David Lose on Inerrancy: Presuppositions and Preunderstandings

I came across this recent post by David Lose entitled "4 Good Reasons Not to Read the Bible Literally," which I thought was worth some interaction. For simplicity's sake (and to make it a little easier to process in terms of blog postings) I'm going to divide my response into different parts. My first response is simply why this issue is important. Lose's post is largely about theology, specifically the issues of literality in biblical interpretation and inerrancy. One could legitimately question why this would be an exegetical question. Most contemporary exegetes, myself included, trained in current historical-critical method have been trained to do the work of exegesis without regard to theology. Figure out first what Paul is saying, for example, and what he means, and then we can discuss his theology and the theology of the Bible as a whole. This is a very modern way of doing exegesis, but we have come to realize that it does not necessarily reflect the way people usually work and think. In any interpretive task we come to the table with presuppositions and preunderstandings which impact the way we read a text. The growing consensus is that it is much better in the interpretive process to acknowledge these preexisting mental perceptions so we can understand how they influence our interpretation, whether for good or bad, and then to refine our interpretation in light of how we have interacted with the data of the text under the influence of these presuppositions.

To the point of this particular post: Here Lose is stating a major presupposition of his which impacts his reading and exegesis of the text: He does not read the Bible literally, and he does not consider it to be inerrant. I appreciate that he put his "cards on the table" because I now understand better his exegesis and how he interprets the text. For my part, I do hold the Bible to be inerrant, and literalness (properly defined - more to come later on that issue) is a major part of my interpretive grid. If he and I were to discuss a particular text together, we would each understand the other's interpretation better by understanding these presuppositions. We would also discuss better our differences in interpretation, and we could even focus more clearly on the nature of our presuppositions, ferreting out the good from the bad.

Long and short: Good exegesis requires that we wrestle with our presuppositions, not ignore them.