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Sunday, June 12, 2005

Biblical Inerrancy?

In most discussions on subjects of Christian theology and life application, the Bible is used as the primary source of support. Oftentimes, one or both of the participants in the discussion will refuse to accept the validity of the portion of the text cited. The reasoning for dismissal of that section can vary, but whether the individual is as technical as a Greek or Hebrew word analysis or as emotional as “My God wouldn’t say that”, they can all be summed up as a simple dissonance between the person’s idea of what is right and what the text says.

I had a talk with my pastor once about the need to believe the whole Bible. He asked me, “Does someone need to believe that Jesus is their Lord as well as their Savior to be saved? Do they need to believe in the virgin birth?” After some discussion, I accepted that the answer was definitely “No.” The grace of God, in salvation to the sinner, does not require belief in all of the doctrines of scripture.

However, while our discussion ended there, I have since given the subject more thought. The question is not, “Do we need to believe in the virgin birth (or fill in disputed scripture passage here) to be saved?” Instead, it is, “Do saved people have to believe the virgin birth to be true if they know it is in the Bible?”

Yes.

There are some details required for this to be true, though. Two, to be precise. First, the individual must understand that the evidence for Christ, as the Son of God, resurrected for the remission of sin is the written Bible. While there are other evidences, it is this that we base our faith and faith statements upon. Secondly, they must understand that the same Bible which declares Christ arisen is the same Bible which declares the information in dispute.

That said, why would those necessitate belief in said information? Allow me to explain, as best I can, the case for Biblical inerrancy:

Postulate 1) A Christian is someone who believes that Jesus Christ was the son of God, who came to earth as a man, was crucified, died, and was buried, and rose again to defeat death and make the forgiveness of sins possible. Not only does the Christian believe this, but they have placed their whole life in His service.

Postulate 2) The details required for this faith to become known and grow are found in the Bible.

Even if the person never sees a Bible, the Gospel is drawn from it.

Postulate 3) There are vast amounts of details within the Bible that do not contribute to the basic Gospel above.

While all parts of the Bible tie in to the Gospels, an isolated examination of much of this would not make the connection evident.

Postulate 4) As the source of both the Gospel of Christ and the attendant instructions, poetry, history and prophecy are one in the same – the Bible – there is no reason why any one part of it is more or less likely to be true than any other.

Therefore) If you believe the Good News of Christ, you must accept the rest of the Bible as true also.

Furthermore, consider this: Using the definition of Christian given above, is it a rational argument to say that a person can believe that there is an Almighty God, who has an only begotten son, who, though he was God, came to earth as a human being and accepted a brutal torture and death on the cross, then rose again from the dead, then ascended into heaven – but they can’t believe that Noah had all the required animals in the ark? Which is more fantastic? The virgin birth is harder to believe than the resurrection of the dead? The existence of Satan is crazier than God walking among us?

There is only one reason to disbelieve part of the Bible – PRIDE. We think we know better than God, so we deny the truth, despite the clear lack of logic in such a denial. Biblical inerrancy can’t be a disputed doctrine among true Christians – it has to be a clear truth.

For those readers who have a snap answer ready, just go back to the above paragraph – The omnipotent God, became a commoner from some ridiculously small nation in a corner of the world, then died and rose again, but _____________ is impossible? Hardly.

14 Comments:

  • I’ve never understood how anyone could accept some of the Bible’s supernatural claims and reject others as ‘unbelievable’. Perhaps it's a case of custom Christianity, which is obviously counterfeit.

    I wonder though, how you define faith (Hebrews 11:1) when you write: “…it is [the Bible] that we base our faith and faith statements upon.” The reason I ask is because the logic of many ‘believers’ is circular, e.g. Jesus is God because the Bible claims as much and the Bible is God’s word because Jesus said it is. Another old saw is: “the Bible says it, that settles it, I believe it”. Therefore, to have credence, the apprehension of the nature of faith is integral to arguments in support of a belief in God and all that it entails.

    By Blogger Robert, at 6/13/2005 08:20:00 PM  

  • It's a logical and respectful question, Robert, for a non-believer to ask, "Why should I believe the Bible?"

