Inerrant and Infallible

A lot of the arguments over the Nashville Statement are premised on the idea of Biblical inerrancy — is the Bible fallible or changeable? Certainly there are things in the Bible that have changed. There is a doctrine called progressive revelation. We can see shifts in treatment of people from Old Testament to New Testament. So, for example, the Bible’s treatment of slavery evolved over time such that by Philemon it is clear even if slavery is the law of the land, Christians must treat slaves as brothers and sisters. Likewise, the treatment of women evolves over time. In the New Testament, Paul writes that we are all “sons” of God’s inheritance. That’s important because women could not inherit in Roman times. Saying that women too were sons of God’s inheritance made them equal before God. But not everything progresses. The Bible, in both the Old Testament and New Testament, condemns homosexuality. How we are to treat those who are homosexual changes. But the sin is still the sin. There is no redemptive change in that or after that. Christ makes clear there will be no more revelation beyond what the New Testament offers until the second coming.

But if we go along with those who think the Bible is malleable on the issue, what do we wind up with? We wind up with scripture of each person. You may decide scripture allows something, but someone else may think otherwise. We all, when we abandon inerrancy, embrace a Jesus that looks a whole lot like us. We strip away the things we don’t like. We redact our own problems out of the Bible.

If the Bible is not inerrant, there is no reason to hold on to it. We can rewrite it as we want. When we say it has to evolve for our times, what we’re really saying is that we aren’t comfortable maintaining Biblical truths and we need them to evolve for us to feel good or be liked.

Biblical inerrancy, particularly with regards to homosexuality and transgenderism, has become hard for a lot of people because probably all of us know someone who is gay, if not transgendered. It is less and less accepted today to say we love the person and hate the sin, especially when so many have worked so long to define us by our sexual orientation. Saying homosexuality is a sin is, in this age, to say we hate the person, even if we don’t. It’s the small twists and turns of language and culture along the way, much of it intentional to undermine our Christian witness.

Notwithstanding that, if the Bible is not inerrant, you get to choose your own passages and you will always, 100% of the time, choose passages that make it really easy for you. Your Jesus will look like you.

As an aside, what do I mean by inerrancy? The best definition comes from the Chicago Statement. Interestingly, some of those who wrote the Chicago Statement participated in writing the Nashville Statement. You can read it here.

A key point from it is this:

“We deny that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose. We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts or the use of free citations.”

The Bible is either inerrant or it is not. And if it is not, well…

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Erick Erickson

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