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Inerrancy: I think someone forgot to tell the Bible

03 Dec

The walls of Jericho

On our journey of attempting to understand the thinking of inerrantists, here’s a post worth reading – follow the links to read the full post.

Speaking as a biblical scholar, inerrancy is a high-maintenance doctrine. It takes much energy to “hold on to” and produces much cognitive dissonance. I am hardly alone. Over the last twenty years or so, I have crossed paths with more than a few biblical scholars with evangelical roots, even teaching in inerrantist schools, who nervously tread delicate paths re-defining, nuancing, and adjusting their definition of inerrancy to accommodate the complicating factors that greet us at every turn in the historical study of Scripture.

For many other evangelicals (scholars of other disciplines, pastors, and laypeople), inerrancy is likewise no longer a paradigm of explanatory power, but a fragile theory in need of constant care and tending to survive.

Rather than doing justice to the historical complexity, diversity, and depth of the Bible, inerrancy seems burdened by them. Even when defined with flexibility and nuance, inerrancy is in awkward conversation, if not all out tension, with some genuine and widely (if not universally) accepted advances in our knowledge of antiquity (e.g., Israelite history, human history, various branches of science) easily accessible to all, and shared by non-inerrantist Christian scholars working across the theological, ecclesiastical, and academic spectrums.

The problem faced by evangelicals who are critical of inerrancy is that inerrancy has been a central component of evangelicalism for its entire history, a response to the challenges of biblical higher criticism of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Inerrancy is encoded into the evangelical DNA, and conversations, however discreet, about its continued usefulness are rarely valued; more typically, considerable personal and professional fallout follows in due course.  (more)

“Inerrancy is coded into the evangelical DNA (of evangelicalism).”  This may be useful in beginning to understand conservative’s framing.  If inerrancy is central to faith, without it nothing is sure and key pillars of are threatened. To question the smallest or oldest verse in the Bible or to question a text of terror (last post) is to question the central tenet of their New Testament Christianity.

To us it seems that this leaves inerrantists in the academically compromised position of standing for a belief that can’t then be substantiated without constantly “re-defining, nuancing, and adjusting their definition of inerrancy to accommodate the complicating factors that greet us at every turn in the historical study of Scripture”.

We are still trying to come to terms with inerrancy and are sure that we have misrepresented conservative’s case.  Please add your thoughts, share your thinking and experience, and help us on this journey.  At least read the post referred to and see what you think.

Have you shared this blog on Facebook yet?  Perhaps Twitter or another site? It’s one way of taking part in the conversation when it can’t be had in the pages of The Lutheran.

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9 responses to “Inerrancy: I think someone forgot to tell the Bible

  1. qhermit

    December 3, 2012 at 2:51 am

    I found an explanation of biblical interpretation by Peter Lockwood on my computer today. I really like the observation that the ‘inerrancy’ theory is impossibly difficult to use, involving contortionist twisting and turning. It reminds me of the observation that real wisdom is about finding a simple answer. Our incarnate God comes to real people in real situations, and has always done so. Aha! Mind-boggling but authentic.

     
    • Katie and Martin

      December 3, 2012 at 3:31 pm

      Thanks Qhermit. The phrase, “impossibly difficult to use, involving contortionist twisting and turning” is so descriptive as we try to enter conversation with those who uphold inerrancy. It fits very well with “re-defining, nuancing, and adjusting their definition of inerrancy to accommodate the complicating factors that greet us at every turn in the historical study of Scripture”.

       
  2. janine

    December 3, 2012 at 3:52 am

    our God comes to us as love, all that we need to keep in mind as we read the bible.

     
    • Katie and Martin

      December 3, 2012 at 3:34 pm

      Janine, that’s so true. The simplicity of being open to love need only be followed by the simplicity of gratitude. No checking over our shoulder to ensure that we have fulfilled all requirements.

       
  3. Christoph Donges

    December 4, 2012 at 3:05 am

    Reading of “Fraud and Imposture in the New Testament”, a longer version of the paper given by Robert M. Price at the Society of Biblical Literature 2012 annual meeting in Chicago, IL.:
    [audio src="http://recordings.talkshoe.com/TC-20430/TS-692268.mp3" /]

    http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/biblegeek.php

     
    • Katie and Martin

      December 4, 2012 at 12:30 pm

      Without having yet listened to any of the podcasts on the page, are there key points that you are referring to?

       

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