“Conversation” with Richard Pratt 4

2. The Historical Reliability of Scripture

To illustrate the importance of this hermeneutical orientation, I want to point to two ways our choice of primary and secondary orientations with respect to the divine and human origins of Scripture affects the way we view two traditional dimensions of the doctrine of Scripture. First, I’d like the look at the issue of the historical reliability of Scripture.

It has been said more often than I can recall that one of the most wonderful things about Westminster is that it makes no comments about the historical reliability of Scripture. I wish that I could say that that the comment was from outside of our circle, but it is not. I can understand how someone who doubts this doctrine might come to this conclusion. After all, predispositions do often obscure subtleties and implications of texts like the Confession. It has also been argued that Westminster does not comment on historical reliability because the Westminster Divines were unaware of archaeological data that has come to light in the last 150 years. Well, it is true enough that they were not acquainted with modern archaeology. But we are ever so mistaken if we actually think for a moment that Westminster does not advocate for the historical reliability of Scripture in the face of challenges from unbelief. By the time Westminster was written, serious challenges had already been raised against the Bible’s historical reliability. There is plenty of evidence on its pages to indicate that this was a concern at the Westminster assemblies. [Personally, I would like to see this evidence. Regardless, the external evidence over the past 150 years is of a quantitatively and qualitatively different kind than anything the Westminster divines were aware of. This is not a criticism of the divines, but more of Pratt, who knows very well the unique challenges contemporary readers of Scripture confront. Pratt is skirting difficult issues by suggesting that the divines were more or less on the same page as we are today and “look how they handled things.” In my opinion, this borders on disingenuousness.]

In all events, the hermeneutical orientation of Westminster toward the divine origin of Scripture creates an expectation of Scripture, an expectation that is quite relevant to the issue at hand. Listen to 1.4:

The authority of Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God. [I am certainly not suggesting that Scripture’s authority derives from anything other than its divine origin.]

Notice first that this passage deals with a concern for historical reliability. [Where? There is a logical leap in Pratt’s argument here.] It focuses on the authority of Scripture [Correct, on the authority for what we believe, rather than on Rome’s authority] to tell us what we are to “believe”; it does not simply refer to moral authority that we are to obey. [Correct: as 1.6 puts it, it pertains to all things pertaining to “His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life.” Historical reliability is not in view, not because the divines didn’t wrestle with it (I don’t know if they did, or to what degree), not because it is unimportant, but because it is not germane for the purpose of the confession.]
Here we see a division of the content of Scripture familiar to those at Westminster. As the Shorter Catechism Question and Answer number 5 remarks, “The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of man.” There are two main or principle teachings of the Bible. First, what “ought to be believed,” including all the factual claims that the Bible makes about God. [I am at a loss for where Pratt sees this in either WCF or in the WSC and why he would make such a groundless claim and present it as self-evident.]
As we will see, this includes historical events in the Scriptures because they are presented in connection with God and his ways. [This statement is vague, unhelpful, and assumes the point to be proven. We shall see whether Pratt will flesh this out, as he claims he will.]
Second, those moral commands that are given to us, our duty in Scripture. Among those things that the Confession and catechisms catalogue as beliefs we are to hold concerning God, the Westminster Standards list the biblical records of what God has done in history. So, Westminster 1.4 addresses the authority of the historical claims of Scripture. [Again, to say the least, this would need to be argued carefully and demonstrated, not simply assumed and stated. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that Pratt is trying to hook an argument somewhere in the Confession. I don’t think 1.4 can bear the weight of the argument or, I feel, where the argument is going. Here is 1.4 in full: “The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.”
It is inexplicable to me how Pratt can appeal to this sentence in the context of the debate before us.]

Notice how this paragraph reflects the hermeneutical orientation of the Confession toward divine authorship. Why are the facts [This is a word that Pratt introduces, which is laden with baggage in the contemporary debate, but that finds no support in the section of WCF 1 to which he appeals. This is beyond logical fallacy in my opinion: it is a reading into the WCF.]
of Scripture to be believed? In the first place, two options are denied. On the one hand 1.4 says, “not upon the testimony of any man,” and on the other hand it says, not on the basis of any “Church.” Now, the latter option, the testimony of any Church, refers most directly to the Roman Catholic claim that the authority of the Scriptures depends on authorization by the Church of Rome. This controversy, as you all know, is well attested in Reformed literature. But Westminster also addresses the option of “the testimony of any man,” [Including Pratt or any church council, WCF 31.4 and more importantly 1.10] another cardinal view of historical Reformed theology. The authority of Scripture is not subject to but above the judgments of human beings, no matter who they may be, including philosophers, scientists, historians, biblical scholars or any other kind of human authority. [I agree wholeheartedly, but I do not see the force of the argument for the topic at hand. In fact, the points Pratt makes here undercut the arguments he has made thus far. I fear that an investigation of the non-negotiable human dimension of Scripture is being framed by Pratt as a challenge to Scripture’s authority. I can only say that I for one have never made that argument, directly or implicitly.]

But in the second place, Westminster insists that the authority of Scripture is “wholly” dependent “upon God.” [Right, its authority.] Now, it is important to note something here. Westminster 1.4, which we continue to quote, is not a reference to the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit for the authority of Scripture. That issue is dealt with in 1.5. Instead, paragraph 4 displays the foundation of biblical authority by appealing to the divine origins of Scripture and to theology proper. On the one hand, the authority of Scripture depends “wholly on God” because he is “the author thereof.” [No problem thus far.] In other words, Westminster insists that we should believe in the authority of Scripture even in historical matters [Another logical leap. Again, I am at a loss how Pratt can jump from WCF 1.4, which speaks of Scripture’s authority, to a discussion of historical matters raised by modern scholarship. The context of WCF does not support Pratt’s assertion.]
because it is of divine origin. But on the other hand, in a strikingly important parenthetical comment at this point, Westminster also makes it clear that the divine origin of Scripture is a vital consideration because of the doctrine of theology proper, or the character of God. The Scriptures are authoritative because they come from God “who is truth itself.” Catch the logic here. God is truth itself. Therefore, the Scriptures which are authored by him are truth. [So far so good.] To deny the historical, factual truthfulness of Scripture is to call into question the very character of God. [This is a rhetorically appealing conclusion to come to, but I think Pratt himself knows the issues are far more intricate. Perhaps the most unfortunate misstep in this line of argumentation is that Pratt does not articulate (because he is assuming) just what “historical,” “factual,” and “truthfulness” mean. By what standards does he judge these things? It seems Pratt’s "default drive" is not so much the divinity of Scripture as it is he own assumption about what divinity entails. I, however, would like to see what Scripture itself—not a tour de force handling of WCF—can tell us about in what sense Scripture is “historically, factually, truthful.” Pratt has done work in the Chronicler’s history, which he will elude to briefly later. He certainly understands that the Chronicler provides a history of Israel that is not just a shade different from the Deuteronomistic Historian, but an alternative reading of that history for a postexilic audience. Now, in what sense does Scripture’s divine origin (with which I am in full agreement) help us arrive at a solution that safeguards the historical facticity of CHR in the way that Pratt seems to be looking for? Perhaps better, do not the very data of Scripture drive us to consider a model of “God speaking historical truth” that moves us in a very different direction than what Pratt would like to see?]

