08 September 2006

Of straw men and slippery slopes (part one of two)

by Dan Phillips

They go like this:

If A, then B.
If you say A, then you necessarily imply B.
If you say blort, then gazoogie follows.

These are the extremes of making and destroying straw men (on the one hand), and drawing out possible or necessary inferences (on the other). Both can be devastating, though only one legitimately so.

Here's an odd thing: I've found that the people who most cry "Straw man!", or object to a slippery-slope argument, are often those who most richly deserve it.

For instance: thirtyish years ago, folks like Harold Lindsell (famously) and me (infamously) were warning that a host of evils would necessarily follow from the refusal to affirm the Bible's claim to inerrancy. Gleason Archer pointed out that, if we introduce the possibility of error in the text itself, we necessarily become spiritual judges of the Word. Here's how he said it (A Survey of Old Testament Introduction [Moody: 1964, 1974, 1994], p. 31):
In the last analysis, the, every man must settle for one of two alternatives: the inerrancy of Holy Scripture, or the inerrancy of his own personal judgment. If the Bible contains errors in the autographs, then it requires infallible human judgment to distinguish validly between the false and the true in Scripture; it is necessary for every affirmation in the sacred text to receive endorsement from the human critic himself before it may be accepted as true. Since men disagree in their critical judgments, it requires absolute inerrrancy on the part of each individual to render a valid judgment in each instance. ...These, then, are the only alternatives available to us as we confront the Scriptures: either they are inerrant, or else we are.
Lay aside the inerrancy of the Scripture, we were warned, and we inevitably would place ourselves and our judgment over the text itself. No doctrine, no moral absolute, would be safe. One person's orthodox predilections might minimize his own straying, but his premises would necessarily validate a world of iniquity for others not so (irrationally-) inclined.

Lindsell and his like were greeted by storms of tush-tushing from the intellectuals. Lindsell's line of argument was dismissed as a "slippery slope" argument.

(Pause. I've never understood why a "slippery slope" argument is necessarily a bad argument. If a slope is slippery, and if my stepping on it at the top means I'll wind up at the bottom -- isn't that worth a decent warning? But I digress.)

People like Jack Rogers and Donald McKim responded, trying to argue that inerrancy was a recent invention never held by Christians. They were unconvincing, but arguments went back and forth, amid much cry and clamor against the inerrantists' "slippery slope" "straw man" argument.

Fast-forward a few decades to our day. How has it worked out for those with a loose doctrine of Scripture?

Well, Jack Rogers now advocates full acceptance of same-sex couples and gay clergy. It's hard to think of a doctrine that hasn't been blurred or perverted, or an area of life unaffected, in the wake of this defection. Egalitarian marriage, a "whatever" attitude towards the opening chapters of Genesis, women pastors, abortion on whim (no need to "demand"), denial of God's omniscience ("open theism"), translations born dishonestly and of world-pleasing fads, inclusivism, corrupted Gospel -- all these and more find lush pasture in the mushy swamp of Biblical errancy. The root denial of inerrancy may be de jure, or it may be de facto -- but a healthy view of Scripture would be the death of these spiritual viruses.

In this case, I'd say the slope very slippery, and the straw man had fangs and claws.

It is perfectly logical and reasonable to examine a position, or the progression of a position, and work out its implications. Paul himself does this to the Corinthians.

Evidently swayed by Greek philosophy, some puddingheads in Corinth denied the doctrine of bodily resurrection. Paul was appalled, and with inexorable logic worked out the implications of this view. Notice his progression, "If you are saying A, then B naturally follows, as well as C, and D, and...."
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then [A] not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then [B] our preaching is in vain and [C] your faith is in vain. 15 [D] We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, [E] not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, [F] your faith is futile and [G] you are still in your sins. 18 Then [H] those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, [I] we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)
Paul works out easily nine implications of this fundamental error, all designed to show where it necessarily leads. Perhaps the errorists would have cried, "Paul, that's a straw man! We're not saying any of that!" To this, the apostle might have replied, "Not yet. But this is where your premises necessarily lead."

The "straw man" complaint occurs now commonly in dialogue between those who believe that some sort of fresh, but low-grade revelation still trickles down from Heaven (i.e. Charismatics), and those who affirm the Scripture as sufficient and complete and final (i.e. cessationists).

Cessationists point out that Charismatic thought necessarily leads to the conclusion that the Bible is, contrary to its self-testimony (2 Timothy 3:15-17, etc.), inadequate for Christian living. In fact, I would say that I have never, ever heard an argument for the necessity of revelatory gifts that did not involve denigrating the sufficiency of the Bible. (A Charismatic friend tells me that he does not do so in making his case for ongoing sorta-revelatory gifts; I look forward to a first-ever experience.)

We point out that most people, offered a choice between the hard work of Bible study, analysis, memorization, reflection, comparison, and learning -- and getting instant answers straight from God, will choose the latter. We point out that the notion that the Bible needs supplements necessarily shifts attention and expectation from Scripture to those supplements. We observe that, if what the Charismatics are producing is really revelation, we should really all be jotting it down at the ends of our Bibles; and if it isn't, we really should wave aside the distraction and get back to the Book.

And then we take the positive arguments of our Charismatic friends and follow them out. We're told that praying in tongues creates a more intimate relationship with God. "Then we should stop praying in English altogether," we reply. We're told that a ministry without signs and wonders is an incomplete ministry. "That must mean that John Calvin, John Knox, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, George Whitfield and all the others had incomplete ministries," we respond -- and we further ask whether the new, "super-charged" ministries have outperformed those great men yet.

In these and many other teachings and arguments, we follow out the premises to their conclusions. The response? "Straw men! We don't believe any of those things!"

"Not yet," we reply.

See, I've lived long enough to find their objection unpersuasive. When I was a young erstwhile tongue-talker, I was stopped dead by a certain question that occurred to me. "If I am arguing that all of the gifts must be extant, simply because no Scripture says they aren't -- then that must mean that there are apostles and prophets around, today."

That consideration stopped me, because most sane, Biblical Christians would have backed right away from that progression. Nobody center-wards of the fringes thought that apostles and prophets were around... even though that was the logical progression of the argument. One would either have to follow the logic through, or mangle the facts, or step off the progression.

And now, thirty years later? The argument progressed without me. Scores of Christians do affirm apostles today, and they do affirm prophets (though most have had to "Clinton down" the definitions, thus mangling the facts). They were faced with the choice of backing away from the slick declivity, or taking the next step -- and they dove.

Yesterday's "straw man" is today's baleful reality. We're well down the slope.

(NEXT, DV: Straw-manning "cessationists")

Dan Phillips's signature

87 comments:

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Dan writes, “I would say that I have never, ever heard an argument for the necessity of revelatory gifts that did not involve denigrating the sufficiency of the Bible.”

Does that mean that when the revelatory gifts were operative that they never occurred in churches that had Scripture? How much Scripture would a church need in order for revelatory gifts to cease?

Dan writes, “Scores of Christians do affirm apostles today, and they do affirm prophets (though most have had to "Clinton down" the definitions, thus mangling the facts).”

I agree, but comparing Clinton with MacArthur?! You’re really ruffling the feathers now!

northWord said...

It's still baffling to me, all this 'addition to scripture' and the (basically) re-definement of righteousness....it seems the teaching/testifiying of the Holy Spirit is ultimately being overshadowed (surpressed) by man's own desire to himself..the results of which producing everything from heresy to much ado about nothing.

Another excellent post.

DJP said...

What a silly question, Jonathan. It seems as if you're actually putting effort into misreading and misrepresenting my posts, these days.

Jerry Wragg said...

Dan –
I’ve only been a Christian some 25 years, but where charismatics have landed today compared to my earliest discussions with them is irrefutable testimony to the clarity of your post. They have consistently “adjusted” to every doctrinal challenge from cessationists, but always further away…never adding a single contribution (scholarly or otherwise) to the strength, survivability, and definitiveness of the inerrancy, authority, and absolute sufficiency of scripture.

Personally, I have lived my entire Christian life being sanctified, making crucial decisions, raising a family, facing an evil culture, shepherding the flock of God, praying, seeing God work intimately in my life, knowing His pleasure, smarting under His discipline, learning to be selfless, cultivating humility, being powerfully led by His Spirit, becoming more courageous in bold evangelism, establishing deep doctrinal convictions, loving Jesus Christ and His cross beyond words, and experiencing the overwhelming wonder of worshiping my God---all exclusively through the instrument of the “living and abiding word of God” in the Holy Spirit’s hand! What does this prove? Only that until its biblical arguments are convincing, none of what continuationism promises holds any necessary attraction for me. If God does reveal Himself “freshly” for my practical daily walk by some other means than the Bible I sure haven’t missed it. The Lord is as “fresh” to me now as ever! Does He strongly compel me to do this or that and go here or there? His word assures me that He does in several ways:
(1) By means of the Spirit’s sanctifying grace (as I yield to His written will – Eph. 5:18)
(2) By the mind of Christ renewing my fleshly reasoning (as I obey the truth - 1 Cor. 2:15; 2 Cor. 10:5)
(3) By doctrinal convictions cured over time (as I develop discernment – Heb. 5:14)
(4) And by the refining of my faith (as I entrust myself to Christ’s written promises, providential care, and saving love – Rom. 8:26-30).
My point is not that experience rules my conclusions, only that my experience continues to prove what God’s word overwhelmingly claims, namely that it provides everything the Christian needs until glory.

Martin Downes said...

This in essence is Robert Shindler's position in the two part article that announced the down-grade controversy.

Unless an error is dealt with it certainly has the capacity to re-write the system. Although we shouldn't treat people at point B as of they were already crashing out at point C. That there are implications to being at point B that will logically take you to the bottom of the slope, is true, but I think we need to be careful not to attribute those implications to the present consciously held position of our opponents. We don't always see the implications face up. Are people actually denying a particular doctrine or, given their position, could they end up doing so but are not there yet? I think that this has a large bearing on how we treat people whom we disagree with.

This may be the reason why some people don't buy the appeal to the slippery slope. Funnily enough I drafted a post on this a few days back.

Church history shows that there are slopes and they are known to be slippery.

centuri0n said...

Dan-o:

I dunno is anyone has said this yet, but the problem with actual slippery slop arguments is that they assume a logical necessity when none exists.

An example of a non-fallacious slippery slope is this:

If I drink all the Coke in my office, I will have none to share with you when you visit. Having nothing to offer to drink is inhospitable. I don't want to be an inhospitable person, so I will not drink all the Coke in my office.

An example of a fallacious slippery slope is this:

If I drink all the Coke in my office, I'll be geeked up on caffine. If I am geeked up on caffine, I'm prone to make typos. If I make a typo in an e-mail, it might cause someone to take a harmful action at work, and the business will suffer. So I'm not going to drink all the Coke in my office, or else the business is going to suffer."

There's no logical force in the second argument; there's ample logical force in the first.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Dan, I apologize for my “silly question.” I will no longer mar your posts with my comments. Regards.

donsands said...

Jerry,

I enjoyed your comment. Very firm and to the point. I'm encouraged.

Dan,

" a healthy view of Scripture would be the death of these spiritual viruses"

Nice ... Very nice ..

Gummby said...

Dan: how would you answer a statement like this (which inevitably seems to crop up in inerrancy discussions)?

"Even if we affirm inerrancy in the autographs, since we no longer have autographs and we know our copies are not without error, inerrancy as a practical matter is worthless."

Martin Downes said...

Don and Dan,

" a healthy view of Scripture would be the death of these spiritual viruses"

Not necessarily. Modifying the doctrine of Scripture can produce these deviant doctrines but it is not the only means of producing them.

The classic denial of God's omniscience in Socinianism it seems wasn't because of a denial of the authority of Scripture.

DJP said...

Jerry Wragg -- [Charismatics] have consistently “adjusted” to every doctrinal challenge from cessationists, but always further away…never adding a single contribution (scholarly or otherwise) to the strength, survivability, and definitiveness of the inerrancy, authority, and absolute sufficiency of scripture.

That puts it better than I did.

In fact, the rest of your comment anticipates, and almost eliminates the need for, my second post!

Here's something I've been thinking for some time, and struggling to express. I'll phrase it as a question, and ask critics to note carefully my wording: "What has the Charismatic movement added to the Christian church by its distinctive doctrines since its invention in 1906?"

Think of what the Reformation had produced in that same time-period. If this is a great step forward in recovering lost Christian essentials, shouldn't this movement have produced more than the Reformers did?

But what has it produced by its distinctive doctrines? Would any of things be as prevalent as they are without those distinctive doctrines: Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, TBN, Kenneth Hagin, Robert Tilton, Kathryn Kuhlmann; emotion over everything; practical downplaying of the Word; services that can more resemble chaotic kindergartens than orderly assemblies dedicated to worshiping Christ by learning of Him through the solid preaching of the Spirit-given Word?

DJP said...

Gummby -- what comes to mind is something I read decades ago in the great E. J. Young's They Word Is Truth.

As I recall his example, a letter from Abraham Lincoln is read to a classroom full of students, and they're told to write it down word for word. After this exercise, his letter is lost. The student's copies are read, and found to have some variations.

Do variations among the copies mean it doesn't matter whether there ever was a letter from Lincoln or not?

LeeC said...

Martin,
I believe the emphasis is on the word "Healthy" inferring correct and proper.

Dan,
I think Jonathans comment was about Pastor MacArthurs view on prophecy and the Word. But I don't think that you and Pastor MacArthur are referring to the same thing.

danny2 said...

dan,

are you suggesting that some people aren't willing to follow a discussion to its logical end, but rather accuse you of manipulating the predicted outcome to attain your desired results? it seems to me that such a thing never happens and you are simply constructing this theory for the sake of your arguement.

if others do this, the results could be disasterous, but i don't want to travel down that slipperly slope!

actually dan, another fine post. but i would like to follow with a question:

it seems that i've observed some groups (granted, from QUITE a distance) who believe the sign gifts exist today and yet seem to be quite orthodox in all their other theology. would your observation be that it is just a matter of time before they slide down the slope, or would you suggest that if i dug deeper even today, i would find that their view of Scripture is weaker than it may appear at first glance?

SolaMeanie said...

I have read Dr. Lindsell's "The Battle for the Bible" several times, and I am repeatedly amazed at how "he being dead still speaks."

We can argue the logician's route well enough on all of this i.e. the slippery slope, and people do. I tend to like the "domino" effect a lot better. When inerrancy is denied and one accepts the notion of continuing revelation, there are a host of problems that surface as a result.

Dan, thanks for posting this. A good word.

DJP said...

Lee, thanks for your thought in re. MacArthur. It should go without saying that I'd not abuse the privilege of posting on this blog to start an argument with or about him; and I'd not appreciate any attempt to use one of my posts to do so.

DJP said...

Danny, it's really a great question.

I wrote out a very long answer, then decided "briefer is better."

