Inerrancy: Monday’s Questions

These questions relate to my essay from Monday morning –

Is it necessary that “inerrancy” be defined in detail to hold someone else accountable for not believing in inerrancy?

Are you aware of any efforts to provide a detailed definition from within the Churches of Christ?

Is inerrancy properly considered a test of salvation, fellowship, or soundness?

This entry was posted in Inerrancy and the Canon, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to Inerrancy: Monday’s Questions

  1. Bob Brandon says:

    My take:

    “May a doctrine itself not derived from the text be used to marginalize a believer for conclusions obtained in good faith from the text?”

    A belief in the inspiration of the text is not the same as a belief in an “inerrancy” of it.

  2. Alan says:

    Jesus treated the scriptures as inerrant. Matt 4:4, Matt 5:18.

    He promised that the apostles’ teaching would be definitive. Luke 10:16, John 13:20, John 14:26

    Not even the Holy Spirit himself was permitted to change or to add to the message. John 16:13

    The apostles wrote just what the Holy Spirit instructed. 1 Cor 2:13, Gal 1:12, 1 Thess 2:13, 2 Pet 1:21, 2 Pet 3:15

    It’s important to note how Jesus used the OT scriptures. In his day they were many hundreds of years old, and had been copied and recopied. Yet he regarded them as infallible, not just word for word but every individual letter of every word (“jot and tittle”). Apparently he quoted from the Septuagint, which was a translation from Hebrew into Greek. Yet he never mentions any of the disputable translation choices (nor did Paul, who we know taught from the Greek OT). It’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that Jesus expected his followers to hold the scriptures as accurate, authoritative, and conclusive on any topic.

  3. To me, the issue is less about inerrancy, but rather are we using the Text for the purposes for which it was made available to us?

    I don’t believe God’s intent was for us to use it as a basis for arguing over doctrine. That’s what Jesus chastised the Pharisees and Sadducees about.

  4. Alan says:

    BTW my previous post is an attempt to address the question of what inerrancy means.

  5. Price says:

    My guess is that the lack of a uniform definition leads to the disagreement. Most of the time, IMHO, it’s not the inerrancy of the scripture itself that is challenged but the interpretation of the scripture by the individuals… Heresy and imprisonment were once used to punish those that believed the Sun was the center of the universe when scripture CLEARLY showed that the Earth was…Well, no it didn’t..Turns out that it was the interpretation that was in error… It should have been read as raining “cats and dogs” rather than being used as scientific literature…

    Perhaps the trouble comes from missing the central THEME of what is written and focusing on our disagreements from what we believe was written “between the lines.” ??

  6. Adam says:

    What is shocking to me is that, even if the Bible is “inerrant” in a literal way, we think that we can escape our own fallen intellects and our unperceived cultural biases to meet the Bible in the realm of the “inerrant”. We can’t.

    So whether or not the Bible is inerrant, we are still fallen creatures who cannot interact with the Bible at the level of the inerrant, because we are, most assuredly and inarguably, not innerant.

  7. Alan says:

    Excellent point, Adam.

  8. CyclingDude says:

    Alan,

    I’m still confused as to which of today’s questions your referring to in your response. I can be a little dense on Monday mornings, just struggling with the connection. Thanks!

  9. Alan says:

    Cycling Dude,

    I’m trying to answer the second question by providing an example of a definition that has been taught in some places (at least, in my congregation).

  10. CyclingDude says:

    Got it…thanks!

  11. CyclingDude says:

    First, a big thanks to Jay for taking the time to write out his inerrancy perspective. Especially since I’m relatively confident he had no desire to do so. Here are my “layman’s” two-cents:

    1. Of course inerrancy needs to be clearly defined to hold someone accountable for not believing it. Every faith-related principle, concept, or command must be concisely defined to consider it an accountable action or belief. On what other grounds would you determine accountability? Anything to the contrary is dishonest.

