Hello my friend. I hope that your weekend was restful and restorative. I’ll do my best to answer your questions today. An excerpt of your last post:
- How do you view the Bible in terms of inerrancy/infallibility/etc. and what does your chosen term mean to you (I’ll let you define it)?
- Why do you believe your answer to 1?
- How certain is your belief in 1?
- What, if anything, do you wish were different about the way the Bible was formed?
For our purposes I think we can dispense with technical differences between inerrant (without error), infallible (without failure), and truth (err…truth). They functionally mean the same to me and I use them interchangeably.
Why is your question worth answering? Besides you being my friend and being sincere, it gets to one of my four cornerstones of belief: supernatural, scripture, savior, saints. If supernature does not exist, then scripture is irrelevant. If scripture is unreliable, then any notion of a savior is fictitious. If there is no savior, then believers in that savior join admirers of the Easter Bunny. Or something like that. I’ve completed only 1/16th the book of Romans. It is fair to pause and ask why I trust what I read in the first place.
I did not grow up with knowledge of the phrase inerrant. I had a believing mother who taught me from an early age that scripture was reliable and true. I loved my mother and early notions that I had of scriptural authority had the imprint of parental endorsement. My father believed scripture too, but as I’ve glanced over before he was more like you. Analytical and logical. My mother, emotional and verbal, believed scripture almost literally. My father, an engineer, systematically believed scripture but did not adopt a literal interpretation of all passages. I didn’t recognize or reflect on these differing approaches until my late adolescence and early adulthood.
Here is what I read to understand inerrancy: what it is and what it is not. And here is a ten minute interview with a pastor/theologian that I trust which explains the same thing. I don’t expect you or any reader to spend an hour on the manuscript, but I offer the references in case you want to. Here is the most valuable quote to me:
In the statement, inerrancy does not refer to a blind literal interpretation, but allows for figurative, poetic and phenomenological language, so long as it was the author’s intent to present a passage as literal or symbolic.
The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy has 19 articles, each about 1 paragraph long, with an affirmation and corresponding denial. The full PDF is linked from the Wikipedia article. Here is an example that resonates with me:
Article XVIII We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture. We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship.
Why do I believe this formulation of inerrancy and how certain am I of this belief?
As our conversation progresses I realize that your approach to belief may be Bayesian. I’m excited to learn more about that with you. In simple terms, my beliefs have been formed this way too. As evidence accrues, I’m willing to reassess my beliefs. But – – I must pause to acknowledge how powerful childhood beliefs are. Could I really set aside the ingrained teachings of trusted parents? I don’t know. But I’m willing to ask the question humbly, and that is a step forward for me and others like me. If my beliefs are worth holding, then they are worth questioning. If God is real, his reality is not threatened by sincere (or even insincere) questions.
Why do I believe this? I had previously read several of the authors: Boyce, Schaeffer, and Sproul. I found them to be trustworthy. The statement made sense to me and helped me to reconcile my love of science with my love of scripture. It helped me to attain the cognitive resonance that you desire. How certain are you? It let me think more about the content of scripture and what it means for me today. It allowed me to spend more time on the meditation of how to love people well.
My beliefs are open to your audit friend. As are my actions. I will say this – – I, like many, have limited intellectual and emotional bandwidth. So, for several months I dedicated that bandwidth to questioning whether my childhood faith in scripture was childlike or childish. When I was assured of the former I moved on. I’m always willing to go back for a friend.
What do I wish was different about the way the Bible was formed? I think your answer to that question will be more helpful than mine. I’m content, hopefully not complacent.