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Rushdoony & Sandlin: Infallibility and Interpretation September 17, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Andrew Sandlin, Apologetics, Book Reviews, R.J. Rushdoony.
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I picked up this book due to my interest in presuppositional apologetics. It sets out the defend infallibility from this perspective. In addition it examines some issues associated with infallibility and how we should interpret the Bible.

The first part of this book, written by Rushdoony, is a defense of Biblical infallibility from the presuppositional perspective.  We find in it that Biblical infallibility ultimately rests on how one views God.  If he is sovereign and cannot lie (as displayed in the Bible) then his word is obviously infallible.  Yes it is that simple.  It all lies in where trust is placed in man or God.  Rushdoony goes on to examine issues that occur when the Bible is not held as infallible.  He then critiques Meredith Kline’s position seeing him as mythologizing portions and placing ‘academics’ over scripture.  The last chapter in his section on infallibility examines Van Til’s view.

The second part of the book, written by Sandlin, deals with how to interpret the Bible.  To begin his case He states that the Bible is its own guide to interpretation (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  He then looks at two departures from interpreting the Bible according to the Bible, interpreting according to authority (the Pope, etc.) and personal opinion (this is what the passage means to me).  In this section he also explains how we cannot escape to some extent interpreting the Bible for ourselves, by relying on our presuppositions.  This makes it important that we identify what our presuppositions are so we can see their affect on interpretation.  This leads to the fact that it is important to rely on teachers and others for proper interpretation.

The next chapter examines how infallibility relates to interpretation. Here the author stresses the importance of taking the whole Bible as infallible or you end up undermining the concept.  He then points to the fact that we may see paradoxes (things that seem contradictory) in scripture but that we should expect this as creatures reading the creator. He then moves on to the theology of Biblical interpretation.  He states again that we must acknowledge that we come to scripture with presuppositions.  However, while we come with presuppositions this does not mean that the text does not have true meaning (as some post modernists may say).

As with teachers above, he mentions other ways to minimize the distortions that may be caused by incorrect presuppositions. The reformed confessions and historic creeds are given as guides with which we should frame our interpretation.  The confessions are compared to yield signs and the historic creeds as stop signs in interpretation.  Also noted is that Biblical theology is improving as we build upon the foundations of the Calvin and Luther as they in turn had built on Anselm and Origen. The most important part of this chapter is that Sandlin recognizes that the Holy Spirit, through our regeneration, changes our presuppositions and enables us to more properly interpret scripture. His final chapter focuses on the need to interpret the Bible in terms of covenant.  An interesting point he makes here is that the Old Testament is not the old covenant.  He sees the new covenant as faith and grace and the old as works righteousness and unbelief.  Therefore Old Testament believers like Abraham and David were part of the new covenant in that they lived by faith in God.  He also points out how we today can be part of the old covenant if we rely on our works.

The book also includes three appendices.  The first deals with sola scriptura, showing what it is and isn’t.  He then look at the advantages and problems with the redemptive-historical method, showing that while it can give great insight but it misses much by applying to limited of a scope to the Bible.  The inerrancy if the original autographs is the topic of the third appendix.  Here he shows how this apologetical argument is deficient because it denies the sovereignty of God in providentially preserving his word.

A helpful and thought provoking book. It’s just under 100 pages and each of the writers has a clear and easy to understand style. The sovereignty of God and our need to submit and trust him are the key presuppositional themes that are built upon. I benefited from and recommend this book.

It is available from the Chalcedon Foundation.