a depraved and degenerate life.”
-Lee Strobel (‘Case For Christ: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity.’)
“…the scientific data point powerfully toward the existence of a Creator and that the historical evidence for the resurrection establishes convincingly that Jesus is divine.”
-Lee Strobel (‘Finding the Real Jesus: A Guide for Curious Christians and Skeptical Seekers.’)
Rick Oliver has his Ph.D. in Biology from the University of California, Irvine. He is a member of the American Federation of Herpetoculturalists, the California Science Teachers Association, and the New York Academy of Science.
“I remember how frustrated I became when, as a young atheist, I examined specimens under the microscope. I would often walk away and try to convince myself that I was not seeing examples of extraordinary design, but merely the product of some random, unexplained mutations.”
-Rick Oliver (‘Designed to Kill in a Fallen World.’)
William Ramsey (1851 – 1939) was a Scottish archaeologist and New Testament scholar. By his death in 1939 he had become the foremost authority of his day on the history of Asia Minor and a leading scholar in the study of the New Testament.
“Christianity did not originate in a lie; and we can and ought to demonstrate this as well as believe it.”
“Further study . . . showed that the book (Acts) could bear the most minute scrutiny as an authority for the facts of the Aegean world, and that it was written with such judgment, skill, art and perception of truth as to be a model of historical statement.’”
-Sir William Ramsay (‘The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament.’)
Lewis (1898 – 1963), a former atheist, is one of the most widely read Christian apologetic author today. He is the mind behind the Narnia entertainment series, and some of his most popular Christian writings read widely today are Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters.
“Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.”
-C.S. Lewis (‘Mere Christianity.’)
“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”
-C.S. Lewis (‘The Case for Christianity.’)
“A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.”
-C.S. Lewis (‘Surprised by Joy.’)
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918 – 2008) was a Russian writer, and winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize in literature. He was pivotal in revealing what life was like in the days of the atheistic communist Soviet Union. He is the mind behind his powerful book Voice from the Gulag.
“Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”
-Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. (‘Voice from the Gulag.’)
Antony was a world leading atheist philosopher who belonged to the analytic and evidentialist schools of thought. He was known as a strong advocate of atheism, arguing that one should presuppose atheism until empirical evidence of a God surfaces. He also criticised the idea of life after death, the free will defence to the problem of evil, and the meaningfulness of the concept of God. In 2003 he was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto. In 2004 he stated an allegiance to deism, more specifically a belief in the Aristotelian God. He stated that in keeping his lifelong commitment to go where the evidence leads, he now believed in the existence of a god.
“It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.”
“I now believe there is a God…I now think it [the evidence] does point to a creative Intelligence almost entirely because of the DNA investigations. What I think the DNA material has done is that it has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which which are needed to produce life, that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements to work together.”
“…we have all the evidence we need in our immediate experience and that only a deliberate refusal to “look” is responsible for atheism of any variety.”
-Antony Flew (‘There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.’) Continue reading
Mark Dever – From the 2014 SEBTS 9Marks Conference:
Speakers gather together to discuss topics explored in Mark Dever’s message: