Friday, April 27, 2007

The Worst Theological Invention

Ben Meyers at Faith and Theology has set up a new poll with seven theological ideas, which he calls the Worst Theological Invention. He asked we the theological blogosphere to offer our nominations -- which I did -- and from our nominations he came up with these seven to vote on.

  • Biblical inerrancy
  • Double predestination
  • The rapture
  • Papal infallibility
  • Arianism
  • Christendom (not to be confused with Chrisendom, which is also
    one of the worst theological inventions...)
  • Just war theory
So, go and vote!!! I voted for the rapture, though there were several there I could have gone for,well I could voted for them all. At this moment inerrancy has a small lead over the rapture.

4 comments:

Jason said...

Hiya Bob,

I very much agree that the rapture in it's fantastical, best-seller, anti-intellectual, dispensational interpretation is, in many ways connecting dots that aren't there.

All I can think with regards to the front runner is, how can any of the assumedly knowledgeable individuals who are voting know what the poor interpretations are if you if you can't trust the words that are interpreted so poorly? In other words, if theology is based upon biblical words, but biblical words are incorrect, then how does anybody determine more sound interpretations?

Thanks,

Jason

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

The question with inerrancy is a bit like the infallibility of the pope -- what do you mean by it? For some inerrancy requires a 6 day creation (though most assuredly this wasn't true for B.B. Warfield). Inerrancy in the original autographs is often a view resorted to, but if all the problems are solved in the originals we remain at a disadvantage.

It's not a question of whether words are correct -- what does that mean? Correctly defined? Correctly used? Or, refer to something factually? Then of course the question comes -- what is metaphor? I'll be reviewing shortly Borg's Jesus who talks about memory and metaphor. The question of interptretation comes in when we try to determine where the line gets drawn.

Ultimately inerrancy has not proven useful in solving the doctinal or practical issues of the faith, at least not for me. At Fuller we used the word infallible, but even that word proved problematic. So, I'd rather use the word trustworthy. I find that the message of the Gospel found in Scripture is a trustworthy witness to the purpose of God incarnate in Jesus. That might not be strong enough for you, but it is what has proven to be workable after nearly 3 decades of wrestling with these issues.

I don't mean to pull rank Jason, but you are a student and I've long since graduated and have taught seminary students.

salt said...

Position is not an answer. Jason has a valid question.

We all may question a passage or teaching from the bible, but we have to ask ourselves is the difficulty based on a perceived disagreement between biblical texts or a contradiction to our preconceived extra-biblical views.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

No Salt you're right, position isn't an answer -- that was more in jest -- but I think I did offer an answer to the question. Inerrancy has to be defined. And sometimes it is our realization that there is a disconnect between what we perceive in Scripture and what we know from other elements of our experience.

My experience isn't infallible, but it does pose questions to texts. Simply to say, the Bible says it and so I believe it doesn't answer the questions. There are portions of Scripture that can be horrendous -- read Joshua and Judges and consider the message.

That being said, I do believe the text of Scripture to be a trustworthy witness, even though I don't find every text a compelling witness to the Gospel.

As for Jason's question about judging sound interpretations -- we've always, if we read church history, looked in a variety of places to judge soundness -- from philosophy to history to experience. They don't judge Scritpure but they provide context for reading.

Ultimately I have to take the message by faith. That's the problem with inerrancy, it's a modern construct built on Enlightenment understandings of truth that are foreign to the text itself. Remember "Evidence that Demands a Verdict?" Just piling on evidence doesn't prove something to be true.