Inerrancy and mass slaughter

Wrapping up discussion of chapter 2, I should add two more things.

  1. Professor Enns mentions Thucydides’ style of recording historical narrative As a counterexample against inerrancy. I simply must demur here. This is not news to us advocates of inerrancy. Of course historical narratives are often paraphrased. By definition, everything that we have of Jesus words, except for one or two phrases in Aramaic that have been preserved, are translations, which are by definition a paraphrase of a sort. I have no issue with the idea that many historical narrative’s are paraphrases.
    The only question is, are they accurate paraphrases? He thinks this does not fit “modern“ standards of inerrancy and truth. I simply disagree. A persons testimony about what another person said is perfectly admissible in a court of law Even if they can’t remember the precise and detailed words. I have seen people charged in the military with communicating a threat, and the charge gave the general words that the person used, then included the phrase “or words to that effect.” Meaning even our modern standards of truth regarding whether or not a record is an accurate representation of the ideas a person communicated, it does not demand word for word accuracy.

  2. I already hinted at it above so I won’t repeat, in detail, but my issue with his treatment of the conquest is focused on this statement of his: “The Israelites were an ancient people and portrayed God and their relationship to him in that way.
    The problem remains… EVERYTHING in the Bible was written by an ancient people who portrayed God and their relationship to him in a similar way. If I can’t trust the one on that basis, on what basis do I trust any other.
    This is not so much an issue of tossing out a baby with the bathwater, it is more akin to shylocks challenge in the merchant of Venice. Trying to take out a pound of flesh without with that removing any blood. As soon as you try to excise certain parts of the Bible on the basis of, “well, those were just ancient people who were communicating their faulty tribal or cultural myths…“ Then what part of the Bible remains to us ? EVERYTHING in the Bible is written by people similarly limited.

Not to mention, I see no way, using this approach, to prevent anyone from simply excising any parts of the Bible that they personally don’t like, find too challenging, or the like. “All those things about loving my enemies? BAH! All that was written by an ancient people and portrayed God and their relationship to him in a way that they understood. That need not apply to me.

Ok, now in to chapter 3…!

OK, so After reading chapter 3, I don’t find categorical disagreement with Dr. Bird, some semantic differences and minor quibbles. Let me start with the agreement.

In various places he confirmed the same thing I would affirm, that being that differences in account, selective choice of details, paraphrase, timelines and arrangement of material, were sometimes chosen for literary or other concerns, rather than for strict consecutive historical accounting.

(On that note, it drives me crazy when people point to two accounts, each of which describes a different number of people in attendance, and call that out as proof positive of a contradiction. If CNN reported, “President Trump yesterday Met with Queen Elizabeth,“ and NBC reported, “President Trump yesterday met with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles,“ Who in their right mind (Bart Ehrman and Peter Enns notwithstanding) would call that a contradiction?)

There are those fundamentalist types who affirm inerrancy to the degree that they would have trouble with such phenomena. But most of us (hopefully somewhat sophisticated types) that affirm inerrancy basically understand the way organic communication in general works. The article in CSBI is appropriate, and covers much of Dr. Bird’s perspective I believe quite well, including his reference to the differences in account of Jesus healing the blind man/men…

We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.

I certainly already discussed in far too much detail my take in the Acts 22 passage, so I’ll just mention that I agreed for the most part with his treatment of Jericho archaeology and the conquest…

We should heed the words of Dillard and Longman: “Today’s archaeology too often becomes tomorrow’s footnote about earlier mistaken efforts. One can only hope that further excavation will eventually put the question of date beyond reasonable doubt.” As such, it is impossible to tie faith or even nonfaith to archaeological records, since such records are continually subject to scholarly revision.

God’s revelation addresses people in their context and that God’s commands often present practical resolutions which, though far from ideal, are nonetheless necessary in the situation. Then, as redemptive history progresses, God reveals more of what he expects of his covenant people…the command to commit genocide was a less-than-ideal option but a necessary pathway for the survival of Israel, given the way that tribal and ethnic warfare was conducted in the ancient Near East, and a way to prevent Israel from worshiping pagan deities.

