CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Recently I was asked, due to my holding a minority position of which we will not speak (so to speak {lopsided g}), how "faith" and "works" fit with my position, the implication being that I have the wrong idea about faith and works and salvation somewhere. The specifics don't matter, since I am sometimes accused of having a "works" based salvation, and I am sometimes accused of having a "faith" based salvation, and I am sometimes accused of having an idea of salvation based on nothing at all.

In fact, my idea of salvation follows from trinitarian theology, and from trying to reckon scriptural testimony coherently (exegetics); so it isn't surprising that I get accused of one thing or another, because (as I will argue below) trinitarian theology gives an important place to both faith and works, while of course ideas of faith and works in salvation which conflict with trinitarian theism ought to be avoided and denied.

Anyway, I answered according to my beliefs as a trinitarian theologian and apologist. And an examination of that may help explain and account for why even trinitarian Christians tend to snipe at one other on this topic.

(This article isn't long by my standards, but orthodox trinitarian theology is rather complicated and detailed, so don't be surprised if clicking on the jump leads to dizziness. Don't drive or operate heavy machinery while reading this article. {g})

 photo 250px-Sam_Harris_2_zps49269bd4.jpg
Sam Harris

....The ideological tendencies of scientism seek to scrap traditional philosophically based ethics and produce a whole new ethical system based upon a scientific understanding of human biology. We might call this “biologically based ethics,” or “scientific naturalism,” the official name for the school is “ethical naturalism.”[1] “Bio-ethics” implies the genuine ethical issues that emerge from biologically based intrusion of humanity into the natural processes of living; cloning, artificial insemination and the like. What I call “Ethical naturalism” is an attempt to actually replace the philosophical discipline of ethics with one derived from science.[2] Of course the major issue is that science has no mission to determine how we should live. Ethics is primarily about understanding how we should live, how we treat others, how we decide what actions to take in given situations. These are not scientific questions they are philosophical questions. In their attempt to wipe out all other forms of knowledge the scientism movement seeks to eradicate philosophy wherever it finds it. In this chapter I will argue that applying science to ethics is the fallacy of trying to derive an “ought” form “is.” I also argue that the diversity of ethical theory is not a weakness but strength and one that disproves the wisdom of this urge to reduce ethics to science.

....James Rachels made a famous defense of ethical naturalism in which he expressed the idea that ethics not based upon scientific fact is an oddity:
Ethical naturalism is the idea that ethics can be understood in terms of natural science. One way of making this more specific is to say that moral properties (such as goodness and rightness) are identical with natural properties, that is properties that figure into scientific descriptions or explanations of things. Ethical naturalists also hold that justified moral beliefs are beliefs justified by a particular kind of causal process. Thus C.D. Broad observed that ‘if naturalism be true, ethics is not an autonomous science, it’s a department or an application of one or more of the natural or historical sciences.’ [3]

 One of the major exampels of ethical naturalism is Sam Harris atheist guru, in his book the Moral Landscape.

