Does the Bible need to be inerrant to be authoritative?

(Mitchell W McKain) #21

Not really. If there is anything explicit in Isaiha 1, Psalm 40, and Micah 6:6-8, it is that offering, assemblies, and religious observances are worthless. He says He is sick of them. He says he has no need of such things. What is preferable is not child sacrifice but justice, kindness, humility, ceasing to do evil, correcting oppression, and helping those in need. But what we can read in the Bible, is not that religious observances have any innate value, but that God commands them anyway. Their value is not to God but in the effect they have on us. They are a way to make an effort when we feel helpless to do better in any other way. Making an effort is important even when it is worthless.

But let us not lose sight of the big picture here. Though I disagree with you on the details, which is hardly surprising, I am certainly not trying to get you to tow some line or believe that the Bible and Christianity have no flaws. After all… I am coming at this from the opposite direction with the presumption of my liberal upbringing that it is all nonsense, to seeing that it does have value after all – to see that there is value in it despite the obvious flaws.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #22

2 Kings 3:27 heavily implies Kemosh is a real god with real power, he was able to destroy the Israelite army after being empowered by a sacrifice. Interestingly the passage uses a hebrew word which is usually used for divine wrath against an army or city.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #23

The language used is the language used for judging pagan nations in the OT

(Mitchell W McKain) #24

Yes but you are talking to someone who doesn’t believe God can be manipulated with things like that anyway. But I do believe in psychological effects, where battles are won or lost largely based on the morale and enthusiasm of the participants.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #25

But the Hebrew word usually means divine wrath, why would god punish his own people?

(Randy) #26

I like to fall back on Greg Boyd’s “Cross Vision,” where the folks thought God was punishing them or commanding genocide because of incomplete understanding through their own cultural blinders; but Jesus was a clearer revelation, as He said.

Boyd studied under Metzger at Yale, and knew Bart Ehrman in the same course. You might want to read his online blog about why Ehrman didn’t destroy Christmas :slight_smile: He speaks so fast that someone joked you had to use his streaming by Internet to slow it down to understand him.

(Mitchell W McKain) #27

Seriously!!? God does that all the time. Constantly! Being His people was NEVER a matter of being exempt from God’s wrath – quite the contrary. If anything they were punished MORE for failing live up to a much higher standard. Half the OT was all about this – trying to come to terms with such things as the Babylonian Captivity where they saw for themselves that the Babylonians were far more corrupt than anything they were being held accountable for. This is what books such as Job was all about and gave rise to all those suffering servant passages in Isaiha.

This is what makes such a BIG lie out of those who treat Christianity as being about some sort of privileged/favored relationship with God. The message of the gospel and Christianity is the opposite of such attitudes of entitlement!


This is a question I find interesting. What it is really asking is if the humans who wrote the Bible are infallible. This would also extend to the people who decided which christian literature would be considered cannon (and even then, there is some disagreement). Should the biblical authors be considered as infallible as God? Why can’t we consider modern day christian leaders to also be infallible and include their writings in the Bible?

To me, these are more human questions than theological ones, or rather the psychology and sociology of how a religion comes together.

(David Heddle) #29

I believe the (or perhaps “a”) Protestant answer would be that

  1. in establishing the NT canon, one requirement was that the writer was an apostle or carried the imprimatur of an apostle. (With the notable exception of Hebrews) and
  2. The somewhat circular (and not universally accepted even by the Reformed as a satisfying even if the conclusion is correct) argument that Revelation 22:19 teaches that the canon is closed.

(Dominik Kowalski) #30

this is the answer I would give, since there´s nothing we could add to the stories of Jesus and his disciples, and to the teachings which the disciples gave their students/spreaded into the community.

It would require another Testament. It´s also not needed, since obviously people take the writings of christian leaders from today from other sources. Also I´d never consider any human infallible


Thanks for clearing that up. Obviously, arguments could be made for each (why is Paul an apostle?), but those seem clear enough to address my earlier questions.


Then how do you view biblical inerrancy in the light of fallible human authors?

(Phil) #33

As I understand it, Paul is considered an apostle based on his meeting Christ on the road to Damascus, but why is Luke considered an apostle? Was he not a gentile under Paul’s tutorage?

