Re: [asa] Lamoureux, Concordism, and Inerrancy

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Mon Mar 03 2008 - 14:33:42 EST

 Here is a quiz for everyone. Who said the following about Gen. 1-2, in
criticism of "concordism" in evangelical hermeneutics, and when was it
said? (I think the answer challenges Lamoureux's overly-broad thesis about
evangelical hermeneutics, particularly as the author of this statement is
mentioned en passant in one of Denis' footnotes):

there is a modern set of presuppositions, linked to the realist epistemology
most evangelicals favor, which has a profound influence on their exegesis.
Having a realist epistemology means that they will tend to favor truth of a
factual and scientific kind and not be quite so open to truth of a more
symbolic or metaphorical type. One sees it in the evangelical doctrine of
biblical inspiration, which is protective of cognitive truth in general and
factual inerrancy in particular. It means hermeneutically that the "natural"
way to read the Bible is to read it as literally and as factually as
possible. In apologetics too evangelicals like to appeal to empirical
reason: They like to ask, If you can't trust the Bible in matters of fact,
when can you trust it? In many ways then, evangelicals are in substantial
agreement with the modern agenda which also prefers the factual and the
scientific over the symbolic and figurative. What could be more modern that
to search for scientific truth in texts three thousand years old? Such a
modern presupposition will demand the right to read the Bible in modern
terms whatever the authorial intention of the text might be. It just assumes
that our values must have been the same as those entertained by the ancient

 The influence of these presuppositions and this mindset is overwhelmingly
powerful, and the difficulty standing in the way of evangelicals
transcending it is enormous. Changing one's presuppositions is a painful
business, and it will not be easy for evangelicals to listen to the Bible's
own agenda and to put their own on the shelf. Yet it can be done, and it is

  This area of hermeneutics also reveals the "docetic" potential very near
the surface of the evangelical doctrine of Scripture, an unconscious wish
not to have God's Word enter into the creaturely realm.31 A strong emphasis
on the divine inspiration of the text naturally tends to overshadow the
obligation to read the Bible in its own human and historical setting in
order to grasp its truth. It encourages readers to seek the pure divine
message to themselves here and now and to assume they will grasp its meaning
best by reading the text in the most "natural" way, which means, in a way
congenial to the assumptions of the reader, maximizing the danger of text

 Inevitably this also leads to theological impoverishment. So much time and
energy is consumed tilting at windmills that little gets said about the
actual doctrine of creation.

The answer: Clark Pinnock, in 1989 ("Climbing Out of a Swamp: The
Evangelical Struggle to Understand the Creation Texts," Interpretation 43
No. 2 (1989)). If you can gain access to this article, do so -- it is very