            The Subtitle to Sam Harris’s book,  Moral Landscape is “how can science determine human values?” So it’s not going to just inform us of our values but “determine” them. Presumably regardless of what we do value, the priests of knowledge, those lucky enough to go to big name universities and major in genetics will determine what we want in the future. Harris begins by observing that he’s talked with thousands of people, most of them well educated, who believe that human values are not based upon truth content, and misery and that well being and misery are so poorly defined we can’t know what they mean.[4] He warns that he’s not trying to give a scientific account of what people do in the name of morality. Nor is he suggesting that science can help us get what we want out of life. “Rather I am arguing that science can, in principle, help us understand what we should do and should want –and therefore, what other people should do and should want in order to live the best lives possible. My claim is that there are right and wrong answers to moral questions just as there are right and wrong answers to questions of physics, such answers may one day fall within reach of maturing science of the mind.” [5] So apparelty it’s not just a matter of understanding what human beings value and want, but of teaching them what they should value and want? Who is to decide this? Science can tell us what’s right then it can make it right in our minds through control so that what we want is what science tells us to want. But of course this is “helping” we who are too feeble to help ourselves, we who are stuck in the religious thinking. He just told us science can’t help us get what we want then he tells us that it will. How can this be? Because he wants to use science to change what we want to what he wants us to want. But of course he masks this in terms of what we should want. Then what does it mean that he includes telling others what they should want? Then falling within reach of the science of the mind? That’s not a hint about control? He wants science to reach beyond the mere ability to explain the physical workings of the world and to become the orbiter of values. Of course that means arbitration of values would be controlled by scientists.
            He goes on treading on the toes of ethicists. He says, “Once we see that a concern for well being (defined as deeply and inclusively as possible) is the only intelligible basis for morality and values, we will see that there must be a science of morality.”[6] In light of this quotation is apparent that Harris’s ethics are basically teleological. He’s clearly a consequentialist if not a utilitarian.[7] In other words, it is the end result that makes an action moral, not duty or obligation to act, but how the action turns out. The extent to which it conforms to the desired goal is what makes it moral. The way he works it out is that science will tell us which of the problems is more devastating and which hurts more people that will tell us how to spend our resources. “…would it be better to spend our next billion dollars eradicating racism or malaria?”[8] So he’s already working from an implicit value system that’s based upon an ethical philosophy which has already put in place well being as the end toward which ethical thinking must strive, and the underlying value behind ethical theory, to the exclusion of deontology (duty and obligation) and all other theories. He does this before he has the scientific means to determine the value system. So this is really a shell game. He’s going to give us the means to determine what’s best for us but we have to determine it within a framework he’s already picked out that excludes alternatives. Not that we all wouldn’t agree that we should do “what’s best” but the issue is how we know what’s best. He’s already decided the supreme issue is the outcome in terms of physical comfort and avoidance of physical pain. He doesn’t recognize that this a value that he’s put in place as a philosophical underpinning, so we don’t get a answer to weather or not we embrace that as a value.
            He deals with the issue of the subjective nature of ethics, which is the basis of relativism. He distinguishes between subjective/objective in two senses, practice and principle. He’s opposed to ideals of good, such as Platnoic forms. He’s only speaking in terms of a diminished naturalistic sort of good that comes as a side effect of the way we do things. That’s good in terms of our value system, he assumes we all value outcome as a moral goal. His distinction between experience (practice) and ideal (principle) allows him to say that we can do things better without trying to establish the moral good, but then that’s supposed to give us a moral good.[9] When he brings religious views into it he thinks that ideas of heaven and hell prove that religious views are really based upon pleasure and pain too. They are not really concerned with the good for its own sake but with avoiding hell. [10] In this manner he seems to be attempting to reduce all value systems to his own. One of the major problems with his handling of value systems is the basis for adopting one. It’s obviously simplistic and self serving to just assume everyone is about the same value system I want. It’s also delusion to assume that there are not hidden subtexts in one’s value system.  One of the major problems in determining a value system is in assuming that the “ought” or “one should” aspect of a valuation of actions can be determined by factually ascertaining the nature of things. We see this assumption in Harris’s statement about science as coming to understand what’s going on in the universe. What do we mean by “going on?” There are multiple aspects to what’s going on, how we determine which of those is crucial? What if we decide that what’s going on is going on spiritually? We are not supposed to think that because that’s not what science tells us. Science isn’t going to tell us what’s “going on” in any but a materliasitc framework. So the reductionist view has so truncated reality that it dictates the disappearance of a whole aspect of reality embraced by the vast majority of people to suit the ideological framework put in place by a tiny elite who want us to accept their values as facts. This is the bias we set in place just by reducing the field of ethics to scientific proof.
            There is another troubling aspect to Harris’s take on science and ethics. Brain Earp, Research Associate, Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics tells us that Harris tries to subsume ethics under the banner of science.[11] We can see that in the wording of Harris’s argument. In saying that science is about finding “what’s going on the universe” that pretty much subsumes everything that isn’t excluded form existence. Earp talks about a lecture that Harris gave at Oxford, hosted by Richard Dawkins, called ““Who says science has nothing to say about morality?” When prompted by Dawkins interview that he was going up against questions with which moral philosophers had grappled for centuries Harris said: “Well, I actually think that the frontier between science and philosophy actually doesn’t exist… Philosophy is the womb of the sciences. The moment something becomes experimentally tractable, then the sciences bud off from philosophy. And every science has philosophy built into it. So there is no partition in my mind.”[12] If there is no ground between philosophy and science then he’s subsuming ethics under the banner of science and there need be no difficulty. The problem is he’s not content to just allow philosophy to continue doing it’s thing, he wants to take over its ground but then impose his reduction and re-label everything and replace real moral philosophy with ideology (see the C.D. Board quote above). He takes out moral reasoning and replaces it with reduction to numbers. Imposes a surreptitious value system in the guise of “facts,” and replaces duty and obligation with teleological thinking. This view is supposed to carry the assurance of being factual proof of what’s “going on in the universe” yet this just transgresses one of the basic concepts of modern thought. This is a problem sometimes referred to as “Hume’s Fork”[13] but more commonly called ‘the is-ought problem.’
