I’ve quoted from this book several times here already, but I just finished it over the weekend and wanted to make a real recommendation. Vern Poythress’ Inerrancy and Worldview is the new book I will recommend to anyone who:
- has questions about the Bible’s trustworthiness
- wants to get a good handle on how worldview affects their thinking, and the thinking of the nonbelievers in their lives
- wants something not too difficult to read, and not to “thick”
- has time only for one book to read about these issues
In a style that is very “to the point,” Poythress tackles all the ways current thinking casts doubt on the Bible’s truthfulness and trustworthiness. But instead of taking the reader through detailed discussion of every “problem passage” or issue, he looks at a few test cases, and then goes behind every challenge to the Bible’s authority to show the assumptions hidden in the discussion. The result is that he help us see, from the ground up, how our culture does not actually have the case against our Scriptures which it often claims to.
Working through this book from front to back will give you a good working knowledge of how to see all these things from a Biblical perspective. I found it to be an exceptional “training for the mind” which offered a way of thinking I could clearly understand and take away for future use.
Best of all, Poythress shows a real heart for Christ and people all throughout the book. By the end he is simply pleading with us to place our full trust in the God who has spoken in His word. So in that sense, even though this book is very tightly reasoned, it is in no sense “heady.” You could say it’s “all heart.” (A very smart heart–Poythress has six earned degrees, including two doctorates–in Mathematics and Theology.)
I really can’t recommend this highly enough. And I can’t stress how much we as a community of younger believers need to make sure we aren’t wasting our time and our minds. God gave us our days and our brains to use to know Him and to spread that knowledge. It’s by no means the only thing we need to be doing, but reading and thinking through a book like this is way better than simply entertaining yourself for a few more hours.
Best of all, if you don’t want to drop the few bucks for the book, Poythress gives his stuff away for free. Click on the title below to download the pdf of the whole book:
Inerrancy and Worldview by Vern Poythress (pdf)
And if you just want a quick, 8-page dip into it, try the last chapter. Here it is to download: Chapter 36 – Scripture and Worldviews (pdf)
Finally, here’s a great section from that last chapter that sums up a lot of the book’s heart:
In short, the inhabitants of modern cultures—what the Bible calls “the world”—think that the Bible is merely human. To many, this view seems “obvious.” And yet it is a gigantic social illusion. We are corporately, as a whole society, captive to a counterfeit. The counterfeit is the idea of impersonal instead of personal laws, impersonal instead of personal divine governance of the universe. That substitution of the impersonal for the personal conforms to the description of Romans 1:18–25. It is a form of idolatry. It is false religion. But as a society we have found a way of concealing from ourselves its religious roots. It does not seem to be religious, but merely noncommittal.
People captivated by this illusion can still offer remarkable insights and remarkable triumphs in knowledge, especially in the natural sciences. Why? Scientific investigation still “works” because when it holds to an idea of impersonal laws, it still mimics the truth that God rules the world by his personal law. Scientists may borrow enough of the truth to succeed in many cases.
As a result of our modern atmosphere, many people are tempted to regard the Bible as one more book on religion. In their judgment it is merely human, and so they pay no attention to it. But other people may still be attracted to its message. So they may try to find a way not to give it up completely, but to make it fit in with what our modern society and our modern scientific results allegedly “know” about the world.
A person can subject the Bible to his modern assumptions by postulating a god who acts indirectly. This person assumes that human action is closed off from God. So he postulates—contrary to the Bible’s own claims—that the Bible must be language-bound and error-prone in the same ways as other human products. But a god can still meet people mystically and personally in the depths of their being when the Bible is read, because this so-called god somehow comes to people in the depths of their being. This meeting with god must be related in a paradoxical manner to scientific analysis of history, language, and society, because in those public realms no god can be allowed to appear.
A person who holds this view may also argue that such a god is pleased with humanity as we moderns now understand it. Human beings live their lives in history, in language, and in society because this is the way this god made it, and he cooperates with what he has made. Allegedly he has no wish to appear or speak directly, but only through the indirect media of history, language, and society as modern sciences have analyzed them.
A person may travel by this means through a series of steps until he reaches a position similar to [what is known as] neoorthodox theology. He need not ever have heard of classic neoorthodoxy. It does not matter. Neoorthodoxy makes a good fit to modernity because it need not break with the assumptions of modernity, but is in fact in harmony with them. It adds a god as an extra dimension, while leaving essentially unchanged the results of secular historical, linguistic, and sociological analysis. Meeting with a god is defined as personal and mystical, beyond normal categories of understanding. So modernity is safe. Divine meeting allegedly takes place through a Bible that is human in the modern sense. The merely human Bible becomes a channel for the mystical divine meeting.
This approach has many attractions, culturally speaking. Its main difficulty is that it must remake God and the Bible after its own conceptions. Since those conceptions have no firm basis, the whole project offers only a man-made god.