Biblical Inerrancy?

By | April 6, 2006

I think the concept of biblical inerrancy is meaningless, or at the very least a moot point. There is no one whole complete perfect version of the bible in existence, and all the different copies that we have don’t completely agree. So it is obviously not literally inerrant. As far as being inerrant in content, the bible (and language in general) doesn’t exist outside of a context of interpretation, so even if you could argue that the content was somehow inerrant, it would be a moot point. In addition, as far as fact and figures, we should expect them to generally be true, however we should understand as well that often ancient writers were much less concerned with accuracy of details as we are today.

In addition, the bible wasn’t written to be a science book or encyclopedia, so again accuracy in some of these areas wasn’t the point of the writing. So, if we do think that there is something in the bible that doesn’t seem right from what we know in other areas, it doesn’t negate the general reliability of the bible, nor mean that it isn’t an authority in the areas for which it was written.

I do think that evangelical, conservative christians are in danger of having built altars and worshiping things other than God, such as the bible and doctrine (which I discuss elsewhere). Though these things are good, useful, important, etc., they can also be over-emphasized and/or mis-emphasized.

I agree there is a problem, if one says that part of the bible is in some way untrue, of deciding what to keep and what to throw out. Actually, we shouldn’t throw out anything, but there has to be some basis for interpreting the bible and judging it’s accuracy at different points. This is why I don’t hold to solo scriptura; I don’t think the bible can exists on it’s own because it is language and language doesn’t exists outside of interpretation.

So the discussion should be, “What is the context for understanding the bible?” What has in actuality happened when people talk about scripture alone being the perfect authority, is that they have shifted the context for interpretation from the church to each individual. Potential problems from that ought to be apparent, and one of the greatest problems which it has caused is the shattering of protestantism into thousands of factions.

So that you know that I’m not just making things up myself, Wesley came up with what’s referred to as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, which is essentially a frame of reference for theological understanding. The four criteria that he used were the bible, the church (specifically historically), rational thought, and personal spiritual experience (I would include the moving of the Spirit here). All of these ought to be taken into account. If an idea is consistent with all of these, then we can have a high confidence that it is most likely true. If one of these disagree, then it ought to be re-examined, and if two or more disagree, serious doubt should be given to the idea.

On a final note, I agree that many of those holding up the bible as a sole, perfect source of Christian teaching also hold to a number of abiblical (potentially even unbiblical) ideas, but I won’t even go into that.

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