Friday, September 14, 2012

Inspired but not inerrant

What is so critically important about believing that the bible is inerrant? One of the last bastions of fear promotion in evangelical orthodoxy is the concept of biblical inerrancy. If one should voice the opinion that the bible is not inerrant it raises the fear of all those who worship the book. What does inerrant mean anyway? Let’s look for an answer.

Here is a quote from the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy
1. God, who is Himself Truth and speaks truth only, has inspired Holy Scripture in order thereby to reveal Himself to lost mankind through Jesus Christ as Creator and Lord, Redeemer and Judge. Holy Scripture is God's witness to Himself.
2. Holy Scripture, being God's own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God's instruction, in all that it affirms, obeyed, as God's command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God's pledge, in all that it promises.
3. The Holy Spirit, Scripture's divine Author, both authenticates it to us by His inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning.
4. Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God's acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God's saving grace in individual lives.
5. The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible's own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.
What parts of this statement are true and relevant and what parts are not true and totally unnecessary? Well, I do not have a problem with number one as long as it is viewed in a solely redemptive way. I believe that the scriptures are God breathed but only insofar as they make one wise for salvation. After all, that was exactly Paul’s point in 2Timothy 3:15-17. He did not mean to indorse the scriptural doctrine that you see posted above in the statement.

Number two is correct insofar as it relates to redemption. In fact, it is only infallible in its redemptive purpose. That purpose is to point one to Christ Jesus that they may find rest in the grace, love, and mercy of God. All of the four points are true in a solely redemptive way and number five is absolute nonsense. It is the source of all the fear surrounding the question of biblical authority.

If it is nonsense, and it is, why then is it so important to evangelical orthodoxy? The answer is that it is the foundation to the Reformation idea of sola scriptura. The problem is that at the beginning of the Reformation the reformers only meant the sola’s in a redemptive way… that is, salvation was key behind the sola scriptura premise. Over time, it has been expanded by theologians to say that the bible alone (sola scriptura) is the final authority for all faith and practice. This is nonsense. The indwelling Holy Spirit is the final authority for all faith and practice. I think that the indwelling Holy Spirit would work best in community of course. However, the Holy Spirit will never be the final authority in community until the absurd notion of biblical inerrancy as explained in the above statement is rethought and revised.

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