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  • Nathan, I promised you a while ago a response on why I think inerrancy is beneficial. Since I’m sick of scrolling down past a thousand posts, I figured I’d start over here.

    I’ve thought about it a bit, and here are a few of the reasons I think inerrancy is a beneficial doctrine:

    1) It is the teaching about scripture which is consistent with what scripture says about itself. Now this has been strongly disputed on this blog, but assuming that my understanding of the scripture’s teaching about itself is correct (that the very words are the words of God, that God cannot lie, etc.), consistency at least is something beneficial to our walk with Christ. If we think like schizophrenics, believing scripture has authority, but then denying what it says about itself (assuming, again, that I’m correct about this), then our walk will soon become contradictory as well. Walking like Christ follows from thinking like Christ.

    2. Having an absolutely inerrant text helps us avoid the problems associated with subjectivism. That is, if our ultimate authority (God’s revelation/God, however it’s content is defined) is only reachable through subjective means (like “the leading of the Spirit” which, from my experience with evangelicals, is really about intuitions and gut-instincts), then our grasp on it is dangerously malleable. If our only standard to test the spirits/prophecy is our gut instinct, then I fear that the church will be left to sway in the wind depending on whichever person with “a feeling about where the Spirit is leading” happens to be more eloquent and persuasive.

    3. It avoids the problem of having a “Canon within the Canon”. People who deny inerrancy but want to retain some kind of respect for the Bible often teach that there is some central aspect/theme of scripture which is authoritative, while things extraneous to it are not. But this raises of the question of, if the Scriptures in their entirety are not the Canon (measure), then what theme/teaching is, and why should we think so? History has borne out that when people pick pet doctrines to be the measure of the rest of scripture (examples abound: “Liberation”, “Love”, “Cross”, “Law and Gospel”, “Election”, etc.), the whole ends up being distorted. If, however, we recognize that scripture, and the whole of scripture, is authoritative (because it is God’s word itself, not *just* a witness to some other central teaching), then we will always be forced to reckon with the parts of scripture we don’t happen to like, and to perhaps learn something from them as well.

    These are three for starters. Perhaps you have some thoughts?

  • “We use the bible because it tells us the story of Christ, I don’t know of any other text that does this”

    But don’t people tell the story of Christ in writing and verbally all the time? If they do, then every time this is done it is equal in authority to scripture…

    “And i know that sounds so weird, because i don’t think we think of God as this thing we can feel and see and touch (cause we don’t really, not like we hold a bible), so we hold on to the bible as our source of tangible external epistemological standard instead of Christ (cause its more comfortable and easier and less ‘subjective’)”

    It’s more than just comfort, though obviously that is a benefit, but I think the stakes are higher than that: if the only access to God we have (the only thing you said was outside of you as a standard) is through entirely subjective emotions/intuitions, then we really have no way to discriminate true from false prophets.

  • Hey Andrew. Thanks for the reply.

    For the whole issue, I understand WHY people think that the Bible’s inerrancy is important, and I understand all your reasons. I guess I just don’t think they are beneficial as much as the person that holds those beleifs.

    1. Consistency. Wouldn’t we all love to grasp or at least see consistency so we can point to it and use it to show that we are consistent. I think that might be a big flaw of how the Bible is used. Everyone claims that there view is consistent with Scripture. If we are going to talk consistency (I think you would agree) that we should talk consistency with the intent and context the the authors had and were in. Not just point to a book and say consistency with that. I beleive consistency in what i put my faith in is important, but I don’t put my faith in the scriptures, I put my faith in Christ. So that faith requires that i trust that Christ will let me learn what he wants and how he wants whether is be through Scriptures or not. I think to depend for consistency on anything but Christ would be the wrong avenue to take (even if it is the very text that points to him).

    2. I think that there is quite a lot of subjectivsm seen even throughout scriptures, throughout acts and such where human beings depending on what they felt the spirit saying to them would decide what they should do. If something doesn’t line up with how I feel subjectively anyway it would be impossible for me to beleive. For instance, your subjective beleif is that the bible is God’s words. That grasp and everything you said about subjectivsm is just as much in order about your beleif in the inerrant text as it would be for my unbeleif in it and all the subjective beliefs i have. It has to be subjective in the long run because our belief that it shouldn’t be subjective is subjective anyway. I don’t think the answer to that is to point to the bible to all of sudden make our judgements objective. I haven’t even loked at all the subjective interpretations which we seem to be able to take different stances on almos every verse as Christians. How objective really is it if all that happens?