The Is-Ought-Dichotomy
            The “is-ought” problem tells us that we can’t derive what should be just from a description of what is. If we look at what Harris is saying, he’s really not doing that although he wants us to think he is. He thinks it’s possible to do this just by being real accurate with the “is.” But he’s already reduced reality so it wont include transcendent ought. So he’s already hedged his bets against the argument. In reality there is no reason why we should accept that the “ought” is already in place and that it’s already a given that pleasant physical circumstances as outcome are the only valid good available. This has not been established by anything. It’s just an assertion that is put in the position to be a default given that alternatives are ruled out ideologically. There’s nothing about biological facts that establish an “ought.” We might show that religious belief has harmed more people than Polio (perhaps) but if true that still would not tell us why it’s wrong to do so. Harris’s basic answer to this argument is that people who make such criticisms have too narrow a concept of science. “Science simply represents our best effort to understand what’s going on in the universe, and the boundary between it and the rest of rational thought cannot always be drawn.”[14]  That is his answer to the issue of is-ought, basically no answer at all. What difference does it make if it is out best efforts (which I doubt)? Best efforts don’t change is to ought. What difference does it make if we broaden our scope of understanding for science? What he’s really saying is that science is the only true ethics. In saying that, he’s clearing the way to replace real ethical thinking with the reductionist ideology that makes up his understanding of science. All the scientific precision there is can’t turn “is” into “ought”—there is simply no reason why facts by themselves represent what should be. As Philosopher Robert Nozick tells us:
Ethical truths find no place within the contemporary scientific picture of the world. No such truths are established in any scientific theory or tested by any scientific procedure—michrascopes and telescopes reveal no ethical facts. In the guise of a complete picture of the world, science seems to leave no room for any ethical facts. What kind of facts are these, what makes them hold true?[15]
Brain Earp, again tells us:
Example. It’s a fact that rape occurs in nature — among chimpanzees, for instance; and there are some evolutionary arguments to explain its existence in humans and non-humans alike. But this fact tells us exactly nothing about whether it’s OK to rape people. This is because “natural” doesn’t entail “right” (just as “unnatural” doesn’t necessarily mean wrong) — indeed, the correct answer is that it’s not OK, and this is a judgment we make at the interface of moral philosophy and common sense: it’s not an output of science.
The domain of science is to describe nature, and then to explain its descriptions in terms of deeper patterns or laws. Science cannot tell us how to live. It cannot tell us right and wrong. If a system of thought claims to be doing those things, it cannot be science. If a scientist tells you she has some statements about how you ought to behave, they cannot be scientific statements, and the lab-coat is no longer speaking as a scientist. Questions about “How should we live?” — for better or worse — fall outside the purview of “objective” science. We have to sort them out, messily, by ourselves.[16]
If the current state of affairs (what is) is the basis of what should be than political repression and backward understanding of the environment and focus on short term needs only, as well as greed and even cruelty must be what should be. That certainly sums up what is as far as life on earth goes.
            Rachels defends ethical naturalism against the “is-ought” argument and his defense is a bit more involved than Harris’s. He argues that evaluative conclusions can sometimes be drawn from factual premises. His example is if the only difference between doing  A and not doing A is a child will suffer intense prolonged pain, then it’s better not to do A.[17] Wait, this in principle no different than Harris’s answer and it’s based upon the same “trick.” I use the term advisedly because they may not intend to trick, but they are tricking themselves because there is a clearly a value that’s being inserted into the process that is kept unspoken and asserted as though the it’s the only valid conclusion that comes form the nature of the case but it’s clearly loaded at the front before the example is made. The idea that doing is wrong because all other things being equal it would result in the pain of a child assume form the outset that our values are such that paining children is wrong. This is fraught with a host of assumptions: that there is a right and wrong, that children are more innocent than adults, that it’s wrong to harm the innocent, that’s more wrong to harm the innocent than the not so innocent, and so on. Yes, these are values with which we all agree. There is, however, no evidence that they are arrived at logically as a result of some magic transmutation of “is” into “ought.” Rather the “ought” is assumed form the beginning, it is loaded into the example, otherwise why use a child? The basis of those values is ot proved by this example to be logically derived from the nature of the case but could well be derived from fine feelings or a sense of right intuited from the Spirit or any number of things. It’s use as an emotional ploy suggests the flaw in using it, because it suggests a value already built in. He also argues that beliefs are tied to motivations, those stem from behavior and that is based upon “is,” upon the factual nature of the human psyche and other situations that are derived from the nature of the case.[18] Yes it is undeniable that an evocation of ethical duty or obligation must revolve around actual facts rather than mere abstracts or there is no actual ethical concern. That in no way means that the “ought” is derived form the mere facts of the nature of the case apart form the value systems employed to evaluate them.
            Value systems make up the basis of ethical thinking. Intrinsic value is what supplies the reason for action in ethics.[19] Ethics is about what we do, how we live, as a result of examining our actions in relation to our values. We all agree that pleasant outcome; absence of pain is a good thing.[20] Yet we believe for different reasons. The reductionists try to justify it as an outgrowth of survival instinct, the Christian as an expression of God’s love. It matters which way we do it because the decision is ultimately the expression of a value system, that decision will determine how we decide our actions. If we write off human values as merely the opinions of a different set of mammals, if we say “o well marmoset actions are marmoset ethics,” that’s all it is just the way a different set of organisms spins the survival mode, then we might wind up justifying a whole set of dehumanizing actions. If we are led down the garden path by the priests of knowledge and taught to think of these dehumanizing actions as merely a means to an end, we may lose the human values that would enable us to regret such actions. Behind what might seem like split hairs lurk the justifications and rationalizations for destructive and dehumanizing decisions. One could see, for example, rationalizing loss of freedom by an appeal to concrete nature of the outcome and there fleeting transitory nature of the “merely human” value of freedom. The space between is and “ought” must be kept in order not to sanctify what “is.” The danger is too great that deriving “ought” from “is” will produce a way of thinking about “is” that forever links it with “ought.”


