Monday, September 3, 2007


Is Scripture infallible? Inerrant? Both? Neither? Gentlemen, march off ten paces away from one another, define your terms (succinctly, please), turn and face one another, and fire away.

Will your aim be infallible or inerrant?


Jeremiah said...

What dictionaries am I allowed to use for my definitions?

:) LOL

Patrick said...

Complimentary Definitions:

Absolute Inerrancy:
1. Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit. (ICBI, 1978.)
2. when all facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences. (Paul D. Feinberg)

Limited Inerrancy:
1. The Bible is inerrant if and only if it makes no false or misleading statements on any topic whatsoever. The Bible is infallible if and only if it makes no false or misleading statements on any matter of faith and practice.
2. Biblical infallibility

josenmiami said...

I would affirm that scripture is "inspired by God" and profitable for correction and instruction.

"Inerrant", by any definition, is a word that the scripture does not use in reference to itself... so why debate over claims that even the bible itself does not make concerning itself?

Jer: you can use the 1828 dictionary, as long as you don't claim it (Webster's 1828) to be inspired or innerrant, or fixed in time and eternity.

Patrick said...

Joseph, I am not trying to start a cyber-scuffle. I am taking a Theology class, and this was our topic last week. The folks in my class were using pretty ridiculous arguments to prove their case of "absolute inerrancy." Their argument was based on the verse that God inspired the Bible, and they tied to this to the verse that God does not lie. Therefore, the Bible is 100% truth in all areas, they said. Besides the circular logic of using the Bible to prove the Bible, they had very closed-minded views of God.

So coming from that, I am not looking to debate what I just finished debating. I wanted to learn from you guys how to explain such an issue in love to these folks. I think I overdid it with them. Also, I was curious as to where you guys stood. As individuals, of course.

Jeremiah said...


LOL. This is fun.


If you follow door number 2 you are holding GOD in submission to the Law of Non-contradiction and are assuming that limited humans have enough facts etc at their disposal to make judgements regarding what is or is not true concerning statements made by an infinte being. I think door number 2 might be difficult to defend.

There are statements in the scriptures which seem contradictory etc. There are other options that declaring them untrue or inaccurate.

Brian Emmet said...

Quick, and incomplete, history lesson: the historical context for the inerrancy debates have their roots in the early-20th century modernist vs. fundamentalist conflict. I would say it was an argument argued on Enlightenment, rather than Biblical, terms, and, from the longer view of church history, something of an anomaly.

Maybe it's someting akin to asking if (a) CS Lewis' "The Chronicles of Narnia" are "true" or (b) Jesus parable of the rich man and Lazarus is "true". To a large extent, the debate has been captured by Enlightenemnt construals of "true."

John M. said...

I agree with Joseph's statement.

Jeremiah, this is a good statement: "If you follow door number 2 you are holding GOD in submission to the Law of Non-contradiction and are assuming that limited humans have enough facts etc at their disposal to make judgements regarding what is or is not true concerning statements made by an infinte being."

That is pretty much what I was trying to say in the email chain about our attempts to define and explain how the Trinity functions based on our human ideas and perceptions. It's kind of like the ameba that is being examined under the microscope, looking up through the lense at the "big eye" it sees and trying to describe and explain the function of the human brain (or even describe the appearance of the human) based on what it sees when it looks up through that lense backwards at the big eye.

Patrick said...

Jeremiah, I don't fully understand what you are saying. Maybe you could restate it for my finite mental capacity?

I would like to make sure we are talking about the same Bible. Are you referring to today's modern English Bibles or the original text? We could also look at it as an already believing Christian, or as an unbiased third party.

Also, I am not talking about Scriptures that might seem contradictory in regards to faith. But about statements in the Bible that might not be accurate, historically, scientifically, or in regards to faith or any other field.

I'll wait for you to expound.

Robert said...


A worthy conversation...Brian, thanks for picking up the flash point in the previous round.

Here is a contemporary version of Article 6 of the 39 Articles published in 1801 predicated upon earlier versions in the English Reformation:

Atricle VI
"The Sufficiency of Scripture for salvation:

Holy Scripture contains all things necessary for salvation. Consequently whaterver is not read in Scripture nor can be proved from Scripture cannot be demanded from any person to believe it as an article of the Faith. Nor is any such thing to be thought necessary or required for salvation. By Holy scripture is meant thos canonical book of the Old and New Testaments whose authority has never been douibted witht he church. (the 66 canonical books of the Old and New Testaments are then listed)

This begs the inerrancy question a bit..i.e., in what sense is bible inerrant?

Here is another thought to ponder. Your response to this idea:

The bible is the Word of God...the Word of God is more than the bible.

Robert said...

Another item;

Some today believe that the King James Bible is the only truly inspired version...thus they advertise as only using the King James version (known as King James Only churches)...also called "KJO"

Is this an example of pressing the matter of inerrancy to the point of certainity? The need for a rational argument that allows folks to say with finality..."this is it!"

Jeremiah said...


I've got a short lunch today so I'll try to be concise.

Most people would define "false or misleading statements" to mean they are not contradictory. This is the Law of Non-contradiction. essentially is A is not equal to B and A equals C than C can not equal B. Two opposite statements cannot both be true. This is a useful Law and very important to making distinctions and to what most people do every day.

In order to apply it you have to know ALL of the facts. If something very strange happens which contradicts known information you then have to assume that either you don't have all the facts or you just witnessed "Magic". Think of how a small child reacts to you snapping your fingers and "Making" a stop light turn green (when you've been watching the side lights all along) They think you are powerful when you are really just clever.

To apply the Law of Non contradiction to the Bible indicates that:

A) You have all the facts concerning the events in question, and there are no gaps of information in what the Bible states.

