Presupposing Inerrancy
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Thu Apr 20, 2006 at 05:53:48 PM EST
The Institutes of Biblical Law is the foundational and most important text of the Christian Reconstructionist movement.  Recognized as one of the most important books of the year 1973 by Christianity Today, R. J. Rushdoony's voluminous exposition of the ten commandments propounds a theocratic political philosophy throughout.  As time permits, as an ongoing project for however long it seems worthy of attention and holds interest for readers, I plan to methodically examine Rushdoony's logic and reasoning.   I begin with his foundational premise.
As might be expected from one enamored of Cornelius Van Til's form of Christian Apologetics, the first sentence in Rushdoony's text presupposes the centrality of the Bible for law and government.  Cornelius Van Til's apologetic is distinguished by its disdain for all questions about the inerrancy of Christian scriptures.  In Van Til's mind, and that of disciples like Rushdoony and Francis Schaeffer, the inerrancy of the Bible is the fundamental presupposition necessary to assure the validity of thought and logic.

The presupposition of biblical inerrancy serves as a guarantor of the truth of their "biblical" worldview.  For them, if you could prove that there was a single error in the Bible, you would undermine faith in God (-- thereby pressing God into service as a guarantor for their view of the world).  Of course, identifying an error in the Bible is impossible.  All genuine inquiry has been precluded by the presupposition of scriptural inerrancy.  It is perfectly circular reasoning.  

It is also perfectly idolatrous.  Ultimately, their faith is in a book.  They will-to-believe in a perfect Bible.  That is a precondition for belief in God.  In their eyes, if God can't be trusted to hand them a perfect book revealing a perfect system of laws from which they can logically deduce a perfect way to order the world, God could not be perfect.

The first thing those of us who live outside of this closed system of thought and belief need to realize is that, however inadequate we believe their faith to be, these people have a strong faith.   Those who accept their initial presupposition receive a worldview that gives life a clear and unambiguous meaning, has logical consistency, and answers a psychological need for order and certainty.  

If they were content to live out their faith within their own ecclesial communities, they would pose no threat to those who are unwilling or unable to live by their presuppositions.  Christian Reconstructionists, however, are not content to exercise their faith within their own communities.   They believe they have been commanded by God to establish their understanding of God's order over the entire earth and to exercise dominion over all peoples.  That is why it is important for us to understand their thought, to expose its fallacies, and to find ways to encourage its adherents to deepen their faith in God and grow in their understanding of the ways that God relates to mankind.

When Wyclif wrote of his English Bible that "This Bible is for the government of the people, by the people, and for the people," his statement attracted no attention insofar as his emphasis on the centrality of Biblical law was concerned.  That law should be God's law was held by all;

Rushdoony begins  with a quote that presupposes the centrality of the the Bible for government.  He then equates the Bible with the law.

He quotes from a time that preceded both the English civil war and the American Revolution --before a number of the most significant and  foundational developments in modern constitutional law and jurisprudence.

Some of those developments arose as measures to reduce conflict over religious beliefs.  As history has proven, even when people believed that "law should be God's law," they could not agree on which laws of God were binding on nations other than Israel.

by Mainstream Baptist on Thu Apr 20, 2006 at 06:22:00 PM EST

Your intended series probably has no precedent : A weblog series on The Institutes of Biblical Law !

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It would be helpful to identify these separately from other posts.

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by shaka22 on Thu Apr 18, 2019 at 02:01:03 AM EST
Parent that in the 1980s they came out said 'the Bible is inerrant with 16 exceptions'.

To quote Dr. Cecil Sherman, "if I say I'm faithful to my wife with 16 exceptions, will she be happy?"

I'm unnerved when I visit fundamentalist church websites and click "Doctrinal Statements", and the Bible is addressed before God.

I'm a Christian - not a Biblian.

by njwhite on Thu Apr 20, 2006 at 08:54:19 PM EST

I've learned to look for these statements when examining a congregation or organization- the ones who list the Bible above God or Christ are generally what I call 'bibolators', and worship the book above God. They are also very legalistic and fear-filled.

"Biblian". I like that.

by Lorie Johnson on Thu Apr 20, 2006 at 09:54:47 PM EST

When demons or evil spirits are confronted in movies, fiction, etc... Many times they are confronted by legal jargon to confuse or stall the evil spirits intent. (The Exorcist movie seemed to have a lot abstract verbal contracts and agreements...)

Art is life/life is art... Just maybe, perhaps... a lot of these Biblio-fundamentalist types are influenced by Rod Sterling, Alfred Hitchcock... It seems most of the ideas of Hell comes from sources outside the bible. (Dante's Inferno.) So why not steal art and quotes from movies or books etc... It seems to be trendy nowadays.

(If I hear Stay the Course one more @$&%!^$ time from a Rightist political member I am going to puke all over my copy of The Patriot movie.)

This just gave me an idea for a topic...

by inlikeflint on Fri May 12, 2006 at 06:46:48 PM EST

Ten years or so ago I sat in a conference which had R. J. as the featured speaker, although R. J.'s style in his old age was that of a very tired college professor. However the sermon that caught my attention was that of Charles McIllhaney (sic) pastor of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in San Francisco and author of Capturing a City for Christ who preached on and on about 5 presupposition that one must accept to in order to be a good Christian.

by JerrySloan on Fri Apr 21, 2006 at 04:03:45 AM EST

I believe that the INERRANCY issue is crucial and needs to be examined and discredited in the eyes of mainstream America, not to destroy religion, but to protect our civic laws and culture. The author of MISQUOTING JESUS went from a moderate Christian to a Fundamentalist to an Agnostic after researching and isolating so many errors, discrepencies and outright edits done thousands of times during the centuries these books were hand copied. The concept of the inerrant word of God is the single most important first part of any debate or dialouge with a Christian, and from a logical point of view it's also silly and even banal. In fact, I prefer to leave the bible out entirely when it comes to the issue of governance - as did the founding fathers who authored the Constitution.

The reality is that, when it comes to governance in America, the Bible is irrelevant, whomever its author(s).

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