Now, as we all know, this declaration of the authority of Scripture in its factual claims has not been ignored in our tradition. In many respects, it was the reason Machen and other fundamentalist Presbyterians began their denominations. [Machen left for a number of reasons, but the “factual claims” of Scripture does not define those reasons exhaustively. Doctrine of Scripture was certainly one of them, but as pressing was the doctrine of Christ. In any event, Pratt cannot call upon the specter of Machen to aid him in his argument here, although I admit it has a certain rhetorical effect, as if to imply the sad current state of affairs is a repeat of the 1920s.]
Moreover, in large measure the same issue sparked the division of the Southern Presbyterian church that gave rise to the PCA. In fact, the historical reliability of Scripture has been the signature conviction of our church’s history. [This is an overstatement at best. Our tradition has been much more subtle than Pratt is allowing.] It has been so central in our branch of the church that our ordination vows include an affirmation of biblical inerrancy. While not a confessional term, our tradition has viewed the concept of “inerrancy” merely as an explication of what is already included in the Confession in the term “infallible.” The term “inerrancy” is relatively novel, but the concept that the Bible is true in all of its factual claims simply reflects our Confession. [Pratt’s definition of inerrancy as “true in all its factual claims” says too little and too much. Bandying about terms like “fact” and “true” without addressing how Scripture’s own behavior helps us nuance those terms contributes to polarization and confusion.]
Our belief in the historical or factual reliability of Scripture has been a mark of our ecclesiastical identity through all of these years. [It is worth repeating, since Pratt wishes to make such a strong point of it: what precisely does Pratt mean by “historical or factual reliability”? I believe that Gen 1 is historically reliable in that it presents the creation of the world as an act of Israel’s God, not a pantheon. Is that good enough for Pratt, or does his doctrine of God/truth/Scripture require something more? Does it require me to believe in 6 literal 24 days? A “raqia” in the sky? These are not conundrums; I think they can be easily answered, but I am not sure how much leeway Pratt’s position allows for.]

Now, it goes without saying that our views on these matters are laughable in modern critical circles — utterly laughable. Those who are acquainted with biblical archaeology face many conflicts between scholarly interpretations of Scripture and scholarly historical opinions. Those acquainted with fields of paleontology, geology and biology cannot escape the fact that the Scriptures conflict with the majority of scientific opinions in leading academic communities. In fact, the idea that the Scriptures are entirely historically reliable is so far from plausible in critical circles that anyone who claims such a notion is simply dismissed as ignorant or dishonest. [It is not clear from this paragraph whether Pratt acknowledges whether the problems raised in modern criticism are actual problems, or just the by-product of unbelief. If the former, he needs to address them. If the latter, I say he is wrong.]

Unfortunately, in recent years a very similar attitude has risen among our own scholars. Anyone who still believes that the Scriptures are historically reliable in detail [Which details? All of them? As a biblical scholar with 30 years teaching experience, does Pratt not realize the hermeneutical difficulties, or is he is choosing to ignore them?]
is likewise caricatured as ignorant, or simply dishonest. [Again, a rhetorical coup perhaps, but Pratt would need to show how his own training in biblical scholarship combined with his own interpretation of our tradition would yield better results. The ad hominem tone he is adopting here in these last two paragraphs, however, will not help him secure a broad hearing. Moreover, Pratt needs to consider that there might be reasons why older notions of inerrancy are not adopted “among our own scholars.” It is not about a newer generation of scholars, throwing traditional caution to the wind, willing to cast off the shackles of the past. It is more about younger scholars having reasons for being dissatisfied with older formulations and looking for more compelling paradigms.]

