(Note: I had this post written a couple of days ago and scheduled for today. So I was pleasantly surprised to see Roger Olson refer to Vanhoozer as “an emerging giant to follow.” Olson is right that Vanhoozer hasn’t written much for the popular audience but he is worth reading. Regrettably, Vanhoozer was coming to Trinity just as I was leaving so I did not get to have him for any classes.)
In any discussion of inerrancy someone is bound to bring up the incarnation as an analogy of the doctrine. The interesting thing about it is that some bring it up in order to show how Scripture is not inerrant (e.g., Peter Enns) while others will use it to support inerrancy (e.g., Herman Bavink). Kevin Vanhoozer has an interesting couple of essays in the book, Trinitarian Theology for the Church, where he attempts to tie together the relationship between inerrancy and the Trinity. These are the two articles of faith that every member of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) is required to sign in order to join. Vanhoozer says he wants “to combine these thoughts and think of the ultimate authority for Christian faith, life and thought as the triune God speaking in and through the Scriptures.” (27, emphasis his) In the course of his discussion he asks under what locus do we place a doctrine of Scripture. One of those suggestions is under Christology especially under the incarnation. As the analogy goes just as in the incarnation we have the divine and human without sin so also in the Bible we the divine and human without error. But as I mentioned above some have used the analogy to show that Scripture could indeed contain errors because it has a genuine human element. Vanhoozer suggests this is a dead end. “The incarnation, however, is a unique and particular event, not a general principle that we can apply to other phenomena, not even biblical inspiration.” (38) While he appreciates what these theologians are trying to do he ends with this thought:
“I cannot help thinking that the incarnational analogy may be more trouble than it is worth. Chalcedon was designed to clarify the being of Jesus Christ, not Scripture. Please do not misunderstand: there is nothing wrong with Chalcedon, just as there was nothing wrong with the paper clip I used so cleverly in my skateboard to replace a screw. However, that improvisation ended with a broken arm. I wonder, then, about the wisdom of using language formulated for one truth to express another.” (41)
And later he writes,
“Ethos means that the character of God stands behind his promises and, indeed, all his covenantal discourse: ‘its character is his character.’ This, rather than the incarnational analogy, is the proper ground on which to apply divine attributes to the biblical texts. Scripture’s truth participates in triune discourse as an extension of the Father’s character. To take up and read the Bible is to take God at his word.” (73, The quote is from Telford Work’s book (p. 61). See below.)
For those interested in pursuing this further Vanhoozer refers the reader to a book by Telford Work, Living and Active: Scripture in the Economy of Salvation. Vanhoozer’s two essays are excellent and well worth digesting.