Believe It or Not, the Opposite of “Inerrancy” Isn’t Always “Errancy.”

The other day, a guy I run across in the blog-world was talking about how he sometimes gets fired up by what he termed the “Three E’s” — Errancy, Egalitarianism, and Evolution. These were my next thoughts:

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Coherent, eh? The implication is, of course, that anyone who doesn’t affirm inerrancy is an “errantist,” believing that the Scriptures are actually full of error. Yargh. I have a pretty big problem with that view (not to mention the attitude behind it), and I’ll tell you why.

*rolls up sleeves*

Preliminary data: inerrancy, which is the doctrine that the Scriptures are without error in everything they affirm, has been a pretty major battle ground over the last few decades and has been settled, one way or another, to the point that affirmation of inerrancy tends to be one of the identifying characteristics of Evangelicals. Inerrantists (I think rightly) believe that the absolute truthfulness of Scripture is an extremely important issue, and not one to be given up or compromised, so they use terms like “non-negotiable” and “essential” to describe the doctrine. Got all that? OK.

It’s true that the most vocal opponents of the concept of inerrancy have been people whose commitment to a modernist, materialist worldview precludes belief in any sort of divine character to Scripture. To them, it’s not divine, not authoritative, not inspired except in the way that, say, Shakespeare or Ovid were “inspired.” But this whole debate is quite new, and there are entire great big groups of Christians who just didn’t get involved at all — people like confessional Lutherans, Anglicans, and other folks on the higher-church end of the spectrum. They never absorbed the language of “without error in its original manuscripts” and the like. And that’s where the problems start to arise.

Some inerrantists steadfastly refuse to differentiate between people whose ultimate desire is to undermine the authority or divine character of Scripture and people who, say, don’t feel comfortable with the sometimes sterile-sounding language of inerrancy. Some use the term itself as a sort of shibboleth of orthodoxy, badgering people to sign on the proverbial dotted line of inerrancy (“No, just tell me. Are you? It’s not a hard question. Just answer.”). Some point to it as the test of, if not orthodoxy per se, then at least membership in the Evangelical community.

But there are a great many Christians who have never had this conversation, and who simply believe that the Bible is true. There are many who belong to denominations and traditions where the truthfulness of Scripture is taken as an article of faith, confessionally, rather than as a matter to be handled with lengthy treatises on exactly which documents can be given which terminology. Many more, while submitting to the authority, truthfulness, and sufficiency of Scripture, simply find themselves uncomfortable with a doctrine they see as a Procrustean bed, as restrictive rather than expansive. I don’t necessarily agree with all these objections, but I understand them. I recognize that my conscience cannot dictate the consciences of other believers, and I also recognize that, though some believers, just by personality, take great comfort and find great freedom in meticulously-delineated doctrines, others do not. Being Type A is not a prerequisite for membership in the family of God.

And this is why it’s important to ask questions rather than make assumptions, especially about our brothers and sisters in Christ. When someone asks, “Are you an inerrantist?” or “Are you a Calvinist?” or “Are you a creationist?” or whatever, the best response, in my estimation, is, “Well, what do you mean by that?” And on the other side, if someone says, “Oh, I could never be an XYZ,” I reckon it’s pretty important to find out what they mean by XYZ and how it affects the rest of their doctrine. And ask positive questions, too: stuff like “So, what do you believe about the Bible?”

Between brothers and sisters, questions like this should be conversation-starters, not conversation-enders. We cannot use these catch-phrases as code words for who’s “in” and who’s “out.” That kind of spiritual arrogance is exactly what got this guy a starring role as a baddy in one of Jesus’ parables.

What I’m Reading Wednesday

Well, folks, I cleaned out my blog reader this week. I took out probably a dozen things — some defunct, others no longer interesting — and added only two! Ah, progress. Although, shoot, that reminds me of another one I need to add.

Fiona is in Chile! At last! And IT IS FULL-ON, YOU GUYS.

Bryan Lilly is a hoot, and also wicked smaht and you need to read his blog (also his wife is so cute I kinda can’t take it — <3 u Sam!). His series on simplicity is fantastic.

Dudes, if you’re STILL not reading The Art of Manliness, what are you waiting for? Get over there and read!

Mike Cosper has a new post up about the tone of political discourse, using the recent Rush Limbaugh “slut” debacle as a jumping-off point. And speaking of that, you also need to read Doug Wilson’s take (although I disagree with him on the helpfulness of certain, ahem, terminology). Karen Tumulty and Kirsten Powers, though rightly condemning Limbaugh’s behavior (as well as his completely unapologetic apology), shine a light on the hypocrisy of screeching about woman-bashing when it comes from the right, while chuckling indulgently at Bill Maher’s sexist diatribes. Those last two have some salty language (mostly quotes) and a few asterisked-out vulgarities.

I really, really wish Doug Wilson would use a different tag/label system on his blog, because he’s been doing a series on 1 Corinthians for awhile, just commenting through verse by verse, and it’s extremely helpful, but there’s no way to get them all together. Of course you can do a search for “The Basket Case Chronicles” but that’s not very efficient. Argh. Anyway, here’s the most recent installment. Really good, sensible, helpful stuff.

Mark Baddeley’s Series on “New Atheism”

At the Matthias Media blog is well worth a read. It’s an eight (!!) part series of articles on New Atheism” (from Dawkins et al), explaining why he doesn’t think it’s particularly threatening in the long term, where its weaknesses are, who its prime targets are, and who does a better job of it than the atheist literati who spend too much time rolling their eyes at everyone who dares disagree with their hyper-empiricist worldview.

Here’s a quote from the first article:

I think the New Atheists are overrated. I find myself underwhelmed at their bus campaigns, their books, the way that journalists throw softball questions in response to their every problematic pronouncement, and their whole position. I have been scratching my head for years trying to work out where all the interest in them comes from, let alone why they are treated as some kind of serious attack on religion in general, let alone the Christian faith in particular.

Recently I discovered that I am not alone. Nathan Campbell on his blog discussed a particularly strong gaffe moment for Richard Dawkins, where Dawkins argued for deliberate discrimination against scientists with religious beliefs, and got taken to task by the commentators who would otherwise be thought to be natural allies. Before that Scott Stephens riffed on the ABC website on a theme covered several times in places like the First Things website—the lack of philosophical awareness and moral seriousness among the celebrity New Atheists. Overall, the movement looks more like a fad than a sober cultural movement.

Read the whole series starting here (all the installments are linked, handily, at the bottom of the first page).

How To Be Awesome, 3.2

Read on to discover how Anonymous Married Dude thinks men should pursue (some interesting stuff here for you fellas who’ve been turned down already!) and how ladies should respond.

How did you decide to ask girls out? Did you just see her and do that cartoon aaa-OOO-gah thing and go, “I need to ask her out like whoa”? Or was there more to it than that?

I didn’t have an MO. It depended on the situation. In one case, before coming to Sojourn, I liked a girl in my CG. I thought things could get weird in that situation, so I asked my CG leaders about it before pursuing the girl. In two other cases during my time at seminary, I became interested in and attracted to girls, and then after being around them in social situations a few times, I told them that I would like to get to know them better. That meant asking them out for a one-on-one event.

What’s the lamest response you’ve ever gotten from a girl you asked out? Best?

I haven’t got any “lame” responses from girls. I’ve had some painful and uncomfortable situations, but I know it’s tough for girls to reject a guy, so I don’t fault them for those painful times. Sometimes things in life just hurt.

What was your typical first-date strategy?

I’ve only dated two girls, and one of them is now my wife. Like I said above, I didn’t have an MO, I was just winging it.

What should a guy’s strategy be on the first date?

Talk! Don’t hog the time to sell yourself, but don’t be a bump on the log. Ask questions and be honest.

Awesomest DTR?

My awesomest DTR was with the woman who is now my wife. After we had hung out several times alone, I told her I wanted us to date exclusively with the intention of figuring out if we wanted to marry each other. Then I asked her if I could hold her hand. [Laura's note: awwwww!]

What do you think you did well when it comes to starting the relationship you’re in right now? What do you wish you’d done differently?

I was intentional and honest from the beginning about where I hoped the relationship would go. I hope it’s not arrogant or naive to say that I don’t wish I had done something differently at the beginning.

Advice to guys for getting over it when a girl turns him down or dumps him?

If a girl turns you down, either move on graciously or continue to pursue in a non-creepy way. In most cases, if a girl turns you down, she’s not going to start liking you at some point in the future, so move on. If you insist on continuing to try to win her over, don’t be a creep. Don’t tell her it’s God’s will for her to be with you, because your conviction is really just a feeling. Don’t ask her out every week. Take advantage of opportunities in group social settings to get to know her and talk to her about things other than your interest in her (she won’t forget that you told her you liked her).

Other general advice for dudes? [Laura's note: brace yourselves, because this is AWESOME.]

Realize that the dating arena is just as tough for girls as it is for you.

Don’t play games with girls.

With few exceptions, the lag time between your awareness of your own interest in or attraction to a girl, and the time you tell her about that interest should be as short as possible.

Take advantage of your singleness. The “gift of singleness” isn’t a curse that God imposes on you for life. It’s God’s good gift just like the gift of marriage. God’s good gifts have great blessings and they will also test you to make you more like Jesus. If you are single the question is, “Do I desire Jesus more than I desire a wife?” And as a married man, the question is still, “Do I desire Jesus more than I desire my wife?”

