Sunday, 28 February 2016
The Importance of Inerrancy, by Vic Reasoner
Vic Reasoner, The Importance of Inerrancy: How Scriptural Authority has Eroded in Modern Wesleyan Theology 2013 Fundamental Wesleyan Publishers
In the 1970s and early 80s, the 'Battle for the Bible' was fought in Evangelical seminaries and denominations in the USA. This fight was between those who defended the doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy and those who questioned it. Harold Lindsell was the self-appointed leader and defender of the Inerrantist movement. The conservative party were largely the victors, to some extent making Biblical Inerrancy the unquestionable orthodoxy in American Evangelicalism. It's hard to imagine now that at one time, the Southern Baptist Convention had a progressive faction with a liberalizing tendency in its seminaries. However, the Inerrantists had little success within the Wesleyan-Arminian denominations. There is little commitment to the doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy within this tradition.
In this short book, Vic Reasoner calls on Wesleyans to return to the doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy. He argues that this doctrine is vitally important and he argues that it was endorsed by the early Methodists. While many Wesleyan-Arminians claim Inerrancy is not part of their tradition, Reasoner believes they are in error on this point.
I think Inerrancy is an important doctrine and I am glad Reasoner has called on his fellow Wesleyans to embrace it. I wish there were more Vic Reasoners in Catholicism who would challenge the lack of fidelity to magisterial statements affirming Scriptural Inerrancy. Reasoner does not, however, go into the difficulties in defining Inerrancy once we take into account the cultural context and genre of the Biblical texts. He thinks the theory of evolution is being 'buried' by the advocates of Intelligent Design, which I think is a little over-optimistic given the problems with the Intelligent Design approach. He also insists that the days of Genesis 1 are 24 hour periods. Very well, that is a defensible position, but he does not say how he reconciles this with the scientific evidence for the antiquity of the Earth. Does he believe in a Mature Creation? Does he believe the geological strata formed in a global flood, as Answers in Genesis claim? Or does he advocate the Gap theory or Sailhammer's Promised Land interpretation?
I would suggest their may be a deeper reason why Inerrancy is not widely held among Arminians. I suspect it comes down to the problem of Biblical Inspiration raised by a low view of divine sovereignty. This is a problem that always troubled me when I was an Arminian. When we affirm Verbal Inspiration, we are affirming that the words of Scripture are 'God-breathed,' that they are the very words that God has chosen. However, we are not saying that they are dictated, but we maintain they are the words that have come from the authors. A mature statement of verbal inspiration affirms both the divine and human side of Inspiration. The problem for the Arminian is that this means that God must have determined not only the authors' thoughts which produced these words, but also the circumstances that produced those thoughts. Thi means that God is sovereign over a good deal more than the Arminian is usually willing to affirm! This is a problem that I have never seen honestly addressed by Arminians who uphold Verbal Inspiration.