What can we learn from the history of the Bible?

All through this week, at 9.45 each morning, Radio 4 is playing abridged excerpts from Professor John Barton’s book The History of the BibleI have found it quite a mixed bag, with some helpful and interesting insights on the one hand, but also including some unhelpful and skewed opinions expressed as objective assessments (which they are not) mixed in. I previously commented on John Barton’s approach in reviewing an article in the Church Times earlier in the year here.

To supplement those earlier comments, I here republish with permission my friend Jeremy Marshall’s review of the book:


It was the best of times it was the worst of times. It was the best of books it was the worst of books. Such are my views on John Barton’s new book on the Bible, its formation, its effect and its relationship to Christianity and Judaism. Others far more theologically qualified than me can make more technical comments (for example did Luther really say what Barton makes him say? I have seen Lutheran theologians shaking their heads vigorously in other reviews). This is a general review by and for the general reader.

The book has been very well reviewed in the secular press and its certainly worth reading because at the micro level it contains an enormous weight of learning, the product of a life spent studying the Bible.

However, it’s certainly I suggest essential to also disagree strongly with his overall conclusions about the nature and purpose of Scripture. Ian Paul has well expressed his theological concerns on this here https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/what-is-the-church-of-englands-problem-with-the-bible/.


The worst of times first. John Barton is very open that he is writing from a liberal view—though by appealing to Hooker he tries, unsuccessfully in my view, to bring his line of argument somewhat more within the mainstream of historic Anglicanism.

I am not all convinced that Hooker would have agreed with the rather snide comment Barton makes at the end of the book:

…it is striking how forms of Christianity that still insist on first century period junk survive and flourish. Yet a sizeable body of Christians does think that though the essence of what was taught by Paul remains authoritative, its expression was conditioned by its time and should be reconsidered.

This is telling. It is also telling that the section in the book on the inspiration of scripture (never mind its infallibility) is so short. Thus, we can see from the above, that Barton views the Bible as a human-derived set of teachings, heavily conditioned by their time, from which we can extract the “essence” of Christianity and jettison the “expression”—or even call it junk!

Barton doesn’t explicitly say that but the obvious inference is that biblical teaching that doesn’t culturally fit the values of contemporary culture should be rejected. We, the readers, should place ourselves above Scripture and pick and mix the bits we like, removing the pesky first-century ‘junk’. But the Bible’s view of itself is that it is God-breathed. If there is a God who made the whole universe and everything in it, who chooses to communicate with us through human means, surely he is able to communicate in a way that is authoritative? In other words, if there is a God that he is a God who is “competent to communicate”  and we are not engaged in some endless pursuit of divine Chinese whispers where the message has continually being garbled. And can only be interpreted by Oxford dons!

“Mere Christianity” whether Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant is, as John Barton points out very important. As he points out, of course, we cannot live in a system where absolutely everything taught in the Bible is essential. Nor would anyone sensible argue for that. But, and this is a big “but”, where absolutely basic Christian truth such as the Trinity or the Incarnation can be regarded as adiaphora (things indifferent) as Barton proposes we must strongly object. We must as good Protestants protest! We must I suggest draw a clear distinction between being under the authority of the Bible and imposing our own cultural prejudices on it. Otherwise, we look as someone has said “down the well into the Bible at the bottom and see our own face (and its cultural assumptions) staring back.” 


My other beef about the book is that conservative theological research of all types gets very short shrift in the overview of the theological consensus. In the last 50 years, there has been a huge increase in academic research from such a perspective and this is often (though not always) ignored. Especially so I would say (though I defer to others far more knowledgeable than me) in Barton’s treatment of the state of Old Testament scholarship. Ian Paul expands on this in the article above. 

Now, it’s true as Barton says, that some fundamentalists want the Bible to be like say a ‘sat nav’,  that tells us at each junction which way to turn—a rule book. We turn on the sat nav and off we go. As he rightly points out the Bible is a much much bigger and richer book than that containing many different genres and designed to make us think. And it’s also true—and he is very thought-provoking on this—that Christianity has diverged at time to time from its biblical base. But the Reformed view is that we need to close that gap—to sit under the bible and where we have drifted off “out to sea” (as frequently and perhaps inevitably happens) use the Bible (and not the culture) as the navigation point to “row back to the land”.

Understanding the way that the Bible was written and transmitted is hugely helpful in understanding how we ended up with what we have today. And here though I have to disagree strongly with the macro view held out in the book of what the Bible is for, we can certainly learn a lot from the micro description of how this amazing book came into existence and its relationship to faith.


Just to take one example: the relationship between Judaism and the Bible and especially the way that the latter departed from the former in terms of relying on rabbinical interpretation is extremely well told, as well as the connected interplay between the Hebrew language as it evolved and Aramaic. In addition, the way that Christians often don’t understand Jewish approaches to scripture is illuminating. For example, Barton explains how the Christian view of the Bible’s arc is of a disaster followed by a divine rescue story. For our Jewish friends though “the Bible is not a story of disaster and rescue but much more of providential guidance… of how to live a faithful life (collectively)”. These crucial differences mean that effectively the Hebrew Scriptures are almost different works for Jews and Christians. And this shapes the set up of the Bible in the Jewish faith: it’s not one story pointing to the Messiah but three collections of which one (the Torah) is far more important than the other two. Barton also points out that this wasn’t always the case—for example, the book “Wisdom of Solomon” a work from the first century, well known to Christians, was actually very interested in the fall.

Now of course a scholar or a theologian or a pastor will (hopefully!) know all this anyway but John Barton writes so clearly and well and at a level which can be followed by the interested lay reader (such as me!). There are many other examples of this: for example on the formation of the canon (where he is very orthodox) and the textual transmission. He also makes very astute comments on biblical genres. For example, on the narrative style, he writes “this sophisticated yet laconic style of narration…familiarity with the Bible can blunt our sense of how remarkable it is.”


Maybe there is a popular book written for the secular reader which does something similar but I’m not aware of it. Certainly, Barton fills a gap in the market for a non-Christian looking to understand as it were the history of the Bible. He does it using a methodology which personally I completely disagree with. But while disagreeing at the macro level I learned a lot at the micro one, and I was glad I read it, even though in places you can only roll your eyes!

Finally, the reception and success of the book show I believe a surprising level of openness amongst the general public to looking at the Bible. As the Bible fades into the background from the general culture it acquires a power to shock and influence which its previous familiarity has reduced. We might ponder as evangelicals for example on the extraordinary case of Jordan Peterson, who gives 2- to 3-hour talks and draws millions by lecturing mainly on the Bible, without even being a Christian at all.

There is a growing demand to learn about the Bible and what it says to us today from the general public. It’s a terrible shame that Barton’s huge knowledge and learning—from which we can learn a lot—is rendered far less useful by his blatant liberal biases and methodology. Maybe some great biblical scholar can write a book like this, about the Bible from an evangelical perspective, aimed at the general public?


Jeremy Marshall is a former banker who is living with terminal cancer, and has written about this in his short book Beyond the Big C. Earlier in the year he wrote a guest post about Covid-19 and our fear of death.


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196 thoughts on “What can we learn from the history of the Bible?”

  1. ‘Liberal bias’ hits the nail on the head. Just as in the recent 2020 Christmas / New Year Church Times article ‘Hail! Thou Unexpected Jesus’ (pp 23-4).

    A:
    John Barton writes: ‘in Judaism in the first century, few people thought [Isaiah 52-3] was a prophecy of the Messiah’. But…
    (1) This selects a random later period of interpretation (albeit one that turned out to be supremely important to us) while leaving out the far more pertinent point about the actual time of writing. At the actual time of writing the obviously kingly/messianic figure of Isaiah 42 very much seems to be the same figure as that in Isaiah 52-3, the unique Servant.
    (2) Interpretations of who was indicated by the prophecy at the time not unreasonably suggest a kingly figure (Goulder suggests Jehoiachin).
    (3) Even without (1) and (2), Isaiah was very much the key scripture around the Dead Sea Scrolls time (i.e. for the relevant couple of centuries), as indicated by the number of MSS. But this was also the time of most feverish Messianic expectation (see Josephus). Studies of the Messiah by Charlesworth, Bird, Mowinckel, Fitzmyer, Beasley-Murray, Collins et al. – do these really indicate that no association was made between Isa 52-3 and the Messiah in the first century?

    B:
    Why does John Barton assign to ‘John’s Gospel’ something (parting of clothing) that appears in all 4 gospels (of which he presumably thinks John is likely to be the last)? John’s is merely the fullest account of this.

    C:
    As to ‘Jesus was not a king’, a popular king is precisely what he was according to all of the most robust historical data, which this theory binds together satisfyingly.
    -What do the people want? A redeemer
    -What did they want in the first century? Messiahs galore.
    -Titulus on Cross
    -Title king of the Jews
    -Crown of thorns
    -‘Sceptre’
    -Purple robe
    -Triumphal entry
    -Anointing by followers
    -Fact that ‘anointing’ is what establishes messiahship
    -Presiding at table/feast
    -Jesus’s failure to rebuff any of these.

    This is practically the *majority* of the really firm evidence from the final days. It all points one way.

    D: Some of the alleged prophecies are very far-fetched or even non-existent, he says. But when he allows the possibility ‘some’ for ‘non-existent’, he does not clarify that he actually means ‘one’ (in other words, exaggeration). ‘He shall be called a Nazarene’. By the by, Ruth Norris’s multi-angle analysis of this is quite superb. A prophecy or assertion can be embedded or entirely contained within wording that is slightly different: the question is whether the thing is asserted or not, not whether it is asserted within the same precise wording. As JB correctly indicates, Jesus’s home town (which was not as expected: John 1, 7) certainly had to be accounted for, setting the exegetes scurrying to their OTs. Another that could qualify as ‘far-fetched’ is ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’.

    E: ‘Immanuel’ could qualify as fulfilled prophecy by the fact that Jesus brings God to us. Once again, JB mentions the lack of match-up while not mentioning the possible match-up, even though the latter not the former may be what the author is expressing.

    While I also agree with a lot of what JB says (e.g. the unexpected time-lag), it is the unremitting one-way *bias* (fruit of a 1960s-70s education, uncritically imbibed??) that is troubling.

    Reply
  2. I remember in a lecture when studying for theology schools JB said polytheism had advantages as an option, since both the good and bad in what we see could then be accounted for. (He didn’t go into the metaphysical improbabilities.) This was inaccurately quoted in a student rag as his saying ‘Polytheism is a jolly good thing.’.

    Reply
  3. “It is also telling that the section in the book on the inspiration of scripture (never mind its infallibility) is so short“

    It is very difficult to know how infallibility can be ascribed to biblical texts. What would the argument be? The very different genres don’t lend themselves to such a vast generalisation, surely? Do any genuine biblical scholars argue for infallibility? This is a genuine question – I don’t know of any.

    Reply
    • Dr. Wayne Grudem (B.A. in Economics from Harvard, M.Div and D.D. from Westminster Theological Seminary, and Ph.D in New Testament Studies from Cambridge) in his Systematic Theology does.

      Reply
      • Thanks John. I think Wayne Grudem is a believer in inerrancy – which is different to infallibility. Again, happy to be proved wrong.

        Reply
        • I think Wayne Grudem is a believer in inerrancy – which is different to infallibility

          Can you define, or point to somewhere that defines, the two, for the benefit of those of us who are unclear as to the exact difference between them?

          Thanks.

          Reply
          • I think see Peter’s (PC1) comment and example below.
            There are many wranglings, however, within the conservative evangelical community about the differences between them. The concept of literalism also has bearing. For example, those who claim biblical infallibility might claim that the story of a 7 day creation must literally be correct. I don’t know of any reputable biblical scholars who claim that.

          • I think see Peter’s (PC1) comment and example below

            I can’t that comment; the only one headed ‘PC1’ that I can see says that something isn’t a definition of infallibility, but doesn’t provide an alternative definition as to what infallibility is or how it differs from inerrancy.

            Could you give the direct link to the comment you mean? Depending on your browser you should be able to get it by clicking on the date/time of the comment and selecting ‘copy link location’, then pasting into the comment.

        • I think Wayne Grudem is a believer in inerrancy – which is different to infallibility

          Is this it?

          https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/stewart_don/faq/bible-difficulties/question5-difference-between-inerrancy-infallibility.cfm

          Because that states that inerrancy includes and expands upon infallibility, so anyone who holds to inerrancy also holds to infallibility, though not everyone who holds to infallibility holds to inerrancy.

          By that definition then if Wayne Grudem believes in inerrancy he must also believe in infallibility as infallibility is a prerequisite of inerrancy.

          Is that definition wrong, then?

          Reply
          • How to measure such things? He has a PhD in 1 Corinthians. He has produced about the most thorough Systematic Biblical Theology, a comparable book on Ethics, and others of the same size on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, notable for their minute analysis. Someone of that description is a Biblical scholar. But are we? How do your and my credentials measure up to such a description?

          • That’s interesting, Christopher.
            The 1 Corinthians stuff sounds interesting.
            But, he’s a subordinationist.
            And the Biblical manhood and womanhood stuff is just, well, very ideological. And which other mainstream scholars would agree with it?

          • Hmm – (a) how do you guard against circularity in your definition of mainstream? (b) Why treat being ‘mainstream’ as necessarily virtuous? Someone could come along and do no independent thought whatsoever, just follow other people – therefore their conclusions would be mainstream – therefore they would get your seal of approval. Without having had an independent thought in their life.

          • I possess his excellent thesis on prophecy in 1 Corinthians. 1 Cor 12-14 has been magnificently covered by the combination of Thiselton, Fee, Martin, Carson and Grudem. Protestants really are at their best in Pauline commentary – the generation of Catholics that wrote great commentaries in the final third of the last century did so at a time when they had never been closer to Protestantism (by virtue of their close attention to the text). So chalk up another victory for Protestant priorities.

          • Christopher

            I don’t think being mainstream is inherently virtuous. In fact, I prefer scholarship on the edge. But, as I point out below, being mainstream was seen, by you, in an earlier thread, as a Good Thing.
            Perhaps I should have used the term consensus instead. BMAW seems very far from scholarly consensus. It is highly ideological and not really scholarly.
            I think the idea of something being both mainstream and independent is an oxymoron. What is mainstream is highly influenced by culture. Mind you, what is not mainstream is also affected by that culture: it reacts against the prominent mores and tropes, rather than capitulating to them.

            On your second point, St Paul really is the Protestant saint par excellence, and there is some very fine Pauline scholarship. But, and it’s a big but, Paul was not a gemutlich 19thC Protestant, and I fear that many Protestant scholars, particularly ‘Lutheran’ ones, gravely misunderstand both Paul and his context.

