You Don’t Believe in Biblical Inerrancy Like You Think You Do
I’ve come to believe that two of the most disappointing words you could find on a church’s website are ‘Biblical inerrancy.’
It’s a catch-phrase. It’s the kind of keyword that many churches add to their list of beliefs on their websites, whether they go on to explain the principle well or not.
It’s almost like you don’t get the credibility of being a church unless you state publicly that you believe the Bible is perfect.
I ran across an interesting meme on Facebook. It read:
A scientist will read dozens of books in his lifetime, but still believe he has a lot more to learn.
A religious person barely reads one book, and thinks they know it all.
Note the word barely. Back in 2013, a survey reported that only one in five claimed they read the Bible regularly. One in five. Twenty percent. The same survey found 88% of people who took the survey claimed to own a Bible, an even 80% said they consider the Bible “sacred,” yet 61% wish they read it more.
If Christians truly believe the Bible is the unshakable, authoritative word of God, why would any of them live their lives wishing they read it more? What’s more important, to a Christian, than his or her relationship with the Lord? If the Bible is so sacred, why do they not pick it up more often? Logically, the two statistics don’t seem to go together.
Many Christians are quick to point out that those they deem as “sinners,” something they are far less likely to label themselves, can’t “cherry pick” the verses they want to follow and ignore the ones they don’t like. Yet many will make such a statement while citing a singular verse from a book like Leviticus, which has many, many prohibitions, and the same Christians who target one or more groups with Leviticus ammunition don’t think twice about violating the others. (Is there a cotton blend in your closet? Have you eaten shrimp or clam? Have you ever lied? Has your Facebook profile or email outbox ever contained a falsehood you’ve spread about a neighbor?)
Before you answer that last one, may I remind you we’re in an election year, and I’ve seen plenty of easily debunkable falsehood spread by “good church people” who want you to vote their way.
Yesterday, I gave my goatee a trim. Oops, that’s in there, too. But I can honestly say I’ve never heard a Bible-thumper who seems so familiar with their favorite Leviticus sin ever mention a beard trim. Not even once.
But that meme raises an even better point.
Wouldn’t most of us agree that the concept of God and His grace would be more complicated than even the most complicated-looking physics experiment? Scientists are always searching for new knowledge, always trying to understand how things work and why.
But a Bible verse can’t even be questioned? It has to be true without the possibility of error? And we’re the bad guy if we see something that doesn’t make sense and blindly accept it, anyway?
Sorry, I can’t buy that line of reasoning. I don’t believe the Bible is the end-all, be-all of Christianity. I believe developing a one-on-one, personal relationship with Jesus Christ is. I think it’s entirely possible that Jesus could reveal things to a Christian that contradicts something the Bible might say. Not because the Bible is intentionally wrong, but because the Bible was written by men, not God Himself.
Here’s where we reach the “God-breathed” argument.
There are pastors out there who claim God “inspired” their messages. But how many of us have heard a pastor who presented something in a sermon that we disagreed with or felt was un-Biblical?
There are churches whose congregations take public actions they say are God-inspired. Yet we all seem to think we know which groups are and are not acting in a Godly manner.
So what does “God-breathed” even mean? The answer is very important, Zack Hunt pointed out a few years ago at Red Letter Christians.
Zack makes an important point about something else that is “God-breathed.” He points out that Genesis tells us that mankind is “God-breathed.” Mankind was never perfect. God called it “good,” but not “perfect.” Unlike Christ, who was tempted but did not commit sin, from the very beginning mankind succumbs to temptation. If mankind is “God-breathed” andimperfect, then how can a rational person believe that the Bible, which is also “God-breathed,” can only be perfect?
And, he says, we should consider 1 Corinthians 13:12, in which Paul, one of the most revered Biblical writers, says this:
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
Paul is writing about our incomplete understanding of God. He makes it clear that we have an incomplete understanding. That includes himself.
Isn’t it possible, then, that he wrote his part of the Bible feeling absolutely, unquestionably inspired by God, but imperfectly? If your answer is no, then you are even more obligated to follow what you must believe is the absolute truth that Paul shares later in the same chapter:
We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
If you’re using your assumed inerrancy of the Bible to justify actions that are not loving, you’re going against the very truth you hold so dear.
You might want to rethink that.