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Deductive Versus Inductive Approach to Inerrancy

Inerrancy  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  1:01:37
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Deductive Versus Inductive Approach to Inerrancy Lesson # 4

Wenstrom Bible Ministries
Pastor-Teacher Bill Wenstrom
Tuesday January 6, 2015
Inerrancy: Deductive Versus Inductive Approach to Inerrancy
Lesson # 4
Most evangelicals adopt a view of inerrancy which is based upon a deductive approach to bibliology which was championed by E. J. Young.
The result of this approach is that many evangelicals believe that without an inerrant Bible, we can never know anything about Jesus Christ.
They often ask the question, “How can we ever be sure that anything in the Bible is true?”
They ask, “How can we be sure that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be, or that He even existed, if the Bible is not inerrant?”
Ultimately these claim that you can never get saved without an inerrant Bible.
This deductive approach to bibliology and specifically the subject of inerrancy is faulty and in fact dangerous.
To say that you cannot get saved without an inerrant Bible is ludicrous since people got saved before the New Testament was ever written!
The spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ took place before the Gospels were even written.
This testifies strongly to the work of the Spirit as well as to historical evidence of the affirmations of the eyewitnesses to Christ’s life and death and resurrection.
Furthermore, the deductive approach to inerrancy is in error because we can know about Christ because the Bible is in fact a historical document.
How can we demand inerrancy of the Bible before we can believe that it is true when we don’t demand inerrancy of other ancient historical documents?
No evangelical is skeptical about all of ancient history and none demand inerrancy of these other ancient historical documents.
So why should we demand it of the Bible?
The Bible is not in a different category than these other ancient historical documents.
The Christian does not have to take a leap of faith to believe what the Bible affirms since it has demonstrated that it is historically reliable.
We have plenty of evidence that it is historically reliable.
A more sound approach to inerrancy is the inductive approach or in other words, a Christian’s view of inerrancy must never be based upon deductive reasoning but rather it must be based upon inductive evidence.
We must first start with the evidence, namely that the Bible is a historical document.
We must not start with the presupposition that the Bible is inspired.
The Christian’s belief in inerrancy must be upon evidence, which the Bible presents since it is a historical document.
Therefore, many evangelicals are in error when they believe that one cannot be saved without first believing in inerrancy.
Dan Wallace writes “Many today are uncomfortable with an inductive approach to bibliology. I have to wonder if perhaps one of the reasons they are is that it is simply easier to hold to a naïve fideism than it is to examine the data. I have to wonder if perhaps the presuppositionalism of Reformed epistemology has run amok in some circles. Yes, I am a presuppositionalist in my core beliefs, but I believe that there is a place for evidence. When I was a full-blown presuppositionalist years ago, I slipped into a kind of doctrinal arrogance. I didn’t distinguish which truths were grounds for others. This caused a certain smugness on my part, and allowed me the luxury of viewing all doctrines as created equal. But I learned a rather valuable lesson while in the master’s program. I came home to California for a Christmas vacation early on in the program. And I had lunch with my uncle, David Wallace. He was the first graduate from Fuller Seminary to earn a Ph.D. He earned it at Edinburgh University, under Matthew Black. But he also logged some time in various places in Europe—studying with Baumgartner, Barth, and others. He was not pleased with my choice to attend Dallas Seminary; I was clueless about what he really believed. During the lunch, I asked him what he thought about inerrancy. His response startled me, and changed my perspective for all time. He essentially said that he didn’t hold to the doctrine (though he said so much more colorfully than that!). I thought to myself, “Oh no! My uncle is going to hell!” I felt compelled to ask him what he thought about the bodily resurrection of Christ, fearing what I would hear next. After all, without inerrancy, we really can’t know anything about Christ, right? To my surprise, David said, “If Christ is not raised from the dead, then we’re all dead in our sins.” He was certain about the resurrection of Christ. But how could he be without a bibliological presupposition to back it up? I cannot tell you how great the existential crisis was for me at that moment. Up until this time, I had believed that inerrancy was an essential belief of the Christian faith, one that was indispensable to salvation. When David affirmed the central credo of salvation, I could not deny his spiritual status. I came to the sudden realization that one could be saved without embracing inerrancy.” [1]
Dan Story writes “The historical reliability of the Bible is the foundation for the inerrancy of Scripture. The Bible claims to be inerrant, as we’ll see in a few moments. However, no matter what the Bible claims about itself, if it is not reliable, we could not trust what it says in any area, including inerrancy. On the other hand, if the Bible is a reliable, trustworthy document, then what it says about itself can be trusted...Therefore, since we found the Bible inerrant in all areas in which it can be checked out, we are logically consistent to insist that problem passages (i.e., passages that appear to contain historical or scientific error due to the current unavailability of extra-biblical verification) will eventually be settled in favor of inerrancy. Over the past hundred years, scores of so-called problem passages have been resolved in favor of Scripture. Clark Pinnock reports that ‘in 1800 the French Institute in Paris issued a list of 82 errors in the Bible which they believed would destroy Christianity. Today none of these “errors” remain! With further reflection and new discoveries, these “errors” were cleared away.’[2] So it’s perfectly reasonable to believe that as additional evidence surfaces, those remaining problem texts will also be validated by nonbiblical sources.”[3]
A Christian’s view must be based upon Christology or in other words, it must be based upon Christ Himself and what He taught about the Scriptures.
