How Not to Align with Inerrancy

In a recent post on his blog (see here), Bruxy Cavey has affirmed this proposition:

INERRANT: “the Bible is ‘the authoritative written Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, inerrant in all that it teaches’.” [1]

INERRANT, he remarks, is “a statement I have been happy to align with.” If align means “affirm to be true,” we can happily agree.

On the other hand, Bruxy also tells us that Paul is “caught up in a contradiction” in Titus 1:12-13. [1] Those verses read: “One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons’. This testimony is true.” Here the Great Apostle makes at least two claims:

(1:12)  One of the Cretan prophets said that ‘Cretans are always liars’.

(1:13)  This testimony–i.e. that Cretans are always liars–is true.

Now it seems to me that INERRANT aligns rather badly with this claim that Titus 1:12-13 embodies a falsehood or contradiction. That is to say, it doesn’t align at all. We can see this as follows.

According to INERRANT, the Bible is identical with the written Word of God, which in turn is “inspired by the Holy Spirit.” This of course calls to mind 2 Timothy 3:16–“All scripture (graphé) is God-breathed.” From this it follows (conceptually and analytically) that scripture, the written Word of God, i.e. the Bible (all of it) is “inerrant in all that it teaches.”

Now indisputably, (1:12) and (1:13) are parts of the Bible, parts of the written Word of God, and hence parts of the graphé (the writings). They are therefore inerrant in all that they teach. So the only question is: what do they teach? A prior question: what does it mean to say that the Bible teaches something.

In the present context, where inerrancy (i.e. truth) is the issue, to say that scripture teaches something is to say that it includes a sentence that teaches (i.e. approvingly claims, asserts, or declares) something to be true. Thinking then about (1:12) and (1:13), scripture does seem to be teaching these things to be true. But what is our evidence for that? Let’s take the verses in turn.

First, consider (1:12). How do we know this is a teaching of scripture? The reason, one thinks, is twofold: (1) (1:12) is a sentence included in scripture, and (2) it is presented by Paul  as a truth claim; he claims that a Cretan prophet (Epimenides actually) has testified: Cretans are always liars. As far as I’m aware, no one disputes the fact that scripture teaches (1:12), or that this sentence expresses a truth. So far, so good.

Next, consider (1:13). Is this verse a teaching of scripture? It is important to see that the same evidence for thinking (1:12) is a scriptural teaching also applies to (1:13). It is, first of all, a sentence of scripture. You can look it up in your Bible. Second, it’s definitely presented as a truth claim. “This testimony is true,” Paul declares. So (1:12) and (1:13) stand or fall together. If (1:12) is a teaching of scripture (and we’ve just seen that it is), then so is (1:13).

Where does that leave those who cleave to INERRANT, but nevertheless think Paul’s declaration “This testimony is true” is false? (As I’ve said, Bruxy teaches that Paul gets “caught up in a contradiction” here.) The options are rather bleak. They can contend that

A.  All scripture is God-breathed, but (1:13) isn’t part of scripture; or

B.  All scripture is God-breathed, and (1:13) is a part of scripture.

If (A) is true, then there isn’t alignment. The Bible (all of it) ≠ God-breathed scripture. Some parts of the Bible are God-breathed; others–the false parts–are not. (After all, who thinks that God can breathe out error?) Some parts of the Bible, then, are the “written Word of God”; others are not. But if so, then INERRANT isn’t true: the Bible–all of it–is not “the authoritative written Word of God.”

If (B) is true, there also isn’t alignment. If inspiration involves the Holy Spirit “carrying along” the human authors to produce the graphé (as 2 Peter 1:20-21 teaches), and if some of those writings are in error, then it’s not true that the Bible is “inerrant in all that it teaches,” and it’s not true that the Bible (all of it) is inspired by the Holy Spirit. For it goes without saying that it is strictly impossible that the Spirit “carry along” a human writer into error without that impugning the Spirit’s perfect power, knowledge, or goodness.

The fact of the matter is: To align with INERRANT we must align with the currently much-maligned doctrine of biblical inerrancy. Anything short of that, I’m afraid, is misalignment.

Notes

[1] Thus Bruxy: “Paul is also caught up in a logical paradox: he quotes and affirms the truth a Cretan poet (Epimenides) who say that Cretans are ALWAYS liars. If Cretans are ALWAYS liars, then the Cretan statement that Cretans are always liars is itself a lie. But Paul not only quotes this Cretan, he says this statement is true.” See Bruxy Cavey, “Radical Christians & the Word of God: Part 2 of 3 (Inerrancy),” July 13, 2018. I have disputed this charge in Rich Davis, “Are Epimenides and Paul in Error?” TyndalePhilosophy.com; April 12, 2017.

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6 comments on “How Not to Align with Inerrancy

  1. […] incoherent. (For argument, see here.) But Bruxy is on the record as affirming (2). See, e.g., his seminary teaching here and this […]

  2. […] actually incoherent. (For argument, see here.) But Bruxy is on record as affirming (2). See, e.g., his seminary teaching here as well as this […]

  3. […] Davis’ recent blog post “How Not to Align with Inerrancy” demonstrates that an affirmation of inerrancy cannot be much of an affirmation if it also […]

  4. […] also note that over in Tyndale University’s philosophy department, Dr. Rich Davis has shown here that Bruxy Cavey seems to be double-speaking in his pronouncements on biblical […]

  5. […] 12.  How Not to Align with Inerrancy [ link ] […]

  6. […] 9.  How Not to Align with Inerrancy [ link ] […]

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