Full Text for The Theses of Agreement and Inerrancy (Text)

The Theses Of Agreement And Inerrancy Adopted by thc Luthcj-r71t CIZII~CJL of Australia, Conve~ztion, Octobcl- 20-26, 1972 IIE THESES OF AGAEEMENT in applying the ter-n "inerrancy)' T to Scripture mean to stress its full authority while taking into account the rich coillpIexity of the Holy Scriptures as \Vor- of God in all its parts and aspects and also word of man in a11 its parts slid aspects. Accordingly, while understanding inerrancy in tile sense of freedom from all error and contradiction, "factual" as well as "theological," the Theses state that this inerrancy "cannot be seen with hulllan eyes nor can it be proved to human reason; it is an article of faith, a belief in something which is hidden and not obvious." This understanding of inerrancy implies that, altl~ough error may appear to be present in the Scriptures, it is not really so. Some such cases are directly nlentioned in the Theses: errors which founci their way into the sacrecl text through deliberate or inadvertent altera- tions made by copyists, as well as the absence of verbal accuracy and uniforinity in parallel accounts. In addition to these, the Theses like- wise rnalte reference to apparent errors in other directions: seeming deficiencies relating to and caused by the fact that the holy writers retained the clistiilctive features of their personalities, that they used contemporary ~llethods of historiography and used the terminology of conteml~orary views of nature and the world. These evidences of the lin~itations of the human mind in no way invalidate the inerrancy of God's written Word, but illustrate the servant form of the written PVord of God, which is interested not in technical precision for its own sake but in a popular, intelligible presentation \vhicll 11est serves thc saving purposes of God. It lllust be bor~le in mind that a proper and adequate description of the vvritten Word of God with its unity of the human and divine is bcsct ~vitll great clifficulties. Since this is the case, pastors, teachers, aild men~bers of the Church should take great care not to violate the Church's declared confessional position on inspiration and inerrancy. On the other hand inere inadequacies of understanding or expression in this difficult area should be treated with brotherly forbearance. Responsible clarity and charity must go hand in hand here, so that the Body of Christ may build itself up anlong us in love and peace, through the truth. Solnc ways of'speaking or teaching in the matter of inerrancy which are contrary to the sound doctrine of the Scriptures and of the Theses of Agreenlent are herewith specified : I. to spealc of "errors" in the Holy Scripture; 2. to hold that what according to clear biblical statements "actually is or actually happened" may be regarded as what actually is not or actually did not happen; 3. to adopt uncritically and to propagate all the claims of historical criticism which often rest on or lead to an unbiblical scepticis111 as to the historical bases of the Christian faith; 'T'hc 'I'hcscs Of Agrccmozt And Inerrancy ~ - -- 8 5 - _._-- - 4, to use modern lhoIc and in all its pn1.t~. 13ut everyolie who taltcs the 13cformntion's soln Scripturn seriously 111lrst insist that the proper function of rcason, and th~~s of sc-llolitrsl~ip. is in cvcrJi I-cspcct undcr and not over Scriptrrrc-as Ilarltlnl;lid, anti riot ;IS 11listr:css. As emphatically as 1J.e rcjcct any use of 1'CiiSOII :IS I~I~IsI.c). or j~lclgc over Scripture, so 11.c r~ffirm the fullest usc uf ~-c;~.;oll. \\:it11 all jts scl~olarly tools, as n scrvant, to understand a1~1 llli~li~ (:Ic:II. ~\:Jla~ tlic silcrcd text says and means. 1. I.ito.nrj-Nistoricd Asl~ccts a1zd S'oz~l-ces 111 1,c:cping n;ith 1-11? statement made earlier it is not the inten- ticjrl of this sccthrl to asscrt dogmatically wllnt interpretation of these dific~rll chapters or \\:lint apl~roacll to an interpretation is alone possi- t~l c \~-ithin 11~: (31111 I-cll . Ancl thc Theses of ~-\greement in Section I sho\v Iio<\. tlilfercnccs of interpretation ]nust be distinguisliecl fro111 churcli di\.isi\.c t1iffc1:cnces o\;er doctrine." It is I~o\vevcr, ncccssary to sl.stc ;irlcl confess wllat tllcse cIial.>ters teacli: 1. The crcatiori cs nihilo-a creation from nothing-as a sis-day i\orl; on ~hc part of God. 2. Tl~c oca(ion by Gocl of thc first Inan, Adam, aricl the iirst uolllari, live; ;~ntl tllc crcation of Inan as a mature, rational, moral ;111t1 J-csl'onsiblc bcing ill tlie image of God, that is, in true r-i~,.llteousncss and holiness, cntlou;ed with R perfect knon:lcdge of: God's \\.ill a110 in blisful relationship with his Creiitor. 3. T11(: Fill1 of Inan through an act of disobedience and unbelief, thc col~scclncnt loss of the inlagc of God, and the corruption of his n:\l.t~~.c (original sin). 4. Tlic lxolnisc of tlw Saviour. The stnlcmcllts of tlie chapters themselves arc supported and con- firmed especially 1)); (1;c whole thrust of the Ne~v 'Testament and 111any indi\;idu:il Ixissages of it (Ilom. 5: 12-2 1 ; I Cor. 15 : 2 Iff. and 45ff.; I Cor. 1 1 : 7- 12; I 'Tini. 2 : 13f.). Clearly thereforc the factual- 11jstoi.ic;1l fran1en;orlt of the Genesis narrative is the indispensable four~da(ion not only for thc history of the Pcople of God which folloi4,s7 but for the very I~~carriation and Iicdernption. this framework figurative elements are no doubt to bc found. But we must rcject all interpretcitions which in an!; way undermine the facticity of tlie franlework itself, e.g. the suggestjon that the creation 7.h.c TIZESCS Of Agreevne~it And I~zc~I-~~cY -. -- 8 7 ---------- al,d fall of: ~~kiln and Eve ll1ay be taken to represent not actual per- ,,,,, 2nd eri,,ts, but tiilleless myths or parables of ~11at happells to cvcry man. \VIIerher the events of Genesis 1-3 should be called "historical" dci,cnds on how that term is used. If "historical" refers to what llappened, then Genesis 1-3 is historical. But if "historical" is taken to refer to what call be established in terms of human observa- tion and reports, then Creation obviously stands ootside the realm the "]listorical.'' Since, howe~~er, the tern1 inhi historical" usually llas tllc sense of "not having happened," it would be very misleading, and 13encc not in keepillg 1~1th the form of sound doctrine, to declare Creation and Fall to be unhistorical. * pope' ~nderstanding of the seven days of Genesis 1, wllicl1 llaS bcerl mucIl discussed over the years is involved here. I-Io.ivever, it js invalid to interpret the days in the interests of the evolutionary schenlcs rulecl out in section 2. Evolution below. Soul-ces of one kind or another undoubtedly lie behind the lnatcyial of the Pentateuch, and the.endeavour to isolate and examine these is part of thc work of the Old Testanlent scholar. So also he ~~~ust ~:cckon wi tEl tl~e fact or the possibility of post-l\.!losaic develop- mcnts or additions. I-Iou~ever, it is contrary to the for111 of sound doc- .tri~le (a) to deny the revealed character of Isritel's faith and to assume that Israel's "religion" developed like any of the religious of sul-1-ounding and contenlporary peoples; /b:) to reduce the stature of bloses, in opposition to the New Testa- ment (John 1 : 17; the Transfiguration), by holding that the l'cntateuch is not essentially hgosaic, or by questioning the-his- torical value of what the Pentateuch attributes to hill,, or by denying that he wrote of Christ (John 5 : 45, 46); ,c) to throw doubt in general on the historicity of the persons and facts nlentioned in the Pentateuch. Teachers of the Church are referred to the statement The Theses of Agreelllc~lt and Inerrancy, especially to rejctions 2, 3, and 7 for the boundaries of their theological thihking and teaching. Apart from other meanings irrelevant in this connection cvolu- tion can meall these three things: ( 1) 111 the broadest sense it is an all-embracing world-view, which regards the universe as self-existing and self-explanatory. ( 2 ) Usually evolution means the alleged development, by natural processes, of all forms of life, including man, from some corn- mon, primitive ancestral form. This '(amoeba-to-man" trans- for~ism is also known as macro-evolution. ( 3 1 Micro-evolution, by contrast, refers to changes within definite limits without any transformation of one basic type (e.g. reptiles) into another e.g. birds). For the sake of clariv, this statement will use the terms "evolution- ism" for ( 1 ), "evolution" for (2), and "genetic variation7' for (3). It is clear that evolutionism is an anti-Christian way of looking at lvorld. It is atheistic and basically materialistic, and expresses sinful man's instinctive flight from God (see Rom. 1 : 1 8ff.). It relativises all moral absolutes, and inspires i7arious pllilosol~hies, in- cluding demonic iclealogies which have brought untoid misery upon millions of huillan beings in our time. Genetic variation, this is also clear, has to do xvxth indisputable facts and poses no to the Christian faith. situation is different with evolution. This theory of origins is part of the scientific enterprise of our day, and as such most be judged by scientific principles and adequate scientific knowledge. Qualified experts, however, continue to disagree whether evolution is an adeq~tatc interpretation of the relevant facts or ~vhethcr it even contradicts them or whether science is capable of settling the question of origins at all. Further, it must be pointed out that the exposition of evolution is usually associated with an anti-sul~crnatural bias. Any activity of God in the origin of thc world, creation in any shape or form, is rulcd out from the very outset. In this sense evolution and creation are opposites. This means that evolution as generally under- stood has much of the character of evolutionism abo~~t it, and its popularity is not unconnected with the widespread modern turning ajvay from the Christian faith. In this view the God of tllc First Article of thc Creed, "who has made me and all creatures and still preserves thcm," is irrelevant. There is no fall of man into sin, which ~o~~ld lualtc necessary an act of redemption by the Son of God whom ive confess in the Second Article. And the Spirit of the Third Article, "the Lord and Giver of life" becomes sin~ply the power inherent in niattcr. 'CVhile evolution as usually understood is therefore clearly contrary to Scripture, it may be aslted whether each and every form of evolutionary speculation must be ruled out on biblical grounds. Actually Scripture says very little about the mystery of the ''how" of creation, and where Scripture is silent the Church cannot dog- matisc. If in such areas Christian thinkers suggest the possibility of sonle forms or aspects of evolution as God's ineans of creating, then differences of opinion about such views should be treated as non- doctrinal and therefore not divisive of church fellowship. The clear linlits of this sort of speculation are the authority of Scripture gen- erally, and the historicity of Adam and Eve in particular, as these doctrines are spelt out in some detail in the present document and in the statement The Theses of Agrecment and Inerrancy. It is clearly the duty of public teachers of the Church to help Christian students and others who are struggling with these far- reaching and perplexing issues. They must therefore equip themselves adequately, so that they "can be counted on for both expounding the sound doctrine and refuting those who argue against it" (Titus 1 : 9. IB). In this confused age the Church must reflect serene confidence in Genesis as the Creator's own account of what happened in the beginning.