A Massive New Book on the Authority of Scripture, Edited by D. A. Carson

download (1)Years in the making, Eerdmans has now published The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures, a 1,248-page tome edited by D. A. Carson, which grew out of funding from the Henry Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Here is their description:

In The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures thirty-seven first-rate evangelical scholars present a thorough study of biblical authority and a full range of issues connected to it. Recognizing that Scripture and its authority are now being both challenged and defended with renewed vigor, editor D. A. Carson assigned the topics that these select scholars address in the book. After an introduction by Carson to the many facets of the current discussion, the contributors present robust essays on relevant historical, biblical, theological, philosophical, epistemological, and comparative-religions topics. To conclude, Carson answers a number of frequently asked questions about the nature of Scripture, providing cross-references to the preceding chapters. This comprehensive volume by a team of recognized experts will be the go-to reference on the nature and authority of the Bible for years to come.

The chapters are broken down as follows:

  • Part 1: Historical Topics (9 chapters)
  • Part 2: Biblical and Theological Topics (14 chapters)
  • Part 3: Philosophical And Epistemological Topics (6 chapters)
  • Part 4: Comparative Religions Topics (4 chapters)
  • Part 5: Thinking Holistically (1 chapter)
  • Part 6: FAQs (1 chapter)

At the end of the book, D. A. Carson provides a summarizing FAQ, where he provides summary answers to the questions raised in each chapter.

I have outlined below the contributor, the chapter title, and the questions addressed. Tomorrow, I will provide Carson’s answers for the historical section.

1. D. A. Carson, “The Many Facets of the Current Discussion”

1.1 Why is the authority of Scripture so hotly debated today?

1.2 Why are the issues surrounding the Bible’s authority so complicated?

1.3 Isn’t the word “inerrancy” pretty useless, since it has to be defined very carefully and technically for it to be deployed at all?

Part 1: Historical Topics

2. Charles E. Hill, “‘The Truth Above All Demonstration’: Scripture in the Patristic Period to Augustine”

2.1 What role did Scripture play in the writings of the patristic period?

2.2 Wasn’t the formation of the New Testament canon a rather late development?

2.3 Didn’t the fathers apply the term “inspiration” to writings other than the writings of the New Testament?

3. Robert Kolb, “The Bible in the Reformation and Protestant Orthodoxy”

3.1 Did Luther and Calvin provide substantial innovation as they worked out their doctrine of Scripture?

3.2 Doesn’t Luther’s well-known comment that James is “an epistle of straw” demonstrate that he was prepared to dismiss Scripture when it didn’t suit his theology?

3.3 How similar are the views of Luther and Calvin on the doctrine of Scripture?

4. Rodney L. Stiling, “Natural Philosophy and Biblical Authority in the Seventeenth Century”

4.1 Weren’t the scientists of the seventeenth century, such as Kepler, Galileo, and Newton (like Copernicus a century earlier), essentially an early species of secularists whose scientific methods left them free to challenge the authority of Scripture?

4.2 Didn’t theologians systematically try to marginalize the scientists?

4.3 So when did a more skeptical approach to the Scriptures begin to surface among scientists?

5. John D. Woodbridge, “German Pietism and Scriptural Authority: The Question of Biblical Inerrancy”

5.1 Is it not the case that many Christians in the Pietist-Methodist-Holiness-Pentecostal traditions trace at least some of their roots to Spener and other German Pietists? And that includes their views on Scripture?

5.2 Is it not the case that Spener and other early Pietists rejected inerrancy, owing in part to their reaction against Lutheran orthodoxy?

6. Thomas H. McCall, “Wesleyan Theology and the Authority of Scripture: Historic Affirmations and Some Contemporary Issues”

6.1 Is it not true to say that the Wesleyan tradition on Scripture descends from Pietism, such that Pietist views on Scripture controlled the stances of the early Wesleyans?

6.2 Why then do many Wesleyans explicitly reject the traditional stance on inerrancy?

6.3 Haven’t some Wesleyans (especially William Abraham) argued that, since the Bible has been given for purposes of transformation rather than information (which seems to be the focus of attention in inerrantist formulations), the emphases of the traditional position on truth are fatally misdirected?

7. Bradley N. Seeman, “The ‘Old Princetonians’ on Biblical Authority”

7.1 Who are the “Old Princetonians,” and why are they brought up in connection with debates over the nature of Scripture?