Now, as to critiques, I only had a few and relatively minor, but to organize better I’ll put them in a different post…

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On to my relatively minor critiques…

Firstly, although I respect that Dr. Bird acknowledged and referenced some relevant quotes from Augustine, I don’t think he recognized or acknowledged the import of them.

For instance, he said he took significant issue with this statement from the CSBI…

Article XIV: We deny that alleged errors and discrepancies that have not yet been resolved undermine the truth claims of the Bible.

But I fail to see how the sentiment is in any way significantly different then the sentiment expressed by Augustine, which he himself quoted…

“I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it.

He uses this quote to confirm that Augustine was willing to credit apparent errors to copyist translation errors, but he seems to miss the import of the final claim, that if scripture seems to be in error, and it is not due to translation or copying error, then it must be that we have misunderstood it. A sentiment nearly identical to that expressed in the CSBI.

Augustine’s sentiment is exactly that of myself. And, I think, the framers of the CSBI, especially as they described their position in article 14. So I fail to see how Dr. Bird can object to the CSBI position as some modern, American invention when it is near identical to that expressed by Augustine.

Moreover, Dr. Bird engages in some (likely unwitting) equivocation in his otherwise very clear argumentation…

Article XVI of the CSBI is as followes…

We affirm that the doctrine of inerrancy has been integral to the Church’s Faith throughout its history, from the Apostles and Church Fathers through the Reformers to the present day.
We deny that inerrancy is a doctrine invented by Scholastic Protestantism, or is a reactionary position postulated in response to negative higher criticism.

I personally notice that this is a (relatively) humble claim, they are not saying that their particular, exact formulation of inerrancy, as outlined in their 19 affirmations and denials, has been integral to the church throughout its history, but simply that the doctrine of inerrancy itself has been integral. And this I think a fair claim.

But Dr. Bird, in refuting this, resorts to a bit of equivocation or straw-man argumentation… he says…

However, to insist that the CSBI understanding of inerrancy is and always has been normative in church history is a bit of a stretch.

I think it is fair to say that not many, if any, of the framers of the CSBI would dare to claim that their particular understanding of inerrancy was and always has been normative in church history. To suggest that they would so claim is, ahem, “a bit of a stretch.”

Next, he says…

the CSBI denies that there were any contingent circumstances that shaped the development of the American inerrancy tradition in the modern period.

This is a bit more of a stretch. The framers of the CSBI make no such claim, so far as I can tell. They merely claimed that inerrancy itself (not their own specific, particular formulation of it) was not something that was invented in the 19th century. This I would absolutely affirm, as mentioned earlier, given my previous study of Luther, Calvin, Augustine, etc.

Using a bit of equivocation or linguistic slight-of-hand (again I presume quite unwittingly), he takes their claim that “the doctrine of inerrancy” has long been a doctrine of the early church, and refutes instead the idea that “the specific 20th century formulation of the doctrine of inerrancy” has long been a doctrine of the early church. But I fear he has only succeeded in refuting an idea that none of the framers of the CSBI would ever have defended.

And, in what I can only describe as a bit of reverse equivocation, Dr. Bird praises the breadth and inclusiveness of the Lausanne covenant because it does not include the words “inerrant” or “inerrancy,” although it requires affirmation in words practically identical to the CSBI that “scripture is without error in all that it affirms.” That is the very definition of inerrancy, is it not??

It almost starts to look like Dr. Bird wants to affirm inerrancy, just not use the word. Perhaps it is because he wants to reject the many things that get connected with the word by simplistic and unsophisticated people, and if so, he certainly has my sympathy! But the things he claims to reject about the CSBI seem to be things he affirms elsewhere. It is rather odd.

In answer to his question…

what does it say about a God who inspires the original text and yet allows the subsequent history of the church to struggle with a corrupted version of his inscripturated revelation?

I would simply say it says that God utilizes the natural laws that he himself established for this universe. To borrow from my hero C. S. Lewis…

Miraculous wine will intoxicate, miraculous conception will lead to pregnancy, inspired books will suffer all the ordinary processes of textual corruption, miraculous bread will be digested. The divine art of miracle is not an art of suspending the pattern to which events conform but of feeding new events into that pattern.