On Sat, Mar 1, 2008 at 5:31 PM, Michael Roberts

> George is really not so much Barthian as following the principles of the
early Church where they began with the Gospel of Jesus Christ as proclaimed
by the apostles and supported by the Old Testament and later by the NT
writings which were recognised fairly quickly as authoritative especially
the 4 Gospels Acts and Pauls letters . Thus Jesus Christ is the key of both
the OT and NT.
> Here the use of the Bible is essential fro Christian belief and
understanding but it is normative rather than formative.
> This of course works in the opposite direction from inerrancy style
evangelicalism (to be contrasted with classical protestant or early catholic
theology), where they start from the Bible rather than Christ. Hence they
have no guiding theme and of course Jonah swallowing the whale is as central
as the resurrection.
> We also need to note that Inerrancy is a new idea and first came to
attention in 1828 with R Haldane. Evangelicals before then (and since as
well) held similar views of non-inerrancy to George and myself.
> Hence we don't have the problems of Concordism!! Inerrancy and similar
views create problems and YEC as well as Dick Fischer, Hugh Ross and Glenn
Morton desperately seek this concord which is not there
> Michael
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: George Murphy
> To: David Opderbeck
> Cc: ASA list
> Sent: Saturday, March 01, 2008 4:06 PM
> Subject: Re: [asa] Lamoureux, Concordism, and Inerrancy
> I appreciate the concern about priorities. I would just comment that
science-theology dialogue & sexual ethics aren't totally distinct. We need
to take into account what science says about, e.g., sexual orientation & the
fact that human sexuality has to be seen in an evolutionary context - which
doesn't mean that we ignore the even wider theological context.
> Shalom
> George
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: David Opderbeck
> To: George Murphy
> Cc: ASA list
> Sent: Saturday, March 01, 2008 10:34 AM
> Subject: Re: [asa] Lamoureux, Concordism, and Inerrancy
> Thanks. You maybe can see the pastoral concern here for many of us
evangelicals. If I'm going to be discussing my views in the public square,
or in my local congregation, I'd rather risk being wrong about some question
concerning how faith and science relate than risk being wrong about sexual
ethics. The metro NYC area includes lots of well educated people who
probably do want to think more carefully about faith and science, and I
think that's missionally important. But it also includes many more people, I
think -- including many of the well educated people -- who are struggling
with our media culture's obsession with sex. So many apparently good
marriages I know of have been broken by pornography, adultery, and sexual
identity problems. So when the rubber meets the road, even aside from all
of evangelicalism's historical and cultural baggage about scripture and
inerrancy, there are places where we are (properly) hesitant to go.
> On Sat, Mar 1, 2008 at 10:16 AM, George Murphy <> wrote:
> >
> >
> > Yes, what I've said about the threefold form of the Word - & I think
what's in the ELCA constitution - is strongly influenced by Barth. I
hesitate to call my own views "Barthian," let alone neo-orthodox. As a
Lutheran I'm not comfortable with, e.g., Barth's views on the sacraments (&
this of course simply refelcts longstanding Lutheran-Reformed differences.)
 That's closely connected with the present topic if the sacraments are
considered under Augustine's rubric of "visible words."
> >
> > The fear that a christological centering will lead to some type of
antinomianism is common. In the Missouri wars of the late 60s & 70s the
conservatives accused the moderates (aka "liberals" - as if one could be a
liberal in the Missouri Synod!) of "gospel reductionism" - i.e., elimination
of the law for Christians. That stemmed from questions about whether the
Lutheran Confessions teach a distinctive "third use of the law" - i.e., a
use peculiar to Christians. That is a Reformed teaching but for Lutherans
the "third use" is really just the 1st & 2d uses as they apply to Christians
- i.e., we still have to live in society & we still sin so the law still
accuses us. I.e., to deny a distinctive 3d use isn't to say that the law no
longer applies to believers.
> >
> > Which of course just gets us to the beginning of questions about sexual
> >
> >
> > Shalom
> > George
> >
> >
> >
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: David Opderbeck
> > To: George Murphy
> >
> >
> >
> > Cc: ASA list
> > Sent: Saturday, March 01, 2008 8:52 AM
> > Subject: Re: [asa] Lamoureux, Concordism, and Inerrancy
> >
> >
> > George, if you had to label your view of scripture and inspiration,
would it be Barthian / neo-orthodox? I don't know about the whole of the
ETS' theological statement, but this divergence from neo-orthodoxy is an
important defining thread in evangelicalism. There is a fear that
relativising all of scripture to Christ leads to relativising some important
themes, such as the moral law -- and many evangelical leaders would cite,
say, the debates over sexual ethics in many of the mainline denominations as
a key example of this. But at the same time, some who would define
themselves as evangelical aren't completely hostile to Barth -- the strand
that includes Bernard Ramm later in his life and Fuller Seminary, I think.
> >
> > In short -- as somone with an evangelical heritage, who appreciates many
aspects of that heritage, and who still identifies broadly as "evangelical,"
I like your wording, but I need it to be unpacked so that I can understand
where it really falls between Warfield and Barth.
> >
> >
> > On Sat, Mar 1, 2008 at 8:05 AM, George Murphy <> wrote:
> >
> > >
> > >
> > > OK, but that still doesn't grasp the main point - that the Bible is
the Word of God as a record of the witness to God's revelation centering on
Christ and as the basis for the ongoing proclamation of Christ. We are to
emphasize the truth of scripture for the sake of Christ, not Christ as one
example of the truth of scripture. I'm not just picking on David here. E.g.,
the Evangelical Theological Society's statement "About the ETS" on its