          • On your 4 points:

            (1) I am not sure I ever said mainstream was good, but show me where I did if I did. I said scholarly is good, and mainstream per se is neutral. I have said at least 3 times now on this thread that there is nothing inherently good about being mainstream. Also I have repeated that people who do no thought at all but blindly follow the crowd are mainstream, which fact should make us sit up and think.

            (2) How do we measure what is proper scholarship? By the exactitude and the excellence of the exegesis. Therefore Grudem scores on his specialist topic – as we all do. The reaction against can readily be explained by powerful cultural factors that ought not to influence proper scholars.

            (3) You misunderstand what I mean by mainstream and independent. By mainstream I mean consensus (as you said) and by independent I am making the point that it is no good being part of a consensus when no independent thought has brought you to that point. But when a lot of good thinkers arrive at the same point *independently*, then that is a powerful witness.

            (4) On the Lutheranism of Paul: since Stendahl and especially Sanders, scholars have been well aware of this and have guarded against it, I hope. Not that Luther is entirely unpauline by any means.

  4. Andrew
    Not difficult if the whole Bible was breathed out by God, as a post by Ian Paul asserted (November 30, 2020 at 10:41 am (not sure which thread)). Is he a “genuine biblical scholar”?

    Phil Almond

    Reply
      • Andrew
        This is what Ian posted: ( I don’t know to whom he was replying)

        Ian Paul
        November 30, 2020 at 10:41 am
        “And there is the issue. Do we understand the canon of Scripture to be God’s word written, to be ‘God-breathed’, to offer apostolic testimony to Jesus, to be the authority for all matters of life and faith?
        I do; you appear to see it as a collection of people’s opinions. That is the issue at stake here, and always has been”.

        Phil Almond

        Reply
        • I dont think that is a definition of infallibility. And most would agree there are definite cultural considerations to take into account when applying it to today. Few, for example, would call for women to be silent in churches the way Paul did, even if he had legitimate specific reasons for doing so at the time.

          Peter

          Reply
          • Indeed so Peter. Ian has been very supportive of women in ministry and of exercising authority in Church. I would be extremely surprised if Ian subscribed to infallibility. But I would be happy to be corrected by him, and to hear of any reputable biblical scholars who do.

          • I wouldn’t choose ‘infallibility’ as my first choice of terms, not least because of its common confusion with ‘inerrancy’ to which I do not subscribe.

            But I would be quite happy to subscribe to infallibility. As Tom Wright has expressed it, God exercises his authority through Scripture rightly interpreted. And Scripture is trustworthy in what it teaches and affirms. Scripture does not need ‘correction’.

          • I don’t think scripture needs correction. But that is quite different to saying that scripture is limited. Peter’s example above is a very clear example of that distinction,

          • I don’t think scripture needs correction. But that is quite different to saying that scripture is limited. Peter’s example above is a very clear example of that distinction,

            To me, ‘scripture is limited but it doesn’t need correction’ would means that scripture doesn’t cover everything (eg it doesn’t cover orbital mechanics) but that on things which it does cover (eg sexual ethics) then it is reliable.

            Is that what you mean? If not what do you mean?

          • Let’s stick with Peter’s example as it is quite clear. On the matter of women in leadership over men and women teaching and speaking in Church Paul was either:
            A. Plain wrong
            B: speaking just to those in his culture and church, and not for all time.
            C: absolutely correct and we have been wrong to disregard his teaching.

            Which is it?

          • Let’s stick with Peter’s example as it is quite clear. On the matter of women in leadership over men and women teaching and speaking in Church Paul was either:
            A. Plain wrong
            B: speaking just to those in his culture and church, and not for all time.
            C: absolutely correct and we have been wrong to disregard his teaching.

            Which is it?

            Which of those would you consider compatible with the idea that that scripture is ‘correct, but limited’? I’m guessing the second one, because you think that Paul’s instruction was correct for the time, but limited in its scope of application (ie, it applied then, but its period of application expired, maybe sometime around 1298)?

            So you view would be that God definitely didn’t want women to be in leadership over men before the first of January 1298 (and it would have been sinful for a woman to be appointed to lead over a man before that date), but He is fine with women being in leadership over men from the second of January 1298 and onwards?

          • I am asking you which of the three options you think is correct S. You can either answer, or posit another option that you prefer, or else refuse to answer. It currently looks like you can’t decide.

          • I am asking you which of the three options you think is correct S. You can either answer, or posit another option that you prefer, or else refuse to answer. It currently looks like you can’t decide

            I know that, but I don’t know why you are asking me that, as the topic here is what you mean when you says that scripture does not need correction, but is limited, and you still haven’t explained what you mean by that. What I think is irrelevant.

            (In fact I do know why you are asking: it’s because you don’t want to explain what you mean and you are trying to change the subject. It won’t work.)

          • S: I have said, I think more than once, that Peters example, presents a clear reasoning. I have said that I agree with it. Far from trying to change the subject, I am pursuing it by asking you – or indeed anyone else who cares to join in – whether they agree with Peter, and myself and Ian about it. I can only presume you dare not tell us what you think. That’s fine. I will not include you in such questions again.

          • S: I have said, I think more than once, that Peters example, presents a clear reasoning. I have said that I agree with it.

            The example does not at all clarify what you mean by saying that you think scripture does need need correction, but is limited. So as you wish to remain silent, I shall try to extrapolate and you can correct me if I get it wrong.

            I assume that by your referring to ‘definite cultural considerations to take into account’, that means that when you say scripture is ‘limited’ that you think it it is limited in some way by ‘cultural considerations’. Now, that could mean several different things.

            It could mean, for example, that you think that God’s commands are limited by cultural considerations; that is, you think God gives different commands to some cultures than to others. For some cultures, it might, for example, be wrong for women to speak in churches; for other cultures it might be fine for women to speak in churches; for others it might be wrong for women to not speak in churches. Or for another example, same-sex sexual activity might have been sinful in the past, but it is not sinful now.

            God’s commands, on this view, and therefore ethical principles, are not universal, but particular.

            Is that what you believe? If wrong please correct me and explain what you do mean by scripture not needing corrected but being limited. If you do not, or if you claim that you don’t believe the above but don’t provide any convincing alternative, we shall all assume the above is what you believe.

          • S: please see Wyn Benyon’s excellent comment below, made at o945 on January 2. It explains exactly my own views also about scripture in response to your question above.

          • please see Wyn Benyon’s excellent comment below, made at o945 on January 2. It explains exactly my own views also about scripture in response to your question above.

            Had a look at that. It’s not exactly clear, is it? But so far as I can see that explanation doesn’t address the question at issue here, which is: what exactly do you mean when you say that scripture ‘does not require correction, but is limited’?

            As you didn’t deny the views which I ascribed to you in:

            https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/what-can-we-learn-from-the-history-of-the-bible/#comment-390182

            or provide an alternative explanation (the one you pointed to, so far as I can make out, seems to be addressing a different question), can we proceed on the understanding that those are your actual views?

          • My actual views, as I have said, are those expressed by Wyn Benyon. If you don’t find them clear then do engage with Wyn about that.

          • My actual views, as I have said, are those expressed by Wyn Benyon. If you don’t find them clear then do engage with Wyn about that.

            Wyn Benton doesn’t seem to want to clarify, so we will all just have to assume that you do hold the views I outlined above, unless you explain what it is you think instead.

  5. I was quite excited to learn here that a series on biblical history was being broadcast on BBC radio. Then I read the rest of the article. I should have guessed. The BBC casts itself as unbiased and objective on its coverage of Christianity. It is a deceit.

    The BBC was founded 99 years ago with a stated vision for Christian service. The first Director General said from the start that the airwaves were a national asset that should broadcast Christian values to the nation and the world and his first Head of Religious Broadcasting said Sunday should be set aside for broadcasting the kingdom of God to the British nation.

    Now, on all things religious, it’s little more than a woke megaphone.

    Reply
    • John: Woke has become one of those fashionable terms of abuse. It’s meaningless.
      You write as if John Barton’s work is non-Christian. Firstly, his book is primarily an historical approach. Secondly, his theological stance is mainstream. It’s simply what has been taught in every British University for the last 50 years or more. Conservative Christian theology is a minority position.

      Reply
      • Ideological bias is not taught in reputable universities. To the contrary: reputable universities exist to counter it.

        Reply
        • Exactly so Christopher. Which is why the concept of the infallibility of scripture is not taught at any reputable University.

          Reply
          • Yes. But why select that particular ideology from among the millions of others equally biased?

          • Because the author of this piece referred to it, as I quoted:
            “It is also telling that the section in the book on the inspiration of scripture (never mind its infallibility) is so short“

            I find it very odd that you suggest that Oxford is not a reputable University.

          • Oxford (like Cambridge) is a highly reputable university. And they are likely to remain so in the main. But insofar as they capitulate to woke ideology – as shamefully they are actually in the vanguard of doing – they become the reverse. The same applies to Eton and to anywhere else.

            Among the dimensions of this issue are:
            (A) Some individuals in the University offices are beginning to claim that they are the voice of the University!! As a whole.

            (B) They are terrified of losing funding.

            (c) They do not want to get a bad reputation with Students’ Unions.

          • But Christopher you accuse John Barton of ideological bias. Then you say that reputable universities don’t teach ideological bias. But doesn’t John Barton teach at Oxford?? Hasn’t he taught at Oxford for the whole of his academic career?

          • Yes. So do thousands of people. How can one generalise about all of them.

            Yes – as I said below, I need to be convinced that JB is not someone who favours (and of course favouring is an emotional nonrational matter) ‘X is less likely than has been supposed’ over a case-by-case mixture of ‘X is less likely’, ‘X is more likely’ and ‘X is as likely as’.

          • You were the one generalising Christopher. “Ideological bias is not taught in reputable universities”. You then go on to claim that an Oxford Professor teaches from an ideological bias.
            You yourself have considerable ideological bias. But at least you are not teaching I suppose!

          • Be thankful for small mercies. And, secondly, list any ideological biases I show (i.e. biases without evidential support which, secondly, correspond to my preferences) and I will scotch either them or the allegation, depending on where the fault lies.

          • (A) It is a bias if I fail to give reasons or show my working – otherwise is it a conclusion not a bias. So if I fail to show my reasoning, call me out on it.

            (B) Everybody is anti something but how does that make it a bias? They could be anti it because it has nothing to be said in its favour. People are anti hate, anti sloppy reasoning, anti ideology, anti the promotion of emotion over reason. These are not positions that require justification. My long experience that liberalism is no more and no less than capitulation to transient cultural trends puts liberalism in the same category as all of the above.

          • Christopher

            My long experience is that conservatism is no more than capitulation to cultural trends.

          • I notice you left out the word ‘transient’ that time. So as between those who follow the transient and those who follow the less transient and more enduring, which should we prefer?

          • Christopher
            The omission was accidental.

            I see no virtue in things being either transient or enduring.

          • I do. Things that endure have proven their value over both (a) time and (b) changing circumstance. Many just run after what is new. The Bible and the wise agree on this point: we look for Rocks, enduring things, things that last.

          • Anyway, if the omission was indeed accidental, then you are associating conservatives with transience, which is well known to be exactly the opposite of what the word means!

          • Anyway, if the omission was indeed accidental, then you are associating conservatives with transience, which is well known to be exactly the opposite of what the word means!

            One assumes that what is being referred to is the caricature of conservatives as dedicated to preserving whatever the status quo happens to be at a given time, even if it only became the status quo five minutes before.

            And to be fair, some who call themselves ‘conservatives’ do play up to that stereotype; for instance, the ones who fought tooth and nail against same-sex marriage right up until the moment it became law, but who will now defend it to the death.

            But that’s not the majority of those who call themselves ‘conservatives’ and I for one would question whether they are conservative at all.

        • And deprive good honest families of their livelihoods, all because they themselves either are not of the calibre to read the science or because they think all scientific conclusions should bow down to them and their wishes.

          Reply
        • Woke was originally African-American slang for being socially and racially aware and was seen as a good thing.

          It has been appropriated by alt-right types as a slur against those who seek social, racial, gender and sexuality justice. Just as they sneer at political correctness – the will to kindness, compassion, tolerance and equity – as something to be resisted.

          Reply
          • I only wish that political correctness were identical to the will to kindness, compassion, tolerance (a word that needs a great deal of defining, which you did not do) and equity (ditto). It is nothing like.

            Why do you think people would object to it if it were that? It reminds me of the people who think Jesus was killed because he said ‘Love one another’.

          • Christopher

            Transient and new aren’t synonyms.

            Lots of things that endure are evil.
            Slavery, for example.

          • Christopher

            People object to political correctness because it demands that they confront their own unexamined privilege and admit that women, queers, blacks and crips have a place at the table.

          • I can’t be a person then, because I object to political correctness for a quite different reason: because it is ideological and does not care what the science says, and highhandedly and arrogantly thinks it can dictate the way the world is when in fact the world is much bigger and will be as it will be.

          • Transient and new certainly are not synonyms. But to be focused on ‘the news’ and on fashion is to see virtue in novelty where there is none. Why do you think the discovery of new galaxies or of the tomb of Philip II appears on page 44 of a ‘news’paper rather than on page 1?

          • Because, sadly, most of the newspapers are controlled by a conservative group who are focussed entirely on profit rather than on providing informed comment.

          • What is the connection between that and emphasising the transient at the expense of the longterm and largescale?

          • Christopher
            The opposition to political correctness is ideological.
            It is the fruit of the conservative ideology that what is white, male, heterosexual, cis gender is normal, typical, neutral, objective, non-ideological, correct, canonical.
            Political correctness and staying woke and other movements push against this as a neutral and/or correct norm, and firstly, demonstrate that this is a peculiarly partial social construct; and secondly that it disenfranchises the minority whilst safeguarding the interests of a privileged minority.

          • Why don’t you get that we are obviously all for equality, but not for cooking the research books, which is quite a different and unrelated matter. You see it in Eton, you see it everywhere. People who have scarcely researched in their life, and whose dogmas are founded on wishful thinking not evidence wield the whiphand over those who rely on research and its sometimes surprising conclusions which are out of our control. It is all about control, you see.

          • The opposition to political correctness is ideological.

            Political correctness is ideological too. The opposition to an ideology is an ideology; does that tautology really get us anywhere deeper in our understanding?

