The Bible, Biblicism, and Lutheran Perspectives

Among the many issues that I, personally, have been wrestling with since seminary days, and that our church body has been struggling with since, well, those seminary days some forty years ago, is the nature, authority, and function of the Scriptures. I have found it puzzling and troubling that, aside from Prof Jim Voelz’ What Does This Mean?, no serious work on the Scriptures and their use has appeared among us in the last thirty years. Is it because we’ve solved all the problems? Hardly.

Some of my recent reading has focused on these questions, and I came across the following definition of, or rather, list of characteristics of, a “biblicist” view of Scripture. I won’t yet disclose the author or work (and try to resist the temptation to google this stuff). For now I’ll simply list this particular author’s ten “assumptions” of “biblicist” reading and invite (plead for) your comments. Hopefully, this is a safe environment where you can comment without fear of The Man. For what it is worth, I find at least something problematic (if not flat wrong) in every one of these ten items. I’m simply asking what you all think on — and post your thoughts on — the assumptions listed. Are they helpful? Misleading? Misguided? Perfect?

1)    Divine Writing: The Bible, down to the details of its words, consists of and is identical with God’s very own words written inerrantly in human language.

2)    Total Representation: The Bible represents the totality of God’s communication to and will for humanity, both in containing all that God has to say to humans and in being the exclusive mode of God’s true communication.

3)    Complete Coverage: The divine will about all of the issues relevant to Christian belief and life are contained in the Bible.

4)    Democratic Perspicuity: Any reasonably intelligent person can read the Bible in his or her own language and correctly understand the plain meaning of the text.

5)    Commonsense Hermeneutics: The best way to understand biblical texts is by reading them in their explicit, plain, most obvious, literal sense, as the author intended them at face value, which may or may not involve taking into account their literary, cultural, and historical contexts.

6)    Solo [sic] Scriptura: The significance of any given biblical text can be understood without reliance on creeds, confessions, historical church traditions, or other forms of larger theological hermeneutical frameworks, such that theological formulations can be built up directly out of the Bible from scratch.

7)    Internal Harmony: All related passages of the Bible on any given subject fit together almost like puzzle pieces into single, unified, internally consistent bodies of instruction about right and wrong beliefs and behaviors.

8)    Universal Applicability: What the biblical authors taught God’s people at any point in history remains universally valid for all Christians at every other time, unless explicitly revoked by subsequent scriptural teaching.

9)    Inductive Method: All matters of Christian belief and practice can be learned by sitting down with the Bible and piecing together through careful study the clear “biblical” truths that it teaches.

10) Handbook Model: The Bible teaches doctrine and morals with every affirmation that it makes, so that together those affirmations comprise something like a handbook or textbook for Christian belief and living, a compendium of divine and therefore inerrant teachings on a full array of subjects—including science, economics, health, politics, and romance.





48 responses to “The Bible, Biblicism, and Lutheran Perspectives”

  1. Pr. Timothy Winterstein Avatar

    Um, Jesus? I see “the Bible” and “Christians,” but no Christ. This is what happens when we start with the category of “inerrancy” rather than Jesus’ own words in Luke 24 and John 5.

    Pr. Timothy Winterstein

    1. Mike Avatar

      Well said! To many people, the Bible is just another book. To Christians it is God’s Word which points us to the redemptive work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When we (Christians) talk about the Bible with no reference to Christ than it becomes just another book.
      The big fancy titles that are described in the article are great for “academia”. I showed this list to a couple of people and they just scrunched their noses and looked at me like I passed on the plague.

    2. Kenneth Howes Avatar
      Kenneth Howes

      The question addresses what is contested. Christ is not mentioned because presumably every one of us confesses: “And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.” So the questions have to do with those things which ARE sometimes disputed in LCMS and in Lutheranism more generally

  2. Sean McCoy Avatar
    Sean McCoy

    1) I guess that would be cool if we had the original first draft manuscripts… but doesn’t that seem to ignore the reality of what we have that our translations come from? Then there’s that whole thing about translating being an art rather than a science…

    2) Thank goodness! I can stop preaching on Sundays – I’ll just hand out Bibles as people come in and I can go home and watch football.

    3) I suppose if you are talking in EXTREME generalities…

    4) Umm… Revelation, anyone? Besides – after living in Oklahoma for 3 months, this is so laughably wrong.

    5) Again… Revelation, anyone?

    6 & 7) This just hurts my brain. I’m not sure if this is a valid point, but what comes to mind is how we reckon the place of works: do we go with James or with Paul? If we were strictly biblicist about it – our tradition couldn’t help us understand it, and they have to fit together perfectly like a puzzle. Seriously – my brain hurts.

    8) Wait, what?

    9) So faith need not apply? If this were so, wouldn’t every biblical scholar be a devout Biblicist?

    10) And I think it says something in there about Jesus, but I can’t be sure…

  3. Marc Engelhardt Avatar
    Marc Engelhardt

    It is amazing to me how individualistic this list is. There is no need for the Body of Christ to work together as a community with this system. It is a little frighting for me to think that many of these propositions are what people in our churches believe to be true about the Bible.
    Since there are ten propositions I will just give a quick problem I see with each one. Feel free to ask for clarity.

    1. Is that the original texts or the texts as we have them now? If original, then have we lost the words of God therefore negating the next nine propositions? If not original, did God make small mistakes in grammar and vocab the first time around that needed to be corrected over time?

    2. What about the spoken Word of God, the application of Jesus to people lives? Are we to only quote scripture at them to really be relaying what they need to hear from God? If so, what version?

    3. So if it isn’t explicitly mentioned in the Bible it doesn’t pertain to Christian life? Are there things in this world that a Christian encounters that do not pertain to his or her life with God? Because I can think of things that aren’t specifically mentioned in the Bible.

    4. Wow, reasonably intelligent is a loaded term apparently! I’ve been in quite a few Bible studies where there apparently wasn’t a reasonably intelligent person in the group, myself included!

    5. How can one take the text as the author intended by not taking into account their literary, cultural, and historical contexts?

    6. Am I making this up or didn’t the Regula Fide inform what texts where included in the canon of the Bible?

    7. While I am consistently amazed at the coherent threads that weave through Scripture, I cannot say that “All related passages” are “internally consistent.” Sometimes it is the study of the inconsistency that informs most.

    8. I guess this is why it is sometimes that one needs to take into account the literary, cultural, and historical contexts. Otherwise, Christians are eating way too much meat with blood in it and don’t even get me started on how women should be dressed.

    9. This clearly comes from 5, 6, and 7, and has the same issues along with those propositions. The probably caveat is that if two people disagree about what the “clear biblical truths” are, one person evidently didn’t study carefully enough.

