Tim Enloe, a leader of the “Reformed” Catholic movement, has reentered the inerrancy debate with the following:
Before I comment on the particulars, a general observation is in order. “Reformed” Catholics know where they came from, but they don’t know where they’re headed. This is a fluid, shifting, transitional movement, and since they have no idea where their final destination lies, it is irresponsible, from a pastoral standpoint, for them to take any hitchhikers along for the ride.
There are people who use a blog as a public diary to think aloud. But a Christian should not be airing his doubts in public, and thereby planting seeds of doubt in other minds.
If I began to doubt the doctrines of grace, I wouldn’t advertise that state of mind at triablogue. Rather, I would withdraw from blogging, and run my doubts by a few trusted friends in private. If I have no idea where I’m going, I have no right to take anyone with me.
Of course, now that the horse is out of the barn, it is necessary to engage in damage-control.
<< The fact that I am posting links to these essays does not automatically entail that I agree with everything in them. In particular, just because I post a link to an essay that questions a certain form of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy (e.g., the 1982 Chicago Statement) does not mean that I am rejecting the doctrine of biblical inerrancy itself. Far from it. The reason that the questions raised about the Chicago Statement are important is the fact that the questions expose the unstated modernistic assumptions of that form of the inerrancy doctrine, and in the process end up shedding significant light on the very important issues of truth and epistemology and community that postmodernism raises against modernism. >>
1.This is a very convenient disclaimer. It affords Enloe the benefit of plausible deniability.
But if Enloe is going to publicly repudiate the Chicago statement, in whole or in part, as he has now done, he owes the Christian community an explanation. If he no longer subscribes to the “Chicago” school of inerrancy, then what does his alternative, postmodern version look like? What does he affirm that the Chicago doctrine denies? And what does he deny that the Chicago doctrine affirms? Specifics, please!
2.In fact, Enloe seems to agree with Joel Hunter. Enloe tells us that he doesn’t reject inerrancy itself, but only “form” or version of inerrancy articulated in the Chicago statement.
<< The third essay's discussion of logocentrism (especially the distinction between autonomous human concepts of the logos VS the biblical Logos). Also in the third essay note the incessant dualisms that logocentrism's metaphysics of presence ontology / epistemology creates, and think through the "take home test" of determining why knee-jerk identifications of postmodernism with "relativism" are false and do not themselves escape the metaphysics of presence view against which postmodernism is actually reacting. >>
1.The question of inerrancy is not a question about the Biblical Logos, if by that he means a title of Christ. Rather, the question of inerrancy is a question about the inscripturation of God’s word. Does inerrancy attach to the word of God as Scripture, not the word of God as Christ? And what is the nature of Scriptural inerrancy?
2.The Chicago doctrine, far from being a recipe for human autonomy, is its antidote. Is man answerable to God? Is our duty to God spelled out in Scripture?
<< Observe the discussions about the fluidity of language. Note that meaning "always surpasses intentions", and that the metaphysics of presence view of language is fundamentally based in pagan Greek thinking about the supremacy of the "soul" (in this case, speech) over mere "matter" (in this case, writing). For the metaphysics of presence view, speech is more fundamental than writing because speech is "closer" to the author's disembodied mind than is writing. Note that this binary opposition leads to viewing the Bible as the ultimate binary opposition-filled written preservation of God's direct speech--which means that by obtaining an absolutely undoubtable and forever fixed interpretation of the Bible we are ourselves attaining to an unmediated grasp of God's own speech. >>
This brief paragraph jumbles together a remarkable number of unsubstantiated claims, which are then strung along to form an argument for his position:
1.Is the Chicago doctrine “fundamentally based in pagan Greek thinking about the supremacy of the soul”?
a) The Chicago statement is a consensus document. Does Enloe happen to know the philosophical commitments of the various framers and signatories?
b) Is there a uniform Greek position on the supremacy of the soul? Is the view of Aristotle the same as Plato?
c) Would Enloe like to trace out a step-by-step history of how the Greek view cycles through medieval theology, the Reformation, Protestant Scholasticism, the Old Princeton school, and arrives at the doorstep of Chicago, Illinois? Or is this a warmed over version of the old, discredited, third-hand McKim/Rogers proposal?