          • Christopher

            Indeed, it is all about control. Not everyone is in favour of equality: you, I think, do not believe that LGBTQ people should have an equal place at the table.
            Those who cry loudest about ‘cancel culture’ are those appearing on Newsnight and writing columns for the broadsheets. They are always those with platforms and privilege.
            I’m not sure I understand what you mean by research, especially with regard to Eton. I assume you are referring to the teacher who was, I think, dismissed. Whether his conduct required sacking, I’m not sure. But I have listened to his podcast. It was sub-Jordan Peterson drivel. I am surprised that Eton employed him in the first place.

      • Oh, but the BBC bends over backwards to over-represent minorities. Positive discrimination. Apparently, not always then. As for British universities with their mad rush to no-platform anyone, even the likes of Germaine Greer, who dares cross the woke party line it’s hardly surprising that you can’t find a single evangelical anywhere near the theological faculty.

        Reply
        • There have been plenty of evangelicals in the highest places in theological faculties in recent times. If there follows a purge or cull in the present woke circumstances (led, unbelievably, by Oxford and Cambridge) then that is entirely to the evangelicals’ credit and the others’ discredit.

          Reply
          • There is any number of inaccuracies here.

            (1) Scholars do not hold either entrenched or stereotypable positions, but complex and nuanced and sometimes tentative/exploratory positions which are *not* able to be simplistically characterised or caricatured. Since you are doing the latter, you are incorrect.

            (2) John Barton is like any other scholar unique in his hitherto-conclusions. Since everyone is unique, no-one is representative. You say he is representative. Therefore you are incorrect.

            (3) If you mean that he is on average close to the mainstream, i.e. to the centre of a web of independently-arrived-at scholarly consensuses, then you may be right, but that is an extremely complicated calculation to do, and you have not done it; no more have I.

            (4) If you mean that his overally ideological position is closer to the independent-consensus position, then that is irrelevant, since scholarship abhors ideology in the first place.

            (5) We (of course) do not judge by conclusions (which may or may not actually be conclusions rather than ideologies) but only by the arguments used to arrive at those conclusions. This invalidates what you say.

            (6) There is a possible ideological element, namely minimalism, in what JB writes and what he would have imbibed when young from Nineham and others. It is relentless in an unscholarly way. Scholars mix ‘X is less likely than has previously been thought’ with ‘X is more likely’ and ‘X is equally/as likely’. Where a writer has only one of these kinds of sentence, ideology may be suspected.

            In these times (1950s to 1970s), in the spirit of logical positivism, Bertrand Russell and so on, there was a trend to think almost every ‘religious’ claim was overweening. Based on the fact that some that had been in the past. This generalising interpretative key (together with a wish to seem superior to the hicks and ‘in the know’ or – Molesworth – ‘advanced, forthright and significant’) interposed to stop people actually thinking about individual cases. There was a danger that people would see what they categorised as a religious claim, and jump to ‘ergo overweening’ without doing much thought in the interim. The whole category religious is suspect anyway, and a lot of the time we are speaking of historical matters, which are highly contingent and in need of piecemeal treatment, and about which no such generalisation is remotely possible.

            (7) There is no credit to being mainstream. Everyone who is incapable of thinking for themselves is mainstream. There is no discredit either. It is a neutral matter. The question is whether people follow the evidence or not.

            (8) You would think that scholarly consensus counts for something. As I always point out, the fact that something appears in NT Introductions proves only that it is tautologically self-perpetuating, as is proven by the fact that the work of specialists veers ever further away from these entrenched Intoduction stances.

            (9) Moreover I have found it absolutely remarkable the degree to which the questions one asks determines the ‘conclusions’ that are reached. This is called framing, and is oft employed by unscrupulous journalists. The less framing the better. For example: you would think that the NT is the most minutely studied collection of texts in existence and you would be right. Yet even then some of the most simple options for solution of the Synoptic Problem have been scarcely considered, because of the ‘framing’ that the options are A, B, and C. Also, the work I have done re Gospel Templates shows to me that looking on too minute a level (through many centuries and nations) can blind us to things that are not that unclear once they are pointed out, and are in fact on a larger and more visible level than the minutiae that we have been officially supposed to devote our exclusive attention to.

            (10) Why would mainstream be a good thing when every groundbreaker has been in a minority of one?

          • But Christopher you accuse John Barton of ideological bias. Then you say that reputable universities don’t teach ideological bias. But doesn’t John Barton teach at Oxford?? Hasn’t he taught at Oxford for the whole of his academic career?

          • “(1) Scholars do not hold either entrenched or stereotypable positions, but complex and nuanced and sometimes tentative/exploratory positions which are *not* able to be simplistically characterised or caricatured. Since you are doing the latter, you are incorrect.”

            Exactly so. But you characterise and caricature John Barton as having a liberal bias. You are therefore incorrect.

          • Do a count, then. Take a chapter or article, and list (a) how many times we get ‘X is less likely than has been supposed’, (b) ‘X is more likely’, (c) ‘X is equally likely – its likelihood has been accurately portrayed’.

          • Generalising is being vague. Counting is being as specific as can be, with actual statistics and numbers. Therefore counting is the opposite of generalising – which is why people fear it so much.

          • Interesting that you believe the there is no credit to being mainstream. Was it you, in an earlier thread, who claimed that an hermeneutic position was only valid if it was held by the majority of mainstream scholars?

          • It may have been, I’m not sure. To repeat: there is no intrinsic credit nor discredit to being mainstream per se. One would hope that there is credit in scholars being *independently* mainstream (independently arriving at a similar position) rather than following each other like the blind leading the blind. There is always the complex issue of how independent this process actually is.

            To be independently mainstream in a *scholarly* context cuts more mustard than being culturally mainstream and lapping up the latest hopeful ideology imposed on us by Woman’s Hour, the Guardian or whomever.

          • You are being vague about this specific matter.
            You have made four statements that can’t all be accurate.

            A. Reputable Universities don’t teach from ideological bias.
            B. Oxford university is a reputable University.
            C. John Barton teaches from ideological bias.
            D. John Barton teaches at Oxford.

            Which statement above is incorrect?

          • A is marginally incorrect, and ever less marginally. One hopes it would be correct if one inserted the word ‘usually’. But these days it is hard to be sure. Academics (on average) have suddenly become (for self centred reasons) often the worst offenders in spreading unfounded ideologies.

          • Christopher you continue to be vague – no doubt because you have backed yourself into a corner on this matter. I will prefer your answer which says:
            “Scholars do not hold either entrenched or stereotypable positions, but complex and nuanced and sometimes tentative/exploratory positions which are *not* able to be simplistically characterised or caricatured”
            and ignore the several ways in which you characterise and caricature John Barton here.

          • But that suggests that it is impossible for Oxford scholars to be ideological. Quite the contrary – the university is under siege from ideology.

            I remain amazed that you think that what applies to one Oxford scholar must apply to them all – i.e. that all the thousands of them can be generalised about. That is why I rejected A in your A, B, C, D. It is in A that the flaw lies, because generalisations at that level of generality are not possible.

          • Your ‘story’ keeps shifting Christopher. Let’s just say you are not a reliable witness in this matter.

          • Well, that is the narrative you prefer to promulgate; but since I have always given and will always give straight answers, it is not an accurate one. Test me and try me (as you already do, to the limit: lol). Mk 12.13 speaks of those who are always trying to trip others up and pick holes.

        • John Barton’s scholarship isn’t that of a minority. It’s mainstream and reputable. Conservative evangelical theology is very much in the minority.
          There are lots of evangelical theologians and biblical scholars in British universities.
          Of course, representing minorities is a Gospel imperative.

          Reply
          • “Representing minorities” is not a “Gospel imperative”, proclaiming the truth is.
            There are in fact a fair number of evangelical scholars in biblical studies in British universities, Oxford and Cambridge included, principally because:
            1. Evangelicals believe the Bible is the Word of God and therefore truthful and not misleading. Therefore we have a very high stake in studying it.
            Perhaps it should be mentioned that the evangelical view of Scripture is the historic catholic or pan-Christian one as well. It is undeniable that the liberal assumption about the Bible, that it is a set of fallible human writings imperfectly reflecting religious experience, has been the regnant one in British universities not just for the past 50-60 years but really since the 1920s.
            2. Tyndale House Cambridge has been the principal engine of reviving evangelical scholarship and through it, many first-rate scholars have obtained doctorates in biblical studies in Cambridge, Oxford and Aberdeen, among other places.
            3. To become a first-ranking biblical scholar takes years of work, especially in mastering ancient languages and ancient history, as well as being adept in German and maybe another modern language. It is a difficult apprenticeship and really only for the linguistically gifted. When you consider how few study Hebrew today, let alone Greek, you have an idea of how committed the budding scholar must be. Easier to study history or ethics.
            4. Few scholars start with focusing on bibliology or the doctrine of Scripture and the issues attending that, unless they are studying the history of doctrine or hermeneutics.
            The “mainstream” view of the Bible in British universities doesn’t depend on a faith commitment, and indeed it is much easier if you don’t have one because it is simpler (for the average undergraduate, at any rate) to take the line of least resistance when faced with the problems that the Bible poses us. (Moreover, Theology or RS and Theology undergraduates in leading British universities are not usually among the top in ability or motivation, from what I can tell, compared to students in other fields.)
            The “mainstream” (or non-religious) approach makes these assumptions (straight from the 19th and 19th centuries):
            1. Miracles don’t happen, so Bible accounts of these are not historical.
            2. More specifically, Jesus didn’t actually rise (physically) from the dead, so accounts of this are legendary.
            3. The Gospels reflect very little (Bultmann) or only a little (Kaesemann) that is historically reliable about Jesus of Nazareth (who never taught about himself the things that Paul or John allege – so there is an impossible gulf between Jesus and his “interpreters”.
            4. If Jesus really taught that Moses wrote about him (John 5.46-47) or that David wrote Psalm 110 (Mark 12.36), then clearly he was mistaken because modern scholarship has determined otherwise.
            5. “Incarnation” and “Trinity” are confused and impossible ideas (ask any modern Jew, or even a Muslim!) probably steeped in paganism. Some kind of unitarian adoptionism is easier to fit with reason (as well as the secular pressure to renounce Christian particularism).
            6. Scepticism can and does run riot over whole regions of the Old Testament. If we doubt that not only Adam existed but also Abraham, Moses and David, we can bracket out a whole set of difficult problems. (Of course, this creates great difficulties for Jews and Muslims as well as Christians.)
            You can see that tackling any one of these six issues (and I could mention others) is a formidable challenge to even a brave and confident student of historic orthodox faith. Many of us thrive on a challenge, but I wouldn’t want to spend all my life in a combat zone.

          • James

            I wont respond to your slurs on secular universities. But, to misquote Elizabeth Bennett, if you expect all that of a biblical scholar, I am surprised you know any.

            Of course, as I commented, there are lots of fine, mainstream, evangelical scholars. The bibliolatry of some conservatives is, however, neither catholic nor pan-Christian (surely the same thing).

            Proclaiming the truth involves representing minorities. What were Paul, Peter, James and John doing?

          • There was no “slur” in my comment about British universities. The admission standards for Theology and RS students in Russell group universities has long been lower than for other subjects. This applies to Oxford as well, where Theology was long seen as a soft option compared to Classics or Philosophy.
            Doctoral level biblical studies *do require a lot of linguistic ability – three years of undergraduate Greek and Hebrew, and maybe Aramaic as well. And when I was doing mine, I did know and still know quite a few with that knowledge – and usually acquiring theological German at least. Nobody could do original research in Biblical Studies without a good working knowledge of German. But I have to say that many of the doctoral students I knew were Americans or Australians, graduates of places like TEDS or Moore, where there is a strong emphasis on the Biblical languages.
            The evangelical doctrine of Scripture IS the historic catholic view. Whether you believe that view to be true or not is another question. And the “mainstream ” view is anti-supernaturalist and historicist in its assumptions. Anyone investigating the subject can verify this.

          • James

            Another quote – from a nun – ‘she calls herself a scholar but doesn’t know Akkadian’.

            Which is marvellous, but a little like your ‘IS’.
            Capital letters don’t make it so.

          • I don’t know what your point is about the nun and Akkadian.
            My point about Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek and the apprenticeship involved is true.
            As is my statement about the historic catholic understanding of the nature of Holy Scripture. There is a remarkable uniformity in basic belief about the nature of the Bible from Augustine through to Aquinas, Calvin and indeed most 19th century Roman Catholic writers. That was all I meant. The “mainstream ” secular university view does not consider the Bible to be the product of the Holy Spirit. The origins of this view go back to the Roman Catholic scholar Simon and to de Wette.
            Ofcourse, many don’t think the historic catholic view of the nature of the Bible is tenable today but that doesn’t alter my historical point. The historic view is also the foundation for the Nicene Creed. “Mainstream” liberalism rejects the historic Catholic view of the Bible and along with that, catholic Christology and Trinitarianism. I can live with that. The universities are not particularly important today in the fostering of Christian theology. Everything has its season, as Qoheleth reminds us.

          • James

            I am often a little terse on here. It is a reaction to the prolixity of some of the contributors.
            You see a continuity in a catholic treading of scripture; I see repeated ruptures. You believe that all biblical scholarship is dependent on a knowledge, not only of Greek and Hebrew, but also of Aramaic, German and Latin. Some is, undoubtedly. Not all.
            I believe that the universities are most important in the study and writing of Christian theology. And in the pursuit of biblical scholarship. I could give numerous examples of both theologians and biblical scholars.
            Secular universities are also places for secular study. The Bible doesn’t belong to Christians.

  6. For a new article, this is a centuries old debate and as for infallibility and inerrancy, this article stimulated a turning to read
    Dr. Matthew Barrett’s “God’s Word Alone; The Authority of Scripture”, 2016, which traces the rise of liberalism in the undermining of the Doctrine of Scripture, up to and including postmodernism.
    To say that no modern reputable modern biblical scholar supports infallibility, inerrancy, is wide of the mark, a modern day infallible, fallacy (liberal).
    As on a recent lengthy thread I submitted that the Doctrine of scripture was interdependent on the Christian Doctrine of God, and Doctrine of revelation.
    Some, liberals, may care to commit themselves to reading, ” The Enduring Authority of Christian Scripture” DA Carson, a modern, reputable biblical scholar.

    Reply
      • Andrew
        It would be helpful if you could please explain what, in your view, is the difference between inerrancy and infallibility, with examples if possible!

        Phil Almond

        Reply
      • Does he? What is the difference? Where does the rubber hit the road on this one?
        A genuine question – as I have read most of Carson’s ‘The Enduring Authority” and quite a few of his books.

