“Poorly-versed accounts of inerrancy- accounts that fail to understand the nature of language and literature- harm the cause of biblical authority and truth.” As most objections against biblical inerrancy arise from the impoverished state of its contour, “a well-versed Augustinian inerrancy is the way forward for evangelical biblical scholars and theologians,” argues Kevin J. Vanhoozer on the occasion of 2013 Evangelical Theological Society annual meeting.
Vanhoozer agrees with J. I. Packer: inerrancy ought always to be held as an article of faith « not capable of demonstrative proof but entailed by dominical and apostolic teaching about the nature of Scripture. » Perhaps, in order to be at peace with as many evangelicals as possible, we could agree that inerrancy, if not essential, is nevertheless expedient.
To be well-versed is to have a literate understanding of the literal sense. Whereas the early Christians had « an addiction to literacy », Vanzooer’s primary concern about inerrancy today is that too many contemporary readers lack the literacy needed for understanding the way the words go, or for rightly handling (2 Tim. 2:15: Orthotomeo) the word of truth. Biblical inerrancy in the context of biblical illiteracy makes for a dangerous proposition.
In asking whether the Chicago statement is well-versed, Vanhoozer has four major concerns:
- whether its definition of inerrancy is clear;
- whether it gives primacy to a biblical-theological rather than a philosophical understanding of truth;
- whether it is sufficiently attentive to the nature and function of language and literature;
- whether it produced a theological novelty.
In contrast, Vanhoozer is much more willing to speak about Augustine as the patron saint of well-versed inerrancy, because
- his thinking was thoroughly theological and he judged Scripture to be entirely true and trustworthy, and
- he was not only familiar with but also proficient in the liberal arts, writing on the nature and interpretation of language, concerned for what he called the literal meaning of Genesis,
- but also alert and attentive to biblical figures of speech.
Vanhoozer is adamant that Augustine would agree with the judgment expressed by his definition of inerrancy: the authors speak the truth in all things they affirm (when they make affirmations), and will eventually be seen to have spoken truly (when right readers read rightly).
By corollary, a well-versed Augustinian inerrancy pays special care
- first to speech-act content but also to form
- to the plurality of genres and various types of discourses in the Scripture
- more to the Speaker (the Author of the text) than to « sentence meaning »
- and inevitably to the illumination of the Holy Spirit on the part of the reader
However, given the propensity of scribes to smooth-en textual wrinkles, our insistence on textual inerrancy can be called a well-versed one only if we are willing to bear the textual problems preserved in what we [scientifically] deem the most reliable text, by typically preferring of the more difficult readings, rather than by using inerrancy as a cheap device to oppress the communicative integrity of God’s Word and circumvent hard sayings.
Now I have a question.
On the hermeneutic ethics of the discipline of textual criticism, Vanhoozer seems ambitious but becomes a bit ambivalent. What is implied yet remains unspecified here is an ethical evaluation of the scribal work:
In what way can Vanhoozer say the scribes/copyists are working along God’s communicative business in their interpretation/ »dynamic » preservation of the Scripture they receive? It seems their labors are excluded from our positive hermeneutic considerations because, on the one hand, by flattening textual problems they point to us an « easy hermeneutic road » uncharacteristic of the nature of the Cross of Jesus we are asked to bear.
On the other hand, they give our enemies a stock to hold against us that our Scripture is corrupted and unreliable (while without their works, we would never have had the chance to stand here as the people of the Word, either).
A pneumatology of textual transmission and textual criticism is thus wanted in our dealings with the doctrine of biblical inspiration and inerrancy, in my view.
Questions aside, Vanhoozer’s conclusion is a robust and ethically holistic one: that right-minded interpreters of the Scripture are necessarily its truthful witnesses that are willing to endure textual difficulties (on the intellectual/Sophia level), as well as truth-seekers capable of responding to, loving, and participating in the calling of the Scripture (on the practical/Phronesis level)- they listen to God’s Word, comprehend it, and do it.
Now available for viewing, the video features Dr. Vanhoozer outlining and explaining his position, presented more fully in Five Views. A transcript of the video is also available for Download.
Appendix: Vanhoozer on Peter Enns in Five Views on Inerrancy:
I endorse Enns’ call to conform our doctrine of Scripture to the Bible that we actually have rather than the one we think God ought to have written. My own essay contrasts an “inerrancy of glory” (aka “perfect book inerrancy,” a cultural construct) with an “inerrancy of the cross.” I draw this distinction in order to urge an inerrancy of the cross that recognizes the wisdom of God in the surprising textual form he has given it rather than the form we may think it ought to have had. Enns simply identifies inerrancy with perfect book theology, however, and then devotes most of his essay to exposing its nakedness. I agree that perfect book inerrancy, “by placing on it expectations it is not designed to bear”, fails to do justice to Scripture. However, in my own chapter, I explore a constructive alternative. I wish Enns had tried to do this too.
Instead, Enns spends most of his chapter reacting to what I judge to be a caricature of inerrancy— what David Dockery, whom I discuss in my own chapter, calls “naive” rather than “critical” inerrancy. Enns would have been better off discussing the original drawing— namely, the definitions offered by John Frame or Paul Feinberg— rather than demeaning the assumptions and interpretive practice of anonymous inerrantists. Who are these faceless villains (“ is it I, Peter”)? Enns nevertheless makes a valid point: the doctrine of inerrancy has been hijacked by various bands of exegetical pirates who insist that the gold of true Bible knowledge is secure only in their own interpretive treasure chests.
Enns thinks the core issue is “how inerrancy functions in contemporary evangelical theological discourse”. Why should the function rather than the nature of inerrancy be the crux of the matter? We don’t throw away other doctrines, like divine sovereignty or the atonement, just because some people misunderstand or misuse them. No, we try to set them right. Curiously, Enns is not interested in definitions. Even his title focuses on function: “Inerrancy, However Defined, Does Not Describe What the Bible Does.” This is strange. Why should inerrancy— the claim that the Bible is without error— describe what the Bible does? Enns’ essay suffers from two confusions: (1) a failure to distinguish the nature of inerrancy from its use and (2) a failure to distinguish inerrancy’s right use from various abuses.
–Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) Zondervan, 2013, 83-4 [Kindle Edition]
God is triune communicative-being-in-activity who authors, sustains, and interacts with the world by Word and Spirit and does so via various media, that is, the prophets of ancient Israel, the apostolic church, and the canon of Scripture. The world thus receives light, life, and love from God’s communicative causality in ways that not only preserve but empower creaturely interpersonal freedom vis-à-vis the ravages of sin and the fall.
— Amos Yong recapitulates Kevin Vanhoozer’s Remythologizing Theology
Yong commends Vanhoozer for NOT giving into Feuerbach’s mythologizing model and Rahner’s relational ontology at the expense of the integrity of scriptural metanarratives, though he still feels that Vanhoozer’s model remains to be challenged to tasks by the conditions of the postcolonial and global era.
經濟學人〈紐約的文化經濟〉一文介紹了 Elizabeth Currid 在 The Warhol Economy: How Fashion, Art, and Music Drive New York City (2007) 一書中的觀察。
雖然網路已經很好用，但「見面三分情」更是真的。「聽君一席話，勝讀十年書」說明教育的關鍵在於有人點撥、將知識貫通為學問、道理。叫我受益最深的是這屆 AAR 及 SBL 時的「夜生活」（因為白天都在開會，晚上則是大展拳腳的社交時光）。與在亞伯丁的學長 Justin 重逢後，他帶我闖蕩普神的歡迎酒會、和亞伯丁系統神學學派的一票學人吃美式漢堡噴八卦，又到 T&T Clark 包下的酒吧場子跟他們編輯喝紅酒談出版，還認識了幾位前途看好的劍橋博士與博後學人和從劍橋轉到愛丁堡的年輕教授 Paul Nimmo。Justin 不停向人用一個我自己聽了都非常臉紅（也不以為然）的方式介紹我。但總之，這讓我與許多學術先進們有話可聊、建立橋樑。
此外，我自己還去跟芝大神學院那邊搭了幾條線。Jean Bethke Elstain 教授和 Dwight Hopkins 教授都分了很長的時間回答我的問題，即使圍繞在他們身邊的還有同事以及自己的學生。與普神的 Bruce McCormack、George Hunsinger 見面時也充滿親切感。
