Monday, March 31, 2014

Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy - A Review

Designed more for the theologian than the layman, the newest volume in this on-going series discussing differences within the evangelical church, serves as an excellent introduction to the student or pastor seeking to understand the rich diversity in theology found in discussing Inerrancy within the conservative church.

My first introduction to the topic was in seminary - a seminary which held strongly to the inerrancy of the scriptures.  That provided an important preparation for my current denominational fellowship  This book, read some 40 years after completing seminary, served as a good review of the doctrine and a review of its growth and its understanding within the 21st century church.  

After some introductory comments on the role of inerrancy within the church’s doctrinal positions, the book presents five surprisingly  different views or perspectives of the doctrine of inerrancy.  As the introduction points out, each author is asked to respond to four sub-topics:

  1. God and his relationship to his creatures
  2. The doctrine of inspiration
  3. The nature of scripture
  4. The nature of truth

Each author then was asked to address three pairs of scriptures that have traditionally been challenges to the doctrine of inerrancy:

  1. Joshua 6 as current archaeological evidence calls into question its historicity
  2. The questions raised by the discrepancy between Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9 as they describe Saul’s conversion
  3. The question of law and grace as evidenced by Deuteronomy 20 (where God calls for the annihilation of Israel’s enemies)  and Matthew 5 (where God requires us to love our enemies).

Each author is allowed to present his view using the above framework.  This is followed by a response from each of the other contributors.  The book concludes with comments from the editor - seeking to open “lines of communication” between those with differing views, even beyond that contained in the body of the text.

The most obvious missing element  in the book is the lack of a feminine voice among the chosen authors.  It might have been interesting to allow a female voice respond to the contents of the book - though I am sure will as they review the book after the fact.  I would have liked to see such a voice in the body of the text.  

Regardless, the book ought to be read by every seminary or theological student exploring the doctrine of scripture in any depth.  It probably will not be the most prominent book on a pastor’s book shelf, but he will have read it and allowed its contents to shape the conclusions he/she makes in the understanding of scripture.     

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.  

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