Inspiration, inerrancy, & Paris

The subjects of inspiration & inerrancy have been running through my mind lately. {“Well, at least they have plenty of space to roam.” –Shive}

Let’s say I was persuaded that the Bible is not fully inspired/inerrant because some passages, especially in the OT, run contrary to the Christian love ethic (see Psalm 109:6ff or 137:9). Consequently, some passages shouldn’t guide or inform the Christian life.

Then I see ISIS wreaking havoc in the Middle East and now in Paris. When innocents are being murdered can I pray for retributive justice on ISIS? Can I take my cue from Jesus’ teaching in Luke 18:7-8 and from John’s vision in Rev 6:10, or were they being too Old Testamenty in those passages?

How is one to know what he can & can’t pray?

A polite rejoinder for the preaching guru

youre-joking-rightWhat does a small-time pastor think when he hears that a big-time pastor has denigrated the practice of expository preaching?¹ I’m glad you asked.

Let’s break it down.

  1. Guys that preach verse-by-verse through books of the Bible– that is just cheating. I assume the cheating remark is somewhat tongue-in-cheek. As in “guys that preach verse-by-verse through books of the Bible write their sermons by cut-and-paste.” Give him the benefit of the doubt & move on.
  2. It’s cheating because that would be easy. This might seem counter-intuitive but expository preaching is actually harder than topical preaching. Topical preaching grants the preacher far more flexibility in selecting topics, creating his points, and finding Scripture to match. In contrast, the expository preacher is greatly constrained by the very Scripture he hopes to unleash. He must say what the text says (in its words & its intent) even as he tries to communicate it in a way that captures the hearts & minds of the people. Try doing that with Christ’s genealogy in Matthew 1 or the Melchizedek passage in Hebrews 7!
  3. That isn’t how you grow people. His confidence notwithstanding, this claim can only exist in a historical vacuum. Chrysostom? Calvin? Lloyd-Jones? Surely topical preachers don’t have the corner on Christian growth. What about Piper or Keller or Dever? But I digress. If you view expository preaching as little more than an academic exercise–read a verse, reference a Hebrew or Greek word, review various verb tenses–I suppose you’re right. It’s hard to grow people when you’re boring them to death (I speak from experience). But as D. A. Carson points out here, systematically preaching through Scripture shows your people how to read their Bibles and it gives them the chance to hear all that God has to say. Sounds like catalysts for growth.
  4. No one in the Scripture modeled that. There’s not one example of that. At best this is an argument from silence. Scripture is neither a sermon manual nor a sermon archive. How could anyone make such a claim? In fact, we do have examples of verse-by-verse preaching. Ezra & Co. preached through the Law (Neh 8:1-8). The author of Hebrews expounded the latter half of Psalm 95 (Heb 3:7-4:11). More examples could be offered but two is enough to make the point, especially when we’re told that none exist.

Walter Kaiser is credited with saying “I preach a topical sermon once every five years – then repent of it immediately!” May the Lord grant us more repentance.


¹verse-by-verse preaching isn’t necessarily expository preaching (and vice versa). But preaching “verse-by-verse through books of the Bible” often describes expository preaching which is what I think is happening here.

Jonathan Merritt (the author) has no biblical rationale for verbally spanking Jonathan Merritt (the parent)

According to the latest article from The Other Merritt (TOM), I’m “hell-bent on hitting” my kids— and without any moral rationale.

I assume most unenlightened (i.e. conservative) Christians found TOM’s article objectionable on a number of fronts. For my part I can deal with the condescending attitude; the categorical association of spanking with hitting, beating, slapping, and violence; and the arrogant presumption that I can’t be trusted if I claim to spank “compassionately & rarely.” The enlightened progressives castigate the unenlightened conservatives. {Yawn}

However, I was shocked to read that my rationale for spanking rests on a one word in one verse (Prov 13:24) whose interpretation is authenticated by one author in one theological journal—The New York Times. {Now I’m awake}

If TOM had spent as much time investigating Scripture as he did gleaning the immutable truths of sociology he might have discovered that the issue is more complex than a one-off proof text. Maybe he’d have learned:

1) that the Hebrew word shebet, translated as rod in Prov 13:24, occurs approximately 190x in the OT and w/ two meanings: (i) rod, staff, club, scepter and (ii) tribe

2) that the very first entry for shebet in the Brown-Driver-Briggs lexicon reads “rod, staff (evidently common article), for smiting [emphasis added]

3) that shebet occurs 8x in Proverbs and one is hard-pressed to find any shepherding metaphor let alone the sense that the rod is for verbal(?) guidance/discipline

Proverbs 10:13 On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense.

