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God’s Word

  • The Slippery Slope of Denying Inerrancy

    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…