I’m about to get on a plane, but this is a fun take on the intramural American nature of innerancy fights. I’ll come back and comment more later.
"One ring to rule them all … " I love it.
It would be interesting to hear more of his take about fortunate and perhaps mostly unfortunate influences current American evangelicism has had on the international scene. I guess there is the book - I could always buy that and see!
> Look, evangelicals outside of America believe in the Bible, I am a case in point, but for many conservative evangelicals in America, inerrancy is bigger than Jesus!
from the article.
My answer id very simple. John 1:1 (NIV2011)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The infallible Word of God is not the Bible, but Jesus Christ. How do we know? It says so in the Bible.
However, while many American evangelicals preached the inerrancy of the text, what they often practiced was the inerrancy of their interpretation and the hegemony of their tribe in certain denominations.
I think this is something we have noted many times around here. People confuse “God’s word” with “what I think God’s word means” and then they kick people out of their churches and schools for “rejecting God’s word.” It gets ridiculous.
Looking forward to reading this. I love Mike Bird. When I tell people I am Reformed, I want them to think of folks like him, rather than folks like John McArthur, et al.
If I remember right, in Evangelical Theology he calls himself “Reformed Lite.”
No wonder I often feel like my brain is cramping up. How refreshing to hear someone articulate that one can hold a high view of scripture without holding the one I am most familiar with, which leads to so much mischief. Thanks, this was a very helpful article.
This is why I disdain the phrase “I’m just being Biblical”.
No, you’re being stubborn and overreaching with YOUR particular interpretation of the passage. I’m not saying there isn’t a correct interpretation, of course, but the phrase smacks of theological arrogance.
Bird has an interesting perspective as an insider/outsider at the same time. I feel the same way, having grown up in one of the few evangelical denominations in North America that doesn’t use the language of inerrancy – the Mennonite Brethren. The churches I was part of rarely taught anything that contradicted inerrancy, but that just wasn’t the main lens they used to view the Bible.
Early in my 30s I moved and married, joining my wife’s church that was part of the Evangelical Free Church. Here inerrancy is in the statement of faith. Fortunately our pastors are comfortable with diversity on a lot of issues, so it hasn’t been a big issue. But, I still miss my previous denomination’s approach to Scripture. They still took it as authoritative and truthful, but just didn’t use the enlightenment language of inerrancy to express that.
My main complaint with inerrancy is that it shrinks the Bible. It can only apply to propositions, and even them only woodenly. How do we judge whether a poem is inerrant? A command? A vision of the future? An emotional plea? I don’t think inerrancy can touch those things, unless we really mess with what “inerrant” means. So when the loudest thing we say about Scripture is that it’s inerrant, much of the Bible gets muted.
I don’t have much use for the adjectives “inerrant,” “infallible,” or “sufficiency.” Though I suppose I could find a meaning of them which I can resonate with, much the way I find a meaning of “word of God,” which I can go for.
I certainly do not believe…
- that one can find no errors in any part of the Bible.
- that the Bible is infallible as a guide for human behavior.
- that the Bible is all you need for salvation.
- that God alone is responsible for the content of the Bible so the lives and culture of human authors do not need to be considered.
Well what I actually do believe is…
- The Bible is the word of God because He is the author using human history, events, and human authors as His writing instruments. It is God’s intellectual property and nobody should be correcting it by replacing the text with what they think it ought to say. The Bible says what God intends in order to instruct us in many things… but Jesus warns against literalism, against making no investment of thought and reasoning, and against thinking salvation can be found in the Bible alone.
- We can trust the Bible to speak for God better than we can ourselves in order to recommend it for reading by people without requiring ourselves to be an interpreter.
- The Bible is a four dimensional representation of the truth, telling the story of an evolving relationship between God and man much the way the relationship between parent and child must change as the children increases in his capacity to understand things.
