A4G Article I

Following my series on the Introduction to the T4G statement (see 42: A4G: Summary of Introduction) I am now starting on the individual articles. So here are my thoughts on Article I of the T4G statement.

T4G Article I

We affirm that the sole authority for the Church is the Bible, verbally inspired, inerrant, infallible, and totally sufficient and trustworthy.

We deny that the Bible is a mere witness to the divine revelation, or that any portion of Scripture is marked by error or the effects of human sinfulness.

I want to start by comparing this to other statements on the authority of the Bible.

Evangelical Alliance:

The divine inspiration and supreme authority of the Old and New
Testament Scriptures, which are the written Word of God—fully
trustworthy for faith and conduct.

Roman Catholic Church

134 "All Sacred Scripture is but one book, and that one book is Christ, because all divine Scripture speaks of Christ, and all divine Scripture is fulfilled in Christ" (Hugh of St. Victor, De arca Noe 2, 8: PL 176, 642).

135 "The Sacred Scriptures contain the Word of God and, because they are inspired, they are truly the Word of God" (DV 24).

136 God is the author of Sacred Scripture because he inspired its human authors; he acts in them and by means of them. He thus gives assurance that their writings teach without error his saving truth (cf DV 11).

137 Interpretation of the inspired Scripture must be attentive above all to what God wants to reveal through the sacred authors for our salvation. What comes from the Spirit is not fully "understood except by the Spirit’s action’ (cf. Origen, Hom. in Ex. 4, 5: PG 12, 320).

From part of the Catechism.

As we look at the spectrums of both Christianity and Evangelicalism over history it appears to me that the T4G statement is an attempt by fundamentalist groups to redefine the authority of scripture to exclude other views. In the first paragraph the phrase "verbally inspired, inerrant, infallible" is problematical, especially given that the newly updated Evangelical Alliance statement of faith does not   include any of these.

Claims that a belief in inerrancy are a problem. I linked to discussions on this before (see 42: Series on Inerrancy). I have no problem if some Christians wish to believe this. However, I have a huge problem with saying that this is a required belief.

The first half of the second paragraph "We deny that the Bible is a mere witness to the divine revelation" is fine, no problem with that.

But the second part "or
that any portion of Scripture is marked by error or the effects of
human sinfulness." seems to be repeating the inerrant view. But what Bible is it talking about? Without any original orthographs this can never be proved so it seems odd to state it as a requirement. The statement by the Evangelical Alliance is far better here "fully
trustworthy for faith and conduct".

So for the Altogether for the Gospel version of this statement I am personally happy to accept the statement from the Evangelical Alliance, rather than inventing my own. So my Article I becomes

We affirm the divine inspiration and supreme authority of the Old and New
Testament Scriptures, which are the written Word of God—fully
trustworthy for faith and conduct.

I would particularly welcome feedback from a variety of traditions including Roman Catholic and Orthodox on the acceptability of this statement.

16 thoughts on “A4G Article I

  1. Mathew Sims

    Dave,
    I have appreciated your perspective. Coming from someone (me) who is mostly in agreement with these articles, it is important to understand where other Christians might disagree.
    But, to the point, the issue of “verbally inspired, inerrant, infallible” is important because the Scripture claims these things for itself. Of course, no one would claim each and every copy we have today is thus, but the originals when they were written had this quality.
    The statement you have made (or recorded) clarifies the issue and is very helpful–”fully trustworthy for faith and conduct.” How can we have confidence in a Bible where there are seeming differences in MSS? The Bible could not be “fully trustworthy for faith and conduct” if they were not originally “verbally inspired, inerrant, infallible.”
    Thanks again for the thoughts and clarifications! Great job!

