I want to start by saying that I don’t have a bone to pick with any Christian that chooses to embrace inerrancy. My issue is not necessarily with the idea of inerrancy, it’s that I don’t care for the term. I think that it can be misleading in what the Holy Scripture is and is not. I’m not sure if I will succeed in persuading others although that is not my goal, or making those that opposes my views any lest hostile and understanding, although that would be nice.
I would advise to read the two prior posting before continuing.
Has inerrancy outlived its usefulness Part One & Two
I’m not the first, nor will I be the last that challenges the inerrancy position, so I will quote and reflect on those that have come before me and offer some thoughts of my own. Donald G. Bloesch has written quite extensively on this matter, so he will be my primary source.
One of the first remarks that Bloesch says is:
They did not err in what they proclaimed, but this does not mean that they were faultless in their recording of historical data or in their world view, which is now outdated. Essentials of Evangelical Theology, p65
Here is the first thing that we must come to grip with. I think this is the first mistake of those holding to the inerrant position. Is to explain away these simple mistakes, and by invoking the “Original Autographs” argument, which by the way we don’t have and seems to me that it makes it some sort of fanciful myth in which it denies the very humanity of it’s writers. I think that it takes a huge leap of faith to assume that the Original Autographs were perfect, and it is a pretty remarkable hypothesis considering the fact that the manuscripts we have are extremely reliable and no reason to think they differ from the Original Autographs. As a matter of faith we should reckon what we have as what God intended for us to have, at least that is my opinion.
There are some clear mistakes in the bible such as:
- Numbers 25:9 claims that 24,000 died,
- while 1 Cor. 10:8 claim that 23,000 died
- In 1 Samuel 31:4 Saul commits suicide
- while 2 Samuel 1:9 Saul is killed
- 2 Samuel 10:18 David kills 700 Arameans
- While 1 Chronicles 19:18 says that David killed 7000
- We have different accounts of what was said in the Gospels such as Luke reporting that they cried out “Glory in the highest”, while the other Gospels says they cried out “Hosanna in the highest”. All four Gospels report differently the wording of the inscription above the cross. (See Millard J. Erickson “Christian Theology” p255 for a detailed account of problem texts)
I only cite these to make a simple point, there are mistakes in the bible and thus to say the bible is inerrant is false, at least in the strictest use of the word. Bloesch goes on to say that:
“Calvin, too, upheld biblical infallibility and inerrancy without falling into the delusion that this means that everything that the Bible says must be taken at face value. He felt remarkably free to exercise critical judgment when dealing with the textual problems. He tells us, for example, that Jeremiah’s name somehow crept into Matthew 27:9 “by mistake” and no reference is made to the autographs as a way out of this difficulty…He warned that we must not expect to learn natural science (specifically astronomy) from Genesis 1, which is composed in popular phenomenal language. Calvin was committed to a high view of the Scriptures, even regarding them as the oracles of God, but this did not prevent him from examining the text critically. Essentials of Evangelical Theology, p66
All to often the reformers are constantly be cited as holding on to inerrancy, even though they never used the word. Well that may be true to a degree, but did they in fact believe inerrancy as it is now taught by those cited in my previous post?
What does the bible say about itself? Does it claim to be inerrant as they would have us believe? Or does it claim something else about itself? Where is the proof text that makes these claims? I think that the scriptures clearly affirm that God’s word is truth, and inspired. The reason it is trustworthy is because it is the word of God. A mistake in grammar, or historical inaccuracy, or scientific phenomenal language does not make it any less truthful, or inspired. It does not negate that God was involved in the writing of Holy Scripture. I am personally amazed that one’s faith in Christ can be so easily shaken by the mere admittance that there are some errors in the bible, as if our whole system stands or falls on these.
I believe in inerrancy with the understanding that “The Bible contains a fallible element in the sense that it reflects the cultural limitations of the writers. But it is not mistaken in what it purports to teach, namely, god’s will and purpose for the world” Bloesh EET, p69 However there is no need to use such a word to describe what the Scriptures are “Trustworthy and Inspired”. We are not given much to work with as to how this inspiration came about. Not arguing that we shouldn’t seek to understand the process either. Clark Pinnock says “…all of these move many to tighten up the doctrine of Scripture beyond what is seen in the text and claimed by the text” (The Scripture Principle p85). According to Roger Olson, not even John Calvin attempted “…to explain how divine inspiration worked in the production of Scripture” (Mosaic of Christian Belief)
I think that Howard Marshall sums it very nicely and with that I’ll leave this subject for another day (Biblical Inspiration p44):
The doctrine of inspiration is a declaration that the scriptures have their origin in God; it is not and cannot be an explanation of how God brought them into being.