recovering from inerrancy in the second half of life

recovering from inerrancy in the second half of life August 23, 2013

I met an old friend for lunch yesterday. He was, once upon a time, firmly ensconced in a career in the ueber-conservative world of “Evangelical orthodoxy”–and he actually had a pretty good gig.

He left because of inerrancy. He could not square that non-negotiable pillar of the evangelical system with (1) how the Bible behaves when you sit down and read it, (2) a modern/scientific framework of thinking that is fully operational in every other phase of his life but not permitted when it came to his faith, and (3) his own experiences with real live people of faith whose very lives were a living testimony to other, vibrant, paths of Christian communion that did not require him to turn a blind eye to the cognitive dissonance created by 1 and 2.

In other words, for him, inerrancy was intellectually inconsistant with itself, was out of step with modern (that’s not a bad word, by the way) thinking, and was out of step with his experience.

My point isn’t to talk about inerrancy here. Besides, I haven’t had my Kashi cereal with strawberries yet, so I don’t have the energy. My friend, now past normal retirement age, left his former subculture 25 years ago and, in the throes of midlife, built a new career for himself. He’s been very happy, and he has also been active in a very-not-evangelical-or-inerrantist-inner-city church. He’s moved on and he’s just fine.

He said one thing, though, that really struck me. He wonders what his life would have been like had he not been raised within the inerrantist subculture, but instead in a community of faith that took Jesus and Scripture seriously but didn’t have rows of fiery intellectual hoops to jump through daily.

Yeah, what if. He’s moved on, but he’s still nursing some deep burns.

It has been hard for him to move past his past that was part of him for 45 years, which stands to reason. To make such a profound shift in midlife is very hard to do. It can be a challenge to put the first half of one’s life in its place, so to speak–to honor your experiences as those things that come together to make you you, but without being limited by them.

And the thing is, he’s not bitter about any of it. As he sees it, his choice is to live now as the person he is, with the experiences he has had, but not to be defined or limited by them, and trust God along the way–but he still struggles with those forces that shaped him for all those years. As he put it, he sometimes feels like a recovering addict.

In other words, he is on a journey, he knows it, he accepts it, and he’s committed to working at it. And it’s all good.

Maybe some of you can relate or be encouraged by this.

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  • Tim Ellison

    Innerancy is what happens when we love the Enlightenment more than we love God’s word. I have been similarly delivered from such.

  • W Alex

    It sounds like you’re trying to be very “honest” in this post. But as much as I appreciate reading about this individual – and I do – I can’t help but think this post is quite shallow. The way everything is phrased is certainly shallow. For example, talking about how the bible *behaves*,” your friend’s “journey” or “experience” of scripture or the church, or even the mopey victimized imagery used to describe your friend, “nursing” his wounds, but who in your words is actually not bitter. I understand the dangers of inerrantism. But I also understand what it’s trying to do, if poorly in many cases. And I’m not sure this kind of post is helping to do much of anything but self-validate our feelings of shortcoming in a culture that is annoyingly macho on the topic as a whole.

    • Jim V

      The give away is Dr. Enn’s statement that his friend attends a ” very-not-evangelical-or-inerrantist-inner-city church” as if this is his friend’s salvation. I don’t really care about (or often disagree with) Dr. Enn’s specific conclusions about the OT or his views of how ancient history should reflect on our interpretations of the Bible, but his constant, incessant criticism of evangelicalism – as if “those people” didn’t have a brain cell among them and they oppress people, ruining more lives than any other group in Western culture – borders on the absurd. What is so special or different about his friend that doesn’t affect Polkinghorn, or Francis Collins, or any other host of scientists who haven’t decided that their practice and research forces them to question their faith or reject the label “evangelical.” Is his friend more intelligent? He certainly makes it sound like that whenever he talks about his friends, or the scientists he regularly communes with. Yet, we never hear similar criticism of “progressives.” What does Dr. Enns think of Bishop Spong, or John Dominic Crossan or Marcus Borg – all who have rejected the divinity of Christ and think that Christianity is a nice “cultural” aspect of Western culture with positives and negatives, but certainly not worthy of “worship” in our modern day and age. I would feel much better about reading his blog if he asked Patheos to put it under the “progressive Christian” category – not because of his conclusions about Biblical criticism or his belief that “modern” thought makes impossible to accept any traditional views of the Bible, but because his hatred and low regard for anyone and anything “evangelical” fits much better under with the blogs I read over there. Most of those bloggers agree with Richard Dawkins – that evangelicals essentially commit child abuse against their children by teaching them their beliefs. I can only conclude from this and other similar posts about “post-fundamentalist/evangelical” friends of Dr. Enns, that he agrees. Just don’t expect this type of animosity to open lines of dialogue with anyone. Then again, most progressives that I’ve known don’t really care about dialoguing with evangelicals – they just like mocking them and blaming them for all the world’s ills.

