The Gateway to Heresy...

Thanks to Bart Barber for posting an outstanding article on the importance of the doctrine of the Bible's inerrancy. Barber postulates, I believe correctly, that many evangelicals are suffering from "inerrancy fatique." I think one of the evidences of this fatique is seen in the number of those being accepted as evangelical who assert that the Bible is riddled with errors, myths, and theological contradictions.

Barber's article is both generous in tone and accessible to the lay reader intested in having a robust doctrine of Scripture.

Dr. Jim Denison has served as the official professional theologian of the Baptist General Convention of Texas since being installed as Theologian-in-Residence at BGCT by the administration of Dr. Randel Everett in January 2009. Dr. Denison’s ministry as theologian-in-residence, according to Everett, will “[reflect] an innovative approach to serving the needs of our churches in Texas while also being involved in ministry beyond the state.”

Mentioned in the press release, and doubtless a factor in his selection, are Denison’s past labors in communicating theology to lay people. Among his better known efforts in this regard are his published books, such as Wrestling with God: How Can I Love a God I’m Not Sure I Trust? Far less known, but perhaps more important, is a paper Denison published in 2005 entitled “The Errancy of Inerrancy: Historical and Logical Examinations.”

The nature of the Bible is a foundational point of Christian theology. Denison serves in a rare and prestigious position as the official resident theologian of a large state convention of Southern Baptist believers. The inerrancy of the Bible has become a topic of significant historical importance. Denison’s writings are factually flawed and tend toward sophistry. For all of these reasons, this paper will offer a critique of Denison’s denial of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.

Two possible approaches exist for refuting Denison. One approach would involve the authorship of a footnoted pedantic rebuttal fit for the academic community. I believe that this type of rebuttal is the less important of the two options. Denison authored his paper in order to take the denial of inerrancy down from the ivory towers of liberal academia (its indigenous habitat) and plead his case “in common-sense terms” for the benefit of “anyone confused by this issue” for whom “too little of [the denial of inerrancy] has been explained or made relevant to the church member.” Because Denison has made this argument for the lay community, the rebuttal also needs to be addressed toward the lay community. Besides, Denison’s paper is merely a regurgitation of points long since addressed within academic circles, making an academic rebuttal superfluous. It is appropriate for this rebuttal to take a non-academic, common-sense tone in setting forth the simple logical flaws of Denison’s main arguments.

Those main arguments are six in number:

Denison argues that the word “inerrancy” has been defined and qualified in too many different and highly technical ways to be of any theological use; therefore, we ought to prefer to speak of the “trustworthiness” or “authority” of the Bible.

Denison argues that the word “inerrancy” has been defined and qualified in too many different and highly technical ways to be of any theological use; therefore, we ought to prefer to speak of the “trustworthiness” or “authority” of the Bible.

Denison argues that the concept of inerrancy, since it is applied exclusively to the original Bible manuscripts, actually undermines the faith of believers in their own copies of the Bible.

Denison argues that inerrancy is a recent doctrinal innovation not shared by those in Christian history whom we ought to emulate—that it is not among our theological “roots.”

Denison argues that rather than the denial of inerrancy's leading to other heresies, the affirmation of inerrancy leads to unwarranted divisiveness.

Denison argues that inerrancy is a philosophical position not supported by the statements of the Bible itself.

Denison argues that the Bible actually is not inerrant; therefore, to apply the test of inerrancy to the Bible is to set the Bible up to fail at a test that it does not and would not apply to itself, and thereby to undermine one’s belief in the “trustworthiness” of the Bible.

Barber spends the rest of the article addressing each of the six points. You will benefit from reading the entire article HERE.