B) You have all the facts about GOD and can describe the inner workings of the mysteries of GOD.

I'm sure I'm terribly guilty of reductionism here, but I've only got 7 minutes.

Does this help?

John M.

I'll tackle your little volley later. :)

Brian Emmet said...

One of the problems I have witht the inerrancy/infallibility debate is that you quickly end up arguing about trivialities, and those trivialities become make-or-break issues... we either have to appeal to non-extant "autographs," which, being non-extant, cannot be of any help to us, or we conclude that Scripture's witness to Christ is to be thrown out because the census counts in Numbers don't (to our understanding)add up. I think we're better off advocating for the authority of Scripture, and for the necessity of Scripture in the life of disciples ("All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for [and let us note the things Paul lists here, and the things he does not]... Even the Feinberg definition, which Patrick cited, isn't all that much help--"when all the facts are known, Scripture in their original autographs will be shown to be wholly true in everything they affirm..." What do we do in the meantime, as we await the knowing of all facts and the recovery of the autographs? It seems to me that we do exactly what are supposed to be doing anyway, namely living in faith, hope and love! I have no doubts about God's ability to vindicate himself. We are called to be witnesses, not prove-ers. Yes, there is certainly place for apologetics, contending for the truth, showing that Scripture really does provide the best answers to life's deepest questions, giving a reasoned defense of the hope we share... I'm just not persuaded that the terms "inerrant" and "infallible" are a whole lot of help, especially because, as Jose pointed out, they are not the ways in which Scripture talks about itself.

John M. said...

Bravo, Brian! Hey that has a nice ring doesn't it. Very well said. Wish I would have written it myself.

Robert said...

In the light of Brian's well articulated argument, I am only reiterating.

In the face of apparent contradictions, we either assume that we don't have all the information we need to properly interpret some matters or, as the German schools of higher criticism assumed, we have the advanced imperical science to determine what was really true...thus the "Jesus Seminar." The textual variations which may be attributed to scribal error are minimal and have no significant bearing on major themes of salvation.

It is my personal conviction that God has left "loose ends" to keep us from ultimately placing our confidence in the text rather than dependence upon the Person who inspired the text. Paul prayed for the church at Ephesus that God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ would grant a spirit of wisdom and revelation that we might know Him better. If we don't have that, we don't get it.

I am aware this does not bode well in the academy because it appeals to the that reaches beyond science...dependence upon understanding beyond what we can know on our best day. To accept something as true without logical explanation tends to result in a terminal masters.

There are just some things we don't know yet...but we hear His voice in those uncertainties.

Sean said...

Hey all,

What a timely discussion! It just so happens that we're studying this issue at Vanderbilt. This is definitely helpful.

The issue is very complex. At Vanderbilt, the presupposition is that the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament are products of human society (as all religion is). Obviously, I have problems with this.

The two basic schools of biblical interpretation are the following:
1) The critical-historical method which approaches the Scriptures as I just outlined above, and

2) The confessional approach, which approaches the Scriptures from a confessional standpoint, i.e. a believer, but also mixes in critical-historical investigation in order to understand the history, politics, and culture of the Bible - i.e. the context of the Bible.

The critical-historical method began in the Enlightenment, late 17th century. For example, Thomas Hobbes determined that Torah had more than one author based on his analysis of it writings. Julius Wellhausen, a century or so later, furthered this argument.

All this is to say that the Scriptures, I believe, are inspired texts, but not without mystery, paradox, ambiguity, and even apparent contradiction. Notice I use the phrase "apparent" contradiction. The reality is that we are thousands of years removed from the actual writing of the Bible. There are gaps of knowledge, pure in simple. One reason I believe is that we cannot account for the oral tradition at all, because, quite simply, it is oral. It wasn't written down. The historical-critical method can only analyze what was written down (as all history or literature).

Torah is attributed to Moses as the author, but it cannot be certain Moses wrote exactly what we have today. Torah is attributed to him because he is the central figure of Torah, and the covenant is called the Mosaic covenant for this reason. Obviously Moses didn't actually write that he died, as indicated at the end of Deutoronomy.

But in no way can this suggest that the texts are not inspired.

When considering inerrancy, it is best to understand that what we have isn't the complete story. The Bible is fragmented on the one hand, but has a Spirit about it that ties it together - a single continual story. But it can be difficult at times to piece it together.

This is just a cursory response for now. I'm still wrestling with it. We have to remember that the New Testament as we have it now was written between 50-90 A.D. but it competed for centuries until it was considered canon (the 4th century). This was done through church councils. Most Protestants approach the Scriptures through the lens of the Reformation - sola scriptura. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches have heavily relied on church tradition as well as the Bible for their authority. Protestants generally place everything on the Scriptures themselves.

And then there is the issue of translations. Some are better than others. Are we going to say that the KJV is the Word of God when the updated NASB is a better translation? Is the NASB now more of the Word of God than the KJV?

I don't know. Just thinking.



Jeremiah said...

Ok, here's for a better answer than my 7 minute muster.

Brian and Robert, first let me say Thank you for agreeing to enter into a discussion which some of us have never had and which you may be tired of (to repeat Jamies statement from an ancient thread) Secondly, what I am going to say is not really refuting or agreeing with you it is just different.

There are two main ways of looking things.
1) The Evidentialist method
2) the Presuppositionalist method.