Though I imagine God, in his providence, could ensure that whatever natural textual corruptions occur, it would not so impugn the message so as to make his essential communication invalid.

To summarize, I mentioned earlier that I had run into this kind of thinking before, in my undergrad days, that the doctrine of inerrancy was an invention of the 19th century fundamentalists. When I was first exposed to that idea, I went to my campus library, did some searching, and found a quote by Luther where he himself quoted from Augustine, that earlier quote about finding the scripture alone to be without error. As such, I am unsympathetic to the idea that the doctrine of inerrancy is a specifically American, 19th to 20th century invention. I will of course grant that our current formulation of it, with all the specific details as laid out by the CSBI, may well be influenced by that time, But that is different than suggesting that the doctorine as a whole arose de novo during that period.

Edit…it is a bit like saying the doctrines of the five points of Calvinism only originated in 1611… that particular formation of the doctrines was formulated in 1611, as a response to a recent challenge to the ideas. But the doctorines and ideas themselves far preceded The formulation in 1611 commonly known as the five points of Calvinism. They go back at least to the time of… Calvin!

I think that is the same error that Dr. Bird is essentially falling into. Because there was such a criticism of the ideas of inerrancy in the 19th century, especially in America, that is when particular formulations of the doctrine were carefully established and argued. But that is a far cry from suggesting that the ideas only begin to exist at that time.

But in general, I didn’t take categorical exception to his ideas.

Now, on to chapter 4…

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I have to caution you that you may be throwing your pearls of hard work and scholarship before swine by writing such beautiful critiques–not that I don’t want to thoroughly vet them, and respond, but because I have been working very long hours this week and weekend (from home right now), I will find it hard to do your work justice.

I will try to read from time to time.

I hope you enjoyed Bird’s good humor. I also agreed that he had more bones to pick with the cultural nuances of the American idea of inerrancy (eg, the Far Right, gun laws, conservatism, etc) than perhaps the function of inerrancy. @Christy has enjoyed his discussion on theology at his blog and I think I would like to read his notes on complementarianism more (I didn’t know what that was till a year or so ago).

I don’t agree, fundamentally, with some things he said; but I am going to have to dig them out to treat them well, and I need to devote time to them.

I will be interested in your take on Dr Vanhoozer.

I don’t think you will like Franke as much; I didn’t really agree with him either; but I could see where he was coming from. Thanks.

I have to confess, I found it very difficult to understand ch 4. It could totally be me, but I found him an unclear writer. He seems to jump Back and forth in ways that I had trouble following his argument.

For instance, He made an interesting analogy to the homooisias debate, But I only followed that as I am already aware of the details. If I wasn’t aware, I’m not sure I would have been able to follow. But that said, I thought it a decent analogy. He compared the use of the word to the use of the word inerrancy…That the words arose due to challenges to the pre-existing doctrine, perhaps not the most useful words as they are too technical and potentially easily misunderstood.

That much I certainly agree with. I also find the word inerrancy unfortunate, but unfortunately necessary. It began to be used, as previous words which meant that in God’s word was completely true in all ways, began to be increasingly fudged. People would affirm the Bible to be completely and absolutely true, and authoritative, but then proceed to outline all of the errors of history, science, theology, belief, and morality. People were essentially saying “ I believe the Bible to be true, so long as I get to define “true”.” Inerrant became an unfortunate but seemingly necessary clarifier so that people’s positions could be accurately understood.

But people are even willing to fudge the word inerrancy, as Dr. Franke acknowledged doing in ch 5, and as I’ve seen others do.

(It is for this very reason that you will see some statements of faith, that affirm (or require signatories to affirm) the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Why the unnecessary qualifier? Why not simply require Affirmation of the resurrection of Jesus? Because people started fudging the word and claiming they believed in the resurrection, but when pressed, they’d explain it was a “spiritual” resurrection.)