7.2 What, more precisely, are the Old Princetonians alleged to have done?

7.3 Are the charges against the Old Princetonians justified?

8. Glenn S. Sunshine, “Accommodation Historically Considered”

8.1 What is meant by “accommodation”?

8.2 Is that how accommodation is commonly understood today?

9. David Gibson, “The Answering Speech of Men: Karl Barth on Holy Scripture”

9.1 How come Karl Barth’s views of Scripture have come back to be the focus of so much attention today?

9.2 Doesn’t Barth say that the Bible isn’t the Word of God, but becomes the Word of God when it is received by faith?

9.3 Doesn’t Barth claim to stand in line with the Reformers, so far as his view of Scripture is concerned?

10. Anthony N. S. Lane, “Roman Catholic Views of Biblical Authority from the Late Nineteenth Century to the Present”

10.1 Does the Roman Catholic Church share the same view of Scripture that you have been describing as “classic” or “traditional”?

10.2 What do you mean by “until quite recently”? Have the views of Catholicism as to the nature of Scripture changed?

10.3 Is this proving divisive in the Roman Catholic Church?

Part 2: Biblical and Theological Topics

11. Stephen G. Dempster, “The Old Testament Canon, Josephus, and Cognitive Environment”

11.1 Is there scholarly consensus on when the Old Testament canon was more or less stable?

11.2 What is the nature of the evidence that these two positions are fighting over?

12. V. Philips Long, “‘Competing Histories, Competing Theologies?’ Reflections on the Unity and Diversity of the Old Testament(s’ Readers)”

12.1 Why do the substantive differences among scholars regarding the history of Israel matter to our Christian faith?

12.2 Then the more pressing question becomes, Why do these substantive differences regarding the history of Israel exist? Why can’t scholars agree on such matters?

12.3 In order to preserve discussion, might it not be a good thing for the supernaturalists to engage in some discussion on a kind of “as if ” basis — that is, to play by the rules of the philosophical naturalists, not because they espouse them, but “as if ” they were right in order to see how far the study of the texts can take us on this reduced basis?

13. Peter J. Williams, “Ehrman’s Equivocations and the Inerrancy of the Original Text”

13.1 Does it make any sense to affirm that the Bible is inerrant in the original, when we do not possess the autographa?

13.2 What do you mean by the “multivalence” of these expressions?

13.3 What difference does this make for discussions about inerrancy?

14. Simon Gathercole, “E Pluribus Unim? Apostolic Unity and Early Christian Literature”

14.1 Haven’t many scholars demonstrated that in its origins Christianity was highly diverse, theologically speaking, and that unity of doctrine was gradually and rigidly enforced by the group that viewed itself alone as orthodox, a process that took three or four centuries?

14.2 What evidence supports your claim?

15. Graham A. Cole, “Why a Book? Why This Book? Why the Particular Order within This Book? Some Theological Reflections on the Canon”

15.1 Isn’t the “canon” of biblical books a rather arbitrary collection?

15.2 When was the present order of the books in our canon established?

16. Peter F. Jensen, “God and the Bible”

16.1 How should we think of the relationship between God and his Word?

16.2 Isn’t it possible to believe the gospel without being too fussed about believing everything in the Bible?

16.3 Aren’t such demands a bit out of favor with contemporary demands for authentic freedom?

17. Henri A. G. Blocher, ‘God and the Scripture Writers: The Question of Double Authorship”

17.1 The notion of two authors, divine and human, standing behind the Scriptures is intrinsically difficult. How should we begin to think about these things?

17.2 But are not some models for thinking about this “dual authorship” better than others?

18. Bruce K. Waltke, “Myth, History, and the Bible”

18.1 Aren’t the “pre-history” chapters of the Bible — Genesis 1-11 — cast as myths?

18.2 Doesn’t the creation account in Genesis sound very much like (for instance) the Babylonian Enuma Elish and other ancient Near Eastern creation myths?

19. Barry G. Webb, “Biblical Authority and Diverse Literary Genres”

19.1 In their treatments of biblical authority, haven’t Christians paid too little attention to the Bible’s diverse literary genres?

19.2 How is the authority of Scripture related to Scripture’s diverse literary genres?

19.3 Are there any advantages bound up with the Bible’s highly diverse literary genres?

20. Mark D. Thompson, “The Generous Gift of a Gracious Father: Toward a Theological Account of the Clarity of Scripture”

20.1 What is meant by “the clarity of Scripture”?

20.2 But can’t the clarity of Scripture be abused? Don’t we need some sort of authoritative office, like the Catholic Magisterium, to teach us what is clearly being said when there are so many differences of opinion?

21. Osvaldo Padilla, “Postconservative Theologians and Scriptural Authority”

21.1 Do some of the postconservative theologians offer a helpful way forward?

21.2 Yet is it not the case today that most philosophers reject foundationalism?

22. Craig L. Blomberg, “Reflections on Jesus’ View of the Old Testament”

22.1 Isn’t it a bit circular to try to establish Jesus’ view of the Scriptures by appealing to the Gospels, which are part of the Scriptures?

22.2 So among the countless opinions regarding the reliability of the Gospels, how can you construct a historically credible approach to finding Jesus’ views on the authority of (antecedent) Scripture?

23. Douglas J. Moo and Andrew David Naselli, “The Problem of the New Testament’s Use of the Old Testament”

23.1 Do not many scholars dismiss any notion of inerrancy, or even inspiration, on the ground that the NT writers use the OT very (shall we say) “creatively” — that is, with no apparent respect for the OT context?

23.2 Their argument seems like a good one. How would you respond?

24. Kevin J. Vanhoozer, “May We Go Beyond What Is Written After All? The Pattern of Theological Authority and the problem of Doctrinal Development”

24.1 What are the dangers in trying to move from Scripture to the construction of systematic theology?

24.2 But how should we move from Scripture to theology?

24.3 Do you have a name for this approach?

24.4 So are we supposed to go “beyond what is written” or not?

Part 3: Philosophical and Epistemological Topics

25. James Beilby, “Contemporary Religious Epistemology: Some Key Aspects”

25.1 What are we to make of the widespread cynicism over the ability to know anything about God?

25.2 What is the value of epistemology?

26. R. Scott Smith, “Non-Foundational Epistemologies and the Truth of Scripture”

26.1 Isn’t it possible to reject foundationalism utterly and still hold to inerrancy?

26.2 Should we then defend foundationalism as an epistemological stance that makes the defense of a high view of Scripture more coherent?

27. Michael C. Rea, “Authority and Truth”

27.1 Do the authority and truth of any text stand or fall together?

27.2 Is there no connection between authority and truth?

28. Paul Helm, “The Idea of Inerrancy”

28.1 Doesn’t a word such as “inerrancy” lose its attractiveness and utility if it has to be buttressed by endless qualifications, distinctions, and definitions?

28.2 So what simple definition of “inerrancy” might be advanced?

29. Richard Lints, “To Whom Does the Text Belong? Communities of Interpretation and the Interpretation of Communities”

29.1 Today there is increasing talk of “interpretive communities.” What does this expression mean?

29.2 So, then, are all interpretations by diverse communities equally valid, equally faithful?

30. Kirsten Birkett, “Science and Scripture”

30.1 Isn’t it true that Christians who defend the truthfulness of Scripture are in a long and losing conflict with science?

30.2 When science and the Bible seem to be in conflict, how should Christians proceed? How should they think things through?

Part 4: Comparative Religions Topics

31. Te-Li Lau, “Knowing the Bible Is the Word of God Despite Competing Claims”

31.1 At a deep level, aren’t the holy books of scriptures of various world religions really saying the same thing?

31.2 Aren’t the Bible’s self-attesting claims a form of circular argument that is essentially self-defeating?

31.3 Since the holy books of other religions make self-attesting claims in a fashion not dissimilar from the claims the Bible makes, how can one legitimately claim exclusive authority for the Bible?

32. Ida Glaser, “Qur’anic Challenges for the Bible Reader”

32.1 Do Muslims view the Qurʾan, their holy book, in much the same ways in which Christians view the Bible, their holy book?

32.2. At least both sides have one set text, one holy book each, don’t they?

32.3 How, then, are Christians and Muslims to converse freely and knowledgeably with one another?

33. Timothy C. Tennent, “Can Hindu Scriptures Serve as a “Tutor” to Christ?”

33.1 In Hindu belief, where is revelation located? Do not Hindus have holy books?

33.2 Is it appropriate for Christians to view the Hindu sacred writings as a sort of Hindu equivalent to the Old Testament — a kind of preparation for Christ and the new covenant?

34. Harold Netland and Alex G. Smith, “Buddhist Sutras and Christian Revelation”

34.1 Do Buddhists possess their own “Bible,” their own sacred writings?

34.2 Do Buddhists hold that all these sacred writings convey revealed truth?

Part 5: Thinking Holistically

35. Daniel M. Doriani, “Take, Read”

35.1 Doesn’t a collection of essays like the ones in this volume sport the risk of making the Bible something that we examine, that we study, that we master, that we defend — instead of being God’s revelation to us, something we must understand and trust and obey, something to which we submit as we submit to God himself?

35.2 Then what is the way ahead?

Part 6: FAQs

36. D. A. Carson, “Summarizing FAQs”