If I believe in Jesus and the resurrection but I’m skeptical about the biblical account of Noah, can I still be saved? If I’m convinced that the death of Jesus and his resurrection were real events, but I don’t believe that the Israelites migrated from Egypt to Palestine (as recorded in Exodus) because of a lack of archeological evidence, can I still become a Christian? Can I become a Christian by solely believing in Jesus, or do I have to buy into the entire Old Testament and New Testament lock, stock and barrel as well?
That is one of the issues at the core of the debate between megachurch pastor Andy Stanley and evangelical heavyweights such as Al Mohler, Russell Moore and Denny Burk (all from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary). Stanley caused a firestorm recently by his comments on Scripture. For a quick recap of the debate, read my previous post on the subject.
There are several great topics brought up by both sides of this debate, but here’s the one issue I want to focus on for this post: is faith in Jesus alone enough for salvation, or is a full belief in the inerrancy of Scripture necessary as well? (For the record: I believe the Bible is without error in everything it affirms. I believe what the Bible says is true, is true. If you take this post to infer that I doubt the inerrancy of Scripture, you’re not really reading this post. If you conclude from this post that I’m somehow drifting into theological liberalism, you’re throwing out a buzzword to dismiss me without actually engaging with the merits of my argument).
And the go-to verse to refute anyone seeming to deny the authority or inerrancy of Scripture is 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” That is a verse where Scripture claims and affirms its own authority. But let’s note what it says and doesn’t say. This verse says that Scripture is useful for teaching. It’s useful for rebuking. It’s useful for correcting. It’s useful for training in righteousness. It never says belief in the inerrancy in the Old and New Testament is a requirement for salvation. If Scripture was going to say that, this would be the place to do so. But it doesn’t. If I believe in Jesus for salvation, but I’m not sure that Jonah was really swallowed by a whale, can I still become a Christian? For those raised in the church this is a moot point and inane question, but for skeptics and post-Christians who do not affirm the inerrancy of Scripture as a foundational assumption, this is a critical issue indeed.