This will be our last post on Hermeneutical frameworks. I also will not be posting this upcoming week. I'll be going back home to Rochester, NY to spend time with our family and friends. In our last post we looked at the rule of faith as a framework within which to operate. The position we will look at today is similar in some senses, in that it allows much more flexibility than the traditional Evangelical position permits. Our fourth position goes further than the 'rule of faith' in that it seeks to place no boundaries upon the interpreter. Obviously, this seems to many to be a highly dangerous position for you could end up denying anything. However, at least those working within a reformed framework would stress that the Holy Spirit will keep them Orthodox.
Why would no boundaries be a good thing? Some have grown tired of seeing a lot of effort expended to answer objections to the doctrine of inerrancy that are raised over issues that sometimes are at best tangential to the didactic purpose of the text. They might simply ask, 'what's the big deal' over the issue related to Mark 2:26 that we have outlined in previous posts. The point of Mark 2:26 isn't to tell us who the high priest was in the time of King Saul, it is to tell us something about Jesus, to tell us about his Messianic status. The doctrine of inerrancy might be reformulated along these lines, 'in Scripture, God inerrantly accomplished his goals of communication.' In their opinion, the Bible should be used for what its purpose is, to tell us about God. Activities ranging from reconstructing history from the Bible to basing science upon it may be misguided.
Besides the potential scariness of this viewpoint, one might also ask if it runs the risk of downplaying the historical aspects of the text too strongly. After all, don't passages like 1 Cor. 15 seek to ground the central Christian confession firmly in history?
One final possible criticism is that such a redefinition of inerrancy is not permitted by the doctrine of verbal plenary inspiration (i.e., that God inspired the very words of Scripture). In fact it does seem to outlaw it for even incidentals would need to be inerrant. However, they may counter by suggesting that verbal plenary inspiration does not accurately describe the mode of inspiration of Scripture, for modern linguistics has shown that individual words do not carry meaning.
Post Script: What is the best way forward?
In my opinion this last position has the most going for it. I think it seeks to honor the God who revealed himself in Scripture and understand the Bible on its own terms (this is not to imply that the other positions do not, it's more of an assertion against contrarians). With that said, I think this approach can be strengthened by utilizing the rule of faith as a help; how has the church historically handled this passage? While it shouldn't act as a box, the history of interpretation can be a faithful guide. Additionally, historical methodologies should not be thrown out the window. While no text in the Bible is 'history' in the modern sense, much of the revelatory deposit in the Bible is clearly historical and cannot be rightly understood otherwise.
Ultimately, no matter which methodology you utilize, the key thing to remember is that, 'the Lord knows those who are his' (2 Tim. 2:9). He will preserve us to the end, and I believe, keep us orthodox as we strive to know him more fully through his revelation in his word.