Why I No Longer Hold to Inerrancy & The Need For A New Model of Inspiration.

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As a Christian student in New & Old Testament Studies approaching the end of his time at university, I have discovered a number conflicts between conservative, fundamentalist Christian views of biblical inspiration (of which we will refer to as “classical inerrancy” or “inerrancy”) and what I have come to deem, more often than not, sound biblical scholarship. I will provide examples as we go.

Biblical inerrancy is best described as the view that for the Bible to be the word of God it cannot err in any matters it touches on, including history, science, or philosophy. Simply, the Bible has no errors in it. The thrust of this argument is that if the Bible makes an error, no matter how insignificant that error might be, then it cannot be said to be God inspired for God is incapable of making errors or revealing error via revelation. Admittedly, for Christians proposing alternative views to classical inerrancy, these arguments require serious consideration especially if one wishes to take the Bible seriously and authoritatively.

But the problem for conservative inerrant views of scripture is this: the Bible is not inerrant. In other words, the Bible really does make errors historically, morally, and scientifically, a view that took shape within me over the last four years. Prior, however, I used to hold to inerrancy. I also once believed that every single challenge to the Bible was easily answered and refuted, and, for a time, thought that conflicts an inerrant view had with scholarship was a result of some anti-Christian “agenda” or “hate” towards Christianity. That was until I actually examined the alleged errors themselves, and soon realized that the answers provided on conservative apologetic websites were often grounded on little more than revisionist historical theories, fringe scholarly interpretations, fringe science, and contrived explanations attempting to explain away biblical inconsistencies.

Note that I am aware that what I am saying here will step on the toes of most Christian readers. It is not my goal to deliberately offend sensitivities or sow doubt, though these might happen. Rather, as a Christian myself, it is my goal to be as honest as I possibly can in conveying my own views as they’ve developed. I am more than willing to engage concerned readers in the comments below, or to forward material seeking to clarify what I am writing here in some more detail (see footnotes).

Nonetheless, one might want to know what conflicts I am referring to. These conflicts are numerous and can be found within, though not limited to, matters of archeologically, science, and history. For one, inerrantists contend that archeologically fully and comprehensively supports Old Testament historical accuracy (as well as New Testament). But as Old Testament scholars will confidently say, though archaeology does truly support historicity (geography and people) in certain places, it demonstrates the mistakes the biblical authors made in others (by in large the historically problematic conquest narratives in Joshua). Inerrantists also have a fascination with preserving vastly outdated views of biblical authorship. For example, they fight for traditional views of gospel authorship (i.e. Mark, Matthew, Luke and John actually penned the gospels with their names on it). Mainstream New Testament scholarship has long viewed our gospels as anonymously written. Inerrantists insist single authorship behind Genesis (by Moses’ hand) and the book of Isaiah. Scholarship has long since accepted that these books owe their existence to multiple authors, and that Moses most certainly did not write the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible). Many inerrantists hold to a fringe theory that all 13 Pauline epistles in the New Testament owe their existence to Paul’s hand. To the contrary, Paul probably penned roughly half that number, says informed scholarship. Inerrantists deny that the author of Genesis used ideas and concepts from other mythological accounts in circulation both prior and contemporaneous with the date of writing of the Genesis account. To the contrary it is a widely established belief in Old Testament and biblical scholarship that the author(s) of Genesis did in fact draw material from other mythical accounts (the Babylonian story of the Enuma Elish, for example; see my exegetical, research essay in OT Studies). Inerrantists believe that there was a literal global flood that inundated the world as a result of God’s punishment of humankind’s sins. Majority of Old Testament scholars will confidently retort that the biblical flood account is one mythical narrative the biblical author(s) of Genesis derived from older accounts, and that was never intended to be a historical account, as opposed to a theological narrative, in the same way we’d expect by 21st century standards. Moreover, scientists across the board in the fields of geology, stratigraphy, geophysics, physics, palaeontology, biology, anthropology, and archaeology are well aware that there never was such a climactic flood event. Scientifically, as opposed to overwhelming scientific consensus, some inerrantists reject evolutionary theory because it is perceived to be incompatible with the view that Adam and Eve were the progenitors of the entire human race. Some inerrantists argue that Genesis presents a scientifically accurate depiction of the creation of the Earth. To the contrary, most biblical scholars see Genesis as pre-scientific explanation of origins. Inerrantists believe Jesus was incapable of holding false beliefs. Jesus thought Moses penned the Pentateuch, scholars don’t. Jesus thought (or imbibed Jewish tradition, we do not know) that there was a global flood, scholars don’t. And though views of the historical Jesus vary between scholars, most tend view him as an apocalyptic prophet who believed he would return to destroy God’s enemies, usher in God’s kingdom and rule a renewed Earth directly within the life time of his disciples. It has been 2000 years since. Inerrantists assert that the Bible is an example of perfect harmony between all the books and authors. However, to the contrary, Old Testament scholars widely debate the paradoxes and inconsistencies present in the different perspectives of the biblical authors. In fact, inconsistencies in terms of diversity in literary style, terminology, and ideological and theological perspective inherent in chapters and pericopes of specific books (like Genesis and Isaiah) are exactly what convince scholars of multiple authorship. Many inerrantists see messianic prophecies were none exist. They insist that the prophet Isaiah prophesied not only the virgin birth of Jesus but also his crucifixion and resurrection, a view not held by historians because nowhere does Isaiah even reference a messiah, nor is he prophesying events several centuries removed from his context. This list is not exhaustive.

