There is an ongoing discussion in amongst Christians concerning the idea of the inerrancy of the Bible. This discussion, coupled with past talks I’ve heard regarding the Emergent Church camp and it’s generally communicated views on scripture, as well as my own personal Bible study journey over the past 18 years, have today brought this observation to mind. (I needed something positive to chew on today as I ran the gauntlet of state DMV and DEQ bureaucracy trying to get the church van legal again.)
In 1991 the Bible first came alive for me while listening to Chuck Missler and Hal Lindsey speaking at a “Signs of the Times” weekend conference at Calvary Fellowship in Seattle. (Regardless of one’s opinions of those two guys, God used them as part of a process that brought me closer to God and His word. I hope you don’t discount the rest of this based on the name dropping.) I had never heard about Bible prophecy in that way before. The reality of God’s word came to the forefront of my heart and I believe God spoke to me and told me to pursue teaching His word instead of teaching high school band as I was studying to do. With this included a literal perspective on the end times. Over the years I’ve been exposed to other views of eschatology, but the literal view of a pre-trib rapture and literal millennium are what the Bible speaks out to me (where as other views need to be read into the Bible). Pre-fourth-century or so, based on what we see in the epistles and Acts, believers were expecting the rapture and the physical, literal return of Jesus at any moment. (1 Peter 4:7 but the end of all things is at hand, for example.) Then, the allegorical views started to surface for a variety of reasons, but essentially they were based on where the world was going at the time. In a sense, this began an erosion of the authority and reliability of the Scriptures from an “end of all things” perspective.
In about 2003 I really got into studying Creationism, scientific perspectives on the Bible, Biblical implications on science, etc. I had always believed in a literal view of Genesis 1-11 but had never really looked into it beyond what I had been taught by Pastor Chuck and others. I spent a lot of time in the car for my job at the time so I listened to teaching and videos (pushed play and listened, didn’t watch of course). I really got into it for about five years and i think I have a pretty good grasp on the material. One of the more interesting dynamics is how in the 1800s, when science was “proving” that the earth was very ancient and not 6,000 years old as the Bible taught, the Christian community was scrambling to explain the obvious contradiction between what God recorded in His word and what the specifically anti-God/Bible humanists were trying to prove with otherwise benign scientific methods. Their solution? Allegorize the Scriptures that address our origins and the age of the earth. This is how the day-age, gap theories, and more recently theistic evolution came about. Not letting the Bible speak for itself, but trying to make Scripture match where the world was going at the time. In a sense, this continued the erosion of the authority and reliability of the Scriptures from a “beginning of all things” perspective.
My use of the word “erosion” is being borrowed from Joe Focht and a teaching he did a few years back at an East Coast Pastors Conference. He was concerned with the erosion that was happening concerning the word of God from within the church and where that was going. I find it interesting that the erosion is happening from both ends of the Bible, as it were. First, is was the erosion of our understanding and the content of Revelation. More recently it’s the erosion of our understanding and the content of Genesis (at least the first 11 chapters). The logical conclusion is that, at some point, the reality of Jesus, the death and resurrection, the nature, need, and means of salvation itself, are called into question. Why? If you can’t trust the beginning or the end of the book, how can you trust the rest? One has to ask, where does that erosion stop? What would be the basis for stopping it? It seems to me the basis for ones ability to shore up or erode rests in one’s view of inerrancy.
I don’t know if you’ve thought about this, but the Bible never argues for the existence of God. It never tries to prove God exists. It assumes it. It simply declares God exists by writing about Him and quoting Him. In the same way the Bible never specifically argues for the concept of inerrancy. It never tries to prove that its inerrant. It assumes it. It simply declares itself to be so by claiming to be the words of God.
Hebrews 1:1 “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets” God spoke to/through real people alive at various times and living in various cultural settings. No question. How does that effect what they wrote? I suggest not one iota except in regard to places where figures of speech and poetic expressions are used. God simply spoke to/through people who simply recorded words, events, and history. For example, their understanding (or lack thereof) of the mechanics of our solar system has nothing to do with their recording of the events they witnessed (or didn’t in the case of Genesis 1). The attempts by people to try to explain what they perceive to be factual errors in scripture by what is, essentially, discrediting those who put pen to paper, is outrageous, arrogant, and ignorant. It’s like those who said the Bible was in factual error because there was no evidence of the existence of certain cities and individuals. Yet time and research have substantiated the reality of most of these cities and individuals. What people thought were hills in Israel were the remains of cities. The same principle applies to trying to be critical of the ancients who first wrote out what God had them write out. Personally, I will hold them up above everything else first, even if it makes me look stupid, ignorant, wooden, or fundie.
In an effort to explain why the end hasn’t happened yet as the Bible teaches it will happen, we have compromised, we have eroded God’s word and it’s authority. In an effort to explain our origins and maintain that the word of God is still the word of God despite supposed factual historical error, we have compromised, we have eroded. Learning, education, wisdom, knowledge, whatever you want to call it, all begins by admitting, “I don’t know.” That’s the beginning. That isn’t the end. It will be there as part of the process of learning knowledge and gaining wisdom. Yet over and over and over again in Scripture we are taught to stand fast, stand firm, be bold, have this mind, teach, preach, and in any other wise have confidence in God’s word. What I see in the broader Christian “orthodox” community is erosion happening under the surface where it isn’t visible to those who claim to stand on truth. It concerns me. It should concern us all.
“Hold fast the Word.”