I won’t discuss in detail how he addressed the first two topics, but to the third (which is most relevant to our discussion), I thought it interesting how he harmonized the old testament judgment with Jesus. I would critique his entire overall approach, that passage included, as a bit of a forced interpretation. He seems to me to be forcing Connections and literary dependence where I am not sure it is warranted. For instants, he seems to insist that Luke’s account of Jesus appearance to Paul What is predominantly if not entirely influenced by other literary concerns and analogies. I may be naïve, but I tend to think that Luke recorded what he did, because that is what happened. Now he may have shaped his account for literary reasons, not to mention Jesus himself may have chosen the means and manner of his appearance in order to be consistent with other theophanies he had done in the past. But in general, it felt to me he was reading these texts with too much emphasis on the literary style and dependence… And this is coming from me, who takes very seriously the literary implications and purposes of the authors of the Bible.

But all that said, he certainly did not shy away from the idea that the slaughter was by God’s direct command, and does not conflict with our obligation to love our enemies. And in that quart question I basically agree with him.

To summarize, I actually found Dr. _Mohler’s (not Mueller’s!) treatment of chapter 4 (and I forgot to mention his response to chapter 3 also) to be more or less spot on. As much as I did not like Mohler’s essay itself, I think I perfectly resonate with his critiques of chapter 3 and 4.

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I have to say that I was somewhat confused by his interpretation, too-but thought he did bring in some scholarship that I had not heard of before, and appreciated learning new things. I appreciate your point about appearing a bit contrived–I’ll have to go back and read that.

I also wonder if the approach of Peter Enns is not so much to insist that every miniscule grey area is definitely black, as to emphasize that in his view, the multitude of grey areas imply that the reading is not correct to be inerrant. In a manner similar to that of arguing for special creation over time against evolution (a single instance of coincidentally linked genes and physiology is not terribly hard to overcome, but the multitude is overwhelming evidence for common descent), he has the zeal of the convert (or perhaps of the Christian trying to avoid the loss of his own skeptical daughter and friends by making the Bible plausible in their eyes) by pointing them past apparently multitudinous errors of hard core inerrancy and toward divine truths. Thus, he’s emphasizing that the message, not inerrancy, is the key. I’m not saying he’s right–just that I have also been frustrated by seeing some things similar in his posts, and wonder if that’s the reason. Also, there are many areas I disagree with him; I think he is downright illogical for some (though he means well) and I can PM you about them, if you like. I, too, have had posts on his site not pass muster–but probably only because they weren’t well enough thought out. He may have just tried to prevent me some embarrassment :slight_smile:

Point well taken, though, that we must hold skeptics to just as high a standard as they hold us to. I thought you and @Mervin_Bitikofer would enjoy this critique of the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible by Randal Rauser:

And the first part is where we disagree; but I have as great a regard for you as for any other saint in my church who does believe in this (or my own father, for that matter, who has passed away and could probably now tell me a lot more about this as he has talked with Someone who knows a lot more!).

If Dr. Enns was acknowledging that Scripture is, in matter of fact, God’s absolutely revealed truth… but that the errors are so pervasive that “inerrancy” simply can’t be an accurate description, even there I wouldn’t have so much categorical disagreement. Major disagreement, perhaps, but it wouldn’t be what I’d call a “categorical” disagreement. Rather, I don’t think his view allows that there even “revelation” whatsoever… that there is anything resembling a coherent message… or any discreet, transcendent truth whatsoever (anything that could even be in the category of “truth from the teacher’s edition) … nothing beyond the “message” that God doesn’t mind that we continually reinvent the faith and change it based on our evolving culture, as was discussed in that recent podcast.

So my own disagreement with Dr. Enns goes much deeper. So far into reading the book, (not having read Ch 5 to completion yet), my disagreement with the other 3 authors (Mohler included) have been relatively minor. I disagree with this or that interpretation, or this or that application, or formulation of what inerrancy is or isn’t, or what word is better or more descriptive, etc. But I’m in the same ballpark with the rest of them, generally speaking. That ballpark being, “God has spoken.” The Scripture is his specifically revealed word. It is revelation from God.” There are quibbles about just how much and whether God intended this word to be free from error, and in what ways, and how genre and other factors affect what we call “inerrant,” etc. But we’re discussing within the same basic ballpark, so to speak. That God actually gave us “truth” from scripture about his nature and values, that we are able to “mine” and determine in some form or fashion.