The Christian must define inerrancy on the basis of the Scripture’s testimony itself.
They must subject all theological ideas about inerrancy to Scripture.
The Scripture claims its inerrant and we can believe its testimony about itself because it has show itself to be a reliable historical document.
Wallace writes “Some may argue that we can’t even know what Jesus said unless we start with a high bibliology. Frankly, that approach is a bit circular. Making a pronouncement that scripture is inerrant does not guarantee the truth of such an utterance. If I said the moon is made of green cheese, that doesn’t make it so. At most, what such pronouncements can do is give one assurance. But this is not the same as knowledge. And if the method for arriving at such assurance is wrongheaded, then even the assurance needs to be called into question. A web of issues brings about the deepest kinds of theological assurance: evidence (historical, exegetical, hermeneutical, etc.), affirmations, the role of the Spirit, etc. One does not have the deepest assurance about inerrancy simply by convincing himself that it must be true. Indeed, I would argue that such a presuppositional approach often caves in on itself. Exhibit A is the countless theologians who defected to liberalism after starting with such a perspective. Because they did not have sufficient evidence for their position, because they suffocated the voice of the Spirit, because they held to a domino view of doctrine (one falls down, they all fall down), or because their evangelical professors viewed any questions about inerrancy as disrespectful or due to sin, they abandoned a high view of the text—and with it, a high view of Christ. And the real tragedy is that many evangelical leaders don’t believe what I’m saying and continue to produce the next generation of liberal theologians. But if inerrancy is true, what harm is there in examining the data of the text? What are you afraid of? Now, someone may say, ‘But how do you know that Jesus actually held to a high bibliology unless you start with that presupposition? How do you know that the Gospel writers got the words of Jesus right in the first place?’ I think that’s an excellent question. I would use the criteria of authenticity to argue that he indeed held to a high view of the text. The criteria of authenticity, when used properly, are criteria that Gospels scholars use to affirm whether Jesus said or did something. Notice that I did not say, ‘Gospels scholars use to deny whether Jesus said or did something.’ The criteria of authenticity should normally be used only for positive results. To take one illustration: The criterion of dissimilarity is the criterion that says if Jesus said something that was unlike what any rabbi before him said and unlike what the church later said, then surely such a saying is authentic. I think this is good as far as it goes. It certainly works for “the Son of Man” sayings in the Gospels. The problem is that the Jesus Seminar used this criterion to make negative assessments of Jesus’ sayings.[4] Thus, if Jesus said something that was said in Judaism before him, its authenticity is discounted. But surely that would create an eccentric Jesus if it were applied across the board![5] Indeed, Jesus said things that were already said in the Judaism of his day, and surely the early church learned from him and repeated him. How does this apply to Jesus’ bibliology? Since his statements about scripture are decidedly more reverential than those of the Pharisees or Sadducees, the criterion of dissimilarity requires us to see that Jesus did, indeed, hold to a high bibliology. Of course, I am not arguing that the average Christian for the past two thousand years needed to think about whether Jesus said something. But I am arguing that even the evidence from a historical-critical perspective points in the same direction. And I am arguing that in the modern world, and even postmodern world, for evangelicals to ignore evidence is tantamount to a leap of faith.[6]
So therefore, the Bible is an historical document which has demonstrated that it is a historically reliable document.
The Bible records Jesus having the firm conviction that the Scriptures were divine in origin.
The Bible itself declares that it is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21).
We can believe its testimony about itself because it has shown itself to be a reliable historical document.
Thus, the Bible is in fact in errant.
[1] Daniel B. Wallace, My Take on Inerrancy; page 3, Biblical Studies Press, 2006.
[2] Clark H. Pinnock, Set Forth Your Case (Nutley, NJ: The Craig Press, 1968), 71.
[3] Story, D. (1997). Defending your faith (p. 53). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.
[4] The Jesus Seminar did not apply this particular negative argument to “the Son of Man” sayings because the evidence is unequivocal. However, when it came to prophecies in which Jesus spoke of the Son of Man they summarily discounted such sayings because they had previously rejected the possibility of predictive prophecy!
[5] For a discussion on the criteria of authenticity, see J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel B. Wallace, Reinventing Jesus (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006) 39-50.
[6] Daniel B. Wallace, My Take on Inerrancy; pages 5-6, Biblical Studies Press, 2006.
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