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Friday, October 5, 2012

Pieper: Objections to Inspiration (Part 2) – Contradictions, Errors

This concludes a 2-part series from Part 1 which highlights two of the eight points where Franz Pieper, in his Christian Dogmatics books, defends the Doctrine of Inspiration of Holy Scripture against the attacks of modern theologians and scholars... scholars like Professor James Barr and his writings against biblical chronology. (see Table of Contents on Chronology posts here)

Now Pieper addresses the issue of alleged contradictions and errors in the Bible — in his Christian Dogmatics, volume 1, pages 241-243:
    4. The alleged contradictions in Scripture and erroneous statements in general are stressed particularly by the opponents of inspiration.  At the time when Philippi [a Jewish convert!] had not yet gained the right attitude toward Scripture and still admitted the possibility of errors in Scripture, he nevertheless censured the "furious search for discrepancies" on the part of the moderns, which was "due primarily to the wicked attitude which boasts of having eliminated all assumptions and presuppositions; they claimed the right to cut loose from the presupposition that Scripture is the Word of God, but in place of that sat down in the temple of God and presupposed that they were God" (Glaubenslehre, 1st ed., I, 199). With regard to the alleged contradictions in Scripture the situation is briefly this: if only there is some readiness to come to an understanding, the possibility of harmonizing the seemingly contradictory statements can easily be shown; and no fair-minded person will ask more than that. Ebrard [Wissenschaftliche Kritik der evangelischen Geschichte, 2d ed., p. 59] should not have reproved Chemnitz for "offering the probable when he could offer nothing certain." Chemnitz's principle is the only sensible one. In recent years A. T. Robertson [a fundamentalist Southern Baptist!] has written these apt words: "In explaining a difficulty, it is always to be remembered that even a possible explanation is sufficient to meet the objector. If several possible explanations are suggested, it becomes all the more unreasonable for one to contend that the discrepancy is irreconcilable. It is a work of supererogation to show that this or that explanation is the real solution of the problem. Sometimes, owing to new light, this might be possible, but it is never necessary. And by reason of the meager information we have on many points in the Gospel narrative, it may always be impossible in various cases to present a solution satisfactory in every point. The harmonist has done his duty if he can show a reasonable explanation of the problem before him. It is to be remembered also that there is as much prejudice against the supernatural element in the Gospels as there is a favorable opinion for the accuracy of the narratives." [Quoted in Broadus, A Harmony of the Gospels, 8th ed., p. 232; another fundamentalist Southern Baptist] We shall have to agree with Robertson. This might be added: If we should meet with a case where we can discover no way of adjusting the difference, we leave the matter in abeyance, since as Christians we believe, on the authority of the Son of God, in the infallibility of Scripture - "the Scriptures cannot be broken" (John 10:35). All objections against the inerrancy of Scripture disgrace the Christian, because they oppose a human judgment to Christ's judgment.
     Luther knew very well how to deal with the unbeliever and the Christian according to his flesh in an apologetic way, but when he describes the attitude toward the Scriptures which is becoming to the Christian, he uses firm, yes, strong language. He says, for example: "They [the sophists] say the Scriptures are far too weak that we should silence heretics with them; reason must do it, and it must come forth from the brain; thus one must prove that the faith is the right one. But our faith is above all reason, and it alone is the power of God. Therefore, if the people will not believe, then be silent; for you are not held to compel them to receive Scripture as God's book or Word; it is enough if you give the reason therefor. But if they take exceptions and say: You preach that one should not hold to man's doctrine, and yet St. Peter and Paul, and even Christ, were men -- when you hear people of this stamp, who are so blinded and hardened as to deny that what Christ and the Apostles spoke and wrote is God's Word, or doubt it, then be silent, speak no more with them, and let them go. Only say: I will give you reasons enough from Scripture; if you will believe it, it is well; if not, go your way. Will you say: Then God's Word must suffer defeat? Leave that to God!" (St. L. IX: 1238 f.) According to Luther, it is utterly unworthy of a Christian to refuse to accept as God's Word and inerrant what Christ and the Apostles spoke and wrote. This judgment Luther also applies to the historical trustworthiness of Scripture in all cases where there is a discrepancy between secular writers and the statements of Scripture. He says: "I make use of the secular writings in such a manner that I am not forced to contradict Scripture. For I believe that in the Scriptures the God of truth speaks; in the histories good people display, according to their ability, their diligence and fidelity (but only as men) or at least that their copyists have perchance erred" (St. L. XIV:491). Likewise Luther maintains the inerrancy of the Scriptures when they differ with the natural scientists. He says with regard to the doctrine of the creation of the world: "When Moses writes that God created heaven and earth and all that is therein in six days, then let it stand that it was in six days, and you dare not find a gloss how six days were one day. And if you cannot understand how it could have been done in six days, then accord the Holy Ghost the honor that He is more erudite than you" (St. L. III:21). As to the accommodation of the differences in the reports of the Gospels, Luther (just like Chemnitz in his Evangelienharmonie) [or Harmoniae Evangelicae] is content with pointing out several possible ways of solving the apparent discrepancies. (St. L. VII: 1780 f.) He is so far from doubting the correctness of the reports that he even declares the apparent disorder in them to be God's work and wisdom (St. L. VII: 1297).
It almost horrifies me when I think that the Devil himself in Matthew 4:1-11 did not raise the issue of "variant readings" or "contradictions" or "errors" in the Bible, but our modern theologians and scholars do.  Are they trying to outdo the Devil?

What other objections did Pieper address and defend against?
  • inaccurate quotations of OT in NT (pgs 247-251)
  • insignificant matters by the Holy Ghost? (pgs 251-255)
  • "solecisms", barbarisms (pgs 255-260)
  • single passages of Scripture itself against Inspiration (pgs 260-265)
So now I am refreshed and re-armed by Pieper against modern scholars and will address James Barr's writings against Luther, his Chronikon, and biblical chronology in Part 6c of my series on Luther's work.

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