Biblical Inerrancy is an Attack on the Bible

Biblical Inerrancy is an Attack on the Bible October 27, 2015

Inerrancy is a direct frontal assault on the Bible

Inerrancy is about the desire to have one’s own views regarded as inerrant. The inerrancy of the Bible is just a means to getting there. And the failure to humbly recognize one’s own human proneness to err, which is exposed at the heart of “biblical inerrancy,” shows that this doctrine is not merely wrong, but a direct frontal assault on the Bible’s teachings about God, humans, and the difference between the two.

(This is yet another instance of a thought I shared on Facebook as a summary of a post, becoming a post in its own right).

"Not just the Old Testament, but the he quoted from the Septuagint which included books ..."

Spirit vs. Scripture
"Well, after all, the fish is a symbol for Jesus."

Spirit vs. Scripture
"If it walks like Jesus, talks like Jesus an acts like Jesus...it’s Jesus. Anything else ..."

Spirit vs. Scripture
"I think in our post modern society traditional apologetics and attempts to build rational systems ..."

Spirit vs. Scripture

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • John MacDonald

    Liberal Christians do the same thing when they arbitrarily pick and choose to ascribe only the inclusive, “warm fuzzy” parts of the bible to God. Against this, maybe God really does want His followers to commit genocide on His opponents: “Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (1 Samuel 15:3.).

    • John MacDonald

      N.B. From the point of view of someone who is not religious.

    • obadiahorthodox

      why should i believe in a god that promotes genocide? the bible god is a filthy murderer

      • John MacDonald

        He’s more of a mafia boss.

    • Eric Redd

      Hey John, I have rich conversation with conservative Christian friends and liberal ones. I identify more with the liberal strand. As a whole I would say that liberals do address issues of sin and areas of God’s righteousness. Even universalist Christians interpret the “Gehenna” Christ talks about as an opportunity to repay the wrongs your sin has caused. This doesn’t lessen God’s wrath. It simply amplifies God’s radical grace. Sure, God commands some horrendous and horrible things in the Old Testament, but liberals recognize that this isn’t an accurate representation of who God is.

      • John MacDonald

        How do you know the horrendous, horrible God of The Old Testament isn’t an accurate representation of who God is? You’re begging the question. There are many portraits of God in the bible. What gives you the authority to pick and choose which one is the accurate one?

        • Eric Redd

          I think relying on the grand narrative of Scripture and the words of Jesus (God’s exact imprint) to define God over some select OT passages is fairly accurate….

          Sorry that came off mean. Let me rephrase it.
          I don’t think we’re picking and choosing what an accurate picture of God is when we rely on Jesus (as Hebrews says, He is God’s imprint) to paint the picture instead of relying on some select Old Testament records…

          Those Old Testament records are an important account, but they don’t give us a full view of God the way Jesus does.

          • John MacDonald

            Or maybe the New Testament writers were arbitrarily picking and choosing what aspects of the Hebrew God they wanted to emphasize. That certainly doesn’t lend any authority to the New Testament version of God.

          • Eric Redd

            Interesting point John. I certainly think there was much more to what Jesus said and did than the Gospel writers captured. Unfortunately those four books are really all I can know for now.

          • Neko

            I think Yahweh pretty well reflects how things are: arbitrary, violent, sublime and terrifying.

            The pathos of the Christ figure was his confidence that the goodness and justice (such as it was envisioned) of God would soon manifest. God cared about his people and would no longer abide their hunger, sorrow and subjection.

            Progressive Christians seize upon 1 John’s insistence that “God is love.” It does seem like a leap from “God is Yahweh.”

          • John MacDonald

            If the New Testament writers thought (1) “God is Love,” and also (2) “God is Responsible For Creating Hell,” then the New Testament writers had pretty low standards for what constitutes “Love.”

          • Neko

            Not sure it was God who created Hell. It may have been the Persians.

          • John MacDonald

            God certainly endorsed it, in any case.

          • Neko

            When did he do that?

          • John MacDonald

            I posted this earlier, but I’ll post it again.

            The New Testament writers, supposedly inspired by God’s Will, endorse Hell as a punishment for the wicked, and even describe it:

            HELL, A FIERY FURNACE:

            Matthew 13:41-42, 49-50 “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels
            will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

            Mark 9:43, 48-49 “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire…where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire.”

            HELL, A PLACE OF OUTER DARKNESS:

            Matthew 22:13 “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

            Matthew 8:12 “while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

            HELL, A PLACE OF ETERNAL PUNISHMENT:

            Matthew 25:46 “And these will go away into eternal punishment.”

            HELL, A PLACE OF TORMENT:

            Luke 16:23 “being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.”

          • Neko

            I was being a little facetious.

          • John MacDonald

            I know. lol

          • Herro

            Eric, and what makes you think that the “grand narrative of Scripture” doesn’t support a “horrendous horrible God”? Same goes for the words of Jesus? (the guy who spoke about angles throwing people into a furnace of fire)

          • Eric Redd

            Well, one thing the Bible professors in college taught us to do is to allow the overarching theme of a passage interpret difficult verses. So as a whole in the Bible we see a Jesus (and therefore a God) who display a rich and abundant grace time and time again. So when we get to passages where we see Jesus in a wrathful and angry state we definitely see evidence of God having that wrath and anger in the OT, but we can see that the majority of the time God does not generally approach things that way. Furthermore whenever we see Jesus use angry statements or get mad, it is always at the religious. This shows us that when God is angry and wrathful it is toward those that are willfully disobeying or sinning on purpose.

            I assume that the reference to being thrown in the fire is from John 15:6 when Jesus gives the beautiful “Abide in me” sermon. When we read our modern understanding of punishment and hell into this passage it seems that Jesus is saying that if we mess up or don’t abide in Him enough that we will go to hell. From my studies (and I will humbly submit that I only have a bachelor’s in Bible. I have not gone to seminary), the Jews of this day would not have seen what Jesus said this way. Jews understood that being part of the community was permanent. Even if you got sent out of the camp for sin, you were always brought back in, always restored. That’s how their understanding of grace and punishment worked. That’s what Leviticus commanded. So within this framework Jesus is saying that bad branches get burned, but I doubt seriously that these branches were never to return to the Vine. Think about the other time we see branches burning in the Bible. Moses stood before the burning bush and it was not consumed. Rather, Holy fire was inhabiting those branches. Refining them, making what was once broken holy. The ground around that bush had always been dirty and forgotten, but it was through this fire process that God made it holy ground. Similarly, when we try to Abide in Jesus but fail, we go through a refinement, a holy and burning fire with God as God burns out our impurities and makes us suitable to abide forever with Christ.

          • I do think you are seeing Jesus through through rose-colored glasses here. There are many passages in which the Jesus portrayed in the gospels inescapably divides the saved from the unsaved, with no caveat of grace for the unsaved.

            Indeed, the very example you use of the burned branches in John 15 is made much clearer in the context of Matthew 7 (” Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”). This is very likely the source for the John version of this metaphor and in Matthew it is immediately preceded by his affirmation that “the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

            And, immediately after this passage, lest anyone be mistaken about Jesus intentions, he makes it quite clear that not all will be saved:

            “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’”

            There is the well-known separation of the sheep from the goats in Matthew 25, the affirmation that those who don’t believe in Jesus will “die in your sin” in John 8, the mention of the sin that cannot be forgiven (blaspheming the Holy Spirit) in Mark 3, the fear of the one “who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell” in Luke 12, and the list goes on and on.

          • Eric Redd

            Sure, those are all valid questions. And if we interpret them all in a modern evangelical understanding we will see all of these passages pointing unbelievers towards hell.

            The audience Jesus spoke to did not understand hell to be anything like what we believe it to be though. Hell or “Gehenna” would conjure up images of a refining fire, not eternal separation and torment.