website says, "The ETS is devoted to the inerrancy and inspiration of the
Scriptures and the gospel of Jesus Christ." This gets it precisely
backwards. (The following "doctrinal statement" then starts with scripture
& then the Trinity - with no mention of the incarnate Word.)
> > >
> > > The point, I should emphasize, is not that there are 3 "Words of God,"
Christ, proclamation and scripture, but one Word in 3 forms.
> > >
> > > This is by no means a trivial matter. The error of putting scripture
first can lead to the notion (seldom if ever stated explicitly) that the
statements that it makes about Christ are on a par with all the other
inerrant propositions in scripture & thus non sequiturs like "If we can
believe a fish swallowed Jonah - or that Adam was a 'real person' - then we
can't believe in Jesus' resurrection." I.e., supposedly we're to believe in
the resurrection & Jonah for the same reason, that they're found in an
inerrant book.
> > >
> > >
> > > Shalom
> > > George
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > ----- Original Message -----
> > > From: David Opderbeck
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > To: George Murphy
> > > Cc: AmericanScientificAffiliation
> > > Sent: Friday, February 29, 2008 9:19 PM
> > > Subject: Re: [asa] Lamoureux, Concordism, and Inerrancy
> > >
> > >
> > > Thanks. That's why I said "the canonical scriptures are God's written
word." I didn't intend to say the written scriptures are the sum total of
God's revelation. I fully agree God's self-revelation is most fully
expressed in the person of Christ, and that God's written revelation
ultimately points us to Christ.
> > >
> > >
> > > On Fri, Feb 29, 2008 at 8:34 PM, George Murphy <>
> > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > David et al -
> > > >
> > > > I could say "forgive me for harping on the same old thing" but it's
the thing, old or new & calls for no forgiveness. While you might argue
that it's implicitly there in your closing statement about scripture,
"implicit" isn't sufficient. Where does Christ come in? Cf. The Confession
of Faith in the ELCA constitution. After speaking of Jesus Christ as the
Word of God incarnate and the proclamation of Law and Gospel as the Word of
God, it says:
> > > >
> > > > "The canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the
written Word of God. Inspired by God speaking through their authors, the
record and announce God's
> > > > revelation centering in Jesus Christ. Through them God's Spirit
speaks to us to create and sustain Christian faith and fellowship for
service in the world." (Emphasis added.)
> > > >
> > > > Move up to Shop-Rite.
> > > >
> > > > Shalom
> > > > George
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > ----- Original Message -----
> > > > From: David Opderbeck
> > > > To: AmericanScientificAffiliation
> > > > Sent: Friday, February 29, 2008 7:58 PM
> > > > Subject: [asa] Lamoureux, Concordism, and Inerrancy
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > Denis Lamoureux's article in the current PSCF is interesting. It is
similar to a longer article by Lamoureux in a recent issue of Christian
Scholar's Review on evangelicals and concordism.
> > > >
> > > > I'm sure all of this will be discussed in more details in Denis'
forthcoming book, but I feel that he's not doing justice to the spectrum of
contemporary evangelical views on inerrancy and that his definition of
"concordism" is a bit wooden. He seems to equate "the" evangelical position
with Harold Lindsell and a strict reading of the Chicago Statement.
> > > >
> > > > But this begs the question, it seems to me, of what "evangelical"
means. Is Fuller Seminary "evangelical?" Fuller's statement on Biblical
authority diverges from the Chicago Statement, and certainly from Lindsell,
in many key respects. Is John Stott "evangelical?" Alister McGrath? Stott
might be closer to the Chicago Statement but in "Evangelical Essentials" he
qualifies inerrancy basically to what the text "intends" to teach, and I'm
not sure McGrath would even use the term "inerrancy" (query -- does anyone
know anything specific McGrath has written on this?) How about Donald
Bloesch? Bloesch's "Holy Scripture" IMHO is a wonderfully balanced text
that discusses "inerrancy" in a particular way. Even one of the evangelical
Baptist stalwarts Lamoureux cites, Millard Erickson, takes a much more
nuanced position in his "Systematic Theology" than Lamoureux lets on:
 Erickson says "The Bible, when correctly interpreted in light of the level
to which culture and the means of communication had developed at the time it
was written, and in view of the purposes for which it was given, is fully
truthful in all that it affirms," and he specifically discusses the use of
phenomenological language to describe natural and historical events.
> > > >
> > > > Likewise, the term "concordism" seems ill-defined to me in
Lamoureux's usage. There is of course Hugh Ross style "high concordism," in
which the Biblical text is seen to be making scientific claims that
essentially remained hidden for millennia and can only be fully understood
in light of modern scientific knowledge. But Lamoureux seems to suggest
that an assertion that Genesis 1-11 refers to any "real" history is
"concordism." It seems to me that he forces the reader into an artifical
box: either accommodation or a dreaded "ism," "concordism."
> > > >
> > > > In my view, we need to get away from this "ism" talk. The question
isn't accommodation vs. concordism, or inerrancy vs. errancy (or "limited
inerrancy"). Why not just say this: the canonical scriptures are God's
written word and are authoritative for the Church. They reflect God's
character as perfectly truthful and good; they also reflect God's character
as the God who empties Himself and condescends to meet us on human terms;
and they reflect the humanity of the writers and editors through whom God
has spoken. Part of the Church's task, under the guidance of the Holy
Spirit, is to understand and apply the authoritative scriptures in each
time, culture, and place in which the Church exists."
> > >
> > >
> >
> >

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Received on Mon Mar 3 14:35:09 2008

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