In the Evidentialist method the evidence is reviewed concerning competing truth claims. The evidence is compiled and whichever case is stronger wins. I am oversimplifying somewhat for the sake of blog space but that is it in a nutshell. This is how much of science is done as well as most history. There are certain assumptions which are not reviewed or examined or are provable but are unseen referees. Depending on the field of study the following list includes some of these assumptions:

1) The Law of Noncontradiction is true.
2) Written references carry more weight than oral.
3) If something isn't empirically provable it can't be true.
4) The natural world is all that exists.
5) GOD does not exist

The Presuppositionalist method involves consciously starting with the unprovable assumptions and then building off of them. This is generally considered "Unscientific" and "biased" However, those who make those accusations fail to recognize that because humans are by their very nature subjective creatures, EVERYONE starts with an unprovable assumption, even the scientist. Science rests on the assumption that the universe is fundamentally ordered and repeatability is to be expected. This incidentally is the opposite of Time + Chance + Matter = Reality. (Which is why science is at the verge of collapse).

The Presuppositionalist recognizes that all thinking begins with assuming that either GOD exists or GOD does not exist. This is “Antithetical” (Either/or) thinking. Hegel tried to say that there is no such thing as Antithetical thinking and that everything is Thesis + Antithesis => Synthesis (Both/And) . When applied to theology this thinking results in either no God or everything being GOD which amounts to the same thing. Most western thought is currently based in Hegel’s thinking.

A decision tree is helpful in categorizing world views.

Question 1 Does GOD exist?
If yes go to Q2, if no you have atheism => scientific naturalism
Question 2 Is God personal?
If yes go to Q3 if no you have pantheism or panentheism
Question 3 Is GOD singular or plural?
If singular go to Q4, if plural you have paganism
Question 4 Is GOD a GOD of Love or Judgement
If Love go to Question 5 if Judgement you have Islam
Question 5 Is GOD a GOD of Law only or Grace or Both
If Law only you have Judaism, else Christianity

(Obviously once you get to the end of this, the mysteries of GOD cannot be contained within Either/Or Thinking, which is why I say “Outside of GOD everything is Either/Or, Inside of GOD everything is Both/And)

None of these questions can be scientifically proven. Science can not prove the universe is orderly nor can it prove logic should be true. Science only rests on the assumption that the universe is orderly, logic is true, and mathematics describes the physical world.

In regards to the “inerrancy/infallibility” debate what presupposition are you starting with?

As near as I can tell all of the “scholars” or anyone else (including me) who go to the Bible demanding that “apparent inconsistencies” get ironed out are demanding that GOD “explain himself” so to speak. This seems to me to be the position of Job he wanted an answer from GOD and GOD’s response was, essentially, “I’m so far beyond you, the explanation can’t be made”

A very good way of summing up the presuppositionalist position is "The mind justifies what the heart has chosen"

Anyway my approach would be to not try to explain the “apparent inconsistencies” but rather to deal with the presuppositions first, categorize what GOD reveals and then worship GOD for the unrevealed “Too Wonderful” things which are left.


You have some good points regarding the path GOD has taken to reveal the scriptures to us, but I’m out of time to discuss or comment.

Robert said...


That was the intent of my post on Sept. 6. Presuppositional thinking vs. evidentialism. BTW, the evidentialist has a problem because he/she is proceeding from the presupposition that truth cannot be known outside of scientific process. In the end, everyone enters the conversation with "presups" just can't get away from that reality.

When I was doing talk radio, I had a regular listener who headed the Free Thinkers Society in Colorado Springs. He loved hating listening to my program. He consistently refered to himself as an athiest in our debates surrounding faith and culture. Toward the end of my broadcasting career, he finally announced that he was really an agnostic. He explained his position as "not knowing" and reminded me that I did not know either. My response..."you would have to know everything to know that I don't know."

You can't get away from presuppositions. And for a good reason (hear comes faith)..."He has placed eternity in their hearts" (Ecl 3:11). You can run but you can't hide...and you sure as hell can't control the future by enlightened reason. Postmoderns get that part...but then that leads to their presuppositions. And this breaks into a HUGE thesis on the outcomes of postmodern think. Is postmodernism think really pre-enlightenment think that leads to a different set of presuppositions about how to approach the future sans God? The question is rhetorical...I surely believe that is the case.

This subject matter does not lend itself toward bullit points...and long posts are challenging.


Jeremiah said...


I echo 100% what you are saying. I am certainly not advocating the evidentialist position and I hope I didn't come across as advocating it. My experience is that very few have been trained in thinking presuppositionally and I'm never sure who is and who isn't. It usually takes a little while to sort that out.

BTW the only two organizations I am aware of that are actively training Christians to think presuppositionally is Answers in Genesis (Ken Ham) and Strategic Life Training (Dennis Peacocke).

Is anyone aware of others?

Most Apologeticians who I have heard or read, good as they are, present evidentially. They have strong evidence, but they don't usually develop the presupp's first.

josenmiami said...

Robert, did you mean to say that postmodernism is "pre-enligthenment" thinking? or did you mean to say that it is post-enlightenment thinking?

I would tend toward the latter...that postmodernism is the exhaustion of englightenment or modern thinking that has run its course and run out of options.

Jeremiah said...


You are exactly correct on that, however, I think paganism follows postmodernism and paganism is pre-enlightenment for sure. Maybe thats what Brian meant. Otherwise I'm not sure what that sentence he wrote meant. Maybe I should have said I echo 98% of what he said since I don't understand that part.

LOL :)

BTW my mom and dad just got in from Thailand and from Switzerland before that. Priscilla is back from Switzerland too. Everyone is back safe and sound except Viv who is still in Boston. She gets in late tomorrow night but then Grandad leaves on Sunday for Trinidad so we'll be all split up again.

Brian Emmet said...

Jeremiah, don't blame me! You were questioning one of Robert's sentences. MY sentences are 100% clear, all of the time!


John M. said...

Since we have the "infalliberrancy" question resolved...

I thought I would post this little quote that I came across in a book by James R. Payton Jr. called "Light from the Christian East -- An Introduction to the Orthodox Tradition."

It supports my dislike for the word "subordination" when used in reference to the Trinity.

Here's the quote:

"In the Cappadocian fathers'teaching, followed by Eastern Orthodoxy, Gop the Father is the source of being for both the Son and the Holy Spirit. This entails no subordination, since the Son and the Spirit each receive divine being from the Father; eternal, divine being knows neither beginning nor end, not greater or less."

That is what I was trying to say in the email conversation that some of us were having, which, I believe was copied to all.

John M. said...

As you guys can see, my sentences are all 100% clear too. "Gop" the Father...?

Jeremiah you have one traveln' family. I admire Desmond. He doesn't stop! The Kingdom is still burning in his heart.

steve H said...

In spite of rumors to the contrary I am neither an expert in regards to Eastern Orthodoxy nor am I about to convert. That said there are Orthodox writers and thinkers who have a perspective that we who think with Western minds desperately need to help us think outside our boxes.

I will not try to reiterate his discussion, but the chapters on "Tradition, Bible, and Authority" in Jordan Bajis' book "Common Ground" have caused me to think that most of the infallibility debate is fatally flawed on both sides.

Jeremiah said...

John M.

I agree with you completely, that is why I stated that in the Trinity there is Equality of Essence. The statement that guy you quoated made is an elaboration of "Equality of Essence"

It is the difference in function where the misunderstanding arose. Obviously each member of the Trinity has a different role and there is harmony without usurpation. Only Jesus' Blood atones us. Only Jesus is the "exact representation" of GOD. Only the Spirit brings the Gifts and Power of GOD etc. etc. I was trying to sum up this difference between roles in the statement
"Inequality of function" Obviously that phrase provoked a reaction and as I don't have anything invested in the phrase I don't care. However, it is proper to recognize the concept that having different roles and "jobs to do" does not diminish equality among persons. This concept is reflected to us as the difference between being and doing. All persons are equal in value, but there are huge inequalities in function. These inequalities are expressed in many ways from wages to honor, but these distinctions aren't reflections of their value as a human, just the value of their work or training. I have found that this is a distinction most people don't make at all, functionally or conceptually and the result is all kinds of self value and shame problems.

Yes my Grandpa still has the fire of the Kingdom burning bright. He sets a good pace and example for us. Everytime I think about him I think about the final scene of the John Western "Big Jake" where the kid looks up at John Wayne as they ride off and says (with wide eyes and astonishment) "Are you my Grandpa"

I truly have "the heritage of those who fear His Name" and I hope with all my heart that I will be half the man he is one day.

Regarding my confusion between Brian and Robert. Sorry guys. I know I agreed with 98% of what one of you said on one of your posts, but my wife was out of town and so I wasn't thinking so clearly. She is back now and I am feeling much better.


Brian Emmet said...

Jeremiah, I think if you have the choice, it's probably better to agree with Robert than me!

John M. said...


Thanks. I think we agree, and we covered the ground of our perceptions and "seeings through the glass darkly" pretty well already.

Steve, your comment is interesting. I think you're right. From a Western mindset it is so important to us to get everything nailed down, explained, understood, and for everyone to understand that we have the "correct" read and interpretation of whatever issue we are discussing.

I think the Eastern mindset sees all this as kind of ridiculous and missing the point of God's incredible transcendence, otherness, unknowableness. Our ability to understand Him is so limited and yet we ("Westerners") seem to think that with "proper" study, and exegesis (of the original autographs? -- which, as Brian pointed out, no one has ever seen) that we can know everything about everything pertaining to God, His works and His ways. What actually happens is that we come off as proud peacocks when we posit ourselves as knowing every jot and tittle of each little hair we split.

It must seem ironically humorous to God that we feel such a strong need to defend Him against all those other Christians who have a different view-point about what He has said. I think the whole "inerrancy, infallibility, inspired" debate is primarily among professional thelogians, and fundamentalist Christians anyway.

The averaged unschooled unbeliever really doesn't care. What he/she is hungry to see is not an "inerrant" book, but people who love and live like Jesus. If they discover that person, they won't really care what his view of scripture is -- they won't even care if he quotes scripture, J.R. Tolkein, Buddah, the Koran or the Apocrapha. What they will care about is the authenticity of our lives and if our lives and words (whoever we quote) line up.

Wow! I didn't know I felt so strongly about all that until I let it come out!

But the debate can become like the question, "Can God create a rock so big that He can't move it?" (7th graders love that one. Someone asks me every year.)

In the end the whole inerrancy etc. question misses the point. The real question is, "Does God speak? Are His words revolutionary, transformative and fruit-bearing when people accept them, believe them and take them seriously. The answer is, "Yes"!

josenmiami said...

I get a little concerned sometimes that you (John) and Steve are oversimplying the contrasts between what you call "western" vs. "eastern" theology. I cannot really take issue with you because I have not had the opportunity to study Orthodox theology, and I am sure that there are untapped and rich spiritual resourses there for us.

but when you claim that the "Greek" Orthodox churches have not been influenced by "Greek" philosophy...I think that it will requires some nuancing and documentation. I do understand that there is more room for mystery... but is there not a danger of accepting everything connected to the Orthodox uncritically and romantically?

the cultural effect of their 2000 years of dominance on Eastern Europe and Russia is certainly questionable...and as I understand it, they strongly persecuted some of our baptist bretheren.

Lets receive the good, but lets not pretend its all good...and that there is no bad or ugly in their closets.

John M. said...

Is there any human being or human institution on the planet who doesn't have "bad" or "ugly" in their closet? The Orthodox are not immune either. One of the major problems they experienced during the long Russian/Communist domination was the infiltration of the Church institution with the KGB and with "puppet" priests. The amazing thing is that when it was all over the Orthodox church, though weakened (and still recovering) continued to exist with the same theology that she entered that period -- as was the case with the long Muslim domination before the Communist one.

