The Bible as King

kinnon —  June 7, 2012 — 38 Comments

Some might be surprised.

Others will say, “I knew it all along.” “He’s not to be trusted.” “He’s slid so far down the slippery slope he’s a nanometer from Hell’s Gates.”

BibleForegroundStainedGlassSoftBG

What am I talking about?

The Bible.

Sorry.

The Holy Bible.

I don’t believe it’s inerrant.

Inspired?

Yes.

Automatic handwriting under the control of the Holy Spirit?

Ummmm… I don’t think so.

Scot McKnight notes:

…many Christians grow up with a view of Scripture that it is inerrant, and that means for them – and I speak here of the populist impression – that it is not only true but that is more or less magically true – true beyond its time, true when everything else says something else. Connected to this view of inerrancy is a view of Bible reading that takes a sound Christian idea called the perspicuity of Scripture, that the Bible’s message is clear to any able-minded Bible reader, and ratchets it up one notch so that the Bible reader thinks whatever I see in the Bible is what the Bible is saying. This is my way of saying that one’s interpretations of Scripture become as infallible as the Bible itself, and since everything interlocks, giving in one inch is the first step in apostasy.

A blog I regularly read, wrote recently about the need to “Preach the Word.” The writer is of the inerrant camp Dr. McKnight speaks of above. This isn’t “The Word made flesh” of John 1. This isn’t “knowing nothing… except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” of the Apostle Paul. This is a systematic approach to the text of Scripture — often being preached line by line.

In 1 Samuel 8 (to which I often refer), God tells Samuel that the people aren’t rejecting Samuel in their desire for a king, they are rejecting God. Is it possibly that the same affections that animated the desire for a king in the people of Israel also animate the approach of many of us to the Bible?

The Bible is the King we worship. We can read it, discuss it, follow the parts we like in it (and ignore those we don’t), call others with different understandings of particular texts, “Heretics!” and be rather self-assured in our understanding. Much easier than being in relationship with the Creator of the Universe, who, though good, is not safe. (To paraphrase Mrs. Beaver’s response to a question about Aslan.)

Christian orthodoxy is trinitarian. We worship the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. But often, as many others have suggested, it appears that we worship the Father, Son and Holy Scriptures.

When Jesus speaks of the Paraclete, the comforter, the one who comes along side in John 16, he says, “when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” [emphasis added]

IBrants Bibliolatry smalln practice it appears that many believe “all the truth” is a reference to the Bible. And it took four centuries to guide the church into that “truth.” But now that we have “the truth”, the perfect has come and the majority of the Holy Spirit’s work is done. (I’m being facetious.)

I’m reminded of this old cartoon from the irrepressible Brant Hansen. It speaks for itself.

Christian Smith, in his thought provoking book, The Bible Made Impossible says this,

…on important matters the Bible apparently is not clear, consistent, and univocal enough to enable the best-intentioned, most highly skilled, believing readers to come to agreement as to what it teaches. **That is an empirical, historical, undeniable, and ever-present reality. It is, in fact, the single reality that has most shaped the organizational and cultural life of the Christian church, which now, particularly in the United States, exists in a state of massive fragmentation. ** The fact that Christians have worked for centuries and sometimes millennia to try to sort through these differences has not mattered. The fact that the Bible itself implores Christian believers to come to unity with one another and be of the same mind as one another, in view of their one Lord, one faith, and one baptism (John 17:23; Rom. 15:5; Eph. 4:2–5, 13; Phil. 2:2; Col. 3:12–15), has not mattered. The differences have not been overcome. And we have little reason to believe that they will be overcome anytime soon—whether or not we have an inerrant, harmonious, and perspicuous Bible. Appealing to the same scriptural texts, Christians remain deeply divided on most issues, often with intense fervor and sometimes hostility toward one another. [emphasis added] — Christian Smith, The Bible Made Impossible, Loc. 662–72 (Kindle Edition)

Dave Fitch, says this in his important book, The End of Evangelicalism,

“The inerrant Bible” in essence allows us to interpret the Bible to mean anything we want it to because after all we believe it to be “inerrant.” To exaggerate, we can say just about anything based on the Bible and then declare our allegiance to the Bible’s inerrancy. No one then can dare question our orthodoxy! In this way, “the inerrant Bible” functions once again as an empty-signifier. As a result, “the inerrant Bible” (and its variants) holds together a wide variety of institutions and churches that have very little in common in terms of their practice except of course the desire to self-identify as evangelical. — David E. Fitch, The End of Evangelicalism? Discerning a New Faithfulness for Mission: Towards an Evangelical Political Theology, Loc. 1818–22 (Kindle Edition)

And even though “we” want to identify ourselves as evangelical, Evangelical Christianity has become a battle ground of proof texts. No matter what the particular battle is.

“I’ll see your 1 Tim. 2:12 — Paul not suffering a woman to teach, with Paul lauding the apostle Junia in Romans 16:7, greeting his co-labourers, Priscilla & Aquila in Romans 16:3–4 and 2 Timothy 4:19 and writing of their house church leadership in 1 Cor. 16:19. Winning!”

On this particular battle, Smith writes,

The Bible seems to say many things that can be reasonably read and theologized in various ways. In studying the various sides of this heated debate, one gets the distinct feeling that it is actually the divergent prebiblical interests of the many interpreters—both traditionalist and feminist—that drive their scriptural readings, as much as the texts themselves. That too presents problems for biblicism. But the more pertinent point here is this: apparently smart, well-intentioned scripture scholars in fact do read the same set of texts and come away making arguably compelling cases for opposing if not incompatible beliefs on a matter of significance for Christian personal and church practice. — Christian Smith, The Bible Made Impossible, Loc. 780–85 (Kindle Edition)

But for those Biblicists in the inerrant camp — as Scot McKnight suggests — their understanding of the text is the one that is correct. If Pauls says ‘women can’t teach’ then it’s obvious, WOMEN CAN’T TEACH. Some are so exacting in their understanding of the inerrant, perspicuous scriptures that they proudly proclaim that they won’t even let women read scripture in a church service — as it’s almost like teaching. (Which reminds me of the old joke about Baptists and dancing, but I won’t go there right now.) The logical extension of this is that since hymns and some worship tunes also teach, the soprano parts should be song by castrati, n’est-ce pas?

One of the prompts for this post was something that Michael Newnham at Phoenix Preacher pointed to earlier in the week; the resignation letter of Jason Stellman, pastor of a Seattle PCA church. One of the stumbling blocks for Stellman that he felt forced his resignation was his changed position on the Reformed doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

Stellman writes:

I have begun to doubt whether the Bible alone can be said to be our only infallible authority for faith and practice, and despite my efforts (and those of others) to dispel these doubts, they have only become more pronounced. In my own reading of the New Testament, the believer is never instructed to consult Scripture alone in order to adjudicate disputes or determine matters of doctrine (one obvious reason for this is that the early church existed at a time when the 27-book New Testament had either not been begun, completed, or recognized as canonical). The picture the New Testament paints is one in which the ordained leadership of the visible church gathers to bind and loose in Jesus’ Name and with his authority, with the Old Testament Scriptures being called upon as witnesses to the apostles’ and elders’ message (Matt. 18:18–19; Acts 15:6–29), with no indication in Scripture that such ecclesiastical authority was to cease and eventually give way to Sola Scriptura (meaning that the doctrine fails its own test). Moreover, unless the church’s interpretation of Scripture is divinely protected from error at least under certain conditions, then what we call the “orthodox” understanding of doctrines like the Trinity or the hypostatic union is reduced to mere fallible human opinion. I have searched long and hard, but have found no solution within the Sola Scriptura paradigm to this devastating conclusion.

