A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar

The Error of Biblical Inerrancy

October 07, 2022 Randy Knie & Kyle Whitaker Season 3 Episode 6
The Error of Biblical Inerrancy
A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar
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A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar
The Error of Biblical Inerrancy
Oct 07, 2022 Season 3 Episode 6
Randy Knie & Kyle Whitaker

Sometimes it's appropriate to carefully weigh all sides of an issue, patiently sorting through reasons, listening to perspectives, and respectfully dialoging with people who believe differently. We spend most of our time on this podcast trying to commend and practice that sort of thing. On the other hand, sometimes ideas are just bad, and it's appropriate to say when something is dumb or harmful and move on. As Qohelet of Ecclesiastes might say, there's a time for argument, and a time for derision. You're gonna get a little more of the second thing in this episode.

We tackle the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, the 20th century invention of white American evangelical men, which holds that the Bible is without error in the original manuscripts. We discuss where the view comes from, what seems to motivate it, the most prominent version of it accepted by contemporary evangelicals (the "Chicago Statement"), the influence it's had, and why we think it's hopelessly misguided. Towards the end we also discuss the similarities between inerrancy and originalism about the American constitution. Just to make sure we piss off as many people as possible.

Some of the resources mentioned or discussed in the conversation are:

The beverage featured in the episode is Laphroaig 10 Year Scotch.

The beverage tasting is at 2:26. To skip to the main segment, go to 6:00.

You can find the transcript for this episode here.

Content note: this episode contains profanity. We couldn't help it.

=====

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Cheers!

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Sometimes it's appropriate to carefully weigh all sides of an issue, patiently sorting through reasons, listening to perspectives, and respectfully dialoging with people who believe differently. We spend most of our time on this podcast trying to commend and practice that sort of thing. On the other hand, sometimes ideas are just bad, and it's appropriate to say when something is dumb or harmful and move on. As Qohelet of Ecclesiastes might say, there's a time for argument, and a time for derision. You're gonna get a little more of the second thing in this episode.

We tackle the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, the 20th century invention of white American evangelical men, which holds that the Bible is without error in the original manuscripts. We discuss where the view comes from, what seems to motivate it, the most prominent version of it accepted by contemporary evangelicals (the "Chicago Statement"), the influence it's had, and why we think it's hopelessly misguided. Towards the end we also discuss the similarities between inerrancy and originalism about the American constitution. Just to make sure we piss off as many people as possible.

Some of the resources mentioned or discussed in the conversation are:

The beverage featured in the episode is Laphroaig 10 Year Scotch.

The beverage tasting is at 2:26. To skip to the main segment, go to 6:00.

You can find the transcript for this episode here.

Content note: this episode contains profanity. We couldn't help it.

=====

Want to support us?

The best way is to subscribe to our Patreon. Annual memberships are available for a 10% discount.

If you'd rather make a one-time donation, you can contribute through our PayPal.


Other important info:

  • Rate & review us on Apple & Spotify
  • Follow us on social media at @PPWBPodcast
  • Watch & comment on YouTube
  • Email us at pastorandphilosopher@gmail.com

Cheers!

Kyle:

So in this episode, we're gonna shit on inerrancy. It's just gonna be like an hour of all the things we hate about the doctrine of inerrancy.

Randy:

That's an hour well spent right there.

Elliot:

You were wondering what your faith journey needed next. Here it is.

Kyle:

That's what it was.

Randy:

I've got nothing.

Elliot:

Yeah, cue the theme music. Just let that sit for a minute.

Kyle:

So we've done a couple episodes on the Bible in the past. If you haven't heard those, maybe pause this and go listen to those first; they would follow this fine too. But one of the things that came up in the first episode that we did on the Bible, but we just kind of briefly skirted over it, was the doctrine of inerrancy. And if you didn't grow up evangelical, you might not have any idea what this means, but I'm guessing a lot of our listeners did grow up evangelical and so you probably have a pretty clear idea of what inerrancy is.

Randy:

Can you imagine not having knowledge of what inerrancy means? I mean what...

Kyle:

What a peaceful existence that would be.

Randy:

Seriously.

Kyle:

Just to have floated above all of that, how nice would that have been?

Randy:

Yeah.

Kyle:

Yeah. So we're going to talk in this episode, we're going to try to break down what the doctrine of inerrancy says--maybe you've never heard the word--it just means without error. And so lots of evangelicals, for some reasons we'll get into, think that the Bible simply can't be wrong.

Randy:

About anything.

Kyle:

Really about anything.

Randy:

Nothing.

Kyle:

And so we're gonna dive kind of deep into a particular statement on inerrancy that the evangelicals released back in the 70s that kind of defines, even to this day for a lot of evangelical scholars, what this doctrine is, and why it's important, and we're gonna tear it apart. So that's...

Randy:

I mean, when you said a thing, a statement that evangelicals released in the 70s, it made me think, can we just throw away everything evangelicals came up with from the 70s? I mean, like...

Kyle:

Yeah, if it happened prior to 9/11, it doesn't matter. Right? I think we can go more recent than that, if it's pre-COVID, does it, did it happen?

Randy:

Nice, nice.

Elliot:

After the Reformation, before COVID: just cut it out.

Kyle:

Well, that's what the evangelicals do. They just pretend the whole scholastic period never happened. so...

Randy:

Okay, let's get back on track. So we're talking about inerrancy. We're talking about our views of the Scripture. We're talking about, perhaps, what we think are healthy or unhealthier or ways of viewing and holding and approaching the scriptures. As we do on every episode, we're having a tasty beverage to accompany the conversation. So Kyle, what'd you bring for us?

Kyle:

So anytime you talk about something difficult or annoying, I think the best beverage to have in hand is scotch. And so I've brought us a scotch. It's one of my go to scotches; it's probably one you've had before, I'd be willing to bet. This is Laphroaig 10 year. Laphroaig is a really good example of Islay Scotch whisky. So the little island in the Hebrides off the western coast of Scotland, it's really known for intense peat and smoke, because they just have like tons and tons of naturally growing peat there, that they burn and dry out their malt. And so you get this really intense briny, seaweedy, oceany thing and then...

Randy:

Love it.

Kyle:

...a ton of smoke. And it's my favorite kind of whisky. My wife and I love it. We vacationed there and brought back several bottles. And Laphroaig is a very approachable example of that. But it will tell you right away if you like that style or not.

Randy:

Yep, I mean, as I smell it, the nose is just overwhelmed by peat and smoke. But one thing I have noticed is if I push through the peat and the smoke, there's other things there; I just need to try real hard to recognize them. Yeah, there is like rich, rich wood but also rich fruit in there behind all the smoke. It's just blasted by smoke. So here I'm gonna try it.

Kyle:

You say leather a lot. I get a lot of leather in this, more than most bourbons I get.

Elliot:

I love it.

Randy:

See, this is nice.

Elliot:

Yeah.

Randy:

You love it, you say?

Elliot:

Yeah, yeah.

Randy:

This is nice. This is, it doesn't blast me with peat.

Kyle:

No.

Randy:

It's very present obviously, but it doesn't just completely blast me and make it unapproachable.

Kyle:

I think this is a good entry if you don't know if you're gonna like that, this is probably the bottle you should pick up. Because it's young enough and 43%, so it's not quite, you know, it's not gonna blow you over anything with its ABV, that if you, if you've had some Highlands or something like that, and you think yeah, I want to try some some stronger stuff, this is a good bottle to start with. It's, it's like perfect, sit by a campfire, let the smoke fill your throat.

Randy:

It really is. It really is. I mean it's, it's smoky, peaty, but it's also sweet. I can taste grains in the, in the back there, and it makes me desperately want, like you said, a campfire and a cigar. Yeah. The sweetness is like clover honey. It's just a soothing drink. Yep. But you have to work hard if you're not used to scotches, in particular peaty scotches, to get just beyond that big blast of smoke and leather and, and peat, right?

Kyle:

I think there's a percentage of people who just love it immediately.

Randy:

I'm not one of em.

Kyle:

I was that, but I think most people have to work, work for it.

Randy:

Yeah.

Kyle:

But it's worth it. Do it.

Randy:

I'm trying.

Elliot:

Well, that's why scotch is best had by a campfire. Maybe that's even at first, you get, get yourself in a setting where there's a lot of smoke and a lot of big flavors, and then that can help you find the nuance that's behind that and enjoy it as a part of a bigger multi-sensory experience. I feel like that's how I started with scotch, and it's, now It reminds me of that.