(Mervin Bitikofer) #34

Well, and then for that matter also John Mark (considered the author of Mark) who even endured Paul’s disapproval at one point, and only had Barnabas who stuck up for him.

It would seem at that time that there was some discretion to exclude or promote based on how well one’s championed writings lined up with the emerging “center” of perceived apostolic authority. Hebrews was probably seen as being very much “on message”, hence the scramble in some quarters to get it attributed to Paul, thus securing its desired respectability.

(Dominik Kowalski) #35

I have to admit, that the quotation above, doesn´t completely reflect my views, so for further understanding:

I largely view the NT as right in the historical and theological sense, since it´s largely build up like a biography in the roman-greek style, I believe it was Richard Bauckham who studied in this area and compared the bible to contemporary roman-greek biographies and found massive similarities. I think many Christians have a problem if they want to apply the inerrancy-doctrine to the stories of the OT, which contains, often over time exaggerated, stories which floated around for a way longer time, before it was written down, so my point of view is, that if the stories contradict archeological evidences then they can´t be completely inerrant, which doesn´t mean that they´re completely wrong, however it has to be investigated further, on what base the story is built up.
For me inerrancy is more like a very tight corset, since I have to give the property of infallibilaty to humans, despite thinking that this is exclusively to God. Every chapter is seen through the authors subjective account, which is obviously not the objective truth. And especially in the OT stories seem to have another purpose, not only giving stories about the experiences with God, but also a bit of propaganda, like making David seem like a bigger king, than he really was. And it is already stated in several threads by a lot of people way smarter than I am about the stories, and what their real meaning is, as they´re seemingly not written history as we would do it today. That´s why historical inerrancy is hardly appliable in its entirety. It is still usable though, in some sense historical, but mainly theological. That´s why I don´t need to see the bible, not written by God, but by humans as, as inerrant in full, and still hold it in high regard.

(If I read this again later I´ll probably find one point, where I have to correct myself again, but by now this is the best way I can articulate myself)

(Dominik Kowalski) #36

Paul is not an apostle in the classical sense, he even calls himself the “apostle of the pagans”. His main encounter with Jesus, was on the road to Damaskus, if he has other encounters with him I don´t know, but it is an interesting detail, that Paul, on his list of people who saw the risen Jesus, included himself with the other apostles and obviously considers himself equal to them.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #37

This question of equality (or even superiority) was a sensitive one to Paul at the time. Here in 1 Corinthians 15 (starting at verse 6 -NRSV) he wrote:

Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

[my own emphasis added]

Paul in other places seems just a tad dismissive of other “reputed pillars of the church”, though he obviously glories in their fellowship and approval too being obviously nervous at one point that they might withhold their approval from him. Read Galatians 2. Nearly the whole chapter is a great study of how Paul saw himself in relation to the other apostles. He wasn’t afraid to call out Peter, and (to hear Paul tell it) prevailed over Peter to expose the latter’s hypocrisy. But I think Paul’s last line that I quoted above is where Paul eventually leaves all this “vying for authority” stuff - in the end it is all inconsequential so long as somebody (be it he or they) brings you to know Christ himself.

(Dominik Kowalski) #38

I fully agree, Habermas stressed out that it didn´t matter if it was Paul, Peter or James preaching in one city since their preachings were equal and we know from the letter to Corinth that Paul was set that the preachings were kept in the original way with nothing added to it. Once this point was reached any kind of rank between them was obsolete.

(Dominik Kowalski) #39

I just looked that part up. It´s astonishing how many parallels I can drive to my own life. It shows very well how the apostles still were with very human flaws :grinning:

(Mervin Bitikofer) #40

And they gloried in those flaws at times too! Lest one think that Paul was always the one with the upper hand in disputes (as may tend to happen when he’s the one telling the story), I also like Luke’s frank admission (see the end of Acts 15) about Paul and Barnabas disagreeing over John Mark. And no small disagreement it must have been as they parted company over it. Barnabas, it would appear gets the vindication in the end as it was apparently the same John Mark that gives us the gospel of Mark, and Paul later acknowledges his usefulness (2 Timothy 4:11).

So … it’s true … Ostensibly Spirit-led apostles don’t always reach the same conclusions.