    3. For this one, i guess my only response is that i think that only God is authorative. I guess its hard because i don’t see the Bible as God’s actual words, so i can’t take it as authoratative. I think that if i held the view of the Scriptures being God’s actual words then I would probably be right there with you on this one.

    thoughts?

  • “I think that might be a big flaw of how the Bible is used. Everyone claims that there view is consistent with Scripture. If we are going to talk consistency (I think you would agree) that we should talk consistency with the intent and context the the authors had and were in. Not just point to a book and say consistency with that.”

    Yes, I would agree.

    “I beleive consistency in what i put my faith in is important, but I don’t put my faith in the scriptures, I put my faith in Christ. So that faith requires that i trust that Christ will let me learn what he wants and how he wants whether is be through Scriptures or not.”

    Do you think Christ tells you to trust the Scriptures (a different question from whether he tells you to trust your own interpretations as correct)? And, of course, one is always trusting God/Christ, not a piece of paper. But my point was more about thinking consistently with that trust (and, if you deny that God/Christ wants you to trust the scriptures, then you have evaded my point successfully, unless I am right in thinking that they do want to you trust them), not about the ultimate object of trust. My trust of the Scriptures is simply an aspect of my trust in Christ. These are Christ’s words, in my eyes.

    “. I think that there is quite a lot of subjectivsm seen even throughout scriptures, throughout acts and such where human beings depending on what they felt the spirit saying to them would decide what they should do”

    Well, I would dispute that the internal states of the prophets were as uncertain as those of evangelicals today when they feel “led” by the Spirit. It seems in the OT and NT alike, when God speaks to people, there is no mistaking that it is Him. This is not true of what evangelicals call “leading by the Spirit”.

    “If something doesn’t line up with how I feel subjectively anyway it would be impossible for me to beleive.”

    True.

    “For instance, your subjective beleif is that the bible is God’s words. That grasp and everything you said about subjectivsm is just as much in order about your beleif in the inerrant text as it would be for my unbeleif in it and all the subjective beliefs i have”

    Sure, my belief is subjective. This is a different issue from what I’m saying though, which is comparing objects of faith. Objective text or subjective intuitions. These are clearly qualitatively different things. There is a difference between trusting God and trusting my feelings which I think are from God (I’m sure you would agree, but I’m applying this by analogy…).

    If we have a criterion for judging the goodness of beliefs that is external to us, however, it helps us escape problems that we can’t if our criterion is internal to us. If we never get outside of ourselves in our epistemological process, then nothing we say can be taken as applying to anyone but ourselves. But if we at some point reach an external standard, then at least we have something that can be used as a public standard. We may not be able to understand the standard exhaustively, but we can grasp it truly.

    “I haven’t even loked at all the subjective interpretations which we seem to be able to take different stances on almos every verse as Christians. How objective really is it if all that happens?”

    This is confusing the text with its meaning. There is an objective text, the meaning is disputed (though sometimes absurdly).

    “3. For this one, i guess my only response is that i think that only God is authorative. I guess its hard because i don’t see the Bible as God’s actual words, so i can’t take it as authoratative. I think that if i held the view of the Scriptures being God’s actual words then I would probably be right there with you on this one.”

    Okay. I guess my question for you would be: if the Bible taught that it was God’s words, would you believe that it was?

    I have a feeling we’ll have to have a few more rounds on this one, there are some more things that need teasing out I think… but, your turn Nate :-)

  • Nate,

    I have another question for you that might open another line of fruitful dialogue. I’m going to quote a few things you’ve said in the past; if you have changed your mind on anything then feel free to ignore what I have to say.

    In your post, “The Bible: How Then Shall We Understand It?” you said this when discussion inspiration:
    “This is one of the more difficult questions I think to answer. Ive heard it explained like this which makes sense to me. In the same way that Adam was God breathed, and the disciples were Jesus-breathed so is the bible. In other words the disciples had Jesus breathe on them and then they went out in power with the message of the gospel. Adam had God breathe on him and it gave him life, freedom and purpose. I think the bible fits into these categories. The bible is God breathed in meaning that it has power (because of the gospel that is found in it), that it brings freedom (because of the gospel that is in it), and that it gives life (because of the gospel that is found in it) and it has a purpose (because it is Gods story). Was Adam perfect, inerrant or infallible? Were the discples inerrant or infallible?”