Kyle:

Yeah.

Elliot:

And I love it for it.

Randy:

Yeah, no, I mean, I think you're right, Kyle, this might be the perfect intro to Islays and to peated scotches because it, that 43%, it makes it so doesn't burn going down, which is unpleasant. It makes it so you can taste some of the nuances. And I taste more in this than any peated scotch I've ever had, I'll say.

Kyle:

Yeah, well, it's only up from here, at least as far as the bottles I have. So yeah, and if you're ever in Scotland, this is an excellent distillery tour. Probably the best I've ever experienced. Really fun.

Randy:

Can't wait. Have to do. All right. Well, one more time.

Kyle:

Laphroaig 10 year.

Randy:

Cheers.

Kyle:

Cheers.

Randy:

All right, Kyle. So inerrancy, you said we're gonna shit all over it. So what is inerrancy? Who believes it? Why talk about it?

Kyle:

We've got like five listeners right now who are like"They cuss on this podcast?"

Randy:

Yeah, sorry.

Kyle:

This episode has an "E" by it for a reason.

Randy:

Yeah. Already making that call huh?

Kyle:

Yeah, I just opened with it because I knew we were gonna get there.

Randy:

Yep. So bring us into the world of inerrancy.

Kyle:

Yeah. Okay. So in 1978, there was a group of 330 some biblical scholars who got together and formed what they called the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. So the idea was already floating...

Randy:

They weren't all biblical scholars, I want to say.

Kyle:

They weren't. So a lot of them were theologians. Some of them were biblical scholars.

Randy:

Some of them were church leaders.

Kyle:

Some of them were just kind of church leaders or just, like, popular writers. Like if you look at the list of signers, there's like a who's who of evangelicalism in the religious right at that time, which was kind of on its ascendancy at that time. So you've got people--I jotted some of them down here--so signers included Francis Schaeffer, of course. J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, Paige Patterson, who was kind of notorious in his role in the SBC, but also people like Josh McDowell...

Randy:

Not a scholar.

Kyle:

No. Just, you know, popular apologist. Norm Geisler, another scholar/apologist. John MacArthur, who we're all familiar with.

Randy:

Wannabe scholar.

Kyle:

My favorite on the list is Hal Lindsey.

Randy:

Not a scholar.

Kyle:

So, so all these people, and then a bunch you've never heard of. And a striking fact about them that I discovered researching for this is that 11 of them were not white dudes, out of 334, I think.

Randy:

Man, God bless the 1970s.

Kyle:

Yeah, there was one black guy.

Randy:

No big deal.

Kyle:

One. Yeah. And they let in five women somehow. I don't know if they just, like, got past whoever was paying attention to who was signing it or whatever. And that's not a joke, because there were three of these statements, the, the one on inerrancy was the first one. Second one was on hermeneutics, which I'm sure is a hoot. And the third one was on application. And that one is very explicit about the complementarian patriarchy stuff.

Randy:

Praise the Lord.

Kyle:

So how five women signed this I have no idea.

Randy:

Oh, there's, there's, whatever.

Kyle:

Yeah, it's probably like, yeah, I don't know who it was. Anyway.

Elliot:

Another episode.

Kyle:

Another, another episode, which we've probably done.

Randy:

Kristin Du Mez would tell us all the names.

Kyle:

I'm sure she, she probably...

Randy:

Maribelle, whatever her name is...

Kyle:

She probably has a really interesting history about all of them. So why are we talking about this statement? Because it more or less defines inerrancy for American evangelicals ever since, and I mean to this day.

Randy:

Yeah.

Kyle:

So, so we just had a conversation with somebody on the podcast, who I won't name but it'll be obvious if you're following along, who referenced this document as kind of a given, as a thing the church accepts, and didn't....

Randy:

Well he probably works at an institution that makes him sign an agreement that says...

Kyle:

Absolutely does.

Randy:

I affirm the 1978...

Kyle:

And I don't know if that particular institution requires that you affirm this particular statement, but a lot of them do.

Randy:

Yes.

Kyle:

So it's kind of a litmus test really, for are you a real evangelical?

Randy:

And that's what it was built to be. Let's be honest.

Kyle:

Yeah, exactly. And so that's called the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. And we're gonna go through that a little bit here in a minute. But the reason I think we should talk about inerrancy at least once on the show is because it is a stumbling block. It's something that, for one, it serves that role of like, group identity, if I question this, then I'm kind of leaving this thing that I've always been in because if you question inerrancy, you're out. Like, that's just always the way it's been. If you want to, like, get quickly shunted out the door of evangelicalism, publicly question inerrancy is the way to do it.

Randy:

Again, that's what it was built to do.

Kyle:

Exactly. And it does so very effectively. It's a shibboleth. But another important aspect of this, I think, is that it undergirds a lot of hangups that people have when they're questioning certain facets of evangelical orthodoxy. And holding onto it makes you jump through all sorts of weird, uncomfortable hoops, and letting go of it is so freeing. If you can just let go of it then suddenly things that seemed looming and important like, for example, creation and evolution, I mean, we could go through a whole list of things like that, like patriarchy, frankly. If you can see your way through letting go of inerrancy, a lot of that stuff becomes a lot easier. I won't say it automatically goes away, there are things you might have to sort through, but the stakes are immediately lowered, and you don't feel like you're just completely disrespecting the Bible and all of church history once you've let go of it.

Randy:

Yeah, I mean, I want to say that this modern unbiblical concept called inerrancy might be at the root of all the deconstruction happening around us. It might actually be the source of the discontent and the faith journeys that have been sideswiped. I think this idea of inerrancy was set up as a litmus test, but it actually turned into a stumbling block.

Kyle:

Yeah, I think that's true. Or at least, maybe we could say that the thing that motivated the doctrine of inerrancy is the thing that has caused all of the deconstruction to happen; they have a common source, I think. So did you read this statement on, statement...?

Randy:

It was delightful.

Kyle:

Did it, yeah. Did you drink while you were...?

Randy:

Nope.

Kyle:

Like, we could easily have a super long episode here, and I don't want to do that, because literally, there wasn't a line in it that I didn't have some issue with. And so I don't want to comb through all of them. But I think it's important because, again, this is a document that is to this day defended by evangelical scholars in various fields as being a good, reliable statement of what the doctrine of inerrancy is, and the way that you should understand the Bible. Not that long ago, Al Mohler was like talking about, you know, how this was the statement that got it all right, and whatever. So I think it's important to at least pick out some of the major themes of it and say why we think it's wrong, and then we can talk about inerrancy a little bit more broadly. Okay, so just what is inerrancy? Here's how this Chicago Statement defines it at the beginning. So they say,"Holy Scripture"--and again, this is 334 white dudes in the 70s--"Holy Scripture, being God's own word, written by men, prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches. It is to be believed as God's instruction in all that it affirms, obeyed as God's command in all that it requires, embraced as God's pledge in all that it promises." Now, they're automatically doing something super shady here. I don't know if you noticed what it was. So they're qualifying, because if you just come out the gate and say, look, the Bible is perfect, there are no problems, a sophomore in seminary is going to dismantle that in five minutes.

Randy:

Or a sophomore in high school.

Kyle:

Yeah, or sophomore in high school, right? Because there's some weird stuff in the Bible I don't know if you guys have been following along with our podcast, but like...

Randy:

Scary, scary stuff.

Kyle:

There's some stuff in there that you don't really have to be an expert to notice there are some tensions, there may be some outright contradictions, there are some things that God does that maybe don't suggest God is super loving and nice. There's all sorts of stuff in there that you would want to say, mm, maybe they didn't fully get that right. Maybe when they said that the sky was like a dome that stood on pillars, maybe that was wrong. Maybe that was a mistake. Maybe they were just, you know, absorbing what their culture thought, and we don't have to take that to be, you know, the truth or whatever. And so how do you get around stuff like that, and still say that the Bible doesn't have any errors in it? Well, it's easy, you just qualify everything you say. So you say it has authority--that's really important, we're gonna come back to that--but only when it is like directly asserting something, right? Only on matters that it touches on, as they say. Or you should believe what it says, but only when it affirms something. That gets pretty sticky. And you should obey it, but only in what it requires. And on and on and on and on and on, right? And then of course, you might have the question, well, how do I know what it affirms? How do I, how do I tell the difference between the parts where they're just saying something that their culture thought and something is actually being asserted for my belief? How do I know when I'm being commanded to do something? And the very strong implication of this statement is that the white men in evangelicalism will tell you. Don't worry your little head about it. We've got that covered in our third statement. Go read that, and we'll tell you. And literally at the end of that third statement--let me find this here because the quote is just, just delicious--they say, this is a direct quote at the end of their third statement, this is how they cap the whole thing off:"The 250 of us who have met at this summit believe that anyone who allows scripture to deliver its own message on these matters will end up approximately where we stand ourselves." And that's after laying out their very specific opinions on things like patriarchy and gender, gay people in the church, the church's relation to politics, and on and on and on, many other things, very specific views about what the Bible teaches about those things. And they think, you know, any thoughtful person who thinks about it and actually takes the Scripture at its word will agree with us. No big deal.