    10. Why, with such a complete guide to living we are in no need of prayer or a Holy Spirit that intercedes on our behalf to discern God’s will for our lives! We can just look up the answer to every situation in life and do the right thing. Easy peasy, that is of course, if you are of reasonable intelligence.

  4. Marc Engelhardt Avatar
    Marc Engelhardt

    ‘@ Jeff: Oh yeah, I had to read your opening paragraph three times because I thought you said you went to seminary 40 years ago. I kept thinking to myself you were old, but not that old!

    1. Jeff Kloha Avatar
      Jeff Kloha

      I’m not sure if this is a compliment or a slight. I’ll take take you off the hook either way and interpret it as a sign of my poor writing skills.

  5. Noah Avatar

    1 – could be understood without a clear understanding of complexity of textual criticism. Therefore, could lead to a belief that we have THE words, they are the only words, and there is no reason to debate over them. What does inerrancy really mean – the question people want to ask, but are cautious to do so.

    2 – I’m troubled by the “totality” aspect – Could this lend itself to believing that your prayers aren’t a part of God’s total communication?

    3 – This top 10 seems to try to box up God. Seriously, “Totality” “Complete” and “Inerrant”.

    4 – I know a lot of intelligent people who, yeah… Underlying theme – knowledge and understanding. I ask, is this the #1 purpose.

    5 – This statement is far from “explicit, plain, most obvious, literal”. Now, it’s “Simple”. If you keep and read it in a simple way, it will make perfect sense.

    6. – I would say there is truth in this statement and if you were one of the first Christians, it probably could have been a little more of a reality, yet you probably interacted with other Christians who shared theological understanding and interpretation of texts and even teachings. It brings to light a definite distinction beneficial for understanding the place of Scripture in light of secondary writings. In our tribe, it is important for us to continue to think about this in light of our well-documented writings (Luther, Walther, etc).

    7 – This again smells of dominance and completeness in weird ways. If going with the puzzle piece, I just soon it be the one I had from childhood. A ton of pieces, some missing, some wet, some without the color, some with parts of pieces missing, yet a picture could still be assembled. But at a young age, only with the help of grandma.

    8 – I guess the universal thought is ok, but the applicability part is what makes me think it is viewed more like a divine set of instructions that came with the body you have.

    9 – It the bible is clear to any intelligent person, why does there need to be a statement regarding those “clear” biblical truths. Again, a word “All”.

    10 – back to the focus on knowledge and understanding that seems to be the driving goal.

    I think this author represents us and our culture well. In fact I think you could read these statements at a morning Bible class and most people would agree. Yet, I think if you discussed them, you might find that they would disagree just the same.

    People want to value the Bible – but they don’t know how to speak of it’s value and therefore we speak of in light of the other things we value; our property, our school, and our employment, etc.

    Having read a couple comments, I agree with Tim, Jesus is missing. If anything, we would do our people a favor simply by telling them to look for Jesus in the Bible. In fact, I’ve wondered if that would be the perfect, clever name for Bible class. “Who’s Jesus” Yes, he’s the same Jesus, yet what characteristic comes forth in this verse, chapter, book.

    Back to the sermon, becoming like a child.

    1. Jeff Kloha Avatar
      Jeff Kloha

      “Back to the sermon, becoming like a child.”

      Now that is Lutheran.

  6. Jeff Kloha Avatar
    Jeff Kloha

    You guys are noticing some of the issues with #1, and this is why a lot of pop media stuff on textual criticism gets people worked up. It’s a good thing we’re not Muslim:

    1. Chad Lakies Avatar
      Chad Lakies

      Yes, because Muslim textual critics are often killed. Such practices emerge from their version of “biblicism.”

    2. Jeff Kloha Avatar
      Jeff Kloha

      To Chad: Great. Now you’ve got me worried.

  7. Marc Engelhardt Avatar
    Marc Engelhardt

    “I’m not sure if this is a compliment or a slight. I’ll take you off the hook either way and interpret it as a sign of my poor writing skills.”

    Let’s go with compliment 😉

  8. Peter Nafzger Avatar
    Peter Nafzger

    Not only is the list missing Jesus. It’s also missing the proclamation of the Gospel. John 20:31 might help us recover both. (If not John, then maybe Luther, or Barth.)

    How about this? Let’s agree that we won’t talk or think or preach or teach about the written Word without also talking, thinking, preaching, and teaching about the incarnate Word AND the spoken Word. Maybe then we’d be able to avoid the biblicism that’s been bothering more than just you, Prof. Kloha.

    1. Jeff Kloha Avatar
      Jeff Kloha

      Peter — John and Luther of course, but (as you know) Barth’s scripture never gives Jesus, only people’s experience of Jesus.

      Another book I found this summer is Wingren’s The Living Word, a slim little paperback from 1960. It is a critique of Barth, but has a phenomenal Lutheran theology of the Word (especially the Word preached). He blasts Barth for being just what he is — Reformed — and emphasizing the “Glory of God” and therefore his distance from and inaccessibility to humans. Wingren, with Luther, emphasizes the communicatio idiomatum (no, not the “communication of idiots,” that would be a blog — speaking as one — but “communication of attributes”) — not only the human Jesus, but the divine Son of God participated in the crucifixion, and the man Jesus is now at the right hand of the Father. Reformed theology cannot allow this, neither in the Sacrament of the Altar nor in the doctrine of Scripture.

      Side note, and completely unrelated to the issue at hand: our theological tradition uses “communication of attributes” to translate “communicatio idiomatum,” e.g., the translation of Pieper’s Dogmatics. “idiomata” meaning “properties” or “qualities” or “attributes” must be a word invented in the middle ages, it doesn’t exist in classical Latin, and you’ll see it translated different ways. All language is contextual, etc., etc.

  9. Andrew Johnson Avatar
    Andrew Johnson

    Well, I think that we have the negative aspects of this list covered, at least as well as I can articulate. I apologize in advance, I am not a system’s guy. I may speak in greater generalities than I should, so if I do, I apologize for my ignorance. (And Dr. Lessing would kill me for not putting Book, chapter, and verse for each point I make) However, there are some positives to this list.

    In regards to number 1: This author is affirming God’s condescension to humanity by dealing with us, not in a vocabulary of a divine language but in our failed and fragile words. This is an important point for us to affirm, as THE WORD became flesh, that is he came to us in a form that we could interact with and not in the holiness of God to which no man may see and live. To lose this fact of the Scriptures means a loss of our ability to actually interact with the Word.

    Number Two: The Scriptures are entirely sufficient to lead one to salvation in Christ our Lord. The narrative is there. The author overstates this fact and certainly misses the function of the preaching office as an extension of the Word.

