Saturday, March 24, 2007

Ordination #2, Art. 1b: Inerrancy

However, simply asserting the Bible is inspired does not make it so. While our reasoning appears circular at first glance, which is a problem for any system’s ultimate authority, but we attempt to avoid the charge by not stopping with the Bible’s self-testimony, but by examining its content to see if it is indeed the case as we examine the inerrancy, completeness, and authority of Scripture.

If it is truly God’s Word, the Bible will be without error in the original manuscripts. This is not a biblical argument, but is grounded in the truthfulness of God (Titus 1.2; Heb. 6.18) and that Scripture is indeed God-inspired. By inerrancy we mean Scripture is truthful in all that it affirms. This is a doctrine of enormous practical importance. If we cannot trust the veracity of His Word, how do we live by it? It is essential to teaching because I intend to communicate God’s Word, not my own. Both the conviction with which I teach, and the authority that teaching bears, is directly based upon the fact that God’s Word can be trusted as aligning with objective reality.

Holding to an errant view of Scripture does not mean it is totally faulty, but puts a cloud of suspicion over all the texts. But regardless of how we feel about it, we must ask if the text is actually without error. The texts that appear to be contradictory – either in terms of harmonization, scientific data, or chronology – fade in significance when we judge them by the ancient standards of the writers. Phenomenological language or approximations were (and are) commonplace. One can also faithfully report a false statement and not besmirch inerrancy, unless that error is affirmed. Furthermore, one could quote more loosely in ancient times than we can today and numbers could be more “symbolic” than literal in some cases – the intention of the author is determinative in such matters. Even gospel writers vary in word usage to communicate for their purposes, choosing ipsissima vox (the very voice) over ipsissima verba (the very words) – this still means the words are inspired, as recorded, but that they may not be direct quotes – like the gospels, which are written in Greek, but Jesus likely spoke Aramaic.

Despite all of the reasons for aligning with inerrancy, a few problem passages may persist. Those that are still lingering problems should not cause us to abandon inerrancy when so much of the biblical message coheres. Rather, we should admit the challenge, but we will withhold judgment until further information that could shed light on the matter is revealed. It seems that the Bible always holds up nicely under such circumstances.

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