Five Views on Inerrancy

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I like the ‘counterpoints’ series of books. They provide a helpful introduction to a particular issue which can then be explored elsewhere in greater detail if so desired. I’ve just finished the five views on inerrancy book which, if I’m honest, was a bit of mixed bag. In general terms it was useful, but some essays felt rushed or just a bit odd. Each contributor was asked to defend their view with reference to the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, and then to address some potential problem passages including the conquest of Jericho and the Canaanite genocide (if that is the right way to understand it!).

Al Mohler goes first. The sum of his argument comes across as ‘The Bible is inerrant because the Chicago statement says so. If you question that you’re a heretic.’ For Mohler modern archaeology can take a jump, because the Bible says what it says. Mmm . . . not really an argument!

Peter Enns goes second. He says, in essence, you can’t believe in inerrancy any more, cos we all know what the archaeology says, and the OT docs are late and legendary. Again, not really much of an argument here. Enns is the polar opposite of Mohler, and comes across just as shrill.

Michael Bird is next in to bat. His essay is just a bid odd. In essence he says the church globally and historically has done fine without the Chicago statement, so the Americans should wind their necks in. Again, a bit shrill and polemical and not all that constructive.

John Franke offers the last essay. He takes a Barthian approach – the word as witness to revelation – which permits him all sorts of odd leaps of logic in terms of the role of Scripture in the contemporary church. A bit all over the place this one.

But, the best, by a country mile, was essay four by one of my favourite theologians – Kevin Vanhoozer. His essay was nuanced, constructive, theologically aware, and brilliant on literary genre and function. His essay was worth the price of the book alone.

Would I recommend this book to read. Yes. It’s illuminating and instructive in a number of ways, not least in helping the reader think about methodology (in positive and negative terms). But, if these were undergrad essays, I think you’d have to say only Vanhoozer answered the question.

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