14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2012
Poythress, Vern Sheridan. Inerrancy and Worldview: Answering Modern Challenges to the Bible. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012. 271 pages, paperback.*
Dr. Vern Poythress is a prolific author, writing on a wide variety of subjects from hermeneutics, theological method, the relationship between Christ and the OT Law, sociology, science, linguistics, and others, including a forthcoming book on inerrancy in the Gospels and what looks to be a massive book on the study of logic. His latest book, Inerrancy and Worldview, is essentially a synthesis of his former works, as the majority of his footnotes reference his other works for further details and explication, and as Poythress notes in a footnote, all of his works relate in some way to biblical interpretation (p. 15).
In this new work, Poythress sets out to defend the traditional notion of Biblical inerrancy. But what is different about this work is that Poythress does not devote his work as a negative and critical response to recent works attacking inerrancy. Rather, Poythress seeks to develop a positive response by showing that many of the challenges to inerrancy are rooted in a worldview that opposes the Biblical worldview (p. 14, 21).
After the preface and introduction, Poythress begins with two brief chapters on common religious difficulties: exclusivism and morality being a strait jacket. Poythress shows how these difficulties are wrapped up in one's worldview, which Poythress says is the fundamental key for understanding the various challenges and difficulties that people have with the Bible.
After these brief chapters, Poythress discusses a variety of challenges to the Bible, with all the sections beginning with the word, "Challenges..."
Challenges from Science and Materialism
In these chapters Poythress helpfully shows that the challenges from science and materialism are often rooted in an impersonal worldview that excludes God from the very beginning. In fact, Poythress demonstrates that when it comes down to Biblical and non-Biblical worldviews, the essential difference is between a personal and impersonal worldview, which he develops throughout the remainder of the book.
Challenges from History
Continuing with the theme of personalism vs. impersonalism, Poythress briefly sketches the challenges of history, especially the historical-critical school of thought. And Poythress notes that in this tradition, miracles are excluded as something that really happened. But again, Poythress shows that the denial of miracles presupposes an impersonalistic worldview where there is no God or where God does not intervene in the world.
Challenges about Language
In these chapters Poythress discusses language and linguistics. Poythress draws heavily from his previous work on language showing that language is rooted in the Triune God. And many of the challenges about language, such as in postmodern or historicist thought, assume that language is impersonal or that people are trapped within culturally-bound expressions of language.
Challenges from Sociology and Anthropology
In these chapters Poythress talks about attacks made against the Bible by those who say that the Bible is a product of its time, trapped within the confines of its surrounding cultural milieu. But again, this all presupposes that absence of God and an impersonalistic cultural prison.
Challenges from Psychology
In these chapters Poythress discusses human cognition as well as Biblical inspiration. Again, a personal worldview is rooted in the Trinity, while an impersonal worldview assumes the absence of God. Poythress has some great thoughts on how truth is rooted in God and the implications for how we as humans discover truth and discern special revelation by the aid of the Holy Spirit.
Challenges from Examples
This section contains a smattering of examples drawn from technical scientific vs. ordinary language, alleged contradictions in the Bible, and similarities between the Bible and other ancient Near Eastern cultures related to laws and proverbs. Here again, Poythress emphasizes that our God is personal, not impersonal, and so we should not be surprised, for example, to see laws that contain overlap with other cultures because of the common grace that God shows to all.
Challenges from Our Attitudes and Challanges from Corrupt Spirituality
In these final two sections, Poythress goes were many writers are hesitant to go, because Poythress turns the tables and shows that all of these objections to the Bible are not simply "academic" issues devoid of our own personal involvement and commitments, rather our own sin and corruption play a part in various issues and difficulties we have with the Bible. I highly recommend these chapters for the insights Poythress gives about our own gullability, pride, and attraction to counterfeit truths.
In a little over 200+ pages, Poythress paints with a broad stroke of the brush, showing that various areas of challenges and difficulties are rooted in two competing worldviews: personalism and impersonalism. Almost all of the chapters are between 3-10 pages, so they are brief and to the point, essentially providing thumbnail sketches about these various areas and disciplines, and so the reader will need to consult Poythress' other works for more elaboration and detail.
However, I would highly recommend this book for the positive emphasis he places on addressing these challenges from a worldview perspective.
*Review copy provided by Crossway
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I will begin my review of "Inerrancy and Worldview" by Vern Poythress with a couple admissions concerning my own worldview. First, I consider myself to be a moderate presuppositionalist in my apologetics (although I see a certain value in an evidentialist approach as well). Second, I believe in biblical inerrancy when it is properly qualified (as it is in the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, to which Poythress alludes on several occasions in his book). In other words, Poythress and I are pretty much on the same page in these regards.
After reading his book I was torn between giving it a five-star or a four-star rating. On the one hand, Poythress does an excellent job of defending the thesis that our attitude toward the Bible and whether its alleged contradictions can be resolved will depend on our worldview, and that as Christians we must begin with the assumption that there are no contradictions and must therefore find ways to resolve different accounts (particularly in the Synoptics but also elsewhere) unless there is no way to do so. To put this in its most basic terms, the Bible is innocent (free of contradictions) unless proven guilty. (If we assume guilt beforehand we will come away with a guilty verdict.) Furthermore, God in his wisdom and providence has provided multiple and sometimes differing accounts of certain events to enrich our understanding and increase our insight into what these events can teach us about God and his dealings with human beings.
On the other hand, I found Poythress's handling of a couple issues rather disappointing. First, his dismissal of the Synoptic Problem (i.e., the issue of dependency of one Gospel on another and the issue of a Q source) as being largely irrelevant to resolving differences in parallel accounts to be far too quick (possibly even glib). As I looked at the examples he gives of various parallel passages where there are differences it occurred to me on several occasions that how we resolve the Synoptic Problem will bear heavily on the particular way in which we handle the apparent discrepancies. (For example, to know whether Matthew borrowed from Mark or vice versa--or whether they wrote independently of each other--might well shed significant insight on what the resolution of the discrepancy might be.)
Second, I felt that he significantly underestimated the problem that arises with the Gadarene demoniac(s) and the blind man (or men) at Jericho where we have one Synopticist claiming that there are two individuals and the other Synopticists claiming that there are one. While there is no formal inconsistency between the two accounts (as Poythress rightly points out), there is a strong assumption when an account specifically mentions that one person has been healed that the author intends that we understand that one and not two people are involved. To take an example from daily life, suppose that we read in the newspaper that a gunman entered a building and began firing on its occupants. Wouldn't we take this to imply that there was a lone gunman and not two, even if the newspaper didn't specifically say that there was just one? Is it any different in the Synoptic accounts of the Gadarene demoniac and the blind man at Jericho? Once again it strikes me that Poythress's solution that mentioning just one is not formally inconsistent with there being more than one is far too simplistic.
Finally, although this is not a problem on the order of the two aforementioned issues, I found Poythress's rather lengthy and pedantic defense of the Bible's use of paraphrase and partial quotation (particularly of OT passages by NT writers) to be belaboring the obvious. That NT writers don't always quote a passage word for word or give a speech in its entirety but sometimes paraphrase or give a synopsis is hardly the major stumbling block for those who deny inerrancy.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2012
Inerrancy and Worldview is the latest book from Vern Poythress. It is meant to be part of a new trilogy of books centered around challenges to the inerrancy of the Bible (the next book in the series, Inerrancy and the Gospels, is due out in October).
Poythress' book thoughtfully explores the numerous reasons why many people (Christians included) balk at the idea that the Bible is inerrant. Poythress defines inerrant as meaning "it is completely true in what it says, and makes no claims that are not true." He points out that attacks are multi-faceted: "some of the voices directly attack inerrancy. Others redefine it" (13).
And so the book is aimed at those who would attack inerrancy. Obviously, a book which covered merely objections to inerrancy would be incredibly long, and so Poythress aims at something more modest - and unique. "We will concentrate here on difficulties that have ties with the differences in worldview" (14).
At a basic apologetic level, this work is wholly presuppositional in its approach. Poythress never deigns to pretend the Bible may or may not be the word of God. He acknowledges that it is, and then proceeds to diagnose what is wrong with the skeptic - not the Bible. "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."
Poythress interacts with a range of challenges from a worldview perspective: challenges from materialism, history, language, sociology, anthropology, psychology, perceived contradictions, challenges from our attitudes, and also from our own corrupt spirituality. Some of the most helpful work is done when Poythress utilizes Van Til's personalism vs. impersonalism distinction to answer the 'problem' of miracles. What Poythress does most skillfully is to demonstrate that each and every argument against inerrancy begins with precommitments which distort one's evaluation of inerrancy. The skeptic, for example, perceives contradictions in the text because he does not believe that God speaks through the Scriptures with a unified voice. He has worldview commitments which preclude possible solutions to perceived contradictions in the text.
