Shepherds Conference 2015
Thursday 8 p.m.
We do feel the weight of history on this; we do feel that we will look back and say “I was there.”
“I was there when Mark Dever read Psalm 119”.
We are here because we are invited to be here. My position here tonight is one every preacher would envy, to preach about inerrancy and hermeneutics.
Imagine how many people out in the world would think we are insane to gather at this hour of a Thursday night to speak about it. This summit will encourage all the right people and irritate all the right people. It isn’t over and we aren’t giving up without an argument. And the Lord we are confident will defend his Word.
We would interrupt anything to defend the inerrancy of Scripture. It matters more than most people think, more than most people who sit in your churches now understand.
In about a month the Supreme Court will hear argument on the issue of same sex marriage. The line of precedent runs back to Griswold and he invented the “right to privacy”. Douglas found it in the penumbra & emmanations of the constitution. But my concern is not the Court, it is what you do in the pulpit.
It comes out in two different legal theories. First are strict constructionism. These are people who believe words are words and reveal intention. Second there is critical legal studies. There is a living constitution from which we find what we need (not to be bound by a 200 year old constitution).
It means everything for preaching: it is either we are bound by the text or not.
“When the Bible speaks God speaks.”
plenary verbal inspiration: total truthfulness
The Bible Without Illusion: The writers of the NT & OT believed the inerrancy of Scripture and that remained through all through the Reformation. It was not challenged until the Enlightenment.
Nothing they confronted in 1978 has gone away (there are merely new things); although some stuff has come back in new clothes.
Go to Schleirmacher (liberalism, higher criticism): he did not believe the Scripture could be inerrant because he did not believe in verbal inspiration. This is not just a great intellectual crisis for elite institutions; it touches every Jr. High School. The very air we believe is deeply subversive of all claims of scriptural inspiration.
There has been a great intellectual embarrassment by many preachers and theologians. Fosdick at the Beecher lectures at Yale: the Bible is a problem.
John Updike: the reverend Clarence Wilmont: he lost his faith because he came to believe that the OT was an ancient set of writings. He traced it back in the historical critical approach to the seminary: “he plunged into the chilly Baltic sea of higher criticism.”
Many “evangelicals” are promoting new approaches that treat the Bible as something other than the Word of God.
Does Inerrancy Imply a Hermeneutic
The most important statement on hermeneutics is in the ICI, then if we believe in plenary verbal inspiration then we are committed to a historical grammatical hermeneutic.
12 Principles of Hermeneutics for Inerrantists:
1. When the Bible speaks God speaks. An auracular book (Warfield).Our task is to hear God’s voice; affirming the authorship and authority which comes from God and God alone. We are thus committed to a hermeneutic of submission (as opposed to a hermeneutic of suspicion). A self-attesting revelation. The Bible does not merely contain the Word of God; it is the Word of God.
The biblical text determines the limits of its own interpretation. We take the text as it is given to us. Look to the genre. This means that we can’t be looking for a meaning that is behind or after the text; it is within the text. We approach the text looking for the “plain meaning” of the text. We are not looking for the “Bible code”.
Scripture is to be interpreted by Scripture (the analogy of faith). There is no conflict in the text. Not as some of the emerging church; it can’t be authoritative because it is not coherent. Yet, if there is an apparent conflict the problem is in our reading, not in the text.
2. The Biblical text addresses as words, propositions, sentences. Words are adequate conveyors of truth. That may seem odd, but that is taught. The Lord who has made us in his image is the Lord who has addressed us in words. We live in an age which denies propositions. [Wittengenstein, Surely it’s not a proposition until its understood.] Attacking propositions is of course a self-contradictory proposition. Henry: relationships may not be reducible to propositions, but we cannot speak of the relationship without proposition.
3. We are given a canon of Scripture. We need all of it until Jesus comes. The canon itself also establishes a basic proposition for interpretation: it limits where we may look. [Funny discussion of the Jesus Seminar voting with marbles: but do you preach & teach as if I hold all of the canon as inspired.]
4. The forms of biblical literature are themselves essential to the understanding of the text as God intended. We need the forms to understand what God would have us to know. Is it poetry or parables or history, etc. Jesus affirmed that he spoke in parables for a very specific reason. We are not to teach everything as it is given to us. We are to receive all of it and teach it that way.
5. No external authority can correct the Scripture. We have the text of the OT, but it just wasn’t verified by modern archaeology. Nothing can correct the Bible in any respect. There is no form of human knowledge that can correct the Scripture. We are getting hit from two sides. First, there is the attack on creation: but there are no “assured results of modern science”. The amazing thing is that people think this is new. We must know that there is a direct collision between naturalistic worldview. We are not being asked to re-understanding creation; we are being asked to surrender. The second attack is on sexuality. Paul was doing the best he could in dealing with sexuality; but he didn’t know what we know about sexuality. He was only a First Century man. If the ultimate author of Romans that is a plausible argument. norma normans non normata: the norm of norms that can’t be normed. Luther
8. Scriptural claims about historical claims about the space-time continuum are to be understood as claims within the space-time continuum. We have to affirm “true truth”. Schaefer: there are those who want to speak of history of something that is not really history “it happened”. Some evangelical writers: “history-like”. The Bible doesn’t say “once upon a time”; it says “In the beginning God ….” Our salvation depends upon things that happened in the space time continuum. 1 Cor. 15:
9. Holy Scripture is to read as a Scripture that contains stories; it has a metanarrative. Grammatical historical, redemptive historical, unabashedly Christological.
10. Our confidence in the Bible is unbroken: all that claims it is true; in all that it promises will come to be. It is as true of the future as it is of the past. All truth claims: what it meant is what it means.
11. Our understanding of Scripture is dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit. He did not merely inspire the text he makes possible our understanding (and assured) and makes possible our proclamation. The Scripture is meant to be heard & obeyed. John Calvin: rightly preaching the Word of God makes possible the Word of God being heard.
12. Our study & our preaching of the Bible is not an end itself. Every word of scripture is profitable. The end of our hermeneutic is the knowledge of the one true and living God and the one whom he has sent. The hermeneutic leads to a homiletic. Philip and the eunuch: how can I understand without a guide.
There are millions of Americans are affected by work of the Court in interpreting the constitution: the ultimate argument is between those who find words which are there and those who say we are bound by words as given.
How much more is at stake when you are your chambers, your study. How much more is at stake when you stand in the pulpit to speak. What you speak is dependent upon your hermeneutic which you bring to your pulpit.
Jeremiah 23:28 (ESV)
28 Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully.