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Benjamin Warfield and ethereal inerrancy
Ted Letis - infallibility and inerrancy - the Benjamin Warfield shell game - astronomy as inerrancy source?
Pure Bible - April 16, 2015
inerrancy and infallibility - Theodore Letis on the Warfield usage
Theodore Peter Letis (1952-2005) wrote a lot of interesting material on this issue, and many others. Some material is online, however the The Ecclesiastical Text - Text Criticism, Biblical Authority and the Popular Mind, 2000 2nd edition, is not.
Over the years the inerrancy/infallibility distinction has come up, most recently in a discussion with Mark Brown, you can see the thread here:
On p. 78 comes one reference that is often in the middle of the discussion, is inerrancy an astronomy term improperly co-opted by the Warfieldians? (added: the astronomy issue is mentioned en passant on p. 67.)
Arthur Carl Piepkorn .. 1965... found it was a very recent word in theological parlance. Its original meaning was as a technical term for "fixed stars" ... used in 1652 ... as an astronomical term. It does not appear in a theological context until the nineteenth century where Thomas Hartwell Horne ... says "Absolute inerrancy is impracticable in any printed book." It is first used in a religious context when Edward Pusey referred in 1865 to "The old ultra-montane doctrine of the inerrancy of the Pope, i.e., that of his preservation from error. (p. 78-79)
Later, I will try to go more into the implications. And try to condense the material in one spot.
Let's point out that from Thomas Hartwell Horne we also have:
"Dr. Owen was a learned and sober critic, but no advocate for the absolute inerrancy and integrity of the Hebrew text."
the two Horne two uses go back to about 1828, yet the second one is very much akin to the positive usage that Letis considers MIA.
And let us note, for now briefly, how it is claimed that Warfield did this to create a connection between inerrancy and original autographs, rather than tangible, readable, Bibles (the apographa.) There are problems with that construct, e.g. the main article from Warfield does in fact have a solid infallibility quotient. (This should be double-checked.)
1.) "Absolute inerrancy is impracticable in any printed book." Ans: His "God" is too small. (II Tim. 3:15-17; Psa. 12:6-7) [Why not just say, "... in any book."? -- But an unbiblical presupposition in any case.]
2.) "Dr. Owen was a learned and sober critic, but no advocate for the absolute inerrancy and integrity of the Hebrew text." Ans: To what was Owen referring? Some available edition of the Hebrew O.T.? Because I highly doubt that Owen was referring to the original text (readings) of the Hebrew scriptures (if indeed Owen was refferring, in his denial of the inerrancy and integrity of some Hebrew text).
The context I was giving was the history of the word inerrancy, compared to the thoughts from Letis.
The reference from Horne was to a book by Henry Owen, (1716-1795) , not the scholar and Bible defender John Owen (1616-1683).
The context is a little tricky on some of this.
And I decided that that the Theodore Letis book is one of the rare books that deserves the distinction of being fully read, cover to cover, without much note-taking in the first pass. (Allowing occasional decisions to pass over footnotes with a skim.)
Now, on p.22 Letis quotes what I have long thought was one of the most famboozagle quotes I ever saw. It is from Benjamin Warfield with A. A. Hodge The short quote from:
The Presbyterian Review, Volume 2 - April, 1881
Warfield and Archibald Alexander Hodge
is in two parts (it is followed by additional equivocations and weakenings, but that will not be covered here.)
WARFIELD - 1st part
“We do not assert that the common text, but only that the original autographic text was inspired”
This is frequently quoted, by Geisler, et. al, even last month:
Do You Have To Be A Calvinist To Believe In Inerrancy?
From Norman Geisler on Mar 28, 2015
omitting the amazing 2nd part..
Which he did include and pass over in 2004:
Decide for Yourself: How History Views the Bible (2004)
By Norman Geisler
The Geisler glossing over goes back at least to 1980:
Sidenote: One gentleman, Jon Gleasaon, properly emphasized that Warfield changed scriptural inspiration to a past event, not available today (note the further discussion of 2 Timothy 3:16, including grammar and context).
Now the key trickster component:Warfield’s Redefinition of Inspiration (Feb 17, 2012)
"The redefinition is obvious. It extended even to using “was,” in contrast to the Scriptural usage “is.” The Bible says Scripture “is” inspired, but they said it “was” inspired. “Inspiration” for Warfield and Hodge was redefined from a statement about the origin and nature of the Scriptures to simply a statement about the historical act by which God gave the Scriptures, the act which had previously been called “immediate inspiration."
