Sunday, November 24, 2013

Whether Scripture is Inerrant

I take it that the belief that Scripture is inerrant is the belief that a correct interpretation of Scripture is true.

Question: whether Scripture is inerrant.

Objection 1: That it is not, as there are places where Scripture contradicts itself.

Objection 2: That it is not, as there are places where Scripture disagrees with historical research.

Objection 3: That it is not, as various people disagree as to the meaning of Scripture.

Objection 4:That it is not, as it is unclear what it intends in various places.

I answer that: Scripture is inerrant, being inspired and preserved by God for our instruction in what is necessary for the spiritual life. This inerrancy is of no help to us, however, except insofar as we have a correct interpretation of it, and this is available most securely only through the illumining of our hearts by the Spirit of God, and often available not only most securely, but only truly in that way. I further take it that any effectiveness of Scripture on the hearer or reader is due to the illumining of the Spirit--which is not to say that any doctrine by which a person changes for the better is true, but that the change made in hearing the doctrine is by that truth which is contained in that doctrine (whatever that may be) being impressed on the heart by the Spirit so as to effect that change in the heart.

Answer to objection 1: Where Scripture contradicts itself, either the contradiction is itself meant to teach, or what is contradicted is not intended, in one or all places, as what we are to learn.

Answer to objection 2: Where Scripture disagrees with historical research, it is either correct--as in places where it is a matter of faith that Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, lived a perfect life, died on a cross, and rose again--or is not intended to instruct as to such things--as in places where the numbers in each army may disagree with historical research without altering the sense of the passage. The claim is that Scripture is accurate in what it teaches, but not all that it says is teaching in the sense we might take it to be. It may be difficult to say what a certain passage is meant to teach.

Answer to objection 3: The disagreement of people over the teachings of Scripture has no more relevance to the inerrancy of Scripture than does the disagreement of scientists have anything to do with whether the created order can be described. Nor do our disagreements over the sense of any passage have anything more to do with whether it has one, or what it is, than do similar disagreements over what is before our physical eyes have anything to do with whether there is anything there, or what it is.

Answer to Objection 4: The lack of clarity which is held to exist in Scripture is, variously, unimportant, nonexistent, meant in itself to teach, or to be worked through by the power of the Spirit of God. That a thing is unclear has no more to do with what it is in Scripture than in creation. It may be that a part of Scripture--even a great deal of it--is incomprehensible apart from the renewing of our minds. Indeed, I suspect that Scripture interpreted apart from the Spirit of God is almost always Scripture poorly and sinfully interpreted. If it is truth we are looking for, then we must rely on the mind of Christ, which we have through the Spirit, to enlighten us. Whether we interpret through the Spirit or not, though, Scripture remains, in itself, inerrant.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Myers-Briggs: J/P

Enough has been written concerning the first letter in the Myers-Briggs typology and the differences between those who type as extraverts (E's) and introverts (I's), and this has been done sloppily enough, at times, to irritate a response from me. The last letter in the Myers-Briggs typology has received much less attention, however. The last letter can be either J (judging) or P (perceiving). Judgers prefer structure, order, stability. Percievers prefer open-endedness, scatteredness, fluctuation.

Judging types are prone to irritation if there is uncertainty. There is what they believe, and there is what they do not believe, and anything which is not in either category needs to get in one or the other quickly. They do not like that kind of vagueness. They plan, because they want what is to come solidly in front of them. There is a structure which they expect things to conform to, and if things don't fit that structure, then it is bothersome at least, evil at worst. Judgers want things to go well. They want good.

Perceivers tend to be comfortable with uncertainty. There are a few things they believe, and a few they don't, and quite a bit in between. They expect that kind of vagueness. They do not like plans, and feel restricted by them. There is a structure which things conform to, or maybe not, but the perceiver doesn't know what it is, and doesn't expect to. They have some idea, but if something does not fit their idea of how the world works, that is just an opportunity to explore how it may actually be. Perceivers enjoy examining their ideas of how the world goes. They like tweaking their ideas. Perceivers want hands off. They want good, but don't know what it is, and don't want someone else messing with what they are doing, or to mess with what others are doing.