Yes, it's easy to romanticize. I don't think we're doing that, but if we are cite some specifics.

Although Steve and I have done some reading, had numerous personal discussions, and interacted with a local Antiocan Orthodox priest, (and Steve with Jordan Bajis) neither Steve nor I have made a move to convert. What has happened, and I'll presume to speak for Steve here, but, of course, he can speak for himself, is that we have been personally challenged to think more deeply about the "Faith once Delivered" as Robert would say; and we have been stretched to think outside the boxes that we have been taught to catagorize things through "systematic" theology. In the process I can testify that my personal faith and confidence in God and His Church (the whole Church, not just the Orthodox) and my personal relationship with the Trinity has been deepened and enriched. There is a deep deposit of wealth and treasure there, that if we reject or remain passively ignorant, we cut ourselves off from a huge part of our heritage and legacy as followers of Jesus. This whole thing was going a long time before the Roman Church or the Reformation -- and when one makes the effort (actually there are many very accessible books in English) to dig down through the encrustments that are apparent on the surface, one finds an incredible deposit of truth. I believe that any serious follower of Jesus who is intentional and self-conscious about examining his/her faith will be amazed, enlightened, challenged, and in the end blessed and enriched by what they find. Sure there are bones. Spit them out. Keep an open mind, heart and spirit and be rewarded.

Regarding persecuting the Baptists. I think the Orthodox see the Baptists as a sub-Christian cult and a threat to the "true" church. I'm sure that we would disagree with that assesent, and it is certainly wrong to persecute and play power politics.

But who are we as Western Christians to throw rocks about persecuting other Christians, including the rape and pillage inflicted on Constantinople during the 5th Crusade? Not to mention Calvin's and other reformer's drowning, burning and otherwise being really mean to the anabaptists and other believers who disagreed with them? (Oops I just did mention it. :) )

So, my encouragement to you (with all your extra time!) and all those on the blog would be to buy a couple books and start reading. See if you agree or disagree with what I say.

The book I quoted from, "Light from the Christian East" by James R Payton Jr. published by IVP would be a good starting point. Timothy Ware's, "The Orthodox Way" is another good one. And Jordan Bajis' book... the name escapes me, help me out here, Steve.

Finally Joseph, and perhaps the most important for you in the present assignment you have, I think that the Eastern Christian approach to the faith (I'm not speaking here of their Liturgy or the outward forms -- although they may in the end have more appeal than the superficiality of contemporary Christian worship)has much more appeal and relevancy to the post-modern pilgrims you're trying to reach than our Western approach, as it is currently expressed in the Roman Catholic Church or the Protestant churches where our roots are.

I know you are dealing with Roman Catholicism in Latin American and consequently many with a Catholic background, but you can express an attitude, an approach, a spirit without revealing your source and creating unnecessary conflict and debate.

But first you have to open up your own mind to the possibilities of the Eastern Church. I sense that you feel that giving Orthodoxy a hearing is a distraction and is irrelevant to going forward into the 21st Century. I'm not so sure... I wonder if the Eastern approach and mindset, if explored and properly applied, will benefit us greatly as we move outward into the expanse of the Kingdom in the great sea of cultures and subcultures that lie before us waiting to hear some good news.

After all, post-modernism is not about "linear", it's about deconstructing the status quo to find what's left. If we deconstruct the status quo that has existed for the past 1000 years plus or minus, we might just end up with something a lot more like Eastern Christianity... I know. Why not just skip back to the New Testament? That's a discussion for another time...and I'll let Steve handle that one...!

josenmiami said...

Hi John,

just quickly "continued to exist with the same theology" might be evidence that they are "stuck" in a time warp rather than a good thing. I like the Reformation idea that the church is "always reforming itself" much better.

I have nothing against the Orthodox and I am not opposed to learning from them, and I am certainly not throwing any more rocks at them than I do with Protestants or Catholics... I just hear you and Steve "throwing rocks" pretty consistently at the Prots. and Catholics but never at the Eastern Orthodox. You guys seem enamored with them... I believe my mind is open to learn from them, but it would be easier for me if you presented them in a little more balanced way with some critical review as well as praises. At least that is the way I approach Catholic and Protestant history... I love the good, am aware of the bad and regret the ugly.

Jeremiah said...


I don't have a problem with throwing rocks any direction that seems convenient. :) I just sometimes hit myself in the back of the head!

John M.

My experience has been that when I do have conversations regarding GOD with non-believers one of three issues seem to always come up, 1) The Law of GOD specifically in regards to sexual morality and original sin 2)Origins and Creation/Evolution
3) The infallibility of scripture.

That's just my experience and maybe other people have others. It seems that most people have already decided for some reason (either a past hurt or the desire to be licentious) against GOD and are just looking for anything to support that decision.

The phrase:
"The mind justifies what the heart has chosen." seems to govern most(all?)

I have had some rather theologically sophisticated conversations with people who I would have never thought really had much clue about any of this stuff.

For example the doctrine of original sin. This one is explicitly addressed in commecial after commercial and TV show after TV show over and over again (from an anti-Christ perspective of course)

Anyway just my 2 rocks worth. I'm not sure which way they just got thrown though (hopefully not straight up)

Brian Emmet said...

I'd guess that, with respect to Original Sin, people are looking for something that doesn't feel entirely fatalistic... I suspect they're OK w/ the basic idea that they are sinful (at least in some way, at some level), but wonder if that's simply the end of the story.

I'd also guess, w/ respect to the Bible, people are looking for a way of reading, understanding and living Scripture that avoids the traps of fundamentalism while still providing them a life-changing challenge. They're wondering if you can follow Jesus without having to become culturally conservative Republicans.

