Dr Todd Pettigrew at Maclean's Blogs is more concerned with the effect on students. How does the Statement of Faith affect assessment of students' work? How does it influence the content of teaching in the classroom?
My latest discussion turned sour very quickly, unfortunately. It can be found in the comments thread here. In the first response to my contribution, I was accused of a litany of offenses, including a "brutally literalist reading of the concept of inerrancy," being wilfully ignorant of basic comprehension and interpretation and denying the historical existence of Jesus, among other nonsense.
I am more than aware of the range of views on inerrancy within evangelical scholarship. I wrote 25,000 words on the subject for my degree. I don't for a minute ascribe to TWU a "scientific textbook" approach to the Scriptures, or any of the other things I was intemperately caricatured as saying.
But even within a very flexible, nuanced evangelical view of inerrancy, the actual historicity of key events cannot be avoided. For example, at the very least, the Virgin Birth, Incarnation, Death and Resurrection of Jesus must be treated as historical events. For most inerrantists, even those with a very broad definition of inerrancy, other events such as the existence of Adam and Eve, the Fall, the Noahic Flood and the Exodus, are also historical. The bottom line is that if the Bible treats something as a historical event, it should be accepted as historical truth.
Some of these are directly required in the TWU Statement of Faith:
We believe that God created Adam and Eve in His image, but they sinned when tempted by Satan.That is not to say (and I made this clear in the discussion, but in vain!) there isn't room for maneouvre in the details. On Adam and Eve, for example, the broadest definitions of inerrancy can accept the interpretation that Adam and Eve were simply the first hominids to bear the image of God, thus squaring with evolution. Details such as talking snakes and forbidden fruit would usually be taken as allegorical. But this doesn't detract from the basic historical assertion: there was a couple called Adam and Eve; they sinned; sin was brought into the human race.
We believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully man, one Person in two natures. Jesus—Israel's promised Messiah—was conceived through the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest and Advocate.
In this I was accused of attributing "the wackier literalist beliefs to the entire institution in order to discredit TWU."
How far can the TWU Statement of Faith be stretched?
In response to TWU's position on Adam and Eve, Theresa (who appears to be connected to the college in some way) wrote the following:
I would say that even this insistence on an historical Adam and Eve (far removed in the distant past… even if it were a couple hundred thousand years ago…) is still building a straw man. The point, again, of this symbolic passage in the Bible (yes, Symbolic – not strictly historical) has primarily to do with morality and faith and not empirical history. Whether or not Adam and Eve were the first “sinners” is not so important as the very obvious fact that no human being since “then” is free of sin or error. If there is historical truth to the Fall narrative, you need not look any further in the past than a moment ago to see the truth of the matter.I am not sure how this matches up to the TWU Statement of Faith. The main reason is that even I can agree with this. How is the Statement of Faith evangelical in any meaningful way if it can be interpreted so loosely as to accommodate even a liberal agnostic? I am very doubtful if Trinity Western would accept a purely symbolic interpretation of Adam and Eve. And in retrospect, it seems Theresa still wants to insist that the story is of a historical event, just that the historical aspect is not its primary meaning.
I am eager to (and perhaps will, soon) talk to someone from Trinity Western about how broadly the Statement of Faith can be interpreted. There is no doubt it requires inerrancy, and that, in its broadest form, requires at least that the Bible is historically true when it intends to be taken as historical truth.
The basic issue remains: Under the TWU Statement of Faith, a scholar is forbidden from reaching certain conclusions. If the Bible makes a truth claim, it must be accepted as truth. Sometimes it is truth about history, occasionally about science, often about morality, and frequently about God, and at various times it is allegorical, symbolic or metaphorical truth. But it remains the truth. And it seems no TWU scholar is free to challenge that.