Hermeneutics As A Cloak For The Denial Of Scripture -- By: J. Barton Payne

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 03:4 (Fall 1960)
Article: Hermeneutics As A Cloak For The Denial Of Scripture
Author: J. Barton Payne

Hermeneutics As A Cloak
For The Denial Of Scripture

J. Barton Payne

Wheaton College Graduate School

A theological liberal has vigorously criticized E. J. Carnell’s Case for Orthodox Theology (Philadelphia: 1959) because of inconsistency toward Scripture. The review states:

Carnell feels that … even though the Old Testament appears to contradict both science and itself, and though much of its content lacks revelatory power ... we must believe that in some sense the original writings were free from error. This sense may be that an inspired author correctly copied an inaccurate document! Obviously if such an interpretation of inspiration is accepted, the fact that a statement appears in Scripture is no grounds for believing it to be true. Hence the only value of the doctrine of inspiration appears to lie in being loyal to what is supposed to be the view of Jesus.1

Carnell, in other words, insists that if we are to take seriously the Lordship of Christ we must accept the divine authority of the Old Testament,2 orthodoxy being committed to the concept of the plenary inspiration of Scripture.3 But the criticism goes on to point out that in his interpretation of inspiration Carnell tends to vitiate the reality of Biblical authority. Indeed, he openly grants the impossibility of “coaxing into harmony” the data of Scripture.4 How then, we ask, can he in the same breath reject the idea of accommodating the doctrine of inspiration to the inductively reasoned difficulties that he recognizes? Carnell replies, “The rules of hermeneutics see to that”; though he does admit that his methodology entails a “strained use” of the principles of interpretation, as these have been employed by historic evangelicalism.5 Actually, this neo-evangelicalism is suggestive of Roman Catholicism, when the latter assures us that “Any meaning [of Scripture] not in harmony with … the Church’s interpretation cannot be the true sense of Scripture.”6 It simply substitutes rational induction for the Church, as the source of distinguishing which Biblical passages need to be interpreted away. In both cases, hermeneutics seems to have become a cloak for the practical denial of Scripture.

The following study, therefore, examines three specific areas of this “strained” hermeneutic; for the discipline itself, which may be defined as the science, or art, of Biblical interpretation...

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