Advice for the ladies on how not to be unkind or otherwise awful when saying no thanks? Other general advice for ladies?

Be direct and to the point. “I’m not interested,” or “No, thanks,” will suffice. Perhaps you’re thinking, “I’m confused, maybe things could work out, if…” You don’t owe that detail to the guy. If you’re interested say, “Yes,” and if you aren’t or don’t know, say, “No, thanks.” I know that might seem abrupt and terse, but like I said above, some things just hurt. There’s no way around hurting a guy when you’re not interested. If you say things you think aren’t “hurtful,” you are giving him false hope, which hurts him.

Ladies, as Christian sisters, you owe a guy kindness and truth. You don’t owe him an explanation of your feelings, or the reasons why you’re not interested or attracted to him.

Give to the Winds Your Fears (God Will Lift Up Your Head)

Give to the winds thy fears;
hope and be undismayed.
God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears,
God shall lift up thy head.

Through waves and clouds and storms,
God gently clears the way;
wait thou God’s time; so shall this night
soon end in joyous day.

Leave to God’s sovereign sway
to choose and to command;
so shalt thou, wondering, own that way,
how wise, how strong this hand.

Let us in life, in death,
thy steadfast truth declare,
and publish with our latest breath
thy love and guardian care.

Paul Gerhardt, tr. by John Wesley

(And as a bonus, here’s Jars of Clay’s version from their outstanding “Redemption Songs” album.)

How To Be Awesome, 3.1

In this week’s installment, Anonymous Married Dude reflects on how he went from single to married and gives some amazingly good advice to unmarried Dudes everywhere. Read on and enjoy.

So, tell me about yourself, vaguely.

I was raised in a Christian home, but I was not born again until my adult years. I came to seminary single, and did not marry until after graduation. I was single until my 30s.

Current relationship status?

Married.

Dude, what’s UP with the Christian dating scene? Seriously. Diagnose.

I can’t speak much to our particular church’s dating scene, because my wife didn’t attend there until we became engaged. I can speak a little about the seminary dating scene, and yes, it’s a little weird. It seems to be one of two extremes. On one extreme is the hyper manly dude who vomits professions of undying love and concrete plans on a girl at the first meeting. He thinks it’s godly and manly to gush forth the plan of God for both their lives – of course, God neglected to tell the girl the plan. If the girl isn’t interested, then he thinks God calls him to be annoying until the girl gives in (this can happen, but it isn’t the norm).

The other extreme is the guy who thinks he has to be best friends with a girl before he can even ask her for coffee, as though, if it’s “God’s will” for them to be together, then that means he doesn’t have to stick his neck out.

What did you learn growing up about this nightmare that is Christian dating? Any particular influences? How have your views changed over time?

I learned that guys have to be honest, open, and intentional pursuers of woman. Pursuing a woman in this way makes good things happen during dating and it leads to the ability to look back on dating with no regrets.

The main ways my views have changed are in the area of “the gift of singleness.” It is not a special curse. It is not a gift in the sense that God gives you special powers to not want sex or not want to be married. It is a gift in the sense that every area and season of your life is a good thing that God can use for his glory. All good gifts are from God.

How many girls do you think you’ve asked out in your life? Estimate.

Four.

Do you think guys can be something besides the stereotypical alpha male, and still be successful?

Guys don’t have to be a stereotypical alpha male, but they do have to man up. They have to risk something in pursuing a woman. Risking and pursuing means something different for every couple. But at some level, be it public embarrassment or merely private “rejection,” a guy needs to risk rejection and pursue a woman. I think ladies are gracious in this area. Most of them appreciate how hard it can be for guys to make a move. A guy may just stumble into a marriage without pursuing the lady, but I think in hindsight, both of them will regret the absence of risk and pursuit.

What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome in the dating arena?

The biggest obstacle I had to overcome in dating was putting too much of my heart into a hoped for relationship before the lady was interested. In other words, I dreamed up big plans before a girl even liked me. I made big plans before I told them of my interest, and even after they turned me down, I kept hoping for something that was never to be.

What was your biggest advantage in this area?

The dating arena is now in my rear-view mirror, but by God’s grace, I can look back and say that I didn’t play games with the ladies I pursued as a Christian, and I was honest with them about my intentions.

Tune in on Monday when Anonymous Married Dude tells us about the DTR he had with his wife and gives a bunch more stellar advice to men and women alike.