  [1]James Rachels, “Naturalism” pdf,  accessed 5/27/13. Originally published in Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory, Hugh Lafollette, ed. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000, 74-91, 2.
  [2]Ibid. 2
  [4]Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape: How Science can Determine Human Values.” New York: Free Press, a division of Simon and Schuster, Inc., 2010, 28.
  [5]Ibid. 28 (emphasis his).
  [6]Ibid 28
  [7]One difference in being a utilitarian as opposed to a general consequendtilsit would be that the utilitarian. would be that the utilitarian has the dictum of “greatest good for the greatest number.” Whereas a consequentialist who is not a utilitarian my try to forgo that idea.
  [8]Ibid., 28
  [9]Ibid., 30
  [10]Ibid., 33
  [11]Brain Earp, “Sam Harris is Wrong About Science and Morality,” Practical Ethics, ethics in the news, blog, University of Oxford, Nov. 17, 2011.  accessed 5/21/2013
The Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics  is at Oxford it’s a major think tank that deals with modern concerns of ethics and science.
 [12] Ibid.
 [13]“Hume’s fork” really refers to several things that all fall under the general category of “synthetic and a pripori.” The is-ought dichotomy falls under this rue brick in the sense that it’s a juxtaposition of a practical empirical sate of affairs “the is” vs a an ideal transcendent concept (the ought). The “is/ought” problem originally appears Hume’s  Treatise on Human Nature, book III, part I, section 1.
  [14]Harris, Ibid., 29.
  [15]Robert Nozick, Philosophical Explanations. Cambridge, Mass.: Bellknap Press, Harvard University Press, 1981, 399.
  [16]Earp, Ibid.
  [17]Rachels, Ibid., 4.
  [18]Ibid., 6.
  [19]Robin Attfield, Value, Obligation and Meta-Ethics, Amsterdam, Atlanta, Georgia: Editions Rodopi  B.V. Value Inquiry Book Series,1995, 29

