48 Comments
Nov 10, 2021Liked by Michael F. Bird

This is an important word for today's church in the USA. Hopefully others read it! We are told by Jesus to love one another; I don't recall him saying that only applies to others who hold the same view on inerrancy!

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Nov 10, 2021Liked by Michael F. Bird

Incredible article. Thank you, Dr. Bird. As a seminarian, pastor-in-training, and hopeful Christian academic, I will be referencing your work on this for years to come. Your voice is central to this chorus of Christian thinkers pointing us towards a more honest and honoring view of scripture. Thankful for your contribution as well!

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Thanks Samuel, all the best with your studies.

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I really appreciate this. I have been a part of all the places you mentioned and it is really painful to be a part of such dichotomy and try to want to make change. One example, for all our talk of global missions we forget about the global church which I think perpetuates all of what is going on.

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Nov 10, 2021Liked by Michael F. Bird

Good article, Michael.

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Thanks!

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Jan 14Liked by Michael F. Bird

Thank you soooo much for your frank and informed assessment of this aspect of American evangelicalism. I was deeply disappointed by some online comments by male ACNA priests regarding female leadership and ordination - they were disparaging and supercilious and would have deeply hurt the African female priest whom they were addressing. Being disappointed by the Episcopal Church there, I had great hopes for the ACNA and these were crushed by the way these priests spoke to this lady from a poor country who was most gracious and respectful and was wanting to engage and make a genuine contribution to the page. Alas, she was shot down in flames. And when I made a comment reproving them it was quickly deleted! This was over a year ago and I still think about it sometimes, but your article is a big help. Thank you again.

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Hi Jill, sad to hear about ACNA.

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Jan 14Liked by Michael F. Bird

I first wrote about this in my PhD thesis. There’s a copy in your Leon Morris library. I’ve also addressed it in my book, Destined to Live: A Theology of Redemption from a Ild Eart Perspective. Would you like a copy? (I cite you often, if that helps!)

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Don, sure thing, send it to Ridley!

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You hit the nail on the head - “My suspicion is that inerrancy was formulated in such a way in the USA so as to be a fortified castle against German biblical criticism, low views of Scripture in mainline churches, and the relativization of the Bible in mainstream culture.” I do think that is where it started but has taken on a life of its own. As a person who has suffered some crazy church abuse & as a seminarian who is concerned about where I might be able to serve the church because of my views, I share your concern here. I’ve already decided that I will never make my primary living in a ministry I don’t lead or control because I already know that I will get fired for holding convictions based on Scripture that will contradict some crazy ministry leaders or boards. I have my “tent making” business and it’s not ministry related. Good. Because I never want to compromise on my convictions about what Scripture means. Maybe that’s sad to say, but also, maybe big evangelicalism and it’s associated institutions are giving way to smaller, individual led schools, seminaries, churches and ministries that look more like the early church?

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Dain, all the best with your tent making ministry!

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Thanks Mike 👍 yes, you’re right, after all that’s what it is :)

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My book, "Need to Know," is better still on how to understand the Bible evangelically. : ) But then again, I'm a Canadian, and disposed to agree with my British and Australian counterparts against my American cousins on such things.

I also love the way Professor Bird peppers this column with typographical errors—just to illustrate, I'm sure, in a clever postmodernist way, that a text can be truthful without being inerrant....

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John, we should record a zoom chat and post it on-line, about biblical truth, North America, orthodoxy vs. conservatism!

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Yes, let's. In my forthcoming book on evangelicalism, I make a sharp distinction between "conservative" and "evangelical" styles of Protestantism. I expect you'd recognize that distinction right off. Let me know: Usually an evening works for me when it's morning Down Under! (I'm in the Atlantic Time Zone in Canada, an hour earlier than the Eastern Time Zone of the USA.)

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What you’ve described is so often used in the debate on the role of women in ministry. “The Bible says women can’t teach or have authority. If you say anything else you are going against the Bible and are therefore a threat to our community.” End of conversation.

