Monday, July 27, 2009

Hamilton on inerrancy

Jim Hamilton said

April 8, 2009 at 7:07 pm
Prof McGrath,

Thanks for your note. I don’t know if you’ve seen John Collins’s work on Genesis 1-4 where he differentiates between a world-picture, which might include a flat earth, and a world view, which would affirm that whatever it looks like God made it all. I’m comfortable with that kind of differentiation, following Warfield’s view that when God gave the biblical authors true theology he didn’t necessarily give them modern cosmology. I’m inclined to think that Beale is right about the creation narratives depicting creation as a cosmic temple because the universe is built for the worship of God and communion between God and his people. These are things that happen in temples, and God’s temple is the cosmos.

I’m also happy to say that where I can’t find a convincing reconciliation of pieces of evidence that seem to be in conflict, I recognize that I don’t know everything there is to know. There may very well be information out there that would reconcile these pieces of evidence, and/or I may not be correctly understanding these pieces of evidence. So I am content to give the Bible the benefit of the doubt.

In addition to these considerations, it seems to me that a real contradiction would go like this: Gospel writer A claims that Jesus descends from David, while gospel writer B asserts that Jesus most certainly did not descend from David. This, of course, is not the kind of “contradiction” that we find in the gospels. We find places where the accounts give different pieces of information. There are all kinds of good explanations for those different pieces of information. The possibilities are limited only by our willingness to approach the sources sympathetically as opposed to coming at them employing the hermeneutic of suspicion. At the end of the day, it takes as much faith to assert on the basis of what we actually know (and this is not everything) that an error has been made as it does to imagine that there are probably ways that these things can be reconciled, even if I’m not aware of how to reconcile them at the present.

The fact that some excavating Louisville in 3145 will have a difficult time explaining why one document he finds in my study indicates that in 2008 I taught at Southwestern Seminary, while another document in my study indicates that in 2008 I taught at Southern Seminary won’t mean that the documents are erroneous. If that scholar in the future asserts that the documents are contradictory and therefore erroneous, it will only show that he does not understand that there were spring and fall semesters in 2008 with a summer in between. In the spring I taught at Southwestern, moved from Texas to Kentucky in the summer, and taught at Southern in the fall. I can imagine that some other scholar might propose such a reconstruction out there in 3145, and I can imagine the one who thinks the documents are erroneous rejecting the harmonization because the reconstruction was rather complicated. But it would be a true reconciliation of the evidence.

All this to say, I am convinced that the Bible is totally true and trustworthy. I believe that when God stooped down low to enter into our little world and reveal himself, he did not allow error into his communication.

I wish you every blessing in Christ Jesus, whose death has paid the penalty for sin, so that all who trust in him can be reconciled to God.

He is risen!


1 comment:

  1. I have read that some people no longer believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and/or God because of the destructive teaching that the Bible contains errors.