        Reply
  7. Thank you for a helpful review Jeremy. I am largely in agreement your (warm) affirmations and also the eye-roll moments in the book. But to be honest I do that with a great deal of conservative stuff on the bible too. I would be interested to know, in your view, which books out there, if any, are exploring this most helpfully from an evangelical perspective at the moment. The irony has always been that the stronger the allegiance to scripture as a ‘supreme authority’ and to versions of infallibility and inerrancy, the more likely the divisions over what it actually teaches – while trying to claim to the wider world its teaching is all ‘completely clear’. I still remember the shock of studying in a conservative Bible College, in the first flush of renewed faith, at just how varied and strongly divided this tradition could be while insisting its unity around one guiding authority. The truth is we are a highly conflicted tradition when it comes to the bible and we need to face this more honestly. Thanks again.

    Reply
    • Hi David. Here is a brief list from the last few years:
      Oliver Crisp and Fred Sanders (Eds) The Voice of God in the Text of Scripture (2016)
      Roger Olson The Mosaic of Christian Belief (new ed; chapter on Scripture)
      Kenton Sparks God’s Word in Human Words (2008)
      Kenton Sparks Sacred Word, Broken Word (2012)
      Jeannine Brown Scripture as Communication (though more on hermeneutics) (2007)
      John Webster Holy Scripture (2003)
      Paul Helm and Carl Trueman (Eds) The Trustworthiness of God (2002)
      Tom Wright Scripture and the Authority of God (2005)
      Richard Bauckham Scripture and Authority Today (Grove Booklet B12)

      Reply
    • See also

      Walton and Sandy, The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority (2014)

      There are lots more from a more conservative position eg works by Don Carson.

      Reply
      • Ian. Thank you for your trouble in providing this reading list. I have some on my shelves, have read and know of others, and am glad to know of more. I am presently working with others not on your list. ‘Of the making of books ….’
        Having said that it wasn’t actually the question I was asking Jeremy.
        But thanks again.

        Reply
    • I treasure the more comprehensive work of both Carl Henry and Don Carson; but for now wouldn’t it be time well spent if we took an hour or two this year to read the distilled wisdom of Wright and/or Bauckham.

      Reply
  8. Martin Davie’s review of John Barton’s book can be found in ‘Reflections of an Anglican Theologian’ Archive July 2020

    Phil Almond

    Reply
  9. Infallibility and inerrancy.
    1 “Until about 1960 or 1965 the word infallible was used interchangeably with the word inerrant, at least in the United States.”Grudem, Systematic Theology 1994
    2 Inerrancy;
    2.1 “Full – all scripture is our inerrant authority.
    2.2 “Limited inerrancy – only when scripture addresses matters of faith is it our inerrant authority.
    ” Limited inerrantists will prefer to use the word infallible instead because they they mean by it something far less than inerrancy (ie scripture is infallible for its spiritual message, but not in its totallity)…. authority cannot apply to the Bible in its totallity but must be restricted to those portions we know are true.”
    “It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that it is seeking to create a canon within a canon…But this creates more problems than solutions…how much must we know to be saved? This opens thee door for a wide variety of opinions, includiy those who would answer: very little! And if very little is needed for salvation, then very little of the Bible is actually inerrant.
    “However, scripture never divorces faith from history, the spiritual from the historical…
    “It is called Redemptive History for a reason. We cannot bifurcate faith from history because the two go hand in hand”…(and then our human reason would have taken on the role of determine the norm.)….”In the end the individual decides what parts are from God and what parts are not.”
    Matthew Barrett; God’s Word Alone; The Authority of Scripture.

    Reply
    • Inerrancy;
      2.1 “Full – all scripture is our inerrant authority.

      I’m afraid it isn’t very helpful to define ‘inerrancy’ in terms or ‘inerrant’. Is there a non-circular definition?

      Reply
  10. Hello S,
    That point was made by Barrett, mostly to distinguish between wholly inerrant Bible and “partially inerrancy”, and the separation of truth/fact/history and faith. His book is one long apologetic for Sola Scriptura, which means that “only Scripture, because it is god’s inspired word, is our inerrant, sufficient, and final authority for the church.” That God is its divine author, who is truth itself.
    The book traces the history of the separation of truth and fact, and really is helpful in showing the ground in which Andrew and Penelope have been planted and grown.
    “But to get a full picture, we need to go beyond saying that the Bible is inspired or God-breathed… inerrancy is the necessary corollary of divine inspiration. -inseparably connected and intertwined- it is a necessary component to sola Scriptura. The God of truth has breathed out his Word of truth and the result is nothing less than a flawless authority for the church.”
    Barrett traces the history of scripture, demonstrating a massive shift in authority, incorporates a biblical theology of God’s word, and the historical redemptive context for the doctrine of scripture “to show that the triune god has made himself known covenantally and his covenantal word always proves true…(that it is).. . Inherently. Trinitarian in nature.
    ” Throughout redemptive history, each person of the trinity participates in the delivery of divine revelation, (chapter 4) yet it is the Holy Spirit in particular who takes on the central role, carrying along the biblical authors so that they speak from god.”
    Barrett then explores the range of scriptural attributes, to defend biblical authority against the many challenges of today.
    There is too much in the book to abstract in a comments section.

    Reply
  11. Thank you, Ian Paul for this… and I think the reviewer is right: Hooker would not have agreed. But that’s why I put conservatives and liberals in the same box! Neither conservatives nor liberals understand Hooker, as Hooker is a (maybe *the*) base Anglican. (Irony intended) They both try to twist him when he will only be understood on his own terms. He was writing (just) before the Cartesian disaster but is too often read as though he were part of it. The real conversation with CEEC should NOT be between conservatives and liberals, but between conservatives and *nonconlib* Anglicans. Despite the protestations of Mike Higton and Saun Doherty to me at General Synod a couple of years ago that “Anglicanism does not exist”, there are ‘7000’ of us who have not bowed the knee the Baals of scriptural idolatry on the one hand and liberal hubris on the other! So I’m just off to anoint Hazael…. back soon.

    Reply
  12. Hi Wyn Benyon
    I would be interested in any passages from the Bible, and how ‘conservatives’ understand them, you feel able to give of what you describe as ‘scriptural idolatry’ and how ‘nonconlib’ Anglicans would understand those passages. And – do ‘nonconlib’ Anglicans believe that, because of the Fall and Original Sin we all face the wrath and condemnation of God from birth onwards?
    Phil Almond

    Reply
  13. I think it would be better if we used the terms dynamically. “Inerrant” would then mean incapable of deceiving us. “Infallibility” would mean that to all eternity we would realise that what God has revealed not only remains valid but continually leads to new and deeper understanding.

    Reply
    • Bob. I like the idea of using words about scriptural revelation dynamically. But how do we cope with the fact that even the most devout, bible centred Christians can be mistaken about what scripture teaches? It is, self evidently, a revelation that leaves open the possibility we may misunderstand what we read there (I would not use the word ‘deceive’). One of the most recent examples would be the number of evangelicals who now support the ordination of women from scripture who once firmly believed the bible did not allow women to teach or lead men.

      Reply
      • Thanks, David. It is a problem that sincere believers often find it hard to agree. What I was getting at is that Scripture can never simply be pressed into the spirit of the age. That said, different situations, cause us to ask new questions of the text. For example, large evangelical churches have gifted women on their teams who play a prominent role in the life and direction of their churches. Scripture , i believe, does not see an all or nothing role. Similarly, the gifts of the Spirit can have different approaches; the crucial point is that we believe there is a living Spirit without whose presence and gifts we would achieve nothing. Also the coming of Christ; the fundamental difference does not lie between those who have differing approaches to the sequence of events surrounding the coming, but between those who believe that “on the last day he will return in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead” and those who see it as simply a metaphor of how there will be change for the better.

        Reply
        • Thanks Bob. I completely agree that ‘different situations cause us to ask new questions of the text’. I agree with your stress on the place of our own faithful initiative in how we read and apply what is given. A certain stress on ‘supreme authority’ of scripture and even infallibility can easily exclude the faithful, imaginative human response to the text as if there is only a command to be obeyed. I struggle with the idea that scripture is not ‘all or nothing’ with regard to the ministry of women alongside men in the church. In fact I think only man could be happy with that idea! But that is another issue and illustrates our point here – that the same bible texts can lead us to very different understandings of what they mean and call us too. Even arguments about infallibility and inerrancy still leave us with the task of faithful interpretation and applying of scripture to our own context and questions.

          Reply
          • Well, you could always become a Roman Catholic, David, and have the definitive meaning of Scripture presented to you by the successor of Peter. Wouldn’t that solve the problem for you?

          • James. (no ‘reply’ option under your comment to me so I am not sure where this will appear). I confess I do not understand your response to my conversion with Bob here. I do not have a problem. And this discussion is about how we evangelicals red and interpret scripture – not Roman Catholics.

          • David, you stated that “the same bible texts lead us to very different understandings of what they mean and call us too” (sic).
            That can only be because
            (a) the texts are confused or contradictory; or
            (b) some interpretations are wrong.
            If (a), we must abandon an evangelical doctrine of Scripture and use Sachkritik or another principle.
            If (b), we need to agree on the correct rules for interpretation (given that some interpretations are manifestly wrong). For myself, I find Robert Stein’s approach very helpful, and his lectures are freely available on the internet.
            But if one insists that Scripture is still unclear – and this claim is frequently made in liberal Protestant circles especially those influenced by postmodern philosophy – what recourse does one have but to seek an authoritative interpreter?
            Which is exactly what the Papacy claims to be. If you consider the Bible is insufficiently clear on the things that matter, is it not reasonable to conclude that God gave his church a trustworthy magisterium?

          • James. I do not think a) – though that does not mean that scripture is always completely clear. It isn’t. So yes, I go with b) – though this is a brief response to something that needs more careful elaboration. But b) is surly always a possibility – do you not agree? b) requires the work of discernment and thus certainly contains the possibility of confusion, error or, what I might call, incomplete understanding. For example a scripture teaching/text found in one place and context however apparently unambiguous and authoritative in its tone may not be intended for applying universally in any or every other context – then or now. I would suggest that the verses silencing women or excluding them from teaching in the church are specific examples of that. I do not know why you bring in ‘Liberals’, [pst modernists of Roman Catholics at this point. It is a matter of fact that carefully Bible-centred Evangelicals disagree on this example. There are broad principles of interpretation. But there is no set of ‘correct rules’ exist that, if followed, will infallibly bring us all to the ‘right’ meaning and its application.

  14. Hi Wyn Benyon (again)
    On further reflection I think your post at 8.09 am today pinpoints a key issue. I don’t know whether you agree but my view is that in these debates we should dig below generalised statements about the Bible and focus on the doctrines we believe or reject and what the implications are for what the Church should believe (or reject), teach and preach. I have tried to do that in the last post on the thread about the Church’s vision and strategy should be, starting with the generalised view of the Bible that it is breathed out by God. I would be interested to know whether, as a nonconlib Anglican, you agree or disagree.
    Phil Almond

    Reply
    • Thank you for both replies Phil,
      I hope I’ve understood the questions correctly if I put them like this:
      1) What is Scriptural idolatry?
      2) What about the Fall and Original Sin wrath and condemnation from birth?
      3) Is the Bible God breathed?

      I want to think about how to answer these .. but I hope they’re the right questions!
      Wyn

      Reply
      • Wyn
        Many thanks for your reply. Yes, more or less the right questions. I am also interested in your view of my last post to the other thread about the Church’s Vision and Strategy where I have set out my conviction that the Church as a whole should believe and preach the terrible diagnosis of the consequence of the Fall and the terrible warnings from Christ and others, alongside the wonderful invitations and promises to those who submit to Christ in his atoning death and life-giving resurrection, who submit in repentance, faith, love and obedience, in the conviction that the diagnosis, the warnings, the invitations and promises are truly based on what the Bible reveals. I am interested in whether a nonconlib would heartily agree with that or if not where the disagreement with it is. And preach the warnings using the words the Bible uses, leaving it to the Holy Spirit to convict the hearers, without bringing in the vital issue of whether the unsaved are punished and then annihilated or whether they are punished eternally.

        Phil Almond

        Reply
        • Here goes 2
          How do we idolise scripture?
          Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: Deut 6.4
          The Shema and Jesus use of it, adding loving our neighbour in the process of loving ourselves makes it quite clear where our worship shall be. The careful prescriptions concerning graven images and idols are clear in the Commandments. In the teaching of Jesus it is clear that righteousness and unrighteousness are entirely to do with how we treat God and how we treat our neighbour, and his condemnation is clearly held against those who were fastidious about the text of the law.
          This alone is enough to make me shy of using the scripture as a self authenticating touching stone of what is right and what is wrong. It can be that only after I have encountered the living God, and that encounter will, as I have experienced in my life, change and define how I engage with the scriptures.
          What is clear is that they are to be held in the highest regard, but they are not God. They have no character that means they hold, reveal or proclaim God other than as human words written by and for humans, God inspired though they are. The words are not God. The Word is God, not the words. And as John V Taylor said, “No words can add to the Word”. The Word was made flesh in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God the Son.
          As an Anglican I follow these classic reference points:
          Firstly it is unique because it tells of the unique revelation of God as love itself in Jesus Christ. Secondly the Bible contains all things necessary for salvation – in other words it has a simple purpose – to help us know we are safe in Christ. The Church of England doesn’t believe the Bible has the answers to every question, just the important ones!
          Thirdly the Church of England insists that we don’t ordain anything contrary to “God’s word written”interpret the Bible in such a way that one part is repugnant to another – cherry picking verses or only reading selected parts just won’t do!
          It is clear that these authoritative sources do not demand a literal reading of scripture, indeed the third makes it clear that it is perfectly possible to read scripture against itself.
          Hooker said that scripture was “sufficient for its end” (ie salvation) and that to read it we had to learn a lot of other stuff first from life and nature – otherwise we could not even read the words.
          Once the text is read as somehow inerrant then we have a series of problems that no amount of faith can overcome with integrity. Simply wanting to believe we have an inerrant and textually reliable scripture is obviously not good enough when the evidence points to something much more ‘God breathed’ than verbal inerrancy, which, after all, is the cheapest trick in the book. Our God is a bit bigger than that, it turns out.
          So simply saying “the Bible says so”, is always a dodgy strategy. Scripture must be expounded such that one part is not repugnant to another. That requires patience, humility and openness which reading the text ‘straight off the page’ does not require.
          In Anglicanism the Bible is only one authority. There is also Tradition which is the ongoing story of the Church of which we are all part and which constantly changes and evolves in order to stay the same. And to hold Scripture and Tradition together meaningfully we need Reason. Reason is not being clever. Reason in this sense means the truth spoken in love. That is true rationality. It embraces braininess, of course, but is not governed by it… the most intellectually challenged person can speak the truth in love and no one is excluded because of their inability to intellectualise.
          Simply to concentrate on scripture as THE source of authority displaces the living God. It is idolatry.
          Anglicanism, which is a both/and of Catholic and Reformed (never Protestant!) would happily speak of prima scriptura, – scripture comes first in the threesome of scripture, tradition and reason, but it refuses sola scriptura, as without tradition and reason, scripture becomes an idol as the Holy Spirit is, as it were, caged in one dimension.

