e live in a time of growing secularism. The separation between the sacred and secular, the ecclesiastical and political, is growing. The accent of living is on the present. Life is to be lived according to the present pressure without a view towards ultimate meaning and significance.
Within the church, membership is down in all the major denominations. At the same time, there is growing membership in cult and occult groups. The central doctrines of the gospel are questioned not only from outside the church but from inside. Unless there is an authoritative standard by which we can give clear answers to the above problems, we are caught in the same relativism and flux as the culture.
Sartre once said that no finite point has any meaning unless it has an infinite reference point. In his Tractatus Logico Philosophicus, Wittgenstein argues that the sense of the world must lie outside the world, that man never has sufficient perspective from within this world to build an eternal structure of truth and value. If there is any value that does have value, it must lie outside of the whole sphere of what happens now. In other words, ethics are transcendental. In a lecture (published in the Philosophical Review, January 1965), Wittgenstein said that if a man could write a book of ethics which really was a book of ethics, this book would, with an explosion, destroy all other books in the world.
Neither Sartre nor Wittgenstein seriously considered the Scriptures as the answer to the need for that reference point. Unless we do have that reference point in Scripture, we are bound to be uncertain about the message we have to proclaim.
There has been a widespread retreat from the absolute authority of Scripture even in conservative circles. Probably the most important factor is the massive assault of secular science and negative biblical criticism. Nearly the entire biblical framework of history and doctrine has been repudiated by a substantial segment of modern culture—including some of the theological sectors. Some feel that the inerrancy of Scripture cannot survive the scrutiny of critical study.
There are three basic ways to deal with the allegation that there are errors in the Bible. First, one can try to solve the problems uncovered by critical study. Second, one can hunt for a way to do theology without a reliable Bible. But when the authority of Scripture is surrendered, it is far from clear on what ground Christian truth can be predicated, because the tendency has been to appeal to biblical patterns and themes to illuminate the views put forward. The third alternative has been to limit inerrancy so that it is unaffected by certain kinds of errors.
Both liberals and conservatives have failed to be sufficiently critical of the critical theories. Obviously a full discussion is not possible here, but there is an approach to the problems that does show what is at stake, which is a consideration of Christ’s view of the Bible.
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