My point is that this is where those premises lead. Will today's advocates go there? I don't make predictions... much.

But history shows, over and over again, that when Prof/Pastor A preaches A-B-C(error) and stops with C(error), his disciples will carry out his principles more consistently, and go on to D(error), E(error), and F(error).

So what I'm saying is that it's being a good brother/pastor/whatever to say, "Whoa, hold on, wait a minute -- don't you see where this leads? Best to bail out now, before it does."

Does that help?

TheBlueRaja said...

Jonathan said:

Does that mean that when the revelatory gifts were operative that they never occurred in churches that had Scripture? How much Scripture would a church need in order for revelatory gifts to cease?

Centuri0n said:

I dunno is anyone has said this yet, but the problem with actual slippery slop arguments is that they assume a logical necessity when none exists.

There's no logical force in the second argument; there's ample logical force in the first.

I don't believe it. Jonathan Moorhead and Centuri0n both beat me to it. Time for these guys to stop and say "Whoa, hold on, wait a minute -- don't you see where this leads? Best to bail out now, before it does."

Ransom said...

(Pause. I've never understood why a "slippery slope" argument is necessarily a bad argument. If a slope is slippery, and if my stepping on it at the top means I'll wind up at the bottom -- isn't that worth a decent warning? But I digress.)

I think centuri0n was getting at this, but you're right, slippery slope arguments are not intrinsically fallacious. They consist of a series of conditional premises: if A then B, if B then C, if C then D, if D then E; A, therefore E.

If all the premises are true, when A happens, E inevitably happens. If one or more premises are false, then the argument breaks down.

Martin Downes said...

We are sometimes saved by our inconsistencies. But then someone else comes along and pushes the logic of our position. Would it be fair to blame Jonathan Edwards for the way his thinking was pushed by the next generation?

DJP said...

Very well-put, Ransom; thanks.

And, if I may add a refinement:

Sometimes the object of a s-s analysis will object, "But I'm not going to C, so it's an invalid criticism."

But if (as you say) E follows from A, the fact that he has simply chosen to stop at C does not mean that the path, if followed, would not lead to E. The argument is not invalidated because its object doesn't like the progression.

DJP said...

Martin Downes -- We are sometimes saved by our inconsistencies. But then someone else comes along and pushes the logic of our position.

Seriously -- some of you are putting these things so superbly that I'm tempted to JEDP your comments together into a better post than mine!

4given said...

Uncompromised Truth has become a trivial issue. Unity at the expense of the Gospel. Experiential replaces knowable. Reverential worship versus being swoon to the floor, "slain in the spirit."
They call this intimacy and passion, where the power of the Holy Spirit makes you light-headed, drop to the floor, working oneself into a state of mad excitement... I call this hysterical, disorderly, emotional worship... which is the growing "contribution" of the Charismatic movement that has slipped its way into the mainstream that once rejected it.

"For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs, and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect."

Martin Downes said...

If anyone needs convincing of the slippery slope just chart the theological career of Clark Pinnock.

Pastor Steve said...

This post touches at the heart of why I think it is so important to fight for doctrinal truth. Many people believe doctrine to be nothing more than a troublesome task of the mind, and fail to see that your doctrine does (or should) affect your behavior. Many doctrines that people give up as a non-essential end up having severe cosequences elsewhere. One example I would give is the importance of seeing the difference between Israel and the church. Slippery slopes abound.

Brent Railey said...

I've always understood a strawman as a misrepresentation of the opponent's arguments--particularly his base claims.

i.e. I once read an e-book on "Selective Salvation", by Michael Bronson of www.biblehelp.org. In it he says that Calvinist believed that God predestined many to hell not based on anything they have done. This I would consider to be a strawman.

However, if you rightly and fairly present your opponent's premises and arguments, and then draw the necessary logical conclusions from them, that is not a strawman, it's only pointing out an inconsistency.

I slippery-slope is only fallacious if one says "If A then B will happen" when it could be B, C or D. However, if it can be demonstrated that, based on a fair presentation of the opponent's premises and arguments, "if A then B is the only possible outcome." That is not a slippery-slope.

Even So... said...

Slippery slopes can easily become funnels if we tilt the axis...

Jerry Wragg said...

Danny2 –
Great question!
Of those who are “quite orthodox” while affirming that the charismata and revelations occur today, there are, I believe, several possibilities as to how they got there:
(1) They have not explored all the implications of what they espouse, either biblically, theologically, or practically. This is why the movement has made so many “adjustments” over the years. From its very beginning (probably with England’s Edward Irving [1792-1834]), the movement has been playing a kind of exegetical “catch-up” to its experiential conclusions, and while I acknowledge that many are trying passionately to avoid being experience-driven, they cannot escape their roots of subjectivism. In other words, they will always be looking for textual “proofs” and divine “verifications” to explain what’s “happened to them”, rather than letting God explain how the Christian’s experience is to be understood and defined. Moreover, they are solely responsible for evangelicalism’s love affair with “seeking” experiences, which puts less mature believers in the precarious position of looking for divine “movings” before they know with certainty from scripture whether God even works this way. Consequently, the undiscerning spend their life “looking” for a “move of God” in their lives, while the Bible “gets to be” the great verifier in matters of uncertainty. Since when did the scriptures become a second place “guidebook” and “verifier”, and “general revelation” and “consultant” and “last resort stop-gap” in theology and sanctification?
(2) They have “backed into” their charismatic sympathies through others pursuits. For example, a desire to “boost” a dry spiritual experience, being “sensory” (feelings) oriented in personality and life-view, the absence of definitively prohibitive texts regarding “gifts”, fear of “missing” something others have claimed as universal, even the influence of reputable scholars who are “open”.
(3) They have become disillusioned with lifeless Christians and churches that can recite and argue doctrine but are afraid of emotional expressions of Godward affection and worship. As a counter, budding charismatics often speak of God’s emotions, the Psalmist’s expressive worship, and the presence of 1st century “power” as biblical proofs that denying the gifts has produced today’s cold orthodoxy (I believe the opposite…that cold orthodoxy does not come from the absence of emotional conviction, but the presence of arrogant laziness!).
(4) Many have become charismatics because of confusion in the field of Bible interpretation. Back to DJP’s original slippery slope, “meaning” is no longer grounded in authorial intent or original context alone, but in the subjective preunderstanding of the contemporary reader. Over time (esp. the last 30 years), suspicion grows, “certainty and objectivity” become questionable goals, and “what a passage means to me” is prized as the divine intent.

Are these good brothers and sisters in danger of sliding further…history proves that they are.

DJP said...

Well, Brent, I'd say it's a slippery-slope, but a valid one.

As to straw-men, agreed. The straw-man argument is invalid; my illustration was of a supposed straw-man that was actually real.

Steve said...

"some puddingheads in Corinth"

That line will likely pop up in my mind every time I read Corinthians from here onward...

Taliesin said...

Would any of things be as prevalent as they are without those distinctive doctrines

Church History even before the Charismatics was littered with these kinds of excesses. Presbyterians pulled out of the circuit rider/camp fire campaigns of the Second Great Awakening because of things today we would associate with the P&C movement.

Also, the Reformation led not only to positive trends but to Anabaptist groups that most of us would view as heretical. Catholics said Luther's doctrine was a slippery slope leading to antinomianism. Since antinomianism did arise out of Reformation thought, should I conclude that they were right?

I think we do have to be concerned about slippery slopes. But those occur when we are unfaithful to the Scriptures. The root issue is not what arises out of a movement, but is that movement acting in accordance with Biblical teaching.

