Inerrancy and Worldview: Modern Challenges to Inerrancy (Part 29)

inerrancyYour mind is not your own. That is to say that your mind is influenced by all sorts of other factors, each contributing at some level to your thought processes and cognitive formulations. As we dive into the tensions between modern psychology and the doctrine of inerrancy it’s important to establish this foundational principle regarding our minds. The mind is not in isolation.

Our minds, though they are ours, are influenced by a variety of variables in our world. We are influenced by other social beings, we are in communion with other people, and we are open to God’s influence too. We tend, in the west, to think of all things in very individualistic terms. We choose what we want to do, what we want to believe, what we like based solely on our own desires, impulses, and intellects. Such an approach, however, to the cognitive process is simply reductionist. We are always being influenced by other things and other people. This is a foundational principle to building a proper psychology.

In particular we have been influenced by sin. The noetic effect of sin means that our minds have been impacted by the Fall and are subject to the contamination of sinful desires, impulses, and justifications. Our cognitive process is not free from impurity. This means too that pure objectivity is a philosophical and theological impossibility. We cannot approach subject in a purely unbiased way.

Often people critique the Scriptures for its circular reasoning. That is the Bible itself claims to be inerrant and therefore Christians conclude it is inerrant. But such, critics will say, is circular reasoning. The failure here however is that such critics think they are beyond such circular reasoning. They believe they approach the subject more objectively. John Frame points out that there is simply no alternative to circularity. He writes:

No system can avoid circularity, because all systems (as we have seen) – non-Christian as well as Christian – are based on presuppositions that control their epistemologies, argumentation, and use of evidence. Thus a rationalist can prove the primacy of reason only by using a rational argument. An empiricist can prove the primacy of sense-experience only by some kind of appeal to sense-experience. A Muslim can prove the primacy of the Koran only by appealing to the Koran. But if all systems are circular in that way, then such circularity can hardly be urged against Christianity. The critic will inevitably be just as “guilty” of circularity as the Christian is. (The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, 130).

No one approaches things with the kind of objectivity that most of us think about when we use the word. Objectivity of the purist kind is simply not possible for us as human beings. When we think rightly about our cognitive influences we can see this and admit it.

As we continue to wrestle with the relationship between modern psychology and the Christina claims to Biblical inerrancy we need to start with an honest acknowledgement of our cognitive relationship to the world around us. We are highly influenced by sin, by other people, and even by God himself. He acts on the mind, the Spirit enlightens the mind (1 Cor. 2:10-16). We are influenced too by demonic forces (2 Cor. 4:3-4). All of this reminds us to be humble about our mental abilities, particularly about our capability of approach a subject with complete objectivity. We’ll talk more about this next week, but needless to say resolving the tension between modern psychology and Scripture requires us to begin with humility. Your mind is not your own.

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