Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
At last year’s Theology Conference we addressed the important theme of the The Doctrine of the Scriptures.
We focused on this vital doctrine for two reasons. First, God’s Word is perpetually being questioned, undermined and denied, and it has been so since the fall (Gen. 3:1). This means every generation must affirm and reaffirm the truth of the inerrancy, sufficiency and authority of God’s Word. We desired to learn and relearn these truths and corporately affirm them. Second, in addition to reaffirming these truths, we also needed to hear the specific ways these truths are being questioned so that we can respond to them and equip God’s people to do so as well. Giving twenty-five year old answers to contemporary questions is not sufficient. The answers may be the same, but the manner in which you move from the question to the answer may not be.
One of the key objectors to the inerrancy of the Scriptures is Peter Enns. He taught at Westminster Theological Seminary for many years. Enns no longer affirms inerrancy and no longer teaches at Westminster. He has also become a vocal critic of Evangelicalism and its view of the inerrancy of the Bible. He works tirelessly to criticize and condemn this truth he once embraced and taught. Often former adherents of a view become some of the strongest proponents against the view. This is largely true, I believe, of Enns.
One of the ways Enns has done this is through his writing. Last year he wrote a series on the inerrancy of the Bible in which he and others wrote about their “aha” moments when they realized the Scriptures presented such a problem that they simply could no longer affirm its inerrancy. Enns began the series with this post: “I was always taught the Bible says X, but I just don’t see it”
I have known many people, and heard of many others, who have come from conservative or moderately conservative backgrounds and whose earlier paradigms have been seriously challenged by the simply process of paying attention to scripture in context–whether the immediate literary context or the historical context. This is especially true of those who have done higher level academic work outside of evangelicalism and fundamentalism, but is by no means restricted to this group.
Why does this happen?
I think it’s because scripture doesn’t line up very well with the conservative paradigm of scripture (some form of inerrancy). That’s why the paradigm needs constant tending and vigilant defending in order to survive.
I mean, there’s a reason why Carey’s phenomenon keeps rearing its head generation after generation. It’s not (as I hear far too often) that the offenders are intellectually naive (or dimwitted) and have been duped or are too spiritually weak kneed to “hold on to the truth.”
The recurring unrest with conservative readings of scripture from within conservative circles suggests that the paradigm is flawed.
My plan over the coming weeks is to invite some biblical scholars from evangelical backgrounds to write about the issue(s) that brought them to reconsider the older paradigms they were taught, to let us in on their own “aha” moments that brought them to the brink of having to make a decision between staying put and moving on–and why they chose to move on.
Enns followed this by writing of his story/experience, “‘aha’ moments: biblical scholars tell their stories.” 17 others have shared their shift away from belief in the inerrancy of the Scriptures: John Byron, Daniel Kirk, Michael Pahl, Charles Halton, Christopher W. Skinner, Christopher M. Hays, Michael Ruffin, Anthony Le Donne, Chris Tilling, Chris Keith, Megan DeFranza, Carlos Bovell, Lindsey Trozzo, anonymous, Jeannine Brown, Michael Halcomb, Rob Dalrymple
I include the links not because I agree with them, but because I believe it is important we hear from them. I find when I read of these shifts away from the inerrancy of the Bible they ring hollow. It is helpful to hear the reasons, but as I study are restudy these issues I find it strengthens my understanding of and commitment to the inspired, inerrant, sufficient and authoritative Word of God. It is also important to hear these reasons because others will also hear them, which will raise questions, so we must be prepared to respond.
Michael Kruger is one of those who has done just that, and he has done it publicly so we can learn of some of the responses to the objections. Kruger followed with a series of his own responding to those who changed their views of inerrancy: Does the Bible Ever Get it Wrong? Facing Scriptures’ Difficult Passages
Peter Enns has recently invited a number of Christian scholars to blog on his website who have come to believe that the Scriptures contain historical mistakes or errors. The series is called “Aha Moments: Biblical Scholars Tell Their Stories” and is (largely) written by scholars whose beliefs about the Bible had changed after they realized that, at least at some points, the Scriptures were simply mistaken.
No doubt Enns’ new blog series has resonated with many folks who have qualms about the difficult passages in Scripture. But, I think it is important for these same folks to know that there are other Christian scholars who think there are reasonable answers to some of these difficult historical issues. These scholars have studied at major universities, have been introduced to the same critical problems, but have reached different conclusions about the truthfulness of Scripture.
Thus, I am beginning a new series here at Canon Fodder where I invite evangelical scholars to respond to some of the critical issues raised in Pete Enns’ “Aha moments” series. Scholars who have agreed to participate include Craig Blomberg, Greg Beale, Darrell Bock, Andreas Köstenberger, and Don Carson. Other names will be added as we go along.
In addition to Kruger’s initial post, five others have responded to key issues related to the biblical text, none of which undermine the inerrancy and authority of the Bible: Greg Beale, Craig Blomberg, Darrell Bock, Andreas Kostenberger and John Currid.
I encourage you to read, learn and live, for we live truly live “by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).