Eschatology (Gulp) Matters, Part Two

(Important side note before we get started: how you approach a couple of key passages tends to make a big difference in where you land. If you approach apocalyptic literature in the same way that you do a narrative passage — like narrative, but future tense — you’ll probably land in one of the first two views. If you approach it more like you would the Bible’s wisdom literature or even prophecy — filled with imagery and metaphorical language — you’re much more likely to end up in one of the latter two categories.)

OK, so let’s just do a quick overview of the four main views, in very broad strokes (and for all of these, I’m indebted to this site and particularly this one, which includes some outstanding simplified outlines of these views — if you’re a visual learner like me, you’ll want to click through to see them):

1. Dispensational pre-millennialism. This fairly recently-developed view is based on the idea that Daniel 9 and Revelation 20 are to be read as strictly chronological accounts of entirely future events. Things on Earth will grow increasingly dire, then God’s people will be raptured just before a time of great persecution when a human ruler, the Anti-Christ, will have control over the whole Earth. Jesus will return and reign from Jerusalem for a thousand chronological years, after which the Judgment will take place and all God’s people will be then taken together into glory. People who hold to this view tend to be very watchful for Christ’s imminent return as well as world events that line up with prophetic or apocalyptic passages of Scripture.

2. Historic pre-millennialism. While this view shares some of the chronology of the first view, it tends to see some of the events described in Revelation as unfolding in history, not necessarily in a way that obviously links them to the impending return of Christ. People who hold to this position believe that the return of Christ may be in the very-distant future, and hold that the millennium may or may not constitute one thousand actual years. It’s called “historic” because it has been held in some form since the late second and early third centuries, whereas the Dispensationalist version has only been around since the 19th century.

3. Post-millennialism. Post-millennialists believe that the millennium is best understood as a future period (not a literal thousand years, but a long time) of Christ’s special reign over the earth from heaven, marked by a steady increase of the influence of the Gospel until the entire world has been Christianized. When the whole earth is filled with the knowledge of God through Christ, Jesus will return in glory to judge and to bring all of God’s people into glory with him. This view particularly focuses on the prophecies given to Abraham about all nations being blessed through him, and the passages throughout the Old Testament that refer to the growing and spreading of the knowledge of the Lord in the last days. Daniel and Revelation are seen in light of their original audience (the Exiles and the first-century Christians, respectively), and most, if not all, of the events of the apocalyptic passages of Scripture are thought to have already taken place — i.e. that they are immediately applicable to their hearers and are meant to encourage us by extension, rather than give us a timeline of future events.

4. Amillennialism. Amillenialists believe that Christ ushered in the millennium at his ascension into Heaven, and that we are now living in it. They tend to focus on the tension in the New Testament between “the Kingdom is at hand/among you” and “now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face,” as well as the narrative of the constant expansion of the Gospel to all nations, beginning in Acts. They differ with Post-millennialists on the role of the Church in this “already/not yet” age: where Post-mills see a time when the Church is completely triumphant on Earth before the return of Christ, Amills believe that the Church will continue to be persecuted and suffer until Christ’s return, though there may be times of greater or lesser success as the Gospel continues to go forth to the nations.

Now. That’s a lot. I never realized that there were other views besides the first two until fairly recently, and though I don’t think the first two are untenable, per se, in studying the Scriptures I found myself leaning toward a pretty settled Amillennial position… though with occasional jaunts into Postmillennialism depending on how much Douglas Wilson I happen to be reading and how much the sun is shining and how well things tend to be going in my own life. Personally, I am automatically… not suspicious perhaps, but not really excited to latch onto any view on any Christian doctrine that 1800 years’ worth of really smart believers never thought of, but I don’t think this issue is important enough to argue about too much, so even if you’re firmly committed to the first view, that’s fine. Christians can know absolutely nothing about this issue except to say, “Yup, I believe Jesus is coming back,” and they will be A-OK, and they can disagree with each other about it without breaking fellowship. (I mean honestly, imagine Jesus standing in the room next to you right now: is he cool with you being cold or dismissive or, God forbid, divisive toward your brothers and sisters over the timing of his return? I’m guessing not.)

The bottom line with all this is, the passages of Scripture that talk about persecution or that address eschatology are almost always followed up with an exhortation to the reader to do a couple of things: 1) cling to Jesus, and 2) get off your toches and tell people about Jesus. So whether you think that the Bible teaches that Christ’s return is just around the corner or many thousands of years into the future, whether you see in its pages a literal and eventual thousand-year reign or a time we’re already in, your mission, Christian, is clear: teach your children, your neighbors, your friends, your family about the Gospel. Live it out in your relationships. Don’t spend your time searching charts or pooh-poohing them. Act like you really, truly have been radically transformed by a Victorious and Conquering King who will one day return, on whatever timeline the Father in his good wisdom chooses.