With Dr. Enns, I find myself on a different continent, and that is because of what is even deeper than the inerrancy discussion itself… But simply even the nature of revelation in its entirety. Unless I completely misread him (but I’ve read enough of his blogs and books I don’t think I am), he is essentially denying that God has revealed. Revealed anything.. The Bible is a collection of human impressions, ideas, speculations, inventions about God. As such, he seems to “infer” that God doesn’t mind us reinventing our ideas about him. But that is as far as his sense of “revelation” goes (and even this I think is a questionable inference.)

That is how he explains the conquest (as well as the various errors he catalogues). In “Bible Tells Me So,” for instance, his basic idea if I recall correctly, is that God simply didn’t do these things or ever communicate that he did. These ideas are entirely and purely the result of the tribal culture, erroneous beliefs, problematic violent attitudes of a backwards, primitive people. They invented this problematic and wrong-headed God that liked warfare, and they were entirely incorrect, but hey, they just didn’t know better because that is where they were, that was their culture.

Later biblical authors “corrected” and challenged this idea, he believes… but (and this is the crux)… not because God was speaking through them to correct a previously erroneous idea that was of human invention… but because these more recent Biblical authors were simply speaking from and being informed by their own human culture, “reimagining” God according to their different cultural preferences.

Problem remains, if neither the ideas of the Israelite conquest showing God as bringing wrath against his enemies, nor Jonah’s idea of God’s mercy to the enemies of Israel, are “from God,” but rather are a collection of of evolving, human, fallible speculations about God invented purely from our evolving cultural preferences, then neither perspective is more right or wrong than the other. They are both wild guesses, both entirely baseless. Jesus taught us to love our enemies… but hey, he was similarly just “reimagining God” according to his own cultural influences. And given that precedent, I am now authorized to reject Jesus’ “love” teachings in favor of a God of vengeance against my enemies… I am just “reimagining” God according to my own personal and cultural priorities. Just like Jesus did; I’m just following his precedent.

This “solves” the problem of the contradiction between Joshua & Matthew, I’ll grant… but introduces all sorts of worse problems.

So Dr. Enns endorses the idea that we now have precedent for “reimagining” God based on our own culture, just like (he believes, wrongly in my perspective) that later biblical writers did with earlier biblical material based on their evolving culture.

Problem is, if he is essentially correct, then he has no basis by which he could criticize the folks at Westboro Baptist Church for “reimagining” a God that hates homosexuals without exception and who offers them no grace or redemption. They are simply reimagining God… the same way Jonah or Jeremiah or Ecclesiastes did, based on their own (sub) culture and values. Or for White Supremicists to “reimagine” God as especially favorable to Whites, who believe themselves to be a chosen people requiring ethnic purity and endorsing violence to achieve their ends. Once you endorse the idea that we can reimagine God according to the standards of our own (sub)culture, but do so without any overarching standard, and deny any “teacher’s edition” answers whatsoever, then he has no basis for suggesting that any of these reimaginings are any more valid - any more true or false than any other.

That’s why the metaphor of “sawing of the branch you’re sitting on” seems so apposite for his approach. He wants to rid us of that tribal, vengeful God. So he saws off the logical basis for believing in that God… but in so doing, saws off any logical basis we could have for objectively believing that God is kind, merciful, or loving, or anything else whatsoever about him, either.

I’d be happy to discuss anything via PM you’d like to send as well, but do be aware I’ll be a bit busy at work this week myself. Will likely have a bit more time Thursday.

Enjoying the conversation, by the way. It is not “pearls before swine,” it certainly is something I for some odd reason enjoy, and I like to have my own views sharpened and challenged.

