THE RECENT DEBATE OVER INERRANCY
As one who has loosely been involved, primarily in the background, with some of the debates going on within evangelicalism these days, and someone who is friends with people on both sides of all camps involved in these debates, I feel it is time to make some statements about these issues. I simply cannot wait any longer.
There is a particular debate that I wish to discuss briefly; however, not necessarily the contents of the debate itself. Rather I wish to discuss the imminent need to be cordial to one another and to press on toward unity in the midst of diversity in all things unessential for the sake of Christendom. I wish to briefly discuss the Licona/Geisler debate regarding the Matthew passage on the resurrection. This is a serious issue: some might even say and essential issue regarding the inerrancy of the Bible. It is nevertheless not regarding the resurrection of Jesus Himself, but rather the resurrection of the saints. Even if we were Catholic this still would not be an essential doctrine issue. I wish to make everyone aware of that. Even in his pamphlet from Rose publishing on the essential doctrine of the faith titled “Essential Doctrine made Easy: Key Christian Beliefs,” Dr. Geisler does not mention the inerrancy of the Bible as one of the 16 essentials of the faith. Now before continuing let me just say that Dr. Geisler is a good friend of mine, and I am certainly not ridiculing him in any way nor am I ridiculing Dr. Licona. The point I am simply trying to make here is that if it is not essential doctrine we are to strive to maintain unity within the body of Christ. While it is true that the inspiration of Scripture is a necessary essential doctrine of Christianity, inerrancy is a different story. While I believe in full inerrancy as depicted in the in 1987 Chicago Statement of Faith drafted by Dr. Geisler, R.C. Sproul, J.I. Packer, and many others, there are some Christians who disagree on this issue and have a different view of what inerrancy means. We must be careful not to simply appeal to the Chicago Statement of Faith or anything else for an “end all” type of argument. To do so is nothing more than the logical fallacy of appeal to authority, and the only way such a fallacy is no longer really a fallacy is if you are appealing directly to God Himself. It is crucial that when arguing about nonessentials such as this we come up with the best arguments that we can both from within the Bible and from without - after all, all truth is God’s truth as they say - and go from there and make our decisions based on that information. I would imagine that Dr. Licona would not truly want Dr. Geisler to accept his position if Dr. Geisler does not truly believe his position. That would be tantamount to asking Dr. Geisler to believe what he believes to be an untruth, which is simply unacceptable. Also I would imagine that the same thing is true for Dr. Geisler regarding Dr. Licona’s position. So, let us be clear on what the essentials are and what the essentials are not. While we do not have time to go into them here, it can be said at least that the essentials are that which are clearly portrayed in the Bible. It is possible to consider the inerrancy of the Bible in a general sense as an essential doctrine. Nevertheless the interpretation of what that concept truly entails is a nonessential, for the very reason that the definition of inerrancy is not expressly stated in Scripture. To be 100% true as an ancient document is one thing, but in what sense the words are meant to be true, such as as hyperbole, as historical fact, as metaphor, as analogy, or whatever else the case may be, that is open to interpretive debate. This is why we have the area biblical hermeneutics as a theological discipline.
Above all, let us be cordial to one another regardless of the issues, showing love and respect for one another especially to those who are fellow believers. Also, let us be careful in not debating the nonessentials as if they were essentials, and thus clarify what we mean when we say things like “inerrancy,” realizing that someone else may have another equally legitimate definition. Just because a hundred or 10,000 or even 100,000 people, or even everyone on the planet agrees with something in particular such as a definition of inerrancy does not make it the case. That is tantamount to argumentum ad populum, or appeal to popular opinion, which is yet another logical fallacy.
Let it also be stated that Dr. Licona is somewhat of a friend of mine through Facebook, and I am also going to meet him in person this weekend in Kearney, Nebraska, which I am very much looking forward to. He is an excellent apologist and from what I hear a really nice guy, as is Dr. Geisler whom I have known for the last four or five years. The bottom line is that we all have our issues in life, our struggles, our downfalls, and the Scriptures tell us to “bear each other’s burdens,” not to belittle each other because of those burdens. Please remember that!
[Content in blogs does not necessarily represent Ratio Christi's views. Details here.]