If the Bible is not inerrant, where does that leave us?
Posted on June 7, 2014
The idea of Biblical inerrancy is everywhere under siege these days, and it’s coming from within the circle of Christian believers, that is, the seminaries and liberal Christian colleges. To me, it’s an inevitable conclusion when you look at the evidence. But if the Bible is considered errant, does that leave us with just another classic ‘text’, like Shakespeare or Chaucer?
I don’t know any believing Bible scholar that believes Scripture should be treated like any other ‘classic text’. Most do consider the Bible as authoritative, just not inerrant.
The idea of an errant Bible is threatening to many Christians, but I believe it strengthens, or even redefines faith, around the core that matters.
1) An inerrant Bible inserts un-necessary obstacles to belief. If we both agree on the centrality of the gospel message, then why put obstacles in the path: Jonah was swallowed by a whale, young Earth theory, the genealogies of Jesus, the various copy-ist insertions. Not to mention God’s instruction to Saul to slay all the Amalekites, men, women and children.
2) God can speak through an errant Bible. Why not? The Bible is a window and a path to Truth; it is not Truth itself. Regarding the Bible as Truth itself, when it offers mainly principles, and is often vague and illusory, leads to pedantry and ideology and all the downstream effects of oppressive hierarchy, legalism and turf wars; the principle of inerrancy has fuelled many of the ill effects of Christianity because flawed products of the human imagination and will have been promoted as the Will of God.
3) The idea of an “originally given” Bible, which follows from the idea of inerrancy, has been shown false through the study of history. There was no canonical Bible before 300 AD. The books of the Bible should not be viewed all at the same level, and some books outside the Bible have merit. The decision that some books were inerrant, and others were not, was made by a council of men. That should tell you something about the concept of inerrancy right there. And today there is still not universal agreement across Christendom on which books are canonical. That in itself indicates that not every book is regarded as absolutely correct.
4) The Bible should not be privileged above the sacred texts of other religions in my view. That doesn’t mean all sacred texts are equal, but I don’t give every word in the Bible a bye over any word in any other sacred text. The Bible is *my* sacred text; it’s the one that has been a light to my feet and a guide to my path for my entire life. But I don’t deprecate the validity of other world views and belief structures, and am open to dialogue with other faiths.