Editors Note: Biblical inerrancy is an important topic. We’ve asked a few people to write on the topic (one supporting inerrancy and one rejecting inerrancy). This article is NOT a position statement on behalf of Changing the Face of Christianity. It is intended to stir your thoughts and engage you in discussion on this incredibly important topic. Read the PRO-Inerrancy article here, and please share your comments on whether you agree or disagree and why.
I hope everyone is having a blessed week and will encounter God in new and exciting ways in the days to come.
The Inerrancy of the Bible
In next week’s article we will begin to discuss how the Bible is put together and what the different translations mean. But before we even get into those basic items there is one thing I think we should discuss: The Inerrancy of the Bible.
To some this may be an unfamiliar word. To many this is a touchy subject. First, let’s discuss what the word means. To believe in the inerrancy of the Bible is to believe that the Bible is perfect and contains no errors. Now the touchy issue: Whether or not you believe this can really affect your theology. Many feel that the Bible is perfectly written as dictated by God. This can lead to people feeling there is no room for interpreting the Bible and that those who do not believe in inerrancy are somehow misrepresenting God. This can lead to fundamental differences between and within denominations however, I do not think it has to. In fact, I feel one of the things that brings such a negative stereotype to Christianity is the in-fighting we often see within the Universal church.
What I believe
I believe in the Bible, but I do not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible
For many, stating that you believe in the Bible but not in its inerrancy is a contradiction. I disagree. Here is what I believe about the Bible:
It was written by men who had real experiences with God. They tried to write about these experiences, they tried to write about understanding the world around them, they tried to write about the infinite, they tried to write about all these things with limited vocabulary, imagination and knowledge. Their result is the Bible. It is the book God intended us to have, apparent contradictions and all. It was written by fallible people who wrote with their own lens. It was through these lenses which they experienced these interactions with God, just as we read through our own lens of background and world views. These lenses shape our understanding and at the end of the day is what, I think, makes the Bible so intimidating and yet so incredible at the same time.
Let’s talk more about the topics of lenses. I use this word as a metaphoric way of saying context and experience. Some say that this means you can shape the Bible to mean whatever you want. That is not what I mean. What I am getting to is that we have to understand the lenses of the writers of the Bible, those that write commentary on the Bible and how we ourselves read it.
As we get more into the different books of the Bible I will discuss the context of when and why the book was written and the lens that the author may have had. This is very important, especially when we read parts of the Bible that deal with incest, slavery, genocide, adultery and other difficult passages that do not seem to fit in our world today.
God finds us where we are and uses the Bible to find us where we are as well
And we are all in different places with different backgrounds and with different experiences. Don’t be afraid of using that. Don’t feel unsure of your own understanding. All these filters are valid, just as is your God-given ability to reason. So read the Bible, and listen to what it is saying to you.
Hi, this sounds like an interesting topic. I look forward to reading your next post, if the Bible really is what we claim it to be. Given that the Biblical documents were written down by hand, so it may well have been opportunities to misunderstandings, misinterpretations and other errors in the texts. Preachers have often read the Bible in a literal way (“biblical literalism”), but there is a risks in doing that because words and expressions do change over time and are replaced after a time and words got new meanings, like the case with the word “homosexuals” in New Testament. It might create uncertainty as to how a biblical text should be interpreted. My advice is to not just select a Bible translation of old habit, but choose one that goes as close to the source as possible. I use the Masoretic Hebrew/English Tanach, translation JPS 1917, then I can compare words and expressions.
I have been intrigued by your website since I stumbled on it a couple of weeks ago. It seems admirable to try to help change the seemingly increasing toxic climate that Christians in our culture face. With that said, however, I think you are being a bit naive about the whole thing. Truly, there are some of us in the church who have given the world a large amount of ammunition and excuses to not follow the One True God. We do a great job of bashing others, appearing self righteous, etc. But a simple reading of the gospels, in Greek OR English (I do both), tells me that Jesus was a realist. He said things that weren’t exactly nice. He condemned–that’s right, condemned the religious hypocrites, drove the so called seekers away (see John 6), “dissed” people who invited Him to parties, took a whip of cords and USED it to PUNISH people who were “turning the house of God into a market.” When confronted with the issue of whether any self-respecting Jew should pay taxes to Caesar He said, “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s”, thereby rebelling, and telling others to rebel as well, the requirement that everybody worship Caesar. That didn’t exactly score any points with the so called elite. The early Christians were total outcasts of their day. They could not worship anybody except for the true and Living God. They worshiped Jesus, calling Him Lord and refused to call Caesar Lord. They reached out to others, loved their neighbors and many paid with their lives. Not exactly putting a “good and accepting foot” forward. talk about a toxic environment! In our day and age, our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world have received much grief from governments, so-called friends and neighbors turning them in, when all they tried to do was to show them the love of God and give them the gospel. BTW, more Christians have been martyred for their faith in the 20th century than all the previous 19 combined. And now I read your post. I think I can see where you are coming from. And in my humble opinion, you need to do a bit more research on the many misnomers you have listed. For instance, just because the common misunderstanding is that many believe innerancy to be a dictation from God to the Scripture writers does not make it so. You are apparently studying for the ministry. You should know something about the doctrine of Verbal Plenary Inspiration. God’s word comments on itself when it tells us that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16), and according to 2 Peter 1:19-21, it was the Holy Spirit moving on the writers that gave them their INSPIRATION. To say that men merely were trying to write about the Divine is, to be frank, appalling. There is one, and only one correct interpretation of every passage of Scripture–I believe you know that. And that one and only one interpretation is what the writer intended. Homosexuality is clearly condemned in the Scripture, and not just in the places like Leviticus. Romans 1:18ff gives a crystal clear picture of homosexual behavior. And God includes that in the passage that He began with as follows: for the wrath of God is revealed . . .” there is no amount of theological gymnastics one can do to get around that one. And please, please, my friend, look at what God is angry with: He’s angry with the wicked everyday. He hates those who persist in their wickedness according to the Psalms and Proverbs. And don’t forget–Jesus will be sitting on the Great White Throne as described in Revelation 20. He will SEND people to hell. His essence is NOT love, as many believe. No, His essence is holiness, as indicated by the thrice pronounced attribute of “holy, holy holy” both in Isa 6 and Revelation 4. God is not love, love love, or merciful, merciful, merciful (though He is those things). No, God is holy, holy, holy. Please consider these things. I would hate to have you stand before God one day and give an account of all the people you have led astray by the things you have written.
Cris Putnam says
Glenn, Your excellent response made this unfortunate post worthwhile. Thanks for taking time to write this, I hope Daniel will prayerfully consider what you have written. You are “spot on.”
Very good. It was exactly as I was thinking. If God’s Word all of it in the bible was and is not inspired as the scripture says, then the essence and full meaning is lost, blurred, twisted, misleading etc. I love how you said that each scripture interprets itself. Very true. The Word of God is inerrant.
The first problem may be that you are not using the proper definition (and have the wrong understanding) of “inerrancy”. To those of us who believe in inerrancy, we are mean the spiritual Truth indicated in Scripture – that man needs a Savior and that Savior is Jesus Christ. Another aspect of inerrancy is the historicity of Scripture. This has been validated by archaeological and non-biblical books. Those of us who believe in inerrancy seek proper exegisis of the text because we have no proof the text is false. We look at context (to whom was the book written, the reason, the type of literature, is there other scripture to support a conclusion, etc) to help us determine the proper principle and understanding and application. We also should be wary of our own biases to assure that we are not be eisegetical – getting a conclusion that we want it to say, not what it does say. If one believes the Bible to be errant (i.e. wrong), then how does one determine what is truth and what is false in Scripture except through their own lens and interpretation. This means that the ‘truth’ changes over time based on current philosophies, which change and ebb and flow. The reality is that most who don’t believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, believe so because they don’t like some idea or concept indicated in Scripture or goes against popular thinking. It is wise to take heed of the warning in Colossians 2:8 (ESV) -“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
