A discussion on Biblical inerrancy

Someone wrote,

If your Christian walk is only validated by the concept of biblical inerrancy, then perhaps the problem isn’t with other concepts of inspiration.

I responded:

Thing is, if the Bible is errant, then how can you trust any part of it? If ppl are not concerned with Biblical inerrancy, then perhaps the church needs teach them better.

Him:

Think about all the things in your life upon which you base decisions. They are all, without a doubt, uninspired in the theological sense of the word. Still, you find them to be quite reliable and, to a great extent, trustworthy. Sadly, in the experience of many in the Evangelical community (of which I consider myself a part), if one suspects the Bible of containing even the smallest error, be it scientific or historical, the foundation of one’s faith is threatened and, in a number of cases, crumbles to the ground. This need not be so.

Think about the translation of the Bible which you read. Is it a perfect representative of the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic? I’m 99.99% sure you would say it isn’t. How then do you trust it? Think about the various manuscripts of the Bible, of which no two are identical. Which one is the correct one?

I ask these questions not to shake your faith but to possibly urge you to rethink about the manner in which the Bible’s inspired.

Me:

Perhaps you are different than I, but I make decisions influenced by what God has said to do and not do. In fact, I have based my entire life around the idea that God sent Jesus to suffer and die for my sins, that one needs to change and turn to God, and that if I love God, trust Christ and because of what God has done I have eternal life, and I need to exemplify my faith and love for God through love for others and and that it is God who decides what is right and wrong. Now, if when I die it turns out I am wrong, so be it. But if the original manuscripts are not the word of God, then everything I believe, that I base my life upon, is based upon lies. If this is the case, then what is the point? There are many days I’d prefer to eat, drink, and be merry.

Teaching & preaching in Spanish and English as I do, I know the difficulty in translation. I also know sometimes the best we can do is a very close approximation, because sometimes words, phrases, or ideas, dont translate across cultures well. Because of this, I use multiple translations and even go back to the original languages at times to get the best understanding possible. But it is one thing to realize translations may be lacking (particularly if the translator has an agenda), and another to think God can not be trusted to be able and willing to transmit the message He wants delivered to man.

Him:

Your decisions on what you do in life are much more than just what the Bible says. Every time you get in your car or cross a bridge, you trust in the work of engineers. Every time you go to the doctor, you trust in the education of the physician. Are physicists, doctors, historians, etc., infallible? Of course not. But we do rely on their judgments, expertise, and products every day. Why do we rely on them? Because they’re reliable and trustworthy.

You and I have both placed our trust in the concept that God was incarnated in the person of Jesus Christ and expressed his love for us in a unique way. However, I don’t require the Bible to be perfect for me to comprehend this. All I need is the reliable and trustworthy (not necessarily inerrant) testimonies regarding the person of Jesus Christ; this in concert with the internal work of the Holy Spirit. God works through mankind’s fallibility.

Just because the Bible may not be a perfect document, to say that it is, as a result, “based upon lies,” suggests to me that maybe you’re placing too much emphasis on the written word and not enough in the living Word.

You speak of the “original manuscripts.” Where are they? Why did God not see fit to preserve perfectly His written word? Maybe because it isn’t as important as preserving reliable testimony regarding THE Word.

I am living proof that someone can reject the Bible as an inerrant document in every matter upon which it touches, e.g., science, history, etc., and still place his faith fully in the sovereignty of God, work of Christ, and testimony of the Spirit. In fact, since I’ve made the switch, my faith is much more vibrant, rich, and hopeful. My focus is no longer on trying to defend a human (yet inspired!) document from critics; it is on allowing Christ to live through me.

My hope is that you would never decide to break fellowship with those of us who don’t believe the Bible to be inerrant. God bless.

Me:

People are fallible. God is not. If God cant be trusted to be able to have written the exact message he wanted written, what makes you think that what you think is God acually exists or is God? It could be a figment of the imagination, or a demon.

I’ve followed a demon before. I know what it is to put your trust in the fallible. People fail you. Demons fail you. God does not. Every spirit must be tested. If your idea of God isnt powerful enough and loving enough to have written what He wanted written and maintain the message he wanted written across time and space and culture and language, then I submit you either have little understanding of God or are not following God at all.

God does not want us to be ignorant of who He is, what He has done, what He wants for us and from us. He uses the Bible to tell us this. Yes, God can and does communicate in other ways, but those messages must be tested agaimst what God bas already said. If it is in contradiction, the either it was not God or you misunderstood.

You are free to follow what you want, and believe or disbelieve as you choose. You can believe in a faillible, uncaring, weak god if you choose. Or you can trust in The God who created the universe and who loves you and is powerful and caring enough to write the exact message He wanted delivered and transmitted.