      • Gary in FL

        “most progressives that I’ve known don’t really care about dialoguing with evangelicals – they just like mocking them and blaming them for all the world’s ills.”

        And most Evangelicals I know return the favor by labeling Progressives as heretics who compromise principle. Also, most Progressives have been, at one time or another, fairly devout Evangelicals, so most often they are criticizing something they know about. The same cannot be claimed for Evangelicals.

        • JimV

          If most Evangelicals you know return the favor in that manner, then they are equally wrong. Yet, that wasn’t really my point, was it? You assumed that I was holding Evangelicals up as examples of righteousness, which I wasn’t. However, just because both sides act like a**es towards each other doesn’t make it justified. If either party actually believes that the other is a brother or sister in Christ, then isn’t that basis of the required respect – whether the other party treats you equally or not? It doesn’t matter if the Evangelical labels the Progressive a heretic! If the heretic is still a child of God, they are required to turn the other cheek. It also doesn’t matter if the Progressive labels the Evangelical an unthinking troglodyte, it is incumbent upon them to turn the other cheek. There is far, far too little cheek turning on this and other blogs – I’m sorry, that is the reality. It does nothing to foster dialogue and that is my point. Perhaps it’s an uncomfortable point, but there it is.
          I’ll give you the fact that SOME Progressives were once Evangelicals, but not all. As I said in my post, my problem isn’t criticism, it is the TONE of the criticism – that Evangelicalism is some uniquely oppressive worldview from which Progressives must liberate the faithful. Hogwash. There are a LOT of ideologies, academic pedagogies, worldviews and political paradigms which have both oppressive and liberating attributes – even some Progressive viewpoints are so oppressive with groupthink, they kill critical analysis. But you cannot deny that Progressive Christians take great comfort in the fact that secular academia sides with them (although I would argue that Progressive Christians will soon discover that their “Progressive Christianity” will still not be devoid enough of the divine to satisfy their secular cohorts), and often bludgeon their Evangelical brethren with the concept of intellectual superiority because of it. If they TRULY had the spirit of Christ in their works, they would resist such attitudes and humbly (no matter how many times rejected and reproached) present their criticism. This type of post doesn’t accomplish that.

          • Gary in FL

            I’m sorry, I finding it a little difficult to turn the other cheek so far as your reply. When you’re not (*major eye-roll*) exhorting _both_ parties to be more Christian and forgiving to each other, you sound like you’re seriously backpedaling.

            How about we just call a truce? No more ad hominems. No more complaining about the other side’s “oppressive” attributes.

            I’ll tell you plain and simple why Progressives can’t make common cause with Evangelicals. Progressives realize the Bible should not be read/understood with the naive, pre-critical realism which Evangelicalism have inherited from their Fundamentalist forefathers. And I write that as a former Evangelical and former Confessional. I know whereof I speak.

          • JimV

            Gary, you can roll your eyes all you want. I don’t really care. If the Progressives are still Christians in the sense that they believe in God and Jesus Christ as his incarnate son (which I assume Enns still does) then you are required to try to make common cause – like it or not. Otherwise, you are sinning – “plain and simple” – and that trumps your “realization.” So, as a former Evangelical and Confessional, you ought not to have thrown out the baby with the bathwater – because you have sacrificed the one message of Christianity that I thought you Progressives valued above all else – “love they neighbor.” Obviously “neighbor” doesn’t include the “naïve” Evangelicals. Perhaps you ought to rethink your rejection of your “former” Evangelicalism – Progressivism certainly has done nothing to add grace to your attributes.

