Part 12 of a 16 part series…
To catch you up, my father, Dr. Michael Ruth (an author, family therapist, and pastor since the late 70’s) gave me an assignment to read the book Set Forth Your Case by Clark Pinnock and to write a 1-2 page response to each of the chapters. It might be a little difficult to fully understand my responses to or summaries of the chapters without reading the book, but I wanted to share my work anyway.
Set Forth Your Case by Clark Pinnock
Chapter 12: Sola Scriptura
“The Bible is not infallible because it says so – but because he says so.” With this sentence Pinnock once again ties a pillar of Christian doctrine – that the Bible is the inspired and infallible word of God – to the person of Christ…specifically His death and resurrection. Once again we see Pinnock laying one stone on top of another as he continues to bolster his argument for Christianity. In chapter 9 he defended the authenticity and historical soundness of the Gospel texts themselves. In chapter 10 he challenged believers and non-believers alike to honestly approach Christ and come to a conclusion about His person in light of the historical evidence we have detailing His life and actions. In chapter 11 he expounded on the points in chapter 10 and argued that the preponderance of evidence that exists for the resurrection of Christ should assure us of who He was (or rather, is) and give us confidence in our decision to give our lives to Him.
Most assuredly the Bible has always had its critics; however, in the traditional Christian worldview of the past, those who accepted Christ as Lord and Savior believed that He came to earth to fulfill the Scriptures and serve as evidence and validation of them. The Bible is God’s word to man, and so those who accepted the Father’s Son accepted His Word as Truth. Pinnock notes, however, that a most unsettling trend has arisen in church communities whereby we have believers who more and more willingly want to give the Biblical skeptic grounds for their criticisms. It is as if they want to say, “You are right. There are inconsistencies in Scripture, and therefore I accept that I cannot be certain of what the Bible tells me.” At this point the “believer” jumps into an upper-story religious construct that removes the foundational Truth right out from under them, and they are left with nothing more than a house built on sand (Matthew 7:24-27).
Pinnock challenges this segment of the church population with more of the direct honesty that I admire in him. In response to Biblical “inconsistencies” he refreshingly says:
The new theologian is so afraid of uncertainty in historical research that he immunizes his gospel from all contact with the “facts.” His kerygma is capable only of subjective validation and neither errors in biblical history nor fallacies in biblical doctrine bother him anymore. But they ought to bother him! The credibility of the Christian message is bound up with the reliability of its historical proclamation. The very integrity of Jesus Christ rests on the truths of his doctrine of authority. There is no real alternative to the dilemma, either a divine Savior and an infallible Bible, or a fallible Bible and no divine Savior.
In this quote we see that Pinnock’s approach is going to be to attack the problem head on! Do you think you see an error in the Bible? Well then, by all means, investigate it! After all, you are staking your eternity on this decision…why on earth would you not assure yourself that you have indeed built your house on the rock?
Pinnock’s first criticism is that so much literature exists claiming biblical fallacy that it has not turned into much more than a brainwashing campaign by secularists; however, Pinnock argues that “errors” in the Bible are much harder to pin down once true investigation begins. Take the following for example:
1) In 1800, the French Institute issued a list of 82 errors found in the Bible that they claimed would destroy the foundations of Christianity. Today, none of these errors remain.
2) A group of critics published a list of errors in 1850 that were all recanted by 1950.
3) In 1900, Biblical accounts of the Hittites were listed as a major error found in the Bible, until archeological digs later in the 20th century clearly revealed their existence.
As Pinnock says, “At bottom these ‘errors’ are really only difficulties masquerading as errors.” We admit that there are difficulties in the Scriptures…any thinking Christian would be foolish not to; but, as Pinnock so rightly states, difficulties are not errors. Errors would indeed indicate that the Bible is fallible; difficulties do not.
Pinnock spends most of the rest of this chapter showing how “errors” found in both the Old and New Testaments were easily explained away once science had time to catch up to the text, so to speak. This should cause the critic to take pause, but still many do not. As Pinnock so rightly states, “For until the interpreter is omniscient and all the evidence comes in, it is impossible to press the theory of ‘inductive errancy.’ We ought neither to underestimate our task (for there remains much homework yet to be done), nor to overestimate its size (for it is nowhere near as large as the propaganda suggests).”
Copyright © 2013 Jonathan Ruth