Randy:

Yeah. I mean they take, they take themselves as kind of a Protestant Vatican Council, right? Vatican II change things in the 60s for the Catholic faith in profound ways. They think they're doing that same way, or they think they're harkening back to the Nicene fathers or canonization of Scripture, right, like, we are divinely inspired in this moment to make these clarifying...

Kyle:

And you know, they pay lip service to this, you know, "we don't think we're actually divinely inspired, we don't expect you to take this as a creedal," they say, you know?

Randy:

It comes across as very authoritative.

Kyle:

But yeah, but then, but then they clearly expect at least the rest of the evangelicals to take it up no questions asked, or very few questions asked. Don't question the first principles. You can question maybe a little bit of vaguery here and there, but, but nothing about the basics. And yeah, if you reject it, you're probably liberal or Catholic or something, and you don't matter anyway. So like, in a way, they're going much further than the Catholics did, because at least the Catholics were willing to say, well, you should trust the Bible insofar as it tells you about salvation and your relationship to God. It's a trustworthy source for that. And if you question that, why even really be a Christian, right, in the first place?

Randy:

Sure.

Kyle:

But they're going so much further than that, right? They explicitly include creation, world history, science, they literally named the flood specifically. Like, they focus on all the things where American culture in 1978 had some stuff to say that made them uncomfortable, and so they need to find like, a biblical basis...yeah.

Randy:

We're drawing the lines here. We're building walls. If you don't believe in a literal flood, you can't be a Christian because then you don't believe in Jesus, it all falls apart, right? Like we've all heard the arguments.

Kyle:

Yeah. So that is, I mean, that's what you get in this statement, and this statement is very influential, okay, so I want to make that explicit. Lots of evangelical scholars still hold to this. But a lot of them will hold to a more nuanced or somewhat more sophisticated version of inerrancy that maybe is inspired by this, but doesn't take it quite to the same extremes. Some of them I've read about will publicly sort of pay lip service to the statement, but then in personal correspondence will not quite take it to the extremes and have a more looser, more sophisticated understanding of inerrancy.

Randy:

Perhaps because they work at an institution where they have to have a publicly affirming, you know, view of inerrancy.

Kyle:

Yeah. So, so I want to, you know, acknowledge there are evangelical scholars out there who hold some version of inerrancy that's a little more sophisticated and that will, that will be open to certain things in the text that might make you a little bit uncomfortable. They might even be open to saying that an author believed a false thing, and then that false thing made it into the text, but it wasn't, like, part of the really, like, core message of what was being said in that text, so it's not that big a deal. There are versions of inerrancy that you can kind of massage and get to that place. I want to say even those versions aren't helpful. And I'd like to talk a little bit about why that is, like, why thinking of the Bible in this way is actually not helpful even on the more sophisticated versions, and maybe a little bit about a better way to approach it. We've already kind of done that in our Bible episodes, so we don't need to spend a whole lot of time on it. But, so yeah, so Randy, what do you think about trying to find a version of inerrancy that is sophisticated, but then still holds on to this basic idea--because I think this is what motivates the whole thing--that if the Bible is going to be authoritative, it must also be inerrant? You get that right off the bat in this statement; it's peppered all the way throughout. It comes back to this authority thing over and over and over again; if the Bible is going to serve any kind of authoritative role in my life, or in the life of the church in general, it can't be wrong. So that's a huge part of it. And the reason I think it loses its authority is because it gets its authority from the idea that God inspired it. God is the author of the text, ultimately, right? And if it's wrong, then what good reason do we have to believe that God really is the author, because surely God couldn't be wrong, right? So if I'm going to think God inspired the text, and therefore the text is going to have some authority in my life--I should believe its ethic, for example, I should do what Jesus said was good, I should try to be like him, whatever--then I need to believe the text can't be wrong. That seems to be the, kind of the chain of reasoning here. So what do you, what do you think about that?

Randy:

I think inerrancy, the doctrine of inerrancy is a inappropriate, unnecessary overreaction to questions of authority on different levels. It's like what Stanley Hauerwas, when he was talking about sola scriptura as a Protestant heresy, and I would say, I think within the Protestant Catholic divide within the Reformation, they both went a little bit too far when it came down to authority. I think the Catholics went a little bit too far when it came down to the authority of the Pope and the inspiration of the Pope, and I think the Protestants went too far when it came to the authority and inerrancy if you will--even though the Reformers didn't have a concept of inerrancy--but if, just say authority of the scriptures, they went too far on that as well. And so I think what inerrancy is, is a product of putting too many eggs in the basket of the Bible. And I see the Bible as authoritative in my life; I see the Bible as being a huge part of my spirituality and my understanding and revelation of who God is. But I think, I think holding to doctrines like inerrancy is actually destructive rather than helpful for a faith journey that's going to last years, decades, a lifetime. I think inerrancy actually is antithetical to having a healthy view of the scriptures. It's just, it just doesn't work in real life. It sets you up to believe something that can't be true about an ancient text that's two thousand years old at the newest, and you know, four or five thousand years old at the, at the older, it just doesn't hold up, and it turns the Bible into, like you said, a Jenga tower. And I don't want a Bible that is that fragile. I don't want a sacred text that's that explainable, if you will. The scriptures are a messy, messy document. Like it's a library of 66 books, and there's a lot of messy stuff in there. And I don't think we have to explain that away. I don't think we have to avoid that. I think it's healthy to just name it.

Kyle:

Yeah.

Randy:

It's messy because this is how God has chosen to work through history, is through his broken, flawed people. It's through human beings who see dimly, through a glass half blah, blah, blah, all the Scripture quotes. But God chooses to work through humanity, he chooses to work through me, and I'm a, I'm a messed up dude in many ways. And it's the wonder of that, that God chooses not to just drop down this pristine inerrant document from the heavens Joseph Smith style, if you will, but actually just says, I'm just going to encounter you in ways and you're going to get it wrong sometimes, and you're going to be processing and looking back and be figuring things out. I think that's a lot of what the Old Testament is, is a people, a lot of the Old Testament was written post-exile in the Second Temple Judaism, which is like the most important era for Judaism, because that's when all of the scripts, most of the scriptures get written down, they have this cultural identity. But a lot of the scriptures or writing of the Old Testament is the ancient Jewish people looking back on how did we get here? How did we get to Babylon? How did we get to captivity and exile? What happened in our history, and what did God have to do with it? And I think this grand narrative, this grand theme flowing through the Old Testament into the New Testament of, of the gospel, this theme of God wanting a people for his own is, is unmistakable through it. But in the course of getting to that destination, there's all sorts of messy stuff that I just don't want to explain away, I don't feel the need to. Well, so like, for me, the voices in my head around this are loud when it comes to wanting to have some authority outside of myself by which to, that can guide and direct my life. And so whether it's inerrancy or the literal interpretation of Scripture, it's the same, like the arguments that I have, like, rattling around in my brain right now, are all around this, this slippery slope of what happens when, if, if I can't, if I can't trust all of this, then it kind of just comes down to me, like I become the authority then. I'm going to decide how much stock to put into various pieces of Scripture, to what's said, and I can, I can really take or leave it. And that leaves me in this really uncomfortable discerning position. Yeah, and I think, I think personally, that's a false dichotomy. I don't think we have to go to that extreme on the other side. I think we, we can see the scriptures as authoritative in different ways, as inspired in different ways. But I think we can see the scriptures as this divinely inspired--however you want to hold that idea--conversation through the ages of God's people, human beings, trying to figure out, who am I, is there a god, are we called by this God to live in a certain way, is covenant a real thing... It's this, I see the scriptures as this conversation through the ages that we get to take part in and participate in and learn from. And I think a Jew, more Jewish way, since we're talking about the Old Testament, a more Jewish way of holding the scriptures is just debating them. And within our, the Hebrew Scriptures are different rabbinic traditions that disagree with one another. Like it's, that's plainly there, especially in the Torah, in the Pentateuch. And that's by design. So I think to model for us, you can disagree about this stuff, you can debate about this stuff, you don't have to have these strawman arguments of infallibility or inerrancy. You can hold it as sacred, as beautiful, as authoritative. But you don't have to put all these things in there that say if, if it didn't really happen, or if any of this is mythological, if any of this is metaphorical, it all crumbles. That's where I think you don't have to go to that extreme. You don't have to go, trade one extreme for the other. Does that make sense?