Dear Bro. Daniel Scholl, I believe you have lost the “plot” when you wrote the following about the Bible: Quote: It was written by men who had real experiences with God. They tried to write about these experiences, they tried to write about understanding the world around them, they tried to write about the infinite, they tried to write about all these things with limited vocabulary, imagination and knowledge. Their result is the Bible. It is the book God intended us to have, apparent contradictions and all. It was written by fallible people who wrote with their own lens. It was through these lenses which they experienced these interactions with God, just as we read through our own lens of background and world views. These lenses shape our understanding and at the end of the day is what, I think, makes the Bible so intimidating and yet so incredible at the same time. Unquote Let me add my comments. I am not interested in men’s opinion including their experiences with God. Anyone can claim an experience with God, but the Bible, the Word of God stands above men’s words, and their experiences. If the Bible is merely the record of fallible men’s experiences then what’s point of trying to live the Christian life vicariously through their “lenses.” If God cannot give us His Word directly, and accurately, even through the writings of men then forget it. Let’s do something else with our lives! And you forget that at least one part of the Bible was completely written by the very finger of God – the Ten Commandments: “And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.” (Exodus 31:18); “And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon [these] tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest.” (Exodus 34:1) “And the LORD delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them [was written] according to all the words, which the LORD spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly.” (Deuteronomy 9:10) And Jesus said: “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18); “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.” (Luke 16:17) Every “salesman” should try to sell his product as truthfully as possible. If he misrepresents the product there are repercussions. He may lose his job, or be sued for false advertsing. Even so everyone who speaks for God and His Word must be confident of the “product.” Do not try to make it so acceptable to man that it becomes unacceptable to God. There are eternal consequences. The Bible is His Word, all of it. That’s why Paul wrote to Timothy the following words: “All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) Blessings!
Cris Putnam says
Daniel, What you are advocating here seems identical to what is called neo-orthodoxy (i.e. Karl Barth) and it is demonstrably a big part of what has led a large part of the church astray into post-modernism. You will not make much headway in your mission by giving up the authority of scripture, (and you have whether you acknowledge it or not) you are adrift in what Francis Schaeffer termed “semantic mysticism.” Try reading The God Who is There. You are burning a strawman in your rejection of inerrancy, you will do well to stop and get straight on this issue before proceeding in ministry.
This is my 2 cents worth, though I’m just learning. Hebrews 8:10 This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 8:11 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. The Word is a living Prophecy, it is not the “Book” of God. It is the “WORD” of God. Not just ink on paper written by men. It IS God inspired. The only lens to be looking through is the lens of God. The lens of man is tainted and unclear. I always pray to the Lord for His guidance and discernment before I read His Word and He makes clear what He wants me to know. We should not be of this world, there fore we will be persecuted. That’s the deal. I’m in for the long haul!! He never promised easy. We are to be Holy, because He is Holy. I believe that’s what sin no more means. And yes we are to Love God and our neighbors, but there are the other Commandments to follow as well. We can not gauge our lives by the standards of this world, because this world is full of sin, and falls way short of what the Lord wants us to be. Holy. God’s Blessings to you
Bill Hope says
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. –2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV) I picked this translation of the verse because it conveys what Paul was getting at with Timothy that the Bible is the actual words of God not the author’s writing with their own “lenses”. Looking from an apologetics stand point all the so called “inconsistencies” can be very well accounted for. I for one am all for finding new ways to approach a younger generation with the truth of the Gospel but when one starts it leads to a “cafeteria style” Christianity that is more about making people feel good over saving their souls. One is on a slippery slope when one says that Scripture is not truly “God-breathed” because then it basically opens the door to a watering down of the truth of Christianity which (even though I do not like to use the word because it might sound like I’m being judgmental) is plain out heresy. I might sound old fashioned but I tend to go by an old phrase my parents used “Jesus said it, I believe it and that settles it!” or as Isaiah said more eloquently— “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”—Isaiah 40:8 (NASB) I’m putting my faith on God and His Word.
dan clark says
2 Peter 1:21 KJV For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
Ian McKerracher says
As with another post in this website, disagreement starts with different definitions. It is my presupposition that the Bible is “inerrent” in its original manuscripts. It is my opinion that Christians especially modern ones, are not all that interested in self-study or applying contextual and other relevent data to what they read. The basic question becomes…Are the Words that I am reading, the ones that God wanted to be recorded with which He will reveal Himself to the me? What those words are saying, in cultural and temporal context, actually do reveal God to me as per His promise. Just an aside,…I had a person under my teaching who reacted rather negatively to the statement …”The bible is not a magic book.” That surprised me as I thought that using the Bible as a talisman would have been beneath her maturity in her walk. While we can find God’s revelation within the pages of the Bible, it won’t work as a magic book (Here…read that and you will believe…”POOF” ). Yes Christian history is rife with stories of people who have done just that but it is my contention that, without the mixture of faith, it will remain a book to the outsider.
