Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lawson Stone Refuses to Particularize His Understanding of Inerrancy: Evasive Maneuvers of the Theological Left

I will admit up front that I do not have a Th.D. or Ph.D. in Old Testament exegesis. That being said, however, I wonder how I can be characterized as using a fallacious form of logic called "begging the question" when in fact all I really did was beg for a rational answer to a perfectly legitimate and rational question: What is your definition of the term "biblical inerrancy"? How does your understanding of inerrancy affect and guide your use of higher criticism and hermeneutics of the Old Testament? As you can see, Lawson Stone would prefer to take evasive maneuvers rather than give a legitimate and particular answer to a legitimate and particular question. It is an honest and sincere question on my part.

For the record, this is the typical tactic taken by dissimulators in high places. When called to defend their point of view rationally and apologetically they are either unwilling to do so or unable to do so. Rather the answer is usually a fallacious appeal to their own academic authority. Such approaches to apologetics are not only irrational and unjustified but they are really meant to hide the true position taken by the person defending himself or herself by evasive and ambiguous answers like the one Lawson Stone gives below. The fact of the matter is that dissimulators have much to lose by being honest and forthright about their real convictions and logical propositions.

Lawson Stone is a professor of old testament at the "Evangelical" Wesleyan seminary we know as Asbury Theological Seminary. When the plow boy understands the Bible better than seminary professors, then we might have something.

You can read the exchange in Face Book below:

Reasonable Christian October 25 at 7:23am

You keep evading the real point, Lawson. If you REALLY want to answer my concerns I am inviting you to post a paper in response. How are you defining "inerrancy"? (Chicago Declaration on Inerrancy) or some other definition? Secondly, exactly which parts of the Pentateuch are you saying are incorporated myths??? How can Jesus refer to Moses as the author of the Pentateuch while higher criticism often denies the very existence of Moses?  Also, need I remind you that orthodox Protestant and Neo-Fundamentalist theology (Evangelicalism is too broad a term) "confess" that ONLY the Bible is infallible and inerrant and the inspired Word of God. Thus, as detailed and organized as modern textual and higher criticism might be, it is prone to err just as any church council is. So, in short, you don't get to rant on about genre criticism and expect me to just buy it on your word and authority, particularly when I take that together with a whole host of other departures I observed while at Asbury. A few of which I mentioned as an aside in the article you commented on.  I may not have been the best student at Asbury due to personal problems and due to feeling the pressure of being more conservative on just about everything but I can assure you I'm not stupid.  People in the real world want to know why Christians believe the Bible is true and authoritative on theological and moral issues. Your higher critical views are critically unexamined and were unconvincing in my opinion.  So, if you wish to do some "apologetics" I'm willing to post what you say on my blog and then I will respond to it. It's up to you. Until then it seems to me that you wish to just take a pot shot instead of explaining your view so that a "popular" audience can understand it. I do have a fair reading audience so here's your chance to defend your view in non-technical language. Avoid the jargon you use at the academy and speak plainly. If you can! I get irritated at folks who hide what they really believe behind clever double talk.
Sincerely Charlie

Lawson Stone
October 25 at 7:40pm Report

I see little point in continuing the conversation Charlie. You have begged every question and armored yourself with your impenetrable ego. I wish you God's best in all your endeavors.


Charlie J. Ray said...

This is a synopsis of Lawson's Stone's upcoming commentary on the Book of Judges:

"Old Testament scholarship tends to focus either on the complex process by which the biblical materials came together, or on the final shape and structure of the work. The first method, mainly historical, typically fails to gain a coherent view of the finished work, while the latter fails to discern the human and historical depth in the text. In this ground-breaking volume, Lawson G. Stone takes on the book of Judges, offering a comprehensive analysis of the ways in which the book has been studied from these two perspectives: redaction-critical and literary critical. He then completely reformulates the method of redaction criticism, seen in the light of ancient Near Eastern literary practice, and undertakes a comprehensive re-thinking of the editorial history of the book of Judges that does full justice both to the text's historical development and the structural and thematic coherence of the book in its final form. The result is a re-visioning of the book of Judges as a rich literary analysis of Israel's epochal transformation from a tribal confederacy, led by warlords and chieftains, to a monarchic state. Since this social revolution in ancient Israel was controversial, the book of Judges reframed the institution of kingship within the context of the failure of the former order and the need for a fresh, faithful response."

As you can see for yourself, Stone, along with most modern "evangelicals" completely accepts modern higher criticism and thinks the OT is simply an edited "story" told for theological purposes and does not necessarily have any historical grounding at all. What is important is the final shape of the canon and the final shape of the "edited" text. The issues of traditional authorship and the historicity of the OT historical narratives are neatly sidestepped to preserve face with the liberal scholars with whom "evangelical" seminaries and scholars are trying to save "academic" face.

The problem is the higher critics cannot agree among themselves as to how to divvy up the edited materials and anyone reading their various views quickly sees how "subjective" the entire enterprise is. The various versions of the documentary theories are essentially even more random than the theory of evolution is in the realm of "empirical" science.

Did it ever occur to anyone that historiography is not "empirical" science but is basically a speculative reconstruction of what scholars "think" the facts point to?


Charlie J. Ray said...


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for publicizing my forthcoming published dissertation! It's not a commentary, much duller, it's my dissertation from 1987. I know you hate it, but I had not even realized the publisher had reached this point in producing the book until I read your post.

All things work together for good, right? You get a convenient target for your diatribe, I find out my manuscript is in press.

Many thanks brother! We work well together.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Well, Lawson, you know, I was looking online to see what you had published since you refused to make any public statements about your "beliefs" on the subject.

I was hoping to find you had published but I guess I'll have to look in the theological journal of the seminary to find anything. Could you point me in the right direction?

What saddens me is when seminaries and faculty members pretend to believe in inerrancy and then redefine it in such a way as to make it not really inerrancy at all. If the Bible is merely an "inspired story" then it is essentially an "inspired myth." While I would agree that the Bible does not neatly fit modern principles of historiography, itself a highly relativistic "science", Scripture is indeed faithful to history when it records historical facts, historical persons, geographical details, etc.

If there are "errors" those are usually errors in textual transmission. While some would throw out inerrancy because we do not have the original autographs, this does not remove the fact that the overwhelming evidence from textual criticism is the fact that there is enough to prove what the autographs said to within a 95% accuracy in the NT and probably higher than that in the OT.

The difficulties of reconciling evolution with Genesis 1-11 do not excuse us to sell out to "myth" even if we redefine "myth" to make it seem more palatable.

Furthermore, it seems to me that the JEDP theory is extremely selective and arbitrary and therefore unlikely.

The same can be said for the Q document in the synoptic problem in Matthew, Mark and Luke.

Yes, I also appreciate your free publicity for my blog, Lawson. My experience at Asbury was not all bad. It pushed me to become Reformed. While Reformed seminaries are not much better when it comes to higher criticism, at least they have a theological system that is completely rational and consistent and more congruent with Scripture as a whole.

Sincerely yours,


Anonymous said...

I hesitate in this discussion with you not because I am ashamed of any of my views, but because I see how you treat others, and so far, you have, in my view, badly misrepresented even the few things I have said, putting words in my mouth and assigning things to me that I don't think. You seem to have a template that you are just nailing onto my words.

When you then accuse me of dissimulation, when you characterize my desire to be careful about defining terms, making distinctions, etc. as caving to the academy, you make it hard for me to feel like you are a conversation partner worth engaging.

I don't mean this as an insult, but I simply don't discuss these matters with someone who engages in that kind of stereotyping and name calling. I find you an intemperate and immoderate man, and scripture enjoins us to avoid that. I say that with warmth toward you, not anger. Okay, a little anger, but no ill will.

I'm happy to give you PR for your blog. Nothing is ever helped by squelching discussion.

I will say this. I affirm biblical inerrancy. I agree with 90% of the Chicago Declaration, only finding a few things in the affirmations and denials that are, in my mind, not proper to the doctrine of inerrancy.

I do sincerely think that the category of truth and error is only meaningful when we know the author's intentions in a text. But that in turn means we have to interpret the author--exegesis. If the author intended to write something other than journalistic or documentary description, I feel conscience bound to bow to the author and adjust my view of truth and error to the exact focused truth that the author wished to convey.

When I interpret a text and find that what the author seems to assert is at odds with science, archaeology, etc. I affirm the author is correct and frankly state that for now, this is a claim I make in trust that God's word is true and in the hope that future evidence will vindicate the scriptures. I do not engage in harmonization or warped interpretation just to conceal points of, for now, apparent discord. It is always possible new evidence will emerge, or we will get a clearer view of the text.

I also agree with you that all the exegetical methods, even including grammatical-historical study, are less than inerrant or absolute. All our intepretations are at best, good-faith statements based on the best information we can collect, gathered as reasonably and honestly as we fallen human beings can manage.

BTW you can't find much of my publication because I have focused in the last 21 years on my family, raising my 3 kids in the fear and love of God and trying to love my wife as Christ loved the church. Some can do that and write a lot, but I'm not that talented. I have deferred on much publication for that reason. I hope to write more, and currently am indeed working on a commentary on Judges. On every page of this manuscript I am both assuming and asserting that the Bible is giving us a true picture of life in Israel in that turbulent era.

Sorry for this long post, and I sincerely hope we can be at peace, even if not in agreement.
--Lawson Stone

Charlie J. Ray said...

I appreciate your response at last. However, I would be interested to know what that 10% is in the Chicago Declaration is. Also, I notice the Asbury statement says the Bible is "without error in 'all that it affirms'". This seems to be the out that some take since it seems to deny verbal plenary inspiration. John Walters said that "not every word" is spired but "only the theological concepts" in Scripture are inspired. This clearly undermines the doctrine of inerrancy as understood by the majority of Evangelicals until recent times at least.

While I do not object to utilizing higher criticism as a tool for understanding what opponents think the text "should" say, I do object to selling out to higher criticism as the only legitimate way of interpreting the text.

Frankly, I am not a "broad Evangelical" any longer. I consider myself a "confessing Evangelical" and also a "neo-fundamental" since I prefer to err on the side of being conservative. For that reason I have no need to call you or anyone else "brother" simply because you claim to be an "Evangelical."

While I cannot and do not claim to judge anyone's status before God, I can and do critically examine what certain individuals, denominations, and communions publicly teach as doctrine. Arminianism is borderline since it is essentially a semi-pelagian view. Albeit I do not doubt that I was not converted to Christ under that system, I did hold erroneous views which were and are unbiblical. For that reason I spend much of my time trying to convert folks from Arminianism to Reformed theology.

Arminianism really has more in common with Rome in many ways than with Evangelicalism understood from a Protestant perspective. Any anthropocentric theology eventually either leads back to Rome or to liberalism. That is true whether we are speaking of Arminianism or to Reformed theologians who no longer believe their own ecclesiastical confessions.



Anonymous said...

The phrase from Asbury's confession about scripture is from the Lausanne Covenant and it intends to affirm inerrancy while recognizing the legitimate place for interpretation. Even the Chicago Declaration assumes that we first have to know what the biblical authors intended to say, and at what level they intended to be heard, before we can speak of truth or error on their part.

I am disheartened that you continue to use terms like "sold out" and won't even acknowledge me as a brother, and tar me as a papist.

But you have the right to your opinions. Since you are going to have the last word, I'll go ahead and thank you for the conversation and wish you God's deepest and finest blessings in all that you do. May your most extravagant dreams of his glory in your life be fulfilled beyond all you can ask or think, dear brother in Christ.
--Lawson Stone

Charlie J. Ray said...

I don't recall using the word "papist" in reference to you. Though I have used that term in regards to modern "orthodox" Anglo-Catholic heretics. But I do believe Arminianism is much closer to Rome than to true Protestant theology. "Prevenient grace" cancels out total inability so that doctrine amounts to a return to the semi-pelagian view of Rome.

Anonymous said...

You didn't use "papist," my bad. I've been reading too many Tudor era reformed writings lately…the word was just floating in my head!

You are in my prayers, and I trust you will pray for me as well, and for Asbury.

Charlie J. Ray said...

And yes, I believe that God has sent the Arminians a spirit of delusion so that they believe a lie.

Charlie J. Ray said...

According to the canons of Dort Arminianism is a damnable heresy.

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