    2. No

    3. Only if it’s been concisely defined and even then I have my doubts. But again it’s a mute point unless the “judge” and the “defendant” are working off the exact same definition. I think it’s also necessary to include which translation is inerrant. Maybe they all are, but I’m pretty sure that some are suspect. I think the definition would need to include a list of inerrant translations. And if it is decided that it’s a test of salvation then I would need an explanation of the how the good news message of Jesus and God’s plan of reconciliation became solely available for the educated and scholarly. The vast majority of people living on the earth since the NT was written have been illiterate and had no access to any scripture to determine their view of inerrancy. They had no choice but to believe the words of the messenger.

  12. abasnar says:

    Thus, someone who believes the earth to be billions of years old would be considered to reject inerrancy and thus be damned by someone who teaches that inerrancy (a) is a salvation issue and (b) requires belief in a young earth.

    Maybe we can leave out he salvation issue here. Because – as I said frequently – we may err here and there without being damned immediately. But the inerrancy of scripture is linked with the young-earth interpretation of Genesis for a number of reasons:

    a) And “old-earth-interpretation” is just an attempt to reconcile scripture with an atheistic philosophy I would not call science by science’s own standards.
    b) Having an old earth implies the “theistic evolution” of all species including humans which is the opposite of God speaking and there it is.
    c) We face a serious problem when we see death and selection as a means for creation and at the same time as a consequence of sin that entered creation only AFTER the fall of men. This simply does not work.
    d) And last not least this undermines God’s sacrificial system in the OT which was fulfilled in Christ because death – in this theology – is no longer the consequence of sin but the means of creation.

    Most problems arise because people don’t think all the way to end of an idea.

    But we are saved by faith in Jesus, not faith in the Bible

    Based on my objections listed above statements like these are insufficient. We cannot agree on faith if we deny the foundation of faith. Faith becomes an obscure term then, once the reasons for Christ’s sacrifice get watered down.

    For something different:

    Is that a contradiction?

    One of my first temptations after my conversion 24 years ago was my teacher in religion who immediately wanted to “enlighten” me: “The Bible is full of contradictions!” You can’t imagine the feelings that statements like these produce in me, Jay. Each teacher on our pulpit who even hints to such a possibility will be pulled away from the microphone with my own hands and kicked out of the building with my own foot. (Of course I am exaggerating … a bit) Why? Because that’s Satan’s voice, and I won’t allow him a fraction of a second on our pulpit.

    This drove me to Apologetics, made me read and study all these false claims. And I thank God that I did not get totally confused in my early years. Seriously, the examples you quote and others as well, have nothing to do with contradiction! But there are – as for the numbers – several manuscripts with slightly differing numbers. LXX and MT sometimes differ greatly. We have to face this and admit: The situation is a bit unclear here. But this is far from being a contradiction. Or the two different cleansings of the temple. We may simply state that the line of John’s narrative is different than the line of the synoptics. We can see this as the same event or as two different ones – but PLEASE!! – don’t call this a contradiction! Let’s rather speak of our lack of background information here!

    And that’s a point: Oh we wise 21st century scholars know everything so well! And whenever we find something odd in God’s word, we most certainly have to conclude that the Biblical authors erred. Well, these ancient figures didn’t know better, they thought the earth was flat and that there were demons around pestering the people … Of course we know better! You know what? This is a completely wrong attitude.

    Confessing the inerrancy of scripture is essential, because it includes the fallibility of human wisdom. Oh, please read again and again these blessed words:

    1Co 1:19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
    1Co 1:20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

    Alexander

  13. abasnar says:

    Is it necessary that “inerrancy” be defined in detail to hold someone else accountable for not believing in inerrancy?

    This is as necessary as defining what it means the Bible is God’s Word. If someone belives in verbal inspiration and the other one in “divine ideas” hidden beneath the surface of the text, both would confess “the Bible is God’s Word” or “inspired” but mean radically different things.

    Of course we can create a sort of unity if we keep the “vocabulary” of faith but leave the meanings ofthe terms open to everyone. But that’s not unity, but … ecumensim.

    <blockquote<Are you aware of any efforts to provide a detailed definition from within the Churches of Christ?

    Not really, but I think there is alot of agreement throughout the consefvative groups among all denominations. It is my impression that the division among Christians today is less and less about denominations but about liberals/progressives and consertvatives. The same debates are being held in all churches today.

