On the Inerrancy and Infallibility of the Bible:
When we try to fit the commands, or the truths of the Bible into a context where it doesn’t belong, then by definition, the truth stops being the truth. Or better said, the truth loses its practical relevancy, and it becomes moot. In the context where the command or truth is applied is where the truth reveals itself as being true. When applied wrongly-in the wrong context-the truth becomes useless; for in that circumstance, the truth malfunctions, and the outcome is disaster. “Inerrant” implies that regardless of where and how applied, the truth will always be seen to be true…that is, regardless of context, the truth will be realized (e.g. God Himself, can exist utterly without context, in only Himself, and His truth will ever be realized by the one to whom it ultimately matters…God; I would also add to this very short list of things able to be realized in and of themselves, outside of any context, man’s “ability”). Any truth or command that depends on application in proper context for its realization as “true” or “right” is NOT inerrant, for the application of it is subjective to man and the Holy Spirit, who enlightens man as to how and where to apply God’s truths and commands. Again, applied in the wrong context, the truth becomes fallacy for practical purposes. This can never be said of any “inerrant thing”…if a thing needs qualification in order to be declared inerrant or infallible, it is, by definition, not inerrant or infallible (applying the command “do not work on the Sabbath” to healing a sick human being, or “do not steal” to a man starving to death, is improper context, and makes a mockery of the command). An inerrant truth never becomes folly; thus, it can never be subject to context.
All commands in the Bible then, and truths, are subservient to man and his context, through the knowledge and power of the Holy Spirit; and ultimately subject to the greatest command and truth “love God”, which is, of course, the cornerstone of man realizing his utter freedom according to his innate ability. For God loves Himself before anything else, and so should we…for this is freedom; this is being perfect.
From this it logically follows that everything in creation is subject, not to the Bible, or to God’s commands or truths, but to God Himself. God is the first thing sought (and the result is the next greatest command “love your neighbor”, which is how we practically apply the first greatest command), because He is truly the only inerrant and infallible thing…and creates, by definition, the context by which His commands are applied. He is never context Himself…He is I AM. So everything is subject to Him, even His own commands and truths are subject to Him…meaning, is subject the greatest command: Love God. Anything that is NOT God is subject to Him. The commands of Christ/God are subservient to Himself. So, again, the commands of God and the truths of God are not inerrant because of two things: 1. They are subservient to Him; which means they are subservient to the greatest command of loving God, and 2. They are only realized in MAN’S context.
So, we need to redefine how the commands and truths of the Bible look and how they apply to our context, which will be inherently different from people who lived 2000 years ago or more. Any command that needs to be re-interpreted for the context of man implies that the command is FOR man, not man for the command (which, of course, completely alters the nature of the command; though, on its face it may look like mere semantics). Meaning, man applies the command or truth to his life in a way where the command is most efficaciously realized…which means, truths and commands are tools of man, and thus cannot be inerrant or infallible, but are subjective to the application in man’s particular, individual context. The infallibility comes in in the form of the Spirit, who guides man in interpreting the command in Spirit and Truth so that the result is that this truth is actively realized, and faith in GOD (not the truth, necessarily) is strengthened. So, once again, we see that the commands or truths of the Bible (incidentally, it is important to realize that the commands of God are NOT God Himself; this is a metaphysical truth with HUGE implications, obviously) are only realized within the confines of certain man-made contexts, and thus, it becomes obvious that any command or truth which must operate thus is not, then, infallible, because infallible in the metaphysical sense means that the infallible thing derives its truth only from itself, never from the context of the fallible.
The infallible thing can be of no practical use to man because the infallible thing must force everything to conform to IT, regardless of who, what, where, or when, and as this is by definition, impossible for the fallible thing to do (which, is of course, everything that is not the infallible thing). So, if this is in fact the idea behind the commands and truths of God, there is no way creation can even exist; if its purpose is to conform to the infallible, the it is impossible for creation to BE (this is a good time to express another metaphysical truth: the fallible can and must only be a creation of the infallible). So, if the idea of creation is that it has to conform to an infallible thing, God could never have created it. Thus, the Bible cannot be infallible. If it is, then it is of no more practical use to man, in and of ITSELF, than God is. The reason the Bible is useful is precisely because it is NOT infallible or inerrant, but is ultimately subject to man for its purpose and usefulness. If the Bible is infallible, then man’s existence is contradicted. We would do well to remember that the basis of tyranny, as we see in the Bible where Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for their lack of love when it came to healing on the Sabbath, is to make man for the command instead of the command for man.
I would also add that the concept of “inerrant” is irrelevant when applied to the Bible. It is a word which serves no purpose and is meaningless in the context of discussing the Bible. It is a non-concept…really, a tool of despots. I submit that when speaking of the Bible, we cannot even make this term mean anything rational. What are we saying, exactly, when we declare the Bible inerrant. We are really saying nothing. The idea of inerrancy does not affect faith in any way, but, again, is only useful for men bound and determined to declare their views and interpretations of what is “orthodoxy” as being infallible TRUTH, and thus on par with God Himself. Imagine the power this gives man if his followers are convinced thus.
What does it mean to filter our life through the Bible? (I’ve heard this several times in the past.) If all the answers to life’s questions and complications are found in the Bible, where exactly does God come in? If the Bible is inerrant, what do we need God for? The truth is either so obviously self-evident, or so beyond our ability to understand and apply that God would become a non-entity in our lives(we have the Bible, he’d say…what do you need Me for?) From the idea of just filtering our lives through the Bible, it would seem clear that all we need to do is read the Bible and do it. Well, this kind of thinking may be useful when building a cabinet or a swing set, but comprehensive world philosophies simply cannot function this way, and I’m surprised at how many people view the Bible like a talisman this way. Man becomes an extension of an inanimate object…a book by which he must filter himself, his very wants, needs, talents, ideas, essence, and SOUL through.
However, the truth is closer to the other way around. The Bible is filtered through man and man’s God (Holy Spirit). God’s linguistic revelation to man does not necessitate the enactment of the logical and metaphysical fallacy of the revelation being inerrant. The truths and commands of the Bible must conform to the greater moral truth that is God’s love and man’s life and will. Man’s free will cannot be trumped by the Bible when that