PERSONAL ADVICE TO AN INERRANTIST
First of all, let me affirm the belief in biblical inerrancy as an acceptable one for any Christian who desires to defend that position. I am not an inerrantist myself, however, because I cannot honestly defend it. I wish that the Bible had been written directly by God and dropped down to man, but it wasn’t. I wish that one, original, Bible text had been preserved over the years free from all human foibles and then converted into a perfect English translation, but it wasn’t. I wish that there was no taint of racism, sanctioning of slavery, bellicose militancy, reli-gious coercion, male chauvinism, hierarchical autocracy, and pre-scientific su-perstition in the Bible, but there is. I wish that God was not portrayed as a cap-ricious, despotic, merciless tyrant in many places in the Bible, but He is. For anyone who has eyes to see, this is how things are. And yet, despite all this, I have not found my faith to be in jeopardy.
An inerrant Bible would be nice to have, but since, in my opinion, we don’t have one, we must approach God by using the Bible that we have. And actually what we own is still a precious possession. The Bible still presents a clear and honest picture of the life and works of Jesus Christ, written down by contempo-rary witnesses who validated their message by willingly laying down their lives. The Bible, when old primitive Jewish ideas are set aside, still presents the highest ethic of any philosophy or religion that the world has ever known. The Bible still holds forth an exalted theistic view of Godhead, which gives mankind the assurance of a benevolent Providence, a purposeful universe, and the ultimate triumph of goodness over evil. Now that should be enough for anyone to use as the basis of a vibrant faith.
I am grateful that as a Baptist I am free to approach my open Bible with an open mind. As I take up the Scripture, I hear God whispering in my ear, “Come, let us reason together.” And as I encounter something inferior or sub-Christian in the pages of Holy Writ, I have the mandate of Paul that enjoins me to “rightly divide the word of truth” - to separate out the gold from the dross. Not relying entirely on the explanations of any human interpreter, I can claim the assurance of Jesus that “the Holy Spirit will lead me into all truth.” With that in mind, I feel confident to accept truth wherever I find it, either in or out of the Bible. And I find that I can get along very well without an inerrant church, an inerrant priest, or an inerrant Book. In fact, I am all the stronger for having to think and act for myself.
I hope that nothing I have said is perceived as a threat to the essentials of your faith. As we all continue to grow, many infantile notions must be discarded,
but for a mature Christian these things will be peripheral and expendable. In conclusion, we must resolve, like Paul, to eschew milk for meat and to lay aside any garment that keeps us from running a better race.
Some general observations on the fallacy of inerrancy are given below:
Belief in biblical inerrancy is not essential to salvation. It is not necessary to believe in a literal six-day creation, a subterranean abode of spirits, the falling of rain through windows in the sky, a global deluge, cud-chewing rabbits, flying snakes, and the mandate to execute witches.
Creedal pronouncements are foreign to the true Baptist heritage. The “Sola Scriptura” (Bible alone) principle excludes man-made statements that dictate belief.
Blind devotion to anything transforms it into an idol. And Fundamentalists have fallen into the modern heresy of bibliolatry, the veneration of a paper idol - an infallible paper pope.
As Fundamentalists use the word “inerrant,” it does not agree with the normal dictionary definition of the term. They would have it known that mistakes, misquotations, misrepresentations, exaggerations, imprecision, inaccuracy, false viewpoints, and other evidences of fallible human reasoning and cultural limitations do not constitute “error” in the Bible. Those who claim plenary inspiration (verbal dictation) and oracular revelation of the Bible cannot avoid the evidence of obvious human weaknesses in its composition. Their tactic is to resort to doubletalk, avoiding the term “error” and substituting other terms like “imprecision,” “irregularity,” “hyperbole,” “variant,” or “approximate.” To admit just one error would be fatal to the argument of inerrancy.
If the Bible were really a true likeness of God, it would merit human veneration. But there has been only one True Likeness available to mankind in all of history. That Likeness was the Christ, the Living Word of God. It is to Him that worship is due, not to the record of His appearing.
The Bible is not the exclusive Word of God. In fact, the Word is not properly a book but a Man. God’s ultimate revelation of Himself was in Jesus Christ. In the beginning was the Word...and the Word was God.
The Bible is not an oracle. It is not a verbatim speech directly from the mouth of God. It is not itself a revelation; it is a record of revelation. It is golden treasure hidden in an earthen vessel.