Theological Method And Inerrancy: A Reply To Professor Holmes -- By: Norman L. Geisler
BETS 11:3 (Summer 1968) p. 139
Theological Method And Inerrancy:
A Reply To Professor Holmes
[*Professor of Philosophy, Trinity College, Deerfield, Ill.]
I. The Position of Professor Holmes
In an address to the national meeting of the Evangelical Society held in Toronto, Canada, 1967, Professor Arthur Holmes of Wheaton College suggested that the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy is neither deduced from the doctrine of inspiration, nor is it the result of an inductive study of the phenomena, but rather, it is a second-order theological principle adduced to, round out the first-order Biblical doctrine of inspiration. In his own words:
“I am not convinced that, in its usual extension to, all historical details, scientific allusions and literary references inerrancy is either explicitly taught in Scripture or is deduced therefrom without a fallacy of equivocation. Nor do I see it as the result of inductive study of the phenomena—the induction is too incomplete....Rather I see inerrancy as a second-order theological construct that is adduced for systematic reasons....But inerrancy as we usually construct the concept, is something further [than inspiration], something which I do not find logically entailed in the statement “Scripture speaks the truth,” at least not in a form sufficiently precise to ‘fit’ all the facts. Rather inerrancy is adduced because of the high level of expectation created by the Biblical doctrine, and the attractiveness of rounding out the doctrine with this further extrapolation” (pp. 5, 6).
Dr. Holmes rejects the deductive method of system building in theology for four reasons:
“If deduction were the logic of theology, (1) we would have to formalize in deductive fashion every moment of theological thought, (2) we would have to ignore the historical narrative except for illustrative purposes and work only with logically universal propositions, (3) we would have to reduce all Biblical analogy and metaphor and symbol and poetry and connotation to logically universal as well as universal form, (4) we would have to regard all events in redemptive history and the consequent application of grace as logically necessary rather than contingent on the will of God. This I cannot do” (p. 2).
Likewise, Professor Holmes denies the validity of the inductive method, both of the Aristotelian and of the Baconian forms. The former he considers insufficient because it involves “the intuitive abstraction of universal principles from familiar classified data, and as such it pre-
BETS 11:3 (Summer 1968) p. 140
supposes the Aristotelian view of man and nature....To use Aristotelian i...
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