Now, to be fair, as some of our biblical scholars have moved in this direction they have rooted their arguments not so much in natural sciences. For the most part, biblical scholars don’t know enough about such matters to converse along those lines. Instead, the arguments that have come to the foreground are based on the humanity of Scripture. That is to say, they are based in large part on the assumption that God accommodated himself to the beliefs and literary styles of the ancient Near East to the point that the purposes of Scripture are largely indistinguishable from the purposes of other literature of those times and places. [This is inaccurate and bordering on misrepresentation. I know of no evangelical scholar who would say that accommodation necessarily makes Scripture “largely indistinguishable” from ANE literature (read the previous sentence of Pratt’s carefully). God does, most certainly, "accommodate" (although such a term would need careful nuancing is as not to suggest that God is in someway beholden to categories over which he has not control), and I would like to see Pratt outline an argument that takes this fact fully into account. It seems to me that Pratt is arguing on the basis of an assumed and faulty premise that the extremes in scholarship define the entire spectrum.]
Parallels are drawn between the Scriptures and examples of ancient near-eastern historiography. Comparisons are made between the Bible and historically unreliable ancient mythological texts like Enuma Elish, Gilgamesh, or The Epic of Atrahasis, as well as royal propaganda like the Mesha Inscription (or Moabite Stone) and the Inscriptions of Sennacherib. Once significant literary parallels are established, the conclusion is drawn that the Scriptures were not intended to make as many historical claims as our forebears once thought they were. [That is correct. Our forebears were not privy to this information, but we are, and adjustments have had to be made. Are we to understand Pratt as saying that these parallels are figments of scholarly imagination and, so, can be safely ignored by the faithful?]

Now this approach to biblical historiography touches all portions of Scripture, including the so-called historical books of the Old Testament and New Testament narratives, but much of the attention has been given to the primeval history, especially to the first chapters of Genesis. [In the interest of full disclosure, Pratt should explain why the primeval history has been such a focus on scholarly attention. There are reasons why these chapters continue to attract attention, by evangelical and non-evangelical scholars alike.]
So, I want to focus my comments on that portion of the Bible.

I still recall a very dramatic moment in my education, at Union Seminary in Virginia, when a professor chided me in front of a class for holding that Genesis 1 was historically reliable. [The professor should have pushed Pratt to explain what he means by “historically reliable.” Perhaps then Pratt’s “great victory” (see below) would have been less remarkable.]
He derided me by saying this. “Genesis 1 tells us nothing about the way God made the world.” And I remember my response. “How can you say that? Even Alice in Wonderland tells us something about the way God made the world.” [I must admit I don’t follow this. I assume Pratt had a legitimate point to make, but I think something is missing here. On the surface it just seems like a bit of slight of hand to catch a professor off guard.]
“Okay,” he admitted, “but all that Genesis 1 tells us is that God made everything. To go beyond that is ridiculous.”

Now, to tell you the truth, as I left the class that day, I felt like I had won a great victory. I had actually caused my professor to admit that Genesis 1 tells us that God made the world. I left class elated.

Unfortunately, in recent years I had that same conversation again with a respected scholar within our branch of the church. After hearing him claim, “Genesis 1 does not tell us anything about the way God made the world.” [I do not know who this scholar is, but it wasn’t me.] I responded, predictably, “Even Alice in Wonderland tells us something about this.” And the response I received was strikingly familiar. “Okay,” he admitted, “but all it tells us is that the God of Israel made everything. The mythic features of Genesis 1 make it ridiculous to go beyond that.” [Pratt needs to explain, very clearly, why the position articulated here by his evangelical brother is unacceptable.]
While I rejoiced the first time I had that conversation, frankly, I did not rejoice the second time. In my estimation, such conclusions are out of accord with our confessional heritage. [Yes, in Pratt’s estimation, and he is more than free to make the case. But are we to believe that the Alice in Wonderland analogy is somehow supposed to safeguard Scripture’s historical reliability? Moreover, Pratt is assuming that the point of Genesis 1 is to communicate historically reliable information. If he does not want to allow Enuma Elish, etc., to have any direct influence on his conclusions about Genesis 1, perhaps at least we should expect him to allow these ancient stories to “calibrate” his genre expectations of Genesis? Also, it seems that Pratt is allowing for no mythic content, or even context, for Genesis 1. If that assessment is correct, I find it incredible.]