  [20]Robert Nozick, Philosophical Explanations. Cambridge, Mass.: Bellknap Press, Harvard University Press, 1981, 399.

Jacalyn Duffin

Review: Medical Miracles: Doctors, Saints and Healing: Medical Miracles in the Modern World. a book by Jacalyn Duffin.* This is an extremely valuable archive. See Doxa.

Duffin's work is meticulously scholarly. She is both a fine historian and a top level medical researcher. She began her quest to investigate the secret arches of the Vatican regarding their saint making miracles and the records for healing in 1986. At that time someone brought her some medical records of a woman with Lukemia. She assumed the woman must be dead as the records shows the Leukemia was in advanced stages. She was amazed to find the woman was alive and perfectly well. She then learned that her diagnosis was part of the validation process for the Vatican in a saint making miracle. She had not been told until after the diagnosis what it was about. Years latter the saint was canonized she was invited to ceremony and when she realized her work would be in the secret Vatican archives forever she began seeking permission to examine their records of healing.

The resulting book, published so many years latter (1986 when she first examined the medical x rays to 2009 when the book was punished) is a scholarly work of the highest caliber. It is not an apologetics book. She does comment in the work that she believes in miracles, but she says what she believes in more than miracles is the honesty of the doctors and witnesses involved int he process. What the reader will not come away with in reading this book is some hackney cheapo apologetically argument about "miracles are proved therefore God is proved." this is nothing of the sort. This book could have been read in my Ph.D. work in secular university and not been rejected as scholarly. What the reader does get is an answer the mocking atheists who assert with bigotry and boldness that anyone who believes in miracles is an idiot and dupe and that the doctoral "work the Vatican" they are just trying to get more miracles. That's obviously silly if all they wanted was lots of miracles they wouldn't have such rigid rules and they would not have so few miracles. She voices a real confidence in the doctors and one can see why becuase she documents their total skepticism. Even the doctors working in the Vatican process are not just eager miracles mongers they re scrupulosity skeptical of all claims. That's the major thing a reader will take away from the book.

Duffin examines 1,400 miracles from the middle ages to modern times. This is not the full number. There's a huge archive with lots more where those came from. These are not Lourdes miracles they are miracles involved with saint making. Although, they use the same committee and the same rules. One of the most surprising things she shows is that the miracles go through cycles. That's not so amazing if you think about it. One major reason is the awareness of medicine and diseases improves over time and that changes our understanding of what peopl eight be healed from. For example tuberculosis and leukemia didn't exist int he middle ages, not as thing of which we were consciously aware. So if someone was weak and sick and got better they might say she was held of "weakness" or something like that then she could die a couple of years latter of some unknown cause which would be written off as "fever." That would be listed as "healing for weakness" a miracle whereas she goes on to die of Leukemia.