Attempting to prove that the P&C movement is not following the Scripture based on what has come out of the movement is fallacious. Edwards noted in defending the First Great Awakening that the same stream that produces flowers will produce weeds.

centuri0n said...

Just to make sure nobody thinks I've turned to the dark-side, my last comment apparently requires some clearing-up.

Dan said this:

Here's an odd thing: I've found that the people who most cry "Straw man!", or object to a slippery-slope argument, are often those who most richly deserve it.

His point was that many, many people assume that all slippery slopes are straw-man arguments -- that is, that if one is making a causitive chain argument, one is inherently making a logical error.

My point in posting both kinds of slippery slopes (valid and invalid) is that you can make the slippery slope argument if your cause-and-effect chain is solid. For example, my first example. There's no question that if I drink all my Cokes, I'll have none left; there's no question that if I have none left, I'll have none to offer you; there's no question that it is inhospitable to have nothing to offer a guest. So in that case, in order to avoid being inhospitable, I will avoid drinking all my cokes.

Now, how does Dan's argument fare in that view of things? As I read what he has written, "if we introduce the possibility of error in the text itself, we necessarily become spiritual judges of the Word".

That's not a very long cause-and-effect chain: it's one link. And it is chained to one other cause-and-effect: "aside the inerrancy of the Scripture, ... and we inevitably would place ourselves and our judgment over the text itself."

reject inerrancy ->
become critics of the text ->
become our own authorities

That's not very complicated, and as Dan's examples demonstrate, that's what has happened.
______________________________

There is something else to consider here, and I have been mulling it over ever since I listened to John Piper do a biographical sketch of Martyn Lloyd-Jones: is it necessarily true, as we cessationists affirm, that demanding the representation of supernatural gifting undercuts the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture? I think it is -- but only if we understand the continualist position correctly.

That is, is it logically credible to affirm such a thing when the Apostolic age was rife with signs and wonders validating the messengers who delivered the Scripture?

Piper makes his own case, which I think is flawed. But I will have something about this in the near future because it is an interesting study in how arguments are conducted.

Even So... said...

Jerry Wragg, you rule...

authorial intent

Yep, been playing that fiddle a lot lately, it is (hey there Dan!) soooo important...

“what a passage means to me” is prized as the divine intent.

Yeah, this is the problem...
We tell people to look at

1. what it says
2. what it means
3. what it means to me

But we should change #3 to say

What it means for me

That way, instead of people thinking
#3 = what I think it means, it would be
#3 = how now shall we live...

Not, what's your interpretation, but what's your application...

TheBlueRaja said...

Taliesin said:

I think we do have to be concerned about slippery slopes. But those occur when we are unfaithful to the Scriptures. The root issue is not what arises out of a movement, but is that movement acting in accordance with Biblical teaching.

Exactly.

Centuri0n said:

Now, how does Dan's argument fare in that view of things? As I read what he has written, "if we introduce the possibility of error in the text itself, we necessarily become spiritual judges of the Word". That's not a very long cause-and-effect chain: it's one link. And it is chained to one other cause-and-effect: "aside the inerrancy of the Scripture, ... and we inevitably would place ourselves and our judgment over the text itself."

I think that some people would argue that the meaning of the text isn't dependent upon every detail of what it says, and that non-essential inaccuracies don't affect what the text means. Therefore judging certain parts of the scriptures as inerrant doesn't necessarily entail becoming a "spiritual judge" of it. I deeply believe in inerrancy, but I have friends who don't - as did Carl Henry - and their views don't necessitate a diminishing of the Bible's authority. Consider Henry's admonition to Harold Linsell:

'To concentrate on inerrancy as the sole decisive issue is to wage the battle on too narrow a front.'

In a collection of essays he issued this "slippery slope" warning more broadly to evangelicals who insist on making inerrancy the single-ticket issue of the day:

“If evangelical protestants do not overcome their preoccupation with negative criticism of contemporary theological deviations at the expense of the construction of preferable alternatives to these, they will not be much of a doctrinal force in the decade ahead.”

It wouldn't be hard to show how the most formidable proponent of inerrancy (Henry) didn't hold that it was the key to the Bible's authority (his contempt for Lindsell's complete rejection of historical criticism as denying infallibility is one example).

Jollyblogger's post about this topic is especially good, particularly the comments about Lindsell. His thoughts have a lot of bearing on the value of "slippery slope" arguments in regard to inerrancy.

TheBlueRaja said...

I of course meant, "Therefore judging certain parts of the scriptures as errant doesn't necessarily entail becoming a 'spiritual judge' of it."

I guess I'm not inerrant.

centuri0n said...

Raja:

I'm packing as I type this, but the problem with your view is that it is easily misunderstood as "inerrancy is not necessary" when I think you mean "inerrancy is not the only important thing".

For example, inerrancy is only useful to us if there is also perspicuity, and then also if there is a hermeneutic which can receive the way in which Scripture is clear.

The Bible is not a kindergarten reader. We have to be able to read it literately and in its fullest sense -- which is really the argument for translating from the original languages, and which is categorically the argument against TNIV -- or else an inerrant Bible is about as useful as an inerrant Magisterium, if you see what I'm saying.

farmboy said...

theblueraja offers the following: "I think that some people would argue that the meaning of the text isn't dependent upon every detail of what it says, and that non-essential inaccuracies don't affect what the text means."

Here a distinction is made between essential and nonessential portions of the text. To the extent, however, that there is no objective definition of essential versus nonessential portions, we return to Mr. Phillips' original argument, with one man's (person's for you TNIV folks) essential portion being another man's nonessential portion.

From another and I believe more important perspective, if the Holy Spirit is just as much the author of Scripture as the human authors are, why would the oversight powers of the Holy Spirit only be effective for compositions of essential portions of Scripture?

Put differently, if the inspirition of the Holy Spirit guarantees an inerrent text when it comes to the essential parts, why wouldn't it guarantee an inerrent text for the nonessential parts?

TheBlueRaja said...

Centuri0n,

Your concern makes sense. Inerrancy is important - but it is possible for people to deny it strenuously in theoretical terms while still holding to the authority of the Bible in all the relevant practical ways an inerrantist does. If you get time, I'd be interested to hear of what you think of Jollyblogger's assessment. I liked it.

Packing?

Have a great trip!

farmboy,

To the extent, however, that there is no objective definition of essential versus nonessential portions

To what extent is that necessary? This problem doesn't hinge on inerrancy - it's a problem for those who affirm it, too - they have to determine which parts of a text are more or less exegetically significant for discovering the meaning and which parts have no real significance in discovering what the verse means - inerrantists do it all the time, along with those who deny inerrancy - in fact one of the key criticisms of allegorical interpretation is the failure to understand the difference between exegetically significant and incidental details.

if the inspirition of the Holy Spirit guarantees an inerrent text when it comes to the essential parts, why wouldn't it guarantee an inerrent text for the nonessential parts?

Because they're non-essential, and bear the marks of human authorship? Again, as Cent highlighted, it might look like I'm arguing for a view I don't really share - my point is that denying inerrancy doesn't necessarily lead to a denial in biblical authority or sanctification. As theologically important as it is, it's not the determinative factor.

Mathew Sims said...

Dan,
Honestly, I have not had to time to read through all 30 something comments, so someone may have said this.

First, I would not consider myself charismatic and I agree the tongues pheonomena is out of hand, but I do disagree with a couple of statements made.

I don't think the receiving of revelation necessarily means we are adding to the Bible. Has every "revelation" ever been given been inscripturated. Surely in the early NT when (you would argue) the gifts were active, people received "revelation"--which is not written down. I think that line is often blurred in this debate...the continuing of gifts does not equal extra Scripture.