Proverbs 13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

Proverbs 22:8 Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail.

Proverbs 22:15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

Proverbs 23:13 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.

Proverbs 23:14 If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.

Proverbs 26:3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools.

Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

4) that multiple times the Lord himself uses a shebet to do more than coax & nudge little lambs

2 Samuel 7:14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men

Psalm 89:32 then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes

Isaiah 10:5 Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury!

I don’t know TOM but I’d wager he’s a decent guy (they don’t hand out the Merritt surname to just anyone!). I’m sure that he’s written many pieces where deadlines & a lack of available sources don’t permit him to investigate as thoroughly as he’d like.

But speaking as a parent who believes he has a biblical (and moral) rationale for spanking, maybe he could spare me the condescension until he does a little more homework.

Inadvertently renovating a house of cards with new cards

NOTE: The video which is the subject of this post is no longer available.

  We affirm that a confession of the full authority, infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture is vital to a sound understanding of the whole of the Christian faith. We further affirm that such confession should lead to increasing conformity to the image of Christ.
     We deny that such confession is necessary for salvation. However, we further deny that inerrancy can be rejected without grave consequences, both to the individual and to the Church.                                                                                         The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, art. XIX [emphasis added]

(ht: Here I Blog)

Yesterday (or the day before?) I was having a back-and-forth with a good friend on a Carl Trueman article which takes Stanley to task for “erroneous thinking” on the relationship between culture & Christian ministry. Today someone passed along the link to the video you see above. Some brief remarks on the video:

1. Affirming the inerrancy/infallibility of Scripture is not necessary for salvation. Denying that the Bible is without error won’t keep you out of the kingdom but it will affect your seating in the kingdom. {relax, that last bit is a joke}

2. Adherence to young earth creationism is not necessary for salvation [nor is it necessary to uphold the inerrancy of Scripture]. I fully expect to see theistic evolutionists in glory although I suspect it’ll be hard to spot them so far back in the crowd. {again, a joke}

3. I think Stanley is right on his basic premise: our faith is about dealing with Jesus Christ not the infallibility of Scripture. However, his explanation of the premise seems to create more problems than it resolves. My friend, who is far more familiar with Stanley than I am, says that this is consistent with Stanley’s apologetic approach to skeptics: start w/ Jesus’ death/burial/resurrection & allow faith in Christ to clear any other hurdles in Scripture. All fine and good. The game plan is good as far as that goes but the details of the execution strike me as odd:

(a) Believe in Adam & Eve not because it says so in the Bible but because Jesus talks about A & E in the gospels. This is self-contradicting unless you see a distinction between the gospels and the rest of the Bible. Are the gospel books (of the Bible) more reliable than the other 62 books (of the Bible)? [Even if Stanley just meant to contrast the gospels to Genesis the question still stands–why are the gospels any more trustworthy than Genesis?]

(b) Believe in Adam & Eve not because Genesis states their existence but because Jesus believed they existed. But didn’t Jesus believed the Genesis account–and he did (Mat 19:4-5)–shouldn’t I believe it, too?

(c) If Jesus can predict his own death & resurrection and pull it off, he can be trusted when he speaks about A & E. But how do I know Jesus predicted his death/resurrection? Isn’t it because it’s recorded in the Bible? How do I trust Jesus without trusting the Bible?

Whether or not Stanley has successfully cut the Gordian knot on this one you can decide for yourself. Like Jesus, I think Stanley isn’t keen on entertaining pointless arguments that obscure the heart issue. I get that. I’m uncomfortable with the explanations more than the approach. I just want to be careful to cut through the fog without fraying the tie between Christ & the Scriptures (Luke 24:25-27, 44-46; Jn 5:39; 1Cor 15:3-4).

No, our faith doesn’t stand on the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. But we can be too clever for our own good. Even when we try to set Jesus above his Word.

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