Appreciated - once i finish the book entirely we can focus on this particular topic if you so desire. In preparation for that, I’m curious one question - do you only object to the Old Testament descriptions of this kind of violence, or do you have similar disagreement with the violent rhetoric and threats Jesus gives in his ministry, in some of those places throughout the epistles, and especially in Revelation?


In my personal experience, the acceptance of the reality that humans evolved from animal ancestors (rather than were created in one instant and sinless and subsequently Fell) allows us to consider Christ’s role as something other than as a Sacrificial Lamb. Granted, something along the lines of substitutionary atonement (@Daniel_Fisher) had become a feature of ANE culture, and thus has become a comforting belief throughout Christianity to date. But we should not close our eyes to the “dark side” of that concept: some primitive cultures accepting the necessity of sacrificing thousands of innocent lives to keep the rest of society “safe” (or to keep the sun shining).

How much of Christianity would be lost if we accepted Christ as the Messiah who, as a human could show us how it is possible to “throw off” the constraints of animal evolution, and become Images of our Creator??

Would anything be gained? IMHO it might lessen God’s image as a Stern Judge, but would burnish His image as a Loving Father.
Al Leo

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Hm. That’s an interesting idea. I don’t think I quite agree, though :smile:
Jesus said that you could sum up the whole Law and the Prophets by “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.” Lewis’ Moral Law is pretty much the same.

Westboro, on the other hand, and most of the great travesties, are not from implementing that law, but from doing what the OT Jews did–emphasizing legalism, not the spirit of the law.

We tend to understand that “treating others as you would be treated” is a universal human law. Have you asked Enns on this score?

I would argue that we do generally have that insight, and that in part, our fear and ignorance drive us to do what Westboro did…and Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot (to show that it’s not just religious folks that do terrible murders, but that we act according to what our God, or fears, look like)

In regard to who we worship, this quote from David Foster Wallace is interesting:

I]n the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship…is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. … Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.

As he recites this laundry list of things not to worship, he interjects a telling comment, born of wisdom gained during substance-abuse recovery. “On one level,” he observes, “we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.”

He concludes his speech with a simple and heartfelt benediction: “I wish you way more than luck.”
this is for my review from Christianity Today.

A quote further up in this thread asked what would happen if we had no information from God at all. About 3/4 of the world’s population do not have the same access to the Bible we would have from our parents’ education; many have never heard of the revelations. Thus, God has ordained that these folks have only nature and their consciences, and the knowledge imparted to them from others, in religions or lack thereof. They have to decide what to do between legalism and treating others well.

What does God do with them? How does He judge their actions? That is yet another branch we can get to. Macdonald would say that He loves them every bit as much as He does us (as you would), and that He has not left them. It’s up to God to do as He wishes–which will be just, but ever bringing them to Him.

Another thread discussed boundaries between good and evil. Lewis “Great Divorce” was a reply to Blake’s “Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” in which he sought to show that far from being common in ground, Heaven and Hell were diametric opposites. I would like to start a new thread on that interpretation. As he said, it was not about what would actually happen in the after life that he wrote, but about the heart of God and the heart of man (when he refuses God).


If Dr. Enns conceded that Jesus at least was giving some sort of “teachers manual”, absolutely true, and unquestionable truth from God, then I would absolutely agree. But from my overall reading of him, he puts Jesus in the same category as the rest of us. He emphasizes that Jesus 100% humanity. does not mean he had magic or infallible knowledge, And that what Jesus taught was just as influenced by his culture as any other biblical author, influenced as he was as a first century Jew.”

“What holds for the Bible holds for Jesus, too… For Jesus to be fully human mean not abstractly “human” but a human of a particular sort, fully participating in the Judaism of the 1st century. The incarnation leaves no room whatsoever for the idea that Jesus in any way kept his distance from participating in that particular humanity. That means, among other things, that Jesus was limited in knowledge along with everyone else at the time. That may sound irreverent or offensive, but it is an implication of the incarnation . Jesus wasn’t an omniscient being giving the final word on the size of mustard seeds, mental illness, or cosmic and biological evolution. He was a 1st century Jew and he therefore thought like one.”