Some suggest that Stellman is about to swim the Tiber. I find that as problematic as others find his rejection of Sola Scriptura and Sola Fida — but his rejection of the Reformed position on Scripture resonates with me.

Christian Smith (who has swum the Tiber) notes the vast numbers of Christians who have their faith ship-wrecked when their Sola Scriptura world view is shattered by reasoned inquisitors. He writes,

To argue that our only lifeline to God is the Bible is way off base. It also fails to recognize the many ways we know about and simply know Jesus Christ. It fails to explain how the Christian church for its first three hundred and fifty years—when it did not possess the defined biblical canon as we now know it—managed to know Christ. “The Christian faith,” Craig Allert rightly observes, “did not grow in response to a book but as a response to God’s interaction with the community of faith.”[53] — Christian Smith, The Bible Made Impossible, Loc. 2457–61 (Kindle Edition)

And then later,

Scripture is not worshiped. It is not in scripture that we place our hope. It is not on scripture that we stake our lives. All of that is reserved for Jesus Christ alone. … Scripture is sometimes confusing, ambiguous, and incomplete—we have to admit and deal with that fact. Biblicism insists that the Bible as the word of God is clear, accessible, understandable, coherent, and complete as the revelation of God’s will and ways for humanity. But this is simply not true. Scripture can be very confusing. It can be indefinite. The Bible can lack information and answers that we want it to have. To say such things seems, from a biblicist perspective, to insult God, scripture’s divine author. But that is, again, because biblicism starts off with wrong presuppositions about how the Bible ought to work. — Christian Smith, The Bible Made Impossible, Loc. 2546–47 & Loc. 2661–66 (Kindle Edition)

The Bible is not our King… King Jesus is our King. (And may I highly recommend you read Scot McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel.)

Our understanding of Scripture must come first from our relationship with the Risen and Living Christ. To view the Bible as “all the truth” too often denies the reality of Jesus being very much alive and actively working through His Holy Spirit.

As Eugene Peterson intreprets John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood.” He is alive and in our midst – something the Scriptures witness to.

kinnon

Posts

A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

38 responses to The Bible as King

  1. You had me until ‘Eugene Peterson.’

  2. Bill, have you ever actually met an evangelical who actually believes that his/her interpretation of the text is inerrant? Beyond extreme fundamentalists who have charts of the End Times all over their walls, and swear by Bill Gothard’s Institutes?

    Most evangelicals that I rub elbows with are a lot more nuanced than that.

    Normally, I find myself on the same page as McKnight, but his statement about how evangelicals use “inerrancy” sounds a bit like a caricature, if not a straw man.

    And in regards to Christian Smith’s “sola scriptura” quote, to be honest, it’s again pinning a viewpoint on others that they don’t really hold. I don’t know ANY evangelicals who would say Scripture is our ONLY lifeline to God.

    I realize that this doesn’t deal directly with the question of inerrancy or bibliolatry, but I’m not a fan of pinning positions on “opponents” that they don’t actually believe. Even people who are much smarter than me (like McKnight or Smith).

    Thanks for the “Tiber” link — I hadn’t heard that expression before.

    • Rob,
      I would suggest that the young, Canadian, ginger-headed chap with one of the biggest blog followings in Christendom is pretty sure his position is inerrant – and he’s the one I refer to in regards to proudly proclaiming that his church won’t let women read a passage of scripture in the Sunday service(s). Al Mohler appears to lead the inerrancy police — ready to see someone sliding down the slippery slope for any disagreement with Inerrant Al et al. CJ and the SGM leadership are pretty darn sure they have the scriptures worked out… and you don’t. :-)

      And that’s just a start.

