New book on the Authority of Scripture

From Evangelical Textual Criticism

Today I received my copy of a new book: D.A. Carson (ed.), The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016). It is quite a big book (36 chapters and 1,240 pages), so this is not a review, more of an initial reaction and recommendation.

For information on the general motivation there is an interesting video of Don Carson on the Eerdmans website, also some discussion on Justin Taylor’s blog where you can see a detailed list of chapters. For some early push-back on Carson’s framing of the book see the comments from Nijay Gupta: Why I’m Disappointed with DA Carson’s New Book (for part of the back story see here).

Here is a list of chapters (sorry for the length):

1. D. A. Carson, “The Many Facets of the Current Discussion”


2. Charles E. Hill, “‘The Truth Above All Demonstration’: Scripture in the Patristic Period to Augustine”
3. Robert Kolb, “The Bible in the Reformation and Protestant Orthodoxy”
4. Rodney L. Stiling, “Natural Philosophy and Biblical Authority in the Seventeenth Century”
5. John D. Woodbridge, “German Pietism and Scriptural Authority: The Question of Biblical Inerrancy”
6. Thomas H. McCall, “Wesleyan Theology and the Authority of Scripture: Historic Affirmations and Some Contemporary Issues”
7. Bradley N. Seeman, “The ‘Old Princetonians’ on Biblical Authority”
8. Glenn S. Sunshine, “Accommodation Historically Considered”
9. David Gibson, “The Answering Speech of Men: Karl Barth on Holy Scripture”
10. Anthony N. S. Lane, “Roman Catholic Views of Biblical Authority from the Late Nineteenth Century to the Present”


11. Stephen G. Dempster, “The Old Testament Canon, Josephus, and Cognitive Environment”
12. V. Philips Long, “‘Competing Histories, Competing Theologies?’ Reflections on the Unity and Diversity of the Old Testament(s’ Readers)”
13. Peter J. Williams, “Ehrman’s Equivocations and the Inerrancy of the Original Text”
14. Simon Gathercole, “E Pluribus Unim? Apostolic Unity and Early Christian Literature”
15. Graham A. Cole, “Why a Book? Why This Book? Why the Particular Order within This Book? Some Theological Reflections on the Canon”
16. Peter F. Jensen, “God and the Bible”
17. Henri A. G. Blocher, ’God and the Scripture Writers: The Question of Double Authorship”
18. Bruce K. Waltke, “Myth, History, and the Bible”
19. Barry G. Webb, “Biblical Authority and Diverse Literary Genres”
20. Mark D. Thompson, “The Generous Gift of a Gracious Father: Toward a Theological Account of the Clarity of Scripture”
21. Osvaldo Padilla, “Postconservative Theologians and Scriptural Authority”
22. Craig L. Blomberg, “Reflections on Jesus’ View of the Old Testament”
23. Douglas J. Moo and Andrew David Naselli, “The Problem of the New Testament’s Use of the Old Testament”
24. Kevin J. Vanhoozer, “May We Go Beyond What Is Written After All? The Pattern of Theological Authority and the problem of Doctrinal Development”


25. James Beilby, “Contemporary Religious Epistemology: Some Key Aspects”
26. R. Scott Smith, “Non-Foundational Epistemologies and the Truth of Scripture”
27. Michael C. Rea, “Authority and Truth”
28. Paul Helm, “The Idea of Inerrancy”
29. Richard Lints, “To Whom Does the Text Belong? Communities of Interpretation and the Interpretation of Communities”
30. Kirsten Birkett, “Science and Scripture”


31. Te-Li Lau, “Knowing the Bible Is the Word of God Despite Competing Claims”
32. Ida Glaser, “Qur’anic Challenges for the Bible Reader”
33. Timothy C. Tennent, “Can Hindu Scriptures Serve as a “Tutor” to Christ?”
34. Harold Netland and Alex G. Smith, “Buddhist Sutras and Christian Revelation”


35. Daniel M. Doriani, “Take, Read”


36. D. A. Carson, “Summarizing FAQs”

The essays I read were all interesting, well-informed, confident that they could defend the authority of the Bible against the challenges it faces. I especially liked Hill’s essay on Scripture in the early church, obviously that is because it dealt with a lot of things I am personally and professionally interested in, but also because it is obvious that Hill has worked in detail and for a long time with the questions he is addressing about this period. So it challenged me to think about the data and the argument. Readers of this blog will enjoy that essay. They will also enjoy Pete Williams’ essay, hopefully this will help straighten out a lot of discussions of the inspiration of the original text of Scripture (readers of this blog will have already figured this out from Pete’s posts). I dipped into some of the history chapters, read all the biblical chapters, enjoyed some of the more theological discussions and completely avoided the philosophical and comparative religion chapters.

The first thing I noticed, and needed to figure out in order to appreciate the book at all, is that in general for this book the “authority” of Scripture is basically regarded as synonymous with the “inerrancy” of Scripture. In fact the indices show that “inspiration” and “inerrancy” are addressed far more frequently than “authority”. In addition, the book does not seek to demonstrate the authority (or inspiration or inerrancy) of Scripture. It basically presumes the doctrine and is then shaped around the many challenges to the authority of Scripture. For example, there is an interesting essay attributed* to D.J. Moo and A.D. Naselli, ‘The Problem of the New Testament’s Use of the Old Testament’. The first sentence is as follows:

Does the use of the OT in the NT argue against Scripture’s inerrancy? Many scholars think it does. This essay explains why it does not.′ [my italics] (Of the 36 chapters at least a dozen could have used an equivalent first sentence for their topics.)

The essay discusses the topic of the NT use of the OT as a “problem”. It is not discussed as part of the data by which a responsible contemporary evangelical doctrine of Scripture might be formulated, it is rather presented as a problem to inerrancy. In fact by the end of the essay it is still a problem: ‘the phenomena of the OT in the NT, then, constitute a mixed picture for the doctrine of inerrancy.’ But in the end the problem can’t trump the doctrine. The final sentence: ‘Certainly, in our view, the issues do not constitute enough “inductive” data to overthrow the clear claims of Scripture for itself, claims that the Christian church through the centuries has recognized as significant to provide clear and enduring authority for the people of God.’ But this whole issue of the relationship between a “deductive” approach and an “inductive” approach to sourcing the doctrine of Scripture is never actually addressed. I went to the index and checked for discussions of the “phenomena” of Scripture – the actual nitty gritty of the Bible as it really is – and found only two pages (p. 55 where Hill argues that we shouldn’t think that the church fathers were ignorant of discrepancies between the Gospels; and p. 1159 where I couldn’t actually find the word). (Incidentally there is no essay on discrepancies between the Gospels and how this is not a problem.)

There’s a lot more to read, just follow the source.


Source: New book on the Authority of Scripture

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