Modernists have issues with the exclusivity of the Christian faith, as well as complaining of the Bible being a sort of 'moral straitjacket.' Even liberal 'Christians' have issues with inerrancy related to a host of beliefs which Poythress demonstrates to be unbiblical. There's something here for every branch of unbelief - Christian and non-Christian alike.
The author has no illusions that this book is a one-size-fits-all case for inerrancy. It is not meant to be. It is specifically targeted towards dealing with unbelief at its root, not at its branches. He acknowledges repeatedly that sin is the root of the problems people have with the Bible. In the footnotes he frequently points readers to more substantive books on different subjects where issues can be explored further while plainly refusing to follow rabbit trails (even very attractive ones that would enrich the chapter) - a type of restraint I hope to learn someday.
I admire this book as a specially focused apologetic tool. It is thoroughly presuppositional, uncompromising, and refreshingly plain to read. I would not hesitate to put it in the hands of a believer who is struggling through inerrancy, but I do think there are better books, generally speaking, for unbelievers trying to discern if the Bible is what it claims to be. It wouldn't hurt for those peripherally interested to simply read the chapters related to their own bugaboos. Also, I think the appendix (discussing the human authors of the Bible and their place in an inerrant text) is worth the price of admission alone.
20 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2012
The central thesis of Vern Poythress's Inerrancy and Worldview is that "modern people" challenge the authority of Scripture by bringing presuppositions from a materialistic worldview to its pages. That is, modern people, or those who think the Bible is errant, read it through the lens of an "impersonalistic" view of natural laws, moral properties, and regularities in thought and speech. Poythress guides the reader through topics such as the natural sciences, sociology, linguistics, historical criticism, and cognitive psychology so as to demonstrate how an impersonalistic worldview affects modern thinking, and hence the handling of Scripture as an errant human text. The antidote to this state of affairs, he says, is to recast these disciplines along the lines of a "personalistic" worldview, which envisages our lawlike world of regularity as one that is upheld by God's sustaining word. In short, given the reality of a personal God, we should expect an inerrant Bible. Along the way, he addresses certain challenges to particular problem passages and admonishes readers to take account of their spiritual pride that might hinder one's reading of Scripture.
If one is looking for a general overview of how materialistic thinking affects various disciplines (assuming he has represented them fairly) and the conclusions drawn from them, one might find Poythress's book helpful. But if one is looking for a defense of inerrancy, one should look elsewhere. In my estimation, this book woefully falls short of a robust defense of inerrancy, because the assumption of a personalist worldview is not sufficient for believing in an inerrant Bible.
Perhaps Poythress only intends to show that a impersonalistic worldview is sufficient to undermine inerrancy, and that a personalistic one is necessary for upholding it. If this is the case, then his argument is rather trivial. Everyone knows that if materialism is true, the Bible errs, and that the Bible is inerrant only if God exists. But I suspect, Poythress is up to something different, namely showing the reader that, despite confessing a personalistic worldview, one might inadvertently imbibe impersonal presuppositions at work in the disciplines that furnish challenges to inerrancy. Even if this is the case, however, he gives is no good reason to believe the Bible is inerrant.
Why think he gives is no good reason to believe the Bible is inerrant? Because one can affirm all that Poythress wants us to affirm-namely that God exists as a personal subject in whom all truth, beauty, and goodness are rooted-and still deny inerrancy. Consider this argument that I will put in the fictional mouth of Bob:
 God exists and is morally perfect.
 Therefore, God would not command one nation to exterminate all the members of another nation.
 The Bible claims that God commanded one nation to exterminate all the members of another nation.
 Therefore, what the Bible claims about God is false.
 If what the Bible claims about God is false, then the Bible is not inerrant.
 Therefore, Bible is not inerrant.
Whether or not one agrees with all the premises of Bob's argument is beside the point; Poythress shows no awareness of the fact that one of the strongest arguments for the errancy of Scripture faced by Christians today is entirely compatible with a personalistic worldview.
