Sunday, March 22, 2015

Those Who Deny Warfieldian Inerrancy

Over a century ago, evangelicals went back to the drawing board on the doctrine of scripture. Scripture itself, of course, is unassailable.  It is what it is.  It is God's Word.  When it says what it is, that's what it is, even if someone reinvents or reframes what it is.   However, the biblical and historical positions just would not work any longer, not with the pressure that liberalism placed upon scholarship and academia with its criticism of the Bible.  Hand written copies of scripture varied from one another and that seemed to indicate errors, at least according to a rational basis.  Benjamin Warfield took upon himself to write a new doctrine of inerrancy.

If you believe scriptural and historic doctrine of the Bible, you also would believe something short of that doctrine, Benjamin Warfield's position on inerrancy.  If I talk about inerrancy, I mean the Warfield doctrine, because the term "inerrancy" refers to his view.  So if I say someone denies "inerrancy," I'm not just saying that he doesn't take the position I believe, but that he doesn't believe Warfield's definition.  Inerrancy is a very technical word in bibliology, crafted as a bridge to liberalism.  Because it was written in contrast to liberal bibliology, it was a conservative position.

If you have been paying attention, then you know that evangelicalism, which already moved away from the scriptural and historical doctrine, is now threatening to leave the Warfieldian version.  The summit on inerrancy met for that purpose, but a few books have been published in the last year or so, that reveal the real difference:  Defining Inerrancy and Defending Inerrancy -- the former departing from Warfield and the latter embracing his position.

The direction of a weathervane depends on which way the wind blows.  The direction of evangelical bibliology depends on which way liberalism blows.  Their doctrine of the Bible isn't tethered by scripture.

Years ago in a comment section on the blog of an evangelical conservative (Frank Turk), I mentioned the departure of Daniel Wallace from inerrancy, fully understanding that as the Warfieldian definition.  Unless I apologized, he kicked me off the blog.   Senior Professor of New Testament at Master's Seminary, David Farnell, quotes Wallace on inerrancy:

[W]hat I tell my students every year is that it is imperative that they pursue truth rather than protect their presuppositions. And they need to have a doctrinal taxonomy that distinguishes core beliefs from peripheral beliefs. 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. It strikes me that something like this may be what happened to Bart Ehrman. His testimony in Misquoting Jesus discussed inerrancy as the prime mover in his studies. But when a glib comment from one of his conservative professors at Princeton was scribbled on a term paper, to the effect that perhaps the Bible is not inerrant, Ehrman’s faith began to crumble. One domino crashed into another until eventually he became “a fairly happy agnostic.”  I may be wrong about Ehrman’s own spiritual journey, but I have known too many students who have gone in that direction. The irony is that those who frontload their critical investigation of the text of the Bible with bibliological presuppositions often speak of a “slippery slope” on which all theological convictions are tied to inerrancy. Their view is that if inerrancy goes, everything else begins to erode. I would say rather that if inerrancy is elevated to the status of a prime doctrine, that’s when one gets on a slippery slope. But if a student views doctrines as concentric circles, with the cardinal doctrines occupying the center, then if the more peripheral doctrines are challenged, this does not have a significant impact on the core. In other words, the evangelical community will continue to produce liberal scholars until we learn to nuance our faith commitments a bit more, until we learn to see Christ as the center of our lives and scripture as that which points to him. If our starting point is embracing propositional truths about the nature of scripture rather than personally embracing Jesus Christ as our Lord and King, we’ll be on that slippery slope, and we’ll take a lot of folks down with us.
To sum up: There seems to be evidence in the synoptic gospels that, on occasion, words are deliberately added to the original sayings of Jesus [and] [i]n a few instances, these words seem to alter somewhat the picture that we would otherwise have gotten from the original utterance; in other instances, the meaning seems to be virtually the same, yet even here a certain amount of exegetical spadework is needed to see this.  On the other hand, there seem to be examples within the synoptics where the words are similar, but the meaning is different.
[I]t seems that our interpretation of inspiration is governing our interpretation of the text. Ironically, such bibliological presuppositions are established in modern terms that just might ignore or suppress the data they are meant to address and which are purportedly derived.  And there is an even greater irony here: the fact of the Incarnation—an essential element in orthodox Christology-invites (italics in original) rigorous historical investigation.  But what if our bibliological presuppositions reject (italics in original) that invitation?

You should read the Farnell article.  If Turk were consistent, he'd have to kick Farnell out of his comment section.  Daniel Wallace writes a very favorable review of Defining Inerrancy and against Defending Inerrancy.   Wallace recently wrote the following in a comment in that section of his blog:

I have thought about the Anglican Church quite a bit actually. I love the liturgy, the symbolism, the centrality of the Eucharist, the strong connection with the church in ages past, and the hierarchy. And yes, I have seriously considered joining their ranks–and still am considering it. There are some superb Anglican churches in the Dallas area. Quite surprising to me has been my choice of academic interns at Dallas Seminary in the last few years. Over half of them have been Anglican, and yet when I picked them for the internship I didn’t know what their denominational affiliation was. Exceptional students, devoted to the Lord and his Church, and committed to the highest level of Christian scholarship. And they have respect for tradition and the work of the Spirit in the people of God for the past two millennia.

Do people slide on inerrancy because of a potential lack of conversion?  I say that because of a willingness to join Anglicanism and its false gospel.

Warfield has become the new benchmark for bibliology, but isn't another slide merely another degree further from the truth than Warfield himself?


The Preacher said...

"However, the biblical and historical positions just would not work any longer, not with the pressure that liberalism placed upon scholarship and academia with its criticism of the Bible."

That has always been the problem. Anyone can criticize a translation, but only a fool would criticize the Holy Bible. It is a false premise to believe that "academia/scholarship" proves the Holy Bible. No, it is by the Holy Ghost and through the body of Christ that determines the scriptures.

Anonymous said...


The quotations you gave are absolutely shocking! Shouldn't J-Mac rise up and condemn such liberal claptrap, especially coming from his own school? I realize it's the ineluctable outcome given the position they hold on the text, but to see it stated so blatantly is simply breathtaking.


Kent Brandenburg said...


The quotes are of Daniel Wallace and I'm speaking positively about Farnell in this case. I was saying about Wallace what Farnell is saying, and it got me kicked off Turk's blog, who is a close associate of Phil Johnson. Imagine that? It is confusing though, I admit, because they can't keep things straight on this. What they can all agree on, I guess, is that KJV is bad.

Anonymous said...

Okay, gotcha.

Yeah, the double-standard thing is a strange animal. I wouldn't expect an invite back to his blog anytime soon, nor would I expect an apology. According to Turk and company, only those who believes the Received Text, and the manuscripts that make it up, must apologize.


Terry Basham, II said...


What is the historical position on the Bible? Is it that God have his word, preserved it and has kept is accesible for his people at all times? This is my idea on the bible. I don't think it was hidden or kept from the Lord churches.

As for Wallace - I'd not heard his name until I watched all the videos of the John Ankerberg show that has Sam Gipp and Wallace and some others on it.

In the interview he said "Christians have exchanged the pursuit of the truth for Certainty." I thought about that for a while and wondered if that were true but the Truth is know? The truth can't be ambigous or it's not the truth.

I watched several Presentations that wallace gave, as well, as the debate between him and Bart Ehrman. What blew me away was that they agreed on so much and the idea of faith was never presented...

By the time I was done watching those and a panel discussion between Wallace and some of his colleagues at the Center for New Testament Research; I understood why students who attend some schools apostacize, they don't believe they have a bible at all - at least not yet.

I've heard Al Mohler and J. Mac, say that Warfields book on Inspiration is a definitive work but I haven't read it, so I can't really say much about it.

I do think that in the true churches of Christ (I think you know what I mean) we don't have to re-deiscover or redefine our position on the bible every few years. I was watching the Shep Con in 2014 when they announced the BIg summit and I laughed to myself because Most of the churches that I know don't need a summit to tell them they have the Word.

I'm enjoying your series.

Terry Basham, II said...


Wallace's comments on Anglicanism are wild - and explains the super positive light he paints the Greek Orthodox church in during lecuture on "Siniaticus Revisited" on u tube.


KJB1611 said...

The Jesus Crisis by Robert Thomas and Farnell is a great book – I am not surprised that Farnell is nailing Wallace on this. I would link to the whole book on my website if I was allowed to do it. As it is, I have the chapters that are available in the public domain linked to here:

The rejection of the biblical fact that the Gospels are independent eyewitness accounts in favor of the Q theory and Markan priority undermines the perfect inspiration of Scripture in a major way.

While I hope Wallace is converted, in addition to what you mentioned above he says some very heretical things in his Greek Grammar beyond the Basics that leave me with serious questions, such as that the writers of the New Testament did not know that the Holy Spirit was a Person for most of the apostolic time when the books were being composed. Bad, really bad.

Tyler Robbins said...

I posted a filing on this over at SharperIron a while back, but this is an excellent presentation by F. David Farnell against the modern liberalism and the re-definition of inerrancy. It is here:

You may find it particularly ironic, Bro. Brandenburg! The folks you believe redefined inerrancy to start with are complaining about the re-definition of the definition.

That aside, it is a passionate presentation. Farnell makes it very clear that he is treated as a pariah in scholarly circles because he actually believes in the independence view of the synoptic Gospel composition, and speaks out against the modern evangelical re-definition of inerrancy.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Terry,

Your position is the historical and biblical position, not because of an edict by me, but because that's what someone reads, anyone. There was not such a position as Warfield espoused until along came liberalism. Now it is looked at like historic bibliology or just "orthodoxy." The best refutation is something like 'wild-eyed barking-at-the-moon fundamentalism.' So there.

I agree that faith is missing in the presentation. And you are correct that you can hardly find a difference between Wallace and Ehrman. However, the evangelical critics like Wallace and White, who on one hand outlaw theological presuppositions, lean on those in order not to join Ehrman's conclusions. At some point, they reach up for that lifeline.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Thomas.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I want to include you in the comment section, so you don't think I'm just giving you the cold shoulder. I can be happy that you agree with what you wrote there in your comment, but I need you to know that I don't see you as much different than the textual critics. Neither of you believe God preserved His Words. They are both faithless positions. I know that sounds rough to you, and you get angry and want to call names, etc., but it is true.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Just one minor correction. "Inerrancy" itself is an invention. I'm not saying the word didn't exist previous to 1850, just that you don't see it used in application to scripture in that technical sense. Warfield made it a word, and now we have a whole conference on it. The whole doctrine of the Bible was redefined and is now being redefined. I'm sure you understood that, but I'm writing this for the readers too.

The Preacher said...

". I know that sounds rough to you, and you get angry and want to call names, etc., but it is true."

Faithless? Believe like the textual critics? You know better than that. Those with your "historical preservation position" and the textual critics find it difficult to believe that the Holy King James Bible needs no correction and requires no knowledge of textual history to believe what is written, preached and believed.

Did you get saved believing in textual history or believing that which was preached (English text)? If they are not the words of God, then as Paul said, "ye are men most miserable". I on the other hand have been perfectly content standing at the same exact place and not wavering with many in the body of Christ on the words of God beginning perfect and without error.

The scholars are the reason we are in this mess because they continue to mess around with their understanding of preservation history. I and others in the body of Christ know the King James bible has a preservation history all the way back to NT and OT "originals" whether I can prove that perfectly or not.

The Preacher said...

"I do think that in the true churches of Christ (I think you know what I mean) we don't have to re-deiscover or redefine our position on the bible every few years"

And this is what has fueled apostacy for a long time, and that is, arguing over Greek texts. Kind of funny that no one has ever asked actual Greek believers in the body of Christ what text they use. Maybe you will find the same confusion exists there that was begun by American and European higher learning! Anyway, I digress.

You will not find any confusion by many throughout the world when it comes to the King James Bible. Those in the body of Christ believe it without argument to be the very words of God or you have those who do not and therefore end up in different levels of unbelief.

It is not a historical argument apart from that which is called, believed and practiced as the very words of God. It has never been a historical argument of "text types" or a "historical line of evidence". That is an argument of higher learning, and has NEVER been the argument within the body of Christ. The words of God is or is not present today in the form that it is received by the body of Christ.

I only know of ONE bible in the world (there maybe a Spanish, French, German, Polish bible, etc.) that IS believed to be the very words of God, the Holy King James Bible. The church in America does not need to know anything else at this time, for the body of Christ has proven that bible to be faithful for 400 years.

Brethren, why not just believe it, practice and preach its truths "no man forbidding" and quit dividing the body of Christ with argumentation that has done nothing more than create strife and unbelief?

Farmer Brown said...

What is he talking about with "prime doctrine" and "concentric circles"? This is such nonsense. There are so, so, so many problems with that type of thinking. Not the least of which is "My sheep hear my voice".

Of course, these are the same metrics being used by BJU, Maranatha, etc, when they say "No major doctrine is affected". Then, like Wallace, they can define what matters and what does not matter.

In doing this they deify their own thoughts. Their thoughts and rationality stand in judgment of the Holy Word. The parts of the Bible that are "prime" only occupy that position by their consent. If BJ removes its consent, that part is demoted.

This is just rank humanism by all parties. Whether you have "prime doctrines" or "major doctrines", you have elevated yourself to deity.

The Preacher said...


"This is just rank humanism by all parties. Whether you have "prime doctrines" or "major doctrines", you have elevated yourself to deity."

What do you expect? This slippery slope of arguing over Greek texts that has taken steam within "higher learning" the last 30-50 years is the foundation of most of the apostasy in America today.

There is nothing that can be done. "The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint from the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it".

Bill Hardecker said...

Didn't the 1978 ICBI Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy solve all this for us, already? For real. 300 Bible scholars said that the Bible is inerrant. Isn't that good enough? Did you know that there are Five views on Biblical Inerrancy according to Zondervan publishers? #SMH

I am wondering what did people believe in prior to Warfield's inerrancy doctrine? How did they survive the theological liberalism of the culture? I know for a fact that John Bunyan held to the Geneva Bible and the KJ Bible as solid as the originals themselves, he said so in a direct quote from his "works." When pressed about how he knew it, he appealed to faith. I say, good for him. That is pretty similar to where I stand on it, too.