Contesting Inerrancy at Erskine

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Things have sure heated up here in South Carolina over the move by the ARP general synod to ensure doctrinal fidelity at its denominational college and seminary, Erskine.  As usually happens, the continuing conflict has only shown how necessary that synod's action really was. 

For instance, an editorial appeared in the Greenville News by Dr. Richard Burnett, Professor of Systematic Theology at Erskine Seminary and a PC(USA) minister, that is a prodigy of ignorance concerning inerrancy and poor reasoning about its effects.   The ignorance comes through in the main thrust of his argument, that the Westminster Confession's assignment of absolute inerrancy to the original autographs destroys the authority of our Bibles today.  The poor reasoning takes a form of argument familiar to those who follow liberal critiques, namely that the culture must be permitted to rule over God's Word.  Burnett writes: "How are Christian pastors going to minister to people who are continually being informed about religious topics by reading Time or Newsweek or by watching PBS or the History Channel, if we simply ignore the kinds of arguments that are being made? Certainly not by relying on tendentious arguments that make us sound like Joseph Smith with his lost 'golden tablets.'"  Ah, the traditional "Book of Mormon argument" against biblical authority!  A liberal argument wouldn't be right without it.

Fortunately, doctrinal strife also tends to produce the best work among the orthodox, and this is being seen at Erskine too.  An example is the outstanding reply to Burnett submitted to the Greenville News by Dr. William B. Evans, chaired professor of Bible and Religion at Erskine College.  Evans shows that inerrancy reflects what orthodox Christians have always believed about the Bible, going back to the early church: "the doctrine of inerrancy is simply a way of faithfully articulating the teachings of Scripture regarding its own reliability "  Contrary to the liberal complaints among the Erskine faculty, belief in the Bible's inerrancy does not close down open dialogue regarding Scripture and theology, but merely placed such dialogue within a methodology consistent with the denomination's confessional commitments.  Bill concludes with this stirring exhortation regarding the importance of inerrancy, not only in the ARP but in the broader church as well:

"The ARP Church rightly recognizes that a denial of the full authority of the Bible inevitably leads to the sort of "cafeteria Christianity" that now characterizes the mainline churches in this country, as people pick and choose those aspects of the Christian tradition that they find congenial and ignore that which conflicts with the broader culture. That sort of subjectivism destroys the mission and witness of the church, and the ARP Church objects to it with good reason."

Posted March 24, 2010 @ 6:25 PM by Rick Phillips

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