To be sure, the response to Bob would be to charge him with putting the judgments of unaided human reason above the judgments of Scripture and that the truthfulness of premise  ought to be challenged. This would be no surprise as Poythress, following Van Til, presupposes that the Bible is inerrant; to argue for the authority of Scripture without appealing to it would be to undermine it. Bob might reasonably think this just amounts to begging the question, but the response will be that everyone begs the question at some point, since everyone has to posit some ultimate authority by which truth values are judged. Suppose this is right: what should we make of this? As far as I can see, the dialectic amounts to another instance of one man's modus ponens being another man's modes tollens; thus neither Bob nor Poythress are more rational or irrational than the other. But stalemates do not result in victory. In any case, affirming a personalistic worldview is insufficient for establishing biblical inerrancy.
Here ends my main complaint with the book. Other complaints are relatively minor, but worth noting. Poythress spends four chapters interpreting Psalm 86:8, which obliquely refers to "gods" other than YHWH, as a text that does not affirm the existence of any such "gods." Why does this matter? Apparently, this is some great challenge posed by Peter Enns who thinks that the ancient Israelites were probably polytheistic. Poythress develops a complex line of response that incorporates the broader context of the passage, and themes developed later on in the canon, all of which is fair and reasonable. But as I was reading this section I kept wondering, "So what if the psalter thought there were other gods?' That doesn't mean there are any, because the psalter's theological beliefs do not determine the fact of the matter." If inerrancy is at stake, then why not interpret it conditionally, "If there are other gods, YHWH is greater than all of them and therefore he alone is worthy of worship?" Logically, this comes out true if other "gods" exist or not.
One final complaint is the self-referential character of the book. Poythress references himself and his other works no less than 68 times! Thus the reader is deprived of primary resources that might better establish or represent his claims, particularly with respect to other disciplines. If the reader should be directed to his books on science, sociology and linguistics so often, why not just read those instead? Perhaps Inerrancy and Worldview is intended to be a more accessible introduction to lay people, but I maintain it is too truncated of a work to be helpful to them.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2012
Having read Poythress' Redeeming Sociology, I came into this book with high expectations. His writing style has a way of challenging me intellectually, while keeping the pace of reading moving right along; a sort of literary attraction of sorts.
I can say honestly that this text does not disappoint.
For me (and remember, I'm entitled to my own opinion, though for some you may feel like I'm over-stretching a bit), this book felt like a cross between Tim Keller's Reason for God and any John Piper book (say, Desiring God, for reference). Poythress tackles apologetic content (from Science to materialism, history to literature, sociology to our innate sin-nature) in a fresh, Bible-saturated approach (very little is said without support of the Bible, which, in a piece on inerrancy, is a refreshing facet).
I leave you with a high recommendation and a brief excerpt which I feel sets the tone for the text:
"The Bible has much to say about God and about how we can come to know him. What it says is deeply at odds with much of the thinking in the modern world. And this fundamental difference generates differences in many other areas--differences in people's whole view of the world. Modern world views are at odds with the worldview put forward in the Bible. This difference in world views creates obstacles when modern people read and study the Bible. 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... The challenge of interpreting the Bible has may dimensions and many challenges.. We focus here on issues involving response to our modern situation." (p.14-15)
I pray that if this topic, or Poythress' writing style, inerrancy, christian worldview, apologetics, and/or hermeneutics are in any degree interesting to you, that you will take some time to dive into this text. I feel like you will not be disappointed in the slightest.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes by Crossway Publishing. I was not required to post a positive review and the views expressed in this review are my own.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2012
There have been many books published over the past few decades defending the concept of biblical inerrancy. These titles often reflect a biblically robust apologetic for the trustworthiness of Scripture. Yet, these volumes tend to repeat a specific set of arguments over and over. Vern Poythress has published a new book entitled Inerrancy and Worldview that breaks out of the old mold.
Poythress sets out to readjust the debate of inerrancy to fundamental worldview questions. This is an interesting approach. While he discusses some classic points of contention regarding biblical inerrancy, Poythress genuinely breaks new ground in defending the trustworthiness of Scripture. This book is a volume that any and all who seek to understanding objections to inerrancy should read. Vern Poythress masterfully unpacks specific worldview assumptions that underly varying objections to the inspiration, accuracy, and authority of Scripture.
Written in a readable and easy-to-digest manner, Inerrancy and Worldview is a much-needed addition to any and all apologetic libraries. Destined to be a modern classic on the topic, Poythress has produced a volume examining an old debate from a new perspective. Add this to your summer reading list!