    Therefore I rejoiced in J.I. Packer’s book “God has spoken” (an Anglican) who made a fantastic defense of biblical inerrancy.

    Is inerrancy properly considered a test of salvation, fellowship, or soundness?

    I don’t like such questions. Because when I say – what is my conviction – that it is not a fellowship issue, you most likely will make it permisible. And this I don’t. Even if if does not damn us immediately when we err, this patience and logsuffering of God does not make error something we should leave uncorrected: “Why should I question my conviction if my (even fals) convictions are no alvation issue?” Because – in the end – it has to do with unity.

    Alexander

  14. CyclingDude says:

    Alexander,

    I’m having a tough time aligning your response with today’s three questions. It would help if you could link your responses to the questions in some way. I think your first sentence, “Maybe we can leave out the salvation issue here…” aligns to question 1, but it seems to contradict with the beginning of your last paragraph.”Confessing the inerrancy of scripture is essential…” so I’m probably not reading it correctly. Can you point to your answers for questions 2 and/or 3? I’m assuming that your entire response was not related to question 1. Sorry to be a little slow on my end.

  15. Alabama John says:

    We can’t associate time. The best we can do is the natural setting and rising of the sun.

    God made Adam. When Adam had been on the earth one hour, if we had a todays doctor examine him, how old would the doctor say he was by all the evidence and education at his disposal?

    Same with the earth.

    Only thing unusual about Adam and also Eve was the puzzling lack of a navel.

    Any way, what difference does it make if we all differ in our thinking of the age of the earth?

  16. Emmett says:

    It’s not so much necessary that the word “inerrancy” be defined as that we somehow manage to be talking about the same things, whatever we may call them. When no good faith effort is made to understand what someone else is trying to tell us, accurate definitions don’t matter much. In other words, sometimes we don’t really listen to what we’re being told because we’re too busy figuring out how we’re going to rebut.

    I’m coming more and more to the conclusion that the things we may hold one another accountable for are relatively few. My fellow Christian answers to his own Master, and that isn’t me…

    I’m not aware of any effort to define the terms in this discussion within churches of Christ, other than this blog. But I noticed that you capitalized the word Church. What’s up with that? ;)

    I took note of your challenge to examine your published positions in order to ascertain your respect, or lack thereof, for the text of scripture. So far as I have read your blog my conclusion is that you respect it. Whatever semantics we use, I view respect for the text of scripture to be essential.

    Is it hypothetically possible for one to be saved by belief in who the text reveals in the absence of said respect? I suppose so – but what real value issues from such hypotheticals? After all, if one’s trust is in the Jesus revealed in scripture, then it seems to me that one would naturally acquire the same respect for the text that He demonstrated.

    We have zero original autographs. We have a plethora of copies and quotations from various sources in various languages, throughout a fairly long span of time. These show remarkable agreement with one another, to the extent that I view it as providential that the texts we use today are as inherently reliable as they have proven to be. But I assert that inerrancy of scripture cannot be held as a test of salvation, fellowship, or soundness, until our own inerrency is established…

    Thirty years ago my wife and I attended a workshop presented by some of our ultra-conservative brethren. One of the lectures was an attempt to make the case that since the Bible used the archaic pronouns, thee, thy, thou, etc., that we should use these forms in prayer as we address the Almighty. I am not making this up – we both personally witnessed this lecture. The funny thing is that in the closing prayer of that address, the prayer leader used the modern English pronouns.

  17. Terry says:

    Regarding the second question, I provided a definition of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy a couple of years ago at http://adisciplesthoughts.blogspot.com/2009/05/inerrancy-of-bible.html. I’m sure it’s not as detailed as many would like it to be, but the basic idea is that the Scriptures were “breathed out by God”, and he is a “God who never lies.”

  18. Jerry Starling says:

    Emmett,

    My aunt made the same argument to my mother. She insisted that to say “You” to God would be disrespectful. My mother replied (in the language of the KJV), “But Jesus said to Satan, ‘Get Thee behind me.’” Discussion ended – and point taken.

    Jerry

  19. HistoryGuy says:

    I continue to study this topic, but struggle with certain concepts. Thanks for putting it out there.

