APOLOGISTS DEFEND INERRANCY

The International Society of Christian Apologetics (ISCA) had its annual conference at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC, on April 10-11, 2015.  The theme for the meeting was “Inerrancy and Evangelical Identity.”  More than fifty apologists from across the country gathered to hear plenary lecturers Paige Patterson, Richard Land, Sarah Geis, and Donald Williams address the theme, and a number of parallel workshops address the theme and other apologetic topics.

ISCA Plenary Speakers and Leadership

ISCA Plenary Speakers and Leadership:  First Row L-R: Patterson, Williams (Pres.), Land, Geisler (Founder);  Second Row: Fernandez (Board), Rowe (V.P.), Geis, Anderson (Board), Roach (Journal Ed.)

Land and Patterson spoke in colorful detail about the history of the struggle for inerrancy in the Southern Baptist Convention.  They began that struggle with very little hope of winning, but emerged victorious by the grace of God.  Patterson concluded that the battle for Scriptural authority is never finally won; eternal vigilance is the price of biblical faithfulness.  Geis spoke insightfully of the need to prepare the soil for planting the seed of biblical inerrancy.  If we do not also defend the law of non-contradiction and the correspondence theory of truth, biblical inerrancy will be a moot question.  Williams stressed that while the need for a defense of factual inerrancy is ongoing, the new front in the battle for biblical authority is the defense of determinative meaning.  Our contemporaries now believe that meaning is created by readers when they read a text, not by authors when they write it.  Once this Post-Modern hermeneutic has been adopted, authority is necessarily transferred from the Text to the Reader.  Failure to mount a sufficient apologetic against this change in our philosophy of reading is a factor in our losing the “Culture Wars,” because documents such as the Constitution as well as the Bible cannot be insulated from this hermeneutical acid once it is accepted.  He concluded, “You cannot win the battles for Philosophy, Theology, or Ethics if you lose the battle for Philology, faithful reading.”

Paige Patterson

Paige Patterson

In highlights from the workshops, Phil Fernandez noted changes from the consensus of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy among contemporaries who still claim to hold the doctrine in some sense, and concluded that “If these people are Evangelicals, then I must be something else.”  Dan Guinn spoke eloquently of Francis Schaeffer’s defense of inerrancy which never compromised his commitment to valuing his opponents as persons and human beings. Donald Williams gave an Evangelical critique of C. S. Lewis’s view of inspiration and inerrancy.  Norm Geisler noted the connections between inerrancy and hermeneutics.  Other sessions too numerous to mention were also full of insight.

Sarah Geis

Sarah Geis

Audio recordings were made of the workshops and video recordings of the plenary sessions.  When they have been edited they will eventually be made available on the ISCA website.

Panel Discussion

Panel Discussion: L-R, Land, Patterson, Geisler, Geis, Williams

The general consensus reached by most of the participants in their papers and discussions was that, while affirming inerrancy is not necessary for salvation, it is not therefore a “secondary” doctrine.  Inerrancy is not essential for salvation, but full submission to the authority of Scripture is essential for full faithfulness and spiritual health for an individual or a congregation, and a weak view of inerrancy inevitably compromises that authority and that submission.  As ISCA president Donald Williams summarized it, “A better understanding of inspiration and inerrancy must impel us to devoted reading and faithful interpretation leading to loving obedience.  If these things are not the fruit of our defense of inerrancy, it is but vanity and striving after wind.”

Donald Williams

Donald Williams

Remember: for more discussion of theology or the Christian world view like this, go to Lantern Hollow Press and order Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest book from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

 

 

CXII

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

Even people who do not agree with him admire Protestant Reformer Martin Luther for standing up for his convictions.  What many people do not understand is that his famous “Here I stand!” was not simply a bold assertion of modern individualism but sprang from much serious agonizing over what Scripture was telling him.  It was faithfulness to God’s truth as he understood it, not rebellion against church authority, that drove him.

LutherFamily

Martin Luther

Sonnet XXXV

Can one lone monk be right, and all the rest

Of Christendom for near a thousand years

Be wrong?  The question brought him close to tears

And troubled Luther sorely, he confessed.

But other problems had to be addressed,

Like, shall the Gospel reach the waiting ears

Of people whose good works were in arrears

And had no chance but Grace to pass the test?

 

He meant by that just simply every man,

And thought of men who’d lived by faith before—

And doubted then his Gospel’s truth no more:

With Athanasius contra mundum, and

With John the lone disciple at the Cross,

He clung to Christ and viewed all else as loss.

LutherStatue

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to http://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

 Donald T. Williams, PhD

CXI

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

This poem marks a couple of momentous moments.  One was the loss of our dog, who had gotten out of her yard and disappeared only to be found later dead on the road.  The other is the composition of my first villanelle.  The villanelle is one of the most challenging verse forms in the language: six triplets in iambic pentameter rhyming ABA, etc., until the last stanza adds an extra A line to end in a couplet.  The catch is that lines one and three have to be substantially repeated as the final lines of the following triplets, alternating until they come together in the last stanza as the final couplet.  In one way it’s easy.  When you finished three lines, you already have a third of the rest written!  But the trick is to make the repeated lines sound like they would completely naturally have been there anyway.  Now that is hard!

