We cannot explain or resolve all parts of Scripture. However, to surmise that apparent conflicts in the Bible must be ‘errors’ is an arrogant and dangerous supposition. Too many people give up too easily—if it doesn’t make sense they aren’t willing to dig deeper. Or to trust.
A couple of years ago I listened as wise, godly friends discussed the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. All of them are mature Christians. The issue was not the authority of Scripture for faith and practice. The issue was whether it is necessary and/or appropriate to include in our statement of faith that the Bible contains the ‘inerrant’ and ‘infallible’ word of God.
While I try not to get too personal with this blog, the most that I can contribute on this topic is personal. Specifically, the more I study the more it all makes sense. Not just in a little way, but in one “Oh wow!” realization after another.
Many (not all) passages that at one time confused me or caused me to wonder if the writer was correct, came into sharper focus with deeper study. This detailed-study-leads-to-edification process has happened so many times that my view on the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible has strengthened considerably.
Just one example—I recently audited an apologetics course entitled Creation and the Bible by Reasons To Believe. Dr. Hugh Ross, a renowned astrophysicist and the founder of Reasons To Believe states in his testimony that he became a Christian by reading the foundational books of the world’s religions and discarding them one by one based upon scientific errors apparent in their text. When he got to the Bible however, he found 13 scientifically accurate statements about the creation of the universe in the first chapter of Genesis. If you take the time to dig, the details are amazing and dramatically support the case for ascribing inerrancy and infallibility to the Bible.
There’s no shortage of opinions on the accuracy of the Bible. Our post-modern culture promotes individual opinions and disharmony over conformity and agreement. Fine. Got it. No one wants to give a straightforward yes or no to the question of Biblical inerrancy, and actually that should be the case. What do you do with translation differences, poetry, allegorical statements, the use of Koine (slang) Greek, textual criticism, differing accounts of the same events by different authors, a lack of modern technical precision, observational descriptions of nature, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, and so on? It takes a fair amount of clarification before we can get to a yes or no response.
But the concepts behind these adjectives are extremely important, and there are those who have done a very good job building a case for unity on this topic. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy is a document worthy of very careful reading. Before I read it, I had my own unfocused views on the subject. After reading it and thinking it through, I’m in. I support the Chicago Statement.
So back to the question of whether it is necessary or appropriate to include that the Bible is inerrant and infallible in our statement of faith. In its constitutional context, the Williamsburg Community Chapel’s statement of faith is reduced to eight points about which we believe so strongly that we would break fellowship with those who would disagree. In this context, personally I believe it is appropriate—but not necessary—to include these terms (see Article XIX of the Chicago Statement). In other words, would I break fellowship with someone who was struggling with the genealogies of Christ in Matthew versus Luke? No. Would I break fellowship with someone who insisted that the differences in these genealogies prove the errancy of the Bible? Absolutely. More importantly, do I believe that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible, inspired word of God? Yes.
May 28th, 2012 at 3:09 pm
very interesting John…..thanks for your posts, i enjoy reading them!
May 28th, 2012 at 9:17 pm
Thank you for your great statement, which I agree with completely. Can you tell me what happened,when you were an elder, when our pastors, a few years ago, made the statements that implied inerrancy belief was not necessary to be part of the WCC membership. As you know, this controversy led to many mature, active believers leaving the WCC. One of them, a former elder, claimed he was invited to leave by leadership. I still don’t understand this event, and know there is still pain out there associated with the whole process.
May 28th, 2012 at 10:21 pm
Jim, there’s a lot more than would be appropriate for me to reply to in your comment, but I would enjoy meeting with you any time to discuss anything.
Your membership comment is correct–the Chapel does not require members to address inerrancy in their profession of faith. Having carefully considered and debated just how ‘right’ someone has to be in order to qualify as a member, we work to our longstanding eight-point statement of faith. Personally, as I stated in the post, I believe it is appropriate to include inerrant and infallible. I also believe, having worshipped here for 25 or so years without those adjectives in our statement of faith, that Christ is fully lifted up at the Chapel and that those adjectives are not necessary for salvation (as stated directly in Article XIX of the Chicago Statement).
In fairness to our pastors, the above characterization is less than complete. As to the reaction of former members to what they heard or thought they heard, I can only say that regrettably there was and is pain, and if I can be an instrument of peace, it would be an honor to try to help. I miss them as well, and realize the healing is beyond what we can accomplish on our own.
May 29th, 2012 at 1:29 pm
Thanks John for your reply…I still think this blog is great and follow it whenever it comes through.
Re: article XIX of Chicago Statement, no doubt that inerrancy is NOT required for salvation, but in the ‘Affirms” part of the article there is no doubt that the authors felt it was absolutely necessary for understanding of our faith and the Church…the response to those who put inerrancy as essentail to our Church(and church) body was poorly handled.
May 31st, 2012 at 10:52 pm
I think your comments are well put. I simply could not say it any better.