Bible Difficulty #8
“Biblical inerrancy is not a doctrine that can be proven by an a posteriori deductive argument. It is a position that is accepted a priori, on faith, and not by reason. The many Biblical and historical references that support inerrancy are completely valid only if one accepts inerrancy. If one does not accept inerrancy, these same references can be interpreted as supporting only partial inerrancy, that is, the inerrancy of the true Word of God contained within the Scriptures.” (Biblical Inerrancy: History & Analysis)
This may be one of my last post on this topic, because I’ve been really hammering this issue the last few weeks. (I’m starting to get tired of it myself!)
Does inspiration also imply inerrancy? Is inerrancy an essential fundamental element to the faith? Does the bible require that we believe in the inerrancy of the bible? Does 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ‘God-Breathed’ and ‘inspired’ imply inerrancy and is it supported by other scripture and hermeneutics? Doesn’t the concept of inspiration automatically imply inerrancy?
“All Scripture is inspired[God-Breathed] by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Now in this post topic here are some things I will not be addressing, because I probably already addressed them in a previous post.
Now according to Dennis Bratcher when talking about the inspiration of scripture, there is something people must take into account; that any adequate theological theory of inspiration must take into reasonable consideration rationalization:
“It must be able to deal honestly, with rationalization, with the phenomena of Scripture itself, the evidence and features contained within the text of the Bible as we have it now….”
Is Inerrancy Biblical…..NO…
Now to those who say NO, inerrancy is not a fundamental doctrine of belief. And that it is not necessary for the Christian to believe in biblical inerrancy generally give one or more of the following answers:
i. The historical early church did not believe in inerrancy, and that inerrancy is a product of fundamentalist American evangelism.
ii. That the Christian brethren are interpreting the scriptures wrong. (Generally speaking it applies to the Old Testament, or that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is translated incorrectly.)
iii. That ‘God-Breathed’ and inspiration don’t imply inerrancy.
iv. That it is not an essential Doctrine of Christianity
Historical Claims of Inerrancy are Speculative In early church doctrinal history, biblical inerrancy was not widespread like it is today, but many church leaders did believe in it to some level/degree.
According to many articles that I have read, inerrancy is a modern doctrine invented by the Christian fundamentalist and American evangelicals. And to a certain degree this is partially true, because the early church seldomly preached or taught on inerrancy. Even though early church fathers did affirm in the inspiration of the Sacred Scriptures, it was the general catholic church that gradually influenced inerrancy into the doctrinal fundamentalism it is today, not modern scholars. However protestant Christians and modern-day Evangelicals took it to another level. The early church pioneers did believe in the inspiration of the holy scriptures. Then in the 4th century, biblical inspiration started to transform into biblical inerrancy. I wrote my own article on it, and in conclusion the early church did believe that the bible was the inspired word of God and that in 405 AD Augustine wrote a letter to Faustus the Manichean. In the letter he wrote:
I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honor only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand. -(St. Augustine, Evangelical Self-Identity and Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy as Presented by John D. Woodbridge)
After Augustine, inerrancy began to be applied sternly to the Latin Vulgate, and then later to the Protestant King James Bible. As these were considered to be the true inspired text of God in their generations. And with the growing of the church, doctrinal creeds, and biblical canon, came the ideological foundation of the inspiration of scripture and how it applies to inerrancy and infallibility. It was not just modern scholars that made the inerrancy of the bible a statement of faith and apart of church doctrine, but it was the church as a whole over the course of 2000 years. It just became more militant and fundamental as time went on.
The Interpretation of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is Wrong In context, this passage refers only to the Old Testament writings understood to be scripture at the time it was written which is the strict hermeneutics viewpoint of it. Opponents of biblical inerrancy often say 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is only referencing to the old testament scriptures, which was the original belief of many of the early church fathers in the first, second, and third century. However this is somewhat negated because the text reads “ALL scripture is given by inspiration of God.” And when we look at ALL scripture, this is supported.
In addition, opponents of inerrancy also think that the Bible makes no direct claim to be inerrant or infallible. C. H. Dodd argues the same sentence can also be translated “Every inspired scripture is also useful…”. And he is not the only that feels this way, Ask an atheist has two post that talk about it:
However the general consensus by the top experts in the field of textual criticism and translation still support and agree how 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is currently translated today.