    Certainly, the answers given by some (as you note) are not sufficient. The Bible is a unique book with a message - the way to eternal life. It's uniqueness is what sets it apart from any other text, "holy" or not - but when it comes down to it, the historical evidence for Christ is primarily contained in the Gospels.

    There is obviously other evidence for Christianity - creation, the lives of the saints,the writings of the church fathers, and historical support for events surrounding the spread of the faith.

    However, if the Gospels are false, there is little justification for attributing those evidences specifically to the life-changing results of resurrection of the Messiah. There isn't any historical evidence of any note to disbelieve the Gospels.

    While you don't need it, I would encourage doubters to pick up a copy of Josh McDowell's "Evidence that Demands a Verdict". He has the boatload of facts for backing up my assertions.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 6/13/2005 11:19:00 PM  

  • Hi Hammer,

    I don't think you have made your case on this one. Ideas, beliefs, stories, etc. can by 99% true without being 100% true. They can also be 1% true without being 100% true. In fact, many of the great lies of our time use mostly true facts to support wrong conclusions.

    You need more evidence and more logic to show the Bible is 100% inerrant. I want to believe that everything I read in the Bible is the word of God. However, the Bible was compiled by church leaders several hundred years after the life of Christ based on traditions of how the Scriptures were being used. It seems somewhat arbitrary to me and lacks any type of solid proof mechanism. Paul even writes about his disagreements with Peter, yet we consider both men to be inspired in their writings. I would be interested in more of your thoughts.

    By Blogger David M. Smith, at 6/14/2005 11:33:00 AM  

  • I agree, but I think that they people who chose to beleive one thing and not the other, are the ones who have never really read it. They are the ones who rely on others to "tell" them. You either beleive the Bible is God's Word to us, or you don't. That is the line. If you do not beleive the Bible in it's entirety then you are making up a God of your own design with no guide to go by. We can have faith in trees, wooden idols... but WHERE is the faith from?

    By Blogger Teresa, at 6/14/2005 12:48:00 PM  

  • Hi Teresa & Hammer,

    Why does someone HAVE to believe Irad was the father of Mehujael in order to believe Christ rose from the dead?

    By Blogger David M. Smith, at 6/14/2005 02:03:00 PM  

  • David,
    Of course not! What you have to ask is not, "Does Christian A have to believe item Z to follow Christ"? The question is, "what reason has been selected to disbelieve Z that is not used to disbeleive Christ as resurrected Lord? Why would you not beleive it?

    I would like to expand upon this in a post David - you are right that I have left questions unanswered. However, the subject is presented as a full semester in seminary. Can you give me a couple of challenges about the bible to respond to? It would help me make my post most relevant to those who want to know. Thanks!

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 6/14/2005 02:07:00 PM  

  • Actually, David, I have an outline to use already! If I don't cover the questions you are thinking of, I'll get them in at the end or in the comments.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 6/14/2005 02:38:00 PM  

  • Hi Hammer,

    I have a whole list of reasons to believe in the resurrected Lord; eye witness accounts, Luke’s research, behavior of believers, lack of reasonable counter evidence, etc. I believe and have faith that Christ is the Son of God based on the reasonableness of all of the evidence.

    I also have faith in the Bible as the word of God, but it is not the same, and certainly not as strong as my faith that Christ rose from the dead. I think it is very logical to have doubts about certain aspects of the Bible without doubting the resurrection. I think it is also reasonable to have varying interpretations of different aspects of the Bible without doubting the resurrection.

    I don’t automatically believe everything in the LA Times just because they happened to get the score in a baseball game right. I read every article and every sentence in every article and decide the merits of each assertion. I don’t see how the case for Christ falls apart based upon the genealogy in Genesis. I also don’t see how a resurrected Lord proves the genealogy in Genesis. Does this give you a starting point?

    By Blogger David M. Smith, at 6/14/2005 02:55:00 PM  

  • A couple of thoughts about your post.

    First, you missed an issue - two people can agree that a text is important but disagree about what that text actually means, without either of them dismissing it. Thus, it is quite possible for Christians to differ without one "dismissing the Bible". This absolutely crucial for your argument, because you then proceed to ignore totally the issue of interpretation - even if the text is "inerrant", does it follow that everyone who reads it must necessarily reach the same conclusions? If so, on what basis do they make those conclusions?