The idea that God is unable and/or unwilling to transmit the exact message He wanted shows a small view of the power and love of God.

God bless you too Mike. And no, I wouldnt break fellowship, I would just teach the truth.

If you reject God’s ability to be powerful enough to be able to transmit the exact message He wants transmitted, then you are able to put human thought and feeling at the same level or higher than what God has said. What you think and feel then becomes the litmus for whether something is from God or not.

You do not see that you are putting your moral compass above God’s. You have rejected the power and authority of God. You are going based on feelings and thoughts rather than the complete truth. Doctors and engineers are not trustworthy, since they are fallible. You dont seem capable of seeing the gaping hole in your logic in saying that people are not infallible, yet are reliable and trustworthy. I think this is the result of people not being taught sufficiently and the effects of the post modern culture in which we live.

Our feelings and desires and sin gets in the way of us being able to hear God and discern truth. Yes, we must be guided by the Holy Spirit, but whatever we think is from God must be tested. If you have no baseline for said measurement, then it is easy to be misled. I speak from experience. Just because you think something is from God does not mean it is.

Him:

Can you produce for me the “exact written message” that God intended for us? You cannot. The existence of thousands of manuscript variants prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that God did not see the need to definitively preserve the original manuscript from error. However, the errors that exist are not enough to deter me from believing the existing manuscripts to be reliable and trustworthy testimonies to the work of God in the lives of men. The human transmission of God’s word, despite its flaws, is adequate to pass along the message that God intends humanity to have.

Because I’ve experienced the risen Christ, I have no need to misplace my faith in a no longer extant “error-free original.” The Bible as is, despite the issue of manuscript variants and the phenomena of “lost in translation,” is sufficient to perform the work for which it was intended (2 Tim 3:16-17).

I’m somewhat shocked that you accuse me of “rejecting the power and authority of God.” How so? Just because God has the power to do a thing does not necessitate that he has done a thing. You yourself said this (with a slight modification): “Just because you think something is [done by] God, does not mean it is.”

Reliable and trustworthy are not synonyms with infallibility. If you actually followed through with your logic, you’d live in constant fear that the sun might not rise again or the house in which you live would collapse on you. If you were wrongly accused of a crime, you would have no hope in those who were witnesses at the scene, for their fallible testimony cannot be trusted because they are not God. Certainly, this is not the case with you. Yet your logic demands it. Fallibility, Water, does not necessitate always being wrong. Sometimes, nay many times, we humans do things right, indeed perfectly.

Me:

You keep trying to apply the idea that what we have is imperfect because it it not the original (but it is good enough for our/God’s purposes) to the concept of inerrancy. Discussing inerrancy is not the same thing as discussimg the reliability of the Bible translations we have today. That gets into various forms of Biblical criticism that is really too large a topic to discuss via [social site] comments.

Its not that the message we receive in the Bibles we have today is insufficient for God to accomplish Hus purpose – God has used donkeys and rocks and sheep skin to accomplish His purpose, if you bellieve what is written in the Bible. 

Is the Bible we have today a word for word and phrase for phrase 100% literal translation with all the nuances found in the original manuscripts? No, as I’ve said, translating from one language to another has difficulties when one tries to translate words, phrases and ideas – especially if translating colloquialisms. Double meanings/entendres get lost sometimes. Is it the message God wants us to have? Yes. Is it based on originally inerrant manuscripts? Yes. The people who transmitted God’s message were moved/used by God to write the exact message He wanted transmitted.

To say God didnt have men write the exact message He wanted written is to say God didnt care enough or isn’t powerful enough to transmit the message He wanted to transmit. To do this opens the door to people cherry picking which passages are really from God and which one’s He really meant for us to apply to our lives. It puts our thoughts and feelings above what God has said as the final arbiter in deciding what is from God and should be obeyed or not. It puts us in the place of God for deciding right and wrong and deteriming who God is, what God has done and said. It puts us in the place of God.

I say rejecting the inerrancy of the original manuscripts rejects the power and authority of God, for exactly that reason – we (our thoughts or feelings or desires or experiences) become the deciding factor in what we accept as what God has said. But, more than that, it calls into question whether God exists, whether He sent His Son to suffer and die for our sins, whether life after death exists, whether what God has said and done actually occurred. If God can not be trusted to have transmitted the message He wanted transmitted, then God cannot be trusted. To claim otherwise is illogical and intellectually inconsistent and intellectually dishonest.

At some point you have to decide who to trust, man or God. I would rather choose God. He is infallible.

