In 1978 the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was published in reaction to biblical liberalism. It states that, “scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching…” 1
Biblical inerrancy has caused much debate, and there are many opposing and supporting arguments for and against its validity. Some say that the bible is perfect in every way, while others say it is inspired but fallible. It is in many ways considered “evangelical suicide” to disagree with Biblical Inerrancy.
Here, I have no interest in commenting on whether or not I believe in inerrancy. Ultimately, I don’t think it matters.
Let’s say the bible truly is perfect. So what? It’s not like you could read it perfectly.
If we could read the bible perfectly, then why do so many highly-educated people disagree over what it means? Why do so many PhD level scholars disagree so completely on things that should be obvious in a “perfect” bible?
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether or not the bible is perfect. We cannot read the bible perfectly. If church history has taught us anything, it has certainly taught us this.
Karl Barth made an interesting statement that’s fitting here. In response to the Biblicalism he wrote this:
The Bible was now grounded upon itself apart from the mystery of Christ and the holy Ghost. It became a “paper Pope,” and unlike the living Pope in Rome it was wholly given up into the hands of its interpreters. It was no longer a free and spiritual force, but an instrument of human power. 2
Barth hits the nail on its head here in calling the protestant bible a “paper pope.” It has all to often become “an instrument of human power.” Here Barth says with such brilliance what I have felt for some time now about the way we approach the bible.
The bible may be perfect, and if it is, who’s job is it to interpret it? In other words, who is in charge of telling us what this perfect bible means?
If we see that there is a difference between “my interpretation” and “bible perfection” then I think we’re okay. However, we often fail in seeing this. We say things like “well, the bible is pretty clear!” But is it, really?
Here’s an easy formula for manipulation. “The bible is perfect + my interpretation of the bible is perfect = what I say, God says. Disagree with me, you disagree with God.”
There is a very thin line here with incredibly dangerous ramifications. If “my interpretation” is equal to “God’s truth”, then I can manipulate, molest, and control anyone who will listen to me in the name of “just preaching the bible.”
No one “just teaches the bible.” Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment. We teach “our interpretation” of the bible. To confuse interpretation for truth is to gravely error.
One look at history and you’ll see the danger in this. Christians used the bible to promote racism and slavery in America. Hitler used the bible to justify murder, war, and all the horrors of the holocaust.
Biblical inerrancy may be correct, or it may not be, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. No one is infallible. We all have subjective opinions; we rarely ever think objectively.
So let’s just be honest with ourselves. We are all learning and growing in God. None of us have arrived at “perfect theology.”
Therefore, be willing to listen to other perspectives, and be humble in sharing your own. Have conversations, not debates. Let’s not get dogmatic here! Be willing to learn from others, to explore different ideas, and to challenge what you believe.
Learn. Grow. Explore.
Now I’d love to hear what you think. Leave me a comment below!
Like this article? Help me expand my reach by sharing:
[shareaholic app=”share_buttons” id=”612658″]
A great quote on the bible can be found here.