Monday, January 14, 2008

Inerrancy

Check out Internetmonk for a great article that captures the essence of the inerrancy argument and many others.

For starters..read the wiki article on inerrancy and the Chicago statement of inerrancy about it.

I have slowly moved away from a strict belief in the inerrancy of The Bible. It almost pains me to say that because it feels like betrayal to my faith of the not so distant past. It shouldn't, but it does.

To say that I don't believe in inerrancy is not to say that I don't believe the Bible. It doesn't mean I think the biblical stories are legends. It doesn't mean I think that everything in the Bible is figurative, outdated, or irrelevant.

It does mean that I won't go to gymnastic lengths to justify every word I read against every other word I read in my Bible. It means that I recognize that God spoke to people then as He speaks to people now. He uses their personalities, their talents, and their situations to express His truth.

So, when I read the Council in Jerusalem tell the Gentiles to whom Paul was ministering "You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols..."Acts 15:29..and then later read Paul write: "So then about eating food sacrificed to idols: we know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one", in 1 Corinthians 8:4,--where he goes on to say that eating food sacrificed to an idol is not really sin, but should be avoided for other people's sakes--I don't have to try and come up with some obtuse explanation about how both are in Scripture and simultaneously inerrant truth. I can say that the Council was made up of Jews who were already revolutionizing their worldviews, and had made sweeping changes for the Gentiles in the first place. Their stance was still a bit of a hold-over from their previous commitment to the Law, but a vast improvement over requiring Gentiles to be circumcised and keep all the Mosaic statutes.

It is not earth-shattering to my faith. It doesn't require a constant use of the word paradox, yet I can still affirm that Scripture is truthful.

Of course, coming to this view is a little frightening because of the greater faith that it requires. Declaring inerrancy is not really proclaiming faith. Instead, the concept exists solely to create a safety net of false certainty in a believer. And..it works! Most of the time, that is. Minor problems can be swept away by a quick recitation of the mantra. However, it can actually keep people from deepening a true reliance and faith on Jesus. Instead of actively listening to Him, we can just open our handy-dandy "Instruction Book" or "Love Letter" or "Guide Book" and figure it all out for ourselves.

Maybe that's a little strong for how I feel. Scripture most definitely expresses love and instruction and guidance, but when we try and make it something that it was never meant to be, we do more harm than good.

If we can't say that the Bible is inerrant, then we say God is a liar...or so say some people. It is a false dilemma. God never describes Scripture as inerrant in the sense that most people refer to it. The words God-breathed and Inspired are used, but those terms are vastly different than a strict view that everything in the Canon is perfectly recorded.

Here's the thing: do people believe in Jesus because they have accepted the inerrancy of the Bible? Obviously, if they believe in inerrancy it might make it easier, but if someone is unchurched and has no basis to even know about Jesus, how do they come to faith? Through revelation from God. We can parse all of our verbs, but really it is the transformative truth of Jesus that brings an individual to faith. That truth can come through Scripture, from a discussion with a believer, from a vision a la Saul on the Road to Damascus.

enough for now.

5 comments:

Vance said...

Hi Terri,
I liked your post and completely agree with it. The false dilemma aspect you bring up is very interesting, these sorts of statements get made all the time and often don't get challenged--especially if the originator has written a book or two or is in a leadership position.
Just yesterday I ran across something I hadn't noticed before--the missing/partial numbers in 1st Samuel 13:1 regarding Saul's age and length of reign. Evidently the numbers are missing in both the Hebrew and the Septuagint. I wonder how the inerrancy people handle this--how can an inerrant text have an ommision?

-- Vance

terri said...

Well....obviously their omission was God's perfect will and part of the inerrant record of Scripture. There's probably a very deep theological reason for it that we chould spend years researching and eventually develop into a book!

hehe...was that too sarcastic of an expalanation? :-)

Rick said...

Took me a long time realize that "inerrancy" and "truthfulness" weren't necessarily the same thing. Thanks for posting your thoughts :)

theologien said...

I have had some of the same thoughts about the issue of inerrancy, mostly with the result that I find that the issue is not clearly defined.

A couple of thoughts. Karl Barth points out (correctly) that the word of God is Jesus Christ, and can be encountered in various forms, including scripture.

As for numbers, etc., and inerrancy, the Wiki article you reference says, "Under the statement inerrancy applies only to the original manuscripts (which no longer exist, but can be inferred on the basis of extant copies), not to the copies or translations themselves."

One final thought: the article is the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, and has nothing to do with the U. of Chicago. The probably would find that statement rather humorous.

Some good thoughts, though.

terri said...

hehehe....no fair pointing out the dumb mistakes I make! :-)

You are, of course, correct! In my defense I had been reading Barth's biography and must have had the University of Chicago on my mind as one of his last lecturing gigis and the place where his son studied/taught.

entirely my faux pas!

I will correct it!