Wednesday, January 19, 2005

What difference does it make if Jonah was swallowed by a fish?

From our topical study tonight on the Seduction of Christianity: The Inerrancy of Scripture

Scripture is our only source of faith and life - the truth.
A summary of principles of biblical interpretation

1. The Bible in its entirety is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. The Scriptures are to be used to interpret Scripture. The Holy Spirit is the true interpreter of the Bible. The Holy Scriptures are profitable "for teaching, for refutation, for correction adn for training in righteousness." The Bible is the supreme and final authority in all theological matters.

2. The entire Bible is Christ centric. The Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament. Christ is the center of the Bible and of all interpretation. The centrality of justification by faith is the chief article of biblical revelation. In the Holy Scriptures, God speaks a word of Law and a word of Gospel.

3. The Bible comes to us in human speech, so the laws of human speech (grammar, syntax) are to be observed. (This point stresses the important of knowing Hebrew and Greek.)

4. All doctrines must be based on clear passages. Obscure, figurative, and symbolic passages are to be understood in the light of clear passages.

5. Scripture is to be interpreted by the Analogy of Faith (the sum total of all clear passages).
6. No passage is to be taken out of its context.

7. Each passage has one spirit-intended meaning.

8. The literal meaning is the usual and normal one.

Some lessons learned from the struggle for inerrancy in American Lutheranism

What can we learn from the battle over inerrancy in American Lutheranism to avoid suffering the same losses which have occurred elsewhere? Additional recommended reading: What's Going On Among the Lutherans?
1. Theologians who reject the inerrancy of Scripture usually try to hide their unbelief from devout pastors and lay people by using language which makes it sound as if they believe in inspiration even though they believe the Bible is full of errors.

2. Official statements proclaiming belief in the inerrancy of Scripture are of no value if theologians are allowed to ignore them and to teach that the Bible is full of errors.

3. If theologians and pastors are allowed to reject the inerrancy of Scripture, very soon every other doctrine is under attack, including even the doctrine of justification and the reality of Jesus' resurrection.

4. Devout Lutherans who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture cannot preserve the true teachings of the Bible for themselves, for their children, and for future generations unless they separate themselves from false teachers who deny these truths.

5. Loyalty to Lutheran Confessions is an important mark of true Lutheranism, but it is not a substitute for a clear stand on the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture nor for a consistent practice based on the Scripture alone.

6. The crucial first step for any group of Lutherans trying to restore and maintain sound confessional Lutheranism, which holds to all of the teachings of the Bible, is to be sure that they share a common understanding of the inerrancy of Scripture. This understanding must be based on Scripture's own statements about its origin and character, not on human opinions.
What Can We Do?
This is my favorite part. It well describes the activities of confessional Lutherans and bloggers in particular, in my opinion. I think it provides the justification for much of what we try to do in our blogs. It is also a good checklist for our daily lives.
1. Teach the doctrine. The doctrine of inspiration and inerrancy can't be tucked away in old dogmatic books. It belongs in our sermons, in our Bible classes, in our catechism classes and in our popular publications. Teaching the whole truth includes testifying against error and exposing the deceptive language of false teachers.
2. Stress the importance of doctrine. I am sure most of you have been asked, "What difference does it make if Jonah was swallowed by a fish?" We must make it clear that God's Word hangs together as a whole. If we dismiss the historicity of such accounts as the story of Jonah, there is no reason not to apply the same canons of judgment to the words and works of Christ, as the Jesus Seminar has demonstrated.
3. Be on guard against heterodox influences. Preach the whole counsel of God. The doctrine of the Word does not stand alone. If one teaching falls, the wave of error spreads out over others. When any teaching of Scripture is denied, the clarity and authority of Scripture are undermined.
4. Continue to testify to the whole church. Because of our love for their souls we should continue to sound the warning against the deadly results of the historical-critical method and also to the victims of heterodox churches.
5. Pray. Finally, we must realize that though we are to work energetically and faithfully, the victory does not depend on us, but on the power of the Spirit.
6. Use the Word devotionally. Our confidence in the clarity and power of the Word grows as we use it devotionally.
The above has been transcribed from the handout for this week's class ( 1/18/05). Feel free to comment, but if you have any problems with what is written here, I will have to refer you to my pastor.


Chaz said...

All of this really comes down to the question:

Is the Bible the Word of God or does it contain the Word of God?

Guess how I answer... : )

TKls2myhrt said...


I agree. However, I think that many Christians can read this, say that they agree and then go on to tolerate or shrug off things that shouldn't be tolerated. That is what led me to the confessional Lutheran church. Although I know I hope for a perfect church in my heart and mind, it doesn't exist on earth, but it still saddens me to see Lutherans (and any Christian) willing to tolerate things that are clearly not scriptural or willing to say that a portion of scripture is just a matter of interpretation. I think that the ELS is doing well right now - confronting false teachings as they come along; but will we always be? Will I one day find myself in a church that has accomodated and excused false teachings and we will be blinded? Or will I notice but be afraid to speak up? Or will I just not want to put for the effort? Well...all I can do is prepare myself for that possibility with lots of education and prayer...for me and my family.

Anonymous said...

This is a really great summary, Theresa. I don't know much about the historical-critical method, I'll have to read up on it so I can recognize it when I see it. Thanks!


TKls2myhrt said...


I have some good information I can post on the topic. Also, the book I mentioned is a MUST read - What's Going On Among the Lutherans? You simply have to read it. You will love the information it gives.