The PostBarthian

The Extinction of Humanity: Karl Barth’s Eschatology


We are not guaranteed that we will die.  In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye (1 Cor 15:52), the life of every human being in the world will be supernaturally concluded by the final coming of Jesus Christ.  According to Karl Barth, this will be the final event in the space-time-continuum, after which, the universal clock will stop ticking and "time shall be no more" (Rev 10:6 KJV).  "This history, and the individual encounters in which it takes its course, has an absolute beginning and an absolute goal, an Alpha and Omega, to use the words of Revelation (Rev 1:8)"  (Karl Barth, CD IV/4) [1].

The coming of Jesus (or "parousia") will be an Extinction-event for humanity, because all human life will cease to continue beyond that last day, such that there will be no more human happenings ever again.  The eschatological "last day", mentioned throughout the bible, will literally be the last day ever, because there will be no days that follow it, in the same way that there are no days that preceded the first day of creation in the beginning (Gen 1:1).  Time will end as abruptly as it began and humanity will go the way of the dodo, and will exist only as a redemptive memory of the eternal God.  In this post, I will explore and provide commentary on Karl Barth's sobering eschatological conclusion that the coming of Jesus will be the end of the world in CD IV/3.2.

"This conclusion [i.e. the end of a person's life] may be the event of his death. But if we are to keep to the line of thought of the New Testament, we best describe it as his end. His end does not have to be the event of his death. The syllogism: All men must die, Caius is a man, therefore Caius must die, is no doubt an illuminating statement of pagan wisdom. But it is not a statement of Christian wisdom, any more than the obvious moral of the mediaeval dance of death." (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [2]

The Good and Bad News of Karl Barth's Eschatology

Good News Bad News
#1. There will be a future coming of Jesus Christ on the Last Day.

#2. There will be a Universal Resurrection of all people who had died before the coming of Jesus

#3. The will be a Final Judgment of all people with a potential Universalistic outcome

#1. The Resurrection of the body is a temporary phenomena that will not persist after the Final Judgement.

#2. After the coming of Jesus, there will be no Afterlife, no extension of time or history, and humanity will become extinct.

#3. People alive at the coming of Jesus will have their life immediately ended, without dying.

#4. The coming of Jesus will end the world as abruptly as it was started in the beginning of Creation.

The coming of Jesus (parousia) is in three-fold form

In the Church Dogmatics IV/3.2, Karl Barth explains that the coming of Jesus is in a threefold form: The first form is the incarnation of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago, the second form is Jesus' continual coming "lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matt 28:20), and the final form of the coming of Christ will be at the end of the age, for the judgment and resurrection. This final form will cause the unnatural conclusion of humanity.

Barth prefers to speak of a threefold coming of Jesus, rather than a "Second Coming" of Jesus (like what is common today). He unites the first coming, the continual coming, and the final coming, as one unified coming of Jesus Christ. Barth uses this same trinitarian three-fold formulate throughout the Church Dogmatics, especially in his Doctrine of the Word of God (CD I/1). So the final form of the coming of Jesus is equivocal to the popular evangelical phrase "The Second Coming of Jesus Christ". 

"It cannot be, because it overlooks the parousia [coming] of Jesus Christ, which in its last and as yet outstanding form carries with it an alternative so far as concerns the end of the man living in it, so that his end does not have to be his death. We recall that in all its forms, and therefore in the last form too, the parousia of Jesus Christ is a new and unforeseeable divine event in face of all human experience and expectation. This is true of His resurrection and of His coming and acting in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is no less true of His final Word which brings history to its goal and end. Hence "Ye know not what hour your Lord doth come" (Matt 24:42)." (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [3] 

Life may not be ended by death

St. Augustine was deeply puzzled by the experience of Christians alive at the final coming of Jesus. It remained an open question for him. In the Institutes of Christian Religion, John Calvin thought he solved Augustine's dilemma by asserting that everyone alive at the coming of Jesus would instantaneously die and be resurrected. Karl Barth says the answer to this puzzle is that there are two forms of the end of life. Death is the first form of the end of life, but the final form of the end of life is the coming of Jesus. 

Now with the end of time generally, and the raising again of those already dead, His new coming will undoubtedly entail the conclusion of the temporal existence of those still living. But this conclusion will not be their death. Hence 1 Cor 15:51: "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." Instead of dying, Christians who are still alive will be caught up with those already dead and raised again from the dead ("together with them", 1 Thess 4:17), who will have the precedence, and they will be brought to an immediate encounter with the returning Lord and an immediate and enduring being with him ("we will always be with the Lord", 1 Thess 13f.). Materially, this is obviously the same process as Paul has in view in 1 Cor 15:51: "We shall not all (i.e., including those then alive) sleep, but we shall all (i.e. including those who sleep already but are raised from the dead and are thus alive) be changed", i.e. invest with a new, incorruptible and immortal being (1 Cor 15:53f.). (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [4]


Barth leaves us in despair for any future life beyond the last day at the end of CD III/3, however in Barth's conception of "participation" in CD IV, the door is swung open. Barth continues to assert that there is no more time after the last day, but there may be a real participation in the eternal life of God. The world will cease to exist as we know it, but there may be an indescribable future eternal life with God for us that escapes all our categories. Don't listen to the Bultmann crowd who want to demythologize away eternal life by a realized reading of the Gospel of John because we have Karl Barth's participation on our side. 

Whether we describe it as rapture or change; a direct transition to participation in the glory which comes to the creaturely world in and with the coming of Jesus Christ can be the end of the Christian instead of dying—the same transition to the same participation in the same glory which is awaited indirectly, in the passage from life through death to the resurrection, by those already dead, but in this other form by the Christians who will then be alive. (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [5]

No one knows if death will come

Barth reminds us, that we are not guaranteed that we will die. The coming of Jesus means that our life may also be ended by the coming of Jesus, at any moment. It's been 2,000 years since this truth has been revealed, but it will surely happen, even if it does not happen in our lifetime. 

No one knows, of course, the hour of this final appearing of Jesus Christ. Hence no one knows whether it will come in his own life-time whether his end will come in the one form or the other, or whether death will necessarily be the form of this end. "He will come to judge the living and the dead", is confessed by the early Church at the end of the second article of the Creed (c.f. 1 Pet 4:5; 2 Tim 4:1). It thus reckons with the fact that when Jesus Christ appears in His consummating revelation and therefore to judgment, alongside the many dead who will then be raised, there will also be those who are still alive and who thus reach their end in this way. (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [6]

Those already dead

To remove all doubt, Karl Barth affirms a future resurrection of all who died before the coming of Jesus. Death is not the final form of the end, because those who had died before the coming of Jesus will be resurrected, so that the Judgment may happen, and that the final form of the end will happen for all people since the beginning of time. 

The same procedure is described by the term "change" in 1 Cor 15:51-51. Those who are already dead, but raised from the dead, will share this with some who are still alive. In the Thessalonian Epistle, often thought to be his earliest, Paul was obviously assuming that he himself and others ("we who are alive", 1 Thess 4:15,17) might still be amongst those who are alive. The same assumption may be seen in the expression which he uses with reference to the same event in 2 Thess 2:1 "our gathering together unto him". (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [7]

Paul did not know if he would die

There is a great debate whether Paul knew he would die before the coming of Jesus. Many scholars have suggested that Paul initially believed the coming of Jesus would occur in his lifetime (I'm thankful that it did not.)

It is not so apparent in the later Epistles. We cannot be sure that he abandoned it. This has been assumed with reference to 2 Cor 5:1, in which he speaks of the coming dissolution of his earthly tabernacle. But does this necessarily refer to his death? Even in this passage (v. 4) we still read of his desire, not to "be unclothed, but clothed upon." And the same assumption is surely quite evident in 1 Cor 15:52 with his express balance of the statement that "we shall be changed" against the assertion that "the dead shall be raised."

To be sure, in Rom 14:8 he considers the alternatives: "For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live, or die, we are the Lord's."  Similarly in Phil 1:20 it is his firm expectation and hope that Christ will be glorified in his body whether in life or in death, so that in the following verse he can even speak of his death as gain, and then go on to speak in v. 23, with this gainful death in view, of his desire to depart and be with the Lord. If his personal expectation to be amongst those who would be alive at the day of Christ's coming, and would not therefore for die but come to their end and goal some other way, did not entirely disappear in the later Paul, it did no doubt become less prominent. It could easily do so. For even in Thess. it was not a predicate of his apostleship and formed no part of his message. (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [8]

Future Resurrection affirmed

The coming of Jesus, according to Barth, will be the season finale of the world. There will be a general resurrection of all people, a universal judgement, and a close of the age. 

What could not become less prominent, let alone disappear, was his picture of the day of the Lord, which will certainly be a day of the general resurrection of those who had already died and thus reached their end by dying, but also a day when those who are still alive will reach their end in a very different way, Jesus Christ appearing as Judge of both the quick and the dead, in order that, in correspondence with His own death and resurrection, "he might be Lord both of the dead and the living" (Rom 14:9). (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [9]

The Ineluctable end of human and therefore Christian experience

Karl Barth's eschatology is the darkest affirmation of a future coming of Jesus I've ever encountered. The future coming of Jesus is affirmed, like an astronomer that identifies a giant meteor on a collision course with earth. I have hope that through Barth's conception of "participation" in God's eternal life, that we may form a theology of hope. But in Barth's eschatology as it lies before us, I do not recognize any hope in his theology. It is a dark cloud at the end of the world. Barth believes that the extinction of humanity is still an event in which we may have hope and anticipate hopefully. I appreciate Barth's desire to find a finality to all things, but I am not satisfied with Barth's pessimistic hope. 

If the triumph of hope is to be clear and understandable in face of this most bitter of all limits, namely, the ineluctable end of human and therefore Christian experience, then it is not merely advisable but quite indispensable to realise that the end which is before all of us can come with death but may also come directly with the coming of Jesus Christ, with His coming again in the final form of His parousia as Judge of the quick and the dead, with the end of all time and things and men in Him, yet also in Him with their true beginning in reconstitution, with their investiture with eternal life, with the rapture or change in which it will be made manifest that the will of God for His creation and for each individual is actually done in Him. (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [10]

The New Testament doesn't make Death the iron rule

After 2,000 years, it is difficult to believe that coming of Jesus will occur before our death. Occasionally in dispensationalist churches,  Christians may be found with a firm conviction that the coming of Jesus would happen in their lifetime. 