    Number three: Do the Scriptures deal with the exactness of the new latest and greatest ipod and its use within the Christian’s life? No. But the Scriptures do deal with the overarching tones and aspects of the Christian life. Should I become so enamored with the world and its stuff that I lose sight of my Christian vocation, the Scriptures speak to that.

    Number four: This is more a discussion of translational work and how it has been rendered by many faithful men and women. There is an underlying tone of community within this statement. While it is specified as “person”, the aspect of “own language” implies a community which has created a specific set of reading which create and define the community (yes, I am making a broad sweep here, as we have like 3000 english translations).

    Number five: I chuckled at this one. A battle is constantly waging between the formal and the dynamic-equivalent translations. I agree that plain clear straight-forward translations can be immensely helpful to the readers of Scripture.

    Number six: The Scriptures ARE where our creeds, confessions, church traditions grew out of. Therefore, while the author’s intent is to dismiss the need for “tradition”, the point can be made that all of what he dismisses is built from the Sola Scriptura.

    Number 7: All Scripture is the Word of God. Therefore, since God has spoken all passages should fit together. Albeit not necessarily easily or obviously.

    Number 8: We all want to jump up and down about the levitical law’s appliance post-Christ. However, I think the point he’s really getting at is really the authority of the Scripture as God’s word across space and time. I think there’s a definite benefit to affirming for our people that, “What Paul said about X is STILL the truth.” (e.g. homosexuality, OHM, the Scriptures: 2 Tim. 3:16).

    Number 9: There is certainly a LOT to be learned by a simple reading of the text of Scripture. Sure, if we do this outside an interpretive community and outside helpful tradition we can certainly interpret incorrectly and inappropriately.

    Number 10: Ok, the whole handbook for life/basic-instructions-before-leaving-earth is a old and tired. But, its sentiment holds. The early church was known for its charity and hospitality and their care and love for one another. This comes from, at least to some degree, the Scriptures.

    So, some thoughts, probably non-coherent as I was writing this while multi-tasking.
    Hopefully this adds something to the discussion.

  10. Peter Nafzger Avatar
    Peter Nafzger

    Kloha: “Another book I found this summer is Wingren’s The Living Word, a slim little paperback from 1960. It is a critique of Barth, but has a phenomenal Lutheran theology of the Word (especially the Word preached).”

    As you wait for The Living Word to arrive from Amazon (and Kloha is right–it is a must read if you want to think theologically about preaching, or if you want to get ready for the symposium), track down a brief but very helpful article by Uuraas Saarnivaara called “Written and Spoken Word” (Lutheran Quarterly 2, 1950, p. 166-179). Saarnivaara (try spelling that name right without double-checking) summarizes well Luther’s view of the relationship between the Scriptures and proclamation. Luther, he says, understands the Scriptures to be the “revealed” Word and proclamation the “means of grace” Word.

    About Barth, the most helpful thing about him is certainly not his Christology. That (together with his peculiar ontology) is a big problem, as you noted. I think Barth remains helpful, however, because (and to the the extent that) he sees the need to talk about Jesus and proclamation when we talk about the Bible. His dogmatic structure (three forms of the Word of God) is very compatible with a Lutheran understanding of the Word. I’ve personally found it very useful for helping members of my congregation think about the Bible in a way that avoids biblicism and liberal criticism.

    Thanks for raising these issues, by the way.

  11. Joel Avatar

    As a student of Karl Barth (catechized Lutheran, seminary in Reformed Theology), I’m quite surprised by the comment that Barth’s scripture never gives Jesus, only one’s experience of Jesus. Now let me admit I’ve never read CD I/1, only II/1, II/2, IV/1 and IV/3. That said, this is from the first page of II/1 which is the beginning volume of his doctrine of God, specifically where he is dealing with the knowledge of God: “All speaking and hearing in the Church of Jesus Christ entirely rests upon and is concerned with the fact that God is known in the Church of Jesus Christ; that is to say, that this Subject is objectively present to the speakers and hearers, so that man in the Church really stands before God” (3). In preaching the written word of God in church, God is objectively present. And anybody who has read Karl Barth knows the word “God” is always defined by Jesus Christ.

    Also, I find Barth’s activist ontology and Christology his greatest contributions, far greater than his doctrine of Scripture, which makes all the noise in many evangelical and conservative circles. God’s being is in his act–also from II/1, though not fully realized until II/2. God is what God does, and what God does is seen in Jesus Christ.

    1. Jeff Kloha Avatar
      Jeff Kloha

      Here is a quote from Church Dogmatics I,1, p. 113: “Such direct identification of revelation and the Bible . . . is not one to be presupposed or anticipated by us. It takes place as an event, when and where the word of the Bible becomes God’s Word. . . . But for that very reason we should realize that and how far they also are always not one, how far this unity is really an event. . . . But in the Bible we are invariably concerned with human attempts to repeat and reproduce, in human thoughts and expressions, this Word of God in definite human situations. . . . In one case Deus dixit, in the other Paulus dixit. These are two different things.”

      Sorry for the ellipses, but this is what I have in my notes and can’t get to the library now. It is his last statement that gives the most trouble. I wonder, Joel, if your summarizing of Barth’s quote (after the quote in the first paragraph) is not a merging of “Luther” and Barth, especially your statement about the “written word.” Peter Nafzger has done more work with Barth than I — care to chime in Peter?

  12. Erik Herrmann Avatar
    Erik Herrmann

    I think that any statement about the “literal sense” that proceeds with the confidence that such a thing is obvious, plain, and simple, or thinks that “literal sense” covers the Scripture’s “meaning,” or “relevance” is wrongheaded and confused. The “literal sense” is a protean concept, often a waxen nose, and ultimately a red herring when it comes to the debate about what a text “means.” (Did I say that provocatively enough?)

    1. Paul Robinson Avatar
      Paul Robinson

      We as Lutherans are good at dismissing allegorical interpretation, but that’s easy. The real issue, as you point out, is what you mean by the literal sense. I had a hard time reading past #5 in the list because it’s just wrong. The results of a reading of Revelation that follows this rule hardly need elaboration. Then consider that Luther, for example, believed that Song of Songs was an allegory. (For him it was about a ruler and his subjects, which may make him unique in the history of exegesis on this book.) Then add that this literal reading “may not involve taking into account their literary, cultural, and historical contexts,” and you’re just asking for trouble.

  13. David Oberdieck Avatar


    Noah wrote, “What does inerrancy really mean – the question people want to ask, but are cautious to do so.”

    I’m asking. What do you think? Can we still legitimately confess “inerrant” Scripture? If “yes” how?

