I believe in a doctrine called inerrancy. More particularly, I call it “reasoned inerrancy” to distinguish it from other more “technically precise” models. In short: I believe that the Bible, when interpreted correctly, is true in everything that it intends to teaches. Those are some important qualifiers: “in everything it intends to teach” and “when interpreted rightly.” This assumes that some of the that which the Bible records is not necessarily its teaching. It also assumes that the truth is only found when the Bible is understood the way it was meant to be understood and that it can be understood wrongly. A wrong interpretation is not inerrant.
One of the first questions that I asked at seminary was how do we know when a passage in the Bible is supposed to be believed? In other words, the Bible records falsehoods, lies, and wrong actions. When David committed adultery, this was a record of a wrong action. When Peter said he did not know who Christ was, this was a lie. Then there is Samson, Jonah, and Lot. And don’t even get me started on Solomon. All of whom are presented in a shady light in the narrative yet are, generally speaking, heroes of Scripture and of our faith. How are we to know what examples to follow? With Job and his “friends”: when are we supposed to trust what they say and when do we assume that they got it wrong. Who creates the rules? I have seen a number of teachers quote Job’s friends when teaching theology. Wait…I thought they were bad. So they are bad and can be trusted at times? As well, Job himself seems to say some good things that we like to quote and other things that we write off to his distress. Oh the the difficulties in interpretation. Sometimes it is hard to know what the Scripture is actually teaching.
That is why I am starting this new series called “Case Studies in Inerrancy.” I am going to attempt to open up the discussion a bit concerning the doctrine of inerrancy to demonstrate that things get a little messy sometimes. Most importantly, I want to illustrate how the doctrine of inerrancy does not assume one particular hermeneutic (method of interpretation). In other words, often when people approach the Scripture with an assumption of inerrancy it causes them to nuance their hermeneutic. This then produces a sort of “hermeneutic of inerrancy” where the preservation of inerrancy becomes the goal rather than the correct interpretation of Scripture.
My goal with this series to present some case studies of particular passages that will help us nuance our understanding of inerrancy around our hermeneutic rather than nuancing our hermeneutic around inerrancy.
Let me start with this question to get the discussion rolling: In the narrative portions of Scripture, how do you know when we are supposed to trust what is being said?
Take Peter for example. In Acts of the Apostles, is everything Peter says fit for doctrine or are there times when we say that he is wrong? We know that before Acts Peter was not the best example. At what point did he become an example? How reliable is he in Acts? What rules do we follow?
What about with Job? Is everything he says correct and his friends wrong? Or does Job say some wrong things? Does his friends says some correct things? What are your rules for determining what is correct in Scripture and what is wrong?