Inspiration = Inerrancy, does not Compute
“The Bible is inspired because it is the adequate and indispensible vehicle of revelation; but inspiration does not amount to dictation by God.” J.K. Mozley
One frequent guest I have on my blog Unklee gave this answer on the interpretation of inerrancy and inspiration.
- Me: thebiblereader said: “However if they were considered inspired, one would expect consistency and inerrancy as a reasonable expectation.”
Unklee’s Reply: I think we need to clarify what is meant by “inspired”. In everyday life, inspiration is a fairly tenuous link – “this song was inspired by the moon landing” simply means that the writer used the landing as a starting point for his ideas. So what does it mean in the NT?
The word used in 2 Tim 3:16 literally means ‘God-breathed’, but the exact meaning of this isn’t clear. It could mean God breathed it out, it is his words, and therefore it should be inerrant. Or it could mean he breathed into it, he inspired the authors and guided their ideas, but didn’t over-ride them, and therefore we have no reason to conclude it is inerrant.
Unklee is not the only one who believes this way. According to Peter Ballard inspiration or God-Breathed does not directly mean inerrancy. He accepts that God inspired the bible, but that does not mean inerrant. So important was this topic to me, I had Unklee write a guest post on the issue, —Some Thoughts on the Inspiration of the Bible. Now granted, I have never been taught to interpret 2 Timothy 3:16-17 this way. However it does make some rational sense, nonetheless the only problem I see with this is that when taken the scriptures as a whole, they also give the indication of inerrancy or infallibility.
- “The Words of the Lord are Flawless” – Psalms 12:6
- “Your Word, O Lord, is eternal, it stands firm” – Psalms 119:89
- “Every word of God is flawless, he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” – Proverbs 30:5
- “God—His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is pure.” – 2 Samuel 22:31
- “No prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” – 2 Peter 1:21
However, these passages do not necessarily prove nor require belief in inerrancy, but they make a somewhat convincing argument. As Josh McDowell and Don Stewart write: “The mere fact that the Bible claims to be the word of God does not prove that it is such, for there are other books that make similar claims.”
So What, it is not unto Salvation… Believing the Bible is inerrant [or infallible] is not a condition for being a Christian or believing in Jesus Christ. According to Dr. William Lane Craig, inerrancy is not a necessary belief, and it’s not even a fundamental belief. “If inerrancy is not true, that does not mean God does not exist.” –William Lane Craig.
Is Inerrancy Biblical…..Yes…
“In recent years, scholars arguing against a conservative understanding of biblical inerrancy have appealed to a wide range of issues. It has been argued, for example, that belief in inerrancy should be abandoned or redefined because inerrancy is not taught by the Bible and it was not the view of many leaders in the history of the church. Others argue that the concept of inerrancy is not adequate to capture the nature of the Bible as revelation….Donald Dayton put his finger on the central reason why some scholars feel a need to abandon or redefine inerrancy: “For many, the old intellectual paradigms [including inerrancy] are dead, and the search is on in neglected traditions and new sources for more adequate models of biblical authority.” Simply put, many no longer think that it is rational to believe that inerrancy is true. What are we to make of this objection? Is it no longer possible to hold that belief in the inerrancy of Scripture is a rational position to take? The purpose of this paper is to argue that belief in inerrancy is rational.” (The Rationality of Belief in Inerrancy By J.P. Moreland)
To the modern-day evangelical Christian the Bible is the inerrant infallible inspired Word of God and has always been. But this has not always been the belief of the entire masses. A Christian will recite 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and say that the Bible is God’s inspired Word and he gave it to us. And since God is Perfect, -his word is perfect. Inerrant. Without Flaw or Blemish. And that all misunderstandings are because of translations or interpretation or ignorance. In one article the author cites Biblical evidence, Historical evidence, Epidemiological evidence, and logical syllogisms all for the support of inerrancy. And this is just not the viewpoint of a one christian, but by the fundamentalist community.
In 1910, five principles were identified by the Presbyterian General Assembly as comprising the fundamentals of the Christian faith. According to the assembly, a fundamentalist is one who believes in the inerrancy of Scripture, the virgin birth of Christ, His substitutionary atonement, His bodily resurrection, and the authenticity of miracles. Then again in 1978 the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was formulated by nearly 300 evangelical leaders at a conference sponsored by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI), in Chicago. The statement was designed to defend the position of Biblical inerrancy & infallibility against a perceived trend toward liberal conceptions of Scripture.
