The following will appear in the next (vol. 4, no. 3, Summer 1993) issue of _The Skeptica

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The following will appear in the next (vol. 4, no. 3, Summer 1993) issue of _The Skeptical Review_. It may be redistributed freely. Copies of the text of all articles published in _The Skeptical Review_ may be obtained by sending $1 and either one high-density diskette or two double-density diskettes to _The Skeptical Review_, P.O. Box 617, Canton, IL 61520-0617. Specify WordPerfect or WordStar format. (Free one-year subscriptions are available from the same address.) CORRESPONDENCE WITH GLEASON ARCHER Farrell Till Dr. Gleason Archer is undoubtedly the chief apostle of Bible inerrancy. His book Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties is the most often quoted reference work in the correspondence that I exchange with Bible inerrantists. In view of his reputation, I decided to invite him to debate this issue in a setting that would allow the seminary students where he teaches at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School to hear both sides. Our exchange of letters to date is published below. ********** February 7, 1993 Dear Dr. Archer: For some time now, you have regularly received our publication The Skeptical Review. If you have read any of the materials in it, you have undoubtedly noticed that we are dedicated to exposing flaws in the Bible inerrancy doctrine. Furthermore, we believe that our work speaks for itself and that we have more than accomplished our goal. In our work, we constantly see references to your book Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties in the letters and articles that we received from defenders of the inerrancy view. I have examined your book many times, and I personally find it incredibly simplistic. I don't say this to insult you but merely to express my honest opinion. As a former fundamentalist minister, I can even understand how that one would go to unjustifiable extremes to try to defend the inerrancy doctrine, because I once did it myself. You teach at a divinity school where young men are being trained for the ministry, and I assume that your staff tries to instill in them the belief that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. I would like to propose that you and I debate this issue in a public forum that would give your students and others the opportunity to hear both sides. If you sincerely believe that the Bible is God's inerrant word, I would think that this proposal would be appealing to you. Truth has nothing to fear by public examination, so if your position is the right one, you could strengthen the faith of your students by demonstrating to them that attacks on the integrity of the Bible cannot withstand public scrutiny. If you are willing to participate in such a debate, I would be happy to enter into negotiations with you to decide upon specific propositions and a time that would be mutually compatible with our teaching schedules. Farrell Till ********** February 16, 1993 Dear Mr. Till: Thank you for your invitation to debate me concerning the accuracy and trustworthiness of Holy Scripture. If I thought it would serve any useful purpose, I would be happy to comply. But from what I know about you I can only conclude that it would be a mere exercise in futility. Let me explain that if you presented yourself as a seeker after truth, or if you were a Muslim debater, or the exponent of some religion which has a genuine belief in a god of some sort, and you had not been presented with the strong and compelling evidence for the unique authority and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures, then there might be some point in our getting together. But as it is, in view of the fact that you have already been confronted with the many infallible proofs of the truth of Scripture, and were once sufficiently persuaded of them to become what you term "a Fundamentalist minister," I can only conclude that you have fallen into the syndrome of a passionate, quarrelsome renegade, and are therefore not really open to reason. You now consider yourself superior to Moses and Isaiah and Jesus Christ Himself as an expert on God, and you therefore have superseded them as a supreme authority in all things metaphysical. You have absolutely nothing to offer to your public but disillusionment and despair as they face the prospect of eventual death and possible judgment before the Author and Enforcer of the moral law. You can only leave them without purpose, goal or meaning in life, and persuade them that life is basically futile and without purpose. In short, I feel it would be as pointless for me to debate with you as it would be for either of us to debate with Mary Baker Eddy about the reality of matter or the value of material medica. I must add that I feel sorry for you that you have lost all hope of salvation because of your abandonment of your Savior. But the same God who granted me the responsibility of free choice between Christ and Satan has granted the same to you, and I therefore respect your prerogative to turn your back upon God if that is what you prefer. Gleason L. Archer ********** February 18, 1993 Dear Dr. Archer: I appreciate your prompt response to my letter. To be honest, I must admit that I didn't expect any answer at all. That expectation had been based on the fact that I have written similar letters to several inerrantist authors and lecturers only to have them ignored. In your reply, you said that you would be happy to comply [with my invitation to debate] if you thought it "would serve any useful purpose." You then went on to say that from what you know about me you could only conclude that a debate "would be a mere exercise in futility." I regret that your vision regarding the practicality of a debate is as myopic as your discernment of biblical discrepancies. Occasionally, I encounter an inerrantist who is willing to defend his position in public forum, but I never enter into those discussions with any illusions of converting my opponents. I do not debate the inerrancy issue in order to educate my opponents, because their minds are almost always anesthetized to reason and logic. I debate them in hopes of reaching some in the audiences whose minds are still open to honest inquiry. If you are so certain that the truth is on your side, should you not consider my proposal as an opportunity not to reach me but to reach some in the audience who are not presently believers in Bible inerrancy but whose minds might still be open to the "many infallible proofs of the truth of Scripture," which you referred to in your letter? Viewed in this way, wouldn't a debate serve some "useful purpose"? Shouldn't you also consider the students at your seminary? I suppose that they are taught in their classes that the Bible is the inerrant "word of God," but you surely know that when they leave they will be exposed to other opinions of the scriptures. If while they are yet students, you should demonstrate to them in public debate that my position is completely absurd, which you could surely do if there are indeed "many infallible proofs of the truth of Scripture," would you not be strengthening their faith and preparing them for what they will encounter after they leave the seminary? Viewed in this way, wouldn't a debate serve some "useful purpose"? I trust that you were sincere when you said that you would happily accept my debate proposal if it would serve "any useful purpose." I have indicated to you at least two useful purposes that a debate would have, so I hope to receive an acceptance from you by return mail. Farrell Till ********** [NOTE FROM JIM LIPPARD: Till also sent a similar debate challenge to Campus Crusade for Christ lecturer Josh McDowell, the author of _Evidence that Demands a Verdict_, _Reasons Skeptics Should Consider Christianity_, _Answers to Tough Questions Skeptics Ask About the Christian Faith_ (these latter two co-authored with Don Stewart), and other apologetic works. Although the challenge was sent in early February, McDowell has yet to acknowledge it.] Jim Lippard Lippard@CCIT.ARIZONA.EDU Dept. of Philosophy Lippard@ARIZVMS.BITNET University of Arizona Tucson, AZ 85721


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