Kyle:

So I want to quote--there's a really interesting article that I recommend called, and it's from this year, called "How the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy became a litmus test," this by Rick Pidcock, recommend the article--but I'm going to share a quote from it that's actually by David Bentley Hart, because it gets at what you were just saying Elliot. So Hart, presumably referring to inerrancy, says--doesn't pull any punches here, okay, fair warning...

Randy:

Uh, big surprise, DBH.

Kyle:

He says, "This is not faith. It lacks even the dignity of honest superstition. It is fideism." If you don't know, fideism is the view that basically faith is like an intrinsic good, for its own sake, and it can be totally contrary to the evidence, it can be totally irrational. We just believe it because it's the thing that we believe. Faith is its own thing. It's generally a pejorative; nobody calls themselves a fideist. So he's saying, you know, inerrancy is fideism, "the most decadent of religious states, and it is always in a state of desperation. The Protestant fundamentalist clinging to literalist scriptural inerrancy, the Catholic traditionalist clinging to a brutally reductive concept of infallible dogmatic pronouncements, the Orthodox traditionalist clinging to the nonexistent unanimity of the Fathers. All are merely clutching at whatever bits of flotsam seem to them most buoyant atop the ocean of historical contingency, following the shipwreck of Christendom."

Randy:

My man.

Kyle:

Right? But I think he's right about this.

Randy:

I absolutely do.

Kyle:

So as you were talking Elliot, I was thinking, yeah, that is what we're doing. When, when I give up "there is this tradition that has an authoritative read of the text that can't be wrong," then it is kind of just me, it's not me individually, but it's me and my community, right, picking the parts of the Bible that we want to take seriously and the parts that we don't.

Randy:

And everybody does it.

Kyle:

And that's exactly what the Chicago Statement is doing, while pretending not to. Like, there is simply no way off of that boat. Like this is something we talked about, I think, in our, one of our Bible episodes. That's what humans do when they're confronted with texts that they have to interpret, especially ancient ones, that don't have obvious meanings that leap off the page to everybody that reads them. Like, think about what you would do as an evangelical, when you meet, let's say even another evangelical, doesn't have to be like a mainline liberal Christian or something. You meet another evangelical from the church across the street, and you start to study the Bible together, and you realize that they disagree with you about the meaning of a particular passage that's supposedly inerrant. What do you do from there? Like, what, what source do you appeal to to sort out who's right about the disagreement? You can clearly now see it in two ways, because it's been presented, you now have the benefit of someone else's perspective, and you can see, oh, I can see how you would read the text in that way. And once that becomes live to you, which takes like five minutes of going out of your house and talking to other Christians, what do you do? How do you resolve it? Who do you appeal to? And if there are like two, at least two, live meanings of a text that don't agree with each other, how do you call that inerrant? Like, how do you insist that, well--and here's what they would say in the Chicago Statement--the thing that's inerrant is not the interpretation of the text; it's the autograph. Now, this is really interesting. It's one of these, one of these qualifications that they make that kind of wriggles out of the difficulties, but also makes it almost incoherent, because...

Randy:

Not almost.

Kyle:

Yeah, maybe just straightforwardly incoherent, because if the thing that is actually, I think they'd goes far as to say inspired, not just inerrant, but the thing that God inspired was the specific text written on a specific manuscript by a specific author; that's called the autograph. A fact that maybe all our listeners may not be aware of: we don't have any of the autographs. They don't exist. As a matter of fact, it's a little bit of a misunderstanding of the development of most of the text in the scripture to even think there was an autograph, because a lot of these texts were redacted or compiled by communities of people over time from oral traditions, especially talking about the Hebrew scriptures, but a lot of the ones in the New Testament as well.

Randy:

Yep.

Kyle:

So the texts that we have in the Bible that actually were written down all at once by one author on a parchment are the small minority of the text, and even those ones we don't have, like, nobody has them. So the thing that is actually inspired and inerrant doesn't exist.

Randy:

Yeah.

Kyle:

And nobody has access to it. Now, they'll say, yeah, but we have like a lot of manuscripts, and we can get a pretty good handle on what that text said.

Randy:

They're reliable.

Kyle:

And they're right.

Randy:

Yep.

Kyle:

We do have that. But they will also, in the same breath, tell you, but those aren't inerrant. Because if they committed themselves to saying that they were, you could topple that over just by pointing out a couple of, you know, manuscript contradictions or transmission difficulties or scribal insertions or interpretations where you don't have enough data in the text to decide between them. You have to say simultaneously, the autographs are inspired and inerrant--none of which exist and probably never existed in many cases--and none of the Bibles in any of our hands are. Oh, but the Bibles in our hands give you a really good indication about the autographs said. Work that out and then tell me if that's worth jumping through all the hoops.

Randy:

Right, right. Yeah. But we would know if we're missing anything because the verse numbers would be out of order.

Kyle:

Very good, very good. Yes, yes.

Randy:

Yeah. And I want to say, you know, in your scenario of encountering another Christian, another Protestant or evangelical, with someone who has a different take on a, the very same text, that's where the sacred work begins.

Kyle:

Yeah.

Randy:

You know, that's where, that's where the Holy Spirit inspirational work is actually moving and, and having a lot of fun. And that's where we get to tap into this ancient conversation and this ancient debate about what to make of the scriptures and what is God trying to say about God's self here in the scriptures? What are, what's human in this and what's divine? What's prescriptive? What's descriptive? That's the, that's the fun stuff.

Kyle:

Yeah.

Randy:

Rather than the stuff that you have to be freaked out about and isolate yourself from and protect yourself from and come up with really incoherent doctrines like inerrancy.

Kyle:

Yeah. Let's, we've said a little bit about it, but I want to dig a little deeper, maybe, about specifically how authority works when you give up inerrancy. You're somebody who still says the Scripture is authoritative to you. I'm somebody who says it's not really; I consider it kind of on the same level as other texts with a lot of cultural import or sacred texts. It's, it's a source of evidence about what certain communities believed about God and their experiences. And I find that super valuable. It's not to say it doesn't matter to me, but it doesn't have any more authority, like, determinative of what I should believe about something, than any other text would. And so it's not like I'm going to go read a passage of the Quran that says a thing that I think is odd, but like feel compelled to believe it. Right? The Bible is kind of in the same category for me; I don't really feel compelled to believe it unless it gives me good reason to do so. But presumably, it's a little more than that for you. So for listeners who are more where you are, and they don't want to say the Bible is just like any other book, and it does have, like, some authority, maybe especially like, the Gospels have some authority for me, I feel kind of morally beholden to them to behave in the way that they say I should...

Randy:

So you see them in an authoritative fashion.

Kyle:

Right. But, but I think inerrancy is dumb. So how does that authority work in practice, I guess, and why is it...

Randy:

For me?

Kyle:

Yeah, and why is it unaffected by thinking that there can be errors in the documents?

