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A Thought on Biblical Infallibility

We often call the Bible infallible, and this is right insofar as we believe that in the Triune economy, the providential grace of God ensures that the Bible will perform its role in God’s drama just as God intends.  However, we also are bound to think, that given the Bible’s human authorship, and given human fallibility, that the Bible must be in some sence fallible (i.e. capable of failing).  However, I say that just because we may call the humanly written Bible ‘fallible’ is not to say that it has failed.  Fallibility implies that there is no immunity from human limitation and error in the writing of the Scriptures and this is true.  It does not, however imply that this is a defect any more than to say that God became human implies a defect in Jesus, the God-human.

4 Comments

  1. bobby grow wrote:

    I think the hypostasis of Christ is analogical and heurestic to understanding the “nature” of scripture, and not univocal. At least that’s how most evangelical theology has “used” this parallel.

    “Humanness” does not necessarily imply “limitation” relative to knowledge (historic or whatever). I think the prophets reflect an example of this. Even so, often what is taken as “error/fallibilty” in the scripture is within the “type” of narrative–which by “literary nature” results in “descriptive” communication.

    Anyway you know where I stand on this, and I know where you stand . . . we disagree, I think–or maybe we’re just emphasizing different things because of our broader informing theologies.

    Monday, July 9, 2007 at 1:39 pm | Permalink
  2. adamsteward wrote:

    Bobby, you say that
    “”Humanness” does not necessarily imply “limitation” relative to knowledge (historic or whatever). I think the prophets reflect an example of this.”
    I have to object, what about learning? We are born ignorant, and thus all of our knowledge comes to us from sources outside of ourselves. Everything that we know we recieved as a gift from our parents, teachers, books, or perhaps just continued trial and error interaction with the world. I think that to say humans are limited in knowledge is simply to affirm that by virtue of their createdness (Luther, The Bondage of the Will) as bounded and embodied beings, humans do have limits on what they can see and hear, and thus on what they can know. Luther’s point is that you can’t make a choice that isn’t available to you. Mine is that you can’t know something that hasn’t been confronted you in life as a real option. And obviously we (and thus, the biblical authors) have not been confronted with everything everywhere. That means that our knowledge is limited. The authority of authors of Scripture lies not in the fact that they know everything, but rather, as Paul puts it, “nothing except Christ and him crucified.”

    Monday, July 9, 2007 at 9:05 pm | Permalink
  3. vassilip wrote:

    if we see/experience bible as the ‘incarnation’ of God’s uncreated word into the created human language, and, as a result of it, as a ‘body’ which carries God’s uncreated energy as a gift (χάρις [charis]=grace) to man,
    then, i think, there is no question about bible’s infallibility or fallibility; but there is a question about man’s (each one’s) ability (…) of receiving or not that (uncreated) gift which is mingled with that (created) body.
    an agon of freedom and love.

    (as a metaphor/parallel of that, i like to use the case of the holy eucharist.)

    /v

    Tuesday, July 10, 2007 at 7:01 am | Permalink
  4. bobby grow wrote:

    Adam,

    I realized, after the fact that I over-stated the point you highlight . . . although when I said “. . . I think the prophets reflect an example of this. . . .“. I don’t disagree with Halden or you that “we” as humans are limited. What I was trying to get across is that are “epistemological limitedness” is relative to our “source” of knowledge. In the case of the writing of scripture, and the prophets and apostles who penned it, by and large, their source of knowledge (Yahweh) is “limitless” relative to His disclosure to them (whether they were fully conscious or unconsious of all the implications of what they were penning–an topic for another post).

    Hope that clarifies.

    Tuesday, July 10, 2007 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

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