Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Question of Biblical Inerrancy

One of the biggest mistakes I see evangelicals make concerning the Bible is over the issue of inerrancy. Most who make this mistake seem to have no real understanding of what inerrancy means, and the error falls on both sides of the fence. Christian Liberals often make the mistake of assuming the Bible is inerrant on issues like historical facts and other details. Christian Conservatives often make the mistake of assuming every letter of the current English translation they have is the inerrant word or God.

Problems associated with the Conservative Christian's stance.
Most of the conservatives problem centers around a misunderstanding of what inerrancy means. One of the most common misunderstandings is which scripture is inerrant. The conservative will usually interject "All scripture is God-breathed, and free from error!" But what is he really implying. Does he really think that his NIV translation is free from error. If it is, then why is it different from other translations? This is where the only-KJV argument comes in. This die-hard will say that only the "Authorised" King James Bible is the inerrant word of God, and all other English translations are bastardized. Can this really be true? Was the King James Bible really free of error. Study into the King James Bible history will reveal this to be a falsehood. I've already talked about how the KJV translators inserted the idea of the mythical cockatrice into scripture, but there are many other examples. For instance, the regular fundamental Christian will say only the 66 books of the Holy Bible are the inerrant word of God, but the 1611 translation of the KJV included the Apocrypha, and was only taken out more than a century later because of pressure from protestants and the tightening cost of printing Bibles. The fact is only the original autographs, the original letter penned by the Biblical author, is guaranteed to be free from error. There is no Biblical promise that later manuscripts, translations or copies would equally be inerrant or free from error. In fact we know of many copy errors and variant manuscript readings that exist.

Problems associated with the Liberal Christian's stance.
The Liberal Christians belief the Bible is not free from error, usually stems from the previous finding. They are perplexed that if the Bible has variant readings, then how could we possibly consider it inerrant? Again I must remind them that it is the original autographs that were free from error. Yet we can study and apply textual criticism to try to remain as close to the original autographs as possible. I implore those Christians who believe the Bible to includede error to contemplate this quote:
"If Jesus taught biblical inerrancy, either He knew it to be true, or He knew it to be false but catered to the ignorance of his hearers, or He was limited and held to something that was not true but He did not know it." - Harold Lindsell
So, should we view Jesus as all-knowing God, guilty of deception, or having a limited understanding of truth? The only alternative that leaves us with our Christology intact is that Jesus knew the scripture to be inerrant and that His knowledge was correct.


Anonymous said...

Or -- Jesus didn't teach Biblical inerrancy. There are other understandings one can take of his teaching on Scripture. Not to mention that anytime Jesus talked about the Scriptures, he certainly wasn't talking about the New Testament, which hadn't been written at the time.

Tim Faulted said...

Anon, I agree that when Jesus talks about the authority of scripture he is talking about the Old Testament. Perhaps I should have given a bit more background on the subject.

My point was that Jesus consistently treated the historical narratives of the Old Testament as straightforward facts. Jesus made reference to Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, David eating the showbread, Solomon, Elijah, and Moses. In Mt. 19:4,5 & Mk 10:6-8 Jesus appears to give his stamp of approval on Genesis 1 and 2. Mainly it was the very stories many modern critics call into question that Jesus supported, such as the flood of Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the story of Jonah that I think shows Jesus supported the authority of scripture.

Also when Jesus was confronted with scribes and pharisees he consistently used scripture as His authority to appeal their controversies. He thought the authority of scripture so great, that he even used it as his sole rebuttal against Satan himself.

I would be interested in your "other understandings one can take of his teaching on Scripture" to find what principles of hermeneutics you use to come to these conclusions.