- We evangelicals have come to see the Bible in a way that reflects our own insecurities and desires rather than understanding Scripture on its own terms. Let’s return to a holy book that allows us to ask questions, rather than one that recites our answers back to us.
- In the book of Joshua, God commanded the Israelites to take the land of Canaan by conquest and utterly destroy its native inhabitants. If a nation attempted to do that today, we'd call it mass genocide. If someone said God had told them to do it, we'd call them a religious terrorist. How can we make sense of the violence of the Hebrew Bible in light of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ?
- One of my favorite rock bands from high school recently released a new album. When I listened to it, I was not expecting to get a lesson on how to read the Bible, but that's exactly what happened. This post is all about assumptions and perspectives.
- I was asked to describe my view of Scripture, so I wrote this short reflection as a depiction of how the Bible has come alive to me in recent years. Scripture is no longer a reflection of myself, but is a summons to know the world of life.
- When I was a kid, my parents had this amazing blue recliner. It was the most comfortable seat in the house, and I loved it. The chair had some cosmetic flaws - it had a few tears and stains, and it squeaked a bit as you rocked. As my mother would say, the flaws “added character.” But the chair was completely sturdy and it did what it was intended to do perfectly. For most conservative evangelicals, the concept of biblical inerrancy - the entire, factual accuracy of the Bible - is foundational to faith. The idea of an “errant” Bible is a scary thought. I was discussing this with a friend of mine the other day, and he humbly expressed his thoughts like this: I think that the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is a sort of gatekeeper to all sorts of potential false teachings and outright heresies. Now, it doesn't at all mean that someone who doesn't hold to biblical inerrancy IS heretical or believes a bunch of completely unsound things, but I do think there's a slippery slope, and that it becomes much more difficult to know where to stop if you aren't holding to the inerrancy of Scripture. In my experience, this is an entirely common approach to the discussion. I was raised in a mix of conservative independent Baptist and Southern Baptist churches - this is the exact same perspective that I held for many years. The logic goes like this: If one piece of the Bible is false, then where does it end? If we accept any errors in the Bible, then the entire Bible is in doubt. If the Bible is wrong, that would make God a liar - since he is most definitely not a liar, the Bible must be inerrant. My goal in this post is not to convince anyone one way or the other about biblical inerrancy. Not only would I fail at that, but it would damage the Christian faith. Instead, I simply want us to better understand what people mean when they deny an inerrant Bible. Strict Inerrancy First, let’s take a look at what “biblical inerrancy” means. There is actually a wide range of ways to define inerrancy, but whenever I hear people talking about it, they are almost always referring to strict inerrancy, a doctrine formalized in 1975 by The Chicago Statements on Inerrancy and Hermeneutics. For the sake of brevity, I won’t publish the entire statement, but here is the part that seems to be the key (emphasis mine): 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. 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…
- If I asked three different men to describe the perfect woman, I would get three completely different responses. The first man might describe a tall, blonde-haired, blue-eyed bombshell. The second man might describe a woman of remarkable intellect and drive. And the third man might describe a woman who was 100% devoted to her family. They would each have their own interpretation of what “perfect” means. “Perfect” isn't enough. What, then, is the real perfect woman? Is one description right and the other two wrong? Is she a mixture of the three descriptions? Or should we boil the definition of a perfect woman down to primal evolutionary functions (in which case she would be any one who was able to survive and carry on the human race)? The term “perfect” can have a lot of different meanings and can be interpreted in many different ways. It isn't strong enough to stand on its own - it needs context in order to have any kind of practical purpose. For the word to have any real value in our conversations, we need to clarify which interpretation of perfection we mean. Biblical Inerrancy: The Question of Perfection We run into this very same issue when we discuss “biblical inerrancy” - at first glance, it means that the Bible is perfect and without error. Much of the discussion on the topic centers around 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (NLT) The beginning of that verse - “All Scripture is inspired by God…” - has been dissected and analyzed and interpreted, and it is the basis of the concept of biblical inerrancy. Basically, the idea is that since Scripture is inspired by God (alternately interpreted as “God-breathed”), it is perfect. But how do we really define this doctrine of inerrancy? Are we simply saying that the NLT (or whatever translation you prefer) that we hold in our hands has no typos? What about translation errors or discrepancies with other translations? Most Christians would agree that this definition is not accurate. Are we saying that every sentence of the Bible literally applies to our lives? Most Christians would agree that this definition is not accurate either. A more common definition of biblical inerrancy is that, with the exception of the parts of Scripture that are poetry or metaphor, the Bible is 100% factually accurate and should be read at face value. This is to say, for example, that since it describes the creation of the world as occurring over a period of six days, God created the world in six literal days. Within this view, there is some question about which books and passages are poetry or metaphor. (Who decides which parts are to be taken literally and which should be read figuratively?) Taking these questions even further,…