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2012
This was an interesting read. In recent months I have noticed myself slipping more and more into a secular mindset which brought me to seriously question inerrancy. This was not so much and academic questioning so much as it was just general skepticism as I began to slip into the more secular mindset. Thankfully, not only have I had the input of a good friend, but I have now read this book. Inerrancy and Worldview is meant to build a "positive" case for inerrancy, as opposed to what might be called a "negative" case, where the biblical difficulties are explained (see The Big Book of Bible Difficulties). I would say that it is mostly a success, and is definitely worth the read!
The book is outlined as such:
Challenges from Science and Materialism
Challenges from History
Challenges about Language
Challenges from Sociology and Anthropology
Challenges from Psychology
Challenges from Examples
Challenges from Our Attitudes
Challenges from Corrupt Spirituality
Appendix: Human Authors of the Bible
First the positives:
This book helped to remind me not to fall into a secular or modern mindset when coming to the Bible. That seems to be something that I cycle in and out of, but after reading this book I hope that I will be more sturdy in this area. Poythress does a pretty good job of building his case, and it was all around a very positive experience to read this book and reflect upon my own worldview.
I feel like this book is mainly a response to Peter Enns' recent book "The Evolution of Adam," and that's not a bad thing. While I did thoroughly enjoy Enns' book, I was unnerved by the very secular feel that it had, and this book was exactly what I needed in response!
The best part of the book was near the end (chapters 27-36) in the sections "Challenges from Our Attitudes" and "Challenges from Corrupt Spirituality" plus the appendix. I found that the personal reflection was very challenging and thought provoking, as he challenged my pride and view of truth. I would recommend this book even if these were the only chapters.
Then the negatives:
This book suffers from the way it distinguishes chapters from sections. For example, the section "Challenges from History" could easily be a chapter (as could all sections), but instead it is split into an entire section. In other words, the way that chapters are split makes the book awkward. I think that whoever the editor of this book was should be fired for not telling Poythress to reform his sections into chapters. Every time that there was a build up to the point where something significant or a major point should have been, there was a chapter break. Eventually I got used to this, but at the outset it was really difficult to read (I know it sounds silly, but it really wasn't). So I would suggest that before Poythress releases Inerrancy and the Gospels that he update the new book so that this problem is avoided.
I recommend this book!
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2012
If you are looking for a book on biblical inerrancy, this isn't it. The author barely touches on the subject of biblical inerrancy. Even the subtitle, "Answering Modern Challenges to the Bible" is misleading, because Poythress fails to address or even mention modern challenges to biblical inerrancy.
Poythress almost totally ignores the current Christian literature on biblical inerrancy, except for Peter Enns' "Inspiration and Incarnation." There is no mention of or interaction with Christian Smith's "The Bible Made Impossible" or Kenton Spark's "God's Word in Human Words" or Carlos Bovell's "Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Authority of Scripture" or Scot McKnight's "The Blue Parakeet," all of which were published prior to 2012. So much for "answering modern challenges to the Bible."
When he does discuss inerrancy, he focuses on a 110-year old definition of the historical-critical tradition and fails to even mention the grammatical-historical method of biblical interpretation.
When discussing days of creation, Poythress proposes the mature creation (apparent age) theory in this book and refers to chapters 5-10 of his book "Redeeming Science," in which he appeared to support analogical days of creation.
In his discussion of miracles, Poythress makes no reference to John Polkinghorne or Denis Edwards or Keith Ward or Thomas Tracy or Robert John Russell or any other current Christian thinkers on divine action.
Chapters 8-30 & 32-35 are many words that say very little about biblical inerrancy. After Chapter 7, only chapter 31 finally gets back on the topic of inerrancy.
There is a lot of worthwhile material in this book, just not much about biblical inerrancy. It needs a more accurate title and subtitle.
11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2012
Inerrancy and Worldview is one of the latest apologetic attempts to cushion the doctrine of inerrancy against its challengers. Poythress takes a unique approach in this volume by defending the doctrine of inerrancy by differentiating between an impersonalistic (basically synonymous with materialism) and personalistic (theism as presented in the Bible) worldview. Poythress then demonstrates how these competing worldviews are utilized in producing radically different results with regards to the Bible's authority. The impersonalistic worldview producing conclusions that essentially undermine the doctrine of inerrancy and the personalistic worldview supposedly affirming it. One of the main reasons I feel that this book failed to make its case was for the fact that Poythress seems almost oblivious to the fact that there are many (many) Christians who champion a personalistic worldview alongside him but still find inerrancy untenable (such as me). Although this is a big fault I find with this book there were many other poor arguments that I feel the need to illuminate.
