God’s Transforming Word, Where We Go From Here

My concern with this commentary is that it opens a controversy that could deepen the division the Churches of Christ are already struggling with. Indeed, it could even open up an entirely new split. I think, however, that division over inerrancy is both unnecessary and contrary to the very scriptures we are arguing over.

Some want to argue that we can’t believe the Bible at all unless we believe it to be flawless. Others want to argue that the Bible contains errors but is still God’s word. I want to argue that the Bible is true, trustworthy, and to be lived. The question that matters is whether we live it, not whether we have faith in it. Our faith is in Jesus — not the Bible. Hence, I have no interest in even taking a position on inerrancy. Rather, I’d far rather work for unity between those who disagree over inerrancy. 

There is very important common ground between the inerrant and not-inerrant (“errant”?) positions — ground that is more important and more precious that inerrancy or modern scholarship or whatever else drives your thinking. I mean, so long as we can agree that the scriptures are trustworthy and to be lived, why would we be that concerned about the epistomological pathway that got us there?

Historically, inerrancy has been a part of countless denominational creeds and so has come to define orthodoxy in the minds of many — even among the “creedless” Churches of Christ. But salvation doesn’t come from faith in the Bible. It comes from faith in Jesus — whether gained from scriptures or from a parent or a friend. The inerrancy of the source doesn’t save — even a very imperfect teacher can teach enough to save and to live a life very pleasing to Jesus. 

Therefore, we need to avoid the temptation to divide over this issue. We need rather to realize that the principles that are important to the Churches of Christ allow us to be united despite our disagreements on such things. Even though the Baptists and many others have divided over inerrancy, we don’t have to. After all, the original saying, going back to the time of the Campbells and Stone, is “We have no creed but Christ.” And as we do in fact agree on Christ, we agree on what the scriptures say truly matters.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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14 Responses to God’s Transforming Word, Where We Go From Here

  1. Terry says:

    I'm becoming increasingly convinced that I have far more in common with conservative evangelicals than with progressive Church of Christ leaders. It does not matter whether we believe that the Bible is inerrant? Come on!

  2. Dave R. says:

    I can just imagine how T.B. Larimore would answer a question regarding his position on inerrancy. I imagine he would observe that in his study of the scripture he hadn't run across the word inerrancy; therefore, he had nothing to say on that matter. Then he would go back to preaching the Gospel.

  3. rey says:

    The position that "salvation doesn’t come from faith in the Bible, but from faith in Jesus" while cute and fitting for a $5 hallmark card, certainly opens the adherent up to a host of problems. Without the Bible, for example, Jesus can be whatever anyone's depraved mind wants him to be. If a perve wants to make Jesus a perve, then Jesus is now perve. If a racist black panther type wants to make Jesus a looney black-supremacist, well then now that's what he is. After all, Jay Guin said "salvation doesn’t come from faith in the Bible, but from faith in Jesus." What makes the Jesus we read about in the Bible, therefore, any better than the Jesus of the so-called gospel of Thomas? The Jesus in the Bible tells nice little parables about what the church is like and teaches us to live good moral lives, but the Jesus of the Gnostic Thomas is just a guru with a bunch of silly Buddhist proverbs that make no sense. "I like silly Buddhist proverbs that make no sense! I shall choose that Jesus." So essentially, we've moved from "the church of your choice" to "the Jesus of your choice." We've gone from Billy Graham's "find yourself a good Bible believing church that suits your fancy" to "find yourself a historical revisionist account of Jesus' that suits your fancy." Is this supposed to be progress? The more the world slips into utter chaos, the better the conservative churches of Christ end up looking.

  4. Alan says:

    Jay, I agree with the sentiment you are expressing. We shouldn't split hairs that lead to splitting churches. OTOH I think a "high view of scripture" is the foundation of Christian faith. We have to be able to rely on the scriptures as the standard and the final word on any subject. Otherwise we are left with the flawed wisdom of men (and all the varying opinions, conflicts, controversies, and splits that naturally would follow).

