Does the Bible Err?
February 13, 2009
* I have changed the original title of this post because, upon further reflection I decided it was a bit snotty.
One of the important functions of the pastor is to identify error. The church is constantly confronted with preaching, teaching, and literature that leads many of God's people into error. One book that has garnered much attention in recent days is Kenton Sparks' God's Word in Human Words. I do not know Dr. Sparks (Professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University) but I am sure he is a fine man. His book however should trouble anyone who believes the Bible to be the Word of God.
Andy Naselli has posted some helpful thoughts on Dr. Sparks' book.
Sparks uncritically accepts critical views and is overconfident in his conclusions while severely criticizing evangelicals like D. A. Carson, Robert Yarbrough, Kevin Vanhoozer, and James Hoffmeier. Sparks takes the debate beyond Peter Enns’s Inspiration and Incarnation. The book’s subtitle should not include the word “evangelical”: God’s Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation
of Critical Biblical Scholarship.
More reviews of this book are forthcoming. (For example, look for one by Robert Yarbrough in the next issue of Themelios.) Here are a couple of others already published:
1. The enthusiastic RBL review by Arthur Boulet, an M.A. student at Westminster Theological Seminary and an ardent supporter of Peter Enns, is sad. A sharp friend of mine who is working on a PhD elsewhere emailed me this after reading it: “This
review makes me want to cry. May God grant grace.”
2. The review by Kevin Bauder is a breath of fresh air in comparison.
1. S. M. Baugh reviewed Sparks’s book for Reformation21 in August 2008.
2. Gary L. W. Johnson comments on Sparks’s book in the introduction to Reforming or Conforming: Post-Conservative Evangelicals and the Emerging Church (ed. Gary L. W. Johnson and Ronald L. Gleason; Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 23n21:
Sparks in particular paints contemporary defenders of inerrancy in very unflattering colors. Old Testament scholars such as R. K. Harrison, Gleason Archer, and E. J. Young are accused of sticking their heads in the sand to avoid dealing with the real issues raised by critical Old Testament scholars (133ff ) while New Testament scholars such as D. A. Carson and Douglas Moo are said to be guilty of deliberately dodging the issues of New Testament critics (167). Even greater disdain is heaped on Carl Henry, who had the misfortune of simply being a theologian and not a biblical scholar (138). However, the most reprehensible aspect of Sparks’s work is the facile labeling of all defenders of inerrancy as Cartesian foundationalists. Sparks declares Cornelius Van Til, and his presuppositional apologetics, to be Cartesian because Van Til underscored the importance of certainty, which to Sparks’s way of thinking automatically makes one a Cartesian (45). If that is the case, then we must place not only the Reformers and the church fathers in that category, but Christ and the apostles as well! Van Til was no Cartesian. His apologetical approach was rooted in classic Reformed theology, especially in the Dutch tradition of Kuyper and Bavinck, stretching back to the noted Dutch Protestant scholastic Peter Van Mastricht (1630–1706), who was an outspoken critic of all things Cartesian. As Richard Muller notes, “Mastricht’s consequent stress on the necessity of revelation for Christian theology (theology defined as ‘living before God in and through Christ’ or as the wisdom leading to that end) led to an adamant resistance to Cartesian thought with its method of radical doubt and its insistence on the primacy of autonomy of the mind in all matters of judgment.” Richard Muller, “Giving Direction to Theology: The Scholastic Dimension,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 28 (June 1985), 185.
Read Andy's entire post HERE.
The theory of the seminarian in one generation will become the theory of the church in the next.