Inerrancy is a disruptive child in the theological classroom. He or she gets all the attention of teacher and students. A biblical view of inerrancy demotes it under the word true, all as part of God’s choice to communicate efficiently and sufficiently. When the word “true” governs the game it’s a brand new, healthy game. Good teachers know how to handle disruptive children.
I am increasingly gratified not to run in circles where “inerrancy” is a thing. It does me proud to know that, if I put the word on a quiz, at least some of my (church-going, traditional) Mercer students won’t know what it means. Frankly, I’m tired of the fight to define inerrancy—which has little or anything to do with the struggle to follow Christ into all the truth God has revealed to us in Holy Scripture.
If you’re not entirely bored with the subject (yet), you might like reading “Why I Am Not an Inerrantist—Even though I Am (or Vice Versa).”
He may or may not be an evil genius (I’ve never met him). He is a genius at helping you see things from a different point of view:
In a recent statement from his Creation Museum office, Ken Ham blasted God for “not taking the Bible seriously and undermining its authority.”
“Only someone with liberal leanings would write a Bible like this,” Ham exploded. “Placing next to each other in the Old Testament two blatantly contradictory histories of Israel [1 Samuel-2 Kingsand 1 and 2 Chronicles] is nothing less than an all-out attack on the integrity of God’s inerrant word.”
“Think about it. The transition of power from David to Solmon can’t be filled with political conspiracy and be smooth as silk, yet there we have it, clear as day.” [1 Kings 1-2; 1 Chronicles 23:1]
“We can harmonize some of this, but not all. And that’s a problem. Only a God willing to compromise on God’s word would write something like this.”
…and what it used to be is better than what often goes by that name today, according to Dennis Hayes. In fact, his latest column at The Conversation is titled “Let’s Stop Trying to Teach Students Critical Thinking.”
As a teacher, you have to have a critical spirit. This does not mean moaning endlessly about education policies you dislike or telling students what they should think. It means first and foremost that you are capable of engaging in deep conversation. This means debate and discussion based on considerable knowledge – something that is almost entirely absent in the educational world. It also has to take place in public, with parents and others who are not teachers, not just in the classroom or staffroom.
The need for teachers to engage in this kind of deep conversation has been forgotten, because they think that being critical is a skill.
It isn’t, Hayes says. It is a trait of character or even, perhaps, a way of life. He goes on to argue that the word “criticism” is often misapplied.
The idea that critical thinking is a skill is the first of three popular, but false views that all do disservice to the idea of being critical. They also allow many teachers to believe they are critical thinkers when they are the opposite:
- “Critical thinking” is a skill. No it is not. At best this view reduces criticism to second-rate or elementary instruction in informal and some formal logic. It is usually second-rate logic and poor philosophy offered in bite-sized nuggets. Seen as a skill, critical thinking can also mean subjection to the conformism of an ideological yoke. If a feminist or Marxist teacher demands a certain perspective be adopted this may seem like it is “criticism” or acquiring a “critical perspective”, but it is actually a training in feminism or Marxism which could be done through tick box techniques. It almost acquires the character of a mental drill.
- “Critical thinking” means indoctrination. When teachers talk about the need to be “critical” they often mean instead that students must “conform”. It is often actually teaching students to be “critical” of their unacceptable ideas and adopt the right ones. Having to support multiculturalism and diversity are the most common of the “correct ideas” that everyone has to adopt. Professional programmes in education, nursing, social work and others often promote this sort of “criticism”. It used to be called “indoctrination”.
- “Critical theories” are “uncritical theories”. When some theory has the prefix “critical” it requires the uncritical acceptance of a certain political perspective. Critical theory, critical race theory, critical race philosophy, critical realism, critical reflective practice all explicitly have political aims.
What, then, is criticism?
Criticism, according to Victorian cultural critic Matthew Arnold, is a disinterested endeavour to learn and propagate the best that is known and thought in the world. We should all be as “bound” by that definition as he was. We need only to teach the best that is known and thought and “criticism” will take care of itself. That is a lesson from 100 years ago that every teacher should learn.
Critical thinking seen as Arnold defined it is more like a character trait – like having “a critical spirit”, or a willingness to engage in the “give and take of critical discussion”. Criticism is always about the world and not about you.
Christian Piatt is refreshingly honest about this:
- He helps us define who we are.
- He distracts us from working on ourselves.
- He gives us causes to rally around.
- He serves as a common enemy.
- His shortcomings are obvious.
See also a few words of evangelical commentary from Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk.
Vivant linguae mortuae!
Scientists have created an effect comparable to a subatomic Cheshire cat. Rather than a grin that has been separated from its cat, they have created a property of magnetic moment (I’ll not pretend I understand what that is) separated from its neutron. As Stephen Luntz explains,
In the classical world we are familiar with the idea that a property like magnetic moment cannot be separated from its object – it would be like taking the taste away from a chocolate bar so that the bar produced no sensation on the tongue, but a disembodied taste could be detected somewhere quite distinct.
However, things work differently in the world of the very small. In the 1990s, Professor Yakir Aharonov of Tel Aviv University proposed the properties could indeed be detached from particles (his book explaining it is delightfully subtitled Quantum Theory for the Perplexed). The idea develops on Schrödinger’s famous feline thought-experiment. However, instead of ending up with a live and dead cat, you have a cat without its properties, and properties without the cat. The naming after Carroll’s Cheshire moggy was inevitable.
Denkmayr and his co-authors…temporarily removed the magnetic moment from the neutrons using an interferometer. They used a silicon crystal to split a neutron beam and reported, “The experimental results suggest that the system behaves as if the neutrons go through one beam path, while their magnetic moment travels along the other.” The beams were then reunited, leaving no disembodied magnetic moments prowling the universe.
It seems to me some enterprising Catholic theologian might jump on this as a way to realign the doctrine of transubstantiation with modern theories of physics (just as the original doctrine aligned with Platonic thought). To use the classical terminology, what might it mean to say that a set of “accidents” (properties) can be separated from its “substance” (objects)?
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28)
When one has once put on Christ and, having been sent into the flame, glows with the ardor of the Holy Spirit, it is not apparent whether he is of gold or silver. As long as the heat takes over the mass in this way there is one fiery color, and all diversity of race, condition and body is taken away by such a garment.
—Jerome, Epistle to the Galatians 2.3.27-28