  14. Erik Herrmann Avatar
    Erik Herrmann

    Not to jump in on your question, David, but the question of “inerrancy” has much to do with the ambiguity of the “literal sense” as previously mentioned. And here we are not just talking about inerrancy of historical detail (which never bothered the church fathers too much) but statements that bear moral and theological problems. For example, what is the literal sense of Psalm 137 (esp. vs. 8-9), and what then are its moral/theological implications (think of Mt 5:43-48)? It was precisely these kinds of issues, especially in the OT, that kept the church fathers awake at night. A robust view of inspiration (and I guess, by derivation, inerrancy) caused most of the history of Christianity to either reject what could be called the “literal sense” of these texts and opt for an allegorical reading, or simply call that same (allegorical) reading the “true literal sense.”

    1. David Oberdieck Avatar

      Thanks for the interesting comment re: inspiration/literal sense–good stuff. In regard to Ps 137:8-9, the literal sense is quite clear.

      The moral implications of the Psalm are negligible in comparison to the issue of Hell. Nonetheless looking at Ps 137, two comments: 1) It is written under a theocracy where the rule is the rule of the sword. God’s Word upheld by force. This is not the case under the New Testament. 2) The curses of the Psalms do eventually fall on Christ who became sin for us (Bonhoeffer).

      This is all worthwhile discussion and you all are quite intelligent people that put me to shame. A downside to these kind of discussions(and I got this sense at the last symposium)is that we may teach as those with no authority. Do we take on the character of Jesus or the character of the Scribes (Matt 7:29)?

      *I really am looking for Jeff’s answer to inerrancy.

  15. Joel Avatar

    Jeff, I still don’t think your quote reduces Jesus presence in scripture to one’s experience. Your quote establishes that for Barth revelation is not equal to scripture full stop. Jesus is equal to revelation full stop, and the Scriptures are here to testify about him. And I think Luther agrees with this. How else could he wish to excise James from the canon? I think the answer is because our faith is not in scripture full stop but in Jesus Christ who is my Lord. There is a distinction then between deus dixit and Paul dixit. Of course the only way we know about Jesus is through the Holy Spirit’s illumination of the Scriptures, but that’s the point.

    What Barth helpfully reminds us is that seated at the right hand of God the Father is not a book but a person. The object of our faith does not have reference, “to any doctrine, theory or theology represented by the community…nor does it have reference–as the Reformers so sharply emphasised–to the histories of the Old and New Testaments…The object of [our faith] is the One whom the Bible attests and the Church as taught by the Bible proclaims, the living Jesus Christ, none other. He is the Lord. He is sovereign. He is the Master, who cannot be replaced by the prophets and apostles with their word about Him, whom they only desire to serve with their word” (IV/1, 760).

    Jesus is the lord of the scriptures that testify to him, not the other way around. I think this is a very helpful reminder for those trying to articulate a doctrine of scripture beyond the Bible wars of the 20th century.

    And Barth’s activist ontology/Christology is still his greatest contribution, also greatly helpful to those who wish to have a post-substance ontology.

    1. Jeff Kloha Avatar
      Jeff Kloha

      I think we’re straining at gnats here, Joel. There is a lot of great stuff in what you describe, clearly. It is phrases like “the Bible attests” rather than saying “the Bible reveals” that puts a potential wedge between Christ and the Scriptures.

      A huge challenge in our environment is what comes next after “Jesus is equal to revelation full stop.” That is, indeed the Scriptures reveal Christ, but do they also reveal what it means to live in Christ? Perhaps I’m reflecting my readings of Barthians rather than Barth, but often the result of “Christ full stop” is a refusal to have a revealed will of God for life and theology. To oversimplify: for some, Jesus gives me “freedom from” everything — sin, death, and all the stuff that “Paul said.” All the stuff “Paul said” becomes only his experience or struggle to work out the revelation of Christ, but we can take or leave that. That’s a tough sell for Lutherans.

      I appreciate the conversation. I don’t know anything, frankly, about Barth’s ethics, or how that relates to or is derived from the Scriptures.

    2. Peter Nafzger Avatar
      Peter Nafzger

      Thanks for your comments, Joel. This part of the thread is a good example (to me at least) of the limitations of this conversation format. (I’m reminded of George Hunsinger’s book, How to Read Karl Barth. If Hunsinger needs 300 pages to help us understand how to read Barth, we probably need more than a few typed messages to sort out exactly what he said about revelation and Jesus.)

      Let me try to bring things back to the Bible. I originally raised Barth’s name because I think he has a lot to offer as we think about the Scriptures. His “radicial Christocentrism” (for which he is indebted to Luther) was a huge step forward in the modern battle for the Bible. He forced us to think about Jesus before, during, and after we thought about the Scriptures. If for no other reason than that, Barth still warrants our close attention in conversations about the Bible.

      John Webster’s little book, Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch (Cambridge Univ., 2003), seems to me to be a truly “Barthian” account of the Bible. It is very helpful and has a lot to offer. (I especially appreciated his theological account of the canonization process). As I considered it as a Lutheran, however, I was disappointed by the absence of the cross. Like Barth in CD I/1-2, he speaks frequently of revelation, the presence of Christ, and the living Word of God. But the cross is almost entirely absent, and theologically inconsequential. Webster construes sin as ignorance and revelation as reconciliation.

      To Lutherans, for whom “the cross alone is our theology” (Heidelberg Disputation), this absence of the cross is a pretty significant deficiency. It’s a similar problem to Barth waiting until volume IV to unpack his understanding of the cross.

      As we think about the Bible, then, I think we need more than just a “Christ-centered” view of the Bible. That’s true. And that’s a big step forward for those who remain in the “biblicist” camp Kloha described above. But we need to say more, I think. A “Christ-centered” view of the Bible leaves open any number of “Christs,” including any number of ideas about who he is and what he did for us. We need a “Christ-crucified-centered” way of thinking about the Bible. This way of thinking would view the nature and function of the Scriptures in terms of the role they play in God’s plan to save us from sin and death through Christ’s death and resurrection. It would insist at all turns that the Scriptures are meant to serve the proclamation of repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name. This way even our theology of Scripture would proclaim “Christ-crucified” (1 Cor 1-2).

  16. Jeff Kloha Avatar
    Jeff Kloha

    To David’s comment — I’d like to remind readers about the purpose of As stated under the “editorial policy”:

    “It is not expected that everyone on the faculty (much less everyone in the church) will always agree with the views expressed in every item that is published through In fact, the website provides a forum for the church to discuss controversial questions and issues with good faith, civility, and respect.”

    And, on the “about” page:

    “This online community is thinking theologically about what is going on around us in the world and in the community of God’s people called the church. The “opinions” you find here are not Concordia Seminary’s. They are not those of the Seminary’s church body, The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. They are nobody’s except for the one who expresses them. Which means the “opinions” you find here will stand or fall on their own merits, and on the ability of the one who gives them. Which is as it should be in a community of conversation and dialogue. As such, expects the theological conversation that happens here to be civil, respectful, and constructive.”