    Reply
  2. DaveW

    Matthew,
    I don’t think Scripture does claim to be “verbally inspired, inerrant, infallible” in the way that modern fundamentalists (not meant in a derogatory sense but in terms of their view of scripture) mean.
    For example consider 2 Tim 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”.
    a) We need to consider what made up scripture at the time this letter was written, after all it is almost certain that this is not the last book of what we understand to be the New Testament to be written. It is also quite likely that Paul did not have access to the whole of what we consider the Old Testament. Obviously the New Testament cannot have been available as a collection at the time 2 Timothy was being written (Chicken and Egg question).
    b) Verbally Inspired is an interpretation of God-breathed. It is not the only interpretation and the fundamentalist view of that is not historically common.
    c) It is another interpretation that takes “useful” to mean inerrant and infallible.
    Notice that I am not saying that fundamentalism is inherently wrong, I am saying that it is one interpretation (and historically it is a recent interpretation). It is not an interpretation I hold and I am concerned that it can result in misusing and misunderstanding Scripture as it tends to be too literal and miss important metaphors etc. In my own experience of fundamentalism I have frequently found it arrogant, legalistic, judgemental and lacking in love. It frequently over emphasises proof texts and ignores the life, example and teaching of Christ.
    Of course there are also dangers in other interpretations of scripture, I would not try to pretend that fundamentalism is all wrong and other interpretations all good.
    Remember that I am just as uncomfortable with views of Scripture which consider it “just a good book” and where it is not taken as the final authority for faith and conduct. I spent over 9 years working for the United Bible Societies because of the value, importance and authority I give to scripture.
    Sadly, it seems nuance as a concept escapes many fundamentalists and I have met many who do not realise that it is possible to be very serious about the authority of scripture without also accepting inerrancy.

    Reply
  3. Pam

    Matthew: I’d really like to understand why the bible could not be fully trustworthy if not orginally ‘verbally inspired, inerrant and infallible’.
    That is a serious and most genuine question.
    It seems to me that this statement often gets thrown out there as something that is blatently obvious but it’s never unpacked. There are loads of us who simply don’t understand how not being any of those things makes the bible unreliable. It really needs unpacking, I think.

    Reply
  4. Mathew Sims

    Dave & Pam,
    I again have been encouraged by the discussion here and also am weighing and giving great thought to what is being said.
    I think what Pam has requested is not fair but reasonable. “It seems to me that this statement often gets thrown out there as something that is blatently obvious but it’s never unpacked. There are loads of us who simply don’t understand how not being any of those things makes the bible unreliable. It really needs unpacking, I think.”
    I am currently heading off to sleep for the night, and I think to explain what is meant fully deserves more justice than a few sentences in the comment section, so I will post something on my blog that will answer that question Thursday/Friday and will leave a comment here to let you know it’s been done if you are interested in understand how from the Scripture I can make that assertion…
    Thanks guys and gals!
    MBSims~Soli Deo Gloria

    Reply
  5. Pam

    Matthew, I apologise if you think my question is unfair.
    If inerrantists want to convert us non-inerrantists to inerrantism, then I think you (plural) need a way to communicate why you think that is so.
    This was not meant to be a ‘trick question’; it was actually meant to be a genuine question.
    I shall try to remember to read your answer on your blog. (It’s a rather heavy fortnight at the moment. Failure to remember will be entirely my fault.)

    Reply
  6. Mathew Sims

    Pam,
    Talk about a heavy fortnight. My sentence should have read: “I think what Pam has requested is not only fair but reasonable.”
    Thank you for the gracious response when you thought I said your request was not fair=)
    Grace and Peace,
    MBS
    Soli Deo Gloria

    Reply
  7. Mathew Sims

    Dave and Pam,
    Alrighty, well I have attempted to answer some of the questions which were raised. It is not comprehensive by any means, but check it out…www.UnderSovereignGrace.com

    Reply
  8. Pam

    Matthew:
    You’re welcome regarding my ‘graciousness’ *blush*. I can’t remember the last time someone complimented me so fulsomely for common courtesy. I have no desire to be ungracious. I expect we’ll both leave our conversations still disagreeing with each other but what is important, I think, is that we have tried to hear and understand each other. From experience, I may exasperate you but I will never knowingly try to insult or anger you.
    Thanks for your reply on your blog which shows an incredible amount of effort for which I am appreciative. I tried to leave an answer there and just kept getting the ‘letter scramble’ over and over (and I *know* I didn’t make that many mistakes).
    I feel bad for you having done so much work on my behalf and your answer flags up for me another part of the chasm between us. Your argument is internally consistent but it uses its own hermeneutic to ‘prove’ its hermeneutic. Or so it seems to me; if I’ve missed something, please point it out. It reads well (I think, not being an expert in that hermenutic) as a way to prove to the ‘in group’ why you hold your view but you need another way in for those of us in the ‘out group’. i don’t know if that makes sense.
    I’m assuming that, as an inerrantist, you’d think my hermenutic would render Scripture as ‘unreliable’. Whereas I see scripture as reliable. So I guess I’m basically asking why do you think my view makes scripture unreliable and why you do think your view is necessary for Scripture to be reliable?
    I hope my question makes sense.

