Author: Poythress, Vern
Page Count: 272
Publisher: Crossway/Good News Publishers
Year: May 2012
ISBN#: 10: 1433523876
ISBN #: 13: 9781433523878
Publisher’s Description: Though the Bible presents a personal and relational God, popular modern worldviews portray an impersonal divine force in a purely material world. Readers influenced by this competing worldview hold assumptions about fundamental issues–like the nature of humanity, evil, and the purpose of life—that present profound obstacles to understanding the Bible.
In Inerrancy and Worldview, Dr. Vern Poythress offers the first worldview-based defense of scriptural inerrancy, showing how worldview differences create or aggravate most perceived difficulties with the Bible. His positive case for biblical inerrancy implicitly critiques the worldview of theologians like Enns, Sparks, Allert, and McGowan. Poythress, who has researched and published in a variety of fields—including science, linguistics, and sociology—deals skillfully with the challenges presented in each of these disciplines. By directly addressing key examples in each field, Poythress shows that many difficulties can be resolved simply by exposing the influence of modern materialism.
Inerrancy and Worldview’s positive response to current attempts to abandon or redefine inerrancy will enable Christians to respond well to modern challenges by employing a worldview that allows the Bible to speak on its own terms.
About the author: Vern Poythress is Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary, where he has taught for 33 years. He has six earned degrees, including a PhD from Harvard University and a ThD from the University of Stellenbosch. He is the author of numerous books on biblical interpretation, language, and science.
Endorsements: “I can think of no one in the world better qualified to write a defense of biblical inerrancy than my lifelong friend Vern Poythress. This book is no ordinary defense of inerrancy that merely focuses on proposed solutions to several difficult verses (though it does examine some of them). Rather, it is a wide-ranging analysis that exposes the faulty intellectual assumptions that underlie challenges to the Bible from every major academic discipline in the modern university world. I think every Christian student at every secular university should read and absorb the arguments in this book. It is profoundly wise, insightful, and clearly written, and it will surely strengthen every reader’s confidence in the trustworthiness of the Bible as the very words of God.” – Wayne Grudem, Research Professor of Bible and Theology, Phoenix Seminary
“Vern Poythress has written what I consider to be definitive books on many subjects, including biblical interpretation, language, science, and sociology. In Inerrancy and Worldview, he brings his insights from these disciplines and more together to address the relation of biblical inerrancy to worldview. He shows quite convincingly that the issue of inerrancy is not just a matter of asking whether this or that biblical passage is factual. Rather, our attitude toward the claim of biblical inerrancy depends on our general view of how God is related to the cosmos and to us as individuals and societies. And that general view, in turn, depends on our relationship to Jesus Christ. The book gets deeper into the question of inerrancy than any other book I know.” – John M. Frame, J. D. Trimble Chair of Systematic Theology and Philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL
“Every new item that Vern Poythress writes is thoughtful, creative, and worth reading. This book is no exception. Among the many things I like about it is his emphasis on the personalist worldview of the Bible, as over against the impersonalism that dominates modern Western culture. Besides its crucial contribution to his own subject in clarifying how it is that God communicates to us through the Bible, I think this basic idea will be fruitful for a good number of other topics as well. Thanks, Dr. Poythress, and thanks, God, for giving him to the Church.” – C. John Collins, Professor of Old Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary; author, The God of Miracles
“Vern Poythress has provided both the church and the academy a remarkable service withInerrancy and Worldview. Recognizing that the modern objection to Scripture is neither univocal nor objective, but rather varied and religious, he helpfully reframes the discussion in terms of competing worldviews. By surveying the various options for the allegiance of the modern mind, Poythress shows that not only is an inerrant Bible a reasonable expectation of a personal God, but our rejection of it is rooted not in evidence, but in our sinful rebellion against that God. With clear logic and pastoral care, Poythress leads us through an amazing tour of both the ‘wisdom of our age’ and the follies of our hearts, bringing us at last to the God who speaks—humbling our pride and setting our hearts free.” – Michael Lawrence, Senior Pastor, Hinson Baptist Church, Portland, Oregon; author, Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church
“To our shame, the response of Christians to challenges to our faith can often be dismissive, shallow, defensive, or disrespectful. On the other hand, we can err too much on the side of tolerance for error when truth is under siege. In Inerrancy and Worldview, Vern Poythress shows us how to be neither fools nor cowards. Through intelligent, informed, insightful, and respectful engagement, key foundational faith defeaters taught in many disciplines at every secular university are explained and critiqued from a biblical perspective. Poythress challenges the challenges to biblical belief at the root of their assumptions. We are left with a solid basis and defense of the Christian way of thinking. Inerrancy and Worldview should be required reading for all who want to think more deeply about their faith and defend it within a skeptical culture.” – Erik Thoennes, Professor of Biblical Studies and Ttheology, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University; Pastor, Grace Evangelical Free Church, La Mirada, CA
Amazon Review by Adam Parker: “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.”
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