The past few years have seen the rise of inerrancy—an issue that many thought was resolved come to the forefront of current theological debate, once again. Inerrancy is an important theological truth that while not directly tied to the Gospel itself nevertheless affects how one will ultimately understand issues directly related to the Gospel such as redemption, sin, justification among a host of other issues. For this reason, the issue of inerrancy while not “of first importance” certainty ranks way up there on the priority of Christian doctrine.
It really shouldn’t surprise Christians that inerrancy is becoming an issue again at all—since the issue of inerrancy is directly tied to the question of who is authoritative: God or man. Theological liberalism has convinced many parts of Christianity today that inerrancy is unimportant because according to them the Bible is a book full of errors. The sad thing is when one looks at the churches of those who deny the inerrancy of the Scriptures it becomes readily apparent who is in “charge”—man and not God. Making much of man is not the church’s mission, but making much of Jesus and spreading His fame to the nations is the Church’s mission. This is exactly why the issue of inerrancy is so important because it deals definitively not just with whether the text of Scripture is with or without error but rather with the larger question of who is authoritative, God or man. This is also the reason why I was excited when I heard about Dr. Vern Poythress new book Inerrancy And Worldview: Answering Modern Challenges To The Bible, because in the past few years I’ve been spending more time studying the doctrine of inerrancy. Through my study, I have become increasingly convinced that this issue will be one of the biggest theological battles in our generation.
Dr. Poythress notes that the traditional evangelical view of inerrancy says that the “Bible is inerrant; that is, it is completely true in what it says and makes no claims that are not true” (13). The author rightly notes that, “The Bible has much to say about God and about how we can come to know him. What it says is deeply at odds with much of the thinking in the modern world. And this is fundamental difference generates differences in many other areas—differences in people’s whole view of the world. Modern worldviews are at odds with the worldview put forward in the Bible. This difference in worldview creates obstacles when modern people read and study the Bible. People come to the Bible with expectations that do not fit the Bible, and this clash becomes one main reason, though not the only one, why people do not find the Bible’s claims acceptable” (14).
When some people read the title Inerrancy and Worldview they will think that they are reading a book about inerrancy itself, but such an idea would be mistaken. This book is not all about inerrancy but rather deals with the effects of inerrancy as it relates to how people view the world. In other words Inerrancy and Worldview was not written to address the question of inerrancy, as much it was in understanding how inerrancy is under attack from competing worldviews.
Dr. Poythress in his book tackles common religious difficulties such the question of “How can only one religion be right, and “Are moral rules a straitjacket?” He also tackles science, materialism, challenges from history, language, sociology, anthropology, psychology, examples, attitudes and corrupt spirituality before concluding the book with examining Scripture and worldviews. Every chapter is condensed and could very easily be made into entire book length treatments on the topics the author examines.
Since this book addresses the effects of inerrancy on our worldview, I want to focus the remainder of our time together examining the last chapter. The issue of worldviews is one that we are increasingly seeing become a bigger issue in our day whether be it with the statements of politicians, or religious leaders—we are seeing many people reveal where exactly they stand on the issues. In many ways this is good because it tells us whether we as Christians can support them or not as Christians. The issue of worldview is important because Jesus has transferred us from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus—He has quite literally transformed our worldview from one that is sinful to one is centered on Him and all for His glory and praise.
The author rightly notes that the central problem of our day is “our rebellion against God in the heart. This rebellion leads to rejection of Christ and his ways” (243). When we have a low view of God and of His Word—the natural result of this is to push God out of our lives which is also to commit high-handed rebellion against Him. Dr. Poythress frames the issue this way, “Many people in this modern world continue to trust in Christ and read their Bibles in a believing way, in spite of the pressures around them. Many of them are not philosophical reasoners. They may not be intellectually brilliant. They have come to know Christ. They trust him because they know him personally. Christ teaches them through the Holy Spirit, and they grow in discernment. They come to distrust much of what claims to be knowledge in the mainstream culture around them, because it does not seem to help them in understanding the world in a biblically informed way. And some of what they hear from modern culture directly contradicts what they find in the Bible. They may end up rejecting a lot of modern culture, because once suspicion grows, they do not know where the falsehoods stop. Many people in the mainstream then look at these exceptional faithful people as ignoramuses. Biblically based Christianity seems to the mainstream to be a threat to intellectual life. And some of the faithful have indeed become anti-intellectual. But one of the reasons is that intellectual life as conceived in the modernist mode, conceals assumptions that deny the true God from the outset” (243).
Whether you are interested in understanding how inerrancy is under attack from popular culture or whether you’re just interested in learning more about Christianity, Inerrancy and Worldview is an important book that addresses the issue of inerrancy at the worldview level. By examining the worldviews of our day, the author successfully and wonderfully accomplishes his goal to provide the first worldview-based defense of inerrancy showing how worldview differences create or aggravate most perceived difficulties with the Bible. The author’s engaging response to current attempts to abandon or redefine inerrancy will enable Christians to respond well to modern challenges by employing a worldview that allows the Bible to speak on its own terms. I highly recommend you pick up this book as it gets to the heart of an issue that Christians will see not decrease, but increase.
Apologetics 315 Book Reviewer Dave Jenkins is the Director of Servants of Grace Ministries. He enjoys biblical, systematic and historical theology and apologetics. More of his writing can be found at http://servantsofgrace.org.