Journal Article Critique

Journal Article CritiqueOrder Description
Read the article you attached and then write a minimum of 2 full pages and NO MORE THAN 3 PAGES. You are expected to read the article with a critical eye and to interact with the author’s theology and worldview. Since you are not considered an authority, you must withhold personal references, opinions, attitudes, and values from the critiquing process. Please follow this template when writing each critique:

Title Page
Contents Page (Section headings should be as follows: Introduction, Brief Summary, Critical Interaction, Conclusion, Selected Bibliography)
The body of your critique includes the following sections:
I. Introduction (1 paragraph)
A. Provide a purpose statement.
B. Provide a brief overview of the paper’s contents.
II. Brief Summary (1 paragraph)
A. Capture the thesis of the article.
B. Share the overall content of the article.
III. Critical Interaction (1–2 paragraphs)
A. The point is not whether you agree with the author’s point of view, but that you recognize what the author is discussing and what theological issues are at stake.
B. It is important for you to document your assessment of the author throughout. If you evaluate the author’s opinion, give an example along with an endnote to designate an outside source where the opinion can be observed.
C. Does the author approach the subject with any presuppositions/or biases?
D. With what theological and biblical perspectives does he/she approach the subject?
E. What is the author’s goal?
F. Has the author developed his/her thesis logically?
G. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the author’s arguments?
H. Did the author prove his/her thesis?
I. What are some applications that arise from this article?
IV. Conclusion (1 paragraph)
A. This is where you wrap up your work by conveying how well the author achieved his/her goals. Very briefly summarize your evaluations here.
B. Does the author leave you with any questions? If so, what are they?
Selected Bibliography (on a separate page)

The minimum of 2 full pages not to exceed 3-page requirement refers to the Introduction, Brief Summary, Critical Interaction, and Conclusion sections. It does not include the Cover page, Contents page, or Selected Bibliography. If your critique exceeds the 3-page requirement for sections I–IV, your grade will be reduced.

Formatting Requirements: Make sure your critiques are formatted in the following manner:
Follow Turabian style
Use footnotes to document research statements.
Use 1” margins all around.
Make text double-spaced.
Use 12-point Times New Roman font.
Indent the 1st line of a paragraph ½ inch.
Do not insert any extra lines or additional points between paragraphs.
Include a cover page

Table of contents

1. The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism: Responding to New Challenges to Biblical Authority

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The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism: Responding to New Challenges to Biblical Authority

Author: Sexton, Jason

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The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism: Responding to New Challenges to Biblical Authority. By G. K. Beale. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008, 300 pp.,

Well known for detailed analyses and critical scrutiny of his interlocutors, Gregory Beale, Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, has offered the latest contribution to the inerrancy debate. As the first significant defense of inerrancy in the last twenty years, its stated aim is “to focus on a specific debate that bears upon the broad issue of biblical authority that has arisen recently in evangelicalism” (p. 21). Accordingly, the majority of its proper content is taken up in exacting dialogue with Peter Enns (chaps. 1-4). This discussion is followed by a defense of the traditional view of Isaiah’s authorship (chap. 5) and a section assimilating a theological understanding of the biblical cosmos with biblical authority (chaps. 6-7). Afterthoughts appear in three appendices dealing with (1) hermeneutics and epistemology, (2) the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, and (3) sixteen quotations from Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics, alluding to his commitment to an errant and fallible Bible.

After locating himself within the last thirty years of the U.S. evangelical context, Beale raises concern about revisions of “the standard North American evangelical statement on Scripture.” He identifies the general cause of the revisions to be (1) postmodernism and (2) the fact that conservative students are earning doctorates in nonevangelical schools (p. 20). The contemporary face of the “new challenges” to inerrancy (p. 21), elsewhere defined as “a new version of an older view known as the infallibility of the Bible” (p. 220), is offered by Enns, whom Beale deems “too influenced by the extremes of postmodern thought” (p. 44). Beale elsewhere identifies Enns with von Rad (p. 43) and the Rogers and McKim proposal (p. 46), which lapses the debate back into its previous wave in the late 1970s and early 80s.

The first two chapters assess recent developments in OT studies. The Scripture principle espoused in J. I. Packer’s “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God is representative of Beale’s position (p., 21, passim). He thus takes direct issue with the view of non-historicity and “myth” in the OT, and also with “legend,” which Beale deems to be Enns’s answer to evidences wrought by historical-criticism (p. 38). The book sees attempts to neatly separate “cognitive information” (e.g. historical or scientific facts) from “morality and salvific issues” as deeply flawed, as is the “incarnational model” (p. 40).

Beale indicts Enns’s Inspiration and Incarnation (2005) for seeing difficulties from biblical data as too problematic while not adequately representing alternative evangelical interpretations. According to Beale, this prompts believers to lose confidence in the Bible. He shows how Enns too quickly distinguishes theological from historical truth while paying little hermeneutical regard to “conscious historical genre signals by biblical writers” (pp. 66-67). Heavy dependence on ANE extra-biblical sources is also shown to be faulty because some of their genres, which themselves are difficult to define, may have no relevance to the Bible at all (pp. 72-73). Yet Enns is said to want ANE literature to play a dominant role for understanding history, attempting to interpret texts in their literary and historical contexts while not plunging into immediate harmonizing, as some inerrantists have been prone to do. Beale commends him for this; still, Beale finds the category of “myth” the “least probable” in cases like Genesis. Thus, Enns’s interpretive starting point is questionable (pp. 78-79).

Chapters three and four interact with Enns’s view of the use of the OT in the NT, posing challenges and identifying weaknesses and implications for the view that NT writers quoted mythical accounts while being convinced that the accounts were historically true. Contra Enns, Beale suggests that NT writers, though not necessarily doing historical-grammatical exegesis, were “engaging the Old Testament in an effort to remain consistent with the original context and intention of the Old Testament author” (p. 87). A major weakness Beale points out is that Enns avoids other scholarly options by polarizing the historical-grammatical method from the christotelic one, leaving no other alternatives (p. 104). Yet Beale notes that Enns admits that a “proper method” still may not bring exegetical clarity on every point (p. 111).

Beale further notes Enns’s selectivity in responding to criticism, neglecting the major issue of “myth” in 1 Cor 10:4 (p. 118), which yields ground for Beale to challenge what he thinks are Enns’s underlying assumptions. Some of Beale’s accusations of Enns do not seem to be on target. For example, Beale accuses Enns of deeming it “inappropriately modernist” to think that Jesus and the apostles “could have had understandings of the Old Testament that had significant links to the Old Testament’s original meaning” (p. 121, quote is Beale’s). Enns simply never said this.

Chapter five gives scriptural evidence for Isaiah’s integrity, the problem having first been mentioned in the introduction. Arguments for the single-author view are made and supported by R. Shultz and E. J. Young. These arguments include the NT’s view of Isaiah, along with Isaiah’s historic and prophetic nature. Here is where the inerrancy debate’s bearing on the Bible’s authority is brought out (p. 123). Beale lends substantial weight to Isaianic authorship for Isaiah and posits that the evidence reveals “repeated references to the active, personal role of Isaiah in writing and prophesying in all parts of the book” (p. 128). After this, Beale contrasts a critical reading of Isaiah in order to dismiss any Barthian views of Scripture. He also demonstrates the authority of biblical passages, whose texts give testimony to precision and accuracy (e.g. Matt. 15:7; “rightly did Isaiah prophecy of you . . .”). A strong case is made here for the infallibility and inerrancy of prophetic texts, with time transcendent vocative application of prophecy, displaying that authorial authority is bound up in the message (p. 135). After making reference to Matthew 24:35, along with the time and culturally-transcendent nature of God’s word, Beale concludes, “The truth of Christ’s words and teachings are not culturally bound but transcend all cultures and remain unaltered by cultural beliefs and traditions that contain untrue elements” (p. 144).