Moreover, inerrantists fall on consistency. For instance, they often point out what they perceive to be discrepancies in other holy books only to apply a entirely different standard to the Bible. I observed one inerrantist committing this double standard when he criticized the book of Mormon on grounds of archaeology. Archaeology, he argues, has not supported details mentioned in the Book of Mormon such as, though not limited to, “Reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics,” or the “land of Moron that is described in Ether 7,” and so on. His obvious inference is that the Book of Mormon is not the word of God. However, where the Bible is concerned, and a fact inerrantists seldom mention, is that there is no corroborating evidence, apart from centuries removed biblical tradition, that the biblical Exodus from Egypt ever actually happened, nor have the conquest narratives in the Bible been “buttressed by history and evidence” as the inerrantist boasts. Nor are inerrantists consistent on moral and philosophical grounds. I’ve witnessed how the inerrantist criticizes the Islamic concept of God on moral grounds in that Allah, as the Koran presents him, is openly impartial in his favouring of certain human subjects over others. The reasoning is that God, as the greatest conceivable being, is morally perfect and cannot be impartial for impartiality is a moral evil, or is an act that a morally perfect being could never commit. The same Christian inerrantist will, however, go to great lengths to explain away any moral wrongdoing on God’s part when he commanded the wholesale slaughter of population groups in the conquest narratives (usually he reasons that God didn’t actually commit genocide, he just commanded people to do it for him… so you can’t blame God. But which is worse? A God who is impartial or a God who commands genocide?).

Now, it is not at all easy for me to state these issues as they are, in fact, I would far rather focus on the positives of Christian belief of which would be mutually uplifting (things like the evidence for the resurrection, and deity of Jesus, and the arguments for God’s existence). But I maintain that challenging inerrancy is simply a necessity for it presents a false view of the Bible. These issues are really present, and over time I kept asking myself as to why, at nearly every juncture, was my adherence to inerrancy requiring me to disagree with mainstream scholarship. Why was inerrancy asking me to deny what was becoming so blatantly obvious, namely that the Bible is not inerrant? Thus, I reasoned to the view that inerrancy was not only false but also never actually about following the evidence where it leads, as opposed to it being the attempt at protecting just one view of biblical inspiration. I soon after abandoned inerrancy.