    We’re not interested in “theological gotcha” on this website; and web/email/print communication makes it extremely difficult to discern intent and tone. A statement like “I really am looking for Jeff’s answer to inerrancy” sounds like a “theological gotcha” question, but I’ll assume good faith and answer it as such.

    1. David Oberdieck Avatar


      I appreciate your post here. And I think it is very important to have a forum to “discuss controversial questions and issues in good faith…”

      You are certainly correct that it is hard to discern one’s tone via e-mail. My tone was *not* one of, “I want to nail Jeff” but, “I want to nail down Jeff’s *answer* for the sake of working through this issue.”

      I like you. think your passionate speaker. I appreciate efforts in posting on “Concordia Theology.”

  17. Jeff Kloha Avatar
    Jeff Kloha

    Man, go out and race bikes on a Friday night and there’s all kinds of stuff going on over the internet. With the results I got, maybe I should have stayed glued to my computer (they should ban bike racing when it is over 100 degrees. Yes, I hate Missouri).

    To your direct comment, David: “*I really am looking for Jeff’s answer to inerrancy”. As I said to Marc above, I don’t know if I should take this as a compliment or a slight. I don’t have an “answer to inerrancy,” though I’ve found Hermann Sasse’s and Robert Preus’ writings on the topic very helpful. Erik and Paul have done a good job laying out the fact that much depends on your philosophical framework, and if we stuck with a discussion of what they are raising we’d get where you want to go. But since you ask for something directly I’ll try to be helpful.

    Let ‘s back up. “inerrantia” is simply asserting “without” (Lat in) “error” (Lat errantia, which in classical Latin actually meant “wandering”). If the question is raised as to whether there are “errors” in the Scriptures, then the answer, of course, is “inerrantia.”

    However, notice that we are framing the question negatively (Sasse already walked us through exactly this). You assert something (error), and I will deny it. But I haven’t yet actually said, positively, what Scripture is, nor what it does. So the statement of “inerrancy” only gets me so far and (as the comments from people above point out) doesn’t necessarily or inevitably get us to Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection. And so, as I pointed out at the symposium last year, David, to which you may be referring, a Muslim can assert “inerrancy” about his Koran in the same way, maybe better, than we can assert it about the Scriptures.

    Furthermore, and more importantly, by allowing you to frame the question (“Are there errors or not?”) I have already ceded the grounds of debate to you. Because I have allowed you to make the Scriptures the object of study, something that can be objectified and tested, with me (a human, with all the problems that brings) as the judge. In other words, you are asking a Modernist, post-Enlightenment (more specifically, Empiricism) question, one that Luther would not allow (he was not a modernist, obviously). And I need not remind everyone that modernism has not been a friend to creedal Christianity, the Scriptures, the Church, etc. The Scriptures do the work of the Spirit. They kill and make alive, they re-create in the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29). They are the subject (the active agent), not the object. And they do the Spirit’s work on me, the object – to kill me and make me alive and re-create me. Whether I assert inerrancy or not, the Word is the Word, and it doesn’t return to its sender, as Isaiah reminds us, empty.

    So, as Erik and Paul were trying to point out, asserting “inerrancy” really doesn’t help when you hear/read the text – hard ones like Song of Songs or Psalm 137 or even the “easy” ones. Because it only states what it is not (which is why Noah raised the initial question about what “inerrancy” means ), and does so in a way that lets you become the judge over the text. Our hearing/reading the text is, after all, why it was given.

    I guess my question back to you, David: When someone asks you why they should “believe the Bible,” what is your answer?

    1. David Oberdieck Avatar

      Thanks for the reply. Let me write 2 things quickly (I have to clean room, mow a big lawn, and work on Bible Study, etc).

      1. My question is not, “does so-and-so confess inerrancy?,” but “what do we *mean* by that?” “*How* is it so?” For instance, Sasse moved to inerrancy but pointed out at the same time that the dimensions of the “metal sea” were not accurate (he could be wrong on this).

      2. As to giving an apologetic for the Bible — I would probably try and focus more on Christ (or at least jump from Theism to Christ)than the Scripture.

      Nonetheless, I have some thoughts (hopefully good ones)I want to share tonight or Sunday. They stem from a couple of conversations with non-believers on the topic.

    2. Peter Nafzger Avatar
      Peter Nafzger

      Jeff and Joel,

      I think these are more than just gnats, and here’s why. Whether it is Barth’s activist ontology or his Reformed respect for God’s sovereignty, my concerns about his understanding of the Bible (Paulus dixit vs. Deus dixit) are rooted in my concerns about his view of Jesus. Here’s Barth’s own words:

      “It is quite impossible that there should be a direct identity between the human word of Holy Scripture and the Word of God, and therefore between the creaturely reality in itself and as such and the reality of God the Creator. It is impossible that there should have been a transmutation of the one into the other or an admixture of the one with the other. THIS IS NOT EVEN THE CASE IN THE PERSON OF CHRIST” (CD 1/2, 499, my emphasis).

      Bruce McCormack, a respected Barth scholar at Princeton, explains what this means much better than I could: (It’s a long quote, but really helpful if we want to understand Barth.)

      “It has to be frankly acknowledged that Barth’s denial that the Bible has either an instrinsic or a permanently bestowed capacity to be an adequate bearer of the Word of God is, in large measure, simply a function of the Reformed character of his Christology. If there was a constant in the Reformed treatments of the person of Christ, it was that the divine and the human natures of Christ remain undistinct and unimpaired in their original integrity AFTER their union in one Person. The writers of the Reformed confessions insisted on this point in order to render impossible the Lutheran affirmation of a communication of the attributes of the ‘divine majesty’ (divine attributes like omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence) to the human nature of Christ, resulting in a ‘divinization’ of the human nature. If the human nature of Christ is not divined through the hypostatic union, how much less are the human words of the prophets and apostles divinized through the sacramental union by which GOd joins them to the Word of God…So when evangelical Christians stumble over the claim that human language has no capacity in itself for bearing witness to the Word of God, my suspcision is that they are stumbling not because they are evangelicals, but because they are not REFORMED evangelicals” (“The Being of Holy Scripture is in Becoming” in Evangelicals and Scripture: Tradition, Authority, Hermeneutics, eds. Bacote, Miguelez, and Okholm, IVP 2004, p. 75, his emphasis).

      Joel, you said that for Barth “Jesus is equal to revelation full stop.” I’m not sure Barth would say it like that. The WORD OF GOD is equal to revelation full stop. But not even Jesus, the man, (not to mention proclamation and the Scriptures) is the Word of God in and of himself apart from God’s actualization. This only happens when and where God pleases to reveal himself (Barth loves AC V). So people could reject Jesus when he was on this earth–because he wasn’t always “being himself.” In volume 1 of CD Barth repeatedly works to protect God from our control, manipulation, even rejection. But in doing so, he keeps the divine and human separate, even in Jesus. This is why Lutherans charge him (rightfully, I think) with being Nestorian.

