Plenary Discussion On Biblical Inerrancy -- By: D. A. Carson

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 57:1 (Mar 2014)
Article: Plenary Discussion On Biblical Inerrancy
Author: D. A. Carson


Plenary Discussion On Biblical Inerrancy

D. A. Carson

John Frame and Ben Witherington III*

* This panel discussion among the plenary speakers took place at the annual meeting of the ETS in Baltimore, MD on November 21, 2013. Thomas R. Schreiner, ETS president-elect and James Buchanan Harrison Professor of NT Interpretation and professor of biblical theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, served as the moderator of the panel. The panelists were D. A. Carson, research professor of NT at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL; John M. Frame, J. D. Trimble Chair of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL; and Ben Witherington III, Jean R. Amos Professor of NT for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY.

Schreiner: All right, it’s ten after ten, so we’re going to begin our panel discussion at this time. I’m not going to reintroduce our speakers, but I want to say to those participating on the panel—of course, I invite you all as you wish to answer the question but you can also interact with one another as we proceed. So my first question is: What are the practical spiritual implications of pursuing a study of the text without an inerrantist framework? Anyone want to get us going here?

Frame: Inerrancy is a theological view, and I think that before the word “inerrancy” was commonly used, people were reading the Bible with great profit, reading parts of the Bible with great profit. The profit comes through the living word of God, which is living and powerful. It comes through the Spirit working with the word of God, and we all began our lives without a theological conception of inerrancy, but we heard Bible stories, we heard the people teaching us about Jesus, and that’s a powerful influence on our lives that changes our lives, and eventually, I think it ought to lead us to ask what the Bible is, and that leads to discussions of inerrancy. But there’s lots of value to be received from the Bible no matter where you are in your spiritual growth.

Carson: I think that it is almost impossible to answer that question unless we have an agreed definition of inerrancy in the first place. Ben’s captivating lecture this morning insisted toward the beginning, that inerrancy is bound up with—at least in part—precisionism and exactitudes (that was your expression, I think), whereas I just don’t know anybody in the circles in which I move, who would attach those words to the definition of inerrancy—I don’t know anybody. To me that was a straw man. And so if you ask—in fact that’s one of the things I said in my lecture—so that if you ask, what is the difference that it makes...

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