Sunday, 11 December 2016

The Bible: Inerrancy, Infallibility and Reliability, by Dr. Kenny Rhodes

Kenny Rhodes, The Bible: Inerrancy, Infallibility and Reliability: The Case for Chicago Inerrancy, 2013 Scofield Seminary Press

Given that this book is subtitled 'The Case for Chicago Inerrancy,' one might have expected it to provide an exposition of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. That would have been a very useful exercise, especially given that the Chicago Statement is open to differing interpretations of what Inerrancy means. However, Dr Rhodes provides very little comment at all on the Chicago Statement. Maybe this arises from a fundamentalist Evangelical dislike of creeds.

This book defends the inerrancy of Scripture, a very vital issue and topic and it says much that is helpful. Unfortunately, it is a somewhat flawed defense. The author makes a very problematic distinction between 'Inerrancy of Fact' and 'Inerrancy of Intent.' He argues that only the former is true inerrancy. The problem is that the Bible is not composed solely of factual statements. It also contains proverbial and poetical literature which cannot necessarily be interpreted like newspaper journalism. Rhodes' distinction also ignores issues of genre. I imagine he would assume that the reported speeches in the book of Acts were really spoken largely as they are given to us. However, that kind of reporting might not necessarily be demanded by the literary context of the book of Acts. Many scholars argue that ancient histories created speeches for the figures they recorded and this was an acceptable part of the historical genre. It may be also argued that the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy allows room for the kind of 'Inerrancy of Intent' that our author rejects.

On the topic of prophecy, the author makes the somewhat unwise move to calculate the number of Bible prophecies mathematically, assigning percentages to the numbers that are fulfilled and unfulfilled. This is problematic for two reasons; firstly because many prophecies are drawn typologically, so it can be difficult to identify which passages strictly constitute prophecies. Secondly, there is a good deal of debate about which prophecies in Scripture have been fulfilled. Rhodes also advocates a six-day creation, which raises the question of what he does with the scientific evidence for the Earth's antiquity. There is not much on the subject of canon, which is a weak spot for Protestants.

The infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible is a doctrine that must be defended, but it needs to be done in such a way as to take account of the cultural context of ancient literature.

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