Neither is better than the other. I am a perceiver, but, if there weren't judgers, then I would have had to go through more discomfort, at least, because I can veer too far into the indecisive. Judgers just sometimes err too far to the decisive, and I want to say "Wait! Just slow down: let's explore the options. What else might be going on here? How else might things work?" Perceivers explore, judgers set up shop. Perceivers uproot, Judgers protect. Other perceivers might explore the open endedness of things differently, through varieties of experience rather than varieties of thought. Some judgers might exhibit more desire for staticness in manners of life, others in manners of thought. Most of each will exhibit it in both arenas, insofar as they exhibit both arenas.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Go read the Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein. Most of what I say here arises from my understanding of what he says there.

A way of acting in the world, combined with humans' nature as language-users, gives rise to a way of speaking. Words, phrases, and so on, thus gain their meaning from the way of life from which they arise. To make some set of sounds is to say something because of how those sounds fit into a way of speaking. As there are various ways of being in the world, so there are various ways of speaking. A musician can say things which are meaningless to a mechanic, and vice-versa.

Call a way of acting or being in the world a "way of life." Call a way of speaking, i.e., a language with its characteristic usage, a "language game." These are phrasings from Wittgenstein.

If we imagine a language game, then there must be some ways of acting which go with it. If there are particular words in the language game, then there must be some actions, events, items, etc., which go with them. These words might refer to quite particular parts of a life: "my left hand," or be vague: "toy." Differences between words might be quite clear: "hat," "mitten," or vague: "jacket," "coat."

Things wind up having a kind of grammar, just as the words do. A sentence like "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously" it is grammatically correct as far as the sort of words they are, but when I say that a colorless thing cannot also be green, I am saying something about what I here calling the grammar of those words or concepts. That is, it is a comment about the way our words are allowed to go together. I am also making a grammatical statement of this sort when I tell you that an idea, itself, can't be green, even if it can be of something which is green.

When we want to know the meaning of a word or phrase, then, we are asking about how it is used in the language game. How is it used? What kind of life, or part of a life of what kind, is indicated when this word is used in this manner? A word may refer to a variety of things, some by analogy to others. The vagueness of a word is like the vagueness of a last name, thus Wittgenstein speaks of a "family resemblance" between the meanings of a word. How is go fish like chess, other than both being called a "game"? How are "football" and "soccer ball" alike, other than being confused for one another in writing by some people and both being called a "ball"? We might be able to see some connection between the two, or not, but this does not invalidate our use of the word "ball" or "game" for very different things.

As language is not fully a language apart from the practices which go with it, so the practices of people have meaning. My actions communicate. We read each others body language all the time, and this is a kind of communication. We can say of someone that it would be wrong to call them happy, and we justify it by observations about them. This is what is meant by using a word wrongly. Someone might tell us that, when they call someone happy, they mean that the person has taken to locking themselves in their room for long periods of time. We would say that they do not mean by "happy" what we mean by it, but that, if that is what they mean, then the person--who we would not call happy--is happy. This is a confusion caused by the person using a word in a way that is not recognized in our language game. Thus, they use it wrong, but it would be right if the language game were set up differently--and so they think it is.

