Here is the final installment in this series of posts allowing you to listen in on a conversation that I had with a colleague about biblical inerrancy (although I expect that our conversation will continue, and so this is the “final installment” of this part of it):
What evidence from the Bible led you to abandon inerrancy?
It was the sheer accumulation of examples of problems, contradictions, and/or human fallibility that changed my mind – not because it isn’t always possible to come up with some explanation of how a given passage doesn’t really mean what it appears to in those cases, but precisely because I was allowing my doctrine about the Bible to dictate what the Bible was or was not allowed to mean. The biblical texts could shout loudly “I’m a fallible book written by human beings” and I would find a way of explaining that in a manner that safeguarded inerrancy. Eventually I realized that, in the very act of doing so, the Bible was not serving as my ultimate authority.
- Paul saying “I speak as a fool and not according to the Lord” in 2 Corinthians.
- The divergent dates, geographical movements, and other such things that become apparent when trying to fit the infancy stories in Matthew and Luke together.
- Acts’ discrepancy on whether those with Paul on the Damascus Road saw but didn’t hear, or heard but didn’t see.
- The divergent ways that Jesus is depicted as speaking in the Gospel of John vs. the Synoptics.
- The prediction that the generation contemporary with Jesus would not pass away until they saw the kingdom of God come (or, according to Matthew, until they saw the Son of Man come in his kingdom).
As I said, it wasn’t any one of these, or only these, or the idea that they cannot all be explained away, but my becoming convinced that explaining away biblical evidence that runs counter to my doctrine is inappropriate.
That concludes the conversation thus far. AS I have said, I expect that it will continue. What did you think of it? What else ought to have been mentioned, whether by me or by my colleague? Was it useful that I shared it here with a wider audience? If and when the conversation continues, where would you like to see it go from here?
Of related interest, see the recent article by Molly Marshall in Baptist News on the perils of selective inerrancy, in which she writes:
Selective inerrancy is as damaging as cherry-picking of texts that reinforce liberal presuppositions. Reading the whole of the human-divine text tells the story of God’s engagement with humanity in the various epochs of forging the Judeo-Christian tradition. The Bible relentlessly speaks of societal changes and the hope that the new community forged by Christ will override patriarchal structures.
Hiding behind inerrancy in order to preserve male privilege does irreparable damage to a lucid Christian witness. Lord knows, we need to tell our story better and live it more fully, so that both women and men might flourish.