Through the Westminster Confession. God's Word in Human Words: Baker March Reviewed by S. Baugh When the evangelical movement began not so very long ago, its one, defining doctrine that unified people from diverse ecclesiastical backgrounds was belief in the inerrancy of the Bible. Kenton Sparks, a Bible professor at Eastern University, joins a number of people who for some reason want to retain their evangelical identity and yet deny the Bible's inerrancy.
This is not particularly new, since Sparks's book essentially represents the "limited inerrancy" position taken by Jack Rogers and Donald McKim almost 30 years ago The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible, with similarities also with James Barr's Fundamentalism see pp. Dunn's Unity and Diversity in the New Testament ; 3d ed. Kenton Sparks does not label his own position "limited inerrancy" more or less an oxymoron , and he updates Rogers and McKim by grounding his own thesis about the Bible's supposed errancy in contemporary postmodern hermeneutical theories which emphasize the roll of the reader in the interpretive process and human fallibility as agents and receptors of communication.
God is inerrant, we are told, but he has spoken through human authors who because of their "finitude and fallenness" necessarily produced a flawed biblical text pp. By floating this sucker punch, Sparks hopes to block criticism of his stance, especially when he tries to enlist the church fathers and reformers, especially Calvin, as his allies see esp. His insights into the way in which evangelicals have either ignored or brushed aside critical biblical scholarship are accurate and based on first-hand observation. The Author Kenton L. Law, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament "Sparks takes up the fundamental issues of OT exegesis in light of contemporary archaeology, historical criticism, literary genres, the hermeneutics of divine discourse, and Christian theology, and weaves a tight argument for seeking the meaning of God's biblical word precisely through the application of all these methods.
God is inerrant, we are told, but he has spoken through human authors who because of their "finitude and fallenness" necessarily produced a flawed biblical text pp. Sparks does not tell us how we can be certain that God is inerrant. If he were right, one must accept that the biblical authors were possibly in error when they portray God as inerrant. The "errors" in the Bible which Sparks confidently posits extends from the geocentric "phenomenological" perspective of biblical authors to classic problems raised by historical criticism over the last several centuries.
This has led him to believe in the Bible's disunity as he says here: He uses "theologies" here and elsewhere for social or ethical teachings and two of his main concerns are slavery and egalitarian women's issues. Any decent solution to the problems presented by modern biblical criticism will need to explain how the Bible can be trusted as an authoritative text when it reflects diverse theological perspectives, which differ not only from one another but also from our modern theological judgments on matters like slavery" p.
Notice in the previous quote that the Bible must conform to our "modern theological judgments. This is the heart of the Enlightenment program and its assaults on the Scriptures over the centuries. By accepting this critical stance, Sparks feels free to adopt more modern views he perceives to be compatible with a "minority voice" in Scripture; see especially pp.
People who know the history of Western philosophy and critical scholarship will be surprised to learn though that an evangelical view of biblical inerrancy is itself based on "Enlightenment thinking" p. By floating this sucker punch, Sparks hopes to block criticism of his stance, especially when he tries to enlist the church fathers and reformers, especially Calvin, as his allies see esp. To accomplish his thesis Sparks--also the author of a bibliography on Pentateuch scholarship--displays a fairly wide reading in the works of critical scholars.
In fact, that is the one thing at which he excels. He also reports on some counter-arguments of a few prominent evangelical scholars like Kenneth Kitchen, D. Carson and Craig Blomberg, though he is unconvinced by their work. Sparks and his critical companions, in contrast to "very conservative evangelicals" p. He does not seem to consider that for some of us, our 'slavish fixation' with inerrancy has arisen after intimate acquaintance with various rigid mainline and radical views.
In this book, Sparks comes across as a devoted apologist for the critics. For instance, he says: Yet his declaration seems particularly curious since we live at a time when critical scholars are deeply divided and unsettled. In their candid moments, the moguls of the critical establishment admit to the utter failure of their "science" to produce any kind of consensus and are concerned about "the spreading disillusionment" with their whole program and its dwindling audience.
This is the time when excellent biblical scholarship from an inerrancy perspective may gain headway with students who are not a priori charmed by the dogmatism of the old historical criticism and its "standard critical conclusions. I can appreciate Sparks's impressive array of footnotes and bibliography into secondary literature and his no-doubt sincere effort to maintain his evangelical ties.
He undoubtedly sees his position as a fresh middle way and hopes it will preserve a supposedly errant Bible as an authoritative guide to our theology.
But I have grave doubts because we've seen it all before, and this book has some glaring failings even as a critical work. While Sparks affirms, "I have allowed Scripture itself to set the agenda for my theology of Scripture" p. How he would handle biblical texts which bear directly or by implication on these subjects would have been illuminating. Instead Sparks describes certain "problems" of Scripture in a passing fashion through the old historical critical lenses.