The Confession does not reflect this kind of historical minimalism when reading the first chapters of Genesis. [That is because the confession was written (1) for a different purpose, and (2) before anyone knew anything about these close ANE analogs.]
It does not hesitate to treat a number of details presented in the primeval history as historically true. [One should not expect anything different, and the divines should, therefore, neither be chided nor praised. They lived in their own historical moment.]
Notice how much detail 4.1 includes in its reflections on Genesis 1–2. We are told that God created humanity “in the space of six days” and the creation was “very good.” Even the chronology of the passage is reflected in 4.2, where we read that God created humanity “after God had made all other creatures,” that God created man “male and female,” that he created them “after his own image.” In 6.1 Adam and Eve are called “our first parents,” and we are told that they were “seduced by the subtlety and temptation of Satan” and ate “the forbidden fruit.” Westminster does not bother to argue for these beliefs. They are stated as true because the Scriptures state them. [I find this statement to be nearly incomprehensible. Are we to understand Pratt as saying that statements Scripture makes are “true” (in the way Pratt assumes) simply because Scripture states them? Is there no sensitivity to potential genre differences?]

The Confession’s statements of this kind stand in sharp contrast with those that relegate the opening chapters of Genesis to the status of ancient near-eastern mythology. [That may be, but that does not settle the question either way. The Confession is not the filter through which we read Scripture. And our tradition is misused, misunderstood, and truncated when it is used to shield the church from further progress in its knowledge of Scripture.]
Even when the disclaimer is added that myth in the Bible is true myth, I have not found these same scholars willing to state plainly that they believe that Adam and Eve were our first parents, or that they were actually tempted by a talking serpent, or that they actually ate forbidden fruit and were actually driven from a garden. These teachings are relegated to pre-scientific mythological status that has relatively little bearing on what we should think actually happened.

Now, we should all admit that since the days of Westminster the number of challenges that have risen against the historical reliability of the Bible has increased dramatically. [Again, it is worth asking why this is the case. Is the world just “going liberal,” with only a remnant remaining who can see what is really happening, or are these real challenges that have as yet to be addressed in a fully convincing manner? If a lot of smart people disagree with Pratt, even some those within “our circles,” it might help if Pratt could at least give some acknowledgement that the issues are very difficult and diverse opinions are held.]
This is one of the reasons the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was composed in the last century, in large part by representatives from our circles. Chicago states boldly that the Scriptures are historically reliable, but then qualifies the statement in a number of ways in the light of challenges that have been raised since the days of Westminster. [The question is whether those “qualifications’ have proved persuasive. I don’t think they have, nor do I think the CSBI should serve as our default drive on inerrancy. But more importantly, one of the points of I&I is that we should not have a doctrine of Scripture whereby the human dimension, which is there by God’s own design, needs to be “qualified.”]
But following the hermeneutical orientation of Westminster, it expresses this issue first in the connection between God as the author and the Scriptures as his word, and then secondarily qualifies that basic orientation. We all know these qualifications. The Scriptures contain hyperbole, round numbers, phenomenological descriptions of nature; they are highly selective; and so on. And more than this, the Chicago Statement also admits that there are times when we simply don’t know how to reconcile what the Bible claims historically with other historical evidence. Yet, the affirmation of historical reliability is not denied or marginalized. This is not ignorance or dishonesty as some suggest these days. It is the result of a hermeneutical orientation that I believe the Scriptures themselves have. [This is a matter of opinion, and Pratt is certainly welcome to have his. It is, in my view, still somewhat evasive to have a doctrine of Scripture where so much of the Bible’s own self-witness needs to be “qualified.”]
And more to the point of our purposes here, it is an orientation that appears in our confessional heritage. [One can in no way equate the “orientation” of CSBI and “our confessional heritage.” Moreover, “our confessional heritage” is just that, a heritage. It is a trajectory that is rooted in but extends beyond the Westminster Standards. One need only peruse the biblical scholarship of Old Princeton and Westminster Seminary, not to mention the Dutch tradition, to see that the WS did not have the final word on biblical scholarship in our circles. Yet Pratt here seems to be content to equate our confessional heritage with his particular manner of reading the WCF. What Pratt argues for here is, to say the least, highly debatable.]