            Even so, the central message of Jesus (at least from the stories and teachings we have) was about bringing about the kingdom. The central attitude was compassion and love. These should be the things that are important.

          • No, Eric. Gehenna was not a “refining fire”, nor would it “conjure up” such an image to Jesus’s audience; you have no evidence to support such a notion. Quite the contrary.

            Gehenna was “γέεννα” or the Valley of Hinnom; referenced in the book of Jeremiah as a place where child sacrifice (by fire) took place in worship of Moloch. Other ancient sources reference it as a rubbish heap or a burning dump for the carcasses of dead criminals and animals (though such accounts are disputed).

            Though such references do not necessarily equate to medieval notions of a hell with everlasting torture by fire, they are most certainly not “refining” fires. This should be obvious even in the context of Matthew:

            Matthew 10:28 “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

            The destruction of body and soul in Gehenna would most certainly not be understood by a first century audience as a “refining fire”. You are confusing Gehenna with the refining fire metaphor from 1 Peter 1:7 and perhaps Malachi 3:3. Those verses do refer to fire as a sort of purifier, but that has nothing to do with the context of the statements of Jesus I have cited, which are clearly about destruction – not purification.

            I would certainly agree that medieval notions of “hell” have been layered on top of Jesus’s sayings by modern Christians. The place of torment he describes may not have been everlasting (much less look anything like Dante’s inferno). But neither is there any evidence that Jesus is referring to some temporary punishment from which all will be reprieved. In the verses I have cited, he is clearly describing a rejection of certain people by God and their subsequent banishment and/or destruction.

            Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m glad Jesus promoted compassion and love in other passages. I like those passages. But to call them “central” is merely to show your own theological bias.

            There are numerous passages concerned with rejection and destruction for those who reject Jesus. You are the one who is imposing a “modern evangelical understanding” by asserting that Gehenna was understood as a refining fire. No. It wasn’t. And there is no evidence to suggest that it would have been.

          • John MacDonald

            It’s certainly not temporary. Matthew 25:46 says “And these will go away into ETERNAL punishment.”

          • Yes, but many progressive Christians argue that the word does not mean “never ending”, but rather “of an eternal nature” or, perhaps, “spiritual”. Others say that it means “ages” which might be long, but are certainly finite.

            Of course, if one argues that eternal does not mean a never-ending hell, then one would have to concede: neither would it mean a never-ending heaven.

            I’ll leave that to the greek scholars and theologians. What is obvious is that “hell” in these scriptures appears to be a banishment or destruction – certainly not a refinement or purification.

          • John MacDonald

            Beau said: “Of course, if one argues that eternal does not mean a never-ending hell, then one would have to concede: neither would it mean a never-ending heaven.” Sounds like you have the right interpretation of Matthew 25:46 to me. It seems similar to Daniel 12:2, “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2).”

          • Herro

            I’ll just add to that that even if we were to conclude that the passage is talking about annihilation, that still supports a “horrendous horrible God” because although he wouldn’t be a mass torturer, he would be a mass murderer.

          • Herro

            >Other ancient sources reference it as a rubbish heap or a burning dump for the carcasses of dead criminals and animals (though such accounts are disputed).

            Can you point to 1 ancient source supporting that?

          • Only one actually; a reference from Rabbi David Kimhi in a commentary on Psalm 27 dating to about 1200. As I said, it’s a disputed account, and not very likely. The Old Testament references are the far more likely sources for the gospel references.

          • Herro

            Yeah, that’s the oldest I’ve seen referenced. And it’s not an “ancient source”, it’s medieval! 😉

          • Herro

            Eric, you’re just putting a nice spin on Jesus’ message and declaring that spin of a small selection of passages “the central attutude”/”the central message”.

            One can easily claim that the central attitude of Jesus was the vengeful and wrathful god that would punish the wicked at the end times. I.e. Jesus’ central message support a “grand narrative” of a ” “horrendous horrible God”.

