Posted by: Jim | March 6, 2009

The Inerrancy of Scripture

A critical point of Christian doctrine is that the Bible is God’s word. Each Christian falls somewhere on a sliding scale from 100% inerrancy and factual correctness on the right, to the schmoozy left side where people think that the Bible is just a vague guideline that we should follow “in spirit.”

But everyone who is on the scale at all believes that the Bible is a “magic book” on some level. For me personally, once I came to the conclusion that the Bible was not “God inspired,” my faith quickly unraveled.

ehrman_cover_2001Enter Bart Ehrman. He grew up—as I did—believing in the Bible, and went—as I did—to seminary. He studies at the Moody Bible Institute. I have some friends there (who are undergoing their own de-conversion) and I’m familiar with the school. It is extremely conservative. But Mr. Ehrman when to Princeton Theological Seminary, which is notoriously liberal. Ehrman’s faith—which depended upon the inerrancy of scripture, did not survive. Now he is an agnostic, and has written a book: “Jesus, Interrupted.”  Here’s a quote:

“It turned out the liberals actually had something to say and had evidence to back it up; they weren’t simply involved in destructive wishful thinking. There were some books, such as the Gospels, that had been written anonymously, only later to be ascribed to certain authors who probably did not write them (apostles and friends of the apostles). Other books were written by authors who fl at out claimed to be someone they weren’t.”

And:

“… if Matthew and John were both written by earthly disciples of Jesus, why are they so very different, on all sorts of levels?”

Why indeed? If God sent the Bible as a message to us, why did he make them look so suspiciously fallible and un-divine? Why would he create us with Brains the size of a cantaloupe, and make us smart enough to analyze his magic book and find it no more inspired than anything else written in the bronze age? Why couldn’t he have delivered to us a book that looked like loving, perfect God wrote it? Did he purposefully muddle it up so that only people who aren’t very rationally oriented would be able to spend eternity in heaven with him? Why would he send us a message that is fraught with inaccuracies and inconsistencies, then put us in hell for not believing it?

Answer: He didn’t, and he won’t. The Bible was written by, and was inspired by, mere mortals. There is nothing divine about the book, and there is no big loving guy up in heaven who is going to throw you into hell for not stepping in line.

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Responses

  1. Can we really blame Princeton Theological Seminary for Ehrman? He studied under Bruce Metzger, who unless you are a total fundie, was a godly man and true evangelical. The problem with Ehrman and with Moody is that inerrancy at that school was rather Koranic, i.e. a divine book that dropped from the sky, rather than as the only authoritative witness to the one word of God Jesus Christ. If inerrantists differentiated themselves from fundamentalists there would be less Bart Ehrmans.

  2. Hi Scott … so you mean, Moody inerrancy is whacko-magical, but your inerrancy is only magical?

  3. Scott and Jim,
    I don’t have time to reply right now (I’m in the airport in Fort Myers, getting ready to board a flight), but William Lane Craig and Gary Habermas (to name a few) have published responses to Bart you may want to look at.

  4. I personally do not see how the Christian faith stands or falls on the issue of Biblical Inerrancy. It seems to me to be a logical anomaly to argue thus. I understand why it is important to many. But wait. Let’s assume that the texts of the New Testament (forget the Old testament for a moment) are merely texts, reporting in their own way events that clearly the authors considered important. We still have the historical claims to deal with; we still have to do the work of historians. The central issue revolves around something truly odd, unprecedented–A Jewish man, whom many deemed some kind of revolutionary, was crucified under Pontius Pilate (not surprising) and rose again (shocking). A whole movement developed around a rather self-contradictory claim (if you know your history)–the Messiah died and rose again. This was not the sort of thing a Messiah (which at that time simply meant a very this-worldly Jewish King) was supposed or expected to do. Death (and especially a crucifixion at the hands of Romans) was not and could not ever spell victory. In fact, we know of several “messianic” movements that occurred during this period, and they all ended when the would-be king died, i.e., a dead Messiah was no Messiah. Suddenly, in a time when Jews were being called to take up arms against the Roman infidels and oppressors, you have a group claiming that the true Messiah was crucified and that this was in fact the long awaited victory of God over evil. How do you account for the claims and the development of the movement? Clearly, the substance and grounds of the Christian faith rest here, not in some impossible-to-prove theory about biblical inerrancy. I’m not claiming that these historical questions are easy ones to tackle. Perhaps that’s why most people are content to dismiss Christianity with trite logical arguments the belie the real issues.

  5. […] and well beyond the scope of this discussion. However, in my online searches I came across this blog by a former Christian, who apparently lost faith (at least in part) because the Bible was show to […]


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