I take no issue with the idea that Jesus was not omniscient, (no one knows the hour, nor even the son)…however, to suggest that he did not have some special access to special, unique knowledge (that would assure his words are true and trustworthy) seems to go far beyond the claims of the gospel. Nonetheless, there it is… Jesus is in the same boat with the other authors of the Bible. What Dr. Enns argues regarding them holds for Jesus too. And hence my point stands in relation to Dr. Enns take… if Jesus’ teaching about God is just as fallible, culture-bound, and “imagined” as that if the author of Joshua, then I have as much right as Jesus did to reinvent God according to my cultural whims as Jesus did.

Interesting thought on Lewis and “natural theology.” I’ll have to get back to that, and will try to give the rest of your post the attention it deserves once I carve out some time.

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It might be good to split off this discussion of Dr. Enns off and get back to the topic at hand.

Mass slaughter can be logically understood when you accept dualism and can separate physical death from spiritual death. Jesus said; when you believe in me, you will never die. (John 11:25-26) This is only logical from a spiritual perspective. Jesus had to die physically in order to overcome spiritual death. Physical death is an important tool of God’s redemption of humanity.

Physical death is one the most profound methods of teaching that God has for His children. It forces us to look for meaning in life, meaning beyond materialism. “Mass slaughter” has happened from the beginning of time through natural disaster, disease and even genocide. I find it fascinating to study both who died and who survived to find clues of God and His Wisdom. I became a writer shortly after 9/11 with this editorial piece.

Dr Enns is one of the five coauthors of the book we’re discussing, so his views are critically germane to the topic at hand. As were those of Mohler, Bird, and Vanhoozer. Enns view I find more problematic than the others, not having read Fanke’s chapter yet…

Next we’re going to be discussing The views of Dr Franke, and a thorough discussion of his views will be similarly germane to the discussion. Once the 5 viewpoints of inerrancy I’m thr book have been clearly examined and delineated, I’ll be moving specifically into the implications as regards mass slaughter.


I’ve been thinking over this and trying to reason from others’ standpoints, and realized I missed a large gap in my own understanding. As a Christian of the 21st (ok, I was born in the 20th) century, I take it as a matter of course that the Westboro Baptist activity is counter to God’s rules. However, coming strictly from a Biblical standpoint, if one takes all the OT as strictly inspired, it’s completely OK to kill those who commit homosexual acts–not just protest at the funerals of military dead. How does one overcome that? Am I missing that the OT is not superseded by Christ’s “better revelation”? How else can I argue from the Bible that such behavior is wrong? Is there a common moral law that is clearer lately than it was before?

Onscript has an earlier podcast about how strict the ANE were about things we consider odd (such as killing the disrespectful or gluttonous) and explores how in subsistence farming/pastoralist cultures, such behavior could endanger the entire community. It’s not that the rules were excused entirely, but they were not always followed and emphasized the importance of cohesiveness.

And you did mention that there are portions of how the NT records Christ’s teachings that make us uncomfortable with whether He was totally just, too. I do have to use the lens of the basic moral law to interpret this, I think. However, many of the red letter portions are exaggerations for effect (eg, cutting off your hand) to show the superior importance of following God’s law (Kingdom of Heaven) over that of earthly (selfish) laws. There are other portions that are apocalyptic and somewhat confusing. Revelation, I think, was really perhaps not supposed to be in the canon–was added, with 2 Peter, later, and perhaps more allegorical about the fall of Jerusalem (the 666 gematriya theory, with 616 translated to the Latin, is interesting).

I would like to explore some more of those hard sayings of Jesus with @Mervin_Bitikofer’s thread sometime.

And I do want to get back to “The Great Divorce” later! Thanks

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Yes, the Bible is filled with contradictions that have allowed great atrocities in its name, yet how can a true Christian religion support anyone who violates God’s greatest commandment? Jesus goes on to say that we must love our enemies (Matt 5:44). When I read the 10 Commandments I find no exceptions in it. It simple says, “thou shall not kill”. So I have to a ask, who in the OT is encouraging people to kill? They God of Moses or the god of the dead? (Mark 12:27)

Thanks for the thoughts, I’m very occupied this week but quickly, I would simply observe that Israel, being a unique theocracy, was going to execute punishments for sin of various kind (including disrespect to parents) that God would not intend or require us to carry out today under our various governments. In much the same way that everyone in their kingdom was required to offer sacrifices for worship, which we similarly would not do. Ancient Israel was both church and state, in other words.