2.What historical evidence is there that the Chicago doctrine assumes the primacy of the spoken word? Isn’t the Chicago doctrine concerned with the inscripturated record of revelation? The final, canonical form? The inspired end-product?
<< Debate over the meaning of ‘inerrancy’ is a never-ending task and leads to intellectual atrocities like Article 13 of the 1978 Chicago statement. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978) begins with much of the traditional Protestant confessional language. Nothing seriously objectionable in my view until Article 9 at which point the wheels begin to come off. I don’t want to rehearse a list of bald assertions here, but I think it is worth asking whether the prediction in the affirmation of Article 19, a very admirable standard, has held up to the test of time and practice.
Is there a root to this problem? I think so. We get a hint from the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics (1982) which explicitly adopts a naïve version of metaphysical idealism in its account of language, meaning, and truth. See especially articles 6-9, 12, 14-22, and the denials of 1, 11, and 13. I think the real issue behind this controversy is our presuppositions about communication. How do we communicate with one another? What are the limitations? What is the difference between oral and written communication? What about communication between God and man? What is communication about? >>
1.The real issue “behind” this controversy? So Hunter is proposing to go behind the text of the Chicago statement. But how does he know what lies behind the text? How does he know that the framers of the text were committed to a “native version of metaphysical idealism?” Does the Chicago doctrine assume a particular theory regarding the relation of orality to textuality? Is that really relevant to the question of inerrancy?
2.”Naïve” is a slippery charge in this context. The Chicago statement does not pretend to be a philosophical monograph on the meaning of meaning, a la Thiselton or Wolsterstorff. For that matter, Hunter’s little essay is pretty “naïve” were we to judge it by standards of philosophical rigor and nuance. It is, at best, a very roughhewn, programmatic statement.
3.The Chicago statement is simply a set of guidelines to establish the broad parameters of what is out of bounds in Evangelical theology. Is there something wrong with a policy statement which summarizes the conclusions of a major debate?
Anyone conversant with this debate knows that there was a great deal of preliminary discussion which went into the Chicago statement. Naturally the statement itself does not rehearse the whole history of the debate.
<< First observation: the meanings produced through the use of language always surpass our intentions. Thus, a statement like this: “We affirm that the meaning expressed in each biblical text is single, definite and fixed,” asserts a prima facie false claim, unless some form of metaphysical idealism is true. >>
1.”Single” is admittedly a problematic choice of words. But how does the attribution of a single sense imply metaphysical idealism? Even if this were consistent with metaphysical idealism, and even if metaphysical idealism entails a singular sense, it doesn’t follow that a singular sense thereby entails metaphysical idealism, for there may well be other theories of meaning consistent with this assignment. The fact that I bring an umbrella to work may imply a rainy forecast. A rainy forecast does not imply my bringing an umbrella to work.
2.But assuming that we reject a single sense, what about a definite or fixed sense? Is Hunter assuming that just because the applicability of Scripture is open-ended, that the sense of Scripture is indefinite? But such an assumption would commit a naïve sense=reference fallacy. It is precisely because the Bible can have a fixed or definite meaning that we know how to apply it under a wide variety of circumstances.
3. The real question is not whether a Bible writer can mean more than one thing, but whether multiple meanings are mutually consistent and normative for the life of the church.