Now, bringing Bart Ehrman into the picture again, this is where he and I part ways. Ehrman is one of the leading world scholars in New Testament Studies, he is also a leading skeptic of Christianity. In fact, as an apologist, I would go as far as to say that it is next to impossible not to grapple with Ehrman’s arguments (both philosophical and historical) given the implications that they have for the truth of Christianity. However, it may come to the surprise of some that Ehrman was a fundamentalist, conservative Christian when he was quite young. In his book, Misquoting Jesus, he recounts how he believed that God had inspired the wording of the Bible and protected its texts from all error. However, during his time at university, he became convinced that there were contradictions and discrepancies in the biblical manuscripts that could not be harmonized or reconciled. Long story short, as result of his discoveries that were in conflict with a conservative, inerrant view of biblical scripture, he is now one of Christianity’s biggest critics. He has sowed doubt in the lives of many Christians who have too come to realize the falsity of inerrancy. Inerrancy is spiritually dangerous in this way (see my argument in point 4e in this article). I have witnessed instances of Christians falling away from faith as a result of buying into the false dichotomy that one either embraces full blown inerrancy or rejects the Bible (a strawman caricature often embraced by both critics of the Bible/Christianity and inerrantists). Christian scholar Michael Bird captures this well explaining that this “means that if some young Christian comes across a passage of Scripture that is historically or ethically challenging, then they are faced with the choice between belief and unbelief,” and there lies the problem.

The point I want to make is that unlike Ehrman I wish to build up fellow believers in the faith. Unlike Ehrman, I also haven’t thrown in the towel, so to speak. I haven’t rejected Christianity or the inspiration and authority of the Bible. In fact, as I have argued, I strongly believe that there are solid grounds for holding to the truth of Christianity even in the face of the issues and errors within our scriptures. What I believe is that biblical inspiration is not, nor can ever be, inerrancy.

Further, I believe that we need to ask important though-provoking questions given that inerrancy is no longer a viable view of scripture. What, for example, does a non-inerrant Bible tell us about the nature of God? What does it tell us about how God chose to reveal scripture? Are there reasons why God would allow inconsistencies between scriptural authors from vastly different backgrounds as perhaps to render the Bible rich and diverse in that it can be applied to different contexts and situations? (see the diversity God allowed in the two versions of the Ten Commandments, for example; also see here). Does the fact that God could reveal truth through what we call myth suggest he can speak through diverse categories? Maybe God is less limited than what inerrantists would have us believe. Moreover, how are we to understand Jesus who, as a 1st century human being, held to false beliefs? What does this say of his divinity and humanity, and the relationship between the two?

Thus, it is my goal to not only continue going on the offensive in demonstrating the falsity of inerrancy but also to develop a theological model of biblical inspiration and authority that needn’t entail the unreasonableness of inerrantist presuppositions. I therefore hope to develop a faithful model of inspiration that does justice for how the Bible really is as the very God of the universe revealed it to us. I also understand that this is perhaps biting off far more than I can chew, but, at the same time, no-one ever achieved something valuable and worthwhile without taking that first bite.

My Recommendations of Christian authors on the topic

For an easily accessible online critique: After Inerrancy (Kenton Sparks)
For a scathing critique of inerrancy: The Human Faces of God (Thom Starke)
For a deep look into the different views of inerrancy: 5 Views on Biblical Inerrancy
For a insightful model of inspiration: Incarnational Theology (Peter Enns)

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42 responses to “Why I No Longer Hold to Inerrancy & The Need For A New Model of Inspiration.

  1. I am confused. It sounds like you simply choose modern scholarship conclusions over the Bible where the two conflict. Given scholarship’s often conflicting and ever-evolving theories, my simple question is why. Why pick one over the other? What is your rational justification for doing what appears, from this presentation, to be arbitrary?

    • To the contrary, I choose modern scholarship over inerrancy, not the Bible. Inerrancy is not only false but is not true to the Bible either. What I showed, however, is that to stick to inerrancy requires one to deny far too much, and the cognitive dissonance far too great.

