Last year I put together a short series titled “Biblical Inerrancy” – but, as UK John identified early in the first post, it was not about inerrancy at all. It addressed biblical reliability and biblical uniqueness, but inerrancy itself (though I would say that both of those things are necessary for inerrancy) was not addressed.
Over the time since then, I have observed how inerrancy is spoken of, particularly by UK John and Sven, as well as comments interjected by RightThinker and Mary Beth demonstrating clear differences not only on the definition of inerrancy, but whether it is true at all.
What is clear is that, for reasons I find difficult to explain, some people have different definitions of inerrancy. Furthermore, some deny inerrancy, and some question it. I will set out to do three primary things:
1) Define inerrancy
2) Describe the need for inerrancy
3) Defend inerrancy
I expect this series to be long, because I desire a level of clarity often absent in discussions of this issue. For example, before I actually define inerrancy, I will do a post about what inerrancy is not, and a post describing the straw man attacks most often seen. Before I describe the need for inerrancy, I will discuss revelation in general and the various uses and manifestations of the word of God. I will also describe the views of Scripture held by Christian and pseudo-Christian groups in opposition to inerrancy. I will even spend time describing how an unbalanced view of inerrancy will be as dangerous as an outright denial of the importance of Scripture.
I cordially invite those who disagree with my positions to comment and challenge whatever and however they may desire. I have a small number of regular readers, and so I plan to post the series on as many carnivals as it fits. What I really want to hear is the liberal view, which neither John nor Sven have, even though they certainly do not share the evangelical view of Scripture. I believe that Mary Beth holds that view, and hope she and those who agree with her will defend it here.
Here are the “ground rules”, which I recognize that only I am bound to and can guarantee, but hope others will as well:
1) No ad hominem attacks. One can say, “I don’t think this is a Christian point of view you have, Hammer”, but not, “Hammer is a moron”.
2) Be prepared to defend your point of view with two things – Scripture and historical support prior to the mid-eighteenth century. Opponents of the evangelical definition of inerrancy claim it never existed prior to the past 100 years. Thus, while I intend to back up my position with historical Christianity, detractors should do the same. Christianity is a fact-based and historical faith, and a position arrived at in the past 200 years is highly unlikely to be closer to “the faith once for all delivered unto the saints” than that of the apostolic and early church fathers. While Catholic commenters may not regard Luther, Wesley and Calvin as authorities, nor some Protestants Aquinas or Chrysostom, it is not the men that make them authoritative, but the connection of the communion of saints through the ages in doctrine that does.
3) Be clear, concise, and courteous. Clarity, because we don’t want to waste time commenting about something that is misunderstood; courteous, because it begets courtesy and frank speaking, and brevity (yes, that means you, RT) because long comments lead to longer retorts, and others get tired of reading it and drop out.
If someone can think of other important ground rules before I begin, let me know and I’ll include it in this post.
Finally, I should say what I have held since the first day I wrote a post on spiritual matters – I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind with any of this, at least, not someone who is dedicated to their view of Scripture. My goal is to present the various viewpoints in a fashion that eliminates the cloud surrounding the different views for two reasons – to sharpen my own understanding and to allow those who have yet to determine their permanent view of Scripture to choose from the real choices.