Inerrancy and Hermeneutics

By David P. Smith - Posted at Place for Truth:

Hermeneutics is the study or practice of interpretation, and it’s what humans cannot help but do. Every moment of our waking hours we interpret, which is to say that we assign meaning or significance to all that we experience. We do this either consciously or unconsciously on the basis of what we believe is true. Yet, what we believe is true may or may not be true. Of course, in our relativistic age someone will object and claim that what someone believes is true is merely true for them. While such an over-personalized view of truth, what we can call subjectivism, is the controlling confession of Western culture, it is not actually what people ultimately practice. If they did, they would stop talking altogether, because they would recognize that their fundamental belief about reality excludes a commonly known reality through which we have communion with others. In part, this simply shows the irrationality of sin, and people’s rational inconsistencies between what they claim to believe and what they actually do. Communication between people and fruitful communities mark life on earth precisely because there is a reality common to us all, and of which we have some common and truthful understanding. It’s what allows us to have some truthful interpretation of reality and our experience of it.

Or, to put a slightly different perspective on it, everyone functions as if they have access to an inerrant standard by which they are able to truthfully or accurately interpret, to some degree, all that they encounter. People on CNN believe this just as much as those on FOX News. That little phrase to some degree is a very important qualifier, because it highlights that we need not claim omniscience, or knowing everything, in order to know truly or accurately. And yet, an unavoidable part of our knowing or epistemological process is access to what we believe is an unerring standard through which we are able to have truthful access to reality and on the basis of which we make progress in knowledge—in every subject matter. Long before I was able to write a dissertation on B. B. Warfield, I had to learn that he was born, lived at a particular time, and did particular things. I had to trust that the sources through which I was accessing these assertions about Warfield were communicating the truth about him. This progress in the acquisition of knowledge through trusting particular inerrant sources marks every subject matter of human knowledge. And here you thought that the doctrine of inerrancy was only affirmed by a bunch of bible-thumping, white males trying to oppress everyone who didn’t share their skin pigment! In point of fact, the biblical doctrine of inerrancy is simply a part of the broader topic of inerrancy related to everyone’s knowledge claims in every sphere of knowledge.


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