Chapters six and seven present unique material synthesizing biblical cosmology with scientific cosmology, showing how the celestial and temple archetypes are reflected in phenomenological descriptions of the natural creation (p. 163). Beale makes acute correlation between the heavenly embodiment/temple/tabernacle and the cosmic embodiment/temple/tabernacle that will likewise be displayed in the future “new” embodiment of the cosmos, the future heavenly temple/tabernacle. While self-critically thinking that not “every part” of his analysis of the “astronomical significance” will be persuasive, and later noting the difficulty of presenting this systematic depiction because “only snapshots” are scattered throughout Scripture (p. 204), Beale nevertheless deems it corporately sufficient to symbolize the heavens as God’s “big cosmic tabernacle.” Following Jewish commentators, he argues against a late-developed cosmic-temple understanding and gives reasons why pagan nations had similar temple structures, mimicking God’s natural temple, which is the cosmos (pp. 174-75). ANE concepts of foreign gods and temples also symbolized cosmological accounts of the world (pp. 175-176), though Israel’s was the “true temple” and pagan temples had no account of the eschatological significance that Israel’s story did (p. 183). For Beale, “the cumulative effect,” while not all similarities drawn are admittedly as strong as others, is that Eden is indicated as “the first archetypal earthly temple,” situated in “garden-like form” upon which all of Israel’s temples were based (p. 191).

Chapter seven moves back to the issue of the authority of Scripture. OT cosmic descriptions are all said to be “charged with a temple theology to one degree or another,” arguing against the idea of OT writers thinking in terms of the “mythical conventions” of their day. These descriptions are said to be “not scientific but theological, understanding the cosmos as a big temple,” which Beale argues is “such a theological point” that upholds inerrancy and can be readily accepted by Christians of the twenty-first century (pp. 194-96). As he understands it, “everything [in Scripture] is charged with theological significance” (p. 205), and much cosmological language should not be deemed as “scientific description,” because intentions are often to describe “a temple” that can still today be called “an accurate theological description” (p. 209). Beale goes so far to suggest that it is an issue of biblical authority to believe the cosmos is a temple (p. 214), though the case should probably be made more softly in light of his earlier acknowledgement of the difficulty of its systematic presentation (p. 204). This temple theology and cosmology, nevertheless, give ground for “some figurative and even literal phenomenological descriptions that are easily understood and even shared by modern readers” (p. 214) and provide further options for interpreting the relationship of OT from other ANE conceptions of creation, history, and temples (p. 216). Accordingly, there is no reason to think that the biblical writers were locked into unconsciously imbibing their mythical acculturation. If so, as Beale has argued, they would have been employing a modernist-notion of thinking in compartmentalized ways, according to both their culture and their theology, which seems likely to be an “artificial imposition onto the biblical writers” (p. 217). If this is the case, however, the ancients would seem to have had a theologically developed view of Scripture in light of ancient pagan traditions similar to the one today that contrasts inerrancy in light of opposing views wrought by today’s acculturations.

