A common response to my rejection of the term “inerrancy” is “If the Bible contains a single error, how can we know it is God’s Word?”
First, let me say again: It is the TERM “inerrancy” that I reject, not the authority or trustworthiness of Scripture. AND every inerrantist I know or have read admits there are errors in Scripture as we have it today. Only the original autographs were inerrant in the strictest sense. What I want is an authoritative Bible that actually exists and not one that used to exist!
No informed, right-thinking individual can hold any actually existing Bible in his or her hand and say “This book is inerrant” without stretching the term inerrant beyond the breaking point. All they can say is “This is the best approximation we have of inerrant autographs that once existed.” But once you base authority on inerrancy, you have to then say “This is a somewhat authoritative book because it is the best approximation we have of the authoritative texts that once existed.” That’s not good enough for me. I want the Bible I take to church to be authoritative and it is.
Second, John Calvin himself claimed that the authority of the Bible lies in the Holy Spirit and not in some rational proof of its accuracy. Read Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book I, chapter 7. For Calvin (as Luther before him and most Protestants later) the guarantee of the Bible’s truth and authority lies in the “inner testimony of the Holy Spirit.”
That’s why I used Emil Brunner’s illustration of the dog listening to the old Victrola record player. The RCA logo had the caption “His master’s voice.” How do I know the Bible is God’s Word and authoritative for faith and life? Because in it I hear my master’s voice. And not just I, but millions of others have and still hear God’s voice speaking to us through its message.
Third, belief in strict, detailed, technical inerrancy and insistence on it for authority sets up an impossibly high standard for any book. And it undermines faith because one has to wait for each new edition of Biblical Archeological Review (or similar publication) to know whether one can still believe the Bible. What if the Bible contains a factual error in history or cosmology? Does that mean the end of belief in the Bible? I pity anyone who says so.
I believe in the authority of the Bible because I believe in Jesus; not vice versa. The Bible is the cradle that holds the Christ child and that in it is authoritative that promotes Christ (was Christum treibt) (Luther). Too many evangelicals, like fundamentalists, base Christian belief on (alleged) secular facticity. The two are, of course, inseparable. I don’t want a faith that is irrational or esoteric. However, the foundation of Christian faith itself is not a set of facts but Jesus Christ communicated to us by the Holy Spirit.