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Thanks for this article. The US Evangelical view of inerrancy has created a lot of disillusioned young people. There are a bunch of atheists on youtube who, in my view, are not disillusioned with the Bible but with this doctrine and how it has been held.

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"Or, getting out the pitchforks to defend “inerrancy” because someone...put Karl Barth on the reading list, said theistic evolution sounds like a good option, blogged about having trouble explaining Luke’s account of the census, and told a class I don’t think Mt 27.52 should be taken literally." The truth is, we've seen that all these things are often gateways or points on the slippery slope toward theological progressivism. I myself came out of theological progressivism and I am leery of things like these because I've seen it happen too many times.

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After graduating from Wheaton, and taking classes with Walton et al. I was convinced that one didn't have to choose between "science" and the Bible. With a few more years reflection, I am no longer convinced of the case, and think that the Bible actually DOES ask us to choose.

Here is a piece that gets to the heart of it.

The answer from this ends up placing on as an inerrantist, in the end, even if one doesn't like all the trappings of the "Inerrancy is the only thing" school in the US.

https://northamanglican.com/is-genesis-7-inerrant/

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Heretics often nibble on the outside of truth to accomplish their purpose. They also use ad hominem attacks and straw men to advance their arguments. This is precisely what this man does. He uses generalizations to attack and gain sympathy from those who agree with him. He makes the following claim, and can only substantiate it with five examples, going all the way back to 1983: "However, in some circles of American evangelicalism, inerrancy is more than a useful doctrine, it is the center and sum of a theological universe. American evangelicals demand a rigid precision for inerrancy not shared by the global church, they position inerrancy rather than christology as the chief marker of orthodoxy, and they police inerrancy in their networks with a Taliban-esque ferocity." Then, he attempts to lump -- and denigrate -- evangelicals who supported President Trump with ridiculous language intended to divide (typical of heretical efforts). Let the discerning discern this man's hateful spirit in writing, "foaming at the mouth over CRT, and half of them prostrating before Trump." He undermines his own arguments with his hypocrisy. If he wants to advance a scholarly point, why not do so with clear evidence? But by attempting to do so while attacking anyone he clearly despises (analyzing his language), he loses all credibility.

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Thank you for this <stumbled upon you in twitter, I suppose>. Once I forced all reality through this same ruthless reticle until some N.T.W. and an obscure, reflective work by Eugene Peterson (I considered him, ‘sound’) began to ruin my worldview(s). I am thankful for the apocalypse the Holy Spirit has carried me through to reach today. Funny thing, but in all this article + comments I was only really troubled by the ‘what about-ism’ in the ‘concern’ section of the comments on Yong <sigh><missing entire Sequoia forests for a single scrubby sapling><double sigh> I am grieved these days that such great mystery, such great Hope, such great, good news is so relentlessly plowed under…. <smiling sigh>… Don’t tire in doing good friend. I liked your words and humor. People ruminating as you do makes me think perhaps there is yet work, and words that matter. Perhaps there will even be more for me to do, but for now - thank you, from the very back, most peripheral row. My prayers are with you. (Btw, finding joy digging Walton’s ‘the Lost World of Genesis One’, Moltmann’s ‘The Spirit of Life’, and as usual, frequent leavening visits with my old friend “New Seeds of Contemplation”). Blessings.

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I completely agree with the overriding assertion that “ many American evangelicals preached the inerrancy of the text, what they often practiced was the inerrancy of their interpretation and the hegemony of their tribe in certain denominations.” Sadly the conflation between inerrancy and tribal views of the text is widespread - seems similar to your conflation of many evangelicals poor inerrancy practices with those who “bow to Trump.” Beside your misplaced attempt to appeal to political emotionalism your comments are refreshing. Thank you for sharing.

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Mike, thanks for this. You might like to read my article on Inerrancy in the recently published Oxford Handbook on Divine Revelation.

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Andrew, no worries. If you have a PDF, I'd love to get a copy.

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Me too!

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