          • Andrew Dowling

            You are assuming all of those passages are about literal heaven vs hell. 21st century eyes seem to rip the layers of mysticism prevalent in ancient religious texts and instead place layers of literal presuppositions onto it.

          • No, I am not at all assuming those passages are about a literal heaven or hell. What does “literalness” have to do with it?

          • Andrew Dowling

            Because you are viewing those verses from the lenses of later Christian thought, particularly late medieval/early Renaissance era thought, which saw the focus of Christianity being “how one gets saved” and thus obsessed with the afterlife. Whereas for a Jew like Jesus, the theology would’ve not been revolving around the afterlife at all. Sure, Jesus likely preached judgement against those who afflicted injustice, but so what? In doing so he wasn’t formulating some systematic theology to be followed for all time but expressing very human concerns about injustice by forces that seemingly are not getting rectified in the hear and now. Add in the plethora of verses about forgiveness and compassion and one can see Jesus was not some kook bent on vengeance. Also add in that many of the verses are colored by the experiences of the early church/Christian communities which the Gospels arose from . . .thus the more hostile verses about the fate of those who “stray,” which are always major concerns for early religious communities trying to gain their footing . . see the Johanine epistles for classic examples.

          • Not that it makes much difference to my point, but the language of salvation and the belief in an afterlife were certainly not simply additions of the “late medieval/early Renaissance” era.

            And I never said that Jesus was “some kook bent on vengeance”. In fact, to your point about “more hostile verses” stemming from “early church/Christian communities” rather than from the historical Jesus, I think I made it pretty clear that I was quoting the Jesus portrayed in the gospels.

            As far as that portrayal of Jesus goes, your characterization of the concept of salvation as medieval is plainly wrong:

            Matthew 10:22

            and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

            Matthew 24:12-13

            And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

            Matthew 24:22

            And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.

            Mark 13:13

            and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

            Mark 13:20

            And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days.

            Mark 16:16

            The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.

            Luke 8:12

            The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.

            Luke 13:23-24

            Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.”

            John 3:16-18

            For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

          • John MacDonald

            Here is the teaching of the God of “AGAPE, Love” on “HELL”:

            HELL, A FIERY FURNACE:

            Matthew 13:41-42, 49-50 “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels
            will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

            Mark 9:43, 48-49 “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire…where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire.”

            HELL, A PLACE OF OUTER DARKNESS:

            Matthew 22:13 “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

            Matthew 8:12 “while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

            HELL, A PLACE OF ETERNAL PUNISHMENT:

            Matthew 25:46 “And these will go away into eternal punishment.”

            HELL, A PLACE OF TORMENT:

            Luke 16:23 “being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.”

        • Andrew Dowling

          “There are many portraits of God in the bible. What gives you the authority to pick and choose which one is the accurate one?”

          What gives anyone the “authority” to do anything? Reason, experience, outcomes etc.

  • Eric Schramm

    If John 1:1,2,14 are correct, then the Bible is Jesus showing himself to us in a new form.
    Jesus doesn’t change, therefore the bible never changes.
    Jesus knows everything, therefore His beliefs don’t change.
    Therefore the Bible IS inerrant.
    We are imperfect and Jesus is perfect.
    OUR beliefs, therefore, are based on our imperfect interpretations of scriptures.
    Therefore the Bible is inerrant but our beliefs are not.

    • Andrew Dowling

      “Word” in John is not the Bible

      • Eric Schramm

        Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεός ἦν ὁ λόγος.
        In this – John 1:1 – Λόγος, is “Logos” meaning “Greek word 3056: lógos (from 3004 /légō, “speaking to a conclusion”) – a word, being the expression of a thought; a saying.”
        Sounds like John was using a word meaning the word “word” to me.
        John 1:14 “Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας·”
        Again there is Logos = Word.
        But now you have “ἐγένετο” = “I come into being, am born, become, come about, happen.”
        and next to it you have “σὰρξ” = ” flesh, body, human nature, materiality; kindred.”
        That sounds to me like : word – I become – flesh.