      For me, and in my study of Barth, the rubber hits the road when we ask Barth about the central problem for human beings. For Barth the problem is, first and foremost, that we do not know God. We can’t, because he is so far beyond us finite creatures as the infinite Creator. To save us, God sends his Word (Jesus, when and where God pleases) to reveal himself to us, to bridge the gap. This leads Barth to say that revelation = reconciliation. (It also leads him to the “Gospel, then Law” inversion). And this is why he makes such a big deal of the “Miracle of Christmas” in CD 1/2. He says, “That this revelation and reconciliation have already taken place is the content of the Christmas message” (CD I/2, 173). With this emphasis on the nativity, Barth barely mentions the cross in CD I/1-2. When he finally does address the cross more fully in CD IV, he rejects the idea that it is the center of the Christian message (CD IV/1, 581-589). (Wingren talks about some of these things in Theology in Conflict, Muhlenberg Press, 1958).

      To put in simple terms, if my biggest problem is that I’m a finite creature and therefore incapable of the infinite, then I need God’s presence (Barth). If my biggest problem is that I’m a sinner, then I need God to forgive me, not just be present (Luther). When it comes to his Word, then, does God save through it by encountering us? Or does he save us through it by forgiving us? Lutherans usually say the latter, and because the Scriptures are a form of God’s Word, then, their primary purpose seems to give us forgiveness, to serve the proclamation of repentance and forgiveness in Jesus’ name. And so Lutheran’s emphasize the cross even when they talk about the Bible.

      This isn’t a blog about Barth, so sorry if I lost you. I guess this is what happens when you chooses to struggle with Barth in your dissertation.

      I agree, Joel, that there IS a lot that Barth helps us with as we move beyond the Bible wars. Not least being his emphasis on proclamation and (as I mentioned before) his threefold framework for thinking of the Word of God. Even his activist ontology is worth struggling with. I think Lutherans would benefit from reading him more often rather than only depending on what others say about him. As McCormack points out, many “Barthians” get him wrong. (I’ll grant you, however, that the length of CD makes that a bit of a problem for those of us with lives.)

      All that being said, Barth’s understanding of Jesus IS a problem, for Lutherans at least. And because Jesus is (or should be) the foundation of our thinking about the Bible, it’s a problem here too.

    3. Joel Avatar

      Thank you, Peter, for the thoughtful response. I also don’t mean to hijack a forum that is not meant for me in the first place. My ordained LCMS brother asked me if I agreed with this reading of Barth, and I didn’t so I posted. I definitely stand by my statement that Jesus is equal to revelation full stop, and I do so based on my reading of CD II/2, in which Barth makes his greatest move of all (according to McCormack, my professor). In this volume, Barth claims that Jesus Christ is the elected man, and the electing God. This second part of the claim is what is so radical. The God who elected to create and redeem was not an abstract notion of logos or the currently popular “God in eternal community.” The God who elected to create and redeem is none other than Jesus Christ. He is the first and last word of all God’s acts, decisions, such that we can have no knowledge of God prior to this act.

      McCormack’s radical contribution is to state that logically for Barth (and perhaps unknown to Barth himself!), nothing is prior in our knowledge of God than Jesus Christ, not even the Trinity. The decision to be God for us in Jesus Christ logically precedes even that of Trinity (McCormack, “Grace and Being”). God constitutes God’s own being in the decision to be Jesus Christ for us. Theology that is predicated on anything other than Jesus Christ is “a hypostatised image of man. Theology must begin with Jesus Christ, and not with general principles” (II/2, 4). This is where Barth’s radical Christocentrism is taken to heights that no one else has gone, not even Luther.

      As for man’s problem according to the mature Barth, it is certainly not finitude. This may come from my not reading early Barth. I started CD in IV/3 and have worked backwards. By II/2, the problem is sin, which is why God elects salvation for humanity and damnation for himself in the cross. Living within our limits is precisely what we need and is not sin. The problem is undeniably sin—sin as pride (IV/1), sin as sloth (IV/2) and sin as falsehood (IV/3). The problem is that “man has willed to be as God, himself lord, the judge of good and evil, his own helper, thus withstanding the lordship of the grace of God and making himself irreparably, radically and totally guilty before [God]” (IV/1, 358). This is why Barth spends so much time on the cross in IV/1, because man is radically guilty before God. You are right, it takes him time to get there, but when he does, it is oh, so sweet.

      As to your reference that the cross is not the center of the Christian message, I think what you are referring to is his denial that justification is the center of the Christian message. Barth does this because he doesn’t want any abstraction to be the center and the personal Jesus Christ to be the center. And Eberhard Jungel (a great Lutheran Barthian) gives Barth heck for this and says he’s playing word games in his wonderful book, “Justification,” which is really an exposition of Barth and Luther. And yet, I’m still intrigued by Barth’s notion to always put the person of Jesus Christ at the center of faith, not any doctrine or anything else, always, only Jesus.

      Of course we won’t solve the Lutheran-Reformed dispute about the communication of the attributes, but the reason I like Barth’s unwillingness to have the divine nature act upon the human nature is that it ensures the human obedience Jesus rendered was just that–human. I hear people say things like, “Well, of course Jesus obeyed. He was God.” For Barth this misses the point of what Jesus did entirely. The divine nature is not supercharging the human nature when the human nature needs help. Jesus life and obedience was fully and completely human, without interference from the divine nature and therefore is the one and only perfect human sacrifice. His obedience is real and is acceptable to God as the one true human who has ever lived out our vocation faithfully. If the divine nature is lending a hand when necessary, then human obedience is an impossibility, even for Jesus.

      Barth has helped me immensely to ensure the good news really is good, and good for everyone (a problem if you’ve been taught the traditional Reformed doctrine of election–so not a problem for you). No one that I have read is more Christ-centered. By making God’s own nature determined in Jesus Christ, you ensure that what we see in Jesus is the real thing, God’s arms open to the world.

    4. David Oberdieck Avatar

      Okay — this thread seems dead so I’ll make this quick. How do I defend the Bible?

      1. To a Muslim who claimed the Bible was altered in regard to Christ, I simply referred to the broad range of texts and their antiquity. His accusation can be checked against the evidence.

      2. To a former Christian the issue was some of the moral aspects of the Scripture. In that case I had to tackle specific issues. Say, for instance, the doctrine of Hell. How can a sinner be eternally judged for finite sins? Answer – while every sin is finite the sinner in Hell continues to sin infinitely.