          Reply
          • Hi Wyn
            Many thanks for your replies. I need to read them carefully and then respond carefully. As an interim question, what are your sources for your assertions about ‘Anglicanism’. I look forward to what you have to say about the doctrines which your understanding of what ‘Anglicanism’ is believes, and why it believes them.
            Phil Almond

          • Thank you Wyn so much for this helpful and very classically Anglican way of expressing our approach towards scripture. I am very much in agreement with it.

          • But isn’t it circular? The so-called ‘argument’ ”as an Anglican I believe XYZ” is of no worth, because it does not explain even in the slightest why the Anglican option should be chosen above other options in the first place, why it trumps them (if indeed it does). If the answer is mere preference, that only makes a bad situation worse.

          • David Runcorn and Andrew Godsall
            In the light of your agreement with Wyn’s position I invite you to comment on my Philip Almond January 2, 2021 at 2:48 pm post, stating your agreements if and and you disagreements if any.

            Phil Almond

          • Thank you. My understanding of Anglicanism, but much more clearly and beautifully expressed than I could ever achieve.

          • So many errors here, Wyn
            1. Tradition and Reason are not separate streams of revelation. They are how we approach the Bible, using God-given reason to make sense of it and respecting (but not canonising) traditional interpretations of Scripture. You should compare your ideas (which are not what Hooker taught) with Roman Catholic Magisterium and Orthodox holy tradition. You misrepresent seriously the meaning of tradition.
            2. You have not understood at all how Jesus understood the Scriptures. You have denied the divine origin of Scripture and made it simply a human witness to religious experience. You should read as a primer on this, Wenham’s Christ and the Bible to read ipsissimis verbis how Jesus thought of the Old Testament. This is actually the foundation of the historic catholic view of the Bible and why we talk about infallibility or inerrancy. Evangelicals and catholics believe what we do about the nature of the Bible BECAUSE that is what Christ the Lord of the Church actually believed. Do you think Jesus was wrong about this?
            3. Nobody has ever said the Bible answers every question on any subject we might think of. Why waste time even saying this?
            4. It is a complete canard (and not a little offensive) to say that those who believe in the God-breathed (that is, originating in God) nature of the Scriptures are making an “idol” of the Bible and it is wearisome to hear this canard being repeated. Of course you say you prefer “the Living God” to what others may claim to experience via the Bible – but how, pray tell, do you experience “the Living God”? Are you describing your private prophetic experiences? Are you a charismatic mystic? If so, how do your private religious experiences line up with others?

        • Thanks Phil,
          Well, that’s the last of the three – I’m post Covid and a bit weary (didn’t have it too badly) and off to bed… OK if I have a go at that tomorrow (Sunday!)?

          Reply
          • Hi Wyn
            OK I will try to do that. Will you respond to my post at 9:45 am today on your web pages? I have several things to say on what you have posted here but need your answer on the doctrines before I do so.

            Phil Almond

    • Hi Philip….So here goes with one answer – last first!
      Is scripture God breathed?
      This is I guess a reference to 2 Tim3.36 16
      “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”
      and in particular the rather lovely word: θεοπνευστος which could be literally translated “God breathed” as in the NIV.
      The short answer to your question is, yes indeed I do. But the long answer requires us to think about what, on earth, it means!
      I don’t have a problem with that translation but it is interesting to note that most translations translate it something like “God inspired” and Bauer, Gingrich and Danker translate it that way too. Having said that, inspiration means ‘breathed into’. But it has some other connotation – it’s a word that means more than it says – it isn’t literal. Inspiration means what, exactly? It does not mean, however, λογος (word), or even ρηματα (utterance).
      The words of scripture were mostly written and then read aloud. It doesn’t make much sense to literally believe God breathed the words on to the page. St Paul, who lets us in on the writing process of his letters, certainly didn’t experience that.
      God’s breath is an interesting image. It suggests that which comes from the deepest place and is let out into the largest space. And of course Adam and Eve were God breathed, quite literally. (Although interestingly the text doesn’t say God breathed life into Eve, which puts the kibosh on complementarian views of men and women, of course! Male and Female are one thing which means gender is a tad ambiguous)
      But, to get back to the chase… the idea of scripture being God breathed conveys (I suggest) the idea that it is to do with meaning and insight, about wisdom and spiritual knowledge – which is what Paul says – ‘profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness’. There is no suggestion that the WORDS of scripture were spoken, dictated or – ‘God breathed’ in that sense. That pushes the text of 2 Tim3.16 further than it can bear.
      Does that help?

      Reply
  15. Eisigesis supplants intention, and interpretation isolates the author or does it?

    Now there’s a thing; David Runcorn had a *conversion* with Bob. Wot is not to like? Or is it a slip wot used to be known a Freudian, or is that an eisigis too far? Or, an individualist’s intemperate interpretation.
    Is it an error that prevents a correct, inerrant, understanding of the author’s intention?

    Reply
  16. It has been repeated that both BBC and Bible give voice to minorities. Woke-ism and secularism do not do that. They give prominence to a tiny minority*of* minorities – always the same ones. Moreover these are minorities of a secondary nature: not essence minorities but circumstance and/or lifestyle minorities.

    Reply
  17. Wyn Benyon,
    Your infographic on Anglicanism at http://www.oneing.co.uk/ collecting together the different strands of Anglican thought is an interesting one, well articulated and corresponds largely to what I have always thought is the kind of christianity Anglicanism represents
    (I am a Baptist BTW).

    You make great play on conservatism and its relation to modernity and seem to argue for some form of middle way between liberals and conservatives, rejecting any form of exclusivism as being un-Anglican. Would this be where you draw the line? You do not say very much at all about post-modernism and its relation to liberalism.

    Do you intend to comment more about this aspect on your blog?

    Reply
    • Dear Chris,
      That’s very kind of you and encourages me that I’m not just talking to myself!!! (Perhaps I should not be encouraged!) One issue we deal with in contemporary Anglican Church like the CofE is the there are conservative evangelicals who simply do not understand what Anglicanism is, and go on to claim the title for themselves and think people like me are some kind of wierdo group who never really existed. So Saun Doherty and Tim Higton for instance, and Ian P – I’m not all sure you get it either, to be honest.
      There is a natural tendency for Anglicanism to be a middle way, though we would, I suggest, want to say that it isn’t just a synthesis but actually something different from either con or lib. Of course, that gets tricky! But that’s no reason not to try. The question of post-modernity (a term I found immensely helpful though it’s gone out of favour with a certain kind of academic) and its relationship to liberalism is very interesting. At its worst one could easily argue that post-modernity was liberalism wittering to itself in the corner whilst conservatism stomped around in the garden telling everyone they knew this would happen! It turns out post modernity was, after all, just a pathological version of modernity and not the egg breaking to left free the new chick. In fact the egg of modernity (which had conservative and liberal DNA sloshing around in it, was never inseminated and the cracked shell just released the albumen and yoke. Can I continue this on http://www.oneing.co.uk? Thanks!

      Reply
  18. The Chronic and Contemporary Crisis in Authority And Yet Enduring Authority of Scripture – Some
    Vignettes on the Meandering Way to Vivisection, Dessication and Taxidermy of the Living and Active Word of God. A Systemic Corruption and Abuse of Scripture?

    Vignette 1

    A Fulcrum Illustration: the Fuller Seminary; Foundations and Progress. Underminings.(2)

    “The whole books which form the canon of the Old and New Testaments as originally given are plenarily inspired and free from error in the whole and in the part. These books constitute the written Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice” was Fuller’s founding statement on scripture 1947.

    Here total inerrancy and infallibility were subscribed as coexisting and complementary.

    But in the 1960’s Fuller saw inerrancy as an “inadequate expression of biblical inspiration while still holding to the authority of the Bible” (1)

    Between 1890s and 1930s “many leaders of major Protestant denominations attempted to tone down the offences to modern sensibilities of a Bible filled with miracles and a gospel that proclaimed human salvation from eternal damnation only through Christ atoning work on the cross…Modernists, influenced by higher criticism emphasised the bible’s human origins…”(1).

    A prescient analysis the consequences of the tidal change of progress in the ’60s: “… inerrancy was the logical implication of the statement in 2 Timothy that “all scripture is inspired by God.” God would not inspire an error, small or large. Furthermore Jesus use of the old Testament implied that he regarded it as historically accurate in detail. In the end, if one said that parts of the Bible were inerrant and other parts had error, who was to decide which was which. What higher standard than the Bible was to be used? Christians would be left in a morass of subjectivism and fallible human opinion.” (1)

    A later defence of inerrancy and outside the Fuller milieu, came from Anglican J.I. Packer in a number of publications.

    Vignette 2
    ” A Morass of Subjectivism and Fallible Human Opinion”: Causation and Consequences a Brief and Incomplete Fly-Over

    2.1 The Monument erected to:
    “The Reign of Autonomous Reason: The Enlightenment(2)
    “A movement over a number of years… distinguished by *how* it viewed reason…pure human reason would allow (the individual) to tear down traditional ecclesiastical myths that only served to oppress societies of the past…(though there were certain individuals who were anti-rationalist) (3)
    ” now capable of discovering truth for himself…

    “Reason was the golden ticket to a life of total objectivity, free from bias.”(3)

    “The Enlightenment led to a rejection of this (need for special revelation) Augustinian anthropology and its doctrine of original sin.

    “Man was now seen as inherently good. Such *anthropocentrism* is the *overriding* and *underlying acid of modernity,* the sine qua non of the enlightenment.”(5)

    “As human reason was omnicompetent, it was argued that it was supremely qualified to judge Christian beliefs and practices, with a view to eliminating any irrational or superstitious elements.”(3)

    2.2 The Monument Erected to:”The God Who is Silent: Deism”(2)

    “Belief that God created the world to run on its own, apart from his supernatural intervention or providential involvement.” (2)
    Some influential advocates: Lord Herbert of Cherbury mid 16th to 17th century; John Toland; Matthew Tindal; Thomas Jefferson (cutting the Bible up leaving moral principles), Thomas Paine (Age of Reason)
    Deism has been seen as the “bud that resulted in the flowering of Enlightenment rationalism.”(4)

    2.3 The Monument erected to: *Rationalistic Biblical Criticism* (2)

    Lifting reason above scripture as it’s judge with an immovable anti-supernaturalism world -view that revolved around method, a key influencer was Baruch Spinoza described as the first to to turn historical criticism into a science in contrast to superstition conjoined to religion and the church.(2)

    Spinoza’s Stand-out beliefs and motivations and entailments included (2):
    a) rational truth is with the realm of philosophy, to provide a rational knowledge of God and creation
    b) “Truth and Meaning are Not The Same” (2)
    c) Meaning has relates, is restricted and conditioned by *time and space* to culture’s *expressions and artefacts.(2)
    d) the Word of God * is faulty, mutilated, adulterated, and inconsistent.* (2)
    e) Divine accommodation was undermined i.e. correctly interpreted, where text appears erroneous, God accommodated biblical language to the everyday language of people, so that,

    “Divine accommodation meant that scripture had no objective, authoritative voice any more. Rather, each person could decide for himself how to accommodate the text to his own reason.” (2)
    (2)

    f) the door was opened to a rejection bible meta-narratives
    g) (2) influence on Reimarus: scriptures are full of *downright contradictions* making them *impossible for us to believe* the Old Testament was, *a weaving of sheer stupidities*, the gospels cluttered with misrepresentations, miracles are impossible.
    “as the new Testament was inaccurate, the apostles *had* to make up a new system, one they completely fabricated” and moved to the Historical-Critical Method Alone.”(2)

    2.4 Monument of Scepticism towards history(2)

    G.E. Lessing (1729-81)
    a) Absolute truth is rooted in human reason there is trustworthy; it provides universal truth;
    Contingent truth is based on historical event, therefore is arbitrary. If *no historical truth can be demonstrated, then nothing can be demonstrated by means of historical truths*
    b) if we were not there, not experienced, why should we trust the biblical authors
    c) human autonomy, of the intellect, is central
    d) “Christianity revolves around a bewildering, distorted and misleading narrative” (2)

    2.5 Monument to “Liberalism’s Theology from Below” (2)
    2.5.1 F Schleiermacher(FS) – father of modern theology- (1768-1834)
    While this is a simplification of a complex historical development some basic tenets include (2)
    – knowledge about God from universal human experienced,
    – revelation evaluated and assessed by human experience, which sits as judge and jury (5)
    – liberalism sought to be *genuinely Christian without being based on external authority* (2)
    -bible may be classic human literature, but never conclude it is supernaturally given and without error (5)
    -Bible is a Human book, explained by ordinary causes
    – parts of OT simply fictional, never happened, people never existed
    – NT portrait of Christ, historically inaccurate
    – Bible full of inaccuracies, historical and theological
    – Bible merely human reflection on religious experience that could evolve from generation to generation (JI Packer)
    – spiritual experience of the divine is something within you a God consciousness,
    – incorporated elements of Romanticism, emphasizing feelings,” broke decisively with the Enlightenment by insisting on the uniqueness of religion as an irreducible element of human experience”, (5)
    – did not agree Kant’s restriction of *religion to the limits of reason alone”, but instead wanted to restrict religion *to the limits of piety alone* (5)
    -Jesus is the exemplar of what god -consciousness looks like; is not the divine saviour
    – Bible is not inspired, inerrant Word from God (full of contradictions) but only points us to the God-consciousness of Jesus (5)
    – man’s experience, not scripture is primary foundation/source for theology, it is INTERNAL, SUBJECTIVE in nature

    2.5.2 Emphasis of (German Biblical Critic Scholars) on Myth
    – Christ Jesus being the central *myth* of the Bible’s story and Christian faith.
    – Jesus reconstructed
    -Tubingen School teaching included: bible accounts are fictional, legend. though filled with spiritually oriented narratives and assertions; history is insignificant “because what truly matters are
    the spiritualised myths that have coloured the figure of Jesus, since these are what have inspired and will inspire transformation(6);Jesus of history was nothing more than a man; miracles are impossible; therefore resurrection accounts are mythical not historical-
    “Also Christ can no longer be for us what he was to them. To admit this IS the duty of truthfulness; to want to deny or cover it up leads to nothing other than lies, distortion of scripture, and hypocrisy with regard to faith.” (7)

    ……………

    3 And on to the darlings and dogma of postmodernism.(2)

    3.1 Relativism
    -There is no objective truth. Truth no longer corresponds to reality, nor internal coherence;
    – only differing viewpoints, a multitude of interpretations equally valid
    – truth is the product of the community into which we are born
    – a claim to know The truth, possess the Only truth is the deadliest most arrogant sin
    R Rorty. Derrida, Foucault
    – leads to religious pluralism where every religious text is equally true even if incompatible
    – leads to religious pragmatism

    3.2 Deconstructionism, Post-structuralism (2)
    – *Structuralism*, a belief that language is a social construct
    – *Post-structuralism* – meaning is not inherent in the text itself; it has as many meanings as readers entering into”dialogue with the text.”
    – Entailments;
    “Incredulity Towards Meta narratives” Lyotard
    “Signals the Death of Meta narratives” Terry Eaglton
    language games of Wittenstein
    a non-realist, constructivist understanding of knowledge and truth
    Meanings constantly shift
    value is not to be found in veracity, but in usefulness, pragmatic benefit
    meaning is to be found not in the author, but invented by reader
    “There are no facts, only interpretations” Nietzsche (8)
    *hermeneutic non-realism* whereas for the *hermeneutic realist* ” there is something prior to interpretation, something *there* in the text which can be known and to which the interpreter is accountable…(Meaning is) …prior to and independent of the process of interpretation,” (8) Vanhoozer
    the “age of the author ” is the “age of oppression” and “the author must die if the text if the text is to live and the reader is to be liberated” (8)

    Dear reader let that that last mentioned entailment sink in.
    Vanhoozer is not dead!
    Neither is our Triune God who is there is not silent and will not be silenced. His word is living and active and authoritative.