This is a problem and it's a reason for the modern debacle with the medical committee being on strike. The Vatican wants lower the standards. The researchers are totally against it. Even without that problem there's another in terms of better diagnostics. As we become more aware and more able to cure there are fewer people who have not been treated by modern medicine more awareness of natural healing. It's not going to turn out that all the former miracles are mistakes of diagnosis. There are some can't be explained. There many resurrections form the dead, not two are three, but a whole huge body of work on the subject, hundreds of resurrections. Of course early ones can be suspected because they might have been in a coma. It's not that cut and dried when a person is dead. There are latter ones as well. There are also overnight miracles such as Charles Anne's lungs growing back over night. That's not a problem of diagnosis becuase no process can grow new lungs in people overnight.

The book is written in a scholarly fashion, although accessible to the layman. It has a welth of information in the form of charts, graphs, and tables. It traces the rise and decline of various miracles as their diseases become medically known or forgotten. No healing from "Dropsy" becuase it's not considered a disease anymore. One has to like this kind of writing, but it doesn't go into detail on grotesque aspects. This is a great book, this is the documentation for modern miracles we have been waiting for. Although it is only scratching the surface of investigation in the wealth of documents at the Vatican archives, all all ground breaking works it does get the ground turned up.

*from Bio on

Jacalyn Duffin, M.D. (Toronto 1974), FRCP(C) (1979), Ph.D. (Sorbonne 1985), is Professor in the Hannah Chair of the History of Medicine at Queen's University in Kingston where she has taught in medicine, philosophy, history, and law for more than twenty years.
A practicing hematologist, a historian, a mother and grandmother, she has served as President of both the American Association for the History of Medicine and the Canadian Society for the History of Medicine. She holds a number of awards and honours for research, writing, service, and teaching.
She is the author of five books, editor of two anthologies, and has published many research articles. Her most recent book is an analysis of the medical aspects of canonization, Medical Miracles; Doctors, Saints, and Healing in the Modern World, Oxford University Press, 2009. It was awarded the Hannah Medal of the Royal Society of Canada...

see also:

 The Miracles: A Doctor says "Yes"
by Richard H. Casdorph.(Logos International, 1976)

this is not a scholarly source. It's a popular source written by a doctor that does present medical evidence.


 This post probably will ruffle some feathers. It's about my own personal view of  Biblical revelation. For those of you who don't know I'm sort of the CADRE's token liberal. So this view is kind of an alternative to "inerrancy" or verbal plenary inspiration. Adherence to VPR is not a requirement for CADRE membership. I don't think my view is all that radical. When push comes to shove I am not saying "ignore the Bible." The bottom line is still Do what the Bible Says. Provided we understand what it says. This is really more about how inspiration works.

Atheists on the internet are always talking about contradictions in the Bible. These alleged contradictions fall into many categories. Most can be extinguished simply by remembering that all language had connotative meanings and all good writing uses literary devices, but many are based upon an inadequate understanding of the nature of divine revelation. The problem is that most of these atheist notions of "contradiction" are only contradictions becuase they are judged according to the fundamentalist model, veral plenary inspiration, (aka "inerrancy") by which the Bible is understood as literal and perfect. Actually the model used for this concept is similar to the notion of the boss of company writing a memo to the employees. Dictated to a secretary but every word in the memo is exactly what the boss wants to say, the whole is literally the word the of the boss.

The problem with the notions of revelation in the Christian tradition is that they are based upon the human understanding of what God would do. The human notion can be seen with the Book of Mormon—handed down from angels on high on Gold tablets—or the Koran—dictated by an Angel who grabbed Mohammed by the throat and forced him to write. The human notion tells us that there should be no mistakes, no problems, and the revelation should be ushered in with fanfare and pomp, clear and indisputable. But that is not the way of many religious traditions, and certainly not Christianity. There are problems, and even though most of them are conceived by ignorant people (most of the Internet atheists claims to "contradictions in the Bible" are based largely on not understanding metaphor or literary devices), there are some real problems and they are thorny. There are even more problems when it comes to the historicity of the text. But the important thing to note is that the revelations of the Christian faith are passed through human vessels. They contain human problems, and they are passed on safeguarded through human testimony. Even if the eye-witness nature of the individual authors of the NT cannot be established, the testimony of the community as a whole can be. The NT and its canon is a community event. It was a community at large that produced the Gospels, that passed on the Testimony and that created the canon. This communal nature of the revelation guarantees, if not individual authenticity, at least a sort of group validation, that a whole bunch of people as a community attest to these books and this witness.