We learn to communicate with others better, then, by learning the nuances of how they use the language. Their language game is set up slightly differently from ours, in every case. The mechanic, on hearing the musician speak of tones and fifths and quarter steps, might say "it's all Greek to me," and vice-versa. If the musician were to learn how to play music, though, then he would eventually learn how those words are used in that language game. Even between those in a similar discipline, there might be differences in how they use the language. We can imagine discussing what color to call something, or what we mean when we call someone our friend. Even more obviously, and at the same time more often overlooked, we might differ in what we call a "good day" at a very basic level. Is a day good if you were happy for most of it? If you were productive? If you got to spend most of it in bed? If you were unhappy for most of it, but felt by the end that it was for the best? Might you call a day bad if you spent it laughing and smiling at things which won't matter by the end of the week?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

On the Spirit

Self-aware evaluative beings are termed "conscious." To be a self-aware evaluative being is to be aware of one's evaluations, i.e., to evaluate one's evaluations. To evaluate something is to deem it good or bad, better or worse. To be self-aware also involves having one or more evaluations regarding one's overall evaluative framework. Thus, it involves the capacity to see oneself as valuing rightly or wrongly.

In general, noting an overall coherence in one's valuings is experienced as a kind of peace. Further, a system of valuings all pulling in some direction, all saying together, as it were, "Act! Do this!" Gives rise to a kind of passionate engagement in the world. This latter is not limited to cases where each part of oneself calls one to the same act, but frequently in my experience has arisen from all my values in collision with each other saying, as it were, "You have no hope but to do this. Go!" A collision of guilt and the desire to be free of guilt gives rise to seeking God. A collision of not knowing what to do, and needing to do something, gives rise to seeking a way of seeing which makes sense of things like that. It is not necessarily an action done out of need, per se, but it is one done out of passion. Here is what I am to do, whether I can restrain myself or not. Indeed, it is often like the case of setting food in front of a hungry man: he may not need to eat now, exactly, he could probably wait five minutes, but why should he? Likewise, when a problem in philosophy is set before me I see that I do not have to think about, and that even if I do think about it there may be ways other than philosophically, but that is not relevant to me any more than the possibility of not eating is relevant to the hungry man. Now, the point here is that passional action is done in very much a different kind of way than other kinds of action. It is acting with one's whole self. We can do a great deal without involving our whole selves, and we often do. I do not say that it is bad to do so, but it is better to act with one's whole self.

This is the kind of drivenness which should characterize our worship. In fact, I would characterize worship by seeking this kind of drivenness towards God. To worship is to seek God with one's whole heart, to commit oneself to God as one's whole self. In corporate worship, it is at the same time to commit to one another in the same action, by necessity since our union in Christ makes us one body. By this definition I mean to delimit worship. I do not mean worship to be limited to singing, or even any of those things done within church walls, but I mean to speak of worship as an act of one's whole life. Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory--do all as worship to--God.

I suspect that this kind of wholistic evaluation of oneself is only possible for those, or else is, perhaps only in part, constitutive of, having a soul. I suspect that this is what we do not see in normal life, and I suspect that the lack of this kind of passion in life makes us easier to ignore. I mean, I think our culture is a culture made up of practical solipsists. We do not think others have minds the way we do.  We do not recognize this kind of awareness of self in others. We know that we are, ourselves, troubled by our sins, yet we look around at people who all look fine. It makes AI easy, if all we want to do is replicate the part of us which we see. There is more, though, and it should be made apparent. Surely, the Church should be a place where it is evident that there are others living in this kind of complicated life, this life where how we fit into it matters, and it is not easy. Where we are sinners. We do not currently recognize ourselves as human in the way we ought.

Logic is easy. Performing good acts is easy. Performing good acts for the right reasons is hard. It can only happen by a change in the will. Our struggle, our distress, in being these kinds of people who struggle against sin, should be visible. We should be tormented simply by being sinners, and comforted simply by being saved, though it is not easy to comprehend. That comfort must also show itself in passionate action, in commitment to God and neighbor. What agony we should feel at seeing others in sin! We should see the world as God does, and that will draw us to action in the love of God. How do we see the world as God does? By love of God. And how that? By knowledge of God, by prayer and reading, by seeking him. And how that? By love of God. Yes, but how do we get there? By God loving you in Christ Jesus, who sacrificed himself to save you and draw you to himself. By the Holy Spirit coming and showing you who God is, revealing himself to you so that you will, so that you must, in some way, to some extent, love God in the depths of yourself.