Bibleland: the cost of inerrancy's victory...
(David) Tim's and my father, Joe Bayly, used to say (in private and only to family members) that the price of inerrancy's doctrinal defeat of liberalism in the battle for the Bible of the 60s and 70s was the loss of the authority of God's Word.
Today I'm as firmly convinced that Dad was right as I am that the Word is without error. It is inerrant, but the battle to prove inerrancy transformed the Word from the roaring lion of Amos into a patient needing the care of experts, from public glory and present power into the private realm of reflection.
Evangelical scholars were happy to come to the Word's defense. They put the Word under their microscopes in the search for vaccines against liberalism. Scholarly reputations were forged. And preachers all too willingly deferred--they were the students of these scholars, how could they tread confidently where their masters trod mincingly?
The result is a post-Reformation Protestant Church in which scholars and preachers illuminate the Word and usher people into the glories of the Word rather than preach the Word as a lamp for the illumination of glorious earthly paths. (If you doubt this, just take any of the most-recommended modern commentaries from an Evangelical or Reformed background and compare it to Calvin's commentary on the same book. Calvin respects and applies the Word while modern commentators explain, justify and generally try to support the Word.)
Thus, the modern Evangelical/Reformed world which is Bible rich but Spirit poor. The Word has become a walled garden, a magical mystery tour Christians enter into--BibleLand--rather than a map, a guide, a light for real life.
To some degree, this is why R2K flourishes. There is BibleLand, and there is real life, and they're radically separate. This is also why the Evangelical and Reformed community in America is so ineffective as salt and light in the world. We have made the Word a land unto itself, reducing faith to a private spiritual pursuit that illuminates the interior life but which is not only impotent in the face of, but opposed to, the hue and cry of external civic life.
Of course, the best evidence of Scriptural inerrancy isn't found in any defense of the Word, no matter how eloquent, but in the Word itself, the Word applied and practiced.
I've been reading Luke lately and I am routinely awestruck by the amazing real-world claims Jesus consistently makes to His disciples recorded in the Word.
Take this as just one example. Jesus says to His disciples:
"But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with money-bags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys."
All the scholarly publications and dissertations combined won't prove the word's inerrancy and estabish its authority quite the way one man taking this passage to heart will. One man, selling his goods and giving to the poor will do more to reveal the lion in the pages of Scripture than all the sermons on the glories of the Word combined.
"But be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only."