Inerrancy - the larger discussion (Bulldog for March)
Observations concerning the knowledge of God (as revealed in his Word) and the current humanistic scene
Christianity has always recognised two basic 'impossibilities': the impossibility of unaided human salvation and the impossibility of unaided human knowledge. Paul says: 'no one will be declared righteous . . . by observing the law' and again, 'the world in its wisdom did not know God'.
As evangelicals we are familiar with the first, less with the second - which is serious not only for the inerrancy debate, but also for our whole experience, for the central issue of our time is not soteriology (salvation), important and necessary as that remains, but epistemology (knowledge). The West's current disorientation and distress flows naturally from its intellectual bankruptcy.
Briefly stated, the enlightenment two centuries ago repudiated divine knowledge in favour of human knowledge. The technological achievements of the new science, though not originating from the new ideas, nevertheless coincided with them. - it was scientific knowledge, remember. Hence the new 'humanism' appeared itself to be as successful as the new science, initially at least. God could safely be left out of the equation (a) because God was ;'unknowable' and (b) because the human race was enjoying real 'progress' for the first time.
It took time for the cracks to appear, but steadily they widened until the fundamental absurdity of the Enlightenment was finally exposed in the 20th century, first by existentialism and then recently by post-modernism. Our knowledge of the world, it is now said, is not know-ledge of the way things actually are in themselves, but only as we experience them, itself only a conditioned reflex from the culture surrounding us. The 'Grand Narrative' has ended: the West has declared herself intellectually bankrupt - with the attendant and disturbing corollary that if we cannot say what we are, then who can say what we should do? Hence, for example, the debate about morality in schools.
The confusion rests upon a simple lie. Just as alternative religious systems claim to provide ways of salvation independent of Christ's substitutionary death and resurrection, so humanism claims adequate knowledge of the universe independent of God and his revelation.
So we find ourselves at an interesting moment: the impossibility of objective knowledge has been arrived at by a process of elimination - simply because post-modernism shares the earlier pre-supposition of the Enlightenment that human knowledge arises only from within human experience, not from God and his creation. By insisting on a humanistic framework for knowledge, knowledge itself has become problematic.
Knowledge is from God
By contrast, Christianity claims that all knowledge begins, not with finite persons, but with the infinite personal God who has created all things, who knows accurately and completely what objective reality is - including human beings and their history. Because they are made in his image, he has granted them the possibility of reliable though limited knowledge, and in his mercy, subsequent to their fall, he has revealed himself to them in his Word.
It is a revealed Word, moreover, which is perfect simply because made so by God. The incarnate Word is perfect and worshipped because divine. Though human, the Scripture is also perfect because designed and executed, ultimately, by the divine Spirit. Therefore the Bible guarantees human knowledge. To suggest that Scripture is not perfect is to make the simple but fatal mistake of navigating by a faulty compass: the start may be close to the course intended, but inexorably, because inherently faulty, the finish is a long way off - the unhappy conclusion of all 'liberal' approaches to the Bible over the past two centuries. These are both exegetically and historically inaccurate, of course. Until quite recently the church has insisted upon the Bible's unique authority and inerrancy. Most seriously, however, they undermine the only reasonable and stable alternative to the 'impossibility' of (humanistic) knowledge so pathetically and dangerously evident today.