alan leonard says
“It was written by men who had real experiences with God. They tried to write about these experiences, they tried to write about understanding the world around them, they tried to write about the infinite, they tried to write about all these things with limited vocabulary, imagination and knowledge. Their result is the Bible. . . ” “They tried. . . they tried. . . they tried. . . they tried. . . Their result is the Bible.” As if the Bible is merely a collection of personal memories and impressions of the authors. If your basic view of things is that the authors tried, then conceivably future posts will determine how well they did, and if they succeeded or failed. It is difficult to see how such a low view of things will lead anywhere good. This week, there was a news report of a new film about the life of Jesus, “Jesus of Nazareth,” based on the book of the same name authored by the film director Paul Verhoeven. He has spent 20 years with the Jesus Seminar which tries to determine which verses in the Bible are genuine and what Jesus actually said and did. His time in the Jesus Seminar has lead Mr. Verhoeven to reject the miracles found in the biblical accounts, including the virgin birth. After 20 years of study, the best explanation he has for the birth of Jesus is that Mary was raped by a Roman soldier. (http://www.examiner.com/article/controversial-film-claims-jesus-to-be-child-of-rape) How unsteady the ground is when your foundation is that the Bible is the result of the best efforts of “fallible people who wrote though their own lens.” How do you get from that as a starting point to “The word of God is living and active and sharper than a two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” It remains to be seen whether Mr. Scholl is best suited to be the guide for “The Bible – Opened.”
Inerrant? Depends on your definition… Some of the definitions I follow about inerrant: “The scripture possesses the quality of freedom from error.” (EJ Young) “The inerrancy of the Bible means simply the Bible tells the truth.” (Charles Wyrie) “Scripture is without error or fault in all its teachings.” (International Council on Biblical Inerrancy) Why do I follow those man made definitions? Because they follow what the Bible says about itself. “All scripture is inspired by God (lit. “God-breathed”) and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correcting and for training (lit. “training which is in”) righteousness so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work”. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NASB) So how can the Bible be in any error if it is what it claims to be in this passage? It can’t! So why does this controversy even arise? Well it initially arises from the Devil because he simply can’t have people really believing the word of God. Secondly, it even arises among faithful and studious Christians because our modern translations of the New Testament all come from old Greek documents – none of which is the autograph (such as the document that was created by Matthew when he actually wrote the Gospel of Matthew). But despite that lack of autographs we can prove that the Bible has no errors though study. First off, for the Old Testament – the discovery of the Dead Sea Scolls confirms with 99% accuracy the Masoretic Text that underlies most modern OT translations. The variations – 1% – can be seen in the Septuagint Text (LXX) (which is generally the version of the OT quoted in the NT today). Secondly, we have more than 5,300 ancient Greek manuscripts (dating from the 2nd to the 15th century) and another 36,000 NT quotes from the early church fathers. Together, we see a little over 180,000 Greek words in our NT. There are about 10,000 variant readings (not exactly like the other manuscripts). This is where the lack of belief in inerrancy side jumps in – we can’t be without error if 5.6% of the words are in variation! But upon closer examination we see that fully 9,000 of those variations are spelling errors or grammatical construction or word order differences In other words – not meaningful variations at all. So – we quickly eliminate 5.3% of all variations – leaving us with only 400 potentially real variations (.2%). Finally – only about 50 of those are of great significance and deserve serious consideration (now down to .03% variation). However, not one of them change the message of the Bible – so we truly have arrived at a state of inerrancy! For those wondering about those 400 potentially real variations I “glossed by”. This is at the heart of the King James Version versus the NASB Version argument The KJV comes from the Textus Receptus (a collection of Western type Greek manuscripts) – they simply have more words than the oldest Greek manuscripts It becomes apparent that scribes added to the older scripture to help clarify statements as the years went by. The NASB comes from the Alexandrian type Greek manuscripts – older and shorter (no scribal additions). So – those 400 variations aren’t really that much of a deal – we can simply look to the 1977 NASB to get the most accurate general circulation English NT today – and experience inerrancy!