Check out the appendix of Grudem's book on prophecy which include supposed incidents of Spurgeon, Knox, & Whitfield using "supernatural" gifts. If I'm not mistaken in Whitfield's case his "prophecy" was wrong and we was admonished by someone else for it. (I think I got my facts straight..check me though). thanks for the good thoughts. Look forward to part two.

MBS
Soli Deo Gloria

DJP said...

Raja -- I do believe you actually said something this time, and in fewer than thirty thousand words and twenty separate comments. To wit:

...my point is that denying inerrancy doesn't necessarily lead to a denial in biblical authority or sanctification

Yes, it does, and necessarily so. My post established that -- all the name-dropping in the world aside. After all, we're not Papists, are we, bound to the opinions of selected Big Names?

At any rate, I'm not.

And if some "simply" deny inerrancy, but for reasons of whim or habit do not go on to deny other core doctrines....

Oh, wait.

I already dealt with that in the original post.

DJP said...

Matthew -- good question.

But in your question, you seem to overlook a great point of divide between real-live-sola-Scriptura folks, and sola-Scriptura-plus-holy-half-relevations-here-and-there folks.

The former treat the close of the Canon as a significant event. The latter in effect do not.

So that's why I look a bit glassy-eyed when anyone adduces what happened before the completion of the revelatory process described, according to my minority view, by 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, and after that completion.

Agree or not, do you see my point any better? Let me try another way:

Ask me why revelation was ongoing when revelation was ongoing, and I'll say "Because revelation was ongoing."

Ask me why revelation would be ongoing when revelation has been completed, and I will say, "No idea. Makes no Biblical sense to me. Ask a Charismatic."

centuri0n said...

Raja:

The most useful thing JB says in this essay (which is more like a digest of a survey) is this:

I recently heard John MacArthur talking about one of the parables of Jesus. I think he may have been talking about the parable of the Good Samaritan, but I'm not sure. He was talking about the difficulty in figuring out who the priest was. Was he this kind of priest or that kind of priest. MacArthur said that he finally came to realize that there was no priest - this is a parable, not history. The parable intended to teach a specific truth for which precise identifications of the personalities were not required. It was enough to know that the parties were some kind of Samaritan, some kind of priest, etc.. In saying this, MacArthur in no way violated the principle of inerrancy.

His point is MacArthur's point is my point: inerrancy is about the quality and value of Scripture.

In many ways, the quality and value of Scripture dictates the way we handle it as readers. For example, the propositions of Scripture have more value than the propositions in my blog most days. But more to the point, it also lays claims on us as readers to accept it as it comes.

You know: the point here that Dr. Mac realized that a parable is not a historical account but is in fact a didactic account intended to demonstrate a precept rather than describe historical events is a great way to understand that the H/C hermeneutic is not a wooden "see Jack run" way of reading the text.

The shame is that many people mistake the operation of non-factual literary forms as an opportunity for the ignorant to say, "see? The Bible isn't all 'true'." Usually those ignorant people are trying to leverage stupidity into an argument -- because if you turn it around on them and ask them, "You enjoy Red Hot Chili Peppers' music, right? Would you say that what they sing about 'is not true', or would you admit that they have lyrics which, in your opinion convey truth without conveying historical facts?" the answer you get is, "duh, I dunno."

The Bible is a B*I*G B*O*O*K. It has room for historical accounts, parables, poetry, prophetic metaphor, hyperbole, parallel narratives, letter-writing, and a host of other literary devices. The question is if we are commited as readers to receive what the text has to offer us.

The test is rich, and frankly we are beggers before it. In that, to worry that someone is too concerned over inerrancy when in fact their concern for inerrancy really motivates their hope that all men will receive the text as God-breathed and God-established for God-purpose and God-glory is the same kind of fretting that it is claiming to question.

Man, I need a vacation. Can I please take my vacation?

DJP said...

Good stuff, Frank.

Vacate. But you'll be missed!

JSB said...

New to your blog and much enjoy it. It's certainly one of the best looking I've ever seen. And high quality writing, thinking and contributions here. May I ask some questions? Recently I was in a group study through Grudem's Systematic Theology. I didn't know Charismatic Calvinists existed until then! Anyway, I am in the cessationist camp, so would be interested in how would you answer Grudem, viz.

1. Continuationism does not logically or necessarily denigrate Scripture.

2. Abuse of sign/miracle gifts does not perforce mean the gifts are invalid, or else we'd have to ban Bible teaching, too, as there are abuses via that route as well.

3. There is little difference between the Reformed idea of "illumination" and modern prophecy; thus, the latter can be seen as decidedly NOT denigrating Scripture.

4. Grudem: While we can appreciate cessationists' desire to protect Scripture and avoid subjectivism, it is also possible they are in danger of opposing something God is doing in the church today and "failing to give him glory for that work. God is jealous for his works and seeks glory from them for himself, and we must continually pray not only that he would keep us from endorsing error, but that we would keep us from opposing something that is genuinely from him."

farmboy said...

In a post titled "Dan Wallace weights in" made exactly four weeks ago today Mr. Johnson offers the following: "We want to allow everyone ample time to give Dr. Wallace's response due consideration. And lest someone here use the meta to answer Dr. Wallace too hastily or too sharply, we're calling a 4-week moratorium on debate about his works. If you're concerned about the issue, please take that time and read what he himself has written. We may or may not revisit the topic again in a month or so. We'll see."

The whole Dan Wallace episode, if I may title it as such, started in the comments of a post titled "Book review: Reinventing Jesus, by three guys with long names" made by Mr. Phillips, the author of the current post. Part of the discussion that resulted from this post concerned the importance the doctrines of the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. This discussion included some ideas offered by Mr. Wallace in "The Gospel according to Bart," including the idea that "When they place more peripheral doctrines such as inerrancy and verbal inspiration at the core, then when belief in these doctrines starts to erode, it creates a domino effect: One falls down, they all fall down." [Note that a more peripheral doctrine (or less central doctrine, if you prefer) is not necessarily a peripheral doctrine. Instead, a more peripheral doctrine is simply a doctrine that has other doctrines above it on the central to peripheral spectrum.]

Recollection of the above came as a result of theblueraja offering the following quote from Carl Henry: "To concentrate on inerrancy as the sole decisive issue is to wage the battle on too narrow a front."

Aside from his referencing inerrancy and inspiration as more peripheral doctrines, Mr. Wallace has it correct when he observes "when belief in these doctrines [inspiration and inerrancy] starts to erode, it creates a domino effect: One falls down, they all fall down." All important Christian doctrines (or teachings, if you prefer) come from Scripture. The trustworthiness of the teachings, then, is no greater than the trustworthiness of the Scripture they are derived from. In contrast to Mr. Wallace, Mr. Henry is incorrect when he observes that "To concentrate on inerrancy as the sole decisive issue is to wage the battle on too narrow a front." No, it is not. Using Mr. Henry's metaphor, if the battle on inerrancy is lost, then none of the other battles are worth fighting. In large part, this is the point of Mr. Phillips' current post.

I find it hard to understand the difficulty that some have in subscribing to the doctrines of the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. We readily acknowledge that God is powerful enough to create everything - planets, stars, people, etc. - to keep everything functioning according to His plan. We readily trust God for our salvation and for meeting our needs. Yet, this all powerful God that we trust for all these things lacks the power to leave us with an inspired, inerrant text of His special revelation? It just doesn't follow.

DJP said...

