A Reflective Christian

All for God’s Kingdom

Why I can not affirm inerrancy

At the core of this isn’t a denial that Scripture cannot be inerrant, but rather that I can not demand it must be inerrant as I interpret it and study the Bible.

Take for instance the narrative of the rich young ruler I talked about the other day. We have two different accounts (one from Matthew and one from Mark and Luke), one of which portrays Jesus as a teacher of good things and the other which attributes to Jesus the person (or at least, the teacher). At first blush, the two accounts seem irreconciliable as both being genuine.

If I were to accept inerrancy as normative (basically, as a basis for interpeting Scripture), then I would immediately reject any notion that seems to be the most reasonable ones for that part of Scripture. One may argue that one should have faith in God on that part, but Scripture never says (one must trust the canon to be fully true). Faith is reserved more so for the person of God, not an object.

If I have already a priori rejected a particular interpretation, but it is in fact correct, I have essentially excluded myself from the ability to obtain that by circular logic. Inerrancy is true, therefore any interpretation that appears to cause a contradiction is not correct. Since we have no contradictions, therefore, inerrancy is true.

It must make an appeal to reject certain ideas before they are even reflected upon. It claims to have the answers without even looking at them. But even beyond that, inerrancy may in fact in the end be a roadblock to obtaining a correct harmonization of certain passages. Many times, interpretations do not come out of nowhere, but it comes out of critical reflection necessitated by a conflict of interpretations. By encountering an interpretation that see divergent Gospel accounts as contradictory, one may in fact encounter a better interpretation that makes sense of the divergent accounts, holds them in harmony, but yet isn’t just a knee-jerk reaction to a skeptical interpretation.

That is why I do not affirm inerrancy in the end, because it in the end is actually a road block to the studying of Scripture, even if in fact all of Scripture is inerrant. I do place a trust in Scripture and give it the benefit of the doubt and trust when nothing seems directly contradictory. And my trust in Scripture gives me motivation to actually affirm the Bible more than I did before. But on the flip side, this also leads me to say that I can not deny inerrancy either. To accept either as an interpretative norm is to do injustice to the Scripture.


October 6, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Biblical authority, revelation, historicity, and inerrancy

The Bible obtains his authority on the basis that it claims to have revelation that comes from God about God (although the question of what in Scripture is actually revelation is up for discussion there). However, linked with this is the notion of how does purported revelation have authority itself. How come we should accept the words of Isaiah? Why should we accept the words of Jesus? How can we trust that they are divinely inspired instead of humanly, or even demonically, inspired?

This brings us to the importance of historicity. It is one thing to make a claim of something, but it is another thing to see a claim verified or vindicated is what follows afterwards. This makes an appeal to a basic reasoning faculty of a group (though it might justifiable to say that this basic reasoning is not universal). If Jesus proclaims himself to be Messiah and bringing God’s kingdom, and he is resurrected from the dead, then the justifiable reasoning would that it was God vindicating him and his message as we can not imagine a regular human doing something like to to someone else. Or if a prophet foretells of the future of a people if they do not change and the foretold events happen, it would be taken as vindication by God of the proclamation made by the prophet.

History plays the pivotal role for basing the authority for purported revelation from God. Although, history does not only play the role retrospectively. It may also happen before purported revelation, of which the message gives understanding to what has happened. Even in that case though, it retains its believability through being able to explain future events.

The point is that Revelation and History go hand in hand. Revelation is vindicated by it playing true through human experience. Otherwise how can we know that something is from God, who can make His will known through history? If it is simply a human attempt at truth, it is like taking a shot in the dark.

Since the Bible is a collection of writings, many of which make historical claims in conjunction with claims of revelation of God based upon those events, the authority of Bible lives and dies based upon its historical reliability. Otherwise, what vindication is there for the claims of the prophets and of Jesus himself? Any other appeal makes an appeal to something that is founded purely upon human ability to come up with the correct framework (since there is no true universal reasoning) to interpret and therefore accept the Biblical message as true. It leaves no room for any part of the verification process outside of ourselves. And if no appeal like that is made, then we are being asked to believe blindly.

However, while revelation relies upon its vindication within history, it does not rely upon the infallibility of all the historical claims of Scripture to perform such a task. First off, if one part is not historical, it does not mean we must throw the rest out as unreliable (no matter what critics and fundamentalists might say). Each claim can be taken on its own and must be taken on its own. Secondly, if something itself is not historical, it does not mean there is no other historical claim that can vindicate the purported revelation. Nor, if we have no verification on our part of a purported message does it mean we must automatically reject it as false (although we can not honestly affirm it definitively as true), as Scripture does not record every single historical instance. Only if something is predictive by nature and we have history doing the exact opposite would we place skepticism on the idea that the message came from God.

So Biblical authority rests on revelation, and revelation rests its authority based upon historical vindication. However, none of this requires actual inerrancy of the Biblical message, but rather a general trustworthiness. You can throw into question some parts of the Bible, and the puported revelation can still be accepted based upon other historical claims. However, throw out too much, and the authority dies and turns into merely one claimed path among many that can all just as easily be argued for.

September 18, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment