Wednesday, January 28, 2009

'The Divine Spiration of Scripture' - Review. Part 4

McGowan argues that the doctrine of inerrancy is rationalistic and presumptuous, as well as unbiblical. He claims that his position retains a high view of Scripture, and is authentically and historically evangelical. But is it?

McGowan says that inerrancy is not a Biblical word, but then neither is 'Trinity'; nor is the doctrine of the Trinity laid out in any one passage, rather it is the legitimate result of a consideration of the Biblical data. So the fact that there is no one passage that says that the Bible is without error does not of itself mean that inerrancy is unbiblical unless one has in fact redefined the category of 'Biblical doctrine' to mean 'doctrine explicitly taught in so many words in Scripture.' As a Presbyterian minister, McGowan ought ot be familiar with the Westminster Confession statement that:
"The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture."
Now we know that he is an advocate of the frequent revision of creeds and confessions, so maybe he would revise this passage out of the Confession? The fact remains that this is part of the way that Christians have always done theology.

But then it seems that McGowan is uncomfortable with this as well, for on P. 116 he writes:
"In the inerrantist argument, truth is largely viewed in presuppositional terms and theological method is conceived of in scientific terms. Thus the impression is often given that the whole Bible can be reduced to a set of propositions that can then be demonstrated to be 'true'... This explanation of theological method is founded on the notion that Scripture can be reduced to a set of 'facts' or 'propositions', which are then collected and arranged into a systematic theology. This rationalist approach, however well-intentioned, actually undermines the authority of the Scriptures. Rather, we must insist that the Scriptures are the Word of the living God who uses them to address us, save us, challenge us, teach us, encourage us, feed us, and much more."
Now it seems to me that we have a false dichotomy being set up here, and a McGowan who seems to be leaning towards postmodernism. The term 'rationalism', particularly in the sort of Evangelical circles where a book published by IVP might reasonably be expected to be read, is what has been termed a 'boo word', that is a word that tells the reader at once that the person or idea described by it is bad, much as the appearance of the pantomime villain is the cue for the audience to boo him. But what we have here is in fact false. No inerrantist that I am aware of holds that the Bible only contains propositional truth. We are all aware that it contains the Psalms, which are expressions of devotion and emotion in many cases, that there are narratives in the Bible, and that it is not a book of systematic theology. But what McGowan here is undermining is the idea that the Bible contains propositional truth! I use the word 'undermine' advisedly. This is a stealth attack, under cover of darkness. What he has done is to spike the guns (so he thinks) of his opponents, for if you cannot extract propositional truth from the bible, then you cannot show, by good and necessary inference, that the Scriptures must be inerrant.

God willing, next time we shall deal further with McGowan's denial of the Inerrancy of Scripture.



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