Him:

I’m in complete agreement with you regarding your observations on inerrancy vs. reliability as well as the suggestion that God’s written word is sufficient to accomplish His purposes despite imperfections in translation and transmission methods.

Where I disagree with you is the concept of inerrancy. Putting theological infallibility aside (which is a completely different animal), what is the basis for your belief that the Scriptures must be inerrant in terms of science and history in order for His message to be communicated adequately and effectively? What if it is demonstrated that Bible is incorrect or inaccurate in even the smallest scientific or historical detail? Does the entire basis for the Christian faith suddenly collapse? I would respond with a resounding, “OF COURSE NOT!” =)

You write, “To say God didnt have men write the exact message He wanted written is to say God didnt care enough or isnt powerful enough to transmit the message He wanted to transmit.” I never said that Bible isn’t what God intended man to write. I will admit, however, that I believe God accommodated His message through the fallible processes of men and was inclined to allow ancient scientific concepts to stand, as it were, in order to communicate His message in terms that the ORIGINAL readers understood. (Recognizing, of course, that the Bible was written FOR us in all eras, but not TO us.) That ancient science may not be accurate in terms of our present-day understanding, but it worked just fine back then. What we must do in the 21st century, is learn to discern the theological message that God intends to teach from the incidental vessels (e.g., ancient cosmological concepts) in which they’re found.  No cognitive dissonance here. ;-)

Me:

The Bible is the history of God’s interaction with mankind through the eyes of on tribe. It details who God is, what God has done, what God wants from us and for us. God used the style, language, and culture of the original human authors to transmit the exact message He wanted transmitted. It is without error. This means the history and science of what was wriiten was and still is accurate, considering the historical and gramatical [and cultural] context.

Him:

regarding your claim that “conservative Christian scientists are beginning to present plausible alternative interpretations of the scientific data that will very likely rival the secularist scientific interpretations,” can you provide an example (or a ministry that claims such)?

In response to your second claim that “the science of what was written was and still is accurate,” do you believe, as Jesus taught, that the mustard seed was the smallest seed in the world (Mark 4:30-32; Matthew 13:21-2)?

Me:

 I know some of the theories being worked on by answersingenesis.org are improving and taking more and more elements into account. Personally, I dont think they are strong/complete enough yet. But there are Christian scientists all over working on such thories. But given the state of academia, [they] are afraid to speak out for fear of losing thier jobs.  And so long as it is only safe to work out such theories in certain circles or outside certain circles, the work will go slowly and probably never be widely accepted, unless God provides a miracle.

As to the mustard seed in Mark 4:31, the word for earth is ‘Ge’ and is translated as earth, inhabitable earth, land with boundaries, territory, region, tract of land. As such, I think it was poorly translated. But it could have been hyperbole. Either way, taking into account the language, grammar, and culture, yes the original text is accurate.

Does this mean the details of the science is there? Not usually. But where it is, it is acurate, taking into account the information available and understandable at the time. Conservative Christian scientists are beginnimg to present plausible alternative interpretations of the scientific data that will very likely rival the secularist scientific interpretations.

Does this mean the entire history of the world is there? No. But what history IS written in the Bible is accurate, if only from the perspective of the original human author and/or audience. Anthropology is more and more showing the Bible to be historically accurate.

But the message God transmitted is exactly what He wanted transmitted, and this is why I say the original manuscripts are inerrant.

If you cant trust what was written, given that God knows everything and does not lie, then none of what is claimed to be written by God can be trusted.

If God can not be trusted to get little things like the mustard seed in Mark 4:31 right, how can God be trusted in the big things like God sent His Son to be born, live a sinless life, suffer and die to pay the price of our sins, was killed and buried and rose again on the third day?
I’m not trying to shake anyone’s faith, merely show that there is a logical disconnect when one says one can not trust what God has said in the details of science/history, but you can discern the theological truths from the rest. If you think you can discern theological truth from among inaccurate details, then you are deciding what comes from God and what is true and not.

Either God can be trusted or not – in ALL areas where He wrote. If not, then you are guessing as to the validity of the rest. If God can be wrong about a mustard seed, then God can be wrong about anything. If the Bible can not be trusted with mustard seeds, what makes you think it can be trusted about anything? It can’t be. Its not a partial thing. It is an all or nothing thing. Either it is accurate and trustworthy or its not. Granted, we must use the correct rules of historical, gramatical, cultural hermenuetics to understand what was said. But it is either trustworthy or not – there IS no middle ground.