I like this. It’s hard to trust that the Holy Spirit will guide others into all truth as they read and apply the Bible for themselves, but that is what we need to do. People will undoubtedly get stuff wrong in this endeavor, but the solution isn’t to impose the “right” interpretations on everyone all the time. Not to say we don’t disiciple people into consensus understandings, but there needs to be some space for God to personally communicate.
That echoes Bonhoeffer’s hermeneutic well.
Interesting thread and timely for me. My OH and I have been discussing how many Christians seem to be actually worshiping the Bible without knowing much about what it is, i.e. the sources of the books included, how it was canonised, when and by whom. We can only wonder what some Bible colleges have been teaching.
Emphatic statements are often made which just show the preacher hasn’t taken the cultural context or origin of the passage into account. For example I heard Abraham recently bagged for his “dysfunctional” family and his taking of a concubine when it was apparently common practice in cases of infertility back then. Poor guy didn’t even have the 10 commandments yet (not that that bans having a second wife). Then in the sermon much was made of God’s promise to Abraham that Sarah would bear a son. The preacher made much of the fact that “Not only did God promise it but He wrote it down!” This point was enthusiastically repeated. Great rhetoric, but…somewhat puzzling.
Not sure what the surprising risk was there (since even the traditional view is that Moses wrote of these events several centuries later). Though there was a question time afterwards I didn’t know how to phrase my question without ridiculing the poor young fellow. Couldn’t say “Was God keeping a Twitter account at the time?”
Honestly after that I’m despairing of finding a church I can really relate to as it’s not an isolated case of what seems like a blatant lack of homework on the part of that mainstream denomination.
By the way, in a completely different case of a convenient personal interpretation of a biblical passage: I just yesterday heard that the USA is God’s chosen land?
Please ignore everything you hear from American Christian nationalists who dabble in the Q cult. They are a disgrace.
Inerrancy comes up from time to time.
And I like to make the point, when it comes up, that anyone who reads the synoptic gospels closely knows that inerrancy is a false doctrine.
There are several minor errors, errors of no true significance for the faith, in the Bible.
The only thing the errors prove is that the doctrine of inerrancy is false. Of course, this is not an indictment of the scriptures, since they never claim to be inerrant.
In short, inerrancy is a man-made doctrine not found in scripture.
Inerrancy means different things to different people and you really need to know what people mean by it before you make broad pronouncements about their beliefs. Some people have nuanced and defined it until it only vaguely resembles inerrancy as many understand it, but they will still claim to hold to it.
Jesus says that scripture is “the Word of God” (Mt. 15:6, John 10:35.) [content removed by moderator]
There are no errors in the Bible, in the synoptics gospels or elsewhere.
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The Lord Jesus said that scripture “cannot be broken” (John 10:35). The Bible teaches the inerrancy of scripture.
It’s absurd to speak of the Bible being inspired (“God’s intellectual property,” that it speaks for God) and to claim that the Bible has errors. It’s essentially claiming that God lies.
Your chronological snobbery is showing. We don’t have a better understanding of God than did people in the first century AD.
Well John you may benefit from taking a breather. We all have too. You’re making a lot of judgement calls though and seemingly taking words out of context. Such as making a false connection between thinking the Bible contains errors meaning God lies meaning someone does not believe in Jesus. Those things are not mutually exclusive or demand belief in the others.
To begin with a good place to start would be to better understand how to read the Bible. Tim Mackie and Jon Collins of “ The Bible Project “ has some resources.
Here is a link to 40 episodes that touches on this subject. Each episode is close to an hour long. Lots of books and resources there as well.
Secondly there is the issue of which Bible? Which translation is perfect? Are any translations perfect? Do you mean the Gemma reformed bible “ Protestant Bible” or the deutercannonical “ Catholic Bible “. Is the Masoretic or Septuagint more accurate?
Is the Bible flawless if it mentions the book of Jasher than where is it?
Thirdly when someone says the Bible is perfect they generally mean they believe their interpretation is perfect. So if you think it’s full of concordism versus someone saying it’s accommodation you’ll most likely thing their understanding is flawed or that they don’t believe in the Bible because they don’t believe in your interpretation.