What is needed is a new model. We need a model that allows for the mistakes of culture and the presence of the kinds of texts we find in ancient lore, mythological and symbolic in places, becuase this is what we find in the Biblical text. The memo from the boss doesn't work as a model for the Bible becasue it's not faithful to the real way the word is handed down. A better model  would be a personal reminiscence with someone who interviewed the boss. That would allow for the personality of the author to get between the reader and the original subject matter, becuase that is what we find in the Bible.

The Traditional view of "Inerrancy."

Most people tend to think in terms of all or nothing, black and white, true and false. So when they think about the Bible, they think it's either all literally true in every word or it can't be "inspired." This is not only a fallacy, but it is not even the "traditional" view. Even in the inherency camp there exists three differing views of exactly what is inerrant and to what extent. Oddly enough, the notion of verbal inspiration was invented in the Renaissance by Humanists! Yes, the dreaded enemy of humanism actually came up with the doctrine of inerrancy which didn't exist before the 19th century, in its current form, but which actually began in the Renaissance with humanists. The documentation on this point comes mainly from Avery Dulles, Models of Revelation, New York: Double Day, 1985. The humanist argument is documented on p. 36. He also demonstrates that the current Evangelical view basically dates form the 19th century, the Princeton movement, and people such as Benjamin Warfield (1851-1921). Proponents of this view include Carl C.F. Henry, Clark Pinnock, James I Packer, Francis Shaffer, Charles Warwick Montgomery, and others.

Not all of those guys stayed in the camp of the evangelicals. The late Clark Pinnock for example, who started out as a read hot fundie who taught Paige Patterson, wound up being identified with "open theology" Regarded as a defector. Yet these are all models of revelation that were found in the evangelical camp. These are conservative views, at least according to Avery Dulles, in his ground breaking book Models of Revelation.

Dulles Lists Five Versions of Inerrancy.

*Inerrency of original autographs and divine protection of manuscripts.
Proponents of this view include Harold Lindsell.

Inspiration of autographs with minor mistakes in transmission of an unessential kind.
Carl C.F. Henry.

*Inerrency of Textual intention without textual specifics.
Clark Pinnock.

*Inerrancy in Soteric (salvation) knowledge but not in historical or scientific matters.
Bernard Ramm

*Inerrent in major theological assertions but not in religion or morality.
Donald Blosche and Paul K. Jewett

I would isolate three major concerns in discussing why I reject inerrency (verbal plenary) model. I'm not putting these over as "contradictions in the Bible," but they problems with the model:

(1) Doesn't account for different types of text

(2) Idealized history

(3) no room for mythology

Knowing the kind of text is important because not all texts are meant to do the same things. Gensis is not intended to be a scientific text book or a literal history of creation. It's a borrowing of pagan myth (Sumerian, Babylonian) that was probably re-worked when Israelites were in the exile. It doesn't matter if it's not scientific, the author of Genesis had no concept of modern science it wasn't written to convey to us anything scientific. The spiritual truths that it communicates are communicated mythological, Mythology is a powerful psychological means of communicating certain kinds of truth. The History offered of Israel's sojurn in the wildernes and the establishment o the kingdom in the promised land is all idealized history. Modern archeology basically rules out most of the events in the conquest of Canaan. The point is they were making idealized history, recounting the glory of the past because they were slaves in exile.  There are better models of revelation that more accurately reflect these concerns.