On Dan Wallace: I'm going to make a stand-in Blog Boss ruling, and say let's not get off onto the Dan Wallace drama per se, until Phil's back online.

Which is to say, after Farmboy's arguably-germane remark, I'm not going to allow any more discussion of L'Affair Wallace in this-here comment thread. Okey-doke?

TheBlueRaja said...

Thanks, Frank. That is some good stuff.

Now go have fun!

TheBlueRaja said...

Farmboy, I think you miss Wallace's point by saying, "aside from referencing inerrancy and inspiration as more peripheral doctrines". Wallace's point was Henry's, which is this: a denial of inerrancy may run risks for abuses, but it doesn't necessarily entail a denial of authority or reliability of Scripture. They can even hope that all men will receive the Bible as God-breathed and God-established for God's purposes and God's glory - because they don't think the innocuous inaccuracies of Scripture ever constitute a violation of its meaning - much like those who view the high quality of manucript integrity as constituting a reliabile representation of the autographs, since the quesitionable portions are so few in number and they never affect any significant doctrine.

Though I think Frank has a point about the way critics may abuse and exploit the views of those who deny the necessity of inerrancy, but I'd add that a belief in inerrancy has concommitant risks for abuses as well. Moreover critics don't seem to have a problem criticizing those who don't hold to the doctrine.

I guess I just don't buy the slippery slope validity in this case. There's no logical necessity of a drift in the denial of inerrancy, though it's probably true that it is a contributing factor among some of those who have drifted.

DJP said...

Regardless of your purchasing habits, the case is made.

Inasmuch as the Scripture claims to be truth (cf. John 17:17, etc.), and inerrancy is the necessary corollary of that claim, the denial of inerrancy is itself by definition a drift.

QED

Martin Downes said...

Dan,

Good point.

centuri0n said...

Here's the acid test, Raja:

If we make a list of all the dead guys who denied inerrancy (that is, people who aren't still in-process and might be said to be able to still prove themselves on the right side of Scripture), how many of them who denied Scripture's inerrancy were theological conservatives and how many were theological liberals who eventually denied the faith?

If you weigh in, you're going to find one side of that scale almost empty, and the other side extraordinarily full. If you do the accounting, come back and let us know what you come up with.

Here's where I bait you on it: Barth is the perfect example of this -- he's prototypical of those who want to make Scripture into something less than inerrant.

Jim Crigler said...

Re: Dan's comment: Seriously -- some of you are putting these things so superbly that I'm tempted to JEDP your comments together into a better post than mine!

Okay, I've gotta admit, I've never seen JEDP used as a verb before! LOL here! (By which you can tell I'm not charismatic. If I were, I would be ROTFL.)

DJP said...

Thank you very much for noticing, Jim. I wondered if anyone would; I think it's a first.

It'd be worth verbing a noun, too; some of the comments here are really superb. (Besides, Hebrew-speakers did it all the time.)

Sharon said...

OK, I'll bite (and demonstrate my ignorance here) . . . . what is JEDP??

geekforgreek said...

Uh oh, Sharon I believe you just opened pandora's box

farmboy said...

theblueraja offers the following summary: "Wallace's point was Henry's, which is this: a denial of inerrancy may run risks for abuses, but it doesn't necessarily entail a denial of authority or reliability of Scripture."

But, once we drop the doctrine of inerrancy, we're left with possibly errant scripture (small "s" intended) that is no longer authoritative or reliable.

Regarding authority, suppose someone wants to obey and acknowledges that he should obey God's word. But, all he has to go on in a possibly errant scripture. How does he know which portions are actually God's word (true Scripture) and which portions are man's substitute? This is Dan's point.

Regarding reliability, how can someone rely on a possibly errant scripture. To illustrate, I used to rely on solutions manuals provided by textbook publishers. But about ten years ago errors began to creep into these solutions manuals at an unacceptable rate. Today approximately 19 out of 20 answers are correct, but students can't be sure that a given answer is drawn from the pool of 19. Thus, I no longer put solutions manuals on reserve for students to use.

The care and effort devoted to properly interpreting Scripture is best justified if we're handling God's inspired, inerrant word. If the starting point of any interpretive exercise is a passage that MAY be God's word, then regardless of the quality of the interpretation, we're left with exposition and application that MAY flow from God's word.

Even So... said...

The can o' worms was why I wasn't going to comment on the documentary hypothesis (JEDP)...

Oh, well, Q anyone?

Steve said...

Sharon: Look up JEPD on Theopedia (Internet site), and you'll get a basic explanation there. (Sorry I can't place the link here--I have no idea how to do that.)

Dan: Yes, I noticed your use of JEPD as a verb, too. I thought it was a wonderful shorthand way to make your point.

Steve said...

Whoops. Make that JEDP. It's late Friday afternoon, folks. Sorry, Sharon.

Lot said...

Sharon, to a wikipedia search for "JEDP" ... 'at oughtta help! :) Its a subject WAY off subject ... and Geek is right! "Run away!!!"

Lots

TheBlueRaja said...

Cent,

Though not dead, I. Howard Marshall, F.F. Bruce and Gordon Fee (and a lot of other people who make up the IBR seminar) are great examples of theologically conservative guys that have views on inerrancy that aren't as strong as mine. Biblical infalibility has seemed to be enough for some of these people, and has been (for theological purposes) functionally equivalent to a strong view of inerrancy. It's interesting, though, from purely a historical point of view, how many evangelicals have gone way further than Carl F.H. Henry in where inerrancy fits into their overall theological scheme.

As for Barth, I'd probably not be as hard on him as you are (though, again, that doesn't mean I agree with him).

David said...

Slippery slope

This fallacy occurs when a person is too quick with what they suppose to follow from various stages in their argument.

Take this example:

If we accept restrictions on free speech then opponents of freedom will soon be asking for more restrictions elsewhere and before we know it we'll be living under a totalitarian regime.


Straw man

This fallacy takes its name from the image of someone stuffing some clothes with straw and then beating seven bells out of the resultant opponent, supposing thereby that they have somehow won a fight. The fallacy occurs when an argument is countered by taking a weaker form of it and showing where it fails, assuming that this means the original argument has also been defeated

Take an example:

You say we should invest more in public health services, but taking everyone's money off them and deciding what they should spend it on for them is nothing less than totalitarianism.

both from http://www.galilean-library.org/int16.html, a fine, fine website

They are not the same logical fallacy.

You are correct that, in particular with the slippery slope, your arguement may still be correct (usually not with the straw man - the straw man arguement is used when the person disagreeing has no sound arguemnts against you, so picks on a weaker arguement that is easily defeated - but does not address the original arguement in the least

However, while you may have reached the correct conclusion, you have not in any way demonstrated the proof of your arguement.

recovering_baptist_rick said...

I'm a relatively new reader of Pyromaniacs, and I really enjoy the content. It's one of the few blogs I read nearly daily.

I'm a member of a Sovereign Grace church, which falls into the "Reformed with a significant Charismatic dimension" category. My understanding of the "supernatural" gifts would line up well with Grudem's. The cessationist / non-cessationist debate gets mentioned from time to time on this blog, but I'm not sure I've seen the definitive post on DJP's position yet.

JSB's earlier posting asks for responses to 4 statements made by Grudem. I'm curious as to the objections to those statements as well, as I find them very reasonable and in line with my understanding of scripture.

Or is Grudem's (and my) understanding of continuationism not what DJP is criticizing? I fully understand the concerns about devaluing scripture, abuses of sign gifts, etc. I don't think the Grudem treatment of the gifts leads to those excesses.

DJP said...