    Reply
  9. Mathew Sims

    Pam,
    Personally and I’m convinced from Scripture that the Bible originally is without error. It is important because how can I trust what the Bible says about salvation and about sanctification and about anything if God when He inspired the Scriptures inspired things that were incorrect.
    Now I do want to point out that again I do not believe that all the MSS or copies today are without error. If God could not ensure that the document that communicated to man the most important facts about Himself how can we trust what he says?
    How would you argue (if God did not originally provide an error free testimony to His mercy and grace) that His Word is trustworthy in any respect?
    I have not personally interacted with many people who hold your position so I am not even sure what your argument may be.
    MBS~Soli Deo Gloria

    Reply
  10. DaveW

    Matthew:
    “The whole concept that the Bible is the LITERAL word of God. The Bible is God’s TRUTH.
    Things can be true without being factual.” from Methodist Blogger Profile: Conrad Harvin.
    I suppose this summarises a lot of thinking. The Bible is not a literal historical history book (in a modernist understanding of history). A key problem with fundamentalism is attempting to equate historical fact with truth and reliability.

    Reply
  11. Pam

    Matthew:
    Can I just preface my answer with the comment that I’m not expecting you to agree with what I say, I’m only explaining my point of view so that you might begin understand how I think.
    I believe that God inspired the Jewish and Christian fathers in the same way that he inspires Christians today. That means that what those people thought they heard required discernment on both their part as individuals and on the part of God’s faithful people as a corporate body.
    I believe that the canon of scripture is the canon of scripture because the books that are included in the canon stand the test of that sort of discernment, not just of one person or one time, but of the church down through the ages.
    I don’t believe that the bible is a book of detailed instructions to all people for all time so I don’t think we can ‘cut and past’ bible passages from different books of the bible to make an argument.
    I think that each book has to be read first and foremost for what its own internal intention was – say, a history of Israel or a letter to a particular church. Then the church today can consider “What was the meaning – as far as we can tell it – for those for whom this book of the bible was originally meant; and how might that message have meaning for the church today?”
    I think that one fundamental problem for our disagreement would be that, even using your hermeneutic, I don’t think that there are any passages in the bible that directly state that the bible is verbally inspired or inerrant. I think those views are eisegesis – reading an idea into the text rather than out of it.

    Reply
  12. Mathew Sims

    Dave,
    If something is factual, wouldn’t you be saying the facts reported are being reported truthfully? That seems a bit like double talk.
    Pam,
    Thank you for the response. If the “inspiration” of yesterday is the same of today then can there be additions to the canon?
    You also said the Bible is not “a book of detailed instructions,” but did not Solomon advice us to seek wisdom and instruction? Also, Paul says the Scriptures are beneficial for instruction? If they are not primarily instucting us (i.e., humans) on how to relate to God then what are they good for?
    Furthermore, how can you be sure you are “saved” or how can I be sure? What if my picture of God is all wrong b/c the book I am reading to learn about God is all wrong?
    I agree with you here: “I think that each book has to be read first and foremost for what its own internal intention was – say, a history of Israel or a letter to a particular church. Then the church today can consider ‘What was the meaning – as far as we can tell it – for those for whom this book of the bible was originally meant; and how might that message have meaning for the church today?’” We cannot rightly interpret and apply Scripture unless we can answer these questions, but the truth Paul spoke was meant, I believe, to guide us. If they were only meant to give instruction to the original recepients then how much better are they than say the Didache? or the Letters of Clement?
    Last, Would you mind if I posted our conversation here on my blog? My intention is to place our dialogue in full in a post without commentary. Let me know if I have your permission.
    MBS~Soli Deo Gloria
    http://www.UnderSovereignGrace.Blogspot.com

    Reply
  13. Pam

    Matthew: Why don’t you copy the posts over to your blog first and then I’ll pick up there? I’m assuming I’ll be able to post there and that the other thing was just a temporary glitch.

    Reply
  14. Mathew Sims

    Pam,
    OK! I have transfered most of the conversation over there, so add on whenever. The Word verification is a little nit picky with blogspot. So who knows…
    MBS

    Reply

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