Letis returns to this on p. 26:WARFIELD - 2nd part
No " error " can be asserted, therefore, which cannot be proved to have been aboriginal in the text.
(And I will find out later if Letis returns to this again.)"....Warfield persuaded nearly everyone within the old Princeton tradition .. that his apologetic technique was correct. It placed Scripture forever beyond the reach of antagonistic critics since only the yet-to-be-reconstructed autographic text could be criticized."
Amazingly, if it is the opponent of the Bible, the skeptic, the mythicist, the liberal, who is being asked, demanded, to show the "aboriginal" text. They will, of course, be laughing in guffaws. Since their position can be that the Bible is simply a patch-quilt of legend, myth and forgery. From their perspective, the aboriginal text could have been written by semi-literate aboriginies. (e.g. the bronze age goat-herder theory.)
And Warfield is de facto actually giving us by simple logic the following:
So, clearly, Warfield has not a single Bible truth. Since he has not proven a single verse of scripture (one problem of the probability text.) However, these type of Hortian writers (and Warfield was a true Hortian) are very weak on logic and consistency."No Christian Bible doctrine or truth, or consistency or accuracy, can be asserted which can not be proved to have been aboriginal in the text."
And I do not think that the massive fail of Logic 101 has been sufficiently noted.
Not even in the better literature, like that of Theodore Letis (so far) or Patrick Baskwell, The Presbyterian Controversy, 2009 (who uses the material from Letis.)
Even the best writer of the 1800s who tore to shreds the Warfield autographic inspiration position, Thomas Martin Lindsay (1843-1914), missed the huge logic fail here.
In fact, the writer I have seen who most clearly laid out the shell game of the Popperian unfalsifiablity of Warfieldian inerrancy is Ernest Robert Sandeen (1931-1982)
Simply put, Warfield plays you for a fool. Here is a bit more as Sandeen continued, with a spot of humor:"Warfield... phrased his defense of the inerrancy of the original autographs in such a way that no further discussion was possible. In retreating to the original autographs, Warfield, whether intentionally or not, brought the Princeton apologetic to a triumphant conclusion... Since in order to prove the Bible in error it now became necessary to find the original manuscripts. Warfield might have concluded... by announcing that inerrancy could never be denied.' (Roots of Fundamentalism, Ernest Sandeen 1898 p. 129-130 quoted in Worship as Meaning, Graham Hughes 2003)
========================"The original manuscripts had been lost, and therefore the critic might just as well turn his attention to Homer or the Koran for all the effect his work would have upon the followers of the Princeton orthodoxy. This was the shape of the Princeton doctrine of the Scriptures- one of the forms of biblical literalism in late nineteenth-century Protestantism. The problems raised by biblical criticism demanded a new formulation of the doctrine of the Scriptures. Both conservatives and liberals worked at the theological task, but the Princeton professors' insistence that they were doing nothing new, while creating a unique apologetic which flew in the face of the standards they were claiming to protect, cannot be judged as a historically honest or laudable program. Although he continued to remark, with apparent sincerity, that every biblical scholar must continue to examine the evidence turned up by critical investigation, he so defined the problem that no possible error could be discovered." (Roots of Fundamentalism, Ernest Sandeen 1898 p. 129-130 quoted in Worship as Meaning, Graham Hughes 2003)
btw, I had noted this Warfield trickery here:
Benjamin Warfield, Ethereal Inerrancy and Impossible Stipulations
"Benjamin Warfield was simply a logical trickster, and he was nabbed by writers on both sides."
And really began this study around 2010.
Warfield's ethereal original autographs -May, 2010 - fundamental forums, now defunct
And going back further, when the skeptics were emphasizing the trickery, in 2007.
This can be recognized by anyone. Although the Geisler and Wallace parrots and dupes will struggle.Does Christian fundamentalism require the belief that the Bible is inerrant?
"As Sandeen and others have shown, Warfield constructed a case now recognized as unfalsifiable and thus inoperable"
However, the roots of the problem were not tangible infallibility and inerrancy, defended strongly by AV defender brethren. The roots were the Warfield-Niagara-Chicago shell games.
One problem is that the word "inerrant" is not a specifically biblical description of scripture/the word(s) of God. Thus, it leaves wiggle room for those who wish to change the words of the KJB. Generally, "inerrant" means "without error/mistake", while "infallible" means "incapable of error/mistake". At least the word "infallible" is a biblical word.