The Divine, Inerrant, Infallible, Inspired Theory?

I have mentioned this from time to time and continue to do so for the simple reason of it being a misunderstanding that runs deep and wide within the minds of average church-going Christians as well as those who may be classified as post-Christian.

While the “word of God” is a prerequisite in the life a believer, perhaps we’ve gotten the “word of God” confused with “the Bible” or “the Scriptures.” These are not synonymous terms, although the Scriptures do contain the words of people’s interaction with God, and his direction to them. Many conservative Christian groups are guilty of creating their own definitions of inspiration, inerrancy and infallibility, then forcing the Bible into that framework. It is demanded that this alone is the way to view the Bible while all others are liberal attacks against God.

I have seen the modern view of inerrancy shatter too many people’s faith — specifically in relation to a failed fundamentalism experience — because it’s a wrongly based faith.

Craig Evans put it:

“In reading some of the more radical books on Jesus, I find that a loss of confidence in the historical reliability of the New Testament Gospels is often occasioned by misplaced faith and misguided suspicions. By misplaced faith I mean placing one’s faith in the wrong thing, such as believing that the Scriptures must be inerrant according to rather strict idiosyncratic standards and that we must be able to harmonize the four Gospels. If our faith depends on these ideas, especially in rigid terms, and scholarly study may well lead to a collapse of faith. . . . Observe the line of reasoning; it is so typical of brittle fundamentalism. I have heard fundamentalists say, ‘show me one mistake in the Bible and I will throw out the whole thing’. . . . The truth of the Christian message hinges not on the inerrancy of Scripture or on our ability to harmonize the four Gospels but on the resurrection of Jesus. And the historical reliability of the Gospels does not hinge on the inerrancy of Scripture or on proof that no mistake of any kind can be detected in them.”

Craig Evans, Fabricating Jesus, How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels, (IVP), 21, 31

It amounts to this; the Bible is not where my my faith nor hope is based. The Bible helps to govern my faith and works in tandem with it by showing what God is like and how he interacts with and through people. We miss the point of the Bible when we make our faith about it. Even those who claim to hold the Bible in the highest regard forget that those very people of whom the Bible speaks had no such book. If no such book existed, how did their faith survive? Perhaps their faith was not textually based and instead reliant upon God. Can God exist without the Bible? It seems as though some Christians are dangerously close to not thinking so.

Believe it or not, there are readers of the Bible today who have been indoctrinated into accepting an unrealistic and uncritical view as to what the Bible is and often means, go figure. Far too many have been convinced that the Bible is incapable of containing even the slightest contradiction or infinitesimal discrepancy. Some have even been convinced that if such things existed to the slightest degree, none of the Bible could be trusted. I have personally heard this stated, “if every single word isn’t accurate, none of it is.” This is poor logic and entirely ignorant of the way texts were created, copied, dispersed and come to us in the modern era. It also shows an ignorance of the textual variation between the thousands of competing copies in possession today. Armed with a presupposition of what God is like and concluding that since God is perfect and the ultimate source knowledge, the Bible therefore — through divine inspiration of the prophets — cannot contain “imperfections.”

While this theory is convenient and comfortable for some, forming a tidy and safe God box, it can only be kept intact for the reader who doesn’t look too closely at the Bible itself. There have been many conservative Christians (young and old) who have had their Bible-based faith shattered into oblivion due to probing at a deeper level. This is entirely unnecessary not by virtue of shutting ones eyes and ears to the truth about the Bible, but by understanding what the Bible was, is and therefore what our relationship to it should be. Are we fundamentally interested in investigating and being liberated by truth, or rather in error grown old by perpetuating and reiterating a lie?

Getting into the intricate details of the Bible may be scary for those whose faith has been placed in certain idiosyncratic concepts regarding the Bible’s identity. The Bible is inspired and our rule of faith, but what “inspiration” means to some is entirely different than what it means to others. Also words such as “inerrancy” and “infallibility” are often harnessed as though they had a single authoritative standard of definition of unquestionable quality. This is subjectivism masquerading as objectivism.

God used people to write the content of the Bible. The Bible is messy, written by messy people, about messy people in a messy world that continues to this messy day. It is a messy way to describe a very great God in the business of cleaning things up. They were not early, prehistoric ink-jet printers upon whom the spirit came and dictated the words of God verbatim. Dogmatic theories about who wrote, how they did it and why the Bible has to be this way or that way to be believed, is where the error lies.

Originally published at