For example, he briefly discusses the book of Hebrews--whose author he considers to be a Platonist p. The author even employed the Platonic technical term antitypos 'antitype' in his arguments see Heb. For Sparks this means that the biblical authors themselves are unsafe guides for interpretation so that our modern theological conviction must often develop independent of them.
Yet Hebrews, as has often been observed, has little to do with Plato except for those desperate to find parallels. All who are interested in these questions can benefit from his learned discussion. Gibbs, Review of Biblical Literature "Many will benefit from Sparks's contribution to a vital conversation. His insights into the way in which evangelicals have either ignored or brushed aside critical biblical scholarship are accurate and based on first-hand observation. The course Sparks suggests to correct these inadequacies would have profound implications not only for evangelical biblical scholarship but for an evangelical doctrine of Scripture.
The most helpful points in this book regarding the inadequacy of evangelical responses to biblical criticism and the inadequate evangelical view of Scripture will undoubtedly be the most debated by conservative evangelicals. Yet these points demonstrate why this book is necessary.
If evangelicalism is going to claim to take Scripture seriously or to hold a high view of Scripture, it must take into account the results of critical biblical scholarship and the reality of the humanity of Scripture. Behind this book stands impressively wide reading. Much of it is in areas most familiar to Sparks: In fact, he probably covered more ancillary ground for this book than some OT scholars will cover outside their fields in their entire careers.
God's Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship [Kenton L. Sparks] on grapplingindo.com *FREE* shipping on qualifying. Editorial Reviews. From the Back Cover. "Finally, a fresh, creative, carefully nuanced approach God's Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship - Kindle edition by The conclusions of critical biblical scholarship often pose a disconcerting challenge to traditional Christian faith.
This range and command of information is admirable and beneficial. Sparks is moved by justified concerns regarding hyper-conservative anti-intellectual approaches to Scripture. I commend Sparks's patience in wrestling with and assimilating the views of so many scholars who would in all frankness see no legitimacy in the post-traditional Christian faith he espouses. In that sense Sparks has in many cases modelled the openness to criticism he calls for. Yarbrough, Themelios "[Sparks's] major mechanisms for reconciling the Bible's fallible humanness with its divine inerrancy are: Sparks spends considerable time working out the theological implications of his theory, applying it to particular biblical and theological problems.
Unlike some similar discussions, this book is generally charitable, well-argued, and clear.
It is likely to define the debate about the Bible among evangelicals for the foreseeable future. No seminary professor and student can afford to neglect this book. Bauder, Religious Studies Review "Sparks offers a thorough and thoughtful discussion of how evangelicals might embrace both traditional convictions about Scripture and academic biblical scholarship with theological and intellectual integrity.
He addresses many of the related issues arising from the question of fidelity to Scripture and scholarship. He does so with a wide and firm knowledge of philosophical, biblical, historical, and theological resources that inform these topics and makes these resources accessible to those who would join his discussion.
Students, ministers, informed laypersons, and scholars will benefit from careful reading and discussion of this valuable resource.
Jones, Catholic Biblical Quarterly "Throughout, Sparks interacts with the leading luminaries in the evangelical scholarly world and repeatedly demonstrates the fallacies and facileness of many of the standard responses to historical criticism. Sparks also addresses the epistemological and hermeneutical issues involved when one approaches critical views, and then integrates these conclusions with personal faith.
He has successfully demonstrated that the acceptance of historical-critical conclusions is not tantamount to an abandonment of faith. Critical scholars will find it helpful to read an informed discussion of the objections that are often raised against their work. Law, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament "Sparks takes up the fundamental issues of OT exegesis in light of contemporary archaeology, historical criticism, literary genres, the hermeneutics of divine discourse, and Christian theology, and weaves a tight argument for seeking the meaning of God's biblical word precisely through the application of all these methods.
The force of his presentation relies on a wealth of detail, and hard-headed logic. Sparks' detailed discussion has cast light on an area that continues to cause much debate within the types of conservative evangelicalism that adhere to ideas of biblical inerrancy and it would be of obvious benefit to those training in evangelical seminaries, colleges, and universities.
Evangelicals and others who reject notions of inerrancy can still find much value in this publication giv[en] it provides an insight into some highly proficient modes of evangelical scholarship and an illuminating discussion of a wide range of creditable and well-known evangelical biblical scholars. Sparks remarkably walks the fine line of approaching both the text and his readers on their own terms--which is why his work has the potential to be important. The book is clearly written and well documented, representing a wealth of resources. Sparks anticipates challenges to his thesis and articulates helpful clarifications.
This volume will be a healthy addition to discussions about the nature of Scripture and the role critical scholarship should play in the evangelical faith--both in the academy and in the church. This book is best suited for the graduate classroom and in this context it will be an invaluable conversation partner. Klein, Currents in Theology and Mission.