The Errancy of Inerrancy: Bart Barber’s Critique of Jim Denison
OCTOBER 27, 2009
Southern Baptist Texas pastor Bart Barber has written a lengthy response to a self-published paper titled “The Errancy of Inerrancy” authored by Jim Denison who is the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ Theologian-in-Residence and President of the Center for Informed Faith. Barber’s post, An Errant Bible: The Gateway Heresy, has received much attention across the blogosphere. Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, featured Barber’s critique of Denison on his blog. Nathan Finn, Assistant Professor of Church History at Southeastern College, also featured Barber’s critique of Denison on the popular blog Between the Times. Between the Times is sponsored by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and included among its contributors are Daniel Akin, President of Southeastern Seminary, and Ed Stetzer of Lifeway Research. Outside of the Baptist Blogosphere, popular evangelical blogger Justin Taylor highlighted Barber’s critique of Denison.
From Barber's post---here are the major points of Denison's paper:
Those main arguments are six in number:Denison argues that the word “inerrancy” has been defined and qualified in too many different and highly technical ways to be of any theological use; therefore, we ought to prefer to speak of the “trustworthiness” or “authority” of the Bible.
Denison argues that the concept of inerrancy, since it is applied exclusively to the original Bible manuscripts, actually undermines the faith of believers in their own copies of the Bible.
Denison argues that inerrancy is a recent doctrinal innovation not shared by those in Christian history whom we ought to emulate—that it is not among our theological “roots.”
Denison argues that rather than the denial of inerrancy's leading to other heresies, the affirmation of inerrancy leads to unwarranted divisiveness.
Denison argues that inerrancy is a philosophical position not supported by the statements of the Bible itself.
Denison argues that the Bible actually is not inerrant; therefore, to apply the test of inerrancy to the Bible is to set the Bible up to fail at a test that it does not and would not apply to itself, and thereby to undermine one’s belief in the “trustworthiness” of the Bible.
Barber's main point is summed up in the beginning of his post:
An Errant Bible: The Gateway Heresy
One of the things I most appreciated about Dr. Danny Akin's sermon about the Axioms of a Great Commission Resurgence was his bold statement that there is no room in the Southern Baptist Convention for people who do not agree regarding the inerrancy of the Bible. It is an utterly unenforceable concept, but nonetheless a welcome clarification of what it means to be a Southern Baptist.
Inerrancy-fatigue has meant that there has not been much discussion in the blog world about the nature of the Bible. Indeed, inerrancy-fatigue may mean very little response to this blog post. Nevertheless, I have decided to reproduce a paper that I wrote some time ago on the topic of inerrancy. The paper amounts to an attempt to interact with the thoughts of James Denison, the official theologian of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and his attack upon inerrancy in a self-published paper entitled, "The Errancy of Inerrancy." It is longer than my standard post, so if such things bore you, I won't be offended if you just don't bother. Otherwise, enjoy.
So what are your thoughts on all of this? I believe Bruce Prescott says it best.