      But i think your claim that scholarship evolves, though true and worthy of consideration, is quite limited in this argument. Take the example of Mosaic authorship (MA). Though inerrantists continue maintain MA despite all evidence to the contrary, scholarship has long since left that behind, and no matter to what degree scholarship changes on the specific topic of MA (whether that is to fully reject the documentary hypothesis in favour of some other theory), scholars will still never propose MA. In other words, MA is a dead issue, no longer feasible in scholarship, nor will it ever be.

      • You say that you choose modern scholarship over inerrancy, but the issues you have raised go far beyond inerrancy and really overthrow traditional evangelical scholarship on a much larger scale, including the work of many who don’t consider themselves to be inerrantists. I don’t think you realize how many theological issues are bound up in everything that you have written.

        Having said that, let me just ask you this one for starters. You apparently affirm the view that the Gospels were circulated anonymously for some time before being composed and compiled into their present form. Could you succinctly state what positive arguments made by modern scholars have persuaded you to adopt that position?

  2. Could you clarify for me the connection between differing opinions of authorship, and inerrancy of content within the Bible?

    I too believe that we need to ask thought-provoking questions given Biblical errancy. If God can use myth to reveal truth, why should I not consider the story of the virgin birth, or the resurrection, as a Godly inspired myth working through the hand of the author?

    • To anwser your question because of the genre. The gospels, though clearly using creative license in my respects, do not intend for the virigin birth, nor the resurrection as “Godly inspired myth.” The genre of Genesis, as a product of the ANE, is a different story altogether.

      This is another problem critics have with inerrancy, it flattens the Bible into this rigid monotone that is unable to make use of diverse categories (from biography to myth etc.). Why can’t inerrantists just let the Bible be what it is or speak for itself, instead of imposing this anachronistic 20th century method of exegesis?

  3. James:
    I appreciate your honesty in presenting your conclusions. As a Christian apologist I think the discussion of inspiration and inerrancy is important, but it is an “in house” discussion for believers. The question of inerrancy should not be morphed into an apologetics dogma. My book “In Defense of the Gospels” (that came out January 8, 2018, available on Amazon) does not delve into the issue of inerrancy. Instead, I present a case for the reliability of the Gospels (historical, textual, etc.) by addressing six main questions people raise about reliability (BTW, I do have a chapter on “Who Wrote the Gospels?” and address the somewhat misleading conclusion that they are “anonymous,” but conclude that even if they were not written by the traditional authors, it does not defeat their reliability per se). I am glad to hear that you still believe in the Jesus of history whose words and deeds are revealed in the Gospels. You might read Craig Evans’ “How God Became Jesus” where he warns against the “all or none–if there are any errors in the Bible then it is all false” view. There is a legitimate scholarly issue as to the scope of God’s influence upon the writers of Scripture. In terms of apologetics I try to show how people can make a case for Christ by using facts that are generally accepted by scholars in the field, including liberal and even agnostic scholars. For example, the “creed” Paul sets forth in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 is accepted by New Testament scholar and agnostic Gerd Ludemann to have been developed within 2-3 years of Jesus’ crucifixion. Such data from skeptical scholars are invaluable for making a case for Christianity.

    John Stewart
    Scholar in Residence, Ratio Christi

    • Thank you, John. Like you I, both during my allegiance to inerrancy and afterwards (i.e. now), have always done my apologetic work without presupposing inerrancy, and even further, “the inspiration” of the biblical texts. That is common ground that i think the non-inerrantist and the inerrantist can have. I also have always liked Evans’ work, and very much look forward to reading his book. I also want to thank you for the cordial nature of your response.

  4. There are a lot of elements to this post, but I think this assumes two things: 1) there is only one inerrancy model, and 2) one must take everything in the Bible literally in order to hold to inerrancy. Both assumptions are mistaken. I would recommend a specific work on this which argues against the kind of fundamentalist inerracy you’ve written against here. “Defining Inerrancy: Affirming a Defensible Faith for a New Generation” by JP Holding and Nick Peters. It is primarily a reactionary work, but it presents inerrancy as respective to the Bible’s social and literary contexts.

    Also, I would submit maintaining philosophical and moral inerrancy is far more important than mere historical inerrancy. Your comments comparing the Islamic conquests to Canaan conquests by the Israelites assumes a kind of moral absolutism which ignores the contexts crucial to understanding God’s justice which He would inflict above the Israelites themselves.

    Either way, I encourage you to check out the book. It has helped me work through a proper understanding of inerrancy.

  5. It sounds to me that you’re not necessarily rejecting “inerrancy” per se, more that you’re calling for a clearer understanding of what “inerrancy” means? Am I reading you right?

    One view, I don’t know where I stand on the issue so I’m just playing advocate, is that the Bible is true in everything it teaches as true. And, that the Bible is authoritative in all matters pertaining to God and relationships with Him. That seems like it would cover what you’re saying, would it not? For example, the conquests … it’s not that the Bible is saying that the Israelites killed X number of people. It’s saying that the writer of that historical record said that the Israelites killed X number of people.

    I think the whole Jesus said Moses wrote the Pentateuch is a non-issue. When Jesus said that about Moses, was He saying that Moses *literally* wrote the P? Or was He saying something more akin to the P coming from Moses, or that it was Moses’ order that the P be written, etc. etc.? I think a balance can be struck between the numerologist that believes that literally the very letters are arranged in a supernatural way such as to give insight into the teachings of God, and the über-liberal-pick-your-own-adventure-reading view of inerrancy.

    To me, it’s much more important how one views the authority of Scripture. If you have a slightly more liberal view of “inerrancy” but still maintain that the Bible is God’s final, authoritative Word, that’s more important an issue. I can see that there might be a slippery slope, and no doubt Ehrman is an example of one sliding down that slope. But as long as we together dig in our heels on the authority of Scripture we can further discuss where on the spectrum of inerrancy we ought to fall.

    • Thank you, Samuel.

      I could have been more careful on exactly what i defined inerrancy as which, according to some feedback, appears to be a very loose definition (lumping all inerrantists into one boat without differentiating them; which is a fair critique). I was aware that I too should have cautioned that not every inerrantist would possess the views that I outlined in the article. That’s my bad. The reason i have not gone back and edited to be more specific is because i’d rather save that for an article I am busy working on now, which is a critique of the CSBI.

      I also agree on the question of the authority of Scripture. That’s important, and I need to work to my own view (with the help of some resources I have in my possession).

      Thank you for your humble response (i.e. not calling me a heretic, or “intellectually immature,” as some have done).

  6. Thank you Judas. You have betrayed the son of man with a kiss.
    Your own hypocrisy and shabby research is telling indeed.

    Here’s a fine example of your newfound faith in secular humanist bible research:
    “the Bible really does make errors historically, morally, and scientifically, a view that took shape within me over the last four years.”

    To this, the true scholar can only respond, ROTFLMAO

    And another – “and soon realized that the answers provided on conservative apologetic websites were often grounded on little more than revisionist historical theories, fringe scholarly interpretations, fringe science, and contrived explanations attempting to explain away biblical inconsistencies.”

    More of the same. You have revealed your true colors, Judas.

    And, “Note that I am aware that what I am saying here will step on the toes of most Christian readers. It is not my goal to deliberately offend sensitivities or sow doubt, though these might happen.”

    Stop lying to yourself.

    “Rather, as a Christian myself,”

    I suppose that may still be a remote possibility. Even the ignorantly deceived might still claim to be followers of Christ whose word will stand though heaven and earth pass and who said that “not an iota, not a dot” of the scriptures can fail.

    “it is my goal to be as honest as I possibly can in conveying my own views as they’ve developed”

    Your honesty is folly. We can now be assured that your views have “developed” in identical manner as those of every other heretic in recent history.
    I almost fell into your error myself when in university, studying the Hebrew scriptures under secular humanist professors who lied to us.

    Thankfully unlike you, I waited, kept analyzing, searching and praying for light and discovered the many lies that you have clearly swallowed.

    “I am more than willing to engage concerned readers in the comments below, or to forward material seeking to clarify what I am writing here in some more detail (see footnotes).”

    Engage? Clearly now a waste of time. Your kiss of betrayal is easily discerned.

    • Hitch,
      Calling people names and doubting their Christianity does not prove anything. I’ve been a pastor for 20 years and I believe he is closing in on the truth. The Bible is errant. Jesus is the Word of God. The Bible is a progressive Revelation of God’s people that points to Jesus.
      Sola Scriptura tries to make the Bible something it is not. If it is innerrant, slavery, genocide, and other things are okay. Hanging on to this model is causing a lot of problems including war, slavery and genocide that people like our early settlers to sit their own needs.
      I believe the author is in the right track. Millions of other believers are turning to a more compassionate Gospel and a more responsible view of the Bible. You should join us

      • “Sola Scriptura tries to make the Bible something it is not. If it is innerrant, slavery, genocide, and other things are okay.”

        First of all, Sola Scriptura is not the same as inerrancy. Sola Scriptura was formulated against the Roman Catholic doctrine that Scripture and tradition were equally authoritative. Inerrancy was a separate, much later debate. One could hold to Sola Scriptura and not inerrancy, and one could also hold to inerrancy without holding to Sola Scriptura.

        Secondly, inerrancy does not imply that slavery and genocide are okay. That is a question of hermeneutics, not inerrancy. You have completely confused separate issues in much the same way that Bishop has in the o.p.

  7. If the bible does have historical and moral errors then how can you still see the bible as the word of God? Surely if there are errors in the bible then the logical conclusion is that it’s not a special book. It’s a book that has truths and falsehoods like any other. You cannot trust anything in the bible if it has errors. As for moral errors, on what basis do you say that they exist? Surely morality is dependent on God and not our subjective opinions. If this is the case whatever is in the bible has to be morally correct if there are moral errors then the bible and God are not the standard of morality and there for there is no such thing as morality. You cannot be a Christian and believe the bible is wrong. You should be honest instead of trying to cause doubt. These sort of arguments are used to preach against the social conservatism of the bible which people like you hate. If we take your argument to it’s logical conclusion we can only conclude that you’re not a believer anymore so stop deceiving people.

  8. If the bible is wrong on certain issues then you have no reason to believe that the bible is correct when talking about Jesus and his resurrection. You cannot be sure that any biblical claim is correct if that’s the case then you’re an agnostic and not a Christian.

    • You can never be totally certain. What the mystics discovered was that certainty is not the answer – faith is! You have to look through the lens of Jesus to determine error.

      • Faith requires certainty. You have to know the existence of God to have faith in Him. Yohcant have faith in something that you don’t even know if it exists. That’s just moronic.

          • Hi Karl,

            By “faith” I am assuming you mean “the gift from God to believe in that which is unseen”. This is another way of saying that God has gifted you secret knowledge.

            My question: How do you know that you have been gifted secret knowledge by an invisible, mute, divine being? Your feelings? Your personal experiences?

  9. Hey man. These were some of my concluding thoughts on inerrancy at Bible college last year.

    Infallibility is utterly necessary and basic.
    • Inerrancy is not necessary, but it matters.
    • Problem with infallibility (or limited inerrancy) is that it doesn’t really work conceptually. Who
    decides which historical details are critical to the faith and which ones are not? Ends of the
    spectrum would seem to be easy (resurrection matters, but the size of an army does not), but
    there’s going to be a whole lot of grey space. You need some source outside Scripture to give you
    this position to stand upon, to give you the criteria to decide between the ones that matter and
    the ones that don’t. And what you are being asked to do is fairly big. You’re being asked to make
    a black and white declaration—true or erroneous, right or wrong. Part of God’s word to you and
    binding on your conscience, or not part of God’s word to you and able to ignored with impunity.
    Infallibility or limited inerrancy requires you to make a big call about statements in Scripture in a
    fairly ‘on-off’ binary fashion.
    • Another problem is the one identified by Calvin in our earlier investigation into the nature of
    revelation. Faith needs somewhere to rest. How well can faith find a place to rest through the
    statements of a text that can be wrong in the things that are testable? The kind of faith that the
    Bible calls for is so radical and extreme that a fallible word does not appear to provide enough
    stability for it to put down roots into it.
    • Also it’s problematic, as it weakens the connection between redemption and creation, between
    the gospel and life in the world. What the Bible says about the world and what has happened in
    the world (what we can test) is flawed…The notion of redemption being something that occurs in the world in history is
    weakened if the revelation that communicates it is habitually wrong on the matters it reports
    upon. Overall effect is to weaken the ability of Scripture to speak as the voice of God down to
    the details of its speech. So much of the Bible is written as ‘occasional’—epistles are written to
    address concrete situations, prophets spoke to concrete situations, and in the histories so often
    the theological truths and ethical norms come wrapped in accounts of particular things that
    occurred. To say that the historical details are fallible but the truths they express are not seems
    to begin to create a heavenly word of God that floats above the world in which we live.
    • So infallibility is an inherently unstable position—it is like the Chesire Cat, slowly disappearing
    away until all that is left is the smile.
    • But inerrancy faces genuine difficulties as well. There are passages that seem to contradict
    themselves and are not capable of an easy or convincing reconciliation. There are things that
    seem to contradict what we know of the world. Some of these simply are not capable of being
    resolved based on what we know now. To be inerrentatist is to be prepared to acknowledge
    that if this occurred anywhere other than the Bible it would be an error, but there must be
    another explanation as it is Scripture and so God’s word. Being an inerrantist involves looking for
    a future resolution, or a hypothetically possible resolution, when no reasonable one can be
    identified at this point in time.
    • In many ways this derives from your view as to what it means to affirm that God is a God of
    truth. Some a priori has to be at work here. Can God be utterly truthful and speak things that include things that are ‘not true’ (i.e. errors)? Or in the same way that you can be subordinate
    and yet equal, God can be true and yet say something mistaken? No-one on this can claim that
    their view comes just straight from data of the Bible itself on this question, some a priori
    principles are present as well. The biblical data both includes things that look like inconsistencies
    and errors and speaks as though everything God says is trustworthy in what it affirms. Resolving
    this question necessarily involves bringing your doctrine of God to bear (and the nature of what
    faith needs to rest in) to determine how you bring the tension to some kind of resolution.

    The word of God is without error in achieving what it intends to achieve. Genre comes in to play massively here….. Is the Bible without error when Jesus calls the mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds? Yes. But what is the intention of the parable? If the intention is to be literalistic, then Jesus was on error. But the intention was to use a parable, to reveal something which was once hidden. And to do that Jesus used a seed that was common to his hearers. We need to define what we mean.

    • Our faith is not in the text. Our faith is in Jesus. What many are discovering is that we don’t necessarily need “certainty” to have faith. Faith is often where there is very little certainty, that is why it is called faith. The Bible can be a progressive revelation of God and still not be recorded accurately. Look through the lens of Jesus and you will see the inconsistencies. We can make the Bible something it is not and we can’t place the Bible over Jesus or worship it.

      • “Our faith is not in the text. Our faith is in Jesus.”
        Really? How on earth can you understand Jesus if you do not have faith in the Biblical text? What else do you have? Jesus’ words and teachings were recorded for our instruction, and we are warned in Revelation not to add or take away anything from them.
        Jesus also stated that “The scripture cannot be broken” and “Thy word is truth” – if that is not the case then one may as well disregard the whole Bible, and Jesus Himself.
        You say “Look through the lens of Jesus and you will see the inconsistencies” – perhaps you do, I do not.

        • When Jesus says to love your enemies and turn the other cheek and forgive them, them Joshua said God wants us to commit genocide and kill children. Jesus is God. God does not have a split personality. One is wrong. Worship Jesus not the text.

          • Of course Jesus is God, but you obviously believe that some of His acts were “wrong” – well, who are you to judge God? God knows exactly what He is doing, even if we don’t always understand His actions, and we are told that His character does not change. If you cannnot accept Him as He is portrayed in the whole Bible then you shouldn’t worship Him at all.

  10. “Prior, however, I used to hold to inerrancy. I also once believed that every single challenge to the Bible was easily answered and refuted, and, for a time, thought that conflicts an inerrant view had with scholarship was a result of some anti-Christian ‘agenda’ or ‘hate’ towards Christianity.”

    I am surprised that you believed that “every single challenge to the Bible was easily answered and refuted”, but if that is the belief you held, I am not surprised that you gave up inerrancy.

    When it comes to holding to an “anti-Christian ‘agenda'”, would you mind elaborating on what that would entail?

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  12. Pingback: Why I Continue to Hold to Inerrancy - Hope's Reason·

  13. If the Bible is unreliable as one’s source of truth but you still want to be a Christian, what is one’s basis of belief? If you say, “faith”? I ask, “Faith in what?” If you say, “Jesus”. I ask, “Does Jesus speak to you? Do you hear voices in your head?” Unless Jesus speaks audibly to you or is passing notes to you under your bedroom door, “faith in Jesus” is a very shaky claim.

    To base one’s truth claims on “faith in Jesus” really means to base one’s belief in one’s personal feelings and perceptions. Studies have shown that personal feelings and personal perceptions are not reliable indicators of what is true and what is false.

    • The true definition of Christian “faith” is this: The belief that magic is real.

      (All evidence to date indicates that magic is not real.)

      • As a Christian I believe that God created living organisms from non-living matter – if He didn’t, what did? Magic, perhaps?

  14. James, I used to follow your blog a lot & was impressed by your case for Jesus’ resurrection, death, deity and destroying the Christ-myth theory. But as I dug deeper into your blog, I found you making arguments about the Bible having contradictions, errors etc and I feel some of your claims are misguided.

    To be fair to you, there are some things I agree with you on. For instance, I agree that young earth creationism is pseudoscientific (I’m a theistic evolutionist) and I agree that there were not millions of Jews in the Exodus. However there are others where I don’t agree with you.

    For instance, you’ve claimed that Jesus’ robe colour in Matthew 27:31 & Mark 15:20 is contradictory and can’t be reconciled. I think this is more complimentary – it was simply a purply scarlet colour.

    I also don’t believe the JEDP theory is particularly convincing. I believe the Pentateuch has 13th Century origins although I acknowledge that certain names, places and laws could be updated and/or added later through the 1st millennium. Kenneth Kitchen’s works have been very useful & I’ve also read another book from Carl Drews called: “Between Migdol and the Sea: Crossing the Red Sea with Science and Faith”. In one of the chapters, Drews points out minor and trivial details in the Exodus 14 crossing such as an Eastern wind, the land becoming dry and the wheels getting stuck – where and why would a later writer making up the story get all this scientific knowledge from? Why would they bother to include these minor details? This sounds like a genuine eye witness account.

    I would recommend this youtube channel for more on the reliability of the New Testament and on scientific issues: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5qDet6sa6rODi7t6wfpg8g

  15. I also wanted to ask: do you really reject that Isaiah was prophesising about Jesus’ virgin birth and crucifixion? I find the texts to be very consistent with those ideas.
    Here’s a site explaining more on Isaiah 7:14: http://www.evidenceunseen.com/bible-difficulties-2/nt-difficulties/matthew/mt-123-did-isaiah-really-predict-a-virgin-birth/
    And one on Isaiah 53: https://jewsforjesus.org/issues-v13-n06/who-s-the-subject-of-isaiah-53-you-decide/

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