    (1) Yes
    (2) No, they seem to rely on the existing VARIOUS definitions
    (3) It depends on if the definition of inerrancy is consistent with the view held by the consensus of orthodox (correct) Christians since the time of the apostles.

    Some of today’s comments say more than the verses of scripture say. For example, does Matt. 4:4 somehow mean that ‘I live by’ knowing Paul wrote with big letters (Gal. 6:11) and he used a scribe at times (Romans 16:22)? I agree that all scripture is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16-17), but fallible men are left sorting through what that means because we don’t have an infallible list in scripture telling us what ALL scripture is. Christians can see scripture as accurate, authoritative, and conclusive while disagreeing on what inerrancy means.

    I think that is all that I can say until Jay posts the questions for other days.

  20. Is it necessary that “inerrancy” be defined in detail to hold someone else accountable for not believing in inerrancy?
    It would be, if we were ever called upon by scripture to hold someone else accountable for not believing in inerrancy. I have not run across that charge in scripture.

    Are you aware of any efforts to provide a detailed definition from within the Churches of Christ?
    No, but I can’t bring myself to say “Sadly, no.” Because, I guess, I have never run across a charge in scripture to define the inerrancy of scripture.

    Is inerrancy properly considered a test of salvation, fellowship, or soundness?
    I cannot say that I have ever stumbled across a command, example or inference necessary or otherwise to establish or employ tests of salvation, fellowship or soundness. I find instructions to lovingly correct misconceptions about the divine and/or human nature of Christ, to forbid teaching of heresy which denies either, and to have nothing to do with divisive and obviously unChristlike teachers who profess to teach knowledge of Christ to their own aggrandizement.

    I haven’t found any reference to the inerrancy of scripture or any requirement of belief regarding it. If I were among those who require authorization for any given Christian act, I would have to conclude that it is unauthorized by scripture. As I am among those who seek to follow Christ, I would have to conclude that so judging a fellow believer is not consistent with the nature, Spirit, teachings, actions or instructions of Christ in this world.

  21. Alan says:

    HistoryGuy wrote:

    Some of today’s comments say more than the verses of scripture say. For example, does Matt. 4:4 somehow mean that ‘I live by’ knowing Paul wrote with big letters (Gal. 6:11) and he used a scribe at times (Romans 16:22)?

    Perhaps you’re reading more into the comment than I stated. I simply cited some verses that show what Jesus said about the scriptures. You’re posing an argument I didn’t make – a straw man argument. One would think that quoting Jesus on a subject would be uncontroversial.

    I hold the scriptures to be inerrant (they say exactly what God intended for them to say.) My *interpretation* of those scriptures, OTOH, is prone to errors… as is everyone else’s interpretation. Does that mean I can’t speak with confidence about what is true? Absolutely not. But I’m sure that sometimes I am wrong.

  22. Jerry Starling says:

    Alan,

    You threw out a list of passages without making an argument as such. Yet, the way in which you did it certainly left the impression from whichHistory Guy wrote. I know, because I also reached his conclusion. (And, I believe you just might possibly have intended that conclusion.)

    This is an illustration of the fact that we should not force a passage to answer a question it does not address. That is an issue of hermeneutics – not of what the Bible says about inerrancy.

    Do not act surprised when someone infers what you certainly seemed to assert given your use of the passage in the context in which you introduced it. C.S. Lewis in The ScrewTape Letters talked about conversations where a tone of voice (not the actual words used) conveyed a hurt – and then the person speaking would take umbrage when the hurt person would take offence. Please, let’s not go in that direction!

    But I may be the one who is wrong in what I assumed you meant…. If so, please forgive me.

    Jerry

  23. HistoryGuy says:

    To avoid confusing everyone…
    The early church had a vision of God and very very high view of scripture, but I did not want to talk about what I believe (which is what they believed) until Jay presents those questions. I will say that a certain vision of God and a certain vision of scripture is a test of fellowship, but I will refrain from “what that is” until that question arises.

  24. HistoryGuy says:

    Alan,
    I didn’t and still don’t mean you any disrespect. Your list of scripture represents a certain view of inerrancy, even if you did not intend to convey that view. Still, I specifically omitted your name from my post because I was more interested in the comment than bringing attention to you or your views. I know what a straw man argument is, and if I wanted to make one, I would have a done a much better job ?