I suppose that one of the most troubling issues for me in recent discussions about these matters is the fact that the challenges against historical reliability we face today are not remarkably different from those that we have known about for nearly half a century. [Again, Pratt needs to ask himself why this is the case. Why is it that scholars “in our circles,” and a good many outside of those circles, have come to accept opinions on, say, Pentateuchal authorship that would have been anathema in Machen’s day? Because, over time, certain models have become more persuasive. It is not, as I said earlier, that subsequent generations of evangelical scholars have forgotten their tradition, uprooted, and left for liberal pasture. It is because they have been persuaded that different explanations are needed. Pratt offers no counter-argument, only a model that seems to suggest that movement is a rejection of tradition.]
There has been no tidal wave of archaeological data against the Scriptures that has come to light in the last twenty years that would compel any honest scholar to change his views on the Bible. [Pratt is assuming the point that has to be proven. Many would disagree with him on this point. Moreover, it is not simply a matter of what evidence has come to light; it is a matter of constructing models of explaining the collective evidence we have had before us for much longer than simply the last twenty years.]
There has been no barrage of data of which earlier scholars of our tradition were ignorant. [Of course they weren’t ignorant!! That is not the point. The point is whether their explanation of the data, i.e., their incorporation of the data into existing models is, at the end of the day, persuasive or not.]
Through the years, our denomination has been deeply influenced by scholars who knew well the data brought against the Bible, but still found the arguments based upon that data unconvincing. [And that is where the civil conversation can commence.] The evidence has not changed that much; it is the hermeneutical orientation of some of our scholars that has changed. [This is only one way of looking at this issue. Pratt must entertain the possibility that changes in current orientation may be a result of current scholars finding older orientations unhelpful.]

For instance, I recently reviewed a book in which one of our scholars wrote that Genesis 1 should not be treated as history because no human being witnessed the events of creation. [This is actually a very old argument going back to Jean Astruc and even earlier.] Now, I think we would all agree that Genesis 1 is not ordinary historical writing [This is interesting. It would help if Pratt would articulate how Genesis is not “ordinary” historiography while also being “historically reliable.” This is actually a hopeful statement of Pratt’s that has potential, perhaps, for moving beyond some of the impasse we are in.]
in the sense that it is based on human eyewitness reports. But to deny that Genesis chapter 1 is history because there was no eyewitness is to deny the divine origin and supernatural character of the Bible. [Pratt is equating historicity (of a certain type) with divine origin. This is fallacious reasoning.]
Genesis 1 is an eyewitness account, an account by God the all-seeing eyewitness. [O.K., but so are DTR and CHR, yet they are very different accounts of history. Pratt cannot appeal to divine origin to settle the genre question so easily.]
Our heritage has unabashedly approached historical reliability with this kind of hermeneutical commitment. The Bible is a supernatural book; it has all sorts of information that goes far beyond what human writers could have known through natural means. It is a supernaturally granted revelation; it is guarded against falsehoods [Which is defined how?]; it is supernaturally authorized. [It seems that Pratt is discounting ANE documents that put Genesis into a very different light than he is willing to accept. Again, he is free to do so, but piling up words like “supernatural,” “revelation,” “falsehood,” etc., do nothing more than polarize what is in reality an issue that requires much more patience and nuance than we have seen.]