    (1) Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism, George Marsden (1987) cited by Matthew Barrett in, God’s Word Alone (2016) (GWA hereafter)
    (2) GWA
    (3) Alister E. McGrath, The Making of Modern German Christology: 1750-1990, 2nd ed. cited in GWA
    (4) Alister E. McGrath, Science and Religion: An Introduction (Oxford 1999) cited in GWA
    (5) Roger E. Olson, The Journal of Modern Theology: From Reconstruction to Deconstruction (IVP 2013) cited in GWA
    (6) Bray, Biblical Interpretation, cited in (2) above
    (7)Strauss, Christ of faith and Jesus of History, cited in (2) above
    (8) Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning, cited in (2) above

    Reply
    • A good cook’s tour of how liberal Anglicanism got to be where it is – and despite its denials it is a very long, long way from Richard Hooker, let alone Thomas Cranmer. Hooker’s doctrine of Scripture was really indistinguishable from modern evangelicalism.
      Yes, it really does go back to Spinoza and his attempt to read the Old Testament according to the principles of a strictly mechanical rationalism derived from Descartes.

      Reply
      • Hi James, I’ve just seen your previous post – this is such a ball of wool, I’m a bit lost with the posts! Wrong, well I may be, but I stand in the tradition of Anglicanism I have been inheriting over the pat 60 years. Anglicanism may be sleeping, but it hasn’t died! I’m not saying that isn’t held by many many of us now and over past 450 years. It’s not a tidy piece of doctrine, but it’s rumbustious family of theological puppies all rolly-pollying over each other as we tease out spiritual truths. The most important thing for an Anglican is a loud laugh. Once we get serious we fall into error.

        Please don’t make the mistake of thinking I’m a liberal! I’m an orthodox Anglican (Catholic and Reformed as the Catechism says, by definitely not Protestant!). If you read my post you see I have things say about liberalism too.

        1) I’m sorry to sound rude, but I politely suggest I understand Hooker better than you do. There is a bit of a current trend for evangelicals thinking they get Hooker, i guess this is because of they way he’s taught at evangelical colleges. He’s no friend of evangelicals, well certainly not conservative ones, and if you’ve been given that impression, I’m afraid you’ve been misled. I have commented before (including at General Synod) that I am unhappy at the level of theological competence in the CofE these days, which is a bit A levelish, too often. I have been a training incumbent since 1985 and have seen the changes!
        We must read Hooker for himself, not in order to back up our ideas. Conservative Evangelicals quoting Hooker is a bit like Trump quoting Karl Marx! Hooker was completely against Puritanism, (think of his preaching against Walter Travers at the Temple Church) and also went out of his way to speak kindly of the ‘old religion’ where he could. CONSERVATIVE (note the capitals) evangelicalism is neo Puritan
        what else could it possibly be? (Other flavours of evangelicalism are available, and I do not say we should include them in this) ,
        2) No, I think I understand Tradition and Reason perfectly well. They stand in a different place to Scripture. Your understanding looks to me as though you are trying to subsume tradition and reason within scripture. Please put me right if I’ve got that wrong. As Hooker makes very, very clear, scripture cannot be read until we have tradition and reason.
        (Conservatives do try to pull out of scripture stuff that does not belong to it – creationism versus evolution is a classic example.)
        3) I do think God breathed is a perfectly proper way to translate 2 Tim 3.16, as I said, rather clearly I thought, in my piece. It’s just that such a belief doesn’t mean we have to insist of sola scriptura. And the idea of some kind of mechanical process, which is what we are looking at if we not careful, is simply making the Living God a bit small. God does not dictate to humans. Of course scripture is the written record written by human beings’ experience of God, and all of that is God breathed. What on earth else could it be ? … at least not without turning it into a book of spells and incantations, a very dangerous thing. And the list of things in 2 Tim 3.16 that we use scripture for is, clearly, extraordinarily quite minimalist.
        4) I don’t use the term idolatry lightly. It is idolatry. Sorry, if that’s offensive, but I find it offensive that Christians misuse scripture in the way conservatives do, always inconsistent, always biased, always contradictory. And always loudly shouted as though volume proves the argument. And then they moan at me! Or have only evangelicals have the right to call out error? Calling scripture (which in the end is a the mark of ink on a page) as inerrant and infallible (both words that are utterly unscriptural, of course) in fact places it above God. Scripture is only scripture when is read by the Church together and the Holy Spirit helps us understand it. Otherwise the illiterate and deaf and blind would have no access to it. There is a sense in which private bible study is not engaging with scripture, only the text of scripture. It’s still worth doing and a privilege of modern Christians unimaginable to generations of those who lived before 17thC. In the end we need to decide: Is *the Lord Jesus Christ* the Word made flesh or, the are the words on the page the Word? To quote John V Taylor again, no words can add to the Word. Bibliolatry is a dangerous thing. That is why I speak so strongly against it.
        5) Now, understanding Jesus’ use of scripture. Jesus turned the world upside down when he quoted Isaiah at the start of his ministry. He was very specific about what texts he quoted. They are always aligned with the Deutero and Trito Isaiah school (that is anti-exclusivist) and so he is, with Trito Isaiah, clearly against Ezra and Nehemiah (who are exclusivist) and they would not have tolerated, say, his healing of the Syrophoenician woman or his time in Sychar. His reading of scripture in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ contains clear pieces of hyperbole (his favourite teaching style) where he ‘bigs-up’ the law only to demand the impossible. (You shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect….) Being the Second Man, the perfect human, he has fulfilled the law for all humanity, and now we can live, not disregarding the law, but beyond the law, keeping it and doing more, learning to be perfected as we participate in Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. But if we can’t hear the humour in our Lord’s voice, his tongue firmly in his cheek, and the smile on his face we’ll never get the meaning his words.
        And there we shall leave it. I’m not going to change your mind, and you will not change mind. But thank you for making me think!

        Reply
  19. Hi James,
    “Hooker’s doctrine of Scripture was really indistinguishable from modern evangelicalism”.
    That’s a really interesting comment. I’m sure it is true of some evangelicals moving towards the more ‘open’ end, but it would not apply to the conservative end who would baulk, I suggest, at Hooker’s rather flat appraisal of scripture as “sufficient unto to the end for which it was instituted.” (Book 1 Chp14) This may be a from of ‘prima scriptura’, but it is a round and decisive rejection of ‘sola scriptura’. Hooker is also very keen to refute the Puritan view that *only* things found in scripture should be lawful. (Book 2 Chp1)
    Hooker is not the easiest read, and someone somewhere would do us all a great service by producing a modern language “translation”, so we can all pick over it and complain about the bits we think they got wrong!!

    Reply
    • Wyn I think you might be under a misapprehension about the meaning of ‘sola scriptura’ and confusing it with ‘nuda scriptura’. The latter means ‘nothing but scripture’; the former means ‘no supreme authority but Scripture’. The Reformers appear to have been consistently clear that Scripture needed interpreting, and that demanded energies of the mind and wasn’t a simplistic task of attending to Scripture alone. Without other skills and knowledge, you cannot even translate the text into the vernacular.

      Reply
      • I think that is a fair comment about the Reformers. You cannot open Calvin’s Institutes for example, without being struck how deeply he immerses himself in the Greek Fathers, not because he thought of them as a “second source” of revelation but as examples of right reasoning and exegesis in a world where there was a plethora of interpretations (Arian, Sabellian etc). Similarly Luther with Augustine and the western Church Fathers. The Reformers were very strong on the need for sound linguistic knowledge (ad fontes: Grrrk and Hebrew instead of the Vulgate), literary principles of interpretation and good contextual about the history and culture of the Biblical world. This is part of what we mean by bringing “reason” to bear on the interpretative task. Reason isn’t a source of revelation unless we mean the principles of natural theology, and I think most of the Reformers would have agreed that was the correct way to use Romans 1 and Psalm 19 – that the heavens tell forth the glory of God and investigating nature certainly tells us something about God. That was a commonplace of theology at least since Bonaventure.
        Wyn’s claim that Jesus would have rejected Ezra and Nehemiah is rather amazing. I can’t think of a single passage where Jesus repudiated the Old Testament. That he rejected the Oral Law of the Pharisees (“the traditions of men”) and the interpretations of the Sadducees (Matthew 22.23-32) is another matter entirely. Jesus claimed to give the correct interpretation of Scripture, not to overthrow it (Matthew 5.17-20).
        Finally, setting “Jesus the Living Word” against the written Word” (and casting the lazy slur of “bibliolatry”) is missing the point. How else is Jesus known except through his biblical witness? Or does Wyn have direct heavenly visions and communications? That is serious question by the way. Luther faced exactly the same claim in his own day.

        Reply
        • Luther was rather cavalier about scripture being the ‘word’ of God. He was quite happy to jettison stuff from the Bible.

          Reply
          • I think this is the kind of cavalier claim which detracts from, rather than adds to, the conversation. Without some actual examples, this kind of rather wild claim is just a distraction.

          • Ian

            Surely you don’t think Luther didn’t want to jettison texts which did not shew him (us) Christ?

          • I was. It’s quite clear.
            Do you really believe it’s a ‘wild claim’ that Luther excised books from the Bible?

          • I believe that Luther is on record as describing the book of James as ‘An Epistle of Straw’. I’m not sure he went as far as wanting to jettison it but he seemed to regard it as inferior in some way to other books in the canon of Scripture. I think he may have had similar views about the book of Revelation.

          • Chris

            Luther included Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation in his translation, but placed them at the end of the NT – Antilegomena (works whose authority is disputed).

        • James. ‘I can’t think of a single passage where Jesus repudiated the Old Testament.’ Repudiate is your word here. But in fact is there single instance where Jesus uses an OT text/passage without adapting it or using it very selectively? Staying with Trito Isaiah I would have thought a very clear example is his highly selective reading of Isaiah in his Nazareth sermon (expounded at length by Kenneth Bailey). And when you say ‘I can’t think of single passage’ I think you are showing you are coming to the scriptures with a different approach, perhaps more literal and didactic, than Wyn (and me for what it is worth).

          Reply
          • The Messiah teaches the true meaning of the Scriptures, as well as reminding us that “The Scriptures cannot be broken.” As Lord of the Church, he tells me what they mean – as he did to the two disciples on the Emmaus road.
            So I will not describe his authoritative words as “very selective” or suggest he was misreading them. What do you think of John 5.46-47 ? Is it correct?
            “Literal” in the classical sense means “what the author meant”, so I do endorse “literal” interpretation of Scripture – and any writing, insofar as we can determine the author’s purpose. The first question we ask in approaching any writing is “What did the writer mean by this?” So purpose, genre, conventions etc all need to be understood as best we can. Over and above this is our historic catholic understanding that the human authors wrote what the Holy Spirit wanted them to say. Without a belief in the divine origin of the Bible, it makes no sense to speak of the Bible as a unity.

          • You’ll be well aware David, that Anglican OT scholar Alec Motyer has a single author, Isaiah for the whole book.
            Motyer, amusingly, said that the only uninspired pat of the Biblical canon is the blank page separating the two testaments. He’s not been part of what I’ve described as a pervasive systemic, during his lifetime., so very far from it was he.
            As for Jesus, raised in OT scripture, it all pointed to him, a meta-narrative without compare.

          • James. ‘So I will not … suggest he was misreading them.’ And nor did I. Like you I believe the scriptures are fulfilled in and through him. You really seem to have seriously misunderstood me. What do you make of the example of Jesus’s highly selective reading at Nazareth?

          • This is a really interesting example David.

            First, it is worth noting that, within Luke 4, there is no sense in which Jesus is ‘repudiating’ or even contradicting the passage he reads from Isaiah. Jesus is being selective—or rather Luke is, as he actually has Jesus conflate two passages linked by the term aphesis meaning release or forgiveness.

            But, second, the apparently omitted judgement of God, mentioned in Isaiah, does in fact come later, when Jesus approaches Jerusalem and pronounces God’s judgement on her in Luke 21.20-22. I comment on the relevant commentary post:

            ‘Jesus, it appears, has not done away with the justice of God. But in his ministry a window of grace has opened up, inviting all who receive his good news of release from sin and sickness to know the restoration of God before the time of reckoning, when we must all give an account to God.’

            My observation is that arguments that suggest Jesus has revised the picture of God in the OT often fail to read the whole of Jesus teaching in the NT.