  5. rey says:

    If a church or someone in it is arguing that the Bible is in error, then are they really someone to be concerned with pleasing and bowing down to in the interest of unity? Keeping them around will eventually cause bigger problems in the church, as they are wolves in sheep's clothing. Tiptoeing around the agnostics in your midst is the ultimate in following "the flawed wisdom of men," Alan.

    "I can just imagine how T.B. Larimore would answer a question regarding his position on inerrancy. I can just imagine how T.B. Larimore would answer a question regarding his position on inerrancy. I imagine he would observe that in his study of the scripture he hadn’t run across the word inerrancy; therefore, he had nothing to say on that matter. Then he would go back to preaching the Gospel." (Dave R.)

    He'd say "Oh, inerrency doesn't matter. Now, turn to chapter 5, verse 3 of the gospel of Thomas….And next week's sermon is on how Jesus tricked those Jews by having Judas take his place on the cross. There are various Islamic texts that teach this, and that's the gospel!"

    Yeah, just ignoring the question of inerrancy on going on "preaching the gospel" makes a whole lot of sense. Especially since you don't know the gospel and therefore CAN'T preach it without inerrancy! The spiritual blindness on this board is like a thick fog in which a man could easily get lost and end up getting hit by a bus, so I think I'll return now to some Arminian vs Calvinists blogs because there's honestly more light over there–at least they both hold to inerrancy!

  6. rey says:

    And what about all this Mary Magdalene stuff? Why not incorporate some of that into our preaching to keep the women interested. That's what the gospel needs, is a steamy romance between Jesus and one of his female disciples! And while we're at it, bring in some of that Jesus as an anti-Rome revolutionary, and depict Jesus as being crucified for trying to assinate Caesar rather than for the sins of the world. That'll really keep 'em entertained in the pews. And instead of bread and wine, let's give 'em bread and circuses.

  7. rey says:

    And to really shake things up and mess with the "Campbellite's" heads, lets claim that Jesus baptized babies. And for you Calvinists out there, we'll let you claim that he eats babies, to go along with your ogre-god theory. And we have unity in absolute chaos and anarchy. And if people want to bow to images, that's ok, because "inerrancy is unimportant," and we might as well go ahead and canonize Satan as a saint too, since saints don't have to be perfect (as liberals always tell us).

  8. Alan says:

    Tiptoeing around the agnostics in your midst is the ultimate in following “the flawed wisdom of men,” Alan.

    Rey, I hope that's not the impression my comment created. That's certainly not the side I take on this issue. I'm agreeing with Jay (if I understand what he's been saying) that it was irresponsible to raise these questions in a public setting, where many readers are not equipped to fill in the blanks that the book left unaddressed. Bottom line we need to accept the Bible as God's word, delivered to us exactly as God intended. Otherwise we can know nothing for certain about Jesus, nor about what God expecs of us.

  9. rey says:

    Your position is more agreeable, then, and also clearly different from Jay's.

    "Some want to argue that we can’t believe the Bible at all unless we believe it to be flawless. Others want to argue that the Bible contains errors but is still God’s word. I want to argue that the Bible is true, trustworthy, and to be lived. The question that matters is whether we live it, not whether we have faith in it. Our faith is in Jesus — not the Bible. Hence, I have no interest in even taking a position on inerrancy. Rather, I’d far rather work for unity between those who disagree over inerrancy. " (Jay)

    That's "lets make a deal in the middle" and that will not work. Making a deal between inerrantists and errantists is like making a deal between God and Satan. If the Scriptures are in error, how much is error and where's it at? "Yes, hath God said ___?" Give the devil an inch and he'll take a mile, and I think this blog and all the positions Jay takes is/are the perfect example of that.