Sharon -- the answers pointing you to (say) Theopedia are good ones. But there's no reason you can't be given a short answer.

Should-be-unnecessary disclaimer: a short answer won't have everything in it. Otherwise it wouldn't be a short answer. (So now hopefully no one will feel obliged to demonstrate how much smarter he is by pointing out how short the short answer is.)

The SHORT answer is that JEDP refers to the "Documentary Hypothesis" mostly used to explain the authorship of the Pentateuch other than the Biblical attribution to Moses. Different literary threads or strata were credited to different editors or schools; "J" meant the author who used "Jahweh" (Yahweh) to name God, "E" the one who used "Elohim" (God), "D" the Deuteronomist, "P" the Priestly author.

It's long-discredited, IMHO; however it, being dead, yet speaketh -- but not in a good way.

So I was trying to say humorously that I'd just cull from different great comments here and weave it into a multi-sourced posting.

Taliesin said...

recovering:

Dan did a series of posts (over a month ago) outlining his position. The last of these is here and contains links to the other posts, plus a few other relevant posts, both by Dan and by Adrian Warnock.

DJP said...

David -- I may not have made this clear enough. Straw-man argument is, by definition, a fallacy; slippery slope is not. If you insist on calling it the "slippery slope fallacy," the phrase then would refer only to those arguments in which the inferences are invalid.

One twist I put on it, deliberately, is that some sometimes complain that they've been "straw-manned," when actually their opponent has shown a legitimate progression of implications of their position. That they themselves do not go all the way down the path of inference does not in itself mean that the path itself does not go there. It only need mean that they've not yet gone that far.

As with Paul and the Corinthian resurrection deniers, Lindsell and the errant-Bibleteers, (at least some) cessationists and (at least some) Charismatics.

Jerry Wragg said...

JSB said...
"I am in the cessationist camp, so would be interested in how would you answer Grudem, viz."

1. Continuationism does not logically or necessarily denigrate Scripture."

This is merely a declaration. Those who find this “in line with [their] understanding of scripture” would need to soundly demonstrate what Grudem has yet to answer:
(1) How does private “revelation”, invading one’s mind and heart directly from God, not carry the same authority as that which the Apostles received (via the Holy Spirit [cf. Jn.14:26; 16:13]) in the same manner? Sorry, but Grudem’s “lower, fallible authority” concept is nowhere modeled in scripture---
 Agabus’ prophecy was not, at careful textual evaluation, errant
 The “testing” of prophets in Corinth was simply verification against Apostolic truth (same as the Bereans who “tested” Paul’s teaching by the divine revelation.
 1Thess.5:20 is not a case for fallible prophecy, but rather a warning to those who might disparage the authoritative content.
(2) Since such “private” gleanings are often given as moral directives for another’s life, is the recipient under divine obligation to obey every detail as with all of God’s written commands? Are they in sin for not following the “divine counsel” which has allegedly come directly from God?
(3) If 1 Cor. 12:28 lists the gifts in an official order of priority (most scholars agree that this is a ranking according to value and usefulness), then even “lower, fallible “ prophecies are more useful in sanctification than the faithful exposition of God’s word! How can Grudem avoid this conclusion?

2. "Abuse of sign/miracle gifts does not perforce mean the gifts are invalid, or else we'd have to ban Bible teaching, too, as there are abuses via that route as well."

Agreed! Whatever other cessationists may posit, I do not argue that abuses are proof of anything other than human idolatry (as was the case in Corinth). However, is also true that subjectivism has, throughout church history, undermined the authority of holy scripture and opened channels for “personal” phenomena to rush in unhindered.

3. "There is little difference between the Reformed idea of "illumination" and modern prophecy; thus, the latter can be seen as decidedly NOT denigrating Scripture."

Illumination, biblically speaking, is the Holy Spirit’s convincing and convicting work (1Cor.2:12-16), driven by our union with Christ as we “abide in Him” (1John2:25-27). According to John 15:7-10, abiding in Christ is equal to obeying His word. Grudem has confused the believers deepening biblical convictions via the illumination of the Spirit with today’s claims of “personal prophecy” for one’s daily life. The sad reality is that strong notions, inner impressions, and personal convictions should be credited to the Spirit’s illumining work as believers obey God’s word, yet evangelicals are devaluing the power of the word by calling these inner workings “direct revelations”, which only serves to highlight an individual’s apparent spiritual connectedness rather than the sufficiency of the Bible. Therefore, albeit unwitting, it DOES denigrate scripture.

4. "Grudem: While we can appreciate cessationists' desire to protect Scripture and avoid subjectivism, it is also possible they are in danger of opposing something God is doing in the church today and "failing to give him glory for that work. God is jealous for his works and seeks glory from them for himself, and we must continually pray not only that he would keep us from endorsing error, but that we would keep us from opposing something that is genuinely from him."

I wholeheartedly agree that we should run from self-glory and never oppose anything God is doing. When continuationists can settle the textual and practical questions above, we’d be happy to stop “opposing God”. On the other hand, continuationists may simply be misunderstanding the inner renewing ministry of the Holy Spirit as He transforms the believer through God’s word (apparently the method Jesus continually endorsed). If true, then what they call “personal prophecy” is a mix of biblical convictions (objectively verifiable by scripture) and mere personal motivations (which may be wise or not) that have no divine authority at all.

Steve said...

Jerry Wragg said, "Grudem has confused the believers deepening biblical convictions via the illumination of the Spirit with today’s claims of “personal prophecy” for one’s daily life."

Well said, Jerry. And it's ironic that the very continuationists who profess to "appreciate the Holy Spirit more than cessationists" actually fail to credit the Spirit for the extent of His illuminating work in the believer's life.

Jerry Wragg said...

DJP -
Great clarification.
I find that those who minimize concerns with the "straw-man" defense are simply wanting everyone to believe that "they won't go that far". I can relate to this tendency...when someone cautions me with insights I've not yet considered, I can either humbly admit my ignorance of the potential dangers and change paths...or I can hide my embarrassment by painting others as alarmists.
True, not everyone will slide as far as they could, but having a friend connect unorthodox dots that I couldn't see is no small grace from the Lord!

Jerry Wragg said...

Steve -
Ironic indeed! Along those lines, doesn't anyone anymore study the Holy Spirit's work through the scriptures. I'd say that if we would focus less upon justifying what we "think" the Spirit is doing in our experience, and more upon what the Bible actually claims about its sufficiency as the Spirit ministers it to us and in us...we would be overwhelmed by the fortitude and comprehensiveness of God's word.

DJP said...

Jerry -- thanks for responding to the Grudem points.

I'd only add this thought: the whole fantasy that prophecy -- defined and described emphatically, unambiguously, and at great length in the OT -- has suddenly and without notice been transmogrified into something totally different in the NT, because it was to be tested.... Eesh.

Don't these folks have Deuteronomy 13:1-11 18:21-22 in their Bibles?

Jerry Wragg said...

A fine point...and over which Grudem was inconsistent, claiming that 1st century church prophecy should continue today unchanged, while simultaneously postulating the incomprehensible change from Old to New Testament you aired. I'm simply not going to allow him to have it both ways...
If 2000 years of church history is not permitted to demonstrate transitions in God's economy, then neither should the classic OT definition of prophecy (1500 years worth) be suddenly and mysteriously "changed" for the church without clear NT warrant.

Taliesin said...

The definition of a dispensation, as cited by John Ankerberg:

Theologically it is "A religious order or system, conceived as divinely instituted, or as a stage in a progressive revelation, expressly adapted to the needs of a particular nation or period of time."