But if you find there are inconsistencies in what you read in the Bible and what the world presents, then perhaps you are putting too much faith in the world [and man’s interpretation of the data] and not enough in God. Also, perhaps you simply do not have sufficient information to be able to reconcile what appears to be inconsistencies and you should learn more.
Him:
How do you know that the earth revolves around the sun?
Me:
Mike, you are obviously able to put your thoughts above what God has said. You must smarter than I am to be able to mine out theological truths and know they are from God without having anything trustworthy to measure them against (which is a theological nugget we are told to put into practice, but which can not be put into practice if what God written can not be trusted to be accurate).
Him:
Your evasion of my question, proves my point. You know for a fact that you cannot achieve knowledge of a heliocentric cosmology using the Bible, for you know full well that a 3-tiered, geocentric cosmology pervades the Old and New Testaments. You know for a fact that only modern science has determined “reality.” But because you cannot admit it for fear of your faith crumbling, you find yourself living in tension with your cognitive dissonance.

I’m not smarter than you. I’m just more honest with myself. And my faith in God and the ability of His Word to communicate exactly that which it was intended to communicate (2 Tim 3:16-17) is more rich and solid than it ever has been when I lived in your paradigm. Don’t for one minute think that my faith is weak or in danger because I recognize the incarnational nature of the Bible, with all of its divine AND human qualities. In fact, my faith is much more resilient in the face of criticism.

Me:
Please show me what you are talking about, using scripture, and I will show you that a cultural, historic, gramatical hermenuetic allows for God to have written truth and it be accurate.
Modern science has not determined reality – God did. God created it. God wrote about it.

Scientists simply have come up with explanations of what God has done, but this does not mean they have determined anything. Some of the explanations might be more detailed, but this does not mean they are necessarily accurate (nor does it mean they are not, each must be reviewed).

I dont think your faith is weak. I think your faith without facts is doomed to have you believing or trusting things that are not from God and putting you in the place of God – and if not you then those you teach. By ignoring the details, you are able to decide what comes from God and what does not. You have become your own God.

Someone else:
I’ve been busy lately, as you all know, but I want to comment on something that may or may not be important to this conversation. I believe in literalism in context. Take this to the mustard seed mention in those parables.

According to Palestinian agriculture of the time, which is the lively hood of the audience, the mustard seed was the smallest seed of their soil. Would it have been beneficial for Christ to use scientific knowledge, or would it have been more beneficial to use the truth of the audience?

For me, we know that the mustard seed is not the smallest seed; however, for the (time)frame of the story, rather, for the ears of the audience it was truth.

Of course, Christ could be saying something along the lines of, ‘Hey, small faith is okay, and you can do big things with it, but don’t get any smaller than a mustard seed.’

Me:
I think that’s a good way of putting it. “literalism in context”. This is what I am refering to when I speak of a historical, cultural, grammatical, and contextual hermeneutic.
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2 Responses

  1. This is just more justification for making man the final authority and not God. They use “science” as if it is this neutral, unimpeachable source and therefore the final authority, free from all bias (including religious). Excuse me, but who does science? Man. Who creates the experiments? Man. Who interprets the results? Man. Who applies the results to areas other than the experiment itself? Man.

    Rather than questioning man, limited in ability and knowledge and fallen in perspective, and his ability to experiment, observe, interpret and apply results, we just blindly accept any and every scientific “result” (or theory that a consensus of the scientific community advances) that challenges the Bible.

    The big bang? Impossible to prove experimentally or observe. Evolution? Ditto. Oh, and higher criticism? That “science” is riddled with holes and logical inconsistencies. One field of higher criticism applies its results to all ancient literature worldwide based on a brief study of oral traditions of ONE tiny village! Ordinarily, the objection that we can’t use ONE village in ONE culture in ONE time to create a method to evaluate ALL literature produced by ALL cultures in ALL times would have been immediately proposed and considered, but since this was a “science” that could be used to challenge the truth and authority of the Bible, it was adopted immediately.

    It is all about the desire to declare man’s authority – and whether the source of this authority is science, tradition, private revelation or experience – to be higher, more reliable, and superior to God’s authority. It is about making man into God and God into man’s servant, and having God heed and follow the will of man instead of the reverse.

    These folks need to just go ahead and admit that such is their agenda.

  2. I couldn’t agree more!

    Men want to ignore the parts of the Bible that are inconvenient or that does not meet our agenda. God is to be our puppet, rather than we are to be His clay to make into what ever pottery He desires for what ever use He desires.

    I see it time and again, yet somehow I am not loving when I take the Bible at face value. Or I’m not enlightened, or reasonable, or kind, or intelligent, etc…

    The fact of matter is, it is ALL about God, not about us. Love for God is obedience. But people can not see that unless God opens their eyes to the truth.

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