CHRISTIAN TRACTATUS - SECTION 10

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10. Christianity requires a reliable, but not necessarily inerrant, Bible to validate it.

10.1 Since we have demonstrated that the Bible is our most reliable witness to the truth of Christian propositions, it is important that the Bible itself be demonstrated to be reliable.

10.1.1 The reliability required of the Bible is with respect both to its internal consistency and to the assertions it makes about the world.

10.1.1.1 That is, the propositions of Christianity must not only correctly define what Christianity is in an internally consistent way, but must also be true statements about the world.

10.2 We must now ask ourselves what level of reliability is required of the Bible for us to accept its claims as most probably true.

10.2.1 I will take it as self-evident that the least demanding option should be taken. If Christianity can be grounded on a Bible that is (to some degree) reliable but not inerrant, then this should be taken as sufficient for our purposes.

10.2.2 While we must note that Scripture has a very high level of respect for itself, it would be reasoning in a circle were we to suggest that we must believe in the inerrancy of Scripture because the Bible claims to be inerrant (even if it does).

10.2.2.1 The "inerrancy of Scripture" is therefore not the most fundamental Christian postulate. Some scheme (or world view) such as that outlined in this paper is.

10.2.2.2 The "inerrancy of Scripture" is therefore not a proposition that defines Christianity but is one that may be discussed within Christianity.

10.3 Since the inerrancy of Scripture is a more extraordinary claim than the general reliability of Scripture, inerrancy should not be insisted on unless it can clearly be demonstrated or it can be shown that the denial of inerrancy would lead to a fatal inconsistency within the Christian postulates.

10.3.1 Similarly, since a claim to inerrancy may be undermined by one clear counter-example, it is unwise to insist upon inerrancy unless no other postulate is tenable.

10.3.2 If the truth of Christianity can be demonstrated to rest upon the inerrancy of Scripture and if Scripture can be demonstrated with some probability not to be inerrant, then Christianity would be demonstrated to be false with at least the same degree of probability.

10.3.3 Hence, it is more prudent only to insist on the general reliability of Scripture.

10.3.4 Insisting on Biblical inerrancy simply because it makes doctrinal demonstrations easier runs the risk of making logical shipwreck of the whole Christian faith for the sake of mere exegetical convenience.

10.4 As we have noted, Christianity is a public statement about the world, knowledge of which is claimed to be based on experience in history, evidence for these historical happenings being pre-eminently recorded in the Bible. Hence, a priori, evidence for the truth of the Bible, as a record of historical events, need be no greater than for other historical documents that we habitually take as sufficient for establishing historical events.

10.4.1 However, it is habitually the case that no documentary evidence is taken as sufficient to make us believe in certain extraordinary portents or other alleged happenings recorded in pagan antiquity. Given this, it might be suggested that the Bible needs to be self-validating. That is, that it needs to be obviously beyond the reach of unaided human production in order for us to believe its more extraordinary claims.

10.4.2 I reject this assertion, if only because I do not believe, as a point of contingent fact, that the Bible can stand up to this scrutiny (for which, see later). Moreover, I do not believe that we are justified in simply ruling out all events of an extraordinary nature recorded in an ancient source. Such records may be entertained provided certain conditions are met, as follows.

10.4.2.1 Briefly, the conditions that need to be satisfied before we should take seriously the record of an ancient extraordinary event relate to the general reliability & reasonableness of the source. These conditions are as follows :-

a). The source must recognise the claim it is making as being extraordinary in the general run of things, but as reasonable as part of some wider scenario that the source recognises, and that we today still find intelligible.

b). The source must be generally sensible & moderate in its accounts and judgements.

c). In its accounts of normal events, the source should be as accurate as would normally be expected of a historian (taking some account of the standards and methods of the period). That is, the source should attempt to be accurate, candid & truthful and should avoid gross errors, whether of commission or omission.

10.4.2.2 If conditions such as the above are met, I consider that the records may at least be taken seriously.

10.4.2.3 I consider that, for reasons elaborated later, the Bible usually satisfies these conditions.



© Theo Todman 1992 - 2000.
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