Warfield, great guy and all, but he worked backwards as well

When you start with a conclusion, something like ‘The bible is the Word of God,’ and attempt to defend it, you are working backwards. Now, some ignorantly say that this is an ad hom, but in reality, it is a reasonable statement. Indeed, presuppositionalism leads one to start working backwards from a set conclusion, dismissing anything that gets in its way.

Note what Warfield does for the word θεοπνευστον. He doesn’t explore the meaning but instead, assigns a meaning delivered to him by others and then defends it. This is a conclusion at the beginning. As I’ve noted earlier, Warfield was one to do this quite often. Anyway, he concludes, in part,

That the words of Scripture are conceived, not only in Hebrews but throughout the New Testament, as the utterances of the Holy Ghost is obvious enough and not to be denied. But it is equally obvious that the ground of this conception is everywhere the ascription of these words to the Holy Ghost as their responsible author: littera scripta manet and remains what it was when written, viz., the words of the writer.

Of course, Scripture doesn’t actually say this. When it speaks to the issue of authorship, it says the opposite, but that doesn’t stop people from having to grasp at straws.

Many point to the Church Fathers as believing in inerrancy (among other things), but that is simply false. While the way to this is usually through subjective reading, the fact remains, that many early Christians saw contradictions, saw problems, issues, etc… Where was the inspiration? The inspiration was in the message. When the Church interpreted it correctly, Scriptures had power.

Note this article,

The early Church also placed more emphasis on the message of scripture over actual words on pages. This is why early Christians almost unanimously read the Old Testament typologically (finding allegorical, hidden, references to Jesus and other New Testament truths), rather than only literally. St. Paul often read the scriptures this way (Galatians 4:21-31), as did the author of Hebrews. Most Church Fathers read the Old Testament this way (see the Epistle of Barnabas, written about 120 AD). Thus, early Christians were not so much concerned with the words per se, but rather with what the text told us about Jesus and the Christian faith. In this way, they often found multiple layers of meaning in the text, which of course included, but was not limited to, the literal one. Nonetheless, they had a high view of Scripture as uniquely divinely inspired and accurate writings. However, the Bible was never officially declared inerrant to the letter before the Reformation, and even then, it was declared as such in some Protestant denominations only. No early creed says one must believe the Bible is inerrant to the letter to be a true Christian.

The early Fathers held that the Bible was inerrant. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches affirm this as well. However, this is the case only when the Bible is properly understood, interpreted by the Church. This is inerrancy by ancient standards and not modern, fundamentalist standards. The early Fathers did not think that minor contradictions rendered the Bible errant, nor did they insist all stories were meant to be interpreted literally. For instance, the creation stories were often allegorized, interpreted in ways so as to prefigure Christ, or interpreted through the lens of the science of the day (or all three!). Thus St. Augustine could say each day in the Genesis creation story was equal to a thousand years, or that the science of the day should shape our understanding of the creation stories, without ever denying the divine inspiration of the Scriptures. So when a Catholic affirms the inerrancy of Scripture, the idea has far less baggage than the fundamentalist understanding.

Now, back to Plutarch and the use of that word. Unfortunately, too often people treat lexicons like they do secret codes. Words match words. This is why Thayers is better than Strong’s, if used correctly, because it seeks to give some usage of the word. Better is Louw-Nida,

 to a communication which has been inspired by God – ‘inspired by God, divinely inspired.’ πᾶσα γραφὴ θεόπνευστος καὶ ὠφέλιμος πρὸς διδασκαλίαν ‘every Scripture divinely inspired and useful for teaching’ or ‘all Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching’ 2 Tm 3.16. In a number of languages it is difficult to find an appropriate term to render ‘inspired.’ In some instances ‘Scripture inspired by God’ is rendered as ‘Scripture, the writer of which was influenced by God’ or ‘… guided by God.’ It is important, however, to avoid an expression which will mean only ‘dictated by God.’

The issue with the inerrancy debate is that inerrantists make Scripture an idol. They remove from it the sacredness of Scripture. Again, look at Plutarch. His use of this word is important because it shows us that an ancient author who used this word didn’t have the theological attachment to it that modern fundamentalists have.

Scripture is sacred, but it is not God. Simply because something comes from God, or by the power of God, doesn’t make it inerrant. Indeed, as with the removal of Moses’ body so that it didn’t become an idol, it is best to allow Scripture to be what it says it is – θεοπνευστον.

I would suggest that if one’s faith is actually strong, they will not need to improve upon Scripture. I don’t. I am done with this subject. I don’t understand the logic of working backwards….

Post By Joel Watts (10,085 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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