ARTICLE XV (An Excerpt from the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy)
We affirm that the doctrine of inerrancy is grounded in the teaching of the Bible about inspiration.
We deny that Jesus’ teaching about Scripture may be dismissed by appeals to accommodation or to any natural limitation of His humanity.
“Yet inerrancy is not an irrational belief, for an omnipotent, omniscience, infinite and perfect God is capable of working through humans, through the process of Divine Inspiration, to create His Word for us in an inerrant form. Most, if not all, of the biblical contradictions or inconsistencies can be explained by the use of linguistic studies, textual criticism and literary techniques. If there are any remaining inconsistencies that we do not understand, it is also accepted by faith that one should submit our reason to the reason of God. The biblical and historical references support inerrancy but they support and confirm a belief accepted on faith, they do not prove an argument based upon reason.” (Biblical Inerrancy: History & Analysis)
Yet, the two most common responses for the affirmation of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is:
Yes, the original autographical manuscripts is perfect without error in everything, scientific, geographical, historical and spiritual which is a strict and full view of inerrancy.
Yes, it is inerrant in the context of that it can never be wrong or that it won’t ever lead you spiritually wrong. Which some may consider to be infallibility or limited inerrancy.
However to some disagree; “…were it true that only the “spiritual” sections of the Bible are inerrant, everyone who reads the text would have the personal responsibility of wading through the biblical documents to decide exactly which matters are “spiritual” (thus, inspired) and which are not (thus, uninspired). Such an interpretation of Scripture, however, makes a mockery of biblical authority.” (Biblical Inerrancy By Dr, Dave Miller and Eric Lyons)
“This is not to say that everyone who denies the doctrine of inerrancy can or will deny the Deity of Christ. What I am saying is that those who deny the doctrine of inerrancy, while claiming that they believe in the Deity of Christ and His Lordship over them, tread on very thin ice in terms of consistency and coherency in their theology. I had asserted that the doctrine of inerrancy was [and is] a doctrine, which if not clearly taught in Scripture, derived by necessary inference from the doctrine of Divine inspiration. I also asserted that if Scripture is not inerrant, it cannot be accepted as reliable and authoritative, because there no longer exists any basis for that authority. It is to be expected that such logic is denied by those who deny inerrancy….The guiding principle of inerrantists with regard to Scripture is “False in one, false in all.”” -(From Dave’s Theology)
“A church without the authority of Scripture is like a crocodile without teeth; it can open its mouth as wide and as often as it likes—but who cares? Thankfully, God has given us His inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word. His people can speak with authority and boldness, and we can be confident we have His instructions for our lives.” -(Why should we believe in the inerrancy of the bible? By Brian Edwards,of Answeringenesis.org)
Inerrant in the Original Sometimes Christians will claim that the original manuscripts of the Bible were completely inerrant, so any problems in our Bibles today come from copyists and translators. Of course, since we have none of the Bible’s original manuscripts, it’s impossible to verify that claim. I won’t spend much time on this issue, because it would take us too far away from the topic at hand, but as I understand it, most scholars think that we’ve been able to come very close to what the original documents said. The fact that some passages were kept in popular translations for centuries even though we’ve now discovered that they weren’t original to the Bible only hurts the notion of inspiration, in my view. After all, what good are perfect originals if we don’t have access to them? But in the end, copyist errors can’t account for all the difficulties in the Bible, so I don’t feel it’s worth going into any further at this point.
Despite all of this evidence, there are still many Christians who maintain that the Bible does not have to be inerrant. For them, it is only inerrant when it comes to matters of spirituality, salvation, doctrine, etc. So when it talks about matters of science or history, for example, it may not be completely accurate.
I think there are some major issues with this position. First of all, it seems to run counter to the other passages we’ve looked at. Also, in John 3:12, Jesus rightly pointed out, “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” There’s no way we could know that the Bible’s teachings on Heaven and Hell, the divinity of Christ, or the necessary steps of salvation are true and accurate unless we could verify the more mundane things it claims. For instance, would you trust information on particle physics if it came from someone who had never gotten past 4th grade science? When the Bible tells us about Heaven, it’s impossible for us to sit back and say, “Yes, that’s exactly right,” because we have no independent knowledge of Heaven. We only know what the Bible has told us. And if it can’t be trusted in more minor details, why should we believe it on things that are completely unverifiable?