Now it may well be, and the New Testament takes this into account, that any one of us may reach his end by dying. It is rather a dubious circumstance, however, that the Christian world has long since come to think of death, and therefore of the moral and the mediaeval dance of death, as the normal case, or even as the iron rule, for the end of human existence. According to the New Testament death has not such monopoly in principle. It is limited by that other form, which is also a form of the end, but of the end which as such will be a new beginning bordered by no further end, since in it a term is set and a veto opposed not only to the existence of all the men then living but also to their death with its threat to them as to their predecessors, the lordship of death over them as over all creation of every age and place being broken. (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [11]

Death is only one form of the end

Human life may be ended in two ways: the normative form is death, and the second form is the coming of Jesus at the end of the age. Death has been an inescapable human experience, until the resurrection of Jesus Christ occurred. For the Christian, death is not the final form of the end of life. Not everyone will die, because the coming of Jesus will happen while people are still alive. According to Karl Barth, those people who are still alive at the coming of Jesus, will experience an immediate end of life. Everyone who had died before the coming of Jesus, will be physically resurrected for the Final Judgment, and afterwards will again have their life immediately ended by the coming of Jesus as well. Death will be defeated by the Universal Resurrection at the coming of Jesus, so Death will not be the final end of life for anyone because the coming of Jesus will be the end of life for everyone without exception.

It is advisable and even indispensable to realize that dying is in face only one form of the end, confronted in free superiority by the very different form of departing to be with Christ, because only on this basis and in this association can we really see the meaning of death as the end which overtakes us. If death is the more obvious and apprehensible and relevant form of the end, we must set alongside it the fact that the coming of Jesus Christ Himself, the occurrence of His consummating revelation, may bring and be the same end, namely, the end which is also the goal and therewith the beginning without end, the resurrection of the flesh, eternal life in eternal light. The end can also come in the form of death. In this form it did in fact come for Paul and for all our Christian predecessors. In this form—though we cannot really know—it may well come for us. But the end in this form is lit up as seen in association with and on the basis of the alternative of that very different form. (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [12]

The coming of Jesus is the true and final form of the end. 

Karl Barth is not our friend. Although he affirms that Death is not the end, Barth still affirms that the end is coming for us all. The final coming of Jesus is the true and final form of end of life for all people. Barth teaches that the Resurrection is a temporary phenomena that occurs at the coming of Jesus for the purpose of the Final Judgment, but after this event, life will end forever for all. So there is no need to fear death, because Jesus is coming! 

In its character as the end of human and even Christian existence it is confirmed but also relativized by the fact that in that other form its end is so clearly shown to be a beginning. Seen in this light, can death as the first form of the end be anything more than a provisional substitute or mask of the true end, or indicate otherwise than in a glass darkly (1 Cor 13:12) the original of this true end which comes with the coming again of Jesus Christ? In other words, even if the end is still before us in the form of our dying, can we look or move towards it otherwise than in hope? (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [13]

A Critical Conclusion

Karl Barth's eschatology remains a great mystery and source of confusion, so my goal in this analysis is to explain Karl Barth in his own words for his maturest sections at the end of the Church Dogmatics IV/3.2. Overall, Karl Barth provides us illuminating information about Eschatology, but in the great light of it, there are still variations and shadows of turning that I cannot support that would requires a separate post to describe.

My brief criticism of Barth's eschatology may be summarized in the following points: 

#1. Ending Time at the coming of Jesus means the dissolution of the incarnation, and therefore the abolition of the Passion of Jesus. 

#2. In the Substitutionary Atonement schema (c.f. Anselm), the extinction of Jesus' humanity would annual his propitiatory and expiatory work on the cross. 

#3. A retrospective Final Judgment, that limits judgments to a positive or negative determination upon past events, presents a theodicy problem, where wrongs are not made right. Is God really good if God does nothing about sin? 

#4. Afterlife has been supported by the Church Fathers and Church Tradition since the beginning of the Church. Rejection of all forms of Afterlife (allegedly as paganism), is an extreme rejecting all the Church Fathers and Tradition that Barth stands upon. 

#5. Barth's eschatological end of the world, affirms a Bultmann-ian Realized Eschatology that reduces the Gospel to a message that helps us have the best life now, because there is no future life after the coming of Jesus. There's no future hope for humanity beyond the last day, only a prosperity message (prosperity gospel?), that helps us make the most of our insignificant short lives in this cursed world. 



[^Header Image] By William Clift 1775–1849 -, Public Domain, Link
[^1] Barth, Karl. The Christian Life: Church Dogmatics IV, 4: Lecture Fragments. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub., 1981. 10. Print.
[^2] Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics, The Doctrine of Reconciliation, Vol IV/3.2. Vol. 29. London: T & T Clark, 2010. 237-9. Print. Study Edition. [733-4]
[^3] Ibid.
[^4] Ibid.
[^5] Ibid.
[^6] Ibid.
[^7] Ibid.
[^8] Ibid.
[^9] Ibid.
[^10] Ibid.
[^11] Ibid.
[^12] Ibid.
[^13] Ibid.

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The Errors of Inerrancy: #5 Inerrancy reduced the Biblical Authors into Ventriloquist Dummies

errorofinerrancy5inerrancy-reduces-biblical-authors-ventriloquist-dummies[The Errors of Inerrancy: A ten-part series on why Biblical Inerrancy censors the Scriptures and divides Evangelicals.]

The Errors of Inerrancy: #5 Inerrancy reduced the Biblical Authors into Ventriloquist Dummies

Inerrancy is a dictation theory of inspiration, commonly referred to as Plenary Verbal Inspiration, where each and every word of Scripture is precisely determined by God (to guarantee it is absolutely free of error). Inerrantists typically admit that the Bible contains some dictation, such as the Ten Commandments, but they often deny that the Bible is entirely composed through dictation. R.C. Sproul was a framer of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978), which is the gold-standard for defining Inerrancy today, and in Sproul's commentary on Article VI of the Chicago Statement in. loc., he denied that Inerrancy's Plenary Verbal Inspiration was dictation, because "in the modern era dictation as a method carries with it the canceling out of human literary styles, vocabulary choices, and the like. This article does not mean to imply such a view of inspiration that would negate or vitiate the literary styles of the individual authors of the biblical documents." [1] On the contrary, asserting the every single word of Scripture is determined by the Holy Spirit is equivocal and indistinguishable from dictation and necessarily implies dictation as I will demonstrate in the following analysis. 

Anyone who has read a fiction novel, can see how characters may have different "literary styles, vocabulary choices, and the like", and yet everything in that novel is dictated by the novel's author. Dictation may refer to a broader practice of copying down words someone else spoke regardless of the secretary's persona, but if a person dictates in the "literary styles, vocabulary choices, and the like" of their secretary, that secretary is still doing dictation. So the fifth Error of Inerrancy is that this Inerrancy dictation theory of inspiration, known as Verbal Plenary Inspiration, reduces the Biblical Authors into Ventriloquist Dummies that are controlled by God to write down what God has dictated to them.  

Inerrancy and Ventriloquism

Edgar Bergen and his ventriloquist dummy Charlie McCarthy [2]


Jim Henson voiced many muppets including Kermit the Frog, Rowlf the Dog, and Ernie, and others [3]

Shari Lewis and her ventriloquist puppet Lamb Chop, and their memorable "Song that Never Ends" [4]

Ventriloquist puppets are lifeless dolls, that have no real voice or life of their own, but they appear very alive when the puppet master moves and carries them. In schema of Plenary Verbal Inspiration, the Biblical Authors are controlled like ventriloquist dummies, where every single word of Scripture they wrote is precisely dictated by God. Ventriloquism exemplifies how Inerrancy is a dictation theory of inspiration, because a ventriloquist controls their dummy's "literary styles, vocabulary choices, and the like", dictating their actions, expressions, and words. The dummies have no life or contributions of their own, they appear to be alive and really speaking, but the true voice is originating from the motionless mouth of the ventriloquist. The ventriloquist strives to make the dummy appear as alive as possible, and even converses with the doll he animates, such as in the case of the ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his dummy Charlie McCarthy. Shari Lewis is another famous ventriloquist who controlled her beloved puppet Lamb Chop. Jim Henson was the voice of many muppets, including Kermit the Frog, Ernie, Rowlf the Dog, the Swedish Chef, Waldorf and other characters on Sesame Street.  The variation in literary styles, vocabulary choices, and the like between dummies, muppets and puppets, further proves that Inerrancy is a dictation theory of inspiration.

Inerrancy 'Prooftexts' Deny Dictation

I believe in the inspiration of the Bible ("theopneustos" c.f. 2 Tim 3:16), and that the Biblical authors were moved and carried ("phero" c.f. 2 Peter 1:20-21) by the Holy Spirit as they wrote their witness to the Word of God, and I believe this indirectly includes all the words of the Bible. Sadly, these two important verses (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21) have been weaponized by proponents of Biblical Inerrancy in the Battle for the Bible, and made into prooftexts for Inerrancy's dictation theory of inspiration known as "Plenary Verbal Inspiration". The Chicago Statement, says "Verbal Plenary Inspiration We affirm that the whole of Scripture and all its parts, down to the very words of the original, were given by divine inspiration." [5] By adding "Plenary" (absolutely all) and "Verbal" (words) to Biblical concept of "Inspiration", the Biblical authors are reduced to ventriloquist puppets of God that contributed nothing more than perfectly copying down the Scriptures that they heard from God in their own handwriting as if they were the hands of God.   

The Blowing Wind and the Sailboat

Winslow Homer, The Gulf Stream (1899) [6]

Remember that the Apostles were fishermen in their fishing boats when Jesus called them to become fishers of men (Matt 4:19), so the imagery of Galilean fishermen in their fishing boats is the background context for both of these so-called prooftexts for Inerrancy. Plenary Verbal Inspiration abolishes the distinction between the wind that fills the sail and the sail of the boat it moves, as if there were no distinction between the movement of the wind and the fishing boat it blows upon. In 2 Tim 3:16, the word for "inspiration" is theopneustos, which literally means the blowing wind (pneo) of God (theo), and is more direct in 2 Peter 1:20-21, where the imagery is directly invoked of fishing boats being carried by the wind in their sails. Anyone who has sailed a sailboat today will tell you how difficult it is to steer a sailboat in the wind. So it is absurd to assert that either of these so-called prooftexts support dictation theory or any form of inerrancy, because sailboats never follow the exact direction of the wind. A sailboat will not move unless the wind blows on it's sails, but that doesn't mean that the boats each and every movement is dictated by the wind. The Biblical Authors were moved and carried in their writings by the Holy Spirit (like a sailboat is moved by the wind), and without the Holy Spirit, then they would remained silent and written nothing, like a boat stuck in the doldrums of the Horse Latitudes. 

It's a temptation to point out that Second Timothy and Second Peter have highly questionable authorship, but as Karl Barth said, I agree that no matter what form in which these verses have been transmitted to us (whether directly or indirectly from Paul or Peter), the words such as "theopneustos" are unquestionably Pauline in origin. Denying these verses through dubious authorship is not the right strategy. Karl Barth affirms theopneustos in his commentary on 1 Cor 2:6-16. 

In the Church Dogmatics I/2, §19 "The Word of God for the Church":

But as he sees it, this does not exhaust the work of the Holy Ghost. In exact correspondence with this knowledge of the benefits indicated to us by God's wisdom he now believes he can and must express them: "not in the teachings of human wisdom, but in the teachings of the Spirit": not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth but which the Spirit teachest: "assessing spiritual things by spiritual means": measuring and embracing in spiritual words that spiritual reality (1 Cor 2:13; cf. 1 Cor 2:6-16). In face of this self-utterance we cannot assume that Paul did not take account of an inspiration, even a real and verbal inspiration, of the Old Testament hagiographa. We have therefore no reason to think that the God-breathed (theopneustos) of 2 Tim 3:16 is non-Pauline. [7]

Inerrancy and the Occult


Ouiji Board [8]

Here's the spooky part. Inerrantists are not the only ones to claim their religious text was perfectly dictated by God. In Islam, the Qu'ran is believed to be dictated by Allah directly to Muhammad who perfectly recorded everything spoken to him in Arabic. But, the only comparable experience to Inerrancy's dictation theory of inspiration today is the Occult daemonic experience of spiritual control. For example, in the Ouiji board game, players hold a heart-shaped planchette and await for a spirit to guide their hands over the letter board to reveal truth from the spiritual world. So the closest comparison to Inerrancy's theory of inspiration is demonic possession, where a person's speech and actions are controlled by a supernatural force. Once the heads start spinning, it is time to call the Exorcist. In order to believe in the resurrection of Jesus, must I believe in every Christian pseudoscience derived from it? Must we defend all trance-like subversion of humanity in order to affirm the Scriptures are a true witness to the Word of God? I believe superstition may be averted in our believe that the Bible is a true witness to the Word of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ. And if we are honest with ourselves, it is not hard to admit that Inerrancy's dictation theory is uncomfortably similar to Occult control practices.  Inerrantists will quickly deny and condemn any correlation to the Occult, but the correspondences with the Occult should give us pause. If you don't believe me, I defer to the renowned Biblical scholar Clement H. Dodd. 

C.H. Dodd's critique of Plenary Verbal Inspiration in The Authority of the Bible:

We have already used the term "inspiration". This concept has had so prominent a place in the traditional doctrine of the Scriptures that we must now examine it with some care. The authority of the Bible is in fact often treated as the simple correlate of its inspiration. The question "whether the Bible is inspired" figured largely in the controversies of the last generation. For us, it is difficult to give any precise meaning to the question, so vague and fluctuating is the usage of the word "inspiration" itself, and so uncertain its implications. The theory which is commonly described as that of "verbal inspiration" is fairly precise. It maintains that the entire corpus of Scripture consists of writings every word of which (presumably in the original autographs, for ever inaccessible to us) was directly "dictated" by the Deity, in a sense not applicable to any other known writings. They consequently convey absolute truth with no trace of error or relativity. What such a process of "dictation" might be, it is naturally impossible to say, since ex hypothesi no living man has experience of it, though some advocates of the theory have incautiously adduced as a parallel the phenomena of "control" in the practice of spiritualists. Any attempt to confront this theory of inspiration with the actual facts which meet us in the study of the biblical documents leads at once to such patent confusions and contradictions that it is unprofitable to discuss it. [9]


The first step away from the error of inerrancy, is to give life to the Biblical authors. Give life to the Biblical Authors, and allow them to improvise on their lines, like all actors do. If an error or "Bible Difficulty" is discovered in the text, then attribute it to the humanity of the Biblical Author, and allow them to witness to the Word of God and speak about it in the way that is most true to their common day experience, even if it has blemishes. 


[^1] By NBC Radio/NBC Photo (eBay itemphoto frontphoto back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
[^3] Por Fonte, Conteúdo restrito, Ligação
[^4] By Ford Motor Company (show sponsor). Ford used their advertising agency, J. Walter Thompson, to distribute the photos - eBay itemphoto frontphoto back No copy on back., Public Domain, Link
[^5] The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Article VI
[^6] By Winslow Homer - art database, Public Domain, Link
[^7] Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics, Vol. 1.2, Sections 19-21: The Doctrine of The Word of God. Trans. T. F. Torrance. Vol. 5. London: T & T Clark, 2010. 60. Print. Study Edition. [515-6; Translations added from the footnotes]
[^8] Public Domain, Link
[^9] Dodd, C.H. The Authority of the Bible. New York and Evanston: Harper Torchbook, 1962. 41-2. Print.

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Karl Barth on Jesus Calming the Storm

christinthestormkarlbarthThe Miracle of Jesus Calming the Storm is my favorite passage from the life of Jesus, so I was delighted to find Karl Barth's eye-popping exposition of it in a small print section at the end of the Church Dogmatics IV/3.2.  Barth believes this miracle is not isolated to novice Galilean fisherman, but applies directly to the Christian Church throughout all ages, including its strongest times, including its medieval strength with its extravagant episcopal vestments of that era. Even when the Church is at it's strongest, it is still susceptible to be shaken severely like the great storms of this story. When the Church is severely shaken to a degree greater than any human institution could withstand, we may have faith that the Church will not fail because Jesus is in the boat. Barth's exposition encourages us that when the Church is shaken more than the strongest man-made ships may withstand, we may have faith that the Church will not fail, because lo, Jesus is with us until the end of the age. 

The Story of the Calming of the Sea

The miraculous event is in the synoptic triple tradition, appearing in Mark 4:35-41, Luke 8:22-25, and Matthew 8:23-27, and it has striking similar to the miracle of Jesus walking on water (cf. Matt 14:22-36; Mark 6:45-56; John 6:16-24). In Barth's exposition of the Miraculous Calming of the Storm is from the Markan account, and this is not surprising since Mark generally given priority in the triple tradition today by New Testament scholars. Luke is mentioned once or twice, and there's no mention of Matthew. In this parable, a great storm arises as the disciples row desperately across the Galilean sea, as Jesus sleeps peacefully in the belly of the ship. The Disciples awaken Jesus and rebuke him for allowing them to be in their perilous predicament, but to their astonishment, Jesus rebukes the storm and the sea becomes calm. The disciples suddenly fear Jesus more than they ever feared the dissipated tempest.

Mark 4:35-41 (NRSV) "On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

 Also, Barth does not mention Psalms 107:23-32, which has striking similarities to this miracle:

Psalm 107:23-32 (NRSV), "Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the mighty waters; they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their calamity; they reeled and staggered like drunkards, and were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress; he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders." 

Seismic Storms


A Tsunami Hazard Zone warning sign used throughout the Washington State and Oregon coasts

I relate to this story, since I live near the Cascadia Subduction Zone, and am frequently in tsunami hazard zones, where there's a constant fear that the Pacific Ocean would produce a devastating tsunami. In the Matthew version, the storm is referred to as a seismos (cf. Matt 8:24) which is the same word for earthquake (i.e. "Earthquake storm"), and earthquakes in the ocean produce tsunamis, and so I always think of tsunamis when I read this story of fisherman desperately rowing away from the storm. I don't believe Matthew is describing a tsunami, but it does help me apply this story to the time and place where I live in the Pacific Northwest. As Karl Barth once said, "One should preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other."

Karl Barth on the Story of the Crossing of the Lake

Karl Barth's exposition of the Story of the Crossing of the Lake is in the Church Dogmatics IV/3.2 §72

We must not forget, however, the story of the crossing of the lake as told in Mark 4:35-41. Inevitability the New Testament ekklasiai (churches) find their own story here. But what serious or final relationship is there between this and their high position in relation to other worldly structures? For what does it imply? To be sure, the ship is impressively manned by the disciples whom Jesus has already chosen and called to be His apostles. Carefully attired, according to mediaeval fancy, in the correct episcopal vestments, they are the rowers. According to the Markan context, Jesus has just spoken of the light set on a candlestick, and the seed which grows of itself and becomes a great plant, and to them alone, as we are expressly told, He has expounded these parables. They are not, then, a motley group of inexperienced novices. Nor are they alone with a mere tradition or recollection of the words and person of their Lord. Jesus Himself is with them. But "he was in the hinder part of the ship, so that it was now full," these men who were elect and called, who had already received so many promises and consolations in respect of their own existence as His people, who had indeed the assurance of His own presence, seemed to be cast back upon their own faith and in the last resort upon its bold action in exercise of their seamanship.

But lo! their apostolic office, their episcopal habits, their experience, their tradition, even the living but sleeping Jesus among them, all appear to be useless. The storm is too violent. The pillar and ground of truth totters. The gates of hell are menacingly open to engulf them. They are terrified that the ship and they themselves and Jesus will all perish, that it will be all up for them, as the community has often since had cause to fear and has actually feared. Basically, of course, it has never had any true reason, but it has certainly had occasion enough. The situation is obviously too much for his disciples. Similar situations have always been too much for the community, as has, indeed, its whole situation in the world. 

If Jesus were not in the ship, it must inevitably have gone down. But He is in the ship, and for this reason, if for this reason alone, it cannot go down. His disciples will necessarily be preserved with Him. They need not have waken Him. They are not praised for doing this. On the contrary, they are rebuked for their fearfulness, being asked: "How is it that ye have no faith?" ("Where is your faith?" Luke 8:25). Even if the storm had increased rather than abated, and even if they themselves were helpless in face of it, that which He made them, that which they had received of Him, their freedom and power in view of the kingdom of God relentlessly drawn near, their instruction concerning the light on the candlestick and the mustard seed, and decisively the living presence of Jesus, should have been enough to assure them that this ship could not and would not go down, nor we, this people, perish. 

"Fluctuat, nec mergitur" ("It is being tossed, but it is not sinking"). But Jesus tells them this only after He has rebuked the wind, and bidden the raging sea be still, and therefore dismissed all cause for fear, revealing how groundless it is, and showing Himself to be the sure basis of their existence as His people and therefore the unassailable basis of their tottering faith. "There was a great calm," for in the living presence of Jesus there was revealed His living action, His self-declaration in deeds. He not only was what He was for them, their Lord and Deliverer; He made Himself known to them as such. He made peace for them. No doubt His people could and should have clung simply to the fact that through Him alone, but genuinely through Him, it had peace and would be and was sustained.

But supposing it did not do what it could and should do? Supposition its faith was feeble? Supposing that in spite of all that it was through Him and had received from Him, and even in spite of His tangible presence, it was miserably afraid for itself and for Him in the midst of world-occurrence? He Himself gave the answer to this sorry defiance with His superior and joyful defiance. He upheld it, yet also revealed Himself as the One who did so. He was its unassailable basis, and showed Himself to be so. The story ends with the noteworthy statement that when the wind dropped, when the cause of their fear was removed, when Jesus not only was their Preserver but visibly showed Himself to be such, "they feared exceedingly (ephobathasan phoban megan), and said to one another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

We recall that according to the same Gospel (16:8) the women were seized by fear and trembling at the empty tomb of the Resurrected, and dared tell no one what they had seen, for "they were afraid." We also recall the Bethlehem shepherds, who were so terrified (Luke 2:9, using the same word as Mark 4:41) when the angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them. What was this fear? It was the great and necessary and legitimate fear of the Lord which, as the beginning of wisdom, began with the end of the little and unnecessary fear which could only lead the community to despair of itself, its apostolate, its faith and indeed its Lord. And the end of the little fear came with the fact that Jesus not only was its Savior but manifested Himself as such and therefore as the sure foundation of its existence as His people, of its apostolate and of its faith. "What manner of man is this?" Could the community do any better, or show itself in any better way to be the people placed at that high point, than by letting itself be gripped and moved by this great and holy and joyous fear in face of His self-declaration? It became and was indeed the light of the world, the pillar and ground of truth, by letting itself be seized with this fear when it saw Him as the One who showed Himself to be its Lord within world-occurrence. This was the decisive happening on the crossing. It is always on such a crossing, in the power of the active self-declaration of its Lord, and as it is plunged into fear by this self-declaration and the knowledge it brings, that the New Testament community has achieved and does achieve its self-understanding in relation to its distinctive and unique existence. There is no other way. And it is obvious that in this respect its self-understanding is coincident with that of the Old Testament people of God. [1]     


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The Errors of Inerrancy: #4 Inerrancy denies that the Bible contains scientific errors

error-of-inerrancy-4-inerrancy-denies-bible-contains-scientific-errors[The Errors of Inerrancy: A ten-part series on why Biblical Inerrancy censors the Scriptures and divides Evangelicals.]

The Errors of Inerrancy: #4. Inerrancy denies that the Bible contains scientific errors


Herman Bavinck said, "Scripture does not tell us how the heavens move but how we move to heaven." [1] And so, "It is probable that the authors of Scripture knew no more than all their contemporaries about these sciences, geology, zoology, physiology, medicine, etc." [2] The Biblical Authors did not correct the scientific errors of the ancient world, instead they preached the Word of God in-and-through the same common language and primitive scientific knowledge of the world in which they lived. The fourth Error of Inerrancy is denying that the Bible contains scientific errors because the Bible must not be scientifically precise to be true, as Bavinck said, "Holy Scripture uses the language of everyday experience, which is and remains always true." [3]

Modern Science is Foreign to the World of Scripture

Science originated with the dawn of Humanity in the creation of stone tools, but the Scientific Method was not widely established until the modern era, over a millennia after the last books of the Bible were written, and after the Protestant Reformation began. It should be obvious that the Bible doesn't contain scientific literature because the Scientific Method is foreign to the world of Scripture. In his commentary on Gen 1:6-10, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "Here we have before us the ancient the ancient world picture in all its scientific naïveté." [4] We should expect an ancient document to possess all the hallmarks of ancient world in which it was written, and it is more important to communicate truth in a way that the ancient reader would understand, rather than communicate esoteric scientific knowledge that they would never understand.

The Biblical Authors shared the same inaccurate knowledge of earth history and science as their contemporaries, and from in-and-through this frame of reference, they then preached the Word of God. Bavinck said, "For that reason it speaks of 'land approaching,' of the sun 'rising' and 'standing still,' of blood as the 'soul' of an animal, of the kidneys as the seat of sensations, of the heart as the source of thoughts, etc. and is not the least bit worried about the scientifically exact language of astronomy, physiology, etc." [5] Denying the Bible contains scientific errors a priori rejects the very frame of reference from which the Bible authors wrote, making it impossible to interpret it in context (or rightly!) Therefore, Inerrancy is a modern bias that necessitates that the Bible is read out-of-context by censoring the Biblical Authors of any scientific errors. There's a twofold danger in this modern bias of applying scientific precision to the Bible: the first is to misunderstand the Biblical author by interpreting his message in a way contrary from the way they understood the world, and the second is to correct modern science with a Biblical author's antiquarian worldview.   

Biblical Inerrancy and Science

Biblical Inerrancy asserts that the Biblical authors wrote in such a way, that they committed no scientific errors whatsoever. For instance, the Chicago Statement, Article XII says "We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood." [6] I agree that science may not 'overturn' the Bible, because the Bible does not reveal falsifiable scientific knowledge (as I previously explained). But, by mentioning 'creation and the flood', this article is asserting that the protohistory of Genesis 1-11 is indeed revealing scientific knowledge after all. So the Chicago Statement's definition of Inerrancy is indistinguishable from Biblical Literalism! It's possible that one of the ancient near east floods may correlate to Genesis Flood, but this does not mean that Geologist must confirm their scientific inquiry to the protohistory of Genesis 1-11. Whether a flood event occurred, and whether the extent was local or global, may not be determined by Genesis 1-11. The Genesis Flood is essential to the Bible, but it does not dictate what is essential to scientific and geological history of the Earth.

In this Errors of Inerrancy series, I'm defining "Inerrancy" by the Chicago Statement, but not all proponents of Inerrancy assert that the Bible is scientifically error free. There are Biblical Scholars and organizations that affirm a form of inerrancy yet acknowledge that the Bible does not reveals scientific knowledge, such as the excellent works of John H. Walton and BioLogos (which I've contributed to in the past) and are outside the purview of this post. 

Clement's Phoenix

In 1 Clement 25, the mythical Phoenix is used to explain the resurrection. Clement was unaware that the Phoenix was a myth, but the truth of the resurrection is communicated effectively in his letter to others who also believed that that the Phoenix was a real creature.According to the logic of Inerrancy, falsifying the existence of the Phoenix would falsify the truth of the resurrection that Clement describes.

From Clement's frame of reference, the Phoenix was a real creature, that he used to explain the truth of the resurrection. To assert that the Phoenix was a real creature (as some people do with Rahab, Leviathan, and Behemoth), would undermine the force of Clement's argument for the resurrection. And it would be wrong to correct modern zoology, by asserting that the Phoenix is a real creature because of Clement's reference to it. And lastly, demonstrating that the Phoenix is a mythical creature, absolutely does not make the resurrection a myth. 

"The Phoenix, an emblem of our resurrection"

Let us consider that wonderful sign [of the resurrection] which takes place in Eastern lands, that is, in Arabia and the countries round about. There is a certain bird which is called a phoenix. This is the only one of its kind, and lives five hundred years. And when the time of its dissolution draws near that it must die, it builds itself a nest of frankincense, and myrrh, and other spices, into which, when the time is fulfilled, it enters and dies. But as the flesh decays a certain kind of worm is produced, which, being nourished by the juices of the dead bird, brings forth feathers. Then, when it has acquired strength, it takes up that nest in which are the bones of its parent, and bearing these it passes from the land of Arabia into Egypt, to the city called Heliopolis. And, in open day, flying in the sight of all men, it places them on the altar of the sun, and having done this, hastens back to its former abode. The priests then inspect the registers of the dates, and find that it has returned exactly as the five hundredth year was completed. [7]

I intentionally chose 1 Clement as an example, because everyone today acknowledges that the Phoenix is a mythical creature, and because this letter is not part of the Bible, in order to avoid bickering over "Bible Difficulties". 1 Clement is striking similar to 1 and 2 Corinthians, because it was written in the same Koine Greek, to Corinth, and before the New Testament was completed, by a leader in the early Church in Rome. So it has striking similarities and proximity to the New Testament. 

There are similar examples to Clement's Phoenix in the Bible, where the author makes an argument based on their limited knowledge of science long ago that we now know to be false. Is 1 Clement's use of the Phoenix invalidated by the myth? By no means! It does mean that we must demythologize 1 Clement, so that we may recognize that the Phoenix is a myth without setting aside the truth of the resurrection that 1 Clement teaches us all. 

It's Good that Scripture Doesn't Contain Science

In a final word from Herman Bavinck, the Bible is better off without being committed to any scientific theory. Science is a developing enterprise of it's own, and recognizing that the Bible utilizes the common understanding of the world in which it was written, helps us understand its message better than if it revealed perfect science originating a long time ago in a galaxy far far away that no common person would ever understand. 

If, instead of this, Scripture had used the language of the academy and spoken with scientific precision, it would have stood in the way of its own authority. If it had decided in favor of the Ptolemaic worldview, it would not have been credible in an age that supported the Copernican system. Nor could it have been a book for life, for humanity. But now it speaks in ordinary human language, language that is intelligible to the most simple person, fear to the learned and unlearned alike. It employs the language of observation, which will always continue to exist alongside that of science and the academy. [8]


In this fourth installment in the Errors of Inerrancy, the dangers of denying the Bible contains scientific errors has been explained. The example of the Phoenix as an emblem of our resurrection, demonstrates how we may rightly interpret the Bible in the way it was intended to be interpreted. And, the threefold error of denying the Bible contains scientific errors demonstrates that it is impossible to understand the Bible when its true context is rejected a priori by our modern biases. This error is multiplied when scientific errors in the Bible are used to censor and correct modern science. 


[^1] Bavinck, Herman. Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena. Ed. John Bolt. Trans. John Vriend. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011. 445-6. Print.
[^2] Ibid.
[^3] Ibid.
[^4] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Creation and Fall; Temptation: Two Biblical Studies. Trans. John C. Fletcher. New York: SCM, 1997. 30. Print.
[^5] Ibid.
[^6] Ibid.
[^7] 1 Clement 25.
[^8] Ibid.


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The Futility of Debating a Biblicist

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Jürgen Moltmann at 90: A Recap of the Unfinished Worlds Conference at Emory

molmtann90"Jürgen Moltmann is the greatest living theologian in the world." I said it, everyone said it, we said it together at this week's Unfinished Worlds: Jurgen Moltmann at 90 conference hosted by Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Famous Moltmann experts, authors, and bloggers came from around the world to attend this day-and-a-half conference, and many feared it would be their last chance to see their aging hero.

Moltmann arrived Wednesday morning with the other panelists. He had aged since the last time I had seen him spoke, but appeared to be in good health, and said he was well despite the 10 hour flight from Tübingen. As soon as he arrived, people began whispering and pointing, and within minutes, he was asked to sign a book and take a photograph. I heard many people express that they were too shy to approach him. One young man had brought his grandfather's first edition copy of the Theology of Hope, but was too nervous to ask Moltmann to sign it (he did eventually). Moltmann sat down each time he signed a book, and one of the hosts said they were worried that Moltmann would use up all his energy. Moltmann remained seated during his morning lecture. I watched as expert after expert greeted Moltmann, as well as his old friends. One man had translated Moltmann's books, and asked if Moltmann remembered him.

Welcome Professor Moltmann

The conference was to commemorate Moltmann's 90th birthday, but no one sang Happy Birthday. Moltmann was welcomed with tears, because his wife Elizabeth Wendell-Moltmann had died in June. Moltmann was a visiting professor at Emory for ten years, and Elizabeth was known and loved as much as Moltmann. The welcoming speaker and many in attendance were openly crying and glassy eyed at even the mention of her name.

Moltmann's five decade career was celebrated beginning with the legacy of his book The Theology of Hope, which is now in its 14th publication since it was written in 1964. Steffen Lösel said after Moltmann's professional career, he made the world his university, but without faculty meetings! Moltmann has been in critical dialogue with other world famous theologians, including Karl Barth, John Baptist-Metz, Hans Urs Von Balthasar, James Cones and others. Steffen Lösel remarked that Moltmann was such a prolific writers, that he recalled Moltmann saying "I cannot remember everything I've written." The room burst with laughter. Lastly, the story of the Jesuit martyrs was told, and how a copy of Moltmann's Crucified God had soaked up their blood, as they lay dying.

So this is how the conference began.

Moltmann and the Unfinished Reformation

The Unfinished Worlds was a reference to Moltmann's 2011 Boyle lecture with the same name, describing how the world of science and the world of theology are unfinished and unreconciled. It has been five years, and Moltmann now spoke much slower and less clear, and remained seated, however, Moltmann was as sharp as he ever was.

Moltmann began his lecture by reviewing his political theological career and ecumenical work, and then announced that a theology of Dispute must be reintroduced into the Church, State and communities of the world. "Why dispute? Because of the truth!" Moltmann remarked. Molmann wanted to break out of Church-based theology and enter into political theology and dispute with the ideologies of the world. Moltmann recalled a dangerous dialogue between Christians and Marxist, and said about it, "If we do not agree with one another today, we may shoot each other tomorrow." He said that today "we have an inflation of dialogue and we are in dialogue with everyone" but "the problem is ecumenical dialogue benefits the Faith but not the community".

Part 1: Dispute Theology

Moltmann said this is why Dispute Theology is essential and through a quote, he said, "Dispute Theology: yes or no, hot or cold, but us never be lukewarm." He was displeased with ecumenical dialogue today, and compared it to a talk show where "in modern talk shows, everyone talks and no one listens." And he described this like two men who meet at a train station, "the first man asks 'where is the train station?' and the second man said 'no, but it is nice that we came into dialogue'" The room burst in laughter again. "Today theologians are nice and pleasant and theology is a harmless business", Moltmann remarked with disgusted, and then said, "What we need is dispute! Why do we need disputes? Because of the truth! It is worth a heated conflict, especially amongst friends. Tolerance is good, but being tolerated is bad. I want to be accepted or rejected by my friends, but not tolerated!" 

Despite the laughter, the room was not pleased with Moltmann's call for a return to Dispute Theology. There was a Q&A session that followed Moltmann's lecture, and the questions were critical of Dispute Theology in particular. There was a frustration with Moltmann's lack of examples for dispute today. Moltmann initially justified his Dispute Theology by appealing to the Magisterial Reformers, who dedicated their theologies to the Kings and rulers of the world, and worked out their theology in very dangerous and life-threatening public events. The conference was located in Atlanta, and Moltmann said that he was not an American, but he then identified Capital Punishment as a specific example of where his Dispute Theology should be done. Moltmann's friend Kelly Gissendaner was executed by the State of Georgia in 2015, and many people in the room had met and known Kelly. Another questioner asked how the Death Penalty may be opposed, to which Moltmann answered, "The resurrection of the Crucified Christ is God's no to the Death Penalty" Moltmann scolded the audience and said, "Progressive theologians should not peacefully coexist with fundamentalism. The spirit of the Reformers is public dispute!" 

Moltmann answering a seminary students question

Part 2: Unfinished Reformation and the Anabaptists

The next major theme of Moltmann's lecture was a defense of the Anabaptists, whom Moltmann said were the only ones to follow the Reformation call "by faith alone" because "Only the Anabaptists crossed over the Corpus Christi and were persecuted for it. Luther, Calvin and Zwingli never did." For this reason, Moltmann titled his lecture the "Unfinished Reformation". According to Moltmann, "the Reformation only happened within the Roman Catholic Church. The Reformation only happened in the Western Churches and not in the Eastern Churches." Moltmann said "The Protestant Reformation is not finished until no one is excluded from the Lord's Supper" and he believed that the Anabaptists were the only ones that extended the Reformation outside the confines of the Western Church and were persecuted for it. The Lord's Supper was invoked, and Moltmann said that he had taken the Eucharist in many churches and has never been denied it. It is not acceptable that anyone may be excluded from the Lord's Supper, whether it is by Protestants, Catholics or Orthodox alike. Moltmann spoke about how the Protestant Reformers were unified in their excommunication of the Anabaptists, and that we had no right to excommunicate anyone.

"The only thing that's important in the Lord's Supper is Jesus Christ's blood and body that was given for you. Anything else is a work of man. How may we excommunicate anyone when Christ has died for all and the whole world. We should remain seated after the Eucharist and discuss what happened to us. The Eucharist happens to us and what we experience follows from it. I always respond to the word of Christ in the invitation to the Lord's Supper in every church and have never been refused."

Moltmann said that it was not enough for the Lutherans to apologize to the Anabaptists in 2010 for their persecution of them in the 16th century, because the condemnations of the Anabaptist has not been removed from the Augsburg Confession and Symbolic Literature, and that a Mennonite minister could never accept the Augsburg Confession because of it.

Reactions to Moltmann's Lecture

After Moltmann's lecture, it was quiet. The first question came, then another, then another. There were standing microphones, and each question was more emotionally charged. Initial questions expressed frustration with Moltmann's Dispute Theology, but later questions focused on Moltmann's criticism of the Death Penalty. Kelly Gissendaner was not mentioned by name until the end of the Q&A. I was surprised because it was the elephant in the room. At last, I stood up to ask a question about Kelly's execution and afterlife, but the denied the opportunity by the moderator.

The remainder of the day were presentations by other speakers, some were great and some were not so great. One speaker said that computers and devices were not allowed in their classroom, and expressed frustration with technology. I sighed, as I continued to live-tweet the conference. Several lectures were excellent, but for the sake of brevity, I won't discuss them here and now. Hopefully that class wasn't on engaging modern culture!

Your favorite Moltmann fans: Travis, Wyatt, Danielle, Mark, and Pat left to right)

I was disappointed with the lack of panel discussions and interactions throughout the conference. It was sad to see Moltmann sitting silently in the front row, without engagement. I imagine that a 90 year old man only has so much energy for engagement, but he was there and listening attentively. It was an odd experience, to listen to the speakers quote Moltmann, as Moltmann sat in front of them listening. Moltmann has always been a very gracious and warm personality, and very pastoral too. He always listens and responds charitably. It was the first time I met Moltmann face-to-face, and he was as I imagined him.

Moltmann is older now, but as sharp as ever. I was impressed by the stinging lecture, and by Moltmann's witty responses in the Q&A. One questioner (heckler?) unwittingly said, "If that is true, then what is truth?" and Moltmann responded, "That is the question of Pontius Pilate!" And everyone laughed.

I met up with many Moltmann fans at the conference, that I had only known through online discussion in the past. It was a great experience to meet the Candler students, and several of them helped me find coffee and food throughout my time. It was a very beautiful part of Atlanta, and a welcoming experience. After the first day, I had a Moltmann Meetup over dinner, and heard about all the fascinating encounters others had had with Moltmann over the years. Meeting other Moltmann fans was as great as meeting Moltmann himself. Several of them had published books on Moltmann, such as Danielle Shroyer's Original Blessing and Mark Buchanan's Embraced: Many Stories, One Destiny: You, Me, and Moltmann. Personal letters from Moltmann were shared, and stories told of times we've been pastored by Moltmann in our lives. We were distant friends with a common bond before, but now we were friends for life.

Day Two: Moltmann's Closing Remarks

Day two was a half day, and the final day of the conference. Moltmann stood for his closing remarks behind a lectern. The final presidential debate was the night before, and Moltmann said it had made him tired. In his closing remarks, Moltmann stood for his lecture, and spoke more boldly against the execution of Kelly Gissendaner. Moltmann began by returning to the eucharist, "The risen Christ makes life a feast without end. My theology is an unfinished work and on the way. Out unfinished words are like Karl Barth, Martin Luther and Augustine." Then, Moltmann addressed Kelly's experience on Death Row:

"I followed the execution of Kelly Gissendaner very carefully. What theology do these prisoners develop? I myself was a prisoner in Scotland. What happens there in prison with human beings? Kelly was confined to silence, solidarity, isolation, and celibacy. She couldn't even shake hands longer than thirty seconds. She spent years not knowing if this day was her last, and this is cruel and unusual punishment. People after five years in solitary confinement go crazy and are stripped of humanity. John of the Cross described this as the dark night of the soul. Kelly sang songs and prayed prayers to survive death row. Jesus, the Spirit of Life, will visit you in your prison cell. Kelly said do not allow prison to rob you of your dreams and dignity. A miracle occurs and our life is redeemed and not wasted. Kelly Gissendaner sang amazing grace as she was executed and was the only free person in prison. The sin of the middle class is indifference. Get out and live and the spirt will bless you."


It was an amazing conference, and I feel sad for any Moltmann fan who was not able to be there. A little bird told me that Moltmann's lectures will be available online soon. I had a great time in Atlanta, and I was impressed by all the Emory Candler students who showed me true southern hospitality (you know who you are!). And lastly, here is a special thank you to Candler School of Theology at Emory University for hosting a once in a life time event!

Moltmann and Me

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Unfinished Worlds: Jürgen Moltmann at 90 Conference

Unfinished Worlds: Jürgen Moltmann at 90 Conference

I will be live tweeting the Unfinished Worlds: Jürgen Moltmann at 90 conference at Emory (Oct 19 & 20, 2016). Follow me @PostBarthian on twitter and use the hashtag #UWJM for conference related tweets. See you soon in Atlanta!



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The Errors of Inerrancy: #3 Inerrancy Censors the Bible’s Capacity for Error

The Errors of Inerrancy: #3 Inerrancy Censors the Bible's Capacity for Error[The Errors of Inerrancy: A ten-part series on why Biblical Inerrancy censors the Scriptures and divides Evangelicals.]

The Errors of Inerrancy: #3. Inerrancy Censors the Bible's Capacity for Error.


What harm is there in believing that the Bible might be Inerrant? In most cases, Biblical Inerrancy is a relatively harmless foreign praxis applied to the Holy Scriptures that forces theologians to defend absurd answers to "Bible Difficulties" (e.g. see the preposterous explanations for how the wrong priest was named in Mark 2:26 or how the wrong prophet was cited in Matt 27:9-10). In other cases, this praxis becomes harmful because, by not acknowledging any errors exist in the Scriptures, a theologian is forced to affirm an error (i.e. Bible Difficulty), and then must reorient their entire theology around that error to harmonize with it and avoid admitting the error exists. In the worst cases, Biblical Inerrancy forces theologians to defend detrimental errors in order to avoid admitting that there is an isolated and spurious error in the Scriptures.

For example, Wolfhart Pannenberg believes that the Word of God opposes patriarchy, but he said "that the Biblical tradition has legitimized a patriarchal order of the family" in not only the Old Testament, but also in the New Testament (cf. 1 Cor 14:34, Col 3:18, 1 Pet 3:1, Tit 2:5). According to Pannenberg, these patriarchal verses are in theological error, and patriarchy must be eliminated based by what the Bible teaches about the mutual love of early Christianity and the example of Jesus. To continue to affirm 'Biblical patriarchy' may result in the suppression of women's rights, in the Church and outside the Church. So according to Pannenberg, we must use the Word of God to defeat the errors of Biblical patriarchy!

The existence of errors in the Bible does not mean the Bible is ridden with errors—don't let Biblical Inerrantists deceive you! There are many explanations why these spurious and isolated verses exist in the Bible, but the Word of God opposes them and corrects these errors in these human words of the Holy Scriptures. Biblical Inerrancy forces theologians (and all Christians!) to defend these errors due to its unwillingness to admit that these isolated and spurious verses are in error. Thankfully, many Biblical Inerrantists do not defend these erroneous practices like Biblical Patriarchy, because most resort to the absurd answers to Bible Difficulties (that I previously mentioned) to evade the errors.

In this post, I will explore how the Bible may have a capacity for error that even extends to its theological and religious claims, and why it is an Error of Inerrancy to deny that the Bible has a capacity for error, and to explain how this Error of Biblical Inerrancy censors the Bible.

God Writes Straight, Even In Crooked Lines

Hans Küng summarizes the problem of Biblical Inerrancy concisely in his book, Theology of the Third Millennium, and in the following quotation he explains why the veracity of the Word of God does not depend on the inerrancy of the Scriptures, and in manifold ways, Biblical Inerrancy denies what the Bible says about itself.

As we know, the theory of verbal inspiration and verbal inerrancy was profoundly shaken by the Enlightenment. The historico-critical question, now directed at the books of [sic] the Bible, brought their genuine humanity and historicity to light. In the process, furthermore, the biblical authors' capacity for error became more than clear. . . . For deviation from the truth on historical and scientific questions in no way endangered the authority of Scripture. Rather God accepted the human author with all his weaknesses and mistakes—and reached his goal nevertheless: to teach men and women the "truth" of revelation. . . . The historical-anthropological relativity of Scripture must be taken seriously. Every doctrine of inspiration is limited by the fact that the biblical Scriptures are at the same time wholly human texts by human authors. They have to be measured and relativized by their human authors' gifts and shortcomings, their possibilities for knowledge and error, so that mistakes of the most varied sort cannot be excluded in advance. . . . Only when we recognize that God writes straight even in crooked lines and can reach his goals by way of our humanity and historicity without doing any violence to human beings. . . . We do not have to wash our hands before handling the Bible. The New Testament Scriptures nowhere claim to have fallen directly from heaven; rather they often quite unselfconsciously stress their human origin (along with the Apostolic Letters, Luke 1:2 is especially informative on the subject of how the Gospels came into being). . . . The operations of the Spirit excludes neither obscurity nor confusion, neither limitation nor error. The testimonies recorded in the New Testament have neither the same texture nor the same value. Some are brighter, some darker; some are more intelligible, some less; some are stronger, some weaker; some are more original, some derivative. There are testimonies that can diverge, contrast, and partially contradict one another. They are held together by the fundamental testimony that Jesus Christ has revealed the God who interacts with us. [1]

The Bible has a Capacity for Error

What does it mean to say that the Bible has a "capacity for error"? In the simplest sense, it means that the Word of God is not the exact same thing as the Bible, and the Word of God may not be falsified by an error in the Bible, and when errors are encountered in the Bible, these errors may be corrected by the rest of the Bible—theologians refer to this as material criticism or Sachkritik. Barth said that there is an "indirect identity" between the divine Word of God and the human words of Holy Scripture, therefore this distinction means that the human words of the Bible have a "capacity for error". So there's no need to have a panic attack, if an error is discovered in the Scriptures (like proponents of Biblical Inerrancy) because we may rightly discern the Word of God despite the finitude of the human authors of the Holy Scriptures. And if we do not discern this distinction, we censor the Word of God by the limits of the human words of Scripture.

Karl Barth explains how the Bible has a capacity for error well in this quotation:

"First, there is the truism that we cannot expect or demand a compendium of Solomonic or even divine knowledge of all things in heaven and earth, natural, historical and human, to be mediated to the prophets and apostles in and with their encounter with divine revelation, possessing which they have to be differentiated not only from their own but from every age as the bearers and representatives of an ideal culture and therefore as the inerrant proclaimers of all and every truth. They did not in fact possess any such compendium. Each in his own way and degree, they shared the culture of their age and environment, whose form and content could be contested by other ages and environments, and at certain points can still appear debatable to us. “Man has said what he could”. This means that we cannot overlook or deny it or even alter it. In the biblical view of the world and man we are constantly coming up against presuppositions which are not ours, and statements and judgments which we cannot accept. Therefore at bottom we cannot avoid the tensions which arise at this point. We must reckon with the fact that this may be possible in points of detail, and we must always be ready for it. Instead of talking about the “errors” of the biblical authors in this sphere, if we want to go to the heart of things it is better to speak only about their “capacity for errors.” For in the last resort even in relation to the general view of the world and man the insight and knowledge of our age can be neither divine nor even Solomonic. But fundamentally we certainly have to face the objection and believe in spite of it!" [2]

The Bible's capacity for error also means, that if an insignificant error is found in the Bible, the Word of God continues to be true. When Science demonstrates that the rabbit does not chew the cud (contrary to Lev 11:6) or the Moon is not greater than Saturn (Gen 1:16), then these isolated and insignificant errors do not invalidate the truth of the Bible and they certainly do not falsify the resurrection of Jesus Christ! We may use the Bible to amend itself at times, so that we may discerned the Word of God in the human words of Scripture. The revelation of the Word of God in the witness of the Holy Scriptures is not invalidated by these isolated and insignificant errors. (For instance, John Calvin believed there was an error in a quotation of the Old Testament in Hebrew 11:21, and he believed that this error may be safely ignored because the "Apostles were not so scrupulous in this respect" and since the error may be safely corrected by cross checking the original quotation in 1 Kings 1:47.)

The Bible's Capacity For Error extends to its Religious and Theological content


It is tempting to say that the Bible has a capacity for error only in its scientific claims, but this is not true. The Bible may also contain errors in its theological and religious claims. The Bible does not need us to hide its blemishes, because anytime we suppress the Bible, we may be suppressing the truth. Limiting the Bible's capacity for error to its non-theological and non-religious claims, is like placing training-wheels on the Bible, and although there are times it is useful to simplify the Bible for children, and use tools like Flannelgraphs, however these accommodations should not be mandated by Biblical Inerrancy, and there must come a time when the training wheels of Biblical Inerrancy must be removed from the Bible.

Barth explains how the Bible's capacity for error also extends to its religious and theological content as follows:

"But the vulnerability of the Bible, i.e., its capacity for error, also extends to its religious and theological content. The significance of a fact which was known to the early antiquity weighs on us more heavily to-day than formerly: that in their attestation of divine revelation (from the standpoint of the history of religion) the biblical authors shared the outlook and spoke the language of their own day--and, therefore, whether we like it or not, they did not speak, a special language of revelation radically different from that of their time. On the contrary, at point after point we find them echoing contemporaries in time and space who did not share their experiences and witness, often resembling them so closely that it is impossible to distinguish between them. Not only part but all that they say is historically related and conditioned. It seems to be weakened, and therefore robbed of its character as witness to revelation, by the fact that it has so many 'parallels'." [3]

Martin Luther on the Holy Scriptures and the Word of God


Martin Luther said, "There are two entities: God and the Scripture of God, which are no less than two entities, Creator and creature of God." The human witness of the Holy Scripture and the divine Word of God are two separate entities, and the unity and distinction of these two entities must be simultaneously upheld. In a marriage, it is essential to make to affirm the unity of two persons, but also affirm that there are two persons in unity! Or, it's also essential to affirm the two natures in the one person of Jesus (and that's why monophysitism was declared a heresy by the Ecumenical Councils). Therefore, conflating the Bible and the Word of God, diminishes and censors the Bible. My point is that affirming the unity of the Bible and the Word of God at the expense of the distinction of the Bible and the Word of God, is an Error of Inerrancy!