  10. Mark says:

    When I was in graduate school at ACU 20 years ago, I remember a class discussion about how Churches of Christ had pretty well stayed out of the inerrancy debate among the evangelicals. To me, it made sense to stay out of it. We all recognize that there are errors in the manuscript tradition, so the appeal was made to inerrancy in the "original autographs" (that may be redundant). The problem (at least one of them) with that position is that none of the autographs are extant. So, we have a biblical text based on manuscripts that have errors, but the text is inerrant like the autographs, which we don't have.

    It's just a strange way to stake out turf. Maybe we should use Bible names for Bible things. The Bible doesn't use the word inerrant. I have no problem preaching about the inspiration of Scripture or the trustworthiness of Scripture or Scripture as the word of God. Don't we have enough cans of worms to deal with without opening the inerrancy can of worms? I agree with Jay. I don't have any interest in taking a position on inerrancy. I think Dave R. accurately captured the spirit of T. B. Larrimore, and we could do far worse than to stake out the posiition he set forth.

  11. rey says:

    Its not the word but the concept. If the Scriptures are in error, then perhaps the Scripture that says "All Scripture is inspired of God and useful for doctrine…." is an error, right? If you are prepared to say that the Scripture are in error, then you ought to just give up altogether and embrace evolution and create some sort of new "I came from a monkey and I'm going nowhere, but I'm going to be a nice guy" religion. Without inerrancy (call it by whatever term you want, so long as you don't abuse language like a Calvinist who calls micromanagement Sovereignty!) every doctrine in Scripture is made questionable and we have no leg to stand on.

  12. Joe Baggett says:

    When the Paul wrote that all scripture was inpspired from God. Did he know which books would be approved by the council of Nicea some 300 years later to make the New testament? Would it include the lost epistles of Paul? I think at this time he was referring to the Old Testament as this was the only accepted scripture at the time. Much of the New testament had not even been written yet. The doctrine of scripture is not confirmed by the details of authorship or dating or historical accuracy but by the ideas themselves.

  13. Ric says:

    Let's get our eyes back on the ball people. First, other than the limited availability of the old testament scriptures, what "Bible" did most 1st century Christians have access to? Fact is, they had a very large base of circulating letters and gospels numbering far in excess of the 27 we have reported in the canonical New Testament. Many of those other letters and gospels were in direct contradiction to those eventually selected 200+ years later to be included in the canonical text. They certainly could not rely on those documents to be "inerrant" as we define it, and yet, their faith produced much greater fruits than ours. WHY?

    Truth is even the apostles taught error at times, even the great Peter!! anyone remember the galatian heresy? However, despite doctrinal differences between the early church leaders, they all agreed on one thing– Jesus birth, death, burial and resurrection! That Jesus was God come to earth in human form to redeem humanity from sin. And is that not what our faith is meant to be placed in. If so, does it really matter whether there are some errors in the biblical account.

    As further proof, what is the foundational rock of the church, the Bible or Jesus. To answer, just take a look at Matt 16:15-18:
    "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
    16Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ,[a] the Son of the living God."
    17Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.
    18And I tell you that you are Peter,[b] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[c] will not overcome it.[d]
    This passage makes it clear that the scriptures are not the basis of our faith or the Church, it is the truth of Peter's Confession and ours that Jesus is "…the Christ, the Son of the living God." No more, no Less.

  14. Jay Guin says:

    Thanks, Ric. You've nailed it.

    I sympathize with Rey's struggle to understand how someone can deny inerrancy and yet have saving faith — but it happens and happens quite a lot. I credit God.

    Obviously, there are some who deny huge portions of the scriptures and who judge the scriptures by their own preferences. This is not what I'm talking about.

    Rather, there are also those who find apparent contradictions either within the Bible or between the Bible and history. Nonetheless, they submit to the authority and God-giveness of the Bible, live its precepts, and have devout faith in Jesus.

    They are saved and not to be disfellowshipped. Future posts will try to flesh this out a bit.

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