Randy:

I think inerrancy, when I held to that, is, and I didn't, that didn't last long. I mean, I was super into this inerrancy versus infallibility debate in college and in my young adulthood, that I now look back on as a useless, silly argument. But for me, yes, the Bible is authoritative. How I use that word I could barely define for you, but here's what I would say. I don't think all of the Bible is equally authoritative. I don't think all of the Bible is, is equally inspired. But I think there are these grand narratives going from the beginning of the scriptures, from Genesis 1, all the way to the end in, in Revelation, where we see these grand narratives of we have a God that is relational in God's self, that is love in God's self, that is celebratory, that is collaborative, that is a number of things that this kind of, perichoresis, this dance of the Trinity that the ancient church fathers gave us that I think is one of those main narratives, "Let us make mankind in our own image," and as soon as there's an us, we wonder who, what is, what's behind that"us," that divine "us," that's, that divine "we"? And I think that's one of those narratives weaving through scripture, that we have a God who is, who is love, who's relational, who wants to share God's self with God's people. That's a grand narrative that I think is authoritative within the scriptures, because it's, it's across the spectrum of those 66 books. It's one of those narratives that you can't unsee or ignore. There's a narrative of redemption that goes throughout the scriptures, at the very beginning, that, that God wants to redeem broken people. God wants to bring wholeness and life to God's people. That's something that's one of those grand narratives. And all of them find their, their completion and their fullness in Jesus. Jesus himself says, I haven't come to abolish the scriptures; I've come to embody or come to fulfill the Scriptures. And what he means is that the scriptures are incomplete, which is a heretical thing to say in ancient Judaism. The scriptures without me are incomplete. But in me, the scriptures are actually embodied, they are fulfilled, they, I make them what they are. And I think what Jesus is saying is that that's the, that's our, Jesus is our hermeneutic. If we want to make sense of what the book of Job does, or Judges, or Joshua, or any of the other problematic things, we look to Jesus. Jesus is the embodiment and the fulfillment of the scriptures. And so I think there's these narratives and meta narratives and meta themes throughout the scriptures that are authoritative for me. And then there's some of the stuff--whether Jonah really was swallowed by a great fish, whether a global flood actually happened, whether God created the world in six days, all that stuff--that stuff, for me, matters way less.

Kyle:

Yeah.

Randy:

And is way less authoritative. And way less, we don't have to talk about it as much, I don't think. We have to talk about it so we can have this working, functioning spirituality and faith, you know, construct. But when we talk about authority and inspiration, I don't go to those places; I go to the meta narratives.

Kyle:

Interesting thing about those places is that in almost every case--I'm sure there are exceptions to this, but you mentioned Jonah, and that's a good example--in almost every case, when you, like, dig down into them, you'll find a way that they fit into the kind of meta narrative you're describing and actually serve to bolster it.

Randy:

Yeah.

Kyle:

And make it, like, they were put in the cannon for a reason.

Randy:

Yes.

Kyle:

And it's because they kind of attach themselves to that through line in an interesting way. And you don't need all the trappings and details to see that.

Randy:

Well, and see that, Jonah is a perfect, you know, to go further, Jonah is a perfect example of how I see the Bible as authoritative. Do I see, do I think it's important that every little bit of the book of Jonah happened in real life, it's historical? Not at all. Not at all. As a matter of fact, I think it's probably more likely that it didn't. But what's coming across, what God's trying to communicate through the book of Jonah, through that story of this person who has hated this people group who he thought was the embodiment of evil in the world, and God said, I still love them, just so you know, even though you hate them, I love them, and I'm calling you to love them, and I'm calling you to go to them, and share my love with them. That is a universal, authoritative truth that I think is in the scriptures, that we can look to the book of Jonah and say, that's what it's really about. It's not about whether, what kind of fish it was, or if he really did spend three nights in the, in the belly of a whale, or great fish. It's, what is God trying to teach?

Kyle:

And so when Jesus references Jonah later, it's probably not about the fish.

Randy:

Exactly.

Kyle:

It's probably about that other thing.

Randy:

But does that, does that make sense, that the punch line is the authoritative thing, not details of the story.

Kyle:

Right. So let me make sure I'm understanding. So would you say that there is this meta narrative, this through line, whatever you want to call it, of redemption, salvation, new creation, all that stuff. There's like a deep, really compelling ethic in all of that. And that if you want to be a Christian--so I'm gonna phrase it as a conditional here--if you want to be a Christian, if you're interested in this person Jesus, and this way of viewing the world, and this, you know, tradition of thought and practice, then that kind of narrative is going to be determinative for the way that you choose to live in the world.

Randy:

I think so.

Kyle:

And it's authoritative in that sense. You wouldn't, though, I bet, say that that narrative is true because it's in the Bible.

Randy:

Correct.

Kyle:

Right? Which is a different kind of authority. And that's the kind of authority that all these inerrancy guys seem to be assuming, and I'm not sure why you would assume that. Like, where does that, it seems unmotivated to me, like... And and not just unmotivated, but like, viciously circular. So they say at one point--it's kind of funny when they say stuff like this because you have to wonder if they really mean it--they say, "We invite response to this statement from any who see reason to amend its affirmations about Scripture by the light of Scripture itself." Think about that for a second. We invite you to object and help us to clarify what we mean, as long as you accept our first principles. As long as you basically agree with us on the fundamentals and as long as you're getting it from Scripture itself, understood the way we expect you to understand it.

Randy:

Well, I think we could even play within their rules, which are stupid, but we could do that, and still actually win the argument. Because I would just cite things like Jesus saying to the religious people of his day, you guys search the scriptures diligently because you think in them you find life; the scriptures are pointing to me, and I'm standing right in front of you, and you're not recognizing what the Scriptures are speaking to when it's right in front of your eyes. In other words, I hear Jesus saying the scriptures are only useful in that they're pointing towards me. And if, if you're not able to recognize me when I stand right in front of you, the scriptures are useless. They're absolutely useless. So I think you could say that. You could say, there's all sorts of things in the, in the Hebrew Scriptures about the sacrificial system, like, the sacrificial system is what keeps Jewish people, in their beliefs, that they believe keeps them good with God. Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, the scapegoat and the sacrifice of certain goats, and the blood of different things, itt's a mess. But they took that as that's how they are, literally, their sins are atoned for. And then you find within the prophets, God saying things like, bros, I prefer, I prefer, I prefer mercy, not sacrifice. Like, all that stuff in there that you think is divinely inspired that I told you to do because that's how you have forgiveness of sins--it's actually just trying to metaphorically point you to what's true and what's real, the deeper stuff. And I desire mercy more than that sacrificial stuff. As a matter of fact, in Isaiah 58, God says, save all of your feasts, all of your festivals, all of your prayers, all of your fasts, all of your religious bullshit, because that's what you've turned it into. Even though that's scriptural stuff. There's something deeper that God's after, and that's, I think, the authoritative stuff.

Kyle:

Yeah, some of what you just said reminded me of, I read a thing Pete Enns wrote about--who's been on our show--about inerrancy. He's kind of notoriously...

Randy:

He's the guy.

Kyle:

... anti-inerrancy. I was actually at the Evangelical Theological Society conference the year the theme was inerrancy. And he was on a panel with Al Mohler and a few other people...

Randy:

Oh, praise the Lord.

Kyle:

... who had written a book. I think Zondervan had put out, like a, Five Views...

Randy:

Five Views, yeah.

Kyle:

... on whatever. And he was one of them. And...

Randy:

That's amazing.

Kyle:

... was alone in the room, pretty much, certainly alone on the panel.

Randy:

I want to go back and watch this.

Kyle:

And his, his thesis was--and you can, I think, find it online, the notes anyway--like, inerrancy just doesn't capture what the Bible is doing.

Randy:

No.

Kyle:

It's just an odd way to approach this kind of text. And especially if you respect that kind of text, and you want to kind of take it on its own terms, this really shoehorns you. It's like, it just doesn't let you breathe in the space that the text is trying to construct and in the space that it grew out of. And he gives an interesting example that I didn't know, a place in Deuteronomy, I think it's like Deuteronomy 32 or something like that, where--and you wouldn't know this unless you had seen it in the original because you wouldn't get this from your, like, standard NIV or whatever, unless you have, like, a really good study Bible with good footnotes--but like, there's a place in it where Yahweh is listed as one of several subordinate gods under a god with a different name. And he's like, okay, let's say I'm in an inerrantist. What do I do with that? Like, do I have to believe, literally, that Yahweh is a subordinate deity? That clearly contradicts other places in the Old Testament. Like, where is the, the room to take the text at face value for what it actually is within that system? And I mean, you just, you run up against stuff like that constantly, because this is an ancient text compiled by multiple communities people over hundreds, thousands of years, right? So yeah, even, even trying to take it seriously on its own terms, you quickly run into its limits.

Randy:

Yeah, yeah. I mean, there's so many, there's so many rabbit holes we could go down, you know. I mean, speaking of Deuteronomy, read Deuteronomy and try to explain a theology or salvation of grace, based on grace. You're not going to find it. It's, it's, it's covenantal theology. It's saying, if you behave in this fashion, you will get this; if you do good things, if you obey my rules--God's saying through Moses--then you'll have life. But if you choose idolatry, if you choose sin, if you choose, you know, the corruption of My Word, destruction is coming after you, you know, it's this if-then kind of theology, which really is hard when you get to a book like Romans, where Paul says, "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us," or "For God so loved the world..." Like, the theology of grace is really hard to find in the book of Deuteronomy. And that's not to say that the book of Deuteronomy, we can throw it out, disregard it, in my perspective, it's that that was their understanding. And they didn't have Jesus yet. They didn't have the fullness of, the fullness of the revelation of who God is in Christ. They're trying their best. And there's some really good principles to live by that, like, it's gonna go well for you if you kind of live in this fashion that's honoring the people around you, that's honoring yourself, that's honoring God, in scare quotes, but to make that try to cohere with the message of the gospel is sometimes too much to ask of it. Do you know what I mean?

Kyle:

Yeah. So they do another thing that's just, I just don't get it. Like, I understand why fundamentalism might be appealing. But it seems like you'd want to construct it in a, in a way that didn't make it, like, completely crumble at the first critique, or you'd want to construct it in a way that, like, your followers could stay in it comfortably for a while, including some of the more thoughtful ones. But they make it so unnecessarily absolutist. So they say at one point, "The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible's own." And I don't know what that means. Like, what view of truth? What do you, what view of truth do you pull out of the Bible? Where does it even talk about that? Right?

Randy:

Doesn't that sound so insecure?

Kyle:

It's just so odd. And it's like, guaranteeing that the people who sincerely try to follow it and are kinda thoughtful, are not going to be able to. You could have made this so much more malleable, but they, they just really lean into it. And I think the reasons are social. Now, they, like, make a big deal of not being reactionary, but it's totally reactionary and apologetic, like, all the way down. Otherwise, it wouldn't have the emphases that it does.

Elliot:

So the proof verse that, like, if you look up biblical proofs for inerrancy, which I just did, the top verse, which I knew before looking it up, is that "All scripture is God-breathed, useful for teaching, reproof, correction, training." What do we do with that, like God, all scripture is God-breathed, there's obviously a lot of wiggle room around both"breathed" and what the definition of "useful" is. So I think it fits, but that's, that's like the top used verse, the top proof verse. What do we do with that?

Randy:

I mean, first of all, it doesn't, inerrancy is nowhere to be found in that verse. Just because it's useful for teaching, instructing, rebuking, doesn't mean that it's inerrant in, in every way. And also, just because it's God-breathed, doesn't mean that it's inerrant. Those are two completely different concepts. So first of all, like, we're talking about two different things, we're talking about inspiration and authority. We're not talking about inerrancy. And I think, when we talk about inspiration, that would be a whole different episode, really, on what do we mean when we say this, all scripture is God-breathed? Jesus breathed on the disciples in the upper room after the, after the resurrection. He breathes on them, and he says, "Receive the Holy Spirit," you know, and he's downloading some beautiful stuff on them. Do I think from that moment on those disciples were infallible and inerrant? Of course not. I think that Jesus is, is doing something metaphorically, maybe metaphysically, I have no idea, but Jesus is telling them, like, I'm breathing the Spirit on you, I'm breathing life on you. And I'm, in doing so, I'm telling you to go and bring this message, and bring it for instruction, for, for building knowledge and being more Christlike and growing in the image of Christ, but in no way do I think that, that Jesus is saying now you're inerrant and infallible men who are going to bring my church about. All you have to do is read the New Testament know that it was really messy, and there were a lot of arguments--Jerusalem council in the book of Acts is one of many. Paul and Barnabas get things really sideways with one another, and they kind of irreconcilably separate. These were not perfect, infallible, not inerrant men who were breathed on by God to bring about the message of the gospel. Does that...?

Kyle:

Yeah, and of course, obviously, it couldn't possibly be referring to the New Testament because it didn't exist.

Randy:

It didn't exist. That was the...

Kyle:

So whatever Scripture he was talking about was the Hebrew Scriptures. Which is fine. Right. And I guess you could extend that to the ones that were later canonized. But, I mean, Paul, yeah, Paul wasn't ignorant of the role that, like, rabbinic debate had in the formation of that cannon that he was referring to. And he wouldn't have assumed that there was, like, one, like, unassailable interpretation of that that held for all time. I mean, you know, he was fully aware of the different schools, having been trained in them and respecting them and whatever. So yeah, so one of the things that this, this statement does, and that, I guess is pretty common amongst people who hold to inerrancy in general, is they really conflate inspiration and inerrancy and infallibility and authority. Like, they say you can draw the distinctions in the statement, but it's really unclear how they do. Like, they use kind of the same words or synonyms for the same words to describe all of them. And it's really kind of hard to parse what they, exactly what they think the differences are.

Randy:

Well that's, I think that's the problem with like, Elliot's, you know, you Google"Why is the Bible inerrant?" and that verse comes up, but inerrancy is nowhere to be found in it, right? And we're confused, like, we take these, we have these dog whistle words like authority, inspiration, inerrancy, infallibility, or whatever. And we push, we squeeze them all together, and they, like, nothing makes sense anymore. Right? These are meaningless words, because we're trying to create this thing that doesn't exist. Yeah. You scroll down the list of more proof verses and half of them are just because they contain the word true. Right.

Elliot:

This is true.

Randy:

Right.

Kyle:

Yeah.

Elliot:

What is that...?

Randy:

"All of scripture is..." or no, not even, but Hebrews 4:"The word of God is sharper than a double edged sword, piercing through bone and marrow," you know, blah blah...

Elliot:

See? Inerrancy.

Randy:

First of all, we're not even sure that the writer of Hebrews, first of all, we don't even know who the writer of Hebrews is. Second of all, we don't know what the writer of Hebrews was speaking to, because the early church referred to Jesus as the Word of God. The writer of Hebrews, if you look at it within context--which, far be it from us to look at verses in context--but if you look at it in context, the writer of Hebrews is talking about Sabbath rest that God's inviting us into, and nowhere is he talking about the scriptures in there. So it's like, I'm not even sure that he's talking about scripture. There are two clear points where the scriptures, a person in the scriptures talks about the Bible as the Word of God, and it's Jesus. In Matthew 15 and John 10, he refers to the Word of God. Jewish people commonly refer to the Bible as the Word of God. But then, all of a sudden, Jesus comes along, and the, the writer of the Gospel of John, in the prologue, says, just so you know, the scriptures are not the word of God.

Kyle:

Well...

Randy:

The Torah is not the word of God, which is heretical to say for a Jewish person. Jesus is actually the Word of God.

Kyle:

And what you mean is there is an implication there in what he does say, which is that Jesus is the Word...

Randy:

Exactly.

Kyle:

... that a contemporary Jew would have picked up on right? Because Jesus ain't the Torah. Yeah.

Randy:

No. Jesus is the embodiment and the fullness of the Torah; he takes it even further, right? But...

Kyle:

Yeah.

Randy:

But that's taking a concept that the ancient Jews would have had, which is the Torah is the word of God. The Torah is the divine logos. And John would say, we used to think that, but now we have Jesus.

Kyle:

So I remember you saying in our first Bible episode something about a debate that existed between people who were infallibilists and people who were inerrantists, and I remember thinking, "That's not different." Did you want to say anything more about that here?

Randy:

Yeah, I used to think that was very important. And I was firmly on the side of infallibility.

Kyle:

Yeah, and what does that mean again?

Randy:

I have no freaking clue. Literally, I barely remember the nexus of that argument. But I remember seeing through the BS in the argument that in their original manuscripts, the Bible is inerrant. And I was just like, what does that even mean? That's, that's stupid. The Bible is infallible in communicating what it's trying to communicate, which is salvation and life and who God is. I would, I would have said that. And I would still probably mostly agree with that, except I don't think putting, trying to put the Bible in those kinds of categories and using those kinds of words is helpful at all. "Infallible," what, what are we expecting out of this ancient text? Something that I don't think God intended us to, to believe about it and categories to put it in. I think the Bible is the messy divine revelation and unfolding of who God is and what God's like and what God's after in the, in our world. And I think we just leave it there. And it's, it's, it's our pleasure to wrestle with it. It's our pleasure to debate about it. It's, it's the sacred journey to believe one thing at one point of life and to have that evolve and get nuanced in another point of life, but still holding to these, to these meta narratives that I think, if you don't, if you stop believing those meta narratives, maybe then you've departed from the authority of scriptures, you're not, you don't see the Bible as authoritative anymore, but...

