Monday, November 17, 2008

Objections to Inerrancy

Some people have objections to the idea of inerrancy. Following are a few and answers to them. For much of this information I am indebted to Dr. John Hammett.

1. The word inerrant is not found in the Bible and is based on a faulty deductive argument: “The Bible comes from God. God is truthful and would not lie to us or give us error. Therefore, the Bible is inerrant.” The word Trinity is not found in the Bible, but we believe the Bible teaches it. Neither is Sunday School, but we the Bible instructs us to teach others. And the Bible also teaches that it is without error, that it is inerrant.

Some say that inerrancy overlooks the human element of the Bible. That is, “to err is human. Scripture is human. Therefore Scripture has error.” Scripture is both divine and human, but the Holy Spirit divinely superintended that transference of revelation while respecting the unique persons and culture who actually wrote it. That is the point of inspiration.

Some say that inerrancy is a recent invention, that the Church never believed it historically. Yes, the word inerrancy is not a common word in Church history because they were not answering the questions we have today. Not until the late 20th Century did anyone seek to separate the concepts of infallible and inerrant. They affirmed both and saw them as inseparable. Augustine said the authors of Scripture “were completely free from error” (Letters, 82.3). Luther stated that unlike the popes and councils opinions, the Scripture “has never erred” (WA, 7.315). Calvin said that the Bible’s “best authentication is the character of the One whose Word it is.”

Some say that inerrancy cannot be claimed because inerrantists base their claim on the original manuscripts that no longer exist. Inerrantists, however, are only being honest and precise. It is the original author’s document which was without error, not the copyists or translators through the years. With thousands of ancient manuscripts of the Bible which we have, it is a fact that not all agree. But it is significant that the differences are miniscule and none change any doctrine, and that all the documents we have agree approximately 95% of the time, and most of the other 4% are dumb copyist misspellings or mistakes. It does not mean the Bible is fallible. It means the copyists were. We have enough copies to establish the text without doubt more than 99% of the time. The remaining 1% gives the textual critics something to do with their time. Qualifying inerrancy to the original manuscripts is being precise, not somehow deceptive. And it is a good thing that the Bible was not preserved perfectly as Muslims believe the Quran was. Then we would worship the Bible and not the Lord of the Bible.

Some say that inerrancy is too complicated, but inerrancy is about truth, not grammar or misspellings. Error is the absence of truth. The Bible is inerrant.

Some say inerrancy is “a pre-critical, pre-scientific idea.” That is an arrogant position, and assumes that no one who went before us was able to have as deep and profound a thought about the Scripture’s nature as we have. Assuming we are more intelligent than two millennia of Christian thinkers is a product of evolutionary psychology. For example in just the area of the Trinity, we have writings of profound thinking in the early church. Yes, we have more understanding of science and technology, but have we improved in the areas of selfishness, generosity. No, we are more efficient at killing. Inerrancy assumes a certain humility, that I am not the apex of all knowledge. Inerrantists place themselves under the authority of Scripture. They do not set themselves in judgment of it.