From My Heart, Out Of My Mind

Was John Calvin a Closet, Wolf-in-Sheep’s-Clothing, Liberal Gospel Higher Critic?

Posted by Don Bryant on June 3, 2012

Peter Enns has a helpful posting at his blog. The reality is that John Calvin appeared to be open to a little higher criticism himself, believing as he did that the Sermon on the Mount was not a single sermon by Christ but a collection of his sayings pieced together.

In our day this would make him a liberal. He couldn’t teach at Westminster Seminary. :-)

This reminds me that those who try to base inspiration on inerrancy have got it the wrong way around. To prove that this or that could have been the way the Scriptures were put together or that this or that is the actual status of the text is an infinity of projects. You will never get to full inspiration from there. You will only get to probabilities. And the kind of faith we are asking for can’t rest in probabilities, only certainties. I think David Hume adequately demonstrated the inability of science (empiricism) to yield certainty. One does not need his radical skepticism to appreciate the essence of his argument – the process of induction can never bring us to certainty, no matter how much evidence.

I am one of those who continues to affirm this hyperactive approach of inerrantists to uncovering the original text. Otherwise there is just too much sloppiness in higher critical thinking. Too many too easily jump to conclusions that are unnecessary and unwarranted and simply reflect an anti-supernatural bias. Serious pushback by inerrantists is absolutely necessary.

However, even after all these years of work, inerrantists have not come up with a product that requires belief in inspiration. But those who believe in inspiration never needed inerrancy in order to do so. Sane scholarship (as in not the Bart Ehrman kind) will lead to high confidence in the biblical text. Of course, conservatives would assert that the kind of inspiration they end up believing is not worthy enough to actually be functionally valuable.

I find that the Evangelical obsessions with justification by grace through faith alone and inerrancy exhausting. These are flags easily waved and the charge into battle is invigorating. But we are left with a scholasticism that doesn’t breath and sucks the air away from so many worthy project.

If I had to do it all over again, I would love to be a text critic and do some of the work Daniel Wallace is doing at Dallas Theological Seminary.

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