Now, for a dispensationalist, arguments like:

the whole fantasy that prophecy -- defined and described emphatically, unambiguously, and at great length in the OT -- has suddenly and without notice been transmogrified into something totally different in the NT or

If 2000 years of church history is not permitted to demonstrate transitions in God's economy, then neither should the classic OT definition of prophecy (1500 years worth) be suddenly and mysteriously "changed" for the church without clear NT warrant

don't seem to have a lot of merit (IMO). If this is a new dispensation, distinct from the dispensation of the Old Covenant, arguing continuity with the Old Covenant (without explicit statements in the New Covenant to support said continuity) does not seem to me to be a valid argument.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding dispensationalism, but if not ...

Jerry Wragg said...

Taliesin -
I wasn't arguing as a dispensationalist, or necessarily for different economies...
My point (sorry for being unclear) was simply that those who believe in divine, but fallible, prophetic revelations today must indisputably demonstrate from scripture the exegetical basis for the claim. Pointing to a few 1st century ambiguities are no match against 1500+ years of OT flawless prophetic prescription, practice, and proof (wow, that's a lot of "P"'s).
While Dan's post isn't about prophecy, it bears noting that the slippery slope very often begins with allowing unbiblical claims to go uncross-examined simply because they "sound" like a good explanation of contemporary phenomena.
Hope this helps clarify my comment...

DJP said...

Yes, Taliesin; you are wrong in how you're developing dispensationalism. I'll not take that subject further on this blog, but may point you HERE.

Paul Lamey said...

Jerry Wragg,

Good stuff but you have written more in this thread than you have at Expository Thoughts in the last year. We need to talk.

Taliesin said...

Jerry,

Thanks for the clarification. My point primarily is that someone who posits more discontinuity between the testaments is not going to be convinced by arguments that require NT prophecy to look like OT prophecy.

My own experience is that most people in the P&C camp would hold to more discontinuity. Therefore, it is easy (easier?) for them to reject an argument that NT prophecy must be like OT prophecy.

Dan, thanks for the link.

David said...

Actually, the slippery slope arguement is always a "logical" fallacy.

Always.

Even if your conclusion is correct (and thus true), you have not in any way used logic to prove it's correctness when you use the slippery slope arguement.

It is not just I who calls the slippery slope arguement a logical fallacy - it is every text book that teaches the philosphy of logic.

DJP said...

Thanks for sharing your opinion, David. There's a real danger in making God-statements like you do, however. Unless you have in fact read every article and text on philosophy in the world, when you make a blanket God-statement such as yours, without actually sharing the attribute of omniscience, you run the risk of simply being flat-out wrong.

As you are.

Martin Downes said...

If the slippery slope is about unfaithfulness in one area of doctrine or practice, the question is what will prevent further unfaithfulness? Assuming of course that such unfaithfulness is intentional rather than stemming from ignorance.

Dan your example of a reconfigured view of inerrancy is a prime example of that.

J441 said...

David,

I'm not sure how you justify your claim that the slippery slope is always a fallacy. Placed deductively, it reads as follows:

1. If A, then B.
2. If B, then C.
3. C is unacceptable.
4. Therefore A is unacceptable.

We often apply it incorrectly (either the premises are wrong, or more often, are only probably true). But it does seem that a valid slippery slope argument does imply deductive logic.

As far as the claim that "It is not just I who calls the slippery slope arguement a logical fallacy - it is every text book that teaches the philosphy of logic":

http://www.drury.edu/ess/Logic/Informal/Slippery_Slope.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slippery_slope
http://www.fallacyfiles.org/slipslop.html

By UCLA law professors: http://www1.law.ucla.edu/~volokh/slipperymag.pdf

By a Stanford Linguist:
http://www-csli.stanford.edu/~nunberg/slipslop.html

Douglas Walton (PhD, Philosophy) wrote a book entitled "Slippery Slope Arguments" in which notes that SSAs are not necessarily (but often are) fallacious.

Also, the professor whom I took "Intro to Philosophy" from (and the textbook I used, which I do not recall) both affirmed that SSAs are not necessarily fallacious.

Since you only posted twice in this thread, I have no idea whether you are being satirical or sarcastic (I am horrible at reading tone over the internet), but it seems that the claims you make are manifestly false.

Luke & Rachael said...

Interesting thread. But i'm wondering about the author's claim (or, at least, the implication) that a doctrine of inerrancy keeps the Church from sliding into wordliness.

I'm no inerrantist, and that for a couple different reasons. The first is that to me a great majority of the Bible looks an awful lot like narrative; and I quickly lose my grasp on what it means to say of narrative, or poetry, that it's inerrant. What does it mean to say the Song of Songs is inerrant? Maybe someone out there can give me something to go on here.

Second, as someone in this thread already noted, most inerrantists hold that its only the original manuscripts that are inerrant--not the ones we have now; this gives inerrantists an out on all the seeming contradictions. But it also makes the doctrine pretty doggone useless. How can the doctrine of inerrancy keep the Church from wordliness when, as inerrantists themselves admit, we don't even have the inerrant documents themeselves? Inerrantists at least owe us an account of how we're supposed to know the original--and hence inerrant--parts of the Bible from later scribal copying mistakes, or interpolations, or whatever. (And here it won't be much help just to say that, wherever there's a seeming contradiction we can't iron out, *that's* where something went wrong in transmission. That would be circular and, for someone not already on board w/ the doctrine, entirely unconvincing.)

I'm also puzzled by the fact that inerrantists often criticize others for making use of extra-biblical commitments to interpret the text. But I've never been able to find a place in Scripture where inerrancy itself is unambiguously stated. Certainly there's nothing in the canon about a distinction between original and non-original manuscripts. But then it seems as though inerrantists are guilty of a tu quouque: they're guilty of precisely the thing they accuse their opponents of, namely, making use of extra-biblical premises (the very doctrine of inerrancy) to interpret Scripture.

Maybe some of you all can help me w/ this.

Luke

David said...

I am once again hoisted upon my own petard.

DJP said...

j441 -- excellent work. Thanks.

DJP said...

Luke & Rachael -- No mere opinion, held merely as an opinion, saves anyone from anything. The implication you infer is of your own creation.

Of course, a robust belief in inerrancy is necessary to be preserved from worldliness -- for reasons explained in the post.

In fact, everything else was already answered in the post, or in the comments.

J441 said...

David,

That's probably one of my favourite statements of all time.

Jonathan said...

Enjoyed the post from a different perspective because there was just a big argument in our congregations regarding which people we should regard as authoritative in regard to scriptural interpretation. I won't belabor the point, but I found this post and it didn't answer my question, but it did make me consider the following:

I'm a flatlander who lives now in the mountains. I am constantly fighting real slippery slopes on my lot. I think a good bit of the issue depends upon where we see ourselves on the hill. Are we "pressing on the upward way" or are we already "standing on the higher ground?"

I don't remember exactly how he said it, but I remember being struck by Dietrich Bonhoeffer's decision to join the resistance movement against Hitler in opposition to his own pacifist beliefs. In his Ethics (I think) he said that no matter what we do we will fail except for the grace of God. So we do the best we can. Perhaps the right metaphor isn't climbing or maintaining a slope. For most of us (perhaps I'm speaking for the Lost rather than the found) it is more like a person who has been suddenly thrown into the water and is seeking to swim toward the light. All around we slip and strain, and we pray that in spite of our self righteousness and in spite of our sinfulness and in spite of the error of our best efforts, we know that the God who loves us is out there seeking to pull us from the morass.