At 8:02 AM, Joseph said...
“I was only trying to trot out how everyone I've ever heard defend your position has actually done so.”
A couple of issues:
1.In my response to Prejean, I wasn’t defending the inspiration of Scripture. I’ve done that on many other occasions, but that was not my stated aim in response to Prejean. I was merely highlighting the consequences of his position.
Whether the denial of inerrancy is acceptable or not will depend on the theological commitments of the individual. If you’re a theological liberal, then you don’t have a problem with that consequence.
But it’s worth noting that Prejean can only defend Catholicism by attacking the inerrancy of Scripture.
2.Now let’s focus on your own statement. You were referring to the following “argument”:
“WOW, good one Steve. My undergraduate philosophy professor used this (on the first day of class in an introductory course) as a textbook example of sloppy thinking among Christians. Why is the Bible the Word of God? Because it says so. Why trust the Bible? Because God wrote it. How do you know God wrote it? Because the Bible says so...etc...etc...etc..”
This, you say, is how everyone you’ve ever heard defend my position has actually done so.
By way of reply:
1.With all due respect, that tells me that your experience is pretty limited. You haven’t made an effort to acquaint yourself with standard Evangelical apologetics, even though that material is readily available.
2.The “argument” you trot out is a stock caricature of the Christian position by unbelievers. This is the way a militant atheist will typically caricature the Christian argument for the inspiration of Scripture. It’s not how a typical Christian apologist will defend the inspiration of Scripture.
3.Even on its own grounds, let’s consider the argument for a moment.
i) Instead of the Bible, let’s construct a parallel argument: Who wrote A Farewell to Arms? Earnest Hemingway. Why do you think Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms? Because it says so.
Would that be an example of sloppy reasoning? No.
If you were reading A Farewell to Arms, and a friend asked you who wrote it, you would say Earnest Hemingway. And if your friend asked you how you knew that, you would show him your copy of the book, which says that Hemingway was the author.
Is that an unreasonable answer to his question? No. Is it viciously circular to appeal to the title itself? No.
ii) Of course, this is not a compelling argument for authorship. It’s possible that the conventional attribution is false.
But if the publisher gives Hemingway as the author, that is prima facie grounds for believing that Hemingway is the author, is it not?
That, all by itself, is evidence for the authorship of the novel, and you wouldn’t have any reason to question that attribution unless you had evidence to the contrary.
Do you know for a fact that Hemingway wrote the novel because it says so? No. The ascription could be mistaken.
But, absent evidence to the contrary, it’s reasonable for you to believe that he wrote it simply because it says so.
And that’s because, to doubt his authorship, you’d have to assume some sort of conspiracy to palm off this novel as the work of Hemingway, even though the publishers were in a position to know better.
Now, conspiracies do occur. But you would need specific evidence to justify your belief in a conspiracy. Absent evidence of a conspiracy, it’s more reasonable to take the ascription at face value.
iii) If God intended to communicate with the human race, don’t you suppose that he would identify himself as the speaker? What would be the point of a divine communication if we didn’t know the source? If this was from God, but we didn’t know it was from God, then we would treat it like any other human communication.
Suppose the Bible never identified itself as the Word of God. Would we pay the same amount of attention to Scripture? No.
If it never said it was the Word of God, we would have no particular reason read it or consider it to be the Word of God. After all, there are far more books in the world than anyone has the time to read. So how do you choose? How do you know what’s important?
iv) Is a divine self-ascription sufficient reason to believe that a document is inspired by God? No.
But a divine self-ascription does make a document a candidate for divine revelation. We will judge it on that basis, whereas—if it never made such a claim in the first place—it wouldn’t even be a candidate for divine revelation.
So the self-witness of Scripture is quite germane to the overall case for the inspiration of Scripture. The self-witness of Scripture is not a sufficient reason to believe that Scripture is what it says it is, but it’s no more unreasonable to take that claim as your starting point than it is to begin with Hemingway as the stated author of A Farewell to Arms.
4.And how do we validate the claim? You say the only argument you’ve heard is a viciously circular argument: the Bible is the Word of God because the Bible says so. But that is not the standard argument for the inspiration of Scripture.
i) One argument is the traditional argument from prophecy. This has been around for centuries. It was used by the subapostolic fathers. Indeed, you find it in Scripture itself.
Have you never heard of this argument before? If so, you really need to get out more often, enlarge your social circle, and do some basic reading in the standard apologetic literature.
ii) Another popular argument of more recent origin is a stepwise argument. It basically goes like this:
a) The NT is a primary source of 1C history. It’s a collection of 1C documents that furnish a historical witness to certain 1C historical events.
As such, we can approach the NT the way we would any analogous source, like Tacitus or Josephus. You don’t have to believe that Tacitus or Josephus is divinely inspired to treat them as historical sources for the period they recount. You merely treat them as fairly reliable historians.
There is a prima facie presumption that they are accurate unless you have evidence to the contrary. They are writing about roughly contemporaneous people, places, and events. So they’re generally in a position to know what they’re talking about, and they generally have no motive to deceive.
b) In addition to the prima facie presumption, there is a lot of corroborative evidence for the NT from archeology.
c) The next step is to say, in light of (a)-(b), that the NT gives us a reliable account of who Jesus is, what he said, and what he did (or will do).
d) The next step is to point out that, among other things, Jesus made statements about the OT. He affirms the inspiration of the OT.
e) I’d add that the OT is a forward-looking book, so at this point you could also insert the argument from prophecy.
f) The final step is to point out that Jesus also affirmed the inspiration of the Apostles—beginning with the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Have you never heard of this argument? It’s been around since J. W. Montgomery—if not before—and widely popularized by his successors.
iii) Then there’s the argument from religious experience. Most Christians are not high-powered intellectuals. They don’t believe the Bible because they have a set of arguments for Scripture which they can whip out at a moment’s notice.
But they find the Bible compelling. They simply believe it. They can’t help themselves.
And—what is more—they also find the Bible true to their own experience. As they live according to Scripture, year in and year out, it comes true (so to speak) in their own life-experience—and the experience of fellow believers.
“Strictly speaking, the most serious error here seems to be equivocating the Bible and the Word of God. They are not the same. The Word of God is a person, and the Bible is a written record of that person.”
No, “strictly speaking,” you’re the one who’s equivocating here, not me.
i) It’s true that “the Word of God” is, among other things, a Christological title. But that is not it’s only referent. It also denotes the Bible.
You need to do some reading on the self-witness of Scripture. Here’s a good place to start:
The Bible is the Word of God because the Bible is, among other things, a record of God’s verbal self-revelation. Indeed, it’s an inspired record of divine revelation. Inspired at two levels: the record itself, as well as the recorded content.
ii) To say the Bible is a written record of Jesus is a considerable overstatement. The Bible contains many passages that are not a record of who Jesus is, or said, or did. Although the Bible is Christologically structured, the Bible is not all about Jesus all of the time. Do you think that Exod 21-22 is specifically about Jesus? Do you think that Deut 19-24 is specifically about Jesus?
There’s a mock piety, of the Harold Camping variety, that sees Jesus in every verse of Scripture. But this isn’t a properly Christ-honoring approach to Scripture. Every bush is not a burning bush. Sometimes a bush is just a bush.