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Why I Struggle With “Inerrancy”

Please, no “gotcha” comments. I am stepping out on a limb for myself and perhaps many other Christians, some of whom are preachers—I might suggest. I have struggled for a while with the position that the Bible is inerrant. That doesn’t mean that I believe that God lies or makes mistakes, but I might suggest that scribes have made mistakes and taken liberties here or there with the text throughout the centuries. Textual critics can point this out, and others can also point us to a manuscript that they deem to be an autograph by compiling all of the available manuscripts and filling in the gaps.

I will also say that if you read the majority of my posts on this column, you might notice that I refer to the Scriptures as the Holy Bible, or the Sacred Scriptures, or use some other adjective denoting that the sixty-six books of the Bible are divine. You may wonder how I would regard them as divine, sacred, and holy and yet deny inerrancy. I don’t necessarily deny it, but I don’t shout it from the rooftops either because of the theological baggage that accompanies the very word “inerrancy.” Furthermore, the Bible itself does not claim “inerrancy” as the term is often used today. This, as I might understand it, is the product of the Protestant Reformation, and what’s more, many people define this term differently than others.

One thing I learned in graduate school was that how one group used a term might differ from how another uses that same term. If I were to state that the Gospel teaches equality, liberals might weigh down that word “equality” with a different meaning(s) than conservatives. If I were to ask if one had been “baptized,” a Catholic, Methodist, and Baptist would all say that they have while I may mean “immersed for the remission of sins.” Defining terms is important. Joel Stephen Williams’ article “Inerrancy, Inspiration, and Dictation” in Restoration Quarterly offers a few definitions of inerrancy which I’d urge the reader to obtain and read for themselves. Even the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology offers a definition, so we might honestly concede that there are fundamentalist definitions of inerrancy, modified definitions of inerrancy, and even qualified definitions of inerrancy. When one person says that the Bible is the “inerrant Word of God,” which definition are they using?

I’d rather view the Scriptures, scripturally. How funny it is that we who want to restore New Testament Christianity often criticize those who use terms and words as a part of their traditions while we in using inerrancy do the same thing. Nevertheless, it’s been clearly stated that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). I can easily affirm this and that those who wrote, spoke by being carried along by God’s Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:19–21). Therefore, Scripture is the living Word of God (Hebrews 4:12). I find no other need to give the Holy Bible some term in addition to what God has already given it as God-breathed (inspired), derived from the Holy Spirit, and living and active.

 

Steven Hunter (PhD, Faulkner University) is the preaching minister for the Glendale Road Church of Christ in Murray, KY. He's also authored several books for Start2Finish, and Classically Christian explores Christianity from a church-historical perspective. Steven enjoys reading books, drinking coffee, and is a practitioner of Goshin Ryu Jujutsu—a traditional Japanese martial art.

4 Comments
  1. Reply
    John dobbs March 20, 2017 at 11:52 am

    Excellent thoughts Steven.

    • Reply
      Steven Hunter March 21, 2017 at 1:11 pm

      Thank you, John.

  2. […] Why I Struggle With “Inerrancy” […]

  3. Reply
    Peggy Phillips March 22, 2017 at 10:44 am

    Maybe…but your hypothesis opens a can of worms. If there is any one thought in the Bible that is NOT “inerrant,” then I have no basis to believe any of it. If any one part is not “inerrant,” then there is no reason to accept any of it, and we are left with nothing to believe in.

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