Kyle:

And there's, there's a space for that, too, I just want you to know, the waters are fine here.

Randy:

Yep, yeah. If you can't go there, though, if that sounds scary, you know, Kyle's a philosopher, and he has given himself all sorts of liberties to go to places like that, and I still see him as Christian, just so you know.

Kyle:

Thanks.

Randy:

Not that you needed that vote of confidence. But you don't have to go that far is what I'm trying to say.

Kyle:

No, no you don't.

Elliot:

"I'll put in a good word with the big man."

Kyle:

Yeah.

Randy:

You just don't have to go that far. That's, that's what, that's where I'm at now is,"infallibility versus inerrancy, where are you?" Get out, like, I want to, I turn into a grumpy old man and say, get off my lawn. Like, I don't want to have that conversation. It's old, it's crusty, and it's irrelevant.

Kyle:

Yeah.

Randy:

What is interesting to me is what is the Holy Spirit speaking to you through this narrative? What is, what is bringing the fruit of the kingdom through your study of the scriptures, if anything?

Kyle:

Yeah.

Randy:

How frustrated are you with the scriptures right now? I want to know that. I want to know how you had to put the Bible down for two years because it was just actually creating more toxic spirituality for you. These are the conversations that I want to have around the scriptures, not are they infallible or inerrant.

Kyle:

Yeah, how, I mean, I would think the, the closest thing that would get me towards some kind of position of scriptural infallibility was some empirical proof that they were contributing to the functioning of the Holy Spirit in some communities.

Randy:

Yeah.

Kyle:

Let's talk about that. And prove to me that that's happening more than it would be for any other sacred texts. I haven't seen that case made. There, there are lots of, like, pious, really devout, really good, really charitable communities of Muslims, and of Buddhists, and of Hindus, and of Sikhs, and of fill in the blank, who gather regularly around their sacred texts, and have all the fruits of the Spirit that Paul listed. If you want me to believe that the Bible is somehow more inerrant or more infallible than those texts, prove it.

Randy:

Yeah.

Kyle:

Show me the communities that have the edge on those other ones, right? I don't see that happening in the future. But I actually end up in a, I land in a fairly similar places you, right, so if a listener is asking, "This is what I've been assuming my whole life; what is the Bible if it's not inerrant?" The opposite of inerrant is not... errant.

Randy:

Errant, right.

Kyle:

Right? It's not that it makes mistakes. There's a big difference--maybe we should have opened with this--there's a big difference between saying that the Bible didn't make mistakes, and that it can't make mistakes, right?

Randy:

Explain that.

Kyle:

You can have a very high view of the Bible--you can even think it's authoritative--and you can say that, when it's really talking about the main thing it's about, it doesn't make any mistakes. Jesus was right about what God was. But you're not requiring in a presuppositional way--in a, like, a foundational, first principles, this is my dogmatic belief and you can't shake me from it and if you do, everything falls apart--that it can't be wrong, that Jesus couldn't have gotten anything wrong, that Paul couldn't have said anything that was false when he was talking about the gospel. That's a different thing. It's a subtle distinction, but it's an important one. So if you're asking, well, what is the Bible if it's not inerrant? It is what it is. I mean, it's, it's an ancient text that tells the story of these people that had this incredible history of experiences with God that made them unique in the world, and that gave us an ethic that is kind of unlike any other, and that revolves around a guy who, I mean, depending on how you read it, might have been God. You know what I mean? And even if you don't go as far as to say that he was God, it's at least a narrative that could fundamentally, has fundamentally transformed the world, not could, has.

Randy:

Yes.

Kyle:

We have democracy because of it, let's just, let's just be direct, right? Like, we have, we have ethical systems that are univocal, almost, in what they recommend as a good life, that universally condemn power and abuse and oppression because of this guy, and because of the spread of his ethic. Like philosophical defenses that took that for granted, or that, like, arrived in the same place, did so because of the history of Christianity that they were coming out of; that's a kind of crude gloss on the history there, but I think it's right. So I mean, the text is what it is, you can still learn from the text, you can discuss the text in your communities, you can question the text, you can grapple with the text, you can do all the things you wanted to do with the text. You just don't wield the text.

Randy:

Yeah. And let's even just imagine, let's imagine Jesus sitting in a fourth chair in this room, and we say Jesus, can you tell us for once and for all, inerrancy or infallibility, which is it? Right? How do you think Jesus would answer? He'd be like, I have no idea what, what those words mean. Here's my thought. I think Jesus would do what he did in the gospels, which is answer your question with another question. Or I think he would tell a story that's showing you that's not what the scriptures really were all about. Because Jesus was asked these exact same kinds of questions over and over again by the religious leaders in his world, over and over again. And I think you could literally count on one hand the times he gave a straight answer, which tells me Jesus is trying to tell us, your religious ideas are getting at the wrong thing. Like you're, quite, you're not asking the right questions. Let's start thinking about the questions we're asking and the motivations behind them and start thinking if Jesus would actually say, those are the right questions.

Kyle:

One last thing, connection I want to make, that just occurred to me as I was thinking about inerrancy today, is the justifications for it are, as far as I can tell, identical to the justifications for legalist originalism. And I think this is very interesting. And I would like to see...

Randy:

Define legalist originalism.

Elliot:

Yeah, define that.

Kyle:

... I would like to see some data on, like, how many people who subscribe to one subscribe to the other. Originalism is the majority view of the Supreme Court at this moment and the strong majority view of most conservative legal scholars, that the meaning of the Constitution is what it meant to the first, well to the authors, what the authorial intent of the authors was, but what it meant to the first audience, and that's like...

Randy:

It's a static document, yeah.

Kyle:

... frozen, yeah, it's like frozen in time, and that our interpretation of it should always conform to that.

Randy:

Yep.

Kyle:

And it's very structurally similar.

Randy:

Totally, completely.

Kyle:

And it makes me just wonder, why do we do that? Like, why do we canonize past actors? Like, why do we always think founders, quote-unquote, right,"founders"--of anything--of Christianity, of the United States, of the Constitution, of my football team--the founders were superhuman?

Randy:

Yeah.

Kyle:

Often when we have extensive evidence to the contrary, that they were the kind of people that if we knew them today, we wouldn't want to hang out with them.

Randy:

Yes.

Elliot:

Yeah.

Kyle:

And if we accept that, which, God, I would think a smart person could think about it for a few minutes and see that that's true, then there's got to be a pretense happening here. We know they weren't superhuman, so this is serving a purpose.

Randy:

Yeah, I mean, there, we won't go into the problem of many, many Christians thinking that the founding fathers were divinely inspired, we'll just let that off to the side, but taking a little bit more of a positive spin even than what you just communicated, Kyle, I think you can say that even though most if not all of the founding fathers had extremely problematic morals, particularly around how to treat human beings who looked differently than them, I think it's still okay to say, man, those guys were brilliant about forming a government, seeing the potential problems within a democracy, within a, within a government, and trying to build safeguards against a Donald Trump or an authoritarian, a totalitarian taking over. So I do think, even though they were oppressive sons of bitches, I think they were brilliant in the way they've constructed that. And I think we can say, now let's in that spirit of the Constitution, in the spirit of what they were trying to get at--freedoms, certain things that should be rights--and say, okay, now in--they had muskets in that era, so they made a law according to what they had, which was muskets--now we have AR-15s. And let's try to figure out, in the spirit of the founding fathers, what is a way to regulate people having access to machines that can kill many, many people?

Kyle:

Yeah, so there's an originalist way around that issue and maybe other similar issues, like, which--I mean, we could have a whole there would not be assault weapons, I mean come on, let's be honest, the literal phrase"well regulated militia" is in like the first fucking line--but let's set that aside. I'm most interested in the motivation to that kind of assumption or that kind of structure. What is it that drives us to assume that the founders of the thing we inhabit must have been somehow on a level above us?

