Pages 15-16: summer 1993
CORRESPONDENCE WITH GLEASON ARCHER
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 corre-
spondence 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 Evan
gelical Divinity School to hear both sides. Our exchange of letters to date is published
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
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.
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 super
seded them as a supreme authority in all things metaphysical. You have absolutely nothing to offer to your public but disillu
sionment 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.
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