– The fact is that there are many versions of inerrancy. What it means for one will not necessarily hold for all. For some it includes all historical realities all (apparent) contradictions, for some it means only in matters of faith. This reality alone should alert us that even IF inerrancy were a true proposition concerning the nature of Scripture, it remains that the content of such a proposition is either pluriform or meaningless. I vote the latter.
– If Infallibility means that “Scripture will not fail to fulfill its purpose” and if it’s purpose is to elucidate the nature and plans of God, then it most certainly fails all the time. There are countless skeptics and non-believers who can and do read the Scriptures and who are not illuminated as to the nature and plans of God. Moreover, even believers will sometimes read it wrongly (according to the pattern of the Church) and believe all sorts of silly stuff.
But, some might say, that is the problem of the subjectivity of the interpreter. That seems to me to miss the point. We have no reason to believe that God wanted to pour himself into a text for the sake of having an infallible text, that is, if the problem is in the subjectivity of the reader and not the objectivity of the text, then we are in effect saying God’s intention for the creating Scripture is an end in itself. The point of Revelation (and Creation for that matter!) is relationship. God desires not so much to convey intellectual truths about himself as he does to extend his love and fellowship. Is it necessary, or anywhere described, that in order to bring mankind into fellowship it is necessary for Scripture to be infallible?
– It does not follow logically that Scripture must posses the same features as God. For example in the propositional argument:
God does not error – the Bible is God’s word – therefore it has no errors.
Only God posseses God’s characteristics in their wholeness.
– Which brings us back to “The Word of God” – Within Scripture it is used in many ways, only some of which relate to the words of Scripture themselves.
- They are most often in the OT used to refer to prophetic words. It should be noted, as I did before, that it these prophetic proclamations that are properly so called the “Word of the Lord.” The elaboration, redaction and collection cannot call itself the Word of the Lord in the same fashion. Not that I’m trying with a scalpel to set up artificial “hierarchies” of “Word,” I’m trying to flesh the distinctive facets of Scripture.
- In the NT, as far as I can tell, it is used exclusively of the Gospel proclamation of the life, death and resurrection of Christ.
- Which brings us to Jesus. If we want to say that there is a self-communication of God that shares the traits of God intrinsically we need to look to the 2nd person of the Holy Trinity. When asking about the Father, Jesus told his disciples, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” He didn’t say that there was an infallible grouping of holy writings they should check out. Indeed, the risen Lord elucidated the Scriptures in reference to himself and founds a community of forgiven around himself.
– On Tradition – It is always risky to speak monolithically of the Fathers, but I took some time and found that the Fathers I read were concerned with the unity of the Scriptures over and against Marcionites, Gnostics and others who were attempting to set Jesus and his Father against the God of the OT, or turn Jesus into a demi-urge, etc…
In point of fact, what we think of as conservative evangelical inerrancy is indeed a very late and highly dogmatic and, dare I say, un-Christocentric turn. It is largely a reaction to critical scholarship and is problematically modernist and foundationalist.
A look at perhaps the most famous Statement on Inerrancy, the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy demonstrates clearly what I have been saying now for some years. I quote:
The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible’s own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.
Inerrancy functions as a dogma in order to guarantee the authority of Scripture in the community, but it in no way says anything instrinsically essential about its nature.
– If the doctrine functions to ensure authority and not truth, then it would be fair to ask if any post-modern might rightfully see this as a hidden discourse of power.
– If inerrancy only pertains to the original documents and we posses none of these, then is it not possible that the texts we have do contain errors? Indeed what text do we have when we have a text in our possession? Even the exact text among printed Greek and Hebrew bibles differs even if only in minor and inconsequential ways. So then might not even a strict inerrantist affirm errors in the Bible as we have it?
Please. Have mercy on me readers. Perhaps I should mention once again my affirmation of the inspiration of Holy Scriptures, of their trustworthiness read in the believing community and of the ability of God to reveal himself in Holy Scriptures. And I like long walks on the beach.