          • JimV

            Oh, yes – an others who have the same experience, knowledge and intelligence as you who have chosen not to read/understand the Bible as you do are not “naïve.” They have reasons for believing as they do and they are worth hearing even if I, you or anyone else disagrees. That is the type of sanctimonious BS that Progressives like you are known for – and that Enns is repeatedly falling into – in violation of both the commands of God and of a civil society.

          • Gary in FL

            “the type of sanctimonious BS that Progressives like you are known for – and that Enns is repeatedly falling into”

            I think you are hostile and sanctimonious beyond your own understanding, so I guess there’s no truce. I never wrote that Christians who do not understand the Bible the way I do are for that reason automatically naïve, I reused an established label to describe pre-critical realism as a type of naïve hermeneutic. I didn’t invent the label, nor did Enns or any of the usual suspects.

            Thanks for sorta lumping me in with Enns. I am not worthy.

          • JimV

            I am utterly confounded by this post. My posts started as a statement that Enns cannot expect to repeatedly give examples of how Evangelicals are responsible for the evils he and all his friends have experienced in their lives, how they need to escape the clutches of Evangelicalism, how they need to lead others out of Evangelicalism and then expect to continue to be able to speak to Evangelicals in a civil dialogue (which he constantly professes is his goal with his books and this blog). I said that this smacks of the same arrogance and elitism that I find in most “Progressive” blogs (which Enns clearly does not think he should be among because he still has Patheos listing his blog under “Evangelical”, but that their goal is not to dialogue with Evangelicals, but to mock and show disdain for them. YOU then said that there was no way for Progressives to find common ground with Evangelicals because of their adherence to a “naïve” pre-critical realism. Because I’ve challenged you on this label, you call ME hostile. Utterly amazing. You even respond that this is an “established” label – maybe among those you hang out with now as a Progressive, but I don’t think it is established among Evangelicals. AND THAT HAS BEEN MY POINT ALL ALONG. Enns says he wants to dialogue, but then he continues to put up posts that clearly paint Evangelicals in a light that is insulting, with no mitigation. YOU, from your post, think this is the ONLY way to interact with them because Progressives can find “no common ground” – your words, not mine. I am pointing out to you and to Enns that this position is not only incompatible with establishing a dialogue (unless that dialogue is one of just yelling at each other), but is sinful UNDER YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING AS A PROGRESSIVE AS TO HOW TO TREAT YOUR FELLOW MAN/WOMAN, and certainly under the charitable tenants of Christianity. I’m not lumping YOU in with Enns, I guess, since you identify your self as a Progressive who can have not common ground with an Evangelical, I am asking Enns whether HE is lumping HIMSELF in with YOU.

      • Andrew Dowling

        ” . . .think that Christianity is a nice “cultural” aspect of Western culture
        with positives and negatives, but certainly not worthy of “worship” in
        our modern day and age.”

        Hmm, you might want to re-read them; that’s not an accurate summation of their views at all (and they also wouldn’t always agree with each other)

        • JimV

          I’ve read them, and I stand by my position. Neither Crossan nor Borg believe in the divinity of Christ, unless Christ is somehow representative of the divine in all of us. A good example of the difference between these two and someone who clearly is “progressive” (i.e., accepts historical critical methods of studying and interpreting the Bible), but still believes in the historical divinity of Christ is NT Wright. If you read Wright’s work alongside Borg or Crossan, you will see the clear difference. For Wright, the “historical Jesus” is not so separate from the “theological” Jesus that the second has almost nothing to do with the first (and is simply a metaphorical or necessary inspirational version of the very non-divine actual historical story). Even if Wright doesn’t believe the gospels represent history in the same way we would wright a historical academic works today, he believes that they are based in a historical event – the death and resurrection of a human named Jesus (or his Hebrew equivalent).
          Unless I missed some major confession in Crossan’s, Spong’s and Borg’s seminal works, I believe I am right on target about their views of Christianity. Worship is something you do in response to the divine. Interest, fascination, study and honoring is something you can do in response to the inspirational. These three men believe that the Christian story can be inspirational, but they do NOT believe Christ worthy of “worship” (and each believes that this was the original intent of the gospel authors, by the way) in the divine sense.

