Spirit

Inerrancy – Part 3: Our Bible

Before I discuss our Bible, let me sum up what I have talked about so far.

First, in Inerrancy – Part 1: Doctrine of Inerrancy, I discussed the basics of this doctrine. I also eluded to the fact that this doctrine is essentially useless to us because it makes claims only about writings that we do not have. Instead, we have copies of copies of copies, which we know contain errors.

Second, in Inerrancy – Part 2: Scripture, I stated that the word scripture means “a body of writings considered sacred or authoritative.” The word translated as scripture is γραφη (graphē), it’s general meaning is “writing,” and when it is used in the New Testament it always points back to the writings of the Old Testament.

Now, onto the bible.

We deal with the bible every day. We do not deal with the original writings, we do not have the original writings. In fact, I am not even sure we would know if we had the original writings (it’s not like they’d be stamped with “original” or something). The bible has been translated over and over again from copies of copies that we know contain errors. If it is true that if the bible contains one error it is untrustworthy, then the bible must be untrustworthy.

Yet, by the very same evidence that suggests its untrustworthiness, we claim it is trustworthy… not because it contains one (or more) errors, but because it has a great track record where it does agree (95% O.T. and 99% N.T. is not something we can ignore, especially when it comes to ancient writings). At the very most, based on this evidence alone, we can say that the bible we carry with us everyday reflects, to a great deal of accuracy, the copies of very influential religious writings. This evidence does not allow us to call the writings scripture, because they are still untrustworthy. The evidence only gives us a hint to what the originals *might* have looked like, without giving us absolute assurance.

Now, put down the stones, I am merely talking about what the scientific evidence allows us to say about the bible. There is more to this story, namely, God. When we add God into the picture, this is what we can say about the Bible:

The bible is reliable as far as it reflects the original authors work, which means we must rely on the Holy Spirit to not only determine the original intent and believe it as truth, but also to understand and interpret it properly.

It is my conjecture that the Doctrine of Inerrancy has caused many people in the past, and in the present, to trust in an untrustworthy document. By doing so, they have forgotten to trust God and have thus mistranslated, misinterpreted, and plainly misused the writings that He gave us. These writings by themselves cannot lead us to truth. It is only by the power of God himself that we are able to sit down, read the bible, and understand its message, content, and meaning. Does the Bible reflect the truth? I believe so, but the mirror is broken and we need to lean on the eternal God to fill in those cracks. I will be the first one to admit it, it is much easier to play with numbers to make us comfortable with the trustworthiness of the bible. However, I have to also state that it is much more comforting to know that I have to lean on God to know and understand the Truth.

Should we throw away our bibles? No, may it never be! God gave us these writings for a reason, but he wants us to use them with him by our sides, guiding us, showing us, leading us. When we trust in man-made doctrines, we put God to the side and we have to figure out our own interpretations. Can those interpretations be correct? Yes. But I would rather know that I was led by God for a correct interpretation than by myself.

I know this is probably like a big bomb, do you have any thoughts? Am I completely off the wall? Have I missed some important fact that proves me completely wrong? Please share/comment/etc.

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12 Comments

  1. Hello Lew,

    Fantastic series!

    It’s funny because I thought about tackling this subject recently. I’m glad you dove in first.

    1Cr 13:8 Love never fails; but if {there are gifts of} prophecy, they will be done away; if {there are} tongues, they will cease; if {there is} knowledge, it will be done away.
    1Cr 13:9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part;
    1Cr 13:10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.

    I’ve actually heard someone teach that the “perfect” in that verse is refering to the bible.

    Anyway, keep up the good work, and be confident in what you write because it’s really good.

    Jeff

  2. No, Lew, I don’t think you’re off the wall at all. I think you handled this subject well and I have to agree with you. God is God, the bible is not …

    As you said, “Should we throw away our bibles? No, may it never be! God gave us these writings for a reason, but he wants us to use them with him by our sides, guiding us, showing us, leading us. When we trust in man-made doctrines, we put God too the side and we have to figure out our own interpretations. Can those interpretations be correct? Yes. But I would rather know that I was led by God for a correct interpretation than by myself.

    Amen!

    Blessings!
    ~Heather

  3. Jeff

    Thanks for the encouragement, I really appreciate it. I, too, have heard people say that the “perfect” is referring to the bible which I believe is an incorrect understanding.

    Heather

    Thanks for your kind words. I’m glad that I’m not completely off the wall. This subject is a great subject to discuss, but the conclusions I have drawn are not “orthodox” and are quite scary. It is always scary when we realize that we need to trust God and live by faith instead of trust in ourselves and live by what we see.

    Thanks Jeff and Heather for the greatly encouraging words.

    God’s Glory,
    Lew

  4. Good questions!
    I wonder if inerrancy as we know it is actually a reflection of modernism’s need to categorize and box-up things into tidy units. Inerrancy, as taught today, is surely not an historic doctrine, but one that reflects a modernist’s view of what truth is. And I don’t get the feeling that it was something Jesus ever cared to fuss much about (and he quoted the Septuagint, which we now regard as notoriously inaccurate!).
    So, I think the wars that have been waged over this issue are not so much wars for the Faith or even for the Bible, but for a certain view of truth (“if there is one contradiction then all …”) that is unique to the last few hundred years, and probably passing from the scene except among religious people.

  5. Lew, I think you hit the nail on the head when you said, “it is much easier to play with numbers to make us comfortable with the trustworthiness of the bible” because we were talking about this issue in theology the other day and i definitely got (metaphorical) stones thrown my way because I questioned, not the Bible, but their defense for our canon. It was totally weak and I don’t buy it, but the point is that the heart of the professor’s argument against me was that if we can’t have complete trust in our “Bible” (as in what we have now; not the originals) then we wouldn’t have any REAL assurance of our faith. I’m thinkin “dude, you’re a bonehead, what about the Holy Spirit!” anyway the point of my rambling is that he made YOUR point: People defend what we’ve got now for the Bible so vigorously because that is easier than trusting the Holy Spirit. That is your point right? Personally, it seems to me that even if we did have a 100% accurate reflection of the autographs that this mentality would still be wrong.

  6. Monte

    Thanks for commenting and for the link, that was a very interesting article.

    Dan

    Interesting… it’s great how that happened just in time for this post! I’m sure you’ll have more stones thrown at you the next couple semesters. Keep up the good work, Jesus had a few stones tossed his way!

    And yes, that is my point. I would even take it further and say that the reason they rely on numbers is BECAUSE they do not trust the Holy Spirit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying anything about their salvation… just their fruit I guess.

    Thanks for the comments.

    God’s Glory,
    Lew

  7. I guess the thing that kills me about the way I have, in the past, defended this issue is crystallized in the phrase: “All Scripture is God-breathed.”
    In the last few years, I’ve realized I have very little idea what that means. God is, somehow, and to some degree, the originator (at least of those Scriptures to which the verse refers). But did those who wrote it hear correctly? Did they hear words or concepts? Did they write through their own cultural and theological zeitgeist (how could they not?). And isn’t it a tad arrogant to assume I know the answer to any of these?
    The implications are huge – for unless we hold to a word-for-word dictation theory (as the early Mormons did regarding their books), a literal translation is often not the best rendering. Indeed, literal translation, even among modern languages (say, Spanish to English), is [i]horrible[/i] translation, and what’s being said is more often obscured than clarified.
    What we’re after is the heart of God. How we get to it, ironically, may not be in ways that fundamentalism finds “safe,” and is inescapably subjective. But making it “safe” with baseless assumptions is worse, for we know such assumptions must be partly wrong.
    I guess I find “safe” unsafe. To quote C.S. Lewis: “He’s not a tame lion!”
    Thanks for the opportunity to reflect!

  8. Monte,

    I think a lot of us have taught and held to things that we now realize are absurd. Hopefully we can be effective in challenging our brothers and sisters to help prevent this in the future. Thanks for commenting, I’m glad this series gave you the opportunity to reflect on some of these things.

    God’s Glory,
    Lew

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  9. Monte,

    That might be difficult, but I think if we trust God in these things, we just might be able to do that!

    God’s Glory,
    Lew

  10. Perhaps my comment, rather than saying “Perhaps we can create a climate of humility,” would have been more clearly said, “Perhaps we can at least admit we don’t know as much as we thought we did.” Uncertainty can make one something of a pariah to modernists.

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