What the Documents Say
by S. M. Hutchens
For many years I ignored as a commonplace what I now find as the most striking observation in The Screwtape Letters. In the twenty-third, Lewis has Screwtape, making a note on tactics, say in regard to liberal theology's perennial search for the "historical Jesus," "The documents say what they say and cannot be added to." When I was younger, I didn't find this diabolical concession very interesting because I thought I was involved in a battle for the Bible where everything was really up for grabs—that, to reverse Harry Emerson Fosdick—the liberals might win, and that losing apologetic ground in theological and biblical studies would in some way put the Church in jeopardy.
I now see things a bit differently, and not only because I came to the conviction that the Bible battlers, who rejected Tradition as a source of authority, in the end had to resort to the flawed logic of autographal inerrancy to maintain their argument. If they had stuck to "the Bible says it" in the face of liberal attack, they might have done better—but they wouldn't because that is "fundamentalism." It is not that we are to supinely ignore the defense of Christian teaching, for this is a part of our whole duty, but that at the end of that day of teaching and defense, the documents say what they say. Questions about the extent of the canon, its inerrancy, or the precise nature or locus of interpretational authority cannot obscure this extraordinarily hard fact.
THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:
S. M. Hutchens is a Touchstone senior editor.
• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!
Transactions will be processed on a secure server.
Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.
OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)
Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.
more from the online archives
calling all readers
"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand
"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor