Monday, 13 May 2013

A2 Religious Studies: Propositional Revelation

A key view in the topic of propositional revelation is Biblical inerrancy. This is the belief that scripture contains no errors whatsoever - there are no mistakes.

There are a few key arguments for this belief:

  1. If we take God to be the God of classical theism, then it is reasonable to suggest that through his omnipotence he can direct somebody to write down exactly what he wishes
  2. If the Bible says it's true, it must be (easily criticised - this is a very poor cyclical argument)
  3. The Bible is historically accurate
  4. There are no contradictions (again, debatable)
  5. Contains views held throughout history
Jim Packer giving a cheeky wink
A particular advocate for Biblical inerrancy is Jim Packer, a fundamentalist. He refers to the Bible as:

"The authoritative word of God"

And states that:

"The origin of scripture is divine"

Basically, Packer argues that God controls exactly what is said, either through dictation or inspiration. Dictation is the belief highlighted above - the notion that God dictated what he wanted to say to humans. However, this view is perhaps more closely linked to the Qu'ran than the Bible, and as a belief itself is no longer very popular.

The Bible may also be inspired, Packer argues. This means that even if writers inject little bits of their own writing style or personality into scripture, it's still the word of God - it is still inerrant.

The argument from infallibility, as held by Marshall, is the belief that the Bible is reliable but still has mistakes. Marshall states that the Bible is inspired for the purposed that God made it, but accepts that the Bible is not a scientific or historical document. There are minor errors, but these are not errors that makes the Bible any less reliable or relevant.

Marshall argues that there is too much emphasis on God, and states that since humans are fallible, there are bound to be minor errors in the Bible. People write stories and get information from different sources, so not everything is going to turn out 100% accurate.

However, Marshall still agrees with Packer that the Bible is the word of God.

Some argue that the Bible is a witness to revelation - a written witness of the revelation of Jesus. Marshall rejects this view, arguing that the Bible IS the revelation, not the witness to the revelation.

Rumour has it that Karl Barth doesn't even smoke,
and just posed with a pipe to make his Facebook
profile picture extra vintage
Karl Barth differs slightly from Marshall, and argues that the Bible becomes revelation when you realise it for yourself - it is the means to revelation, not immediately revelation in itself. Marshall criticises this view, arguing that Barth is talking about the Bible as if it is illumination, when it is in fact inspiration.

Paul Achtemeier argues that the Holy Spirit brought the Bible together - the process is inspired, but the final copy isn't - a view that contradicts Marshall's argument.

W. Abraham goes down a similar route to Marshall, arguing that God inspires people to write and that while God is infallible, the Bible is not - the writers are inspired, not the readers (this is where he and Marshall differ - Marshall argues that the reader is also inspired).

Samuel Taylor Coleridge accepts that there are mistakes and errors in the Bible, stating that he would not:

"lie for God"

A popular criticism of inerrancy and infallibility is the redaction criticism. Redaction criticism states that writers included their own beliefs in the Bible, and that the stories merely reflect the views of the writers. So when Jesus says:

"I am the bread of life"

This is simply a case of someone taking the act of communion and mentioning it in the Bible to give it more credibility and stress its importance. A. N. Wilson holds a similar view, stating that Christianity was started by Paul, and that the Bible is simply based on Paul's teachings.

Bornkamm argues that the New Testament is simply a faithful memory of Jesus - it is accurate, but not perfect.

Philo argued that we are simply instruments that God plays - a good name to mention when arguing for inerrancy.


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