            Post here: https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/where-is-the-judgement-in-luke-4/

          • It is interesting isn’t it Ian? Thank you for responding. Just for the record words like ‘misreading’, ‘repudiating’, ‘contradicting’ are not ones I have used here of Jesus and scripture – nor would I. And my approach scripture here surely makes Jesus more central not less, so James’s comments puzzle me.
            Bailey says that in his carefully selective reading and sermon Jesus is rejecting the narrow nationalism of his day. ‘A text of judgment was transformed into a message of grace and his listeners were incensed.’ (‘Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes’ chap 12. p167). I agree judgment is not omitted. But that point illustrates one of Bailey’s particular gifts to bible interpretation.
            He shows how the text of scripture always comes imbedded in deliberate and subtle allusive literary, rhythmic and poetic structures and patterns. He likens this to the tune the words are sung to. Without knowing the tune the words can be heard to be saying something else, even mislead. If so, to speak of ‘literal interpretation of scripture’ could itself be misleading – or only claimed after the more complex work of listening and discernment. But in my experience conservative bible traditions tend to treat this idea with suspicion.

          • I am slightly unclear who this (rather straw-manny) ‘conservative bible tradition’ is. All the evangelicals I converse with love Bailey. Why? Because he takes the historical context of the New Testament seriously, which is pretty much a bedrock of evangelical reading. (It is, of course, a key reason why it is impossible to imagine Jesus playing fast and lose with OT sexual ethics.)

            And Richard Hays is a leading evangelical scholar. His major contribution to NT studies? His exploration of the way that the NT writers use and deploy the OT.

            So I remain slightly puzzled here on the object of your criticism. I think it must be a very narrow, specialised kind of ‘conservatism’.

          • I take it then that David Runcorn agrees that Jesus was NOT repudiating the message of Isaiah 61.2b. That is good because I have read quite a few who claimed otherwise. But even if Jesus omitted on that occasion the words “and the day of vengeance of our God”, that does not seem to have offended his hearers (see Luke 4.22). To the contrary they were pleased with what he said. The offence follows with his following remarks, indicating that God’s redemptive purpose was greater than Israel alone.
            The idea that Jesus offended his Jewish hearers by proclaiming only grace and forgiveness and saying nothing about divine judgment was a popular one among old style liberal writers of a more romantic bent (the long shadow of Harnack and Troeltsch) and it certainly accorded with the therapeutic bent of 20th century Protestantism. But it really has no substance in the text of the Gospels.
            I repeat that the “literal reading of the Bible” means nothing other than trying to understand it in the way that the authors intended their words to be understood. All responsible reading of a text should therefore be “literal” and should seek to discover, as a matter of first importance, what the author actually meant. ‘Poetic ‘ readings are fine as an aesthetic exercise but they are not exegesis.

          • James. I cannot make it clearer that I never said Jesus was repudiating Isaiah. I was saying the opposite actually.
            Meanwhile Lk 4.22 reads in the Greek as ‘they witnessed him’. The question is whether this means an initially favourable impression that suddenly turned nasty – the common Western English translation. Or, after Jeremias and Bailey (who finds support in a number of Arabic/Middle Eastern theologians), should it be translated ‘they witnessed against him’. In other words, they were provoked from the off. Both are possible. But Bailey persuades me the latter makes more sense of context and events.
            Finally, though I completely agree that we are seeking to understand the original intention of the text, I still find the word ‘literal’ is unhelpful. It can demand a factual precision where it may be neither possible nor appropriate. You illustrate the issue in your final comment. “‘Poetic’ (your quote marks) readings are fine as an aesthetic exercise but they are not exegesis.” Poetry is only an aesthetic exercise? Really? Not truth bearing then? But large parts of the bible are poetry – even extended prophecies of Isaiah are written in very complex Hebrew poetic metre. God seems to really like speaking in this way. And that is why exegesis is not the only way to read and interpret the text. We need to a range of tools if we are be responsive to the varied kinds of literature of literature we find in scriptures.

          • James posted:

            “Over and above this is our historic catholic understanding that the human authors wrote what the Holy Spirit wanted them to say…..”
            I think that is true. Obviously James thinks that is true. Who else thinks it is true of Ian, Penelope, Andrew, Wyn, David?
            Phil Almond

          • Ian. I am puzzled you do not know what conservative evangelicalism is and how it does bible – which is what I am talking about. I am delighted you find Bailey so widely loved among evangelicals. But I note that love has not extended, for example, to following his progressive scriptural reading of women in leadership in the church – which I heard him lecturing passionately on nearly 30 years ago. His work consistently challenges how we read and interpret the bible, insisting on a sensitivity to literary structure and form and thus away from narrow literalism – and he can do so partly from his long experience of teaching within Middle Eastern Semitic and Arabic cultures and outside the Western church. I engage in biblical discussion quite widely among evangelicals on a number of issues and in my experience there is nothing straw mannish or oddly narrow about the kind of approaches I encounter and am referring to. Indeed there are plenty of examples here on your blog site.

        • Jesus is know through the Church, James, before he is known on the pages of scripture. Otherwise illiterate people are at a disadvantage. How wrapped up in technology we are! How would people of a foreign tongue know Christ unless he was preached and they saw him alive in the people who are his Body, the Church. The Bible is not Jesus, no words can add to the Word. Such is the disaster of sola scriptura and all of that.
          Jesus choice of Isiah 61 is a key moment in understanding scripture for all of us. Ezra and Nehemiah are the evangelicals of their day and caused the misery that was to follow. They are clearly in scripture to warn us not to be small minded and exclusive. They do not fulfil the law, no matter how much they shout about it. Just as Puritanism caused the misery of Civil War and dreadful oppression of the years of Parliament.
          Scripture is full of baddies – Job comforters are wrong, but there they are, in the pages of scripture. Why?
          Anyway, this has been fun….. thank you, but this is my last reply, as I’m completely lost in this thread now! You can also follow my on my blog!

          Reply
          • An amazing and uninformed statement on Ezra and Nehemiah. They actually saved Judaism from syncretism and extinction and kept the light burning through those dark years.
            You really need to read them again and understand their role in salvation history.

      • Thanks Ian, I didn’t know that term. I don’t think I have an argument. It’s not the meaning of sola scriputra that bothers me, it’s what is done with it.
        Remember, I’m not a liberal, which is a pain I know, but there we are!
        What does worry me, however, is that there has been 30 years or more of Bible College level theological education for evangelical clergy which has mis-taught them what Anglicanism is. (I’ve been a training incumbent since 1985 and yes, I do know what I’m talking about, I have worked with the products. I have worked with curates from Oak Hill, Trinity, we sent an Ordinand to Ridley in Graham Cray’s time when it was an excellent college and I’ve also worked with curates from Chichester and Mirfield as well as various regional courses.) I have had Curates who initially thought Anglicanism as silly, confused and unsound. Over time they came to see it differently and in a better richer light. But it would have been a lot easier if they had been taught accurately in the first place.
        I don’t expect to be agreed with, but I do expect an honest report of the tradition of which I am a part. Evangelicals trying to appropriate Anglican divines like Hooker is dishonest, or at least is revealing of poor scholarship.
        I also expect Anglicanism to be recognized for what it is and not giggled and grumbled over by students and staff alike – just as I recognize and respect other views, all of which have something to offer the rest of us.
        Anglicanism is, necessarily a modest project. But that has caused it to be bullied, sadly.
        Pretending Anglicanism is not what it is will, in the end, backfire on conservative evangelicals, for they are the worst culprits in my experience (although conservative Anglo Catholics run them a close second, but that’s another story!)

        Reply
        • But why would it matter ‘what Anglicanism is’ unless it has first been shown how and why Anglicanism is superior to its alternatives rather than its just being tempting to those who want fudge and for all options (even refuted ones) to remain on the table.

          Also it is a moving target. Anglicanism has been many things, but most of these 1500 years after Christianity itself, so let’s not exalt it too highly!! The best of what it has been is noble.

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  20. I’m not sure the evangelical / liberal discussion in this comment section will ever resolve anything. It seems we just talk past each other and waste time that might be spent more profitably on other perhaps more edifying pursuits.

    For me, liberalism will always be an unattractive corruption of real Christianity that sucks the power out of the gospel and leads to inexorable decline in the church. Nothing said above changes that perception, indeed the liberal contributions amply confirm it.

    For liberals I guess my position is viewed as passé, unsophisticated and not fit for purpose in the modern world. I’m sure nothing said by any conservatives above changes that view. It becomes more entrenched.

    Ironic that in the anglican parish share system it’s the evangelicals who help keep many otherwise unviable liberal churches open.

    Reply
  21. Hello Wyn,
    As an outsider, not a Divine, unlike Hooker or the Westminster Divines, your comment begs the question, what IS Anglicanism? And if it is a * modest* project, what are the boundary markers of modesty.
    In the context of your comments, you are not restricting modesty to sexual ethics, but to a lack of modesty by those who who you class as conservatives, whether Anglo/Catholic or evangelical, while give no regard to what I encounter on this site as a significant and substantial lack there of modesty in the other direction – liberalism.
    If your view of Anglicanism is that of a * broad church* , there is a need to consider and define the meaning of *church*. Even here there would be no agreement and every display of a lack of modesty in beliefs and convictions all round, where there is no credal belief in common, but *My Creed*. Which would be demonstrable of worshipping different gods, a form of pluralism.
    What remains is the main point: where does authority reside in the life of the church and Christians?
    You appear to have consistently derided authority in scripture as bibliodolitry, while at the same time, after all your learning and teaching, it appears that you have been unaware of the difference and distinction between scripture alone and nuda scriptura. That is deeply significant and has knock on effects, in orthodoxy and praxi, opening the door to the heterodox, which is what you may think the Anglican church is or should be.
    What does not seem to have been raised, in this whole article and comments is the place of tradition, but it is easy to get lost in the threads and that is a different, if connected, topic.

    Reply
    • Hi Geoff,
      “You appear to have consistently derided authority in scripture as bibliodolitry, while at the same time, after all your learning and teaching, it appears that you have been unaware of the difference and distinction between scripture alone and nuda scriptura.”
      Firstly, you say I deride the authority of scripture. I don’t think I derided anything, I simply object!
      I think, in practice the difference between nuda scriptura, sola scriptura and even prima scriptura are distinctions without a difference. They all, finally, missing the point. Making distinctions without a difference is something I often see in conservative arguments – it looks clever but it really isn’t.
      Nuda scriptutra is not used much outside a very small mindset, even if it is the mindset of a lot of people in the Church of modernity, I suggest. Why would it interest me? It’s just wiggling.
      I didn’t know nuda scriptura as it turns out because it’s an argument amongst certain reformed Christians, another hair splitting exercise. Why would I by interested?
      Anglicanism does not really use prima and sola scriptura either, they are not particulary helpful… perhaps even red herrings. I’m sorry I used them earlier in the discussion. I was trying to find a point of contact… oh well, you live and learn!
      What I am complaining about is giving scripture the authority that belongs to God alone. It has *an* authority, but conservatives confuse the words with the Word. Always. You have simply to read your own writing to prove my point.
      Authority, in the sense you are asking for it, resides in the Church, because the Church is the Body of Christ (somethimg certain schools of Reformed Christianity effectively deny).
      The Church in its Councils makes decisions. That’s it. Scripture is only part of that. Ian Paul avoids facing up to authority of tradition and reason by saying they can openly be understood when subsumed to scripture ( at least that what I understood him to imply- please correct me). And that is simply nonsense. Holding that position wipes our the whole of Eastern Church and Western Catholicism in one go… which is perhaps what is desired. Anglicanism sees itself as Catholic and Reformed (Catechism) and so stand closer to Eastern and Catholic Christianity than many conservative evangelicals would care to admit, or at least like.
      Think of all the great Patristic Councils – especially their big arguments concerning the Trinity, especially, barely touched on Scriptural texts. The Chalcedonian definition ( for example), flawed as it clearly is, is as important to the Church as Scripture. And so it should be if we are the Church, the Body of Christ. Scripture itself tells us of the ‘new things’ that would follow….. Or are we stuck at the end of Acts 28? The first one thousand five hundred years of Christians didn’t think so, neither did the Reformers, only some of the Reformers descendants, sadly. Such was the tragedy of modernity, that it spawned personal religion. Personal religion needs its own personal authority, which is “me and the Bible”. And always that way round.
      But, in orthodox Anglicanism the Bible (which gives a clear and valued place for the Apocrypha) is only understood by the Church cath holos, as a whole, not by you or me on our own. In the end we come to a consensus over an issue and move on – or fall off, as many will need to do over human sexuality. God is moving us on. In the end the train will leave the station and if you’re not on board, goodbye. Sorry, but that’s how it is. That’s the history of the Church. We schism. We are trying not to but it’s an forlorn hope… we are no better than our ancestors in the faith.
      I’m telling you what Anglicans believe. I didn’t make it up, it’s all there in the libraries if you care to look. What’s in the BCP, (and Common Worship, which thank our God, was completed before conservative evangelicals could mess it up completely) the drift of history in both CofE and other Anglican Churches, which is being squeezed by conservative ignorance (often deliberate) of all of that.
      You may not like it or agree with it, but there are many of us in that Anglican tradition, far more than you might imagine. Most parishes are full of Anglicans, especially the rural ones, even if their have a frustrated evangelical Vicar. They are probably inarticulate theologically, but in their gut they get it, which is far more important..
      Please let’s all get real about the place of Anglicanism as I have described it in history. It won’t go away by pretending it isn’t there. Anglicanism has an inheritance of Authority, Church Order and the place of Scripture. Does it upset conservative evangelicals. I hope so, it should. By all means tell us we are wrong, let’s not make the mistake of thinking Anglicanism is not the real history of the past 450 years, at least up until the 1980/90s. That when the rot, which set in in 1960s (Keele), really took hold.
      Simply being in the Church of England doesn’t make anyone an Anglican, of course. The terms are not interchangeable.
      Scripture is sufficient to its end. And that’s all. But what an end, what an all!
      PS I never used the term “Broad Church”. It is no longer helpful, sadly. Perhaps it never was?