          • Andrew Dowling

            Well it sounds like this is an argument over semantics. You say that worship is something you do in response to the divine. I think the aforementioned would agree with that. Then you say that because they don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus as traditionally conceived, they therefore don’t worship Jesus. I think they would argue one can worship the God found and embodied in Jesus (and certainly declare that worthy of worship) and not have to believe Jesus was a literal supernatural God-Son sent by the Father God to purge sinfulness from humanity.

          • Tom Wiley

            It’s not semantics, it’s completely different persons. You either worship Jesus “The Christ”, the Son of God, you’re worshiping something and someone else. As illustrated in the completely different person-hood of Jesus identified by Islam and Mormonism. To develop your own belief system of who Christ was is to invent a new person, a false deity.

          • Mary

            We don’t know who Christ was to begin with. He is depicted in different ways in the gospels and they don’t all jibe. Beyond that the gospels were not written by eye witnesses. All we can know is what he represents to us, nothing more.

          • JimV

            Mary, I disagree. The gospels may have some differences in their depictions, but I think you are exaggerating the distance between their stories. There are plenty of scholars who would also disagree (although Borg, Crossan and Spong would happily go along with you), NT Wright being probably the most famous today. The idea that the “historical” Jesus is so remote from the “theological” Jesus, and that we can explain away the former (i.e., wisdom teacher, revolutionary, etc.) and continue worshiping the latter (I.e,, son of god, reflection of the divine, is thankfully showing its age and being replaced by a much better explanation involving the study of the culture of 1st century Palestinian, second-temple Judaism. I think scholars such as Wright .. and even Archbishop Rowan Williams – disagree with you and think that Jesus is more than “what he represents to us.” I love Williams quote from several years ago when he was debating Spong – “If a corpse clearly marked ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ turned up, I should save myself a lot of trouble and become a Quaker.” I would argue that if all Jesus was and is constitutes some “meaning” rather than a physically risen incarnation of the eternal God, then we should abandon Christianity – for Quakerism or whatever other spiritual philosophy of your choice.

          • Mary

            You have a right to your opinion, however Bible scholars have shown that the gospels were not written by eyewitnesses, there are too many historical inaccuracies
            Maybe a better way my saying this is that Jesus’ behavior is very different. In one gospel he keeps his identity a secret. even from his own disciples, but in another gospel he is shouting his identity from the rooftops right from the very beginning.

            It is very apparent that the gospels were tailored towards specific audiences. It is also apparent that there are differences in the historical accounts that indicate that they are not eyewitness accounts. Who discovered the empty tomb? How come we have the cleansing of the Temple in one gospel at the beginning of his ministry but another at the end? Having it at the end is a wonderful plot device because it is that that contributes towards his arrest and conviction.

            Beyond that the gospels represent different stages in the development of the Christian theology. John is a very mystical treatment of the subject and is very different from the synoptics. Some have called it more Gnostic in nature.

            I happen to believe that symbolism is a very powerful tool of spiritual growth. Joseph interpreted dreams. People in both the OT and NT had visions. Jesus told parables.

            People are leaving the church in favor of personal spirituality. Others choose to stay with it because the symbols are so powerful but they don’t feel the need to make everything literal. In my book that is good news because spirituality does not reside in a book, it resides in our hearts. Our hearts are the ONLY WAY that we can experience God.

          • JimV

            If Jesus is not God incarnate, then we are redefining Christianity. God “found and embodied in Jesus” is no different than God “found and embodied” in my 6 year old son. Yet, neither I, nor you, nor Crossan or Borg would argue that my 6 year old son should be an object of worship – or an icon through which we would worship God.
            But this is besides the point – Enns needs to make a decision once and for all. It’s nice to say that he supports historical-critical methods when he reads/studies the Scriptures, but those who also ascribed to that have a LARGE divergence of beliefs. Yet, Enns never really comes out and says where he draws lines – in fact, like many Progressives – he goes out of his way to say he won’t draw lines because that would make him too much like an Evangelical … and we can’t have that, can we. Yet, at some point, if your view of historical-critical analysis is such that you choose – like Crossan, Borg and Spong – that Jesus was NOT the incarnate God, then you have left the religion of Christianity. NT Wright and others like him are willing to draw the line – and back up their stand with their academic analysis of Scripture. Perhaps that line will define the new Evangelicalism – but make no mistake, even that line will not be enough for the likes of Crossan, Borg and Spong – or most of secular academia. Enns is being overly optimistic if he believes it will. This is NOT semantics, it is deciding whether Christianity is about an incarnation or about a good teacher who was “inspired” by God.

          • Andrew Dowling

            I can’t speak for Peter but you are making some wide assumptions about his theology.

            Also, from your post you seem to imply that Christianity has stayed static for 2000 years and is only now being changed/challenged by “progressive secular” whatevers. Sorry, Christianity and major components of its meaning and theology have been changing ever since Jesus was crucified. You keep talking about drawing invisible lines of who is in and out, and IMO that is missing one of the crucial points of the whole Gospel message.

            I think the 3 scholars you mentioned would argue, and I would say they make a very strong point, that the very first ‘Christians’ of the 4th decade of the 1st century did not place Jesus on the same level as God/Yahweh and that Christology evolved and grew in the ensuing decades, culminating in the doctrine of the Trinity. Apparently if that is true then you think the whole Jesus thing means nothing. I’m sorry you feel that way.

  • Whenever I bring up inerrancy, I find that there’s a bit of a disconnect with folks about where it came from. Most people who support, stand by the Chicago declaration and stop there. I’ve found that it’s far more interesting to explore the roots of inerrancy back in the early 1900’s and even into the 1800’s.

    I’m indebted to Nancy Murphy for a lot of this, but my understanding is that inerrancy arose out of a commitment to find a stable foundation for the faith other than religious experience in response to liberals who denied the truth of scripture. That, to me, helps me understand why there’s so much stress about proving inerrancy: the inerrant Bible replaces Christ as the foundation. And when you have that to defend, you live with a lot of fear. I found that inerrancy made it really hard to love other people since I used to worry so much about defending the Bible.

    • Andrew Dowling

      Good words Ed. A belief system propelled by fear cannot also be propelled by love.

    • Ed –

      I think the church did the best it could in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s to engage in a very modernistic, post-Enlightenment framework. As I understand it, as liberals of the day or just about anyone who engaged life & knowledge from the ‘scientific method,’ many theologians, scholars and pastors felt the need to push back utilising the same method. You say Scripture is untrue using critical methods based largely in observable facts, we’ll do the exact same thing. But I think it led to us either turning a blind eye or explaining away things – such as, ‘Well, we might not be able to reconcile this now. But if we had enough information, we would be able to. We’re still waiting.’ I think this is not so honest.

      As I’ve begun to realise – I’m thankful for the Scripture God has given us over the centuries via the community of his people, rather than what we wish we had or what we think we must have for God to be God and speak into this world.

  • Dan

    as i’ve painfully discovered, you only don’t see errancy when you a presuppositionally believe it’s not there

    • W Alex

      Dan, isn’t that a truism? Couldn’t you replace the word “errancy” in that statement with anything? “God” for example. And couldn’t inerrantists turn around and say the same thing back to us with “inerrancy” in the blank?

    • Gary in FL

      Very true.

  • Paul Bruggink

    Christian misunderstandings of Biblical inerrancy are at the root of a number of the problems plaguing Christianity today, including Young Earth Creationism and the current historical Adam debate. In view of the numerous books and blogs written on the subject, particularly in the past ten years, perhaps Christianity would be well served by a “Chicago Statement on Biblical Interpretation.” It could include a lot of “the Bible could mean this or it could mean that,” perhaps in the style of Boyd & Eddy’s “Across the Spectrum,” since the real problem is interpretation anyway. We would all be further ahead if the word “inerrancy” could disappear.

    If it were possible to pull off such a project, it could incorporate the recent thinking on the subject, combined with a dash of hermeneutics and friendly historical criticism in the style of Hays & Ansberry’s “Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism.” At least those on the front lines would then have something to refer to.

