Andrew Fulford, a fine young Canadian Christian, college student, and blogger has been contending for the faith once delivered.
I thought both his original post and his reply to William and Greg were excellent.
One preliminary issue: both commenters are attempting to put Andrew on the defensive. This is illicit.
When a professing Christian (William; Greg) is addressing an inerrantist, the onus is hardly on the inerrantist to prove inerrancy.
Christianity claims to be a revealed religion. A religion of the book. The knowledge of Christianity comes primarily from a text. A verbal, written revelation. That’s a fundamental truth-condition of the Christian faith.
This text also makes self-referential claims regarding its inspiration.
The burden of proof lies squarely on the shoulders of the professing Christian who effectively denies the inspiration, and, hence, revelatory status of Scripture (by denying the inerrancy of Scripture) to explain what reason he has to be a Christian when he denies a fundamental truth-condition of the Christian faith.
The Bible says one thing about itself, while William and Greg say something to the contrary. That is a problem for *their* profession of faith, not for *ours*.
They attempt to put Andrew on the defensive by shifting the burden of proof. That’s’ a good tactical move. But it only works when they are arguing with someone to their right on the theological spectrum. However, someone to their left on the theological (or atheological) spectrum could do the same thing to them.
This is what is so duplicitous and unscrupulous about their tactics. They recycle many of the stock arguments against the Bible that you’ll find on the lips of Hitchens or Dawkins or Voltaire or Ingersoll or H. L. Menken or Thomas Paine when attacking the Bible-believer. But they combine this with a compartmentalized Christian faith.
Greg Armstrong said...
“The issue isn't so much with copyists as it is with redactors.”
i) This assumes what he needs to prove: the redaction of Scripture. Where is his supporting argument?
ii) His assertion is less than self-explanatory. What was redacted? The MT? The LXX? Or both?
Is he saying that apparent discrepancies are due to various redactors within the MT and/or LXX, or between the MT and the LXX?
In other words, is he saying that books within the Hebrew Bible contract each other due to contradictory redactional agendas?
Or is he saying that the MT contradicts the LXX because LXX redactors have a different agenda than MT redactors?
Or is he saying that the LXX was redacted, but not the MT?
iii) Even assuming, for the sake of argument, the redaction of Scripture, how does that account for apparent contradictions? Wouldn’t we expect a redactor to try to smooth out the apparent contradictions?
“With copyists we often are able to locate and correct their errors, but redactors have modified the texts in different ways and for different purposes.”
Notice, here, that Greg seems to be using a very different argument than William. Greg seems to affirm what William denies: “Hence you should answer these ‘simple’ MT vs. LXX questions.”
Greg’s insinuation, from what I can tell, is that these conflicts arise from differences between the MT and the LXX, and that it’s no simple matter to choose. But William says just the opposite.
“Thus we no longer need to search for this elusive original text.”
How does that follow? Even if you accept the assumption of a redacted Bible, you still have a final text, and the final text is subject to the vicissitudes of textual transmission. So there would still be a need to recover the final text.
“So maybe the ‘original’ language should be dropped?”
Meaning what? That the MT (or Ur-MT or proto-MT) should be dropped?
Is he claiming that the LXX is the final text?
“Unless of course we do not accept that the redactional processes were inspired. But if we adhere to that view then the problems would just be far too numerous and even irreconcilable with orthodox theology and tradition.”
Of course, he has rigged the alternatives, as if the choice is between inspired and uninspired redaction. That takes redaction for granted as the operating assumption.
But the inerrantist would reject the creative redaction of Scripture.
“Hence you should answer these ‘simple’ MT vs. LXX questions:”
i) Who said that textual criticism is necessarily “simple”? And what bearing does that have on inerrancy?
ii) In addition, differences between the MT and LXX aren’t merely a question of transmission.
“1) Who killed Goliath?”
Archer, in his Encyclopedia, offers a text critical solution (178-79).
On the other hand, Tsumura, in his commentary, suggests that “Goliath” may be titular name rather than a proper name, citing Ugaritic usage (440). And he treats the two accounts has having reference to separate events. So there’s no contradiction.
“ 2) How tall was Goliath?”
Standard commentators regard the MT as more likely to preserve the original height.
“3) Was David the 7th or 8th child in the family?”
This question disregards the numerological significance of some figures in Biblical and ANE usage. In this case, 7 may be a symbolic number, as Arnold notes in his commentary (231), while Tsumura suggests that 8 may be an epic literary convention, citing Ugaritic usage (421).
“4) Did the Israelites cross the Red or Reed sea?”
How is that a question of inerrancy? We try to identify the geographical landmarks in Scripture on the basis of textual place names in conjunction with archeological information. After 3500 years, give or take, it isn’t always easy to pinpoint the geographical referent. Cf. J. Currid, Exodus 1-18 (EP 2000), 1:280-81; J. Hoffmeier, Ancient Israel in Sinai (Oxford 2005), chap. 5.
“Trust me, when I say these are simple issues that affect the overall shape (ideological trust) of the text. In fact, if you took Biblical Studies seriously, you'd discover that the ideology of one text actually refutes the other.”
Why should we trust him when he betrays such a willfully indolent ignorance of exegesis and period conventions?
Ironically, William acts like a parody of KJV-only fundy who thinks that he knows all he needs to know about meaning of Scripture without knowing a thing about how an ancient text would be heard by an ancient audience.
i) What about the ideological agenda of liberal Bible scholars?
ii) And what about William’s ideological agenda?
iii) If he believes that one Scriptural text refutes another, why does he even claim to be a Christian?
“So how could inspiration guarantee meaning of each text?”
It wouldn’t on his assumption, but that begs the question.
“What is so interesting about reading your post is your resemblance to a fundamentalist that I had to deal with. By 'fundamentalist' I mean someone who is dogmatic about preserving his own tradition, even if it means ignoring the evidence.”
William is a liberal fideist. He regards the Bible as uninspired, but clings to the semblance of Christian faith. How logical is that?
“I assume that you will answer my "simple" questions in one of two ways: harmonization or downplay their significance.”
This is another example of his liberal fideism. He asks Andrew some questions, then discredits his answers with a preemptory dismissal before Andrews has a chance to answer them. This is a way of immunizing his compartmentalized faith from falsification.
“Either way, you'll find yourself developing a very complex system of thought that doesn't in any way reflect the conclusions of honest biblical exegesis.”
The limited inerrantist must come up with a very complex system of thought to explain why he believes some parts of the Bible, but not others. Why he believes in certain redemptive events while disbelieving the historical record of those events. Or does he even affirm the historicity of these events?
If he thinks that “honest” exegesis entails the denial of Biblical inspiration, then the honest course of action would be for him to make a clean break with the faith instead of keeping up appearances.
“Why come up with a complex system to preserve your traditions, when the bible is a very human book.”
Does the Bible claim to be a very human book? Or is this an extrascriptural value judgment that goes against the grain of the Scriptural self-witness?
“The only reason why you'd have a problem with it is due the sacred-secular divide, which is also evident in your view of inspiration.”
This is self-defensive sophistry. What he really means is that he can’t believe a lot of what the Bible says because he believes in many other things which, if true, would contradict the Bible. He then dresses up his infidelity in the vestments of mock piety. But William and Greg are like the faithless Exodus-generation whom God condemned to wander and rot in the wilderness because they would never take God at his word.
“Thus, inspiration has to be revised, not refined.”
How can it be “revised.” Either we have a scriptural doctrine of inspiration or an unscriptural doctrine of inspiration. The self-witness of Scripture is static. The self-witness of Scripture hasn’t changed. It cannot be revised, but only denied.