Biblical Inerrancy prima facie affirms the humanity of the Biblical authors, but denies that the Biblical authors have written in a way common to all other human authors. So the Biblical author's humanity is affirmed, only so far as that humanity is a subset of the divine Word of God. Due the finitude of human language, this calls into question whether God has been revealed at all! Chicago Statement Article IV, demonstrates that the Bible is not a distinct human entities as Luther said: "We deny that human language is so limited by our creatureliness that it is rendered inadequate as a vehicle for divine revelation. We further deny that the corruption of human culture and language through sin has thwarted God's work of inspiration."

In Martin Luther explains to read the Bible, in a way that maintains its distinction and unity with the Word of God, in his preface to James and Jude:

"The true touchstone for testing every book is to discover whether it emphasizes the prominence of Christ or not. All Scripture sets forth Christ (Rom 3:24f) and Paul will know nothing but Christ (1 Cor 2:2). What does not teach Christ is not apostolic, not even if taught by Peter or Paul. On the other hand, what does preach Christ is apostolic, even if Judas, Annas, Pilate, or Herod does it." [4]

I am not ashamed of the Bible's humanity

The Bible is not a divine document that descended from heaven on golden plates, but a collection of human writings born from the witness of the Church witnessing to the Word of God. Similar to Christology, the Bible is fully human and fully divine like the two natures of Jesus. If a preacher preaches the divinity of Jesus at the expense of Jesus' humanity, then he is perpetrator of Doceticism. Inerrancy is not a heresy, but like Doceticism, it diminishes the Bible by denying its humanity. Biblical Inerrancy censors the Bible by not allowing it to have a "capacity for error" and it rejects any theological conclusion that acknowledges errors in the Scriptures. Biblical Inerrancy appears harmless on the surface, but may result in affirming errors to avoid acknowledging errors exist in the Bible.

In conclusion, there's no need to protect the Bible by censoring it's blemishes like the Biblical Inerrantists—ripe fruit has the most blemishes but tastes the best! I'm not ashamed of the gospel, and that includes the humanity of Jesus, the humanity of the Bible, the humanity of the Church, and the humanity of every individual Christian and humanity of all people. In a final word of encouragement, Karl Barth reminds us that the Bible is the revealed Word of God, so the Bible does not need us to defend it and we do not need to protect it—as Paul said, we have this treasure in jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4:7-11).

In a final word of encouragement, we do not need to solve all of the "Bible Difficulties" and we may be comfortable with the humanity of the Bible. If we allow the Bible to have a capacity for error when we interpret it, then the truth will shine more brilliantly in it. This last word is expressed best by Karl Barth when he said,

We are absolved from differentiating the Word of God in the Bible from other contents, infallible portions and expressions from the erroneous ones, the infallible from the fallible, and from imagining that by means of such discoveries we can create for ourselves encounters with the genuine Word of God in the Bible. If God was not ashamed of the fallibility of all the human words of the Bible, of their historical and scientific inaccuracies, their theological contradictions, the uncertainty of their tradition, and, above all, their Judaism, but adopted and made use of these expressions in all their fallibility, we do not need to be ashamed when He wills to renew it to us in all its fallibility as witness, and it is mere self-will and disobedience to try to find some infallible elements in the Bible. But finally we are absolved from having to know and name such the event or events, in which Scripture proves and confirms itself to us as the Word of God. [5]
[^1] Küng, Hans. Theology for the Third Millennium: An Ecumenical View. New York: Doubleday, 1988. 52-58. Print.
[^2] Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics: The Word of God I/2. Vol. 5. London: T & T Clark, 2010. 52. Print. Study Edition. [508]
[^3] Ibid. 54. [510]
[^4] Martin Luther's preface to James and Jude.
[^5] Ibid. 78-9. [532-3]
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The Errors of Inerrancy: #2 Inerrant Original Autographs are a Tautology of Biblical Inerrancy

The Errors of Inerrancy: #2 Inerrant Original Autographs are a Tautology of Biblical Inerrancy[The Errors of Inerrancy: A ten-part series on why Biblical Inerrancy censors the Scriptures and divides Evangelicals.]

The Errors of Inerrancy: #2. Inerrant Original Autographs are a Tautology of Biblical Inerrancy

What are Inerrant Original Autographs?

The Inerrant Original Autographs are the linchpin of Biblical Inerrancy, but what are these hypothetical documents? I'll answer by reviewing the history of it.

According to the rationalistic logic of Biblical Inerrancy, God may not error, and God may not speak error, and so the syllogism concludes that if there is even an insignificant error in the Bible, then the Bible is not the Word of God. The first proponents of Biblical Inerrancy in the 17th century, including Francis Turretin and John Owen, extended inerrancy to the scribal copy-work of Biblical manuscripts over the centuries, and they believed that their extant Bibles were absolutely free from error, and generously extended inerrancy to the vowel pointers added by the scribes to the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible. They believed that variants existed in some Biblical manuscripts, yet believed that God had divinely preserved the Bible without errors to their day.

In the 16th century, Erasmus had initiated the reconstruction of the Bible from extant Greek Biblical manuscripts, and even the best manuscripts contained unsolvable problems (i.e. Bible Difficulties), and as more ancient and accurate manuscripts were discovered, the hope of finding an inerrant manuscript of the Bible vanished. In time, it became impossible to assert that any extant Biblical manuscript was inerrant, such that later proponents of Biblical Inerrancy were forced to retreat from their original claims (i.e. that the extant Bibles were still inerrant) and admit that the inerrant Bible was now lost. According to the Rogers/McKim Proposal, proponents of Biblical Inerrancy were continually forced to retreat further and further from the claims of Owen and Turretin, until at last the American theologian A.A. Hodge (1823—1886) popularized the idea that only the very first written text of each book of the Bible was free from error, and these hypothetical documents are now collectively known as the Inerrant Original Autographs.

Inerrant Original Autographs are the linchpin of Biblical Inerrancy, because these hypothetical documents represent the minimal viable parchment that must exist for Biblical Inerrancy to be possible, such that at the bare minimum, the very first written copy of the biblical text must be inerrant. Biblical Inerrancy has inexplicably grounded the Word of God in the written human words of Scripture, and does not allow for any distinction between the divinely spoken Word of God and the human written Scripture, because these Inerrant Original Autographs are the very revelation of God in written text. In an odd way, Biblical Inerrancy grounds the Word of God into the written texts in such a way that the Incarnation is relocated and reoriented from the birth of Jesus to the writing of the Inerrant Original Autographs!

Inerrant Original Autographs are therefore a tautology of Biblical Inerrancy, and tells us nothing about the nature of the first sources of the Bible, and tell us everything about the flawed presuppositions of Biblical Inerrancy.

The 'Lost' Inerrant Original Autographs is Biblical Inerrancy Backtracking

Biblical Inerrancy has backtracked so far that today, proponents say that the Inerrant Original Autographs are now lost, so there is no way to verify (or falsify) their theory. Since the Inerrant Original Autographs have perished, and even the first copies of these hypothetical documents were susceptible to error, then their exact content is now extinct, and hope that they will be reconstructed is lost forever. The lost Inerrant Original Autographs, make Biblical Inerrancy an unprovable tautology!

The Chicago Statement says "We deny that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant." This statement admits, unbeknownst to the authors, that they have no access to the Inerrant Original Autographs, and these extinct documents might as well have never existed, because they are inaccessible to the Church. And, since the exact words of the Inerrant Original Autographs are lost, then all of the essential elements of the Christian Faith are affected by the absence of the autographs. Biblical Inerrancy has so strictly united the Word of God with the human words of Scripture that revelation of the Word of God depends on their accuracy, so then the absence of these documents means that all of Christian dogma is called into question by their absence because of the direct dependence upon them! Therefore, according to the logic of Inerrancy, if our Bible contains any errors, then it is not the Word of God, and so since there is no way to confirm that the first sources of the Bible were inerrant, since they are now lost (i.e. extinct), then the Church does not possess an Inerrant Bible, and so it doesn't possess the Word of God at all! To say that "this absence renders ... Inerrancy invalid" is a sheepish admission that the signers of the Chicago Statement are unable to be consistent with their own rationalist system.

The Inerrant Original Autographs are Lost Forever

The so-called Inerrant Original Autographs were lost as soon as they were written, so whether the first sources of the Bible were "inerrant" is impossible to demonstrate from the witness of Church history or from Biblical manuscript evidence. There's no historical attestation to first sources of the Bible that substantiate the claim that they resembled anything like Inerrant Original Autographs. Since the first copies of the Inerrant Original Autographs contained variants (like every copy thereafter), then the exact text of the Inerrant Original Autographs are lost forever, and may never be reconstructed since the parchments they were written upon have perished. Since the very first copies of the Inerrant Original Autographs contained variants, there is no way to certainly know that any verse is free from error. Even if the first copies were 99.99% accurate, there would be no way to absolutely know that any given word of the bible was correct without the Inerrant Original Autograph to verify it. It may have been possible to cross-check with the Inerrant Original Autographs before they perished, but there's no evidence that this practice ever happened in Church History, and if it did happen, then it was only for small selections of the Bible and for a handful of years. The oldest known manuscript copies of the New Testament were written a century or more after the original sources, so there are many transitional manuscripts between these know copies and the first sources. And the first hundred years of Church was one of the most active and viral epochs in the history of the Church, so the idea that an inerrant Bible was disseminated perfectly in this period of explosive expansion is an anachronistic tale from denizens of the Age of Information. Today its possible to perfectly transmit a text document to a billion people in a twinkling of an eye, but its absurd to think that any document was spread this way in the first centuries of the Church.