<< The assumption behind this foundationalism is the supposed transparency of a thought or idea to its expression in speech or writing. We search for the right procedure that will assure our interpretations will match the thought to the expression in a one-to-one correspondence (e.g., Article 6 of the 1982 statement). We ought to challenge (rather than adopt) modernity’s assumption that language is at our disposal in such a naïve fashion. We are not the masters of language; language is the master of us. Asserting inerrancy places us in the privileged position of standing in the relation of master to the Bible, for so we have rendered language according to the dictates of Western metaphysical doctrine. >>
1.Is that the assumption? And even assuming the transparency of thought in relation to the spoken or written word, how does this entail a singular sense? Why can’t a speaker or writer intend his audience to understand hin one more than one level? Dante reads on more than one level. And Dante meant his poem to be polyvalent, did he not?
2.The real question is whether God is the master of language. Can God make his intentions clear? Are we at God’s disposal?
<< Second observation: the biblical world-and-life-view implies that the aesthetic phenomenon is primordially significant, particularly literature. But the philosophically tainted theology of modernity dethrones artistic truth and privileges the significance of the natural or intellectual phenomenon. >>
This is an assertion without a supporting argument. Does the Biblical worldview place a premium on aesthetics?
<< The problem with inerrancy is that it washes out everything aesthetic from Scripture. It is locked within our horizon of expectation because we have predetermined what we can find in it. Nothing will surprise us or startle us because an overarching system filters it as propositions, sorts it, and distributes its components in their proper files: ‘historical’, ‘scientific’, ‘poetry’, ‘parable’, ‘letter’, ‘prophecy’, etc. >>
1.This has things exactly backwards. It is those asserting limited inerrancy who chop up Scripture according to subject-matter, and then assign inspiration to some parts, but not others. The focus in the Chicago statement is to restore what was denied by liberals.
2.For Hunter to reject all genre analysis is more naive than any fundamentalist. The Chicago statement simply takes into account the idioms and literary conventions of Scripture.
3. Inerrancy does not prejudge the meaning of Scripture. It does not anticipate what God will tell us, but only that God is the primary speaker.
<< Logocentrism grounds its concepts and the framework for understanding those concepts on the notion of presence, the positive. This bias permits us to exclude all meaning in any discourse which does not conform to the central logic of identity and non-contradiction. No fuzziness allowed; it’s an either/or structure of oppositions. >>
1. Hunter himself relies on binary logic, viz., modernism/postmodernism; logocentrism/phonocentrism; natural/aesthetic; intellectual/aesthetic.
2. And the Bible is quite fond of binary oppositions, viz. blessing and cursing, heaven and hell, God and Satan, Christ and Antichrist, the children of light and the children of darkness, the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness.
<< At this point, it might be worthwhile to note the typical path traced in inerrancy discussions that challenge the text we have (remembering my claim that they are founded on metaphysical idealism): (1) retreat to the original autographs (which will never be present) and (2) abandon written texts altogether and assert the priority of the concept of inspiration. (Don’t most definitions of the authority of Scripture place verbal inspiration first?) >>
1.To attack any recourse to the autographa is anti-intellectual on Hunter’s part. We know for a fact that scribal activity has a way of generating errors, and, what is more, errors of a particular kind. For example, names and numbers are especially susceptible to mistranscription over time.
In addition, some books of the Bible may have been issued in more than one Urtext. There is evidence for this as well (e.g., Jeremiah; Chronicles). If Hunter wishes to assume such an obscurantist attitude towards textual criticism, then he is welcome to dwell in darkness.
2.Any theory of inspiration must answer the question, to what does inspiration attach? Warfield, for one, has shown, through meticulous inductive study, that verbal inspiration is the Scriptural doctrine of Scripture itself.
<< Within the framework of Western metaphysics, what would inerrancy achieve were it successful? Full and complete unqualified presence. There’s nothing left to do (for theology). We have achieved stasis. Now we can just haggle. No new research, no creative work, only maintenance. >>
This is a total caricature, both in principle and practice. To say that God has spoken in Scripture is not to say what God has said. That is a separate step. But I'll choose my logocentrism over Enloe's illogical centrism any day of the week, and twice on Sundays.