But the clear tendency that has grown in our circles is to approach this issue with the opposite orientation, reducing or removing the supernatural dimension of Scripture. [Pratt’s argument is becoming a bit redundant here, and I do not want to feel compelled to respond at every point. Still, let me say again, that the wedge between divine and human is of Pratt’s devising, not mine or others “in our circles.” I for one am very unhappy with any discussion, including Pratt’s, that seeks to isolate the one from the other. To do so is, ironically, to show disrespect for the very Scripture God gave us.]
Then, on the basis of these kinds of assumptions [No, not “on the basis,” of the ANE evidence, as if it is posed as some neutral standard. That is another caricature. Rather, the ANE evidence calibrates and tames faulty genre decisions—such as I see Pratt making—about Genesis, e.g., that is a book of science or a history book in the contemporary sense of the word.]
, we qualify the ways in which biblical human texts can still be true. In the case of Genesis chapter 1, it is often called myth, but true myth in the sense that it points to the God of Israel as the true Creator. In the case of other historical portions of Scripture, those portions misrepresent historical events [“Misrepresent” is a strong word and seems to stem from Pratt’s assumptions about the nature of ancient (and modern) historiography as being “brute” or “neutral.”]
for any number of reasons, but their moral and theological points are nonetheless true. Once again, I want to urge that the heart of the issue is not new or overwhelming data; it is our hermeneutical orientation, an orientation that has broken with our heritage. [The issue is a failure, after all this time, to find theological and hermeneutical paradigms that show full integrity toward the Bible as fully human and fully divine.]

I once had a student who commented on the outlook in this way. He said this to me, “It’s like the Bible is an embarrassing uncle we have to introduce to our friends. So, we tell our friends all about the flaws that he has and all the weaknesses that he has before we introduce him to them. That way they are not bothered by what they see when they do finally meet him.” [Yes, the Bible is an embarrassing uncle if we feel it needs to meet the kind of expectations Pratt is articulating here.]
And I think my friend is right. The tendency of many in our circles these days is to focus attention on the historical problems resulting from the humanity of the Bible to the point that we are no longer bothered when the Scriptures do not appear historically reliable. [No, it is not by merely focusing incessantly on the human dimension that we somehow become euthanized to the problems, and now we all breathe a sigh of relief. It is by allowing “Scripture in context” to shape how we think about Scripture. Scripture is only an “embarrassing uncle” if we insist, as Pratt seems to be throughout this lecture, that we can have a doctrine of Scripture that exists in isolation from evidence we have. It is important to stress here that I am not arguing that the external evidence is “neutral” and that our doctrine of Scripture must change with every spade of dirt tossed about in an archaeological expedition. Our doctrine of Scripture is rooted, absolutely and unalterably, in God, the author thereof. Pratt’s error is in assuming what kind of Scripture this wise, loving, all-knowing God is willing to produce. I would rather not make such assumptions, even if our forebears might have (and I stress, might have, since I do not accept Pratt’s truncated version of our Reformed heritage), but rather allow the collective evidence to help me understand what we are to make of this divinely originated book.]
I’ll say that again: The tendency of many in our circles these days is to focus attention on the historical problems resulting from the humanity of the Bible to the point that we are no longer bothered when the Scriptures do not appear historically reliable.
[I’ll say it again: this is a misrepresentation of the issue. The “problems” are only problems because of a faulty starting point, namely, the equating of “divine origin” with a particular kind of “historical reliability” (which Pratt has not defined thus far). Moreover, these “problems” do not result from the “humanity of the Bible.” The humanity of the Bible is what God himself has put there. If pointing them out causes such problems for “our heritage” as Pratt defines it, it may be time to balance his “always Reformed” melody with a healthy dose of “always reforming” harmony.]

But I believe that the wisdom of our heritage teaches us that we should not diminish our expectations of Scripture to the point that historical problems no longer bother us. [Pratt is following the line of argumentation he began above. The historical issues should never diminish our expectations. Rather, they should help insure that our expectations are in line with what Scripture, by God’s wisdom, is prepared to deliver. Pratt seems unwilling to examine his presuppositions on this entire matter.]
They should bother us. They should compel us to work very hard to deal with such issues and even challenge us to hold on to the historical veracity of Scripture when there is no resolution to historical difficulties available. After all, according to our tradition, the Scriptures came from God who is truth, and they are, therefore, truth. If we ever come to the point that the historical difficulties of the Bible don’t bother us anymore, then we have changed our orientation toward the Bible. They should bother us. After all, they came from God. [The circularity of this argument is evident.]

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