No one person or Church has ever seen all the Original Autographs

Before first English speaking theologians of the 17th century imagined Inerrant Original Autographs, no one in 1700 years prior had conceived of the existence of Inerrant Original Autographs. Sure there were various quotations by ancient people, when read anachronistically through the paradigm of Inerrancy that sounded like Biblical Inerrancy, but no historical witnesses that refer to the first sources of the Bible being any different in nature to any other ancient document.

No single Church or person has ever had access to all Inerrant Original Autographs. It's possible a person in the early church in Thessolonica may have read both Inerrant Original Autographs of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, but there's no evidence that all the golden copies of the Inerrant Original Autographs of the New Testament were ever located in one place. And the first sources of the Old Testament perished centuries before all the New Testament documents were written. All of this means that no Church or person has ever witnessed a complete set of Inerrant Original Autographs. So a complete "inerrant" Bible has never been normative in any Church ever, and the bible that has been normative in the Church has never been inerrant.

Modern Greek Bibles have essentially reconstructed the original sources of the New Testament

The Bible has far greater historical attestation than any other ancient work of literature. Archeologists have discovered over a hundred papyri manuscripts of the New Testament that were written as early as the second century of the Church, and thanks to the science of Textual Criticism, experts have essentially reconstructed the original sources of the Bible. The UBS5 and NA28 are two different reconstructions of the Greek New Testament based on the manuscript evidence, and these eclectic Bibles are essentially identical to the letter. It is a false dichotomy of Biblical Inerrancy to say that either the Bible is inerrant or the Bible is fully of errors and lies. Due to the discoveries of ancient Biblical manuscripts and the scientific work by Textual Criticism, the eclectic Biblical texts are a near exact reconstruction of the primal sources to the Greek New Testament. The UBS5 and NA28 are not inerrant copies of the Inerrant Original Autographs, but are almost identical to the Bible used by the earliest Christian Churches. In many ways, this eclectic text is a more complete and accurate copy of the Bible than anyone in Church History possessed for the first 2,000 years of the Church.

A highly accurate Bible is not an inerrant Bible.

The eclectic Bibles are highly reliable and accurate, but they are not inerrant! The UBS5 includes an apparatus that provides a confidence rating for each verse of the Bible. The highest score is an A-ratings that means that the first order manuscripts are in reasonable agreement and the lowest score is a D-rating that means that it is uncertain which manuscript contains the original text (or none of them are correct). Almost every page of the eclectic Bible contains a D-rated verse. And even if all the verses had an an A-rating, this doesn't guarantee that the eclectic text is error free, because a variant may have been introduced to the common ancestor to all the first-order Biblical manuscripts. All Biblical manuscripts contain variants (errors), so we know with high certainty that variants were introduced between the earliest extant manuscripts and the first sources of the Bible.

Inerrant Original Autographs are aping Historical Adam controversies

Our highly accurate and reliable eclectic Bibles are not free from internal problems. Apart from presuppositions of Biblical Inerrancy, there's no reason to believe that the first sources were one unique document. Even conservative theologians admit that there is a Synoptic Problem in the Gospels that demonstrates that there were many first sources that were brought together into the present form of Matthew, Mark, and Luke in the Bible today. Asserting that the Bible today descend from copies of Inerrant Original Autographs is similar to Biblical Literalists today who assert that all human beings descended from a Historical Adam. (The Historical Adam is an Evangelical controversy where the book of Genesis is read under the auspice of Biblical Literalism to assert that all human beings physically descended from one perfect man, specially created by God directly from the dirt without intermediate form, named Adam in the Garden of Eden.) All ancient documents originated from first sources, but this does not prove that any ancient text originated from one and only one primal source, and it certainly does not prove that that a first source was inerrant! Textual criticism teaches that ancient literature is an amelioration of sources from various times, places and redactors, and this is true of the Bible as well. The Bible has far better historical manuscript attestation than any ancient document, however there is no evidence that the first sources of the Bible one and only one Inerrant Original Autographs. All the manuscript evidence and evidence from Church history indicates that the Bible originated from a very intricately weaved grouping of many sources; and even the Bible says this about itself (Luke 1:1-4)! If the proposition of Biblical Inerrancy were removed, then there would be no further basis for asserting Inerrant Original Autographs ever existed.


The hypothetical and so-called Inerrant Original Autographs are an unprovable tautology of Biblical Inerrancy, that do not inform of the historical nature of first sources of the Bible, but rather inform us what is the absolute minimum requirements that these first sources of the Bible must have been in order to affirm Biblical Inerrancy. So Inerrant Original Autographs are a result of Biblical Inerrancy, not a support for Biblical Inerrancy. And in the end, if the true sources of the Bible were absolutely dissimilar to Inerrant Biblical Autographs, then our Bibles would remain unchanged! So therefore as G.C. Berkouwer once said, the Inerrant Original Autographs are "foreign to the world of Scripture", and may be safely disregarded in any orthodox doctrine of inspiration of the Bible.

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The Errors of Inerrancy: #1 The Church has never possessed an inerrant Bible

errorofinerrancy1[The Errors of Inerrancy: A ten-part series on why Biblical Inerrancy censors the Scriptures and divides Evangelicals.]

The Errors of Inerrancy: #1. The Church has never possessed an inerrant Bible.

No one person or church has ever possessed an inerrant Bible, because Biblical Inerrancy "strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture" (c.f. Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Article X) and all the Original Autographs have not existed at the same time. It's possible that an early church may have briefly possessed two or more Original Autographs of Paul's letters (e.g. 1 & 2 Corinthians), but no one has ever seen all of the Original Autographs of the New Testament. Therefore, the Church has never possessed or operated with a complete inerrant Bible. The extant Bible that has actively guided the Church everywhere throughout history, from the very beginning, has never been an inerrant Bible.

Inerrancy undermines the Authority of the Bible in the Church

According to the logic of Biblical Inerrancy, only the lost Original Autographs are authoritative, and extant copies of the Bible are authoritative so far as they accurately reproduce the inerrant Original Autographs. Therefore the Church has never operated with an authoritative Bible because the Original Autographs perished shortly after they were written, and as few as fifty people or less may have been eye-witnesses to one or more of the so-called inerrant Original Autographs! Sadly, the hypothetical inerrant Original Autographs have perished and are forever lost, and their brief existence was like shooting stars that unknown people happened to see strike brilliantly across the sky before disappearing forever into the darkness of space.

Inerrancy undermines the Infallibility of the Bible.

On the contrary, the extant Bible has always had authority in the Church throughout history despite the immediate extinction of the inerrant Original Autographs. The authoritative Bible is the extant Bible actively used in the Church, and not the extinct inerrant Original Autographs. The authority of the Bible does not depend on inerrant Original Autographs, but exclusively upon the testimony of the Holy Spirit, such that revelation of the Word of God is faithfully witnessed through even inaccurate copies of the Bible (e.g. consider the influence of the KJV Bible that used the defective Textus Receptus). Establishing the authority of the Bible on extinct inerrant Original Autographs means that the Word of God has failed to outlive the parchment of the Original Autographs they were written upon, and is in flat contradiction to Matthew 24:35, where the Evangelist declares the word of Jesus are infallible.

Inerrancy undermines Church Dogma dependent on single words of scripture.

It is impossible to say that a single word of any extant Bible is identical to the inerrant Original Autograph. Many Christian Doctrines are established on a single word of Scripture (c.f σπέρματι in Gal 3:16). Ironically, this includes inerrancy as well! B.B. Warfield's argument for Inerrancy in his Inspiration and Authority of the Bible rests exclusively on the single greek word inspiration (θεόπνευστος) in 2 Tim 3:16! So it is impossible to affirm Biblical Inerrancy and "DENY that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs" (Chicago Statement, Art X).

Biblical Inerrancy is a Dispensable Accretion to the Doctrine of Inspiration.

Martin Luther said that "there are two entities: God and the Scripture of God, which are no less than two entities, creator and creature of God." The error of inerrancy might have been averted if this distinction between the divine revelation of the Word of God and the human witness in the Holy Scriptures were maintained. Inerrancy unnecessarily combines these entities in a similar way to how the monophysites combined the human and divine natures in Christology (and for clarity, I'm not saying Biblical Inerrancy is a heresy). The desire to affirm the Bible, naively resulted in reducing the doctrine of inspiration to a mechanical dictation theory of inspiration. Maintaining Luther's distinction abolishes the requirement for inerrant Original Autographs entirely! If there are errors in the Scriptures, then the testimony of the Holy Spirit will enable the Church to hear the Word of God faithfully and accurately in Scriptures, despite the Scripture's capacity for error.

Biblical Inerrancy is a Mechanical Dictation Theory of Inspiration

For instance, Paul dictated the Epistle of the Romans through the prison bars to Tertius (c.f. Rom 16:11), so in his cause, there is no written Original Autograph! Tertius copied down what Paul spoke, so the first written copy of the Epistle to the Romans is not inerrant (according to the logic of Biblical Inerrancy). Asserting that Tertius' transcription was the inerrant Original Autograph of Romans reduces Biblical Inerrancy to a "mechanical dictation theory of inspiration" (identical to the Islamic view of the Qu'ran). Consider the odd conclusion that Paul's spoken words are not inerrant, but Tertius' transcription of Paul's words are inerrant! Suggesting Paul and his scribe co-authored the inerrant epistle is equally and likewise odd. Proponents of Biblical Inerrancy have said, "WE DENY that God, in causing these writers to use the very words that He chose, overrode their personalities" (Chicago Statement, Art. IX). However, in this view, Paul is comparable to a computer speaker that plays heavenly music, and Tertius is like a microphone that records a heavenly musician—and no one considers speakers and microphones to be authors of music today!

The extant Bible is always better than the extinct inerrant Bible

The Bible that has always been normative and authoritative in the Church has never been an inerrant Bible! So there's no need to imagine an inerrant Bible. And since we have no known witnesses to describe the ontology of the lost Original Autographs, we may not make any positive statements regarding their composition or nature. If the lost Original Autographs were miraculously preserved and one day discovered, and upon analysis, proved to have the same types of errors that all future copies possessed, there would be no change to the Bible possessed everywhere today! It is the extant Bible, not the inerrant Bible, that has been norming norm for the Church and the extant Bible, not the extinct inerrant Bible, that is the sola scriptura of the Church.


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