Thank you for your comment.
Let me start with some housekeeping items:
First, I am going to stop speaking on behalf of Dr. Peckham or his book since I don’t want to misrepresent him in some way and become the reason why people choose not to read the book. I’ve already said that I consider this book essential reading for anyone interested in Adventist theology, so I’m gonna leave it at that.
Regarding my attached article, yes, it is essentially an attempt to summarize 3 millennia of Judeo-Christian history in short enough a space that someone with a modern-day attention span might possibly be willing to read it. None the less, it is precisely because it manages to organize enormous amounts of data into a few manageable categories that I believe it to be very useful to furthering the conversation.
That said, your synopsis/rephrasing of the things I’ve written, either in the attachment or above, sounded to me like something very different than what I actually intended to say. There is definitely a breakdown in communication that we will have to find a way to resolve if this conversation has any hope of making progress. As of now, the best I can do is to try to present the ideas from a slightly different angle, hoping that this will clarify things.
I will arrange things by letter in a logical sequence so that, if you disagree with something in A, we should resolve that before moving on to B.
A. I want to start by picturing a scenario where God doesn’t exist. Let’s assume for a second that modern atheists are correct and that reality as we know it is the product of natural causes.
Under this scenario, the only means at our disposal for learning about the nature of this reality are our reason and our senses. We can use our senses to study our surroundings and our reason to process what we’ve discovered. Our senses however are limited and prone to error (think of a stick that looks bent when submerged in water). Things that are too big, too small, too far away, happen too fast or too slow, have occurred in the distant past or occur randomly/sporadically and are therefore difficult to reproduce, are all difficult for us to study.
Our reason does allow us to go beyond the reach of our senses via imagination, but to do so it relies on presuppositions that cannot always be verified. So we might be able to say that IF presupposition X is correct, certain conclusions follow and, if presupposition Y, another set of conclusions, but we generally can’t verify either X or Y. The most we can do is hope that technology will improve enough for us to verify those presuppositions someday.
That of course only applies to material reality. If there is something beyond the material, a metaphysical reality, this would be entirely outside of our reach. Again, we could guess possible scenarios, but we would have no way to differentiate between them.
Thus, under a god-less scenario, access to knowledge would be limited and therefore, the only reasonable position for anyone to take would be that of an agnostic. This can be a sort of epistemic baseline in relation to which we can evaluate our claims to knowledge.
B. If a God does exist however, we are no longer alone in our quest for knowledge. The possibility exists that this God will provide additional guidance beyond what we can gather on our own.
Since we’re all theists here, I will skip over the question of whether God exists. We can take that point for granted and jump to the next question of how we can know which version of God and reality (as expressed by different religions or denominations) is the correct one.
So again, for the sake of saving time, I am raising the epistemic baseline from pure agnosticism to a sort of theistic agnosticism. How do we move beyond basic belief in God? As mentioned in point A, this would only be possible if God intervenes and somehow provides us with information we would not be able to acquire on our own.
Thus, anyone claiming that Christianity is superior to other worldviews is also claiming access to divinely provided knowledge.
C. Divinely provided knowledge implies a method by which this knowledge is communicated to us initially and then how it is preserved for future generations. And, it implies that there must also exist some trust factor or credential helping us to discern between competing claims. Otherwise, if we have no way to tell which of the claims is true, we’re back at the baseline.
In Christianity, as explained in my other article, there are several hypotheses regarding how Christian knowledge is formed and preserved:
God revealed certain things in antiquity and that knowledge was passed on from one generation to the next: Tradition.
God selected/ordained leaders tasked with preserving that knowledge: the Magisterium.
God gives every believer the Holy Spirit which then guides the individual to a correct understanding.
God has contemporary prophets tasked with sorting between truth and error.
God has recorded His message in a Book.
And, a few others.
All these hypotheses make use of Scripture and the other elements in some form, but the question is which element calibrates the others. Moreover, all these hypotheses are built on a starting assumption regarding how God communicates; i.e. they’re all presuppositional to begin with and then supporters attempt to verify the model once developed.
So my question for you is how you build your knowledge beyond a basic belief in God? What element do you use to calibrate the others?
D. Regarding inerrancy, I want to use an analogy.
Imagine a very complicated piece of IKEA furniture that comes with a set of written instructions (just text; no pictures).
We can set up controls at both ends of the spectrum. Given a perfect set of instructions, there’s always some percentage of people who won’t be able to build the unit because, let’s face it, some people can’t build anything. At the other extreme, there’s some percentage of people that will manage to build the unit even without any instructions because they just can. In this experiment we will focus on everyone else.
Let’s imagine then that we take the instructions and run them through a computer program that generates varying degrees of random errors: replaces letters, words, sentences etc.
Most people will be able to accommodate some degree of error and still manage to build the unit. There comes a point however, if sufficient errors are introduced, that a significant number of people will no longer be able to complete the task.
Adventists have never been inerrantists; we have never advocated a form of divine dictation or verbal inspiration. To go with the analogy, we have never expected the instructions to be perfect. But we expected them to be good enough for people to still be able to build the unit.
Whenever someone claims that the degree of error in Scripture is higher than that, they are left with only two options:
To choose another element (tradition, magisterium, contemporary prophet etc.) to make sense of Scripture. In this case the question is, do we have good reason to trust this other element?
To distrust all these elements, in which case we must ask if they have really moved beyond the theistic agnosticism baseline?
And this is the problem with criticism of canonical theology. It is always done in a vacuum; it never takes into account the problems with whatever alternative system the critics are proposing.