Inadvertently renovating a house of cards with new cards

NOTE: The video which is the subject of this post is no longer available.

  We affirm that a confession of the full authority, infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture is vital to a sound understanding of the whole of the Christian faith. We further affirm that such confession should lead to increasing conformity to the image of Christ.
     We deny that such confession is necessary for salvation. However, we further deny that inerrancy can be rejected without grave consequences, both to the individual and to the Church.                                                                                         The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, art. XIX [emphasis added]

(ht: Here I Blog)

Yesterday (or the day before?) I was having a back-and-forth with a good friend on a Carl Trueman article which takes Stanley to task for “erroneous thinking” on the relationship between culture & Christian ministry. Today someone passed along the link to the video you see above. Some brief remarks on the video:

1. Affirming the inerrancy/infallibility of Scripture is not necessary for salvation. Denying that the Bible is without error won’t keep you out of the kingdom but it will affect your seating in the kingdom. {relax, that last bit is a joke}

2. Adherence to young earth creationism is not necessary for salvation [nor is it necessary to uphold the inerrancy of Scripture]. I fully expect to see theistic evolutionists in glory although I suspect it’ll be hard to spot them so far back in the crowd. {again, a joke}

3. I think Stanley is right on his basic premise: our faith is about dealing with Jesus Christ not the infallibility of Scripture. However, his explanation of the premise seems to create more problems than it resolves. My friend, who is far more familiar with Stanley than I am, says that this is consistent with Stanley’s apologetic approach to skeptics: start w/ Jesus’ death/burial/resurrection & allow faith in Christ to clear any other hurdles in Scripture. All fine and good. The game plan is good as far as that goes but the details of the execution strike me as odd:

(a) Believe in Adam & Eve not because it says so in the Bible but because Jesus talks about A & E in the gospels. This is self-contradicting unless you see a distinction between the gospels and the rest of the Bible. Are the gospel books (of the Bible) more reliable than the other 62 books (of the Bible)? [Even if Stanley just meant to contrast the gospels to Genesis the question still stands–why are the gospels any more trustworthy than Genesis?]

(b) Believe in Adam & Eve not because Genesis states their existence but because Jesus believed they existed. But didn’t Jesus believed the Genesis account–and he did (Mat 19:4-5)–shouldn’t I believe it, too?

(c) If Jesus can predict his own death & resurrection and pull it off, he can be trusted when he speaks about A & E. But how do I know Jesus predicted his death/resurrection? Isn’t it because it’s recorded in the Bible? How do I trust Jesus without trusting the Bible?

Whether or not Stanley has successfully cut the Gordian knot on this one you can decide for yourself. Like Jesus, I think Stanley isn’t keen on entertaining pointless arguments that obscure the heart issue. I get that. I’m uncomfortable with the explanations more than the approach. I just want to be careful to cut through the fog without fraying the tie between Christ & the Scriptures (Luke 24:25-27, 44-46; Jn 5:39; 1Cor 15:3-4).

No, our faith doesn’t stand on the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. But we can be too clever for our own good. Even when we try to set Jesus above his Word.

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Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Associate pastor for education at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian and theological Luddite. A student of one book.

8 thoughts on “Inadvertently renovating a house of cards with new cards”

  1. It’s funny how the same topics seem to circulate the Christian blogosphere, I just saw this Stanley video interview yesterday via Georgia Purdom (scientist & speaker for Answers in Genesis). She posed the question about what the flaws in his logic are and my response was a brief summary of exactly what you said- so, AGREED! ~Sarah

  2. Ok, you drew me in. Your a,b, and c points are all basically saying the same thing which I think is missing the point of what Stanley was saying. Stanley never drew a distinction between the reliability of the Gospels vs. OT/Genesis. What I hear Stanley saying is, when preaching to unbelievers, why start with one of the seemingly crazy stories that is hard to believe if they do not even believe in the main thing? Basically, why waste time with Adam and Eve when they do not believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Even if you convince them of A&E, that aint saving them. Christ’s work is most important, so let’s start with that and teach our kids how to articulate that better. And then tackle all the other stories through that lens. He never says the Gospels are more reliable than the OT. You seem to be reading that into what he says.

    1. Yes, a, b, & c basically say the same thing (I’m just responding to Stanley’s arguments) but I don’t think it’s missing the point. Stanley states: “But here is why I believe this actually happened, not because the Bible says so, but because of the Gospels, Jesus talks about Adam and Eve…” That’s a distinction. Whether or not he intended to draw a distinction is another discussion, but language means nothing if what he said isn’t a distinction.
      I applaud the shrewd approach to the skeptic–keep the focus on Jesus. But his explanation(s) is baffling: I don’t believe A&E because it says so in the Bible but because Jesus says so in the Bible.

      1. The disservice he mentions at the beginning of the comments is teaching folks the only apologetic they need to know is “because the Bible says so”. He is just saying how he communicates to an audience that includes people who may not believe every word of the Bible but have a strong faith in Christ. Or people who are skeptical of everything. He is not talking about how he would preach to a bunch of theological scholars. If you don’t like his tactic fine, but don’t read into what he is saying by assuming he does not believe in the infallibility of the Scriptures when he came no where close to saying that.

      2. Seems we’re talking past each other. (1)What we communicate (the content) is important no matter who we’re talking to. The details of his message were self-contradicting & I think provoked more questions than it allayed. Even skeptics would notice the disconnect as he explained it in the video. (2)I like his tactic. (3)I take issue w/ his reasoning precisely because I don’t assume he denies infallibility. The position I assume he affirms is poorly represented by his comments in the video.

        Here’s a real-life example of what I’m talking about. It’s OK to admit that you muddied the water. http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2011/09/13/keller-on-salvation-outside-of-christ/

    1. Wait…what happened to your last word? Did you think better of disagreeing with the opposite of my opposite? I knew you would come around eventually.

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