    • James

      Recently, there were several initiatives celebrating the 400th birthday of the KJV. Has anything broad-based been done to celebrate over 2000 years of Judeo-Christian Scriptures? In an information age when the printed page (and ink on velum) is fading fast, we might do well to reaffirm what that dusty old book on so many shelves could mean to us today.

  • Jason Garrison

    Another suburb post, Pete. I confess, I’ve got a lot of anger about this, much of which comes from my desire to pursue and honor truth perpetually frustrated by the inerrancy police. Inerrancy is supposed to be very simple: the Bible is true in every way. It is so simple, everybody disagrees about what it means. So the Chicago statement emerges giving a meager 19 articles to clarify things. Very simple. Thanks a lot! These days, there are even different views of the Chicago Statement. It’s a miserable game of rhetoric and power driven by doctrine, not truth.

    I can’t help but think that this is a Pharisee’s game. Make rules to govern the text. Then make rules to govern the rules. All the while building an Evangelical fortress that champions the “only” correct approach to the Bible. And strangely, inside that fortress is a veritable ocean of some of the most asinine interpretations anyone can comprehend. Snake handlers and faith healers are inerrantists, after all.

    I’d rather continue to seek the most accurate interpretation of the Bible without all this inerrantist baggage. Isn’t that what scholarship is all about? Isn’t that the pursuit of truth?

    • For those trained in classical rhetoric and argumentation, it is very difficult to take the Chicago statement seriously. The dominant yet unspoken presuppositions and commitment to an untenable epistemology make it sound like a high-schooler’s attempt. I am always surprised when I hear of supposedly adult scholars who take it seriously.

  • Susan_G1

    This is the very issue that started my journey about a year ago. However, I am not a victim. All of it was part of a journey. Sappy as it sounds, I stayed there as long as I did by not examining the issue earlier, and I trust God used that experience in me. I have no one to ‘blame’ but myself, and I don’t blame myself. I was wrong. People around me were wrong. This is a constant; I will always be learning, and people will always believe differently than I do on various matters.

    What I do get worked up about is the misuse of Scripture to perpetuate genuine harm (you may see cognitive dissonance as genuine harm; I do not). Like SGM and complimentarian views which allow child and spousal abuse.

  • dangjin

    The problem for those who disavow inerrancy is that you cannot cherry pick the verses you want to be inerrant and the ones you want to be errant. You have no evidence to support your selections and they would be highly subjective, causing more fights in the church which shouldn’t be present.

    The other thing anti-inerrancy advocates must deal with is the problem of having the secular world finding and containing the truth when God has clearly said they do not have the spirit of truth to help them and that they are deceived.

    You are disobeying and ignoring God’s word by bestowing upon secular science and scientists the ability to to have truth over God especially when they follow the devil the prince of liars.

    In other words, you are letting yourselves be deceived and led away from God and the truth.

    • Jason Garrison

      Yeah, okay. I’ll bite.

      I understand your fear, but our attempts to love God with all our minds is what drives us to reconcile these things.

      Furthermore, it is our desire to understand the scripture that leads us to reject inerrancy. People like me reject inerrancy, not because we reject the Bible, but because we love it so much. Inerrancy needlessly limits the Bible, and forces us to make it say what it probably didn’t intend to say (in some cases, anyway).

      Our opinions about inerrancy are irrelevant to our devotion to Christ. That’s probably the biggest thing I’d hope you could see.

      • dangjin

        Bullcrap! Sounds like you want secular science over God and that you do not want to be ridiculed for rejecting secular ideas while accepting God’s. it also sounds like you are listening to deceived people over Godly ones.

        • Klasie Kraalogies

          It looks like you are one sandwich away from being a fundy picnic.

    • Elijah

      I don’t think inerrancy actually helps with the problem of interpretive disunity. I used to feel the same way you do, but there is probably just as much interpretive disagreement among inerrantists as there is among people of other scriptural viewpoints. Check out Christian Smith’s book, “The Bible Made Impossible,” which addresses this issue quite well.

      • dangjin

        Just because people have different opinions about the Bible doesn’t mean the Bible isn’t inerrant. Jesus said we are to follow the Holy Spirit to the truth not our own interpretations.