    In the comments to that 62-comment post you said these things:

    “It’s interesting how humans who can be inspired by God at any given time can be full of errors at any given time also, its also amazing how people who are just full of error seem to be capable of bringing God’s purposes to pass, could the same not be true with the bible.”

    “It doesnt make sense for me or my faith to accept inerrancy. Does this mean I disregard the bible as useless or redundant? Nope. Does this mean that the bible is not a good tool anymore to understand who Christ is? Nope. I love the bible and I think it is full of truth and it helps reveal Christ and Gods redemptive story. Without it wed have some serious problems understanding our history.”

    “That sounds like you are putting Christ and Scripture on the same level. You are proving by your arguments the exact point that I’m making. People put the bible at the same level as Jesus Christ. They POINT to Christ, they are not on the same level. They POINT to the revelation, they are not the revelation.”

    My question is this: how would you describe the difference between the Bible and a theological book by someone like, for example, Brian McLaren, which tries to say what the Bible says (to some degree). Is there any difference in how we should treat them? I assume you would say yes, but I’d like to hear your thoughts.

  • Good Question, I think that everything I wrote would be comments that I would hold to for now.

    Here is what I see the difference in let’s say C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity, with the Bible. (this might sound like rambling, cause i haven’t thought this out much)

    I beleive that God can and would use Mere Christianity to lead someone to faith just as much as he would use the Bible, either way its God and its their faith in Jesus Christ. I don’t beleive that the Scriptures are the only way people can come to faith. I don’t think God is limited to just the Scriptures to reveal his son.

    I believe that the different would be the content, not the labels we put on it. We use the bible because it tells us the story of Christ, I don’t know of any other text that does this. So now all other books are pointing to this book as opposed to creating things that are on equal par, the story happened and is happening, but the climax happened, the part which we need to respond to happened, what more can we add to this? McLaren wouldn’t be trying to tell what the bible says as its own source (if it would, i would be quite hesitant), instead its trying to help us understand what the bible says.

    Do i beleive that Christ tells us to trust the scriptures? No. I believe that Christ tells us to trust the God that is found in scriptures though.

    Good points on the epistemological beleif system and never making that outside ourself, but i guess what i beleive would be outside myself is God, not the scriptures. And i know that sounds so weird, because i don’t think we think of God as this thing we can feel and see and touch (cause we don’t really, not like we hold a bible), so we hold on to the bible as our source of tangible external epistemological standard instead of Christ (cause its more comfortable and easier and less ‘subjective’)

    If the Bible taught that it was God’s words would i beleive it, i don’t know, that’s so hard, because i don’t see the bible as one lump book, i see it as 66 books (or however many it should really be) with different authors and etc. so i guess it would depend entirely on hte context. If Jesus said “The 66 book bible is God’s direct words to us” in one of the gospels, then that might be a different story.

  • I think I would hold that God’s story pointing to Christ holds authority, not just the book that explains it.

    To decipher from false prohpets, even in 1 John, he simply says that every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ is from God is from God, that is a lot easier way to acknowledge flase prohpets from not rather than taking an entire book like the bible for people to be compared to, because in that sense we are all heretics because none of us understand it fully or can grasp it fully.

  • So then, McLaren or Lewis can write something equal in authority to the Bible (and more true than it, hypothetically anyway).

    I don’t think John intended that criterion, explicitly stated, to be the only one. What about someone who says that Jesus Christ is from God and that you should therefore torture your neighbour? Or someone who says Jesus Christ is from God but not divine? Even a little later in the same letter John gives another test for whether a spirit is from God: “We [the Apostles and the community following their instruction, apparently; cf. ch 1:1-5) are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God ddoes not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” So on top of confessing Christ, a false spirit can be judged based on their failure to listen to the Apostles. All this to say, I don’t think John himself would have considered the criterion you suggested, alone, to be enough for the life of the church.

    And, while it is true that everyone likely has some error, this does not mean that everyone is a heretic (i.e. separated from the church/Christ because of their false teaching). There is within the NT distinct treatments of different errors: Paul does not excommunicate the “weak” Roman Christians because they think it is wrong to eat meat, but he does anathematize the Galatian Judaizers for bringing the death of Christ to have no significance.

  • Hypothetically, I think that anyone can write anything that is as true as the bible (i don’t understand how something could be more true).

    Good point about John! I think you’re right, i wouldn’t make my judements based on that criterion alone. I always understood a heretic to be someone who doesn’t hold on to the truth, either way though, i don’t think its a point worth hammering!

  • By more true I meant containing less errors and falsities.

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