The advantage is that if you do it well, there is an intensity bound by rigid limits that lends itself to containing otherwise uncontrollable emotion.  The best example of this use is Dylan Thomas’s famous villanelle on the death of his father, “Do not go gentle into that good night.”  This one is not lacking in a certain similarity to that one.

Farewell to Snoopie: A Villanelle (No. 1)

Beagle1

The once lithe body lay too large, too long:

The proportions were off, the head’s angle strange;

Something about it certainly was wrong.

 

Something about the way the limp legs hung

Boded less wandering, a shrunken range.

The once lithe body lay too large, too long.

 

Never before had I seen her without a song

Of bugle-haunted greeting in glad refrains;

Something about it certainly was wrong.

 

The silk ears once in gay abandon flung

Were still, and their position did not change:

The once lithe body lay too large, too long.

 

A fly crawled slowly undisturbed along

The nose; fur rose in wind foreboding rains.

Something about it certainly was wrong.

 

And standing there, I felt no longer young

And thought age no great bargain in exchange.

The once lithe body lay too large, too long;

Something about it certainly was wrong.

Beagle2

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to http://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

 Donald T. Williams, PhD

CX

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

I was really on a blank-verse jag that year for some reason.  More rhyme is coming soon; I promise.  I don’t even remember where this landscape was, but it reminds me of some parts of Wyoming, or of the Salisbury Plain near Stonehenge (though I had never seen it at that time, nor was I in Wyoming that year).  It also brings to mind Tolkien’s barrow downs.  Clearly it was somewhere not in the Appalachians seen by someone whose way of relating to landscapes is defined by places that are.   The specific location is forgotten, but not the feel of it.  That is where poetry is valuable.

Apocalypse

SalisburyPlain1

It was a bare place, despite the vegetation.

There was grass on the rounded hills, the long slopes,

A few trees standing, just enough

To make you notice that there were not more.

They were dark evergreens, stooped with age.

They did not stand in bunches, but alone,

Spread out like silent sentinels to watch

The years and keep a record of their doings.

There was wind in the grass and the twisted limbs.  There was

Too little between a man and the horizon.

SalisburyPlain2

You ought to have to climb awhile before

The sky can open up and leave you standing

Emptied out of everything but wonder.

You ought to have to go past dripping ferns,

Cool with water seeping from the rocks.

The graceful arms of trees should pull back slowly

To open in an unexpected meadow,

Then fold together again to receive you back.

SalisburyPlain4

It ought to be a thing you have to seek,

Perhaps unconsciously, and then return from,

Weakened and yet stronger for the journey.

It is not always so, for there was grass

On rounded hills, and wind was in the grass,

And the sky was all around you, all around you,

And lonely trees told tales that had no words.

SalisburyPlain3

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to http://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

Donald T. Williams, PhD

CIX

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

There is an old recording of Flannery O’Connor giving an interview on Wise Blood for an early television program.  If you haven’t had the privilege of seeing it, you can read the poem it inspired.  If you have, you can judge how well I captured it in another medium.  The poem was originally published in New Oxford Review, March, 1982, p. 24.

Miss Flannery

Miss Flannery

For Flannery

The body was alive.  The evidence

Is that her fingers for pure nervousness

Caressed the chair’s arm, and that was enough;

The rest was calm, the eyes demure.  The voice

Was slow and hesitant, but when it had

A chance to build momentum it could carry

The burden of a thought or two and drive them

Directly, if gently, toward the heart of things.

(The eyes would look up then as if to follow

The words and make sure they were going straight.)

The body was alive; there is no doubt.

A fifteen-minute strip of celluloid

Is proof, and there are other witnesses

Whose bodies are still living, and will be,

I reckon, for another couple decades.

The body is cold dust and brittle bone

And blind as Hazel Motes.  But take the cold,

Thin strip of plastic, add electric light,

A motor, and some other gadgetry,

It will be warm and soft again, or seem so.

Hazel Motes

Hazel Motes

We most of us belong to Hazel’s church:

Our lame don’t walk, our blind don’t see, our dead

Stay put, our Jesus has no blood to spare,

Despite what we recite on Sunday mornings.

The body stalks from tree to tree behind us.

Its hands fidget in embarrassment;

Its eyes occasionally look up.  (Be sure

That’s only in the mind.  The body still

Lies quiet—even now the bones are cumbling.)

Be sure you do not look into the eyes.

If once you do, you are forever lost,

Your well-adjusted modern life in shambles.

Portrait-HazelMotes2

Jesus, striding through the point of light

Behind the pupils, will lay hold of you.

“The prophet that I raise up from her words

Will burn your eyes clean!”   There will be no way

To keep out even resurrections then,

Or Jesus’ blood.  And you will see the body

Living, and it will not be on film.

Miss Flannery and her Peacocks

Miss Flannery and her Peacocks

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to http://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

 Donald T. Williams, PhD

InklingsofReality5c