      3. One can go to the inner coherence of the Scripture. Certainly if it did not have this it couldn’t claim any divine authority. But, it hangs together. How? in its trajectory that ended in Christ. It does this thru the family line of Jesus, prophecy, types of Christ, sacrificial system.

      4. The Bible presents us with a world view that is both meaningful and explains reality better than other world views. The elements of the world view are (a) Origins – creation. (b) Morality – Bible distinguishes good from evil and gives us a firm foundation for morality. (c) Meaning – life is meaningful in the image of God and the fact we live in a personal universe. This personal nature seen in its greatest extent in the incarnation of Christ. (d) destiny – mankind is moving toward one of two goals.

      5. The Scripture has a firm basis in history unlike many other religious texts. After Genesis 11 we can go to most of the places in the Scripture.

      6. Christ is testified to via hostile witnesses of Roman and Jewish sources.


    5. David Oberdieck Avatar

      Jeff —

      How did Sasse understand the concept of inerrancy if he admitted the Scripture had mistakes?

      FYI – Since there is no rational support for the doctrine of inerrancy, I wouldn’t argue this with a non-believer.

  18. Jeff Kloha Avatar
    Jeff Kloha

    Thanks for getting back to this, David. I admit to being puzzled by your comments — are you saying that “inerrancy” is not demonstrable (is that what you mean by “rational”)? And that all non-believers are “rationalists”? I’m not following the argument.

    And is your point, therefore, that inerrancy is not useful in evangelism or apologetics, but is nevertheless a necessary article of faith? In your suggested approaches to non-believers, I do find it odd that Jesus Christ and his Gospel are never mentioned. If the purpose of the Scriptures is to preach Christ, then perhaps when discussing the Scriptures with those not baptized we should preach Christ.

    Re Sasse, I’ll send you to the already available resources. His essays on the topic were published by Concordia Seminary as “Scripture and the Church” in 1995, and the book is available for purchase online:

    The concluding essay in that volume chronicles the “shift” in Sasse’s understanding of inerrancy. He only “admitted errors” before 1951. After that he refused to do so. The matter is still relevant, apparently. Two issues ago, Lutherisch Beitrage published a summary and (positive) evaluation of that concluding essay:

    Michael Müller and Gottfried Herrmann, “Relative oder absolut Irttumslos? Zu Veränderungen in Hermann Sasses Schriftlehre,” Lutherische Beiträge 16.2 (2011), 110-28. [“Relative or Absolute Inerrancy? Regarding the Changes in Hermann Sasse’s Doctrine of Scripture”

    There is also an essay by Kurt Marquart in CPH’s “Hermann Sasse: A Man For Our Times” which describes Sasse’s work on this topic in Australia in the late 60s. Marquart also recognizes the “shift” in Sasse’s views. I’m pretty sure this is still available for purchase from CPH.

    1. David Oberdieck Avatar


      1. I mention Christ in regard to Scripture in points 3, 4, 6 in my post. Much earlier I mentioned i would not try to argue about the Bible but speak directly about Christ.

      2. You said it better than I did about inerrancy — but you are a professor. It isn’t verifiable but a doctrine of faith.

      Got to go— got Bible study. One last thing on sasse coming up.

    2. Jeff Kloha Avatar
      Jeff Kloha

      We could compare schedules if you want, David. But thanks for continuing the conversation, these are necessary and helpful (I think).

      “Mentioning Jesus” is not the same, of course, as proclaiming the Gospel (or, as I put it above, “preaching Christ”). Your interactions with hypothetical non-baptized individuals argue *about* Jesus (or about hell, or archeology, or anything else “in the Bible”), but they never get to the heart of the matter: God has raised Jesus from the dead, and this changes everything. The Gospel doesn’t fit into pre-existing notions of truth and facticity, it transcends them.

    3. David Oberdieck Avatar


      Thanks for your time! Maybe we get together at the Walther Conference?. Let me end with these 2 thoughts:

      **** (1) Sasse’s view of inerrancy, how could I have missed this, is that Scripture is inerrant only in regard to the articles of faith (correct?). He would say that it is not inerrant in every word or historical fact. I *think* this is in line with what a seminary prof was saying at last years’ symposium.

      If this view of inerrancy has support at the seminary, then the LC-MS needs to have an open and brotherly conversation on the topic that will hopefully produce more light than heat.

      ***** (2) The situations I was thinking about were not hypothetical. Yes, I share the Goodnews of Christ — that is the point of the Bible. One must always get to the message of Christ no matter where one starts (E.G. from debate on Hell to the fact Jesus received the punishment of Hell upon the cross for our sins).

      Please don’t take shorthand on a posting (E.G. The Bible’s trajectory being Christ, in point 3) as if I don’t preach justification in Christ as the main thing.

    4. Jeff Kloha Avatar
      Jeff Kloha

      Re Sasse, David, that is neither what Sasse said nor what I represented him as saying at the symposium last year. If you heard me say “Scripture is inerrant in regard to the articles of faith,” then you are right to be concerned. But it is not what I said, not even close, really. The video of my paper is up on iTunes, you can listen to it again if you like. And Sasse’s material is easily accessible, you can request it from the sem library if you don’t want to purchase it. An open discussion would be helpful (and this forum, as well as the seminary’s symposium last year, are both very public and open). Let’s make sure that we 1) communicate clearly 2) understand fully what each of us are saying and 3) represent accurately and fairly what the other person is saying.

      I’d be more than happy to sit down with you, David, or anyone else “reading in” on this, and work through this on the basis of Sasse’s writings (or Preus, or Pieper). Perhaps that is the best way for this kind of discussion to happen. As you point out, lots of things get shorthanded on blogs, and so not everything comes across clearly. We are hosting another Day of Exegetical Reflection and Theological Symposium on Sep 19-21. Let me know if you’ll be around for that.

  19. Brady Avatar

    We find comfort in our fundamentalism which leads to the worship of the “book” above Jesus. For good or bad, we will always be affected by Seminex and be fearful of words that do not say inerrant will eventually lead back to those days. Lord have mercy.

    I heard Depak Chopra tell a pastor, “I don’t worship a book of rules.” The pastor replied, “I don’t either, I worship the Savior of which this book tells.”

    Are there better “words” to use when describing the Bible and its power?

  20. Jeff Kloha Avatar
    Jeff Kloha

    Hello Brady — For “better ‘word’s”, I don’t know that there is a single term that can encompass all that we want to and should say about the Scriptures. In the early church and the Reformation they were quite content with words like “inspiration” and “infallibility.” but we’ve used our Modernist (and now Postmodernist) framework to make those words mean things that our predecessors could not think.