With respect to sexuality, they're looking for two contradictory things: cover and forgiveness. Jeremiah, does this come at all close to what you've heard?

josenmiami said...

I agree that there are many people who are open to God but don't want to become "fundamentalists" or even "culturally conservative Republicans".

I bought extra copies of Brian McLaren's book, "The Secret Message of Jesus" to give to just such people (like most of my friends). The "Secret Message" that McLaren is referring to is the Kingdom of God... and he wraps it in language about social justice and concern for the environment that makes it more palatable for liberal leaning truth seekers.

I have kept track of all of the birthdays of most of my secular friends...last year I gave them a copy of The Purpose-Driven Life... this year it is the "Secret Message of Jesus"

William said...

Sorry everyone this is not even related to the topic, but I would like your thoughts.

The difference, if there is one, between being filled with the Spirit and the Spirit coming upon us.

In John 20, he tells how Jesus breathed on them and they received the Spirit, but that wasnt enough, because He told them to wait until the promise. Then the Spirit came in power on Pentecost.

Robert said...

While reviewing the merits of different paths...don't leave the English out. The Anglican Communion is also known as the "middle way"...specifically between RC and EO. The preservation of mystery and the sacred has been retained with continuity going back to the earliest centuries of missionary activity in the British isles. Current sacramental theology is linked to the first three hundred years of the undivided Church, especially the idea of "real presence" in Holy Communion.

I am a reader of Fr. Alexander Schemmaan...particlularly because I believe he rose above the presumption that only the Orthodox get it...thus they are the only true church. Schemmaan saw the Kingdom...and did not like religion...though he loved Matins and the various liturgies. It seems a paradox to say you love liturgy and despise religion. I understand that much better these days.

josenmiami said...

Robert, I met a young man doing his PhD in the Religion dept. at U.F. at the conference in Montreal. He was excited about what he is calling "convergence" in contrast to "emergent".

He is studying the Brazilian Anglican church, specifically bishop Roberto Calvicanti, who has begun giving oversight to some Anglican churches in Florida.

He is documenting the "convergence" of several streams (Catholicism, Evangelical, and Pentecostal) in Brazilian Anglicanism.

Regarding Eastern Orthodox and Anglicanism...if I am going to play a banjo...I want to have all 4 strings: Catholic, Protestant(including evangelicals and Pentecostals), Orthodox and Anglican... no sense in playing with a 1 string Banjo. Thats what I liked about McLaren's book, "A Generous Orthodoxy"...

John M. said...

Wow! Things came alive here since I left last night.

Jeremiah, next time I see you, I want you to demonstrate this rock-throwing technique where you throw a rock and hit yourself in the back of the head. I just need to remember not to stand behind you when you throw.

Jeremiah, I wonder if the people you talk to have a Bible-belt influence in their thinking which would make them want to argue the issues you mentioned. My experience is that most people who want to debate and argue are not usually sincere seekers. I don't think it is very effective to try to present the Kingdom by arguing doctrine. Trying to straighten-out someone doctrinely before introducing them to Jesus and His Kingdom is futile, and why should I try, when I'm pretty sure I'm not "straightened out" myself!

Joseph, fair enough regarding critiquing the E. O. church.

The "convergence" idea keeps coming up. Steve Humble's friend, Dan Smithwick, has recently joined up with a current movement that emphasizes the convergence of diverse historical streams of Christianity into one stream. Has anyone Googled "convergence"?

Robert, where do you find a clear statement of pure Anglican theology? It seems that Anglicanism has done the typical Protestant thing by branching out in so many directions that with-in the Anglican Communion you can find just about any brand of conservative/liberal, wiccan, feminist, gay, aposticized, brand of Christianity you want.

I know that R.C. and E.O. have their problems also, but it seems that they both have kept blatent heresy in check, where, at least from my limited perspective, the Anglicans seem not to have done that. I can see that to identify with an Anglican Church that embraces the Gospel of the Kingdom, is a good thing, but to embrace the world-wide Anglican Communion seems to accept a very mixed bag. Can you help me here? How do you see yourself in relation to these issues?


Robert said...


In fact, I believe that is happening in a chairos moment as we speak. There are about 3.5 million members of the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA). Not everyone in that number subscribe to the liberal leanings of ECUSA but certainly the major leaders have bought into a syncretistic understanding of biblical truth.

There are 80 million members of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The leaders of the global south, representing the major representatives of Anglicans worldwide, have taken a staunch stand against the liberalism of the west. I have had opportunity to meet with some of the African leaders and find them to be incredibly humble people who are primarily focused on bringing people to Jesus. They are tongue speaking, on fire, church planting, relationally oriented, organically thinking people who are planting new churches weekly. They are rooted in historic biblical Faith grounded in apostolic tradition.

The subject of church history supporting continuity with the early centuries is far too vast to address in this post. I will leave this one by saying that Cranmer, Hooker and others in the English Reformation were interested in "Kingdom Extraction" in their day. They wrestled with the confluence of the Church and the realm...the institution. The outcome of some 50 million Africans who identify themselves as followers of Jesus who are committed to appostolic Faith and are now dedicated to evangelizing the west are the results of their efforts.

For those who do not know my history with our movement, I am simply throwing my shoulder behind the wheel of our African, Asian and South American brothers who are holding forth for the things we hold dear.

Anyone interested in observing more about the Anglican Mission in the Americas can go to "" and snoop around.

Sean said...

Hi guys,

Gosh, I'm trying to keep up! I think every faith tradition has strengths and weaknesses. This includes faith traditions outside our Western context.

I think the Anglican tradition is not as monolithic as they seem. Anglicans in Africa have protested the appointments of gay priests. Episcopalians here in the U.S. are divided with the issue.

