Belief in the Scriptures has never been popular. But even among theologians today it is uncommon. Belief in the Scriptures as the inspired, inerrant, and authoritative Word of God is considered by many to be illogical and absurd. In his book Inerrancy and Worldview Vern Poythress has persuasively argued that much of the difficulty people have with excepting the inerrancy of Scripture lies in a faulty worldview. Our assumptions about how the world works can make the belief in Scripture impossible from the outset.
Worldviews are important for this discussion. How we think about science, language, epistemology, culture, and a host of other things affect how we think about the Bible. The problem often lies in our imposing on the world of the Scriptures a completely different worldview. Poythress writes:
People come to the Bible with expectations that do not fit the Bible, and this clash becomes one main reason, though not the only one, why people do not find the Bible’s claims acceptable. (14)
Many worldviews deny God or assume his irrelevance. When people then turn around and apply these very worldviews to the Scriptures they will be disappointed with the results.
It’s a rather ludicrous thing to do: to expect the Scriptures to conform to materialist or impersonalist worldviews. The Scriptures are not written from within that context. If people find the miracles of the Bible implausible it is often because they have already assumed the implausibility of the miraculous. Their worldview does not allow for miracles and so when they press the Scriptures on this point they find it incompatible with their own assumptions. Others find difficulties with the language or the culture of the Scriptures, and again there are all sorts of assumptions being brought to bear on the Scriptures which do not fit. The way we approach the Bible, then, has significant relevance for what we take away from it.
Poythress observes that we must read the Bible from within its own personal worldview and on its own terms. He writes:
Most modern worldviews differ at crucial points from the worldview offered in the Bible. When we come to the Bible and try to listen to its claims, we can easily misjudge those claims if we hear them only from within the framework of our own modern assumptions. Letting the Bible speak for itself, that is, letting it speak in its own terms, includes letting the Bible speak from within its own worldview rather than merely our own. (21)
Often objections to the Scriptures are not rooted in actual definciencies in the Scriptures themselves. Someone may “reject the Bible not because the Bible does not make sense on its own terms, but because he is not reading it on its own terms” (24). Imposing our own worldview and our own agenda onto the Bible sets us up for misunderstanding it, and thereby rejecting it.
The key difference, as Poythress explains it, is in the impersonalism at the root of so much modern thinking. The Bible operates on the assertion that God is personal and has created a world consistent with his personalism. As we look at the concept of inerrancy throughout this series I will want to continually point to this key dimension to the Scriptural worldview. The worldview we assume when we come to the Scriptures has dramatic implications for our understanding and acceptance of the content of Scripture. We must be willing to read the Bible from within its own worldview if we are going to make any fair judgment of it.