Inerrancy is good, right?
It all started when I was overseas. My faith in what we in America call inerrancy; what we called at the time “The Battle for the Bible,” began to be puzzling to me. I didn’t doubt that the Bible was the inspired Word of God; didn’t doubt that it was truthful in all that it teaches. But I began to see that our definition of what inerrancy is may perhaps be flawed.
It wasn’t that I saw lack of faith in the God of the Bible on the mission field; it was that I began to see great, even awe-inspiring, faith among believers in conditions that would make us shudder. I saw believers who loved God and, in his name, faced hardship and persecution with peace and even joy. But these believers were not even able to do the systematic Bible study we say is essential to stand for a Biblical worldview. Many were illiterate, many had no Bible of their own, those that did had no training, no resources, no access to “trusted scholars” who would instruct them in a Biblical worldview.
If the deep, academic type of faith, with its Bible studies and teaching sermons that we say is essential to being a believer, can’t even be done was it possible that God did not consider this essential to being a child of His? Was it possible that, since the faith is on the increase among those who can’t follow the inerrancy path we urge, that our understanding of the path is wrong?
Back in the States other doubts began to rise. I saw rancorous arguments between people who both claimed to be proclaiming the inerrant teaching of Scripture on any number of issues. I saw modern translations that sometimes differed from version to version. I saw teaching based on “the plain meaning of Scripture” that had disturbing implications. I saw people who were key leaders say things, based on inerrant Scripture, like this:
“There are some children that need to be disciplined, and I’ve heard this from Godly parents, 20-30 times a day. Some children 20-30 times a day, 3,4,5,6 years in a row. It is just overwhelming for some parents.”
That quote, from Kevin Swanson of Generations with Vision, on why discipline, and he considers discipline to be beating with a rod, to be Biblical. I’ve seen others, responding to whether it was acceptable for a wife to resist a husband who physically abused her say things like this:
“In expecting his wife to quietly accept his threats and injuries, he is asking her to participate in his breaking of both God’s moral law and the state’s civil law.
“A wife’s submission to the authority of civil law, for Christ’s sake, may, therefore, overrule her submission to a husband’s demand that she endure his injuries.
“This legitimate recourse to civil protection may be done in a spirit that does not contradict the spirit of love and submission to her husband, for a wife may take this recourse with a heavy and humble heart that longs for her husband’s repentance and the restoration of his nurturing leadership.”
That was from John Piper. In other words, her only reason to resist being beat is that another, higher, authority bans it and then her goal in resisting needs to be his restoration. I could give many other examples but my point is this – The Battle for an inerrant Bible is based upon a view of inerrancy that is impossible to follow in much of the Christian world and is subject to wildly different interpretations even here. It is not a battle for an inerrant Bible; it is a battle for the inerrancy of our particular views of what it teaches. I see no reason to join such a battle. I will continue to believe that the Bible is inspired and truthful. I will always express my opinions on what it teaches with a degree of caution.
This may lead to the question, just how do I determine what it teaches? Or, in words contemporary inerrantists might like, just what is my hermeneutic? I think I am going to go with Jesus. Is my conclusion of what a passage may be teaching consistent with the Jesus I see in the Bible? Does his grace, love and mercy shine through in the understanding I reach? If I am not confident that it does I think I will answer questioners “I don’t know.”