filed in Spiritual on Jan.05, 2010
This is a continuation of the series I started in December called “Bible Brackets”. Please read the following 4 first if you haven’t already. These 4 entries have been leading up to this current entry.
To many Christians, the concept of biblical inerrancy is as fundamental as salvation itself. It’s one of those core beliefs that they cling to tightly, refusing to even consider the alternative. It’s written into most church’s statements of doctrinal beliefs. Any suggestion to the contrary is quickly silenced, or you will likely be labeled a heretic. If our bible is not inerrant, then our whole belief system falls apart, right? If there may be an error in it anywhere, then it might as well be full of errors, and Jesus becomes a fictional character like the tooth fairy. Like the domino theory… if one falls, they all go down (assuming we didn’t stand them up too far apart). If we accept that it may contain an error, then we can just determine that the parts we don’t like must be in error, and we basically get to create our own customized bible.
I know many of you right now are saying, “YEAH, RIGHT! EXACTLY!!” I know because I used to make the same arguments. However, if you’ve read the previous 4 parts to this series, you know that making a declaration of inerrancy is very complicated. You have to pick something specific to be inerrant. Is it the English words in the 1995 updated version of the New American Standard Bible? Or do you go back one step farther to the Greek manuscripts that are in existence today, and say they are inerrant? and if so, which manuscripts, because there are a lot of them, and very few, if any, are identical. I’m guessing that if you can get most scholars to speak honestly, they will say that they believe that only the original Greek manuscripts were inerrant. OK. That’s something I can’t really argue with. I mean, how could I argue with it? They don’t exist any more! That would be equivalent to you and me arguing over whether a Tyrannosaurus Rex could be trained to fetch a stick. We could argue for days, but neither of us will ever be able to win that argument, considering there are no more T-Rex’s around to fetch. So I don’t understand why Christians insist that everyone unwaveringly buy into the inerrancy of the original manuscripts.
So, getting back to the question introduced in the first paragraph above… I confess, I no longer believe in the chicken little approach to inerrancy that the sky will fall if I don’t hold to inerrancy. I do not believe those conclusions will be inevitable. Could somebody “rationalize” their beliefs like that? Sure. Just like any Christian could reason, “if God forgives all my sins, then I might as well go Tiger Woods crazy, and kick a few babies while I’m at it.” Does that happen? Maybe some people have thought that way. But those people are very much the exception rather than the norm.
Do I believe the original manuscripts were free of errors. Yes, probably. But I’m not going to tell George that he must believe it also, considering I have no evidence to support my case, except for my own faith. And even if I believe in the inerrancy of the original manuscripts, how does that benefit me today, considering that does not make my English bible error free?
In the next entry, I’ll write about how the belief of inerrancy, or lack thereof, impacts our lives and thoughts. We’ll try to figure out why it’s so important to some Christians.