Both the Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox traditions have issues. One of them is replacement theology. In the EO tradition, John Chrysostom is a venerated church father, but not everything he said is good at all. So I agree with Joseph that we can't view these traditions from a romanticized perspective. The RC and EO also believe in paedo-baptism instead of believer's baptism, which, if you're a Protestant, might have problems with. There are numerous other issues as well. The Inquisition, the Crusades (the 4th Crusade sacked Constantinople in 1204, for no other reason than greed). If you're a Jewish-Christian, the issues with these faith traditions are huge. But, they also have value. It's a dilemma to me. I embrace a tradition that at times persecuted my people - propagated by some very unenlightened people. The EO and RC churches treatment of Jews isn't stellar at all, and neither is Martin Luther (after he got frustrated with the Jews). I can't get over the fact how the Pope during World War II proclaimed that anyone who became a communist would be excommunicated, but one could become a Nazi. During the Inquisition in Spain in the 15th century, a converted Jew would undergoe questioning. If Jesus would have been put before the Inquisition, He might have been burned at the stake.

But I don't carry around an axe to grind, or stones to throw. History is history. It happened. What we learn from it is another matter.



Sean said...

This is one of many primary sources regarding the Church and Jewish converts.

Jeremiah said...

John M.,

It is a very complicated rock throwing technique.

I'm not talking about "seekers" I don't think there are many "seekers" out there. Most people I meet are just trying to get through life. Like sheep without a shepherd they are harrassed and harried and just trying to keep their head up.

I don't go around trying to argue with people about theology, but most people honestly believe they are "basically a good person its just..." and then they have some external excuse for why they have a problem. This is the discussion of original sin. It is a problem because most people don't distinguish between being and doing and have no way to comprehend that just because some action is evil and they have a corrupt nature has no influence on their value as a human. Consequently if you ever point out that some action is wrong, whether they practice it or not, they immediately hear that they are worthless.


Regarding the sexual thing, most people who I've talked with simply want to do what they want, with who they want, etc. and don't want anyone to tell them what to do.

Regarding the infallibility of scripture it usually has to do with Creation. i.e. do you really believe the earth was created in 7 literal 24 hour days? (BTW yes I do) and then progresses from there.

The Creation/Evolution discussion is a huge issue that most people are open to discussing and everyone instinctively realizes the full implications. i.e. if there is a Creator, I have an obligation to Him.

William, your question is a good one and I think merits its own thread.

To all:

Regarding which branch we are in etc.: Jesus is coming back for A BRIDE without spot or blemish. We obviously have work to do for that to happen. I don't think anyone in any group is under the illusion the Bride is ready yet. Whatever has to happen for her to be ready needs to happen and we should all look at our piece of the Bride and put our shoulder to the transformation.

Joseph Holbrook and friends said...

hey William: we talked right past your question. Give me a little time to think about it. It is a very good topic. We probably have some unwarrented assumptions in that area.

To all: I finally figured out why no one was reading or posting on my Faith and Reason was too controversial, too provocative. So I created a new blog, and tried to tone it down a little.

(big smile)

Brian Emmet said...

Jose, like we really need another blog to keep up with--yikes!

William, a first response, and hardly a final one. I think we first need to let John's Gospel speak for itself, and not try to jump riight to "harmonizing" it with the rest of the NT. John is clearly paralelling Genesis throughout his Gospel, and the passage in Jn 20 could be read as Jesus' "re-creation" of a renewed/redeemed humanity--in Gen, the LORD breathes into the man and Adam became a living being/soul; in Jn n20, Jesus breathes upon the disicples and immediately makes a connection between receiving the Spirit and the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins. and Jn 20 of course follows the Lor's rich and varied teaching on the Person and Work of the Spirit in chaps 14-16.

John tells the story of Jesus in ways very distinct and different from the Synoptics. Do we assume that John was familiar with Mat-Mk-Lk and was bringing a different stream of material into the tradition? If that's the case, we would 'harmonize' John and Luke-Acts along one line; if, on the otherr hand, we knew that John did not have the synoptics avaialble to him, we would read and harmonize along different lines.

All of which is probably of no help to you, eh? Sheesh, ask a simple question and look what you get!

Joseph Holbrook and friends said...

William, one classic evangelical view on the Spirit is at least partly derived from Watchman Nee, who defined the human person as a trinity of soul, spirit and body, made in the image of God.

The spirit died with Adam's sin, thus cutting off human beings from communion with God.

In the new birth, the spirit is once again quickened, or regenerated, thus restoring man's spiritual communion with God.

There are various points of view about the finer points of the indwelling, empowering or the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and whether it happens at the new birth, or sometime subsequent to the new birth.

I personally have started question my own assumptions in this area recently. Although I am not an expert on Catholic theology, I believe their emphasis on natural law leaves more room for the work of grace in natural human nature before the new birth.

Ecclesiastes has a verse (can't find it at the moment) that says "who can know if at death, the spirit (breath) of a man will go up, while the spirit of an animal will go down?"

The breath or spirit of God was breathed into Adam at creation.

I personally believe that the Holy Spirit is more active internally in pre-Christians and non believers that evangelical theology normally allows. I have known lots of people who began functioning in the charisms, the spiritual gifts, even before they believed and confessed Christ.

there is an invisible inward continuam of the work of the Holy Spirit in a person's life and it is dangerours to arbitrarily draw fixed dividing lines.

I'm sure there are others here who may disagree or may have better information on some of these points.

Jeremiah said...