Poythress seems to employ circular reasoning on almost every page. In fact, in the only chapter where Poythress attempts to demonstrate why inerrancy should be derived as a theological doctrine he utilizes circular reasoning to make his case. On page 205 he states that "the Bible is the written word of God". He says this because "God is truthful and what he says is true, [therefore] the Bible is true". So, why is the Bible true? Because it claims to be the written word of God. And how do we know it is in fact the written word of God? Because it says so! But Poythress seem to be oblivious to the fact that this is exactly what non-inerrantists are disputing! You cannot solve the problem by appealing to the very medium that is in question. This position also begs the question of why Poythress doesnt also take the Koran to be the word of God since it claims it for itself as well. Especially since the personalistic worldview that Poythress champions in this book could be used to defend the Koran from the same attacks.
Another example of circular reasoning occurs on pages 96 and 119 (they both argue almost the exact same thing). Poythress asks how we identify God's special revelation and redeeming acts in history. His answer? From God's "verbal revelation before and after the events" and "through the work of his Holy Spirit opening our eyes to receive the evidence". So, how do we identify God's special revelation and redeeming acts in history? By the Holy Spirit (which is revelation in itself) and verbal revelation! So, revelation is utilized to prove revelation! This, once again, becomes special pleading in favor of the Bible. Why cant the Koran or the Book of Mormon use revelation to prove it's revelation?
With regards to the OT laws given through Moses verses the other human laws in the ancient Near East (ANE) Poythress claims that the reason many of the ANE laws are so similar to the Divine Law is due to "common grace". Nevertheless, Poythress states, the ANE laws are inferior to the Law given by Moses. The problem with the assumption that the Divine Law was given by God is that in many instances the surrounding ANE laws are more humane and morally acceptable that the supposed laws given by God. For example, in Deuteronomy 21:18-21 it's ordered that a rebellious son be stoned to death, no questions asked. There is an incredibly similar scenario in the Code of Hammurabi 168 and 169 (which predate the Law of Moses by centuries). In these laws the rebellious son is first asked to be forgiven! If he rebels once more he is then disowned by the family. I'll leave the reader to decide which law is more humane. So how, on a view of Inerrancy, can God have given a law that was in some instances morally inferior to surrounding ANE cultures? Poythress does not address such problems.
After reading the section covering challenges about language I was extremely disappointed. I was expecting Poythress to cover one of the main problems associated with inerrancy and language-namely, interpretation. The problem interpretation poses for inerrancy is that as limited humans we can never simply go with what scripture says. We can only go with what we think scripture says. This provides problems because language as a medium leaves us with very limited knowledge. As readers we can never be certain with any interpretation and thus are very restricted in our interpretation capabilities. Especially since we can never comprehend with any certainty the author's intention, much less which meaning was intended to be attached to each word choice. Hence even if the Bible is inerrant, who's interpretation do we utilize? Thus, even if inerrancy is correct it is epistemologically useless. Also, Poythress (frequently) warns the reader against using human judgement as our guiding force when reading the Bible. However, in interpretating the Bible we must use our own human discernment whether Poythress likes it or not.
I'd prefer not to say only negative things regarding Poythress. Although I disagreed with many things in this book I still agreed with some insights (though usually these insights did not really contribute to the inerrancy discussion). Poythress does a great job of articulating insights such as the current modernist thought, corruption in the human mind, pride and how it affects our relationship with the Bible, and religious gullibility. Also, Poythress's love for Christ constantly shines through the pages which is always a positive. That being said, does Poythress defend the doctrine of inerrancy against antagonizers and subsequently render inerrancy tenable? Not really.
on July 26, 2015
I so wanted to take Poythress serious, but he is not serious. All his work is based on the same fallacious syllogism:
-The Protestant Canon is the Inspired Word of God
-The Word of God has all Authority,
-Therefore, the Assertions of the Protestant Canon are Authoritative.
"We want to explore how to obtain answers about the nature of things. But our answers will differ from most of the history of philosophy, because we are seeking answers from the Bible, rather than just trying to reason things out... Why should we listen to the Bible more than any other book? [Because] The Bible claims to be the very word of God addressed to us." Poythress, Redeeming Philosophy pg.20 Crossway 2014
NOT TRYING TO REASON THINGS OUT!
This is the methodology by which ALL his books proceed.
For Poythress philosophy and science simply amount to the assertions of the Protestant Canon.
The Protestant Canon says man was born in sin,
Therefore man cannot do philosophy or science without God.
The Protestant Canon says man was created by the Trinity,
Therefore man was created by the Trinity.
Indeed, one can easily prove this: write Poythress and ask him how he Ultimately Knows man was created by the Trinity. I can assure you he will offer you a citation from the Bible. This is not philosophy; this is not science... would Poythress accept a counter syllogism in the case of the Koran? Of course not! For Poythress the assertions of the Protestant Canon usurp all evidence and reason because he assigns them the unfounded status of having Ultimate Authority. They are beyond all falsification!
At least in the case of Bahnsen and Frame there is some kind of effort to refute objections (even though they too practice the fallacy of Poythress). But in the case of Poythress he tries to skip the philosophical interaction and jump straight to the assertions of the Protestant Canon (at least Bahnsen and Frame try to establish the authority of the Protestant Canon, albeit through the most desperate and fallacious reduction). Poythress is so taken with the premise, that the Protestant Canon has all Authority, that he doesn't see the need to do anything other than quote the Protestant Canon.
Poythress seems to think that a reference to God is the solution to every problem. This is known as the God-of-the-Gaps fallacy.
"If our thinking about reasoning needs redeeming, we are not going to be able confidently to use reasoning in the way that it has often been understood in the Western tradition. We must have a more reliable foundation. God himself is that foundation." Poythress Logic, A God-Centered Approach pg.37, Crossway 2013
Poythress insinuates (by asking difficult questions) that he is immune to the very questions he asks: he assumes that the assertion of God qualifies as a legitimate answer. He is free to establish this point (if he can!) but this is not his way; he expects the reader to presuppose his premise on the basis of blank authority.
Poythress seems to assume that he can escape autonomy (of course the real question is, what's wrong with autonomy)? The reality is that his claim to submit to God is actually an exercise in autonomy, as there is no existential way to escape autonomy!
"There are two radically different ways of understanding logic, not just one. There is the Christian way, and there is the usual modern way, which has also been the dominant way within the history of Western philosophy. The Christian way is to listen submissively to the instruction of Jesus Christ, who is the Lord of the universe. The modern way is the way of autonomy, where we treat our own human powers as ultimate when we engage in the process of evaluation."
Poythress, Logic, A God-Centered Approach pg.35
Excuse me? You mean to say we can start with something other than our human powers when we engage in the process of evaluation?
Poythress asserts that believers have a different starting point than non-believers: this is false! We all start where we have to: with ourselves and the world. In debate with Poythress (and Frame) I have demonstrated that their claim to start with something other than autonomy is false. The existential fact of existence is that they have no choice but to start with autonomy. [This is easily proven, in contrast to Poythress's theology, which is easily asserted.]
Even if there was such a thing as a Word from God it would still be necessary to start with our human powers when evaluating that Word.
I have actually debated Poythress, but he could not continue in the exchange because I shattered his authority! Poythress had no choice but to run home with his tail between his legs. He was emphatic that he wanted the exchange to remain secret. (But why not expose the stupidity of a non-believer by making an example of him; by showing that you cast down his imagination and made foolish his wisdom)? How about... because this never happened! How about... because I ended up exposing Poythress! This is why Poythress says he is really only speaking to those people who already affirm his position. He can't defend his position because it doesn't have the authority he claims (or shall we say, assumes)! I proved this in my exchange with Poythress.
Poythress says his work redeems. His work redeems nothing; it tyrannically subjects everything to the unfounded assertions of the Protestant Canon. (Of course, it is worse than this when you realize his citation of the Canon amounts to subjectivity).
What would Poythress think of a Muslim who claimed to redeem science, sociology, linguistics or philosophy by subjecting them to the assertions of the Koran? Would this constitute the redemption of science, sociology, linguistics or philosophy?
In formal terms this is the fallacy known as special pleading. [While it's okay for Poythress to say the Protestant Canon has Ultimate Authority, because the Protestant Canon claims to have Ultimate Authority, it's not okay for a Muslim to say the Koran has Ultimate Authority, because the Koran claims to have Ultimate Authority?] This is a double standard.
All of Poythress's work rests on one fallacious premise: refute this premise and his life's work is shattered. (And my dear friends) it is all but child's play to refute this premise.