The first appendix is a revised 1999 article dealing with epistemological and hermeneutical matters in a critique of Steve Moyise’s “soft postmodernism” (p. 224), followed by a brief reflective addendum on how globahsm relates to postmodernism (pp. 261-65). Moyise asserts that modern readers “create meaning” from biblical texts instead of recognizing meaning “already inherent in the text” (p. 229). While not willing to say that interpretation is void of creativity (p. 245), he is also unwilling to confuse the author’s original meaning with extension or application of that meaning (p. 239). Admittedly, the issue may be an epistemological disagreement over authority and inspiration (pp. 250, 252). For Beale, the issue is a “Christian worldview” that bases its knowledge on God’s revelation, whose “enduring foundation” for the “absolute transcendent determinant meaning to all texts” is something presupposed on the basis of “an omniscient, sovereign, and transcendent God.” This God “knows the exhaustive yet determinant and true meaning of all texts because he stands above the world he has constructed and above all the social constructs his creatures have constructed,” yet because he created them to share partly in his attributes, they have “some determinant meaning of the communicative acts of others” (p. 257). According to Beale, if one cannot know what God communicated in his inspired Scripture, then the Bible “has no binding relation to us.” He therefore sees “an authoritative word of God” as no good at all if one cannot know “what that word has said.” Herein Beale finds “the ultimate danger of postmodern perspectives on interpreting the Bible” (p. 259).

The second appendix gives the basis from which Beale has sought to operate throughout the book – the Chicago Statement with its affirmation, denials, and exposition (pp. 267-79). The final appendix gives place for Barth’s view of Scripture (pp. 281-83), which is getting a “revival of interest” (p. 20) and whose influence Beale sees as highly problematic for evangelicals today. By citing Barth at relevant points, and having taken him to task elsewhere in the book, Beale hopes to clarify the Barthian position on Scripture so evangelicals can acutely observe his views and perhaps understand where one influence on the current state for an evangelical view of Scripture has come from.

While the strengths of Beale’s book are many and readily seen, criticisms are notwithstanding. Though beginning strong, it does not deliver conclusively for many reasons. Unfortunately, the “rhetorical tone” of the debate is still a bit rough. Is it really always helpful to point out opponents’ inaccuracies and ambiguities? And whereas the “unclear” label is reserved for Enns and Moyise (pp. 27, 229), I found Beale’s work very confusing at times, especially when dealing with rejoinder, surrejoinder, additional surrejoinders, first and third-person passive depictions, and even another author in the conversation, which seemed unnecessary. While one cannot fault attempts at objectivity, a research assistant hardly offers unbiased clarification in a debate, and here seemed only to add to the convolution. Unfortunately, mutual understanding seems limited between Beale and Enns (pp. 61, 63, 67, 112), even though purported clarifications abound and, though shielded by occasional disclaimers (p. 55), so does the rhetoric. In a debate so historically explosive, with undergraduates, pastors, and academics eager to take sides, clarity and charity are essential.

When Beale interacted with Enns’s view of “myth,” he never defined the term (pp. 2738). One also wonders whether Walton is a truly reliable guide for Beale’s purposes, unwilling himself to state whether or not the Genesis cosmology or Adam was essentially historical (cf. John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006], 209). Beale also makes the bold claim that “the majority” of conservative scholars hold to a completely objective, unbiased view of recording history. While purporting a consensus fallacy is never a good idea, Beale provides no footnote or references for this assertion (p. 38).

As Beale notes, Enns often offers simplistic and weak arguments, occasionally creating false dichotomies like the limited options of the christotelic versus the historicalgrammatical hermeneutic, or the historical reading versus the mythical reading, with no alternatives. Yet Beale does not grant merits to Enns’s arguments at points and occasionally pigeonholes him (pp. 66-67). Enns’s response to the accusation of being a postmodernist is also never acknowledged (cf. JETS 49/2: 317, n. 10), though his stance as a supposed postmodernist characterizes the tone of the book. And this occurs even though Beale himself borrows from an acknowledged postmodern “critical realism” (p. 48). Underlying assumptions are also read into Enns (p. 121, passim). Nevertheless, Beale’s own ability to read into things cannot be mistaken. For example, when the “temple” agenda appears (chaps. 6 and 7), one wonders if any other objective reading of Scripture is even possible. This situation could even be potentially harmful to Beale’s entire case. The book also includes no serious engagement of postmodern thought occurring with any leading postmodern thinker(s). Instead, Beale seems to be interacting with convoluted challenges to the standard doctrine of inerrancy mainly brought about by evangelicals. He thus deals with what he understands postmodernism and its influence to be.