    Although I was trying to demonstrate other views to contrast what I thought was your point, I then agreed with you final conclusion ‘Jesus expected his followers to hold the scriptures as accurate, authoritative, and conclusive on any topic.’

    I may have misunderstood the explicit statement from your post September 12th, 2011 at 7:19 am, in which you believed we live by every ‘jot and tittle’ because you explicitly said:

    Jesus treated the scriptures as inerrant. Matt 4:4, Matt 5:18… he regarded them [OT] as infallible, not just word for word but every individual letter of every word (“jot and tittle”)…

    If you make a statement, and then cite verses, one is generally saying the statement is found in or defined by those verses. So, when you stress Jesus treating scripture as inerrant, then cite two verses to support your statement, then follow it by giving commentary on living by every ‘jot and tittle,’ yet never define inerrancy with any other definition, then Yes, I am going to draw the conclusion that I drew.

    My issue was not with the scriptures you listed, but rather with the commentary that you gave. I don’t really have an issue, as I am here to simply discuss viewpoints of a topic. Thank you for giving a clearer view of your thoughts September 12th, 2011 at 10:42 pm, which corrected what I thought you were saying.

  25. abasnar says:

    @ CD

    Maybe by now you have read my second post (which appears immediately after my first one). I wrote the first one, because I wanted to quote from the longer article first to show where I see some critical points.

    . I think your first sentence, “Maybe we can leave out the salvation issue here…” aligns to question 1, but it seems to contradict with the beginning of your last paragraph.”Confessing the inerrancy of scripture is essential…”

    Not everything that is essential is a salvation issue. I dislike the idea that we do and believe things only because we are being saved by doing so. It is about showing love and respect for our Lord, and in this we grow – so it is process of learning and applying. Therefore we may (and will always) err for a while even in such questions as inerrancy. But nonetheless I regard it an essential question … essential for unity. And essential for any other doctrine we build on/receive from the scriptures. This means that as a teacher in Christ’s church I will do everything to further the congregation’s absolute trust in God’s written Word.

    See, if we think the Bible contains errors, we will have problems as other modern churches have: Some believe the apostles/the Bible erred on the nature of homosexuality – now, because we live in ascientific age – we know it better and can regard homosexuality as perfectly normal. I hope this example makes it little more clear what I mean. Does this BTW mean that someone who has been misled to believe such “modern myths” as homosexuality or theistic evolution is lost and damned? No, at least not because of these issues. But if the same reasoning behind that effects his undertstanding of the Gospel, it might well be that he failed to grasp the essence of Christ’s work for us. Again, this is what happened in many modern churches.

    Alexander

  26. CyclingDude says:

    Alexander,

    Thanks for taking the time to clarify.

  27. CyclingDude says:

    AJ,

    It’s not the age of the earth that brings the literal six day creation into question. The big issue for me is how did Adam name all the birds and animals in one day. The way I read the account is God made Adam, Adam named all the animals, during the process couldnt find a suitable helper, and God made Eve. Now if I’m reading it incorrectly, and God made Adam and Eve, and then Adam named all the animals then we have solved the earth age issue. Because I frequently watch Animal Planet with my children and I think it’s reasonable to conclude it may have taken Adam a few million years to name all the animals before we hit the garden scene. But, if Adam named the animals before Eve…then I think there may be a problem.

    Jay….accept my apology for stepping outside todays questions. Although, it’s now tomorrow and the new questions havent been posted…so I may be okay.

  28. Alabama John says:

    CD,
    A day is as a thousand years comes to mind.
    If Adam was alone while he was naming all the animals he would of noticed there was both male and female in every animal but him.
    What a cry out to God that would of been.
    No, God didn’t hear Adam pleading for a mate, God saw man didn’t have a mate and created Eve. It wouldn’t of taken God long.
    It is not reasonable to think that God made both male and female to start with in every creature so they could reproduce except His perfect creature, man.

    I think you would enjoy knowing how all this came about from the Native American teachings I grew up hearing.