I have also read something to the effect that the laws sometimes give maximum punishment, not necessarily required ones, as some people simply were not punished for capital crimes (David, best example).

In the grand scope Of redemptive history, I find all these things to have a very fitting place. That being the reminder that all these things do, in fact, warrant God’s judgment, and a sentence of death would be appropriate. However, he is showing tremendous kindness and long-suffering. The more we see how serious our sin is, the more we become amazed at his grace, in other words.

Personally, my issue with the folks at Westboro and similar fundamentalist type churches isnt so much that they take sin seriously and preach God’s judgment and hatred of sin… , but that they take certain sins seriously. Namely, those that other people commit. If they were as convicted about God’s Displeasure at their own sin, and the cost in blood it took our Lord to save us from it, I imagine their tone toward those “other” sinners would be very different.

ITimothy 1:15-17 especially comes to mind regarding. Or the parable or the unmerciful servant, who didn’t show mercy to other debtors because he never grasped how much debt he’d been forgiven for himself.

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OK, I have to ask. Which translation are you using for the Old Testament?

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This is only a problem for those who operate by some implicit commitment that “finding precedence in the Bible” = “moral endorsement”. And of course even the hardest core adherents of such commitments stop way short (thankfully!) of consistently applying everything found in the Bible, but they like to at least imagine they have or have come up with special reasons for the things they ignore.

But if you are a student of the Bible and just want to read it for what it is and let it speak on its own terms as a collection of many different modes of literature, including much that is just a story of God and God’s people and how they behaved and related (or not!) to God, then suddenly all the tempest over what all the old testament has been taken to “endorse” simply evaporates. It’s only an issue for people still hung up on trying to use the Bible as a “decoder manual” for how to score points with God.

And the new testament suffers some of the same abuse - more understandably, however, since at least we are still under this same new covenant with Christ. But it is still a record of stories about how these things continued to unfold under Christ’s Spiritual guidance, and to take even the new testament as a pattern that we are to copy now is probably still to miss a major point of what it is all about! Copy Christ - yes! And to the extent that his followers help lead us closer to Christ - yes - we certainly can and should learn from their testimony leading us closer to Christ. But to ask about the mechanics and behaviors of the Christian life (what were their specific baptismal practices? …did they serve in the military? …how should money be treated?) - I know people who think that if they can nail down whatever it was the early church did with these things, then this should be the equivalent of marching orders for us to do exactly the same. I suggest that this is just replacing Law 1.0 with Law 2.0 - an improvement to be sure, but still an infinitely big miss! We are now under the Law of Christ which is a law of love that will not be trapped into or contained by a codified list of rules. It goes way beyond those and demands of us infinitely more. We should wish it was so easy that I could find some updates to the 10 commandments to then meet and then know that I have fulfilled all my obligation to my neighbor, and can now relax and enjoy myself. What we learn instead is that my obligation to my neighbor is never gone. What a potentially oppressive thought for those of us (all of us to some extent) who are still back on the “minimal requirements attitude” instead of the “labor of love that knows no bounds attitude”. I suggest that this is why so many of us today want a codified Christianity that presents us with a list of things we can check off so that we can finally relax and get some time for ourselves - with God and neighbor all safely satisfied and tucked away.

But then the Spirit is still there whispering, whispering, whispering, … and we are slowly made to realize that God is not a part-time attendant, and that our way to begin to meet and understand him is through our needy neighbors and even our enemies. And with that outlook, the hard sayings of Jesus about torture or cruelty have disappeared over some distant horizon far behind us - left to plague only those who are still stuck back on all the wrong sorts of questions.

That’s one initial response of mine anyway. Thoughts?


I use Zwingli in German and KJV in English.

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