        • Aceofspades25

          You’re right, the internal contradictions prove that all by themselves.

        • Mary

          The Holy Spirit is very busy telling everyone different things..that is if your theory is right. When people say that it is to BACK UP their own interpretation, which makes it just a tool of the ego.

          The Bible is not one coherent whole so EVERYONE interprets, but they will swear that they don’t.

    • Marshall

      I think you’re right in that there are two problems here.
      “community of faith that [A] took Jesus and Scripture seriously but [AND B] didn’t have rows of fiery intellectual hoops to jump through daily.”

      A strictly secular historically-situated culturally-contextualized reading isn’t going to say much to a contemporary 2,000 years later person, but letting “authorities” dictate the fiery hoops to be jumped through isn’t getting into the Word either. I mean, neither one is irrelevant.

  • Elijah

    Good post. Inerrancy gives one the illusion that one has objective access to the truth. I think that is why for many (me, anyway) it is so hard to leave the doctrine of inerrancy behind. We all make subjective decisions about the text – inerrantist or not – but when inerrancy is lost the subjectivity of interpretation becomes tangible in a way that many inerrantists do not appreciate. That has been my experience anyways…

  • Bob Faser

    Peter, I’m a 60-year-old minister who never had an “inerrantist” phase. I grew up in a liberal Methodist background (good combination: I grew up highly familiar with the scriptures but was never under any pressure to take them literally). In my student years, I developed a strong affinity with the more liturgical traditions of Christian faith. I’m a minister in a “mainline” Protestant denomination (Uniting Church in Australia) but, If I’m asked to “label” myself theologically, the term I usually use is “post-Protestant”. I really believe that, if my upbringing was in a conservative evangelical context, I’d be either an atheist or an agnostic today.

  • This is great your friend could keep his faith in a good God.

    To use the expression of Rachel Held Evans, for many of us, this isn’t the evangelical mind which really matters but the evangelical heart, and the way a belief in inerrancy pushes otherwise decent people to defend atrocities, as in the case of the famous apologist William Lane Craig:

    Greetings from continental Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

  • Wonderful article.

  • LightByGrace

    Oh my gosh…Relate to the utmost…Recovering addict is a great way to put it…I still hold to the charismatic aspect of my fundamentalist background but I no longer adhere to the ‘pillars’. It’s an awfully hard thing to shake. A daily battle against old tapes and frameworks…And a challenge to actually live WITHOUT establishing new unmovable pillars. Papa taught me that paradigms are not a bad thing, but they aren’t what it’s about and should not be worshiped or made into law. Religion feels safe because it gives me a sense of control. But the Holy Spirit is wild and cannot be contained to a box. Like Bono once said – Religion is what remains when the Spirit has left the building (paraphrase).

  • Jack A Allen

    My email address is ‘’ would you be willing to exchange a couple of emails about this topic? THANKS!!

  • Kate

    May I recommend a wonderful book that addresses part of this issue? It’s called “Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life”, by Richard Rohr.

  • Teresa Blythe

    I can relate and if I didn’t have a wonderful therapist and an equally wonderful spiritual director as well as lots of great friends to talk with about this, I’d be less able to put it behind me. Thank you for sharing this story.

  • Cher

    I too have moved on, but my husband has not. this causes so much pain in our marriage. he is sad, disappointed, and discouraged about my spiritual development. In some ways I feel liberated, in other ways i am reminded on a regular basis the distance and distrust my spiritual journey has caused in my relationship with my husband…there does not seem to be a good solution. Conversations and explanations have not helped. Never imagined that my evolving faith would have these consequences.

  • ctrace

    Regarding the faith I don’t compare myself to other people nor feel a need to. Compare, contrast, get encouragement from, any of that. As for being able to value the Bible as God-breathed I do believe if it becomes an issue with a person that person then needs to get an understanding of higher levels of literature in general. C. S. Lewis made this same point (gently, because, you know, the intellectual pride and vanity of academia is pretty explosive)…

  • lawyervon

    Thanks for sharing this story. I enjoy and appreciate your blog, and this particular headline caught my eye, but the concepts and content behind the headline were solid. Based on the last year of church experiences in my own life, it fueled some blogging, so I thought I’d pass on what you inspired

  • Tom Wiley

    Sad story. I’ve been reading through the Bible each year for 28yrs and have yet to see where the problems are. I recently started reading it in the Hebrew text. It’s largely a history book and I appreciate it’s insight.

