Thursday, September 22, 2016

Inerrancy and general historical reliability

In Andy Stanley's now notorious sermon in which he said Christians should stop basing their faith on the Bible, I think he gives mixed signals on the inerrancy of Scripture. Here's my working hypothesis:

It's not necessarily that Andy denies the inerrancy of Scripture; rather, he considers inerrancy to be expendable. 

For him, what ultimately matters is the Resurrection, and he thinks you can prove the Resurrection by treating the Gospels as generally historically reliable. And if you can prove the Resurrection, that proves Christianity. 

Assuming that's his position, I suspect he's basically indifferent to inerrancy because he doesn't think he has any ultimate stake in the inerrancy of Scripture. 

However, assuming that's his position, he can't avoid defending the Bible:

i) Unbelievers like Bart Erhman have compiled a long list of alleged contradictions and historical mistakes in the Gospels. Andy cannot establish even the general reliability of the Gospels without rebutting most of those objections. For if the Gospels really have all those contradictions and historical mistakes, then the Gospels are generally unreliable rather than generally reliable. Hence, Andy must cut the list down to size to show that even if the Gospels aren't inerrant, the mistakes and discrepancies are few and inconsequential. 

ii) In addition, Andy can't put all his chips on the Resurrection and then duck factual objections to the Gospels, for unbelievers also allege that the Resurrection accounts are riddled with discrepancies. That makes Andy's position very vulnerable.

The upshot is that Andy can't take shortcuts. He must rebut objections to the accuracy of the Gospels, one-by-one, as if he were defending the inerrancy of Scripture (at least the Gospels). 

iii) Of course, that doesn't he must be able to explain every single objection. Ancient literature is bound to have some obscurities. But he has to respond to as many objections as he can to demonstrate that the Gospels are generally historically reliable. 

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