      Reply
      • Sure Wyn,
        You didn’t use the term broad church but I did, as you hadn’t sought to explain Anglicanism.
        I think you clearly don’t understand the difference between sola a buds. iIt is substantial and significant.
        And as you didn’t it is a huge stretch to say it is a minority mindset…if you didn’t know it existed!
        As for the doctrine of scripture it is conjoined to the doctrines of God and of revelation, both of which you make no mention.
        As for train leaving the station, as a convert to Christ at 47 years of age, as a then solicitor through an Alpha course in an Anglican church, over 20 years ago, having lived through the so called sexual revolution as a atheist, I see that the Anglican church in large part is in England and Wales little more than a mirror of culture. It is a train leaving in the wrong direction, with a destination, eternal, unknown, and without any assurance of arrival.
        Do tell me Wyn,
        1) what is the Good News of Jesus Christ? Of our Triune God. What is the *evangel* that you do not seem to wish to associate with.
        2) do you subscribe to the Creeds, heart and mind; . that they correspond to reality, fact?
        3) on what do you base your beliefs about God?
        4) which God do you *believe* not merely *believe in*. There is a distinction and a substantial difference.
        While a accept it is not possible to deal with all points made in a comments section, what I find is highly relevant , that is * logically probative of the facts at issue* is your avoidance of orthodoxy praxi and heterodoxy.
        You may think this point is minor, but your comment about Era/Nehemiah, to me indicates how so far apart we are in understanding, knowing Jesus and scripture and the direction of travel.
        But more than enough has been said. You will not be convinced and neither will I as we head off.

        Reply
        • I think that one thing that needs to be kept in mind is that Anglicanism (as in the C of E) is inextricably linked to the state by law and by history. In this sense it is bound to be influenced by the prevailing culture from which it gets its public recognition.

          One issue that I find little discussed in these present times including this blog and is barrelling towards the C of E like an approaching express train, is the question of disestablishment.

          In the not so distant future, when Queen Elizabeth II passes and we have a King who has a more pluralist view of Christianity and faith in general, as well as presumably his heir, and coupled with the accelerating decline of church attendance, then what survives may turn out to look quite different from what people are used to seeing as ‘Anglicanism’.

          A bit like the C of E’s version of the BBC trying to justify their licence fee perhaps?

          Reply
          • Agreed Chris.
            But, if the CoE weds the culture of the day and a changed monarch becomes a defender of faiths, and none, there would be no pressing need for disestablishment unless society falls under rabid atheism, secularism.
            There would be a self preserving clerical outcry, but I’m unsure how much influence they have even at higher levels, given the appointments system and their politics as may become evident from time to time in public pronouncements and House of Lords contributions.

        • Sadly Geoff, you are right. We are seem to be talking past each other.
          I’ve been a Christian since 1954 (when I was baptised aged 2 months!) I have been an evangelical teenager, went to a high church theological college, I’ve toyed in my younger days with liberalism, and now I’ve been brought by the grace of God to be challenged by the mystical saints. Alpha, been there done that. And Pilgrim, Emmaus (remember that?!) and a whole host of other stuff. I was “Baptised in the Spirit” (not a good term, really as I was baptised in the Holy Spirit in 1954, of course!) in St Pauls Onslow Square (MTB’s sister church back in 1972) I am grateful each day for the gift of tongues and for the git of knowledge, in the Charismatic tradition.
          I’m afraid the “mindset” I’m talking about is minor in the history of the Church. No one in the first 1500 years would have used those terms – they are from the Reformation. Today the biggest faith group in the world is still Roman Catholicism and then there are the Orthodox. They wpuld be bothered much by those terms. Protestantism big in western civilisation (on whicbh it completely depends, being a colelction of various zeitgeist traditions -and it will die with the end of the West, too)…. Anglicanism is small but historically influential.
          I believe in the traditional gospel. Do you? You haven’t spelled it out, but I am saved by faith in Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. What else is there?
          I’m no liberal. I don’t really see what you are arguing with me about, to be honest. I’m a Bible, Creed, believing Anglican. But I try to look at the whole Bible, including the 2/3 I find hard and uncomfortable. I do find conservative Protestantism problematic, to be honest, with its inability to see the whole of the Scriptures and its revisionist approach to the first millennium of theology, especially in the Eastern Fathers, the most important. I’m just pointing out what the great tradition of Anglicanism from the BCP through to Common Worship as well as the different Anglican stories in Wales, Scotland, Ireland, USA etc…is saying, how consistent and evolutionary it is. A wonderful Holy Spirit inspired living dynamic of scripture, tradition and reason. What’s to not like? Grace, grace, all is grace where mercy triumphs over judgement. Halleluiah, what a Saviour! What are actually arguing about? Surely we agree about far more than we disagree about? Or, am I right, and there are those who, sadly, are bibliolaters, insistent that the Bible is all we can know of God?

          Reply
  22. This is a reply to David Runcorn’s comment for January 5 at 1.50 PM (the format of the comments section makes replying difficult after a while).
    1. My literal translation of Luke 4.22 is: “And all were bearing witness to* him (auto, dative – not “against him”) and marvelled (ethaumazon, same verb as 2.18) at the words of grace coming from his mouth and they said, Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” I agree with John Nolland that thaumadzo in Luke conveys a positive sense of being impressed but not yet at the level of faith. The following verse makes it plain that their subsequent negative reaction was not because he omitted Isaiah 61.2b but because he hadn’t performed miracles in Nazareth as he had reportedly done in Capernaum. In other words, “He speaks beautifully but where’s the beef?” Only in verse 28 are they actually enraged with him – not because he wasn’t proclaiming “the day of vengeance” (on whom, exactly?) but because he is saying Nazareth is being passed by in this time of grace because of their u belief.
    2. By “literal interpretation” I mean what interpreters have traditionally meant by that word: “sensitive to its literary nature”, “respecting the actual genre and form of a writing”. I know a reasonable amount about Hebrew poetry and its differences from prose. The OT writers of songs, poems, prophetic oracles etc knew all about poetic diction and metaphors and a “literal” interpretation of this genre recognises these features. The Psalmist knew that the trees of the field do not “literally” ‘clap their hands’. The literal approach to Scripture says “Poetry must be understood as poetry, prose as prose etc”. “Literal interpretation” does not mean “non-metaphorical” but rather “recognising the writer’s genre and communicative intentions”.
    3. By “poetic approaches ” I was really talking about devotional, allegorical, liturgical and imaginative ways Christians have worked with, even played with, the biblical text. We do this all the time sermonically (“Life is a pilgrimage/ Jericho road / Emmaus road etc”). This is often personally useful but can never be our exegetical starting point.

    Reply
    • Thanks for this discussion James.
      Re the translation of the two Greek words in Luke 4.22. As you note, ‘Him’ – ‘auto’ – is dative. But the original sentence does not have ‘of’ or ‘against’. Bailey notes this can be either the dative of advantage or dative of disadvantage – ‘all spoke well of him’ or ‘all witnessed against him’. You have to work from the context and content. Perhaps either is possible.
      In support of the latter Jeremias writes: ‘Luke 4.22 exhibits no break in the attitude of his audience towards Jesus. On the contrary, it records that from the outset unanimous rage was the response to the message of Jesus. The Good News was their stumbling block, principally because Jesus had removed vengeance on the Gentiles from the picture of the future.’ (see Bailey p151). I grew up only hearing the former preached. I now think only the second really explains the murderous rage his reading and words provoked.
      Thank you for clarifying what you meant by poetry only being fine for ‘aesthetic exercise’. The examples you give are simile and metaphor which is different. And in the bible they can often be the starting point. I do not think there is a ‘literal’ meaning to poetry – it ceases to be poetry when that happens. But that is part of a longer debate …. Thanks again.

      Reply
  23. I’m interested in the quotes Jesus uses from scripture at the beginning of his mission and contrasting it with his final statement/quote from Psalm 22 on the cross.
    In both quotes it is interesting what he omits. Vengeance in the first quote to show he is here to save not destroy. Then he uses Ps22: where he omits everything except the first and last line. Instead of quoting ‘He has done it’, he says ‘It is finished’. He clearly intended for us to know Ps22 was on he mind but was unable to articulate it.

    Reply
    • Hello Steve,
      While I can’t articulate this well nor know a technical term for it, but I do recall a sermon in my early Christian life to the effect that citing part of Psalm 22 was to incorporate and to fulfill whole Psalm, by Jesus, moving from Jesus taking on himself the judgement of separation from God and onto the prayer eg v 19 -24 – an expression of utter trust and dependable in the Father and all will be completed filled full, *finished*.
      Seen/read in that light it has an eternal profundity.
      Maybe there will be theologian along soon to elucidate or correct.

      Reply
      • Thanks Geoff for your time. A lot of these discussions I am unable to follow but I do enjoy watching them unfold. If you were an ororary you’d be a heliocentric example; complicated but precise. Many here are like earth centred versions. Impossible to comprehend with thousands of gears ; plausible but too complex to be a description of the real solar system. Hmmmm. Now there’s a thing. ..a sola system?

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  24. Naughty comment – Doesn’t *anyone* see the force of my point that both conservatism and liberalism are triply non-starters: (a) because they are ideologies and nonstarters for that reason; (b) because there are millions of issues in life and one can scarcely agree to a ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’ solution to *all* of these rather than a more pick-and-mix / eclectic one; (c) because being an evidence person or truth-seeker is bound to be a better option than either, *and* also a much less circular one, *and* also a much more adventurous and exciting one.

    I don’t want to hear about people’s inward-looking personal preferences, but about the way the world is: something a million times bigger and more exciting.

    Have people not seen how so much time is wasted unnecessarily by returning so often to this ”impasse” that need never have been part of the journey at all?

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    • Christopher
      The conservative evangelical view of the Bible, that it is God’s word written and breathed out by God is not an ‘ideology’. It is a God-given conviction from above.
      Phil Almond

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      • That was not one of the things that I called an ideology. However, it does disappoint me that the so-many large questions raised and re-raised e.g. by Dunn ‘The Authority of Scripture according to Scripture’ (Churchman 1982, 3 parts I think) are so often not addressed.

        Even your own brief summary begs questions:
        -what is the status of a ‘conviction’?
        -is it one of those words like ‘belief’ that can (vaguely) vary from evidence-grounded to not?
        -is what you say circular?
        -you made an assertion, but what is the assertion based on, to make people believe it?
        -is a ‘view’ merely an official community-adopted stance or something more robust than that?
        -written and breathed out – what would have been seen on video during this process? This merely reasserts what texts say – i.e. clear circularity
        -Is asserting that something is Godgiven speaking in the place of God?

        The good part of what you say is that this is how larger realities than ourselves do indeed impinge themselves on us – by inexorably forcing us ‘from above’ to admit that we cannot but participate in and acknowledge their reality – that it is a vain imagining to think we can run from them, for that would be to run into unreality or rather self-deception. It is a matter of giving in to what is already there, as Lewis experienced. It is indeed a ‘from above’ process. Hence revelation (which might seem to be an impossibly convoluted concept begging so many questions) is very much the way things work. If you tie revelation to the written text of the 66 biblical books in many genres, then you do meet with a lot of problems – 20 or so spring to mind, e.g. why didn’t the writers (aside from some prophets) speak of any remarkable experience in the reception of their words; why are so many of them writing what they already know, which would therefore not have to be received by revelation at all; were not all the truths written already true before they were written? This truly is something that raises questions from multiple angles. I am quite sure that the discovered reality of which the texts speak, their perspective, is the thing. How could a word (naus) be more than an actual physical ship? It is far, far less than it. So too with the Biblical documents and the reality to which they bear witness. The latter of the two is far far greater and more eternal. How greatly therefore we bless the former for maximising our knowledge of the latter.

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        • Hello Christopher,
          You seem a little discombobulated by Philip’s comment. There are some simple answers to some of your question, but the underling point, is what authority does the whole canon, protestant, for this is a protestant site, have in the life of the church and of individuals. More specifically, what authority does the God who reveals himself in scripture have,
          What disappoints me repeatedly is the that the doctrines, of God, and of revelation are excluded from the outset in any discussion about the doctrines of scripture, revelation as is the evidence of internal coherence across meta narratives, cross canonical, as you seek do many times in your comments and evidenced by your support of the work of G.K.Beale.
          As a former lawyer, I do not see it as a circular, internal argument, scripture’s self declaration, as it is a revelation from the vertical, from outside the closed material world system, Furthermore, such as at law, as set out in, say, an affidavit of self referencing evidence, where there is no prospect of cross-examination, it is excluded only as it “serves a purpose of its own”. Can it really be said that the human authors are serving a purpose of their own? In many cases they speak/write better than they knew, even in matters of common-place and ordinary and history, chronicles, without even a nod to “thus says the Lord,” even in the book of Esther!

          And yes and Amen to your “the Biblical documents and to the reality to which they bear witness.” Is that a conviction based on self authenticating unreliable witness? Alone? Maybe, your answer, Christopher answers the questions you pose to Philip and can coherently, cogently and simply set out your convictions of that, underlying reality in relation to God, humanity and creation, meaning and purpose of life and death. Just a rhetorical question. Can it be achieved without recourse, even if not cited, to evidence, to teaching,to experience, to dogma.

          Again and again we revert to the main point of the article: authority, the authority of scripture. In life, in church in formulating answers to those questions.

          (As an aside, while I have, above, honed in on sola scriptura as it is of central importance to the question of its authority, it is also of value to bear in mind, as you know, that Sola Scriptura, was one of five solas, that were emphasized in the Reformation, joined together, inseparable, working together like the digits of a hand.)

          And as this relates to the CoE, on what are the 39 Articles and BCP based, if not the primacy and authority of scripture?

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    • Odd that, Christopher.
      Throughout my life, I’d not categorise myself as conservative in detail or in the round, and if pushed would probably have taken unspoken umbrage if so pigeonholed. But not long after conversion someone at church said I was an evangelical. How dare they, I thought, not even knowing what the term meant. But I definitely wanted make the life changing truth of Christ known. It was almost incomprehensible that anyone would be so dismissive and uninterested. But, if it works for you, was an early, frequent response; what is true for you, isn’t for me. A Manic Street Preachers, song track, of a few years later, encapsulated that strand of postmodernism.
      What I realise is that the more I contribute with comments in opposition to some who comment, and make no doubt it is not some disinterested, arms length intellectual opposition, the more I’ll be classed as conservative, while I see those who would so position me as highly conservative in social status, standing, that is the liberal position, which has demonstrable roots, as I sketched at some length above: a power play attack on truth, with smoke and mirrors and, if I may be so radical, the simplicity of truth as propositional and as A Person. It is a simplicity that in Christianity can be found in the meta narratives of the Creeds.
      It is a simplicity that in Hebrew thinking can run on parallel lines, with parallelism and chiastic structures, patterns and signs and symbol, and set in time and space, history, luck- excluding, Providence from the Author of Truth. Adversaries of truth are ultimately adversaries of the Life, the Way, the Truth are commonplace, schooled as they are; same as it ever was.
      And if I think I can’t be deceived, I’m deceived already.

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