我對諸多 transatlantic 神學界的學閥局勢都在這時候掌握起來或得到印證。那時是我第一次感覺到自己接近並且已經一腳踏入這個世界。
另一頭 SBL，我陪小涵一起奔赴新約和保羅研究的一線戰場。瞻仰 N.T. Wright, R.B. Hays, Daniel Boyarin 這些大師（以及精彩的交鋒外），並與會場隨機遇到的華人學者交流。
我在後自由神學大會師場合和歐陸解構現象學派高峰會的兩條線嘗試開展時，則更覺得應該積極些。看得書耶魯後自由學派出來的大師們情誼都很深厚，至於歐陸那頭我積極提問，有一個年輕教授和 Kevin Hart 願意很親切地回應我。最後是早早注意到同場與會的中原阿豹也在現場，特意把握了機會交流。這次帶來的主要影響，是如何將社會運動、公民組織的社群概念，用「教會論」加以批判比較，同時也引入其實驗性概念來深化教會論的神學形上學。
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Source Link: Eerdmans 100 Interview Series: Anthony Thiselton
Matthew: Hermeneutics is a complex discipline that cannot be performed with an overly reduced concept of the term. Indeed, it draws on many fields for its practice and coherence. Will you, briefly, outline what hermeneutics is and explain its relationship to other disciplines both scientific and artistic?
Thiselton: Although it entails, first, biblical hermeneutics, it is vital that Biblical Studies is not isolated from Systematic Theology. This occurs all too often, to the impoverishment of both. Hence the second discipline is Theology. Third, Linguistics has to be studied for a serious Hermeneutic. Fourth, because modern Hermeneutics since Schleiermacher is “the art of understanding”, it must involve epistemology, or the theory of knowledge. The fifth essential discipline is sociology of knowledge, since all interpretation is not purely “objective”, but depends on pre-understanding, or what Habermas calls “interest”. Preliminary understandings (English, rather than German!) can be negotiated like “horizons”; they are not fixed like “presuppositions. Nowadays, sixthly, Literary Studies are indispensible, both for an understanding of genre (as in Umberto Eco), but also on “intention” and Reader Response Theory.
We might add, seventh, Reception History or Reception Theory, which has now become a sub-discipline in Biblical Studies, Theology, and Literary Theory. I cannot think of any of these eight which we can easily omit. It is tragic that some relegate Hermeneutics only to a branch of Biblical Studies or oh Church History. I have explored more on the Hermeneutics of Doctrine in my book, The Hermeneutics of Doctrine (Eerdmans, 2007).
Matthew: Postmodern thought has been preoccupied with the task of hermeneutics and the relationship of readers to texts. Yet, many in Christian circles have had a difficult time recognizing the value it might add to our reading of texts generally or to the Bible specifically. What positive contributions (if any), in your view has postmodernism made to hermeneutics?
Thiselton: I must confess that I suspect all “-isms” as overgeneralizations. I speak to my students only specifically about Lyotard, Derrida, Rorty, Foucault, and others. For the most part, I am grieved that many Evangelicals retreat from robust, rational discussion because many postmodernists say that I can say only how it is with me, i.e. testify to what has worked for me. But there are some positive features: (1) an attack on the standardization of knowledge, especially making everything correspond to technology (especially Lyotard); this applies to what is said above about “science”. (2) I share their dislike of generalities; but we need caution about rejecting all “meta-narratives”, of which the Bible may be one. (3) Roland Barthes’ early work “Mythologies” is fascinating, and assists Ricoeur’s “Hermeneutic of Suspicion”, although this may be too early to call it “Postmodern”. (4) Jean Baudrillard exposes fantasy and simulacra, together the idolization of utility and media-created, and media-centred “celebrities”. But specifically on Hermeneutics I have some sympathy with Vanhoozer’s exposure of Derrida as too near to atheism, and I would add Lyotard on incommensurability and the plurality of “paganism” as negative. In the U.S.A., I find it difficult to find merits in Rorty and Fish.