Next week will mark one year since I graduated with my Ph.D. in Christian Theology and Apologetics from Liberty University. I love apologetics and especially the defense of the Principium: the Doctrine of God and the Doctrine of Scripture, which is a large part of why this blog exists.
If you look around at Ph.D. programs, they differ in requirements. At Liberty I first had to complete 48 yours of class work where fulltime is two classes a semester. This took me about four years to complete. Then I had to take a German or Latin comprehensive exam. I chose German. Then it came time for comprehensive exams. There were three exams to be done in one week. Each exam took approximately three hours to complete.
As the Lord would have it, the third one was the worst. I hadn’t felt that crushed since my early days at Westminster. Once completing those exams I could then officially begin my dissertation. At first, I was going to write on moral apologetics but a series of irksome events made that impossible. So I returned to what I love, the Principium and specifically the doctrine of Scripture.
The short of that story is, I had taken a class on moral theory and had bought a books written by an atheist who employed an exceedingly graphic example of exceptional human brutality toward a child in order to illustrate his point of moral objectivity apart from a divine lawgiver. Without giving the example I explained to my wife the content of the book.
We have young voracious readers in my house and my wife was concerned that my older sons, following the footsteps of their dad, would read this book and be exposed to grave evil without any meaningful internal recourse or robust coping mechanism. So my wife made a deal with me, “Trash the book and I will buy you Alvin Plantinga’s three volume work on warrant.” One banal little book for three written by a world class philosopher!? Deal. Thus began my journey of relating basic belief and Scripture beliefs.
Then the day came for my dissertation defense, the final hurdle between me and graduation. As you can imagine, given my stated position here at StandardSacredText.com there were some meaningful differences between my position and those of my dissertation committee. But the one that stuck out was, “Why can’t a Muslim say they have warranted basic belief in the Quran just like you [Peter] have warranted basic belief in your Bible?” It was a good question and I was able to offer a thorough answer to successfully defend my work.
But a similar question pertinent to Christian apologetic endeavors can be asked to those who do not hold to standard sacred text. Certainly many Muslims believe their text to be inspired and inerrant, and many Christians not of our persuasion call the Muslims out in order to dispute the inerrancy of the Quran. But why?
Many Christians openly admit the Bible in the Greek and Hebrew apographa has errors in it. They openly admit the text is not settled and therefore may have errors in it. They openly admit that the original reading is either in the text or in the apparatus and therefore may have errors in the body of the text. They regularly engage with fellow Christians demanding that those Christians recognize that the story of the woman caught in adultery or the long ending in Mark are not the Scripture [i.e., errors] though they have been regarded as Scripture longer than Islam has been a religion.
What is more, many evangelical Christians like Pete Enns and N.T. Wright reject a traditional understanding of inerrancy altogether. What then is the point of the accusing Muslim’s of not having an inerrant text? It seems only to relocate the Muslim text into a position consistent with the modern evangelical standard of no standard. In sum, the current Christian argument is not something like “We claim our Bible is infallible in the Greek and Hebrew, therefore your Quran cannot be infallible seeing that is disagrees with our infallible Bible.” No, the argument is something more like, “Our Greek/Hebrew Bible currently has errors and it may be that inerrancy doesn’t really matter. The Quran suffers from similar faults, therefore it also is not inerrant.”
The modern evangelical mind will allow no one to have a standard sacred text, themselves included. For them “no standard” is the standard which more resembles the Marxist ideology of Herbert Marcuse than orthodox Christian doctrine.
2 thoughts on “Apologetics in a World of Contemporary Inerrancy”
I recently re-watched the two debates between James White and Jeff Riddle from about a year ago. James White repreatedly accused Riddle and those who hold to the TR of having no legitimate apologetic in the real world, specifically when confronting Muslims. For some reason, White believes that conceding that the modern critical text of the NT has thousands of unresolved variants, many of which create factual errors or internal inconsistencies in Scripture, helps the Christian apologist in confronting Muslims. This seems to me to be incoherent.
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I was thinking of that same argument from White at one point in writing today’s post. My dad wrote a post on the fact that modern textual criticism has harmed the Christian apologetic rather than helped it which of course supports your observation of incoherence. Here is the link: https://standardsacredtext.com/2022/02/03/the-negative-impact-of-textual-criticism-on-the-world-stage/
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