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I’ve often wondered if the position of inerrancy and/or infallibility is more the child of the Enlightenment’s scientific accuracy rather than that of Scripture itself. For instance, doesn’t the fact that there are four Gospels that differ in some ways in the way they tell the same event an affirmation of the need for variation in our theory of inspiration? Shouldn’t infallibility be configured to the Gospels’ form rather than making the Gospels fit Enlightenment scientific accuracy? For instance, there is a number of ways to convey the same idea in differ styles: in prose, a poem, in song, in hymns, and so forth. This is a principle I call “referential identity.” What is referred to is the same although how it is referred to differs. For instance, the Gospel of Matthew brings out Jesus’ divinity by focusing on Jesus’ davidic kingship while the Gospel of Luke brings out Jesus’ divinity by focusing on Jesus’ servant status as conveyed in the Servant Songs in Isaiah. In both Matthew and Luke, they are appealing to OT texts that suggest or teach the divinity of the “everlasting king” or the inconceivable praise and honor given to the “Servant” in the latter books of Isaiah. Both Matthew and Luke refer their readers to the fact that Jesus is divine but they get there in different ways: referential identity but differing in style.

There are a number of additions to the biblical text that my questioner asked about that led to these posts: she notes the addition of the adulterous woman in John. Although I intend to concede that this is an addition, the textual traditions that have come down to us (Byzantine, Western, Alexandrian) can be argued to show the potential inclusion of the adulterous woman story as proper and original to John. Textual criticism is the science of getting at the original texts of the NT, if possible: textual criticism is immensely complex, so we should hold our findings from it as preliminary, that is, we should always be ready to revise those findings in light of new evidence. I think the reason for overlooking and failing to discuss so-called inclusions (like the adulterous woman narrative) is the result of elitism and, in some sense, potential ignorance. Pastors, who are largely responsible for educating church people, never want to cause their sheep to stumble by raising doubt about the biblical text although they know about it. For instance, I oversee a house church, but I never intend to mislead them on these matters; I hope that we can discuss those issues as candidly as I am here. Google and Bing have made it impossible, as a church leader in any measure, to champion belief statements that any parishioner can check for its truth or falsity by typing just a few words on their smart phone during the teaching. No doubt, we sound “sooo faithful” when we make these statements from the pulpit (or elsewhere) despite evidence to the contrary, but we make ourselves the enemy of truth in the process. Faith statements of this sort cost us our integrity and, consequently, credibility with those who care about truth; you know its bad when the world can accurately claim the church to be “blind to the truth.” For those teachers and preachers who willingly and intentionally withhold the truth of textual difficulties in the Scripture for the good of their sheep, they can be called elites. Elitism is the sickness of supposing that the truth that you know cannot be handled by others of similar stature — e.g., children are not of similar stature with their parents so it might be valid to withhold certain things from them. An elite will think something like this, “They won’t be able to handle it,” implying that the elitist can. Such elitism is often justified based on looking out for the sheep, which is utilitarian ethics — the ends justify the means. In this case, an elitist pastor withholds truth (the means) to achieve the ongoing belief of the sheep (the end). What is strange is that the Spirit is the Leader of the Church and Christ is the Pastor while all other pretenders to such titles are really just sheep as well: there is only one Teacher, the Christ. The Spirit is called the Spirit of Truth, so should we dismiss the way Scripture has come down to us by misrepresenting how the Spirit presumably brought it down through history? Do we know better than the Spirit of God? Do we distrust Him? Can we mislead the people of God about variation in Scriptural manuscripts and still claim that we are of God? Shouldn’t the world condemn such deception by church leaders, even if done with the best intentions — good intentions have often led to many horrors in world history. It is never enough to have good intentions when the actions that issue forth from such intentions are evil or cause evil. To want the faithful to continue in their faith by lying about the content of Scriptural transmission seems patently atrocious, a ruse even rogues would be proud of.

Dr. Scalise