      • Maybe I should amend my comment to say: “evangelicals that I LITERALLY rub elbows with.” :)

        And this is probably shamefully indicative of my lack of awareness of the theological waters that you paddle through… I have absolutely NO IDEA what Canadian ginger blogger you’re referring to. Dang, maybe I was gone from blogging longer than I realized…

  3. Careful Bill. You’re going to start being a heretic like me pretty soon.

    While many pew pushers may be more less black and white, I think there is the underlying push to find the correct understand of scripture, because without that you will not pass, will not collect 200 eternal life points, and will spend eternity in the flames with the wrong… er “unrepentant”. As much as this can seem like a straw man, more often than not it isn’t. Sad truth.

  4. Bill –

    I am going to ruminate on this a while and then offer some correlations to the current Calvinist/Non-Calvinist debate going on in the SBC.

    Rob –

    Reading a slough of post comments on an SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) site where the debate rages over soteriological nuance, it would not be hard to find many who have decided “their” interpretation is now equated with “the” interpretation and thereby lock-down conversation by any who would either object or nuance the matter differently. Indeed, they do tend to practice what is described here. imo

  5. Thanks for that Bill. You’ve encapsulated much of what I’ve come to think about the whole inerrancy position.

  6. This is not a straw man. It describes my religious life for 25 years – in multiple denominations.

    Sure, many won’t admit to worshiping the bible or viewing their interpretations as inerrant – but functionally, that is exactly how (all?many?some?) evangelicals interact with and use scripture. It gives them the license to kick, scream, judge, belittle, and exclude based on “what the bible clearly says” (at least when the finger is pointing the other way). Being right and having God on your side makes you very powerful and fully justified. Or at least that’s how I felt.

    However, Bill, I fear that you’re preaching to the choir and talking past the congregation. I’ve grew up in a denomination of biblicists – and this is a conversation that gains no traction. Biblicists have no awareness of these tendencies. The confidence that comes from knowing you’re correct and backed by God is blinding. Between the language barrier and my poor communicating, I feel at a loss for how to advance this conversation.

    But then again, I don’t really know why it matters to me anymore.

    • Tim,
      I still have hope. But I’m probably more Don Quixote than I’m willing to admit.

    • My experience as well. There is a common thread in the churches I have been a part of. A large number of folks refuse or are hesitant to read a commentary or other christian book for fear of getting someone’s “interpretation” rather than “simply kneeling before the clear word of scripture”. There is most definitely a belief that reading the Bible (in the approved or authorized translation) magically transfers you into the mind of God.

      Thanks for continuing to call us all away from our idols, Bill.

  7. That’s a helpful paradox presented by Stellman. Continuing his approach, if we read the Scriptures with our hearts open to Truth, whatever it might be, the Scriptures likely contain enough guidance for us to form a reasonable answer to the question of how we should approach them. In my limited experience, true answers from God generally inspire joy rather than the impulse to bang one’s head against the wall (Ginger Canadian). Perhaps we are too intimidated by the Scriptures to read them often enough to find those well balanced insights, so instead we slap an “infallible” label on them, and consult them like an Ouija board. We also ignore significant and even basic cultural anthropological matters as if they belong only to the scholars to root out. If we are truly seeking God, we will search things things out, and not fear the consequences.

    So many solutions to apparent controversial issues can be found with just a little common sense, which is also a gift from God. For example, why does God give this or that woman such incredible gifts in public speaking, or the ability to synthesize Scripture? Surely God wants them to live and use their gifts, rather than be gene banks for future generations. Even if I’m wrong, I would rather be caught doing something wrong than caught not doing something right. In the story of The Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25: 31-46) The “goats” erred with their inactivity, rather than doing the wrong thing.

    So that is how I approach Scriptures, and while I won’t be swimming the Tiber any time soon, I’m eyeing the Jordan as I’m wondering how Christianity became so alienated from Judaism. In Jesus’ day, Judaism had proselytes from all over the world. Interestingly, the Christians in the book of Acts still offered sacrifices and celebrated the Feasts, and (in Christian eyes) only four out of seven of them have been fulfilled to this day. Jesus Himself said “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished”. I’m not saying I have a weighted opinion on the matter (yet), but I sense that this is an area that needs to be reinvestigated in our times. What politics made things happen the way they did? Speaking of infallibility, should the past political shapings of Christian thought be viewed as the infallible arm of God at work, and dictate how we believe now, or should we look for truth behind the politics and adjust accordingly?

  8. An odd thing: By approaching scripture this way, and refusing, now, to see it as The Final and Complete and Obviously Understandable Word of God, Containing All Possible Truth – well, I actually *want* to read it.

    I would never say it, but I grew up thinking I was supposed to develop a dynamic, growing, personal, heart-to-heart relationship… with a book.

    But I now find myself yearning for it. I now keep finding good news in it.

  9. Bill, helpful stuff – and as you point out, an unreflected inerrancy is held not just among the unwashed masses (did I say that?) but even among those who should know better. Hey – with some editing this would make a good post at Next-Wave.

  10. I have often said “The Bible is not the 4th member of the Trinity” and it has gotten me into much trouble….but I believe this to be true.

  11. great thoughtful post, I’m Canadian and see many subscribe to that certain Canadian blogger perspective. heck I’ve attended Southern and felt a sort of biblical elitism there that I think you’ve clarified moreso in this post.

    I’m just curious… where should our anchor(s) be then? like the neo Calvin peeps clearly put their “anchor” in this “biblicism”, where would you put yours?

    of course I understand you would say in the relationship with King Jesus and the HS… but does that mean we need to always be wary of our own interpretations too?

    like every “camp” claims to “have it down” or correcting the other camp every few years… sometimes I wonder if it’s all a spiritual vs intellectual exercise?

    I dunno, there’s my rant of the day :)

    • “but does that mean we need to always be wary of our own interpretations too?”

      I think that’s good advice for everyone! The really scary thing when you look at the history of Christianity is how very badly the church has done over the centuries in coming up with sound interpretations. Having the Bible (or the hierarchy, or the pope, or even John Calvin!) is not a guarantee against error.

  12. I am a Southern Baptist and I do kind of think that this is a straw man, especially the way that Christian Smith articulates it. He is loading the argument in his favor and is appealing to burned out Evangelicals looking for another reason for their disillusionment. “Aha! It’s the inerrantists! If we could just get rid of them!” but, honestly, I really do believe that there is a way to faithfully hold to the authority of Scripture while seeing it as a witness to Christ. Indwelt by the Holy Spirit with the Word as a lamp and a witness, we encounter Christ and live in relationship with Him. A faithful reading of Scripture actually pushes you in that direction if you follow what it says. But, often, those who are assailing inerrancy also have a whole host of unbiblical practices that they want to unload on the church the first moment you agree with them on the Bible. The cure becomes worse than the sickness. I really don’t think that this becomes an honest debate until we start with our presuppositions. A good question to start with is to ask what the person has a problem with. Then, let’s look at the whole witness of Scripture as it points us to Christ and see if that is what the Bible is really saying or is it a particular interpretation based on proof-texting. This should be done in community as well with the whole body, if possible. At the end of the day, we are also to admit that our real unity is in Christ whether we agree on a particular teaching or not. When I go to India and am with the Hindus, I am not too concerned of my brother/sister has a different interpretation on if women can teach. I see a greater unity already established in the heavenlies in Christ. Rather than saying that the Bible has replace the Holy Spirit and become king, a better way to see it is as the teaching of the Apostles which is authoritative now just as it was in the early church. But, I do think that McKnight and Smith go too far in setting up the argument. I like the way that Fitch assails our confidence in OUR interpretations, though. We need a lot more humilty and charity than what we have and that is our biggest problem. Oh, and I know that because the Bible points to that as being very important. :)

  13. A number of years ago, I left the Evangelical world for The United Methodist Church. For over 25 years, I had sought to do nothing other than love God and serve God through the church. But as woman, I was told over and over again that I was welcome in the kitchen and nursery but not as teacher, despite a unique gift at study and proclamation of Holy Scripture. I did a Master’s degree at a well-known seminary that pushes inerrancy. I became fluent in biblical Hebrew and Greek. And the more I learned, the more untenable and unsupportable the inerrancy position became. Because of that the stances of the inerrantists, I stayed in an extremely unhealthy and dangerous marital situation way too long, and nearly lost my life because of it. Finally, I realized that too many basic untruths were the scaffolding upon which the inerrancy movement is balanced, and I left. I left to theological freedom, to renewed hope, to powerful ministry and to the glory of exploring holy and mysterious truth without fear of being labeled heretic. It was a complicated journey, and in it, I have discovered the love of God. For this, I am daily thankful.

  14. I’ve read “The Bible Made Impossible” and several others sources that have made arguments against Evangelicals and it all pretty much boils down to this – “The Bible can’t be inerrant because everyone interprets it differently.” And the problem is that all these arguments blame the Bible as the root cause of the differing viewpoints! That’s just faulty thinking though. The Bible is a divinely inspired book which requires revelation from the Holy Spirit to understand it. It requires proper training, and lots of prayer and meditation.
    The problem is not in the Bible but in the people who misinterpret it – and as long as the Bible is available to the public at large, we will continue to have uneducated, non spirit-filled people picking it up and telling other people their own opinion of it as if it’s fact.
    The world is full of people who are like mindless sheep. They’re hypnotized by their pastor and believe everything he says – sadly many pastors are wolves in sheep’s clothing – but they don’t discern for themselves. These people probably never even read the Bible, if they do it’s sporadically and without proper preparation.
    Taking all this into consideration it’s no wonder there is such division on what the Bible says. But it’s not the Bibles fault. You simply can’t pin that on the Bible when there are so many mindless drones, who have never cracked the Bible but they thump it around as inerrant because Pastor says….

  15. I don’t think over all the problem is the bible… rather it is our expectations of the bible. If we are going to suggest that through some supernatural intervention we spirit filled folk can finally understand the correct message of the bible, thereby suggesting that people w/out our “spiritual understanding” are just “lukewarm”… well that’s just an exercise in missing the point.

    I know this makes me a heretic in some places, but let’s face it: the Bible is just a book. It’s a book that points us to Jesus. Who it points us to is what makes it breathed out by God, contining nothing less then the full revelation of all that he is. If we fail to get this, and decide that some gnostic spiritual light is needed to understand the translated words, or that only one systematic theology can rightly divine the truth of the words… we are going to be like the Pharisaic snakes that searched law law for eternal life, but missed the reality that Jesus is life!

    Inerrancy (as it’s usually used) seems to elevate the Bible to a place where it must be true about all things at all times in all ways, instead of letting the collections of divinely inspired and preserved books do what they were meant by God to do: point us to Jesus so that we might find the reconciliation God has brought about for our salvation and healing.

    The core of this issue is this: can man be saved without the bible? I affirm yes, because Jesus alone is our salvation.

  16. What a brave post! As a Southerner one would not dare mention such things in public. (wink)

    This post really reasonates with me because I have been on this same journey now for a few years. obviously the translators are not inerrant so I never really understood the point of that being a hill to die on. (It has been in the SBC). But at the same time, I have long found studying the bible very interesting. There was a time I really wanted it to be the magic book even when it made me furious (concerning women). But my real problem was reading it woodenly and literally in wrong places. And that comes from tradition teaching it is part of the Trinity! I approached it as a giant code book I was to unravel.

    Todd mentions the raging debate going on now in the SBC. What is interesting is that a big portion of the debate has moved into how the historical councils interpreted scripture. So that is where the huge fight to make the SBC inerrant ended up: What does church history say about interpretations. Funny, that.

    I am reading now in a whole new light and not worrying a bit about “application”. I kind of view the Holy Spirit as my “application”.

    I have had some help along the way from some such as NT Wright, Gordon Fee, Genesis for Normal People even books by Thomas Cahill who focuses on the history of the time period and makes so many things come alive.

    • As always, thanks for your comment(s) and insight, Lin. And I too am a fan of Cahill, though methinks he can be a bit of a revisionist from time to time. :-)

  17. I personally don’t buy into “inerrancy” at least because the word is being applied to Scripture in a way that is not normative by not taking into account the variety of genres that make up the Bible. Even IF the Biblical accounts could be verified as lining up perfectly with science and history and every narrative variation within the Gospels perfectly harmonized with each other, the word “inerrant” or phrase “without error” would still not work for a good amount of the content (such as poetry).

    How can a poem be inerrant (or errant)?
    How can a person’s prayer be true (or false)?

    It also seems to me that definitions of inerrancy are steeped in a list of qualifications that squeeze the meaningfulness out of the word so that what remains is not recognizable as “inerrancy” by most people other than those within conservative evangelical culture (and I suspect many even here may not recognize it, thinking the definition not conservative enough).

  18. The question that none of this answers is “why?” the idea of inerrancy even exists. What is that makes this idea so appealing? Why does it makes the Bible something that has to be proved and defended? If it is inspired by God, then whatever rationality that we identify in it is not of human origin, but divine. And if so, no human defense is necessary. My own assessment is that inerrancy is a cultural accomodation to Enlightenment rationalism, much like the health & wealth Gospel is a cultural accomodation to modern consumer capitalism.

  19. So are you actually saying that Christianity is about a person called Jesus who is alive? And that we can know him? And the book is helpful in knowing him but the book isn’t him?
    Gonna have to re-consider…

  20. Brian from Canada June 12, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    Very interesting read. Anyone who has ever tried to harmonize the gospel accounts will know that “inerrency” as we were taught it when we were young is virtually impossible. Did Judas die by hanging or by getting his guts spilled out? (Well, he fell out of the tree after being hung, and fell headlong so his guts spilled out). Yeah, right. Was it two demonaics or one? (Well, two implies that there was one so it’s not contradictory.) Yes, but that’s not what it says. There are much more difficult things to reconcile than that, like the women in ministry issue, or the universalism issue.

    One of my students (11 years old) saw a Bible on the floor and couldn’t see what it was from where he was. Another student said, “It’s the word of God.” I said, “No, Jesus is the Word of God.” They looked at me, kind of shocked. The Word of God is living and active does not mean the Bible – it means God’s actual spoken word (in this context judgement) that divides soul and Spirit, bones and marrow, thoughts and attitudes. I take the Bible as authoritative, but not inerrent. I submit my life to its teaching, but I recognize that it isn’t perfect, nor was it meant to be. It is a record of things God has spoken and revealed, but my focus needs to be on the Holy Spirit and how he speaks to me today. It’s amazing, though, how often he points to the words that are in that wonderful book.

  21. Thanks for this Bill. As someone who holds to inerrancy, albeit not exactly the kind described here, I found myself agreeing with just about every word of this post. The inerrancy I was taught at seminary left a lot of room for us to disagree, because much of the Bible is not as clear as we wish it were, and in fact parts are hard to harmonize – see the comment above about the diverging accounts of Judas’ death. When you combine the mystery of some of Scripture with our human fallibility and tendency to read into it what you want, popular versions of inerrancy lead so quickly to hubris, polarization, caricatures and sub- Christian intolerance of other Christians.

    My hope is for a more humble, irenic inerrancy position that recognizes the hard issues that remain when one embraces the position, the real critiques that are fair and to be considered – like yours above – and the reality that Christ is Lord, and nobody else is. Having said that, for Christ to be Lord, His Word, as well as His Spirit, must be allowed to be my authority, to which I submit, or my worship of Him is at best a mirage.

    Under astonishing grace,

    Dan

What do you think?