One may also wonder how the phenomenological designation of cosmic descriptions set forth by Beale relates to the historical or scientifically accurate descriptions, or as-it-happened time-historically located events that correspond with reality. In other words, in light of Beale’s approach to the OT, were the events really essential history and did they happen in the manner the Bible says they happened? Or might his position be guilty of a negative proof fallacy where one never finds errors because even observable ones can be explained as “phenomenological” or “cosmologically” theological? For example, does “temple” carry anything more than “theological significance” throughout? It would be no surprise if at this point Beale himself may be inadvertently treading down a mild postmodern path of sorts.

Furthermore, it does not seem that any Barthians or evangelicals considering a Barthian view of Scripture will be persuaded by Beale. Barthians know that there is more to Barth than what he states in any one or many places. Barths thought in Church Dogmatics is said to be “one cohesive argument, and no single stage within the argument is definitive for the whole” (John Webster, Karl Barth [London: Continuum, 2004, 50]). As with Barth, Beale also seems to misunderstand the Chicago Statement. He criticizes evangelicals who consider themselves “reformers of an antiquated evangelicalism, represented, for example, by the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy” (p. 21). Yet in stating this Beale fails to recognize the very nature of the Chicago Statement, including Packer’s comments about its shelf-life (J. I. Packer, Beyond the Battle for the Bible [Westchester, IL: Cornerstone, 1980] 48) and its own self-invitation for modification and extension (cf. the Preface to the Chicago Statement in the book under review, pp. 268-69), though Beale himself offers some modification, albeit in a very minor way (p. 267, n. 1)

There are a few minor typographical issues (e.g. “realties” should be “realities” [p. 184] and the dated usage of BADG is questionable [p. 118; cf. with BDAG on p. 135, n. 12]. Beyond this, jumbled argumentation seems to tie the book together, with Beale in the defensive posture for his somewhat disjointed program. This may be the result of the book consisting of six articles that appear in other publications. It must be noted though that this work did not set out to be a complete defense of a doctrine of inerrancy or a comprehensive constructive Scripture principle in light of the recent resurgent argumentation against inerrancy, although Beale is certainly capable of one. Evangelical Christians will have to look elsewhere for this, which seems not too far down the road in the present context.

Whether one agrees with Beale on his point of temple cosmology or on his method, one must admit that his thought constructively builds on a theological commitment to the Bible’s inerrant authority, though his exegetical method and its other theological variegations may be sketchy and subjectively indeterminate. Beale seriously engages the exegetical and theological task given to evangelicals from an inerrantist framework. He has engaged arguments head-on and ANE literature with his presuppositions about inspiration and with his stated interpretive program. He accomplished exactly what Enns should do/have done in order to subject his ideas to the biblical evidence. For this Beale is to be highly commended. Other biblical scholars and theologians would be well served in learning from Beale’s approach of subjecting new ideas to the Bible’s authority. Moreover, he has provided a helpful installment in the inerrancy debate, seeking to engage detractors adequately, defend satisfactorily and advance constructively the inerrancy position. Those who will most benefit from this book will be individuals who have been impressed by recent arguments from inerrancy’s critics. Beale has given them a new way for holding to inerrancy while simultaneously engaging serious biblical theology.


Jason Sexton

University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland

Publication title: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

Volume: 52

Issue: 2

Pages: 398-403

Number of pages: 6

Publication year: 2009

Publication date: Jun 2009

Year: 2009

Publisher: Evangelical Theological Society

Place of publication: Lynchburg

Country of publication: United States

Publication subject: Religions And Theology

ISSN: 03608808

Source type: Scholarly Journals

Language of publication: English

Document type: General Information

ProQuest document ID: 211237188

Document URL:

Copyright: Copyright Evangelical Theological Society Jun 2009

Last updated: 2012-03-19

Database: ProQuest Central

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