    I won’t type it all in, I don’t have time, but a few weeks ago I posted a comment based on Franzmann’s commentary on Romans 12:2:

    Perhaps more to this issue is a couple paragraphs from Franzmann’s commentary on Rom 12:1. I don’t have time to type it all in, but here is the key sentence:

    “The new worship is grounded in “the mercies of God.” In that phrase Paul sums up the creative and transforming power of the Gospel of God as he has been proclaiming it in the first 11 chapters of his letter.”

    Read the rest of the paragraph, great stuff (again). Point being, it is not so much what we say about the Scriptures as what the Scriptures say, and do, to us.

  21. Tim Boerger Avatar
    Tim Boerger

    I’ve found this article, in which AC Piepkorn discusses the history and meaning of “inerrancy,” to be helpful:
    It seems to me that, though they may differ on the value on the value of the language of inerrancy, ACP & Sasse more or less agree in their approach to Scripture.

  22. Burt Harger Avatar
    Burt Harger

    Haven’t you guys got anything better to do? How about discussing how many angels can fit on the head of a pin?

  23. Dorothy Scherck Avatar
    Dorothy Scherck

    I came upon these posts by just asking a question on my Lutheran Hour site.
    Situation: My daughter-in-law a formeer LCMS member is now attending a Baptist Church but is in awe of the teachings of John Mac Donald of the Master’s Seminary in California. In her mind he is the only one preaching “from the Bible”. To cause further dissent, she states that a Pastor Gonzalez formerly at Hope Luthern Church in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, told her mother, a member there, that they no longer study the Bible at Semiinary. I can’t believe this. So I asked. After reading the threads of these posts, it is clear that there is still a very strong value placed on Bible teaching and questioning. I thank God for this. I have been a LCMS member for 81 years. I was taught and Pastored by strong students of the Bible.

    1. Jeff Kloha Avatar
      Jeff Kloha

      Well, Mrs. Scherck, thanks for checking and not going by hearsay — Yes we teach the Bible and take it very seriously at the Seminary. Students are still required to learn Greek and Hebrew before they can study anything else, and from their first classes until their last they are studying the Bible and learning to teach and preach it, and not only in class, but hearing it in chapel, in Bible studies, etc.

      Feel free to stop in the next time you visit St. Louis and sit in on a class or two!

  24. Michael D. Woods Avatar
    Michael D. Woods

    That’s the second dopiest set of propositions I’ve ever heard, and I’m not even ordained!

    1) Divine Writing: The Bible, down to the details of its words, consists of and is identical with God’s very own words written inerrantly in human language.

    This could only have been written by someone who knows only one language. Even rudimentary acquaintance with another language would tell him how the statement is impossible. Does he propose that Jesus’s words came to us from Aramaic (or maybe sometimes Hebrew) through Greek without having to make approximate word choices? What was “over the waters”? A wind? A spirit? And then into English (see(5))? And what about the variety of literary styles, where, for example, Paul’s writings are in a distinct style different from Peter’s or Moses’s. Finally, those making this claim show ignorance of literary possibilities, such as apocalypse. Anyway, why should the author of all language confine himself to a single genre, explication?

    2) Total Representation: The Bible represents the totality of God’s communication to and will for humanity, both in containing all that God has to say to humans and in being the exclusive mode of God’s true communication.

    Does that mean that all the theology and inspirational material written since the canon was settled are without value? (5) and (8) bear on this too. I imagine that much that has been written since the canon was established might be included now if it were a new subject. I especially like Sanctorum Communio as a candidate. You might have some favorites too.

    3) Complete Coverage: The divine will about all of the issues relevant to Christian belief and life are contained in the Bible.

    Perhaps by implication. But if it is, I must draw out the implications, and so I must interpret (see (5)). What do I do about my sassy children? Bring them to the gate to be stoned? Or did Jesus in the case of the woman taken in adultery abrogate that command. If He did, I can find out only by reaching a conclusion myself—it doesn’t say so explicitly.

    4) Democratic Perspicuity: Any reasonably intelligent person can read the Bible in his or her own language and correctly understand the plain meaning of the text.

    Then what does this mean, “The sons of the gods saw that the daughters of men were fair and took for themselves such women as they chose.”? If there’s a plain meaning, or any meaning for that matter, I can’t see it.

    5) Commonsense Hermeneutics: The best way to understand biblical texts is by reading them in their explicit, plain, most obvious, literal sense, as the author intended them at face value, which may or may not involve taking into account their literary, cultural, and historical contexts.

    That’s a good start, but Jesus himself uses parables which he explains as allegory when the disciples ask. Is Job history, biography, or fiction? It doesn’t matter because that’s not what the book is about. And this, “The Lord said to my lord, ‘come and sit by my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’” I imagine David as court musician singing this as praise of Saul, but Jesus uses it to refer to himself as messiah, and his hearers apparently understood it that way, but it’s a second-level interpretation.

    6) Solo [sic] Scriptura: The significance of any given biblical text can be understood without reliance on creeds, confessions, historical church traditions, or other forms of larger theological hermeneutical frameworks, such that theological formulations can be built up directly out of the Bible from scratch.

    If you can do that, you’re more perceptive than I am. I need contact with other Christians of all times to keep me on course. I don’t want to make the mistake of thinking today’s pet idea (or, worse, my pet idea) is universal. Lewis warned about that, and he knew all the original languages and was acquainted with literature from all of history.

    7) Internal Harmony: All related passages of the Bible on any given subject fit together almost like puzzle pieces into single, unified, internally consistent bodies of instruction about right and wrong beliefs and behaviors.

    Then why do Acts and the epistles differ on whether Paul’s companions heard the voice or saw the light, but not both? Is “He who is not against us for us.” or is “He who is not for us against us.”? They can’t both be right about those who are neutral. If you say they were both right, but at different times, you have taken away universality ((1) and (8)).

    8) Universal Applicability: What the biblical authors taught God’s people at any point in history remains universally valid for all Christians at every other time, unless explicitly revoked by subsequent scriptural teaching.

    Possibly. God has given me curiosity about general cases. He instructs me only about my own. It’s one of the advantages of not being a professional guide of Christians.

    9) Inductive Method: All matters of Christian belief and practice can be learned by sitting down with the Bible and piecing together through careful study the clear “biblical” truths that it teaches.

    Let’s sew together our own scriptures. That’s what this seems to invite.

    10) Handbook Model: The Bible teaches doctrine and morals with every affirmation that it makes, so that together those affirmations comprise something like a handbook or textbook for Christian belief and living, a compendium of divine and therefore inerrant teachings on a full array of subjects—including science, economics, health, politics, and romance.

    No it doesn’t. Some is plain instruction, some history, some biography, some allegory, some poetry, some myth (You must understand what I mean by myth. I’m confident you do.), and more. During the period of the judges, “every man did what was right in his own eyes.” Is that good politics? One message is that men must be governed, but not enslaved. But then, that’s an interpretation, which literalists won’t allow.

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