Basic Models of Revelation:

Dulles presents five models of revelation, but the faith model really amounts to little more than "the Bible helps you feel good," so I am presenting only four. This core summery will not come close to doing justice to these views. But time and space limitations do not allow a discourse that would do them justice.

Revelation as History:

The Events themselves are inspired but not the text. John Ballie, David Kelsey, James Barr. This view can include oral events; the inspiration of the prophets, the early kerygma of the church (C.H. Dodd) Creedal formulation, as well as historical events such as the atonement. This view was largely held by a flood of theologians up to the 1960s. According to this view the Bible is the record of revelation not revelation itself.

Revelation as Inner Experience:

This view would include mystical experience and views such as Frederich Schleiermacher's feeling of utter dependence (see argument III on existence of God). Religious doctrines are verbalizations of the feeling; the intuitive sense of the radical contingency of all things upon the higher aegis of their existence; part of the religious a priori.

Revelation as Doctirne:

This is the basic doctrine of inerrancy as stated above. In most cases it is believed that the autographs were inspired but some allow for mistakes in transmission and other inaccuracies of an inconsequential nature. This means that 90% of the criticisms made my atheists and skeptics on the internet don't count, because most of them turn on metaphorical use of language or scribal error. I take this position based upon personal experience on many apologetic boards.

Revelation as Dialectical Presence:

The view that there is a dialectical relation between the reader and the text. The Bible contains the word of God and it becomes the word of God for us when we encounter it in transformative way. Karl Barth is an example of a major theologian who held this view.

No one of these views is really adequate. I urge a view based upon all of them. In some sense, that is, the Bible manifests versions of each of these views. So it is not just governed by one revelatory model, but is made of redacted material which exhibits all of these views. For example, the prophets spoke from their experience of God--their inner experience of God's prompting. Their words are recorded as the books of the prophets in the Bible. The Biblical prophetic books are then the written record of the inner experience of these men. The Gospels exhibit all of these tendencies. Passed on from oral tradition, redacted by members of the communities which passed on the traditions, they represent the written record of the events of Christ's life and ministry. In that sense the events themselves were inspired. But Jesus teachings, which we can assume were transmitted accurately for the most part, represent the word actually spoken by Jesus, and thus by God's perfect revelation to humanity. Jesus is the revelation; the Gospels are merely the written record of that revelation passed on by the Apostles to the communities. Thus we see both the event model and the revelation as doctrine model (traditional view). In the Epistles we see the inner-experience model clearly as Paul, for example, did not know that he was writing the New Testament. He demonstrates confusion at points, as when (in I Corinthians) he didn't recall how many of Stephan’s household he had baptized, but when it came to his answers on doctrinal matters he wrote out of the inner-experience of God. We can also assume that the redactions occurred in relation to some sort of inner-experience, they reflect some divine guidance in the sense that the redactors are reflecting their own experiences of God.

I know these views sound wildly radical to most Christians, but they are based on the works of major theologians, including those of the most conservative schools. The dialectical model is vague and sounds unimpressive. It really seems to be tautological statement: the word of God becomes meaningful when we encounter it in a meaningful way. Therefore, I adopt a model of revelation based upon all four models (granting that we do encounter it in more meaningful ways at some times than at others, but provided we understand that this is not saying that it ceases to be the word of God when we don't so encounter it), and of the doctrinal model accepting the views that say inerrant in intent but not specific transmission. The transmission includes some mistakes but of a minor kind.

My own model is a dialectical encounter model. It sees the Biblical text as the product of an encounter between humans and the divine. The upshot of the counter could take many forms. In some cases its a straight forward reporting of "this is what the Lord says." In some cases a reminiscence, in some cases a redaction of a borrowed myth as in the re-telling of the Sumerian Garden of Eden story. It's political propaganda and idealized history told by slaves in a foreign land to memorialize the glories of their bygone people, to preserve the faith. The purpose of all of that is to form a framework for the mission of Jesus as messiah. It's dialectical in that it works through an encounter between the reader and the text. The reader must have her own "divine-human" encounter in coming to understand the nature of the text and the truths it reflects for her own life.

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