    Second, your first postulate isn't quite right, IMO. A Christian isn't someone who has assented to some set of statements about Jesus and/or God. A Christian is someone who has entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ and the Godhead. This will involve some knowledge of those facts, but isn't defined by them.

    Third, your fourth postulate is incomplete. All the books of the Bible are from the same source - God - and so all are equally reliable; fair enough. However, Creation itself also issues from God. Church tradition issues from God. Personal revelation issues from God. Do we therefore have to say that Creation, tradition and personal revelation have the same status as Biblical writings and are thus inerrant? If not, why does the logic that we use to exclude other divinely sourced material not apply to how we interpret certain portions of the Bible (e.g. is Song of Songs expected to be historically and anatomically accurate, or is it a poem)?

    Disagreement about how to interpret the Bible (rather than about rejecting sections outright, which is rare) isn't about pride, it's about how we understand the world, God and the Bible. And it is by no means clear that the Bible was written to be understood in a 19th-century literalist fashion (which is what "inerrancy" means).

    pax et bonum

    By Anonymous John, at 6/15/2005 10:55:00 AM  

  • John,

    However, Creation itself also issues from God. Church tradition issues from God. Personal revelation issues from God. Do we therefore have to say that Creation, tradition and personal revelation have the same status as Biblical writings and are thus inerrant?

    I'm curious how you jump from Scripture being from God to Church tradition being from God. For that matter, personal revelation is often mistaken as being from God when in contradicts Scripture which would proclude it from being "of God."

    Could you explain how you lump all these into the same category? Thanks.

    By Blogger rev-ed, at 6/16/2005 03:05:00 PM  

  • Thanks for the thoughtful comments David, John, and Rev-Ed.

    David, I hope the construct I've devised helps to tie the Bible together somewhat. Please continue to follow up on me with these as it becomes apparent that I am missing one or more as I progress. Some of the questions won't get answered until the fourth post, however, I can already see.

    John, I mentioned my simultaneous agreement and disagrement with you above - that interpretation is ritical, but that it is a separate issue from the validity. I believe that Christians can agree that a text is valid but argue over what it means. My goal is to prove the first. It simply isn't as well accepted here as you put forth. That may cultural, since the US and UK have several cultural differences.

    I also agree with you, John, on the definition of a Christian. However, if that Jesus of "experience" is different than the Jesus of the Bible, than there is a prblem - anywhere from poor understanding to worshipping our own construct of God and not Him. Does that make sense at all?

    I think I'll address the fourth postulate in my extended version - aside from interpretation.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 6/16/2005 11:35:00 PM  

  • Rev-ed,
    I'm not jumping from one to another. What I am doing is pointing out that God doesn't give us the Bible and then stop talking. Sure, revelations must be tested but, once tested, we accept that they are from God. Church tradition is simply the sum of such revelations (plus prophecies, visions etc. and their interpretations).

    So, if we have all these God-breathed things in addition to the Bible (which we must admit or become deists not Christians) then we must be careful when talking of the Bible that we don't go too far. Simply saying that God is the source of something in no way implies that it is necessarily "inerrant". We wouldn't for a second say that tradition, revelation or Creation itself was "inerrant" simply because they derive from God. Similarly, we cannot simply say that, because the Bible derives from God, it is necessarily inerrant. If we want to say that, we have to do a lot more work first.

    pax et bonum

    By Anonymous John, at 6/17/2005 05:09:00 AM  

  • Actually, John, I would say that revelation, tradition and creation are inerrant - but only if they truly came from God. It is impossible to even begin to prove a revelation came from God unless it is prophesying the future and comes true, and tradition is truly impossible. Creation has to be inerrant if it is from God - did God make mistakes? Was he surprised by our sin? Or does Milton have the right of it?

    My goal is to show, as best as we are able, that the Bible, in its entirety, is fom God, and therefore inerrant. grade me on that task - then we'll discuss the others!

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 6/18/2005 11:22:00 PM  

  • "My goal is to show, as best as we are able, that the Bible, in its entirety, is fom God, and therefore inerrant"

    Well, your hard task is step 2 - that "therefore" is exceedingly non-trivial to prove! The problem is that "inerrancy" has a whole lot of assumptions that come along with it.

    pax et bonum

    By Anonymous John, at 6/19/2005 08:39:00 AM  

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