    I breaks my heart to hear people that want to cut and paste the scriptures to form their own religion, effective creating a god in their own eyes. Yet, very typical of our world today where everyone does what it ‘right’ in their own eyes.

    • Aceofspades25

      So how do you feel about the global flood that reached to the tops of the mountains Tom?

      People don’t question inerrancy because they are rebellious and don’t want to be told what to do. People question inerrancy because parts of scripture don’t square with what is plainly true about the world.

      Also, if you’re struggling to find contradictions, here’s a good place to start:

      • Tom Wiley

        I disagree: “People don’t question inerrancy because they are rebellious and don’t
        want to be told what to do.”

        They have a wrong view of the world – “People question inerrancy because parts of
        scripture don’t square with what is plainly true about the world.”

        • Mary

          Bet you didn’t even check out the link..

          • Tom Wiley

            Yep, I did, it was absurd, just like your statement that the Bible “COMMANDED” sin.

          • Mary

            Have you read about the genocide commanded by God? The stoning of rebellious children?How about the human sacrifice of a young virgin girl?

            Jephthah Burns His Daughter

            “At that time the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he went
            throughout the land of Gilead and Manasseh, including Mizpah in Gilead, and led
            an army against the Ammonites. And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD. He said,
            “If you give me victory over the Ammonites, I will give to the LORD the first
            thing coming out of my house to greet me when I return in triumph. I will
            sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”

            “So Jephthah led his army against the Ammonites, and
            the LORD gave him victory. He thoroughly defeated the Ammonites from Aroer to
            an area near Minnith – twenty towns – and as far away as Abel-keramim. Thus
            Israel subdued the Ammonites. When Jephthah returned home to Mizpah, his
            daughter – his only child – ran out to meet him, playing on a tambourine and
            dancing for joy. When he saw her, he tore his clothes in anguish. “My
            daughter!” he cried out. “My heart is breaking! What a tragedy that you came
            out to greet me. For I have made a vow to the LORD and cannot take it back.”
            And she said, “Father, you have made a promise to the LORD. You must do to me
            what you have promised, for the LORD has given you a great victory over your
            enemies, the Ammonites. But first let me go up and roam in the hills and weep
            with my friends for two months, because I will die a virgin.” “You may go,”
            Jephthah said. And he let her go away for two months. She and her friends went
            into the hills and wept because she would never have children. When she
            returned home, her father kept his vow, and she died a virgin. So it has
            become a custom in Israel for young Israelite women to go away for four days
            each year to lament the fate of Jephthah’s daughter.” (Judges 11:29-40

            How about women being forced to marry their rapists?

            “If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he
            must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young
            woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce

            (Deuteronomy 22:28-29 NLT)

            The Bible is a complete moral mess. The only redeeming value is in the words of Jesus.

            It is quite obvious that you have buried your head in the sand which you have the perfect right to do. However you do not have the right to expect the whole world to agree with you.

    • Mary

      “Yet, very typical of our world today where everyone does what it ‘right’ in their own eyes.”

      Hmmm…you mean commit murder, rape, polygamy, own slaves both regular and also sex slaves. and commit human sacrifices of virgin girls?

      Oh wait…that is all condoned and in many cases COMMANDED in the Bible.

      The Bible is one of the best examples of situational eithics around, If you can’t see it it is because you have been conditioned NOT to see it.

  • Steve Ranney

    Thanks for the post. I suppose it is rather common actually for baby boomers to encounter this. In earlier years the info wasn’t available that you can find easily nowadays. What Christian bookstore would have carried Christianity and the Age of the Earth by Davis Young, published in 1982? I only heard of the book a few years ago. (Not to mention ‘Inspiration and Incarnation’, though to its credit I did find out about that one in CT.)

  • This is a good class that touches on inerrancy:

    I think it is very interesting. Helped me to change my mind on some things.