    The lineage of the man Adam we find in the Bible tells when a man was born, how many years of age until his son was born, (had Eve to accomplish that) at what age he died and so on. Its easy to figure from that how many generations lived at the same time because of their long life span.
    Shows Methuselah died the same year as the flood. Did he die in it? Probably, but who knows.
    I made a chart on that one time, preached sermons on it, and have it here somewhere.

  29. Alan says:

    Jerry, and HistoryGuy,
    Jesus said “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” That tells me a few things. First, every word God said is important. Second, I can’t live as God intended without every word that comes from the mouth of God. SInce I believe God is loving and powerful I believe I have access to all those words and that I can know which ones come from God. The fact that Jesus was quoting scripture when he said this suggests where those words are found. But in the next chapter, he makes it abundantly clear where they come from. Not the least stroke of a pen will pass from the law until everything is accomplished. He was talking about the written word of God. Not only is every word important, but every stroke of a pen.

    That’s not merely one view of inerrancy. It’s what Jesus said about scripture. The only way I can see around that conclusion is to claim Jesus didn’t really say those things. I doubt you would make that claim. So the discussion should revolve around what Jesus meant by these things.

    There are many other examples of how Jesus used the scriptures, and how he expected others to know and use the scriptures. It’s an interesting study and it sheds a lot of light on the inerrancy question.

  30. Alabama John says:

    No one had access and studied the OT scriptures anymore than the Jews did and they totally missed the whole point. People study many times with an agenda.
    Look how many versions we have today, more than the world had ever seen before.
    Anyone can write a Bible today and many do and argue about it
    First 1000 years NT was all Latin. Heard, not read. English came later, heard not read until the printing press most had never held a scripture in any form in their hands.
    Most Christians by far that ever lived up to today have never held a Bible much less read it.
    Reading one is a last 3-400 year privilege.
    Were all those ignorant folks, our ancestors, held accountable for every jot or tittle?

  31. Alan says:

    Alabama John,
    Jews were certainly accountable to obey the law,whether they had a personal copy of it or not. You might be surprised how well the average Jew knew the law. Those who were responsible for the priestly duties obviously had to know a lot more.

    Christian ministers and elders have always had a responsibility to teach the people what they need to obey, and they still do. It doesn’t rely entirely on a person’s ability to access, to read, and to understand what they read. But they are expected to obey God’s word that has been taught to them.

  32. Dennis Smith says:

    Jay,
    Thank you for taking the time to put together this thought provoking article. It is helpful to see the comprehensive view of an issue instead of just the small portions which we usually wrestle with. God Bless you for your work.

  33. abasnar says:

    The big issue for me is how did Adam name all the birds and animals in one day.

    Eden was just a garden in the east, not the whole earth. So – and that’s just my theory – I think it was large enough to be coltiveted by two persons. Thus, most likely not all the species were present in Eden.

    The reason I like this thought: Eden was a prototype of the Kingdom of God. Expanding teh rule of humans over the earth would expand Eden as well – making this world a Paradise!

    Just as a side remark to you question …

    Alexander

  34. eric says:

    I guess when it comes to inerrancy being used for a test of salvation, you would have to be very careful to keep it to the true test of salvation of Christ the Son of God, raised from the dead. Faith in Christ being required and so on. Yet calling someone’s salvation into question over how they come down on these other issues is excepting defeat by the devil in my opinion. We can’t allow ourselves (the Body of Christ) to be divided and conquered from within because we or I feel differently about the interpretation of one scripture or another. For instance it is proven that time follows matter therefore in the creation account was the first day before the earth as we know it existed based on a universal clock including all matter in the rapidly expanding universe, or based on something that was yet to exist? I only say this to say that it saddens me that two people can love and trust God equally, while one is asked to leave fellowship with others in Christ. I know that we in Christ lost many opportunities to reach those in the Universities because we redefined salvation doing far more harm than good for the cause of Christ.
    This brings me to this point. I’ve read the Bible and books and sat under teachers that all taught me new things that I never could have swallowed if I had not been willing to set aside my forgone conclusions and humbly take note of what they were saying. Not to say you shouldn’t test every spirit. Just to say its okay to listen and it’s okay to agree to disagree and yes it’s okay to change your mind without going to hell.

Leave a Reply