I would tend to agree with what Joseph said about the regeneration of the spirit man etc., that happens to be exactly what is stated in Romans 6-8.(I'm not sure when or how He starts working in our lives, but if He motivates animals to reproduce per Ps 104, its not much of a stretch to assume He is active in unbelievers to one degree or another, they are obviously, per Imago Dei, more valuable than animals) I was talking with someone 3 days ago about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and I was mentioning these exact passages (from John). Somehow the infilling of the HS is distinct from the Baptism. How or why I don't know, I just know that is both the Biblical pattern (from the stories) and the Biblical theology (From Romans etc.) and it also happens to be my experience as well (which is mostly irrelevant)

Regarding what Brian said, except for the comment about John paralleling Genesis, I didn't really understand what he was talking about. I don't think my Bible reading is as sophisticated as all that.

Joseph Holbrook and friends said...

yes, but Brian... my new blog has Beatles music on it!


steve H said...

Haven't been on this site for a few days so I didn't know I was being talked about.

I am not an apologist for Eastern Orthodoxy. I have simply been helped by a number of Orthodox writers in part because they tend to see things from a different angle -- so I see a broader picture. It also seems clear to me that some of these writers have a clearer picture on what the Christians in the earliest centuries A.D. believed, taught, and sought to live. I think it's as important to know what we are changing from as to know (as far as possible) what we are changing to.

I haven't critiqued in this forum the things that concern me about E.O. because as far as I know none of us are of that persuasion. But I am not blind to some of its problems.

Robert, I have certainly been appreciating the Anglican N.T. Wright. I also appreciate Robert Webber. African Anglicanism interests me even though I don't know too much about it (although I've been looking at some interesting articles in Touchstone magazine by some of these brothers).

The mess in the Episcopal church and to some degree apparently in the Church of England have not encouraged me in that direction.

Joseph Holbrook and friends said...

Robert, I met a young man doing his PhD in the Religion dept. at U.F. at the conference in Montreal. He was excited about what he is calling "convergence" in contrast to "emergent".

He is studying the Brazilian Anglican church, specifically bishop Roberto Calvicanti, who has begun giving oversight to some Anglican churches in Florida.

He is documenting the "convergence" of several streams (Catholicism, Evangelical, and Pentecostal) in Brazilian Anglicanism.

Regarding Eastern Orthodox and Anglicanism...if I am going to play a banjo...I want to have all 4 strings: Catholic, Protestant(including evangelicals and Pentecostals), Orthodox and Anglican... no sense in playing with a 1 string Banjo. Thats what I liked about McLaren's book, "A Generous Orthodoxy"...

Joseph Holbrook and friends said...

sorry everyone...please disregard my previous is an old one that I already posted before. My computer did it again... Windows VISTA is driving me crazy...

I don't want to speak for initial response to Anglicanism was similiar to what you are expressing Steve.

However, as I have looked into it, our impressions have been heavily colored by our experience with U.S. Episcopalianism ... global Anglicanism is much more vital, and much more biblically faithful that we are accustomed to thinking.

Wesley strove to the end of his life to keep Methodist 'classes" and societies as a sodality within the Anglican communion... probably would have been better for both if he had succeeded.

Jeremiah said...

It seems to me that the RC in the rest of the world is similar to the Anglicans regarding some of these issues, it seems that the American version of both is pretty much the bottom of the barrel for what each group has worldwide.

josenmiami said...

gee, it got in quite in here. everybody went away for the weekend?

Robert said...

Steve and Joseph.... know I agree the failure to recognize Wesley by Canterbury was a politically motivated mistake...certainly not generous. It was a prime example of government and Kingdom being improperly meshed. It precipitated the need for Wesley to move forward with the Kingdom at the expense of legacy. Wesley left this earthly journey committed to his heritage without enjoying the blessing of the same.

Steve...the current state of affairs for Anglicanism in the west is in a huge window of Kingdom extraction. The worldwide Anglican Communion has some 80 million adherents...the majority are from the global south who stand for orthodox biblical Faith. The 3.5 million identified with the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) are at the center of the controversy. Many within that number are struggling and will be faced with major decisions in the near future. The Asian, African and South American leaders have taken a concrete stand for the Faith once handed down while maintaining identification with the historic church. This crisis of faith is approaching a significant point of determination. The House of Bishops for ECUSA have until the end of this month to essentially repent. Apart from that occuring...and I don't believe that is imaginable...there will be a major realignment within the Anglican Communion. The leadership will come from the global south. The people groups that received the Gospel from our great grandfathers are being faithful to what they received and are now sending leadership support to those in the west who seek to stand for biblical faith. I am impressed with the humility and conviction of the primatial leaders I have met. They will choose Jesus over tradition while placing value on the traditions, creeds and formularies that have supported their faith and worship. It remains a wonder to me that the majority of the Anglican Communion with a sacred approach to worship is found in African, Asian and South American cities and villages. These are our brothers and sisters who are living in an Ancient-Future ethos at a great price. They are holding fast for the values we cherish in our own legacy...Kingdom, Covenant and Church.

The leaders I work with in the Anglican Mission all regard themselves as missionary pastors serving missional congregations focused on making disciples of Jesus. I trust that sounds familiar.

John M. said...

Robert, regarding your last post on world-wide Anglicanism... these and some of your other recent comments have helped me more clearly understand the dynamics of the current shift taking place.

There are at least three conservative Anglican congregations in the Lexington area, one a new start-up and two who left behind their property and started over from scratch. Two of them are under a Ugandan Bishop and one under a Rawandan Bishop. I believe, in central KY there is also a jurisdiction with a Bishop from South America.

I understand the need to maintain ties and ecclesiastical authority with the world-wide communion. But this raises several questions for me...

How can there be multiple bishops speaking into one local area, without competition, politics and power struggles down the road?

How can these bishops continue to maintain their current responsibilities in their country of origin, continue to live there, and still have any more than an "on paper" or at best very superficial relationship with their American congregations, and how can they take on all this added responsibility without burning out over the long haul?