Randy:

Yeah. Well, let me, let me go back to, bring it back to the Bible, so we don't have a whole other part two on, on the Constitution and the founding fathers. But I do think that it matters, because we can now say, okay, what do the, what do the Scriptures say about sexuality? And we can look at certain particular verses or we can look at meta narratives again, and say, Jesus--like you would have heard in our "Why We're Affirming" episode--Jesus in Matthew 7 said you can, you'll know a tree by its fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit; a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. That's a good sexual ethic right there, I think, a way of measuring how should we handle and express our sexuality: is it bearing the fruit of the kingdom? If so, high five, keep doing it. If not, man, let's talk. So on something like homosexuality, the concept of homosexuality didn't exist in the ancient times when the Bible was written, period, the end. That's just, you know, fact. Came about in the 19th century, then in 1946, the word "homosexuality" was in the Bible for the first time. So what I think our job, similar to how we parse the Constitution, is saying, okay, if homosexuality the way we know it is not a thing in biblical times, how do we engage with homosexuality or any facet of our sexuality in a way that we now understand, in a way that biblically fits? And I think that's when you, again, go back to the meta narratives, rather than these little verses that aren't speaking to what we are speaking to now.

Kyle:

Yeah. Yeah, I guess I would just like there to be an, another option on the table, which would be to... An old friend, in college, put it to me this way when I was still kind of fundamentalist, kind of working my way out of it, thinking, you know, I still want to, like, model my life on the early church and what they did. And I was talking to him about it, and he said, you know, maybe the best way to imitate the early church is to do your own thing. Be creative. Start something new. Break out of the, you know, the traditions or whatever. And I guess, yeah, I would, I would like that to be a more obvious option for more people...

Randy:

Sure.

Kyle:

That... I could think of a better Constitution. I know legal scholars could. Like, there are drafts out there of better ones; there are other ones in the world that work better than this one. Like, it's not like it was somehow perfect when it was enshrined and we could never possibly rise above it. And I think the same thing goes for the Bible. Like why, why did the revelation have to stop with the final, you know, stroke of--what did they write with, I don't know, stylus or whatever--when, you know, when John or whoever wrote the last thing in the New Testament, why did it have to stop then? That's just asserted in the Chicago Statement, but why do we take that to be the end of the inspiration?

Randy:

I don't think we have to, I think we can look at the Bible as authoritative and not add to it in the extent of like, I'm not gonna write a book of the Bible. Right? Nor is, like, N.T Wright...

Kyle:

Not intentionally, but neither did Paul.

Randy:

Righ, right, right. And nor do I think N.T. Wright is going to. But I do think that that act of inspiration that produced our sacred text is still happening today because the Holy Spirit is still speaking, the Holy Spirit is still inspiring, the Holy Spirit is still testifying to the witness of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is still drawing us to the heart of heart of God. And that's beautiful, sacred work that we can see as authoritative just--I'm not gonna say just as much because of my orthodoxy--but we can see as authoritative alongside the scriptures, let's say.

Kyle:

Sure, yeah. Someday I want to write a short story about the distant future when a video game has become a sacred text.

Randy:

That's fun. I like that. I mean, the Constitution itself, when people--there's a really brilliant comedy bit by, I think, Jim Jefferies, he's a Australian comedian, about gun control.

Kyle:

Oh, you showed me this, it's great.

Randy:

And my, one of my favorite parts is when he says,"You guys, you Americans say'you cannot change the Constitution.'" And he's like,"Yeah, you can. That's why they're called amendments. You amend the Constitution."

Kyle:

Yeah.

Randy:

And I think that's a really good way of, could be a really good way of approaching the Constitution, could be a really... uh, cut that part out for the scriptures...

Kyle:

No, I like where it was going. You got uncomfortable, but I think you should follow it through.

Randy:

Do it for me, because I'm not willing to go there.

Kyle:

No, because I mean, I think that's the intention of both the founders of the Constitution, I think there's a very good historical argument that they very much intended this thing to run its course and be amended, and that they made space for that, they did not think, any of them--maybe, maybe some of them are full of themselves ones, but like most of them--very much saw that document as...

Randy:

A working document.

Kyle:

... a working document, a temporary thing, a placeholder. They tried hard, and it's great. But you know, they didn't intend it to last forever. And they couldn't possibly have imagined 300 million Americans trying to live according to that, right? They couldn't have imagined Catholics on the Supreme Court. Like, just no way.

Randy:

Black people, black women.

Kyle:

And they didn't intend the Supreme Court to have the power that it has either; that's a separate conversation. But I think the, the authors of scripture, if they had--I mean, that's the thing, because it's anachronistic to even pose the question, because they, they would never have stopped to think that what I'm doing is scripture formation. At least the founders of the Constitution knew they were writing a constitution. They knew that people were going to hold this as law for a long time in the country that they just formed. Paul was writing to people who he knew were having some difficulties and trying to commend to them the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. John was trying to communicate a grander theology of Jesus than anybody had quite put into, you know, onto, scross or whatever.

Randy:

I mean, I will say, I think...

Kyle:

Like, they didn't, they didn't, like, they weren't intending this to be a document that would serve the kind of law-like role that the inerrantists want to hold it to.

Randy:

I don't fully agree with that. I think the writers of the Gospels wrote those gospels intentionally with the, with the explicit motivation of, I saw what happened. I witnessed this guy Jesus, I spent three years with him, and he changed my life. And I want, I want you to remember him.

Kyle:

But like, Luke or Mark or Matthew or whatever, if you had posed to them, okay, in 100 years--which would have been shocking because they all thought Jesus was coming back next week--in 100 years, somebody's going to have an experience with Jesus, maybe a vision, maybe a bodily visitation, maybe just an experience of the Holy Spirit, whatever, and they're going to write it down, and that's going to become instructional for the church, and so is your writing, by the way, what do you think about that? Totally, they would have been on board with that. And if you told them it happened in 500 years or 1000 years or 4000 years, they would not have drawn limits on that, right? They didn't intend the thing that they were doing to be the final revelation of God, it's just totally foreign to the way that they were trying to describe their experience.

Randy:

Perhaps.

Kyle:

All right. I'll take that.

Randy:

I can, I can imagine that being true. I think they had, to use a really bad term, a higher view of scripture than that, in some ways.

Kyle:

I think that is a high view of scripture.

Randy:

Okay.

Kyle:

I mean, this is a time when like, the Holy Spirit is disappearing people to other towns, and, like, handkerchiefs are healing people of their leprosy or whatever the hell was happening, you know, if you take that all at face value. So the idea that there could be continuous revelation of this God who just did this resurrection thing? Yeah, I don't think they would have had any problems with that.

Randy:

Yeah, no, I think, I do, where I would agree with you is that the Old Testament is that, it's what you're talking about, it's, you know, we have the Torah, that should be enough. Well, all of a sudden, we have the Writings now, which are, you know, historic stuff. And then we have the Prophets, totally different. And they're written over the course of hundreds of years, maybe even a couple thousand. And, and that was within their understanding of how scripture got canonized was, you weigh it, and it's continually going, and God's revealing God's self, and prophetic stuff is, like, really dynamic and beautiful, and we get to look back on that as now authoritative. So I would say as good Jewish people, they probably would have affirmed what you're saying, but um... I don't want to go down on record publically as agreeing with it.

Kyle:

Well, that's it for this episode of A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar. We hope you're enjoying the show as much as we are. Help us continue to create compelling content and reach a wider audience by supporting us patreon.com/apastorandaphilosopher, where you can get bonus content, extra perks, and a general feeling of being good person.

Randy:

Also, please rate and review the show on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, and Spotify. These help new people discover the show and we may even read your review in a future episode. If it's good enough.

Kyle:

If anything we said really pissed you off or if you just have a question you'd like us to answer, or if you'd just like to send us booze, send us an email at pastorandphilosopher@gmail.com.

Randy:

Catch all of our hot takes on Twitter at@PPWBPodcast, @RandyKnie, and@robertkwhitaker, and find transcripts and links to all of our episodes at pastorandphilosopher.buzzsprout.com. See you next time.

Kyle:

Cheers! I think one of the reasons we have such a hard time getting our head around this idea is that all of the claims to it have been about just really terrible books. Or about things that just aren't believable as the next revelation. Like, I don't know if you've ever tried to read the Book of Mormon, but like, yeah, if that's our best example of what the next thing could be...

Randy:

Totally, hundred percent.

Kyle:

... maybe it stopped with the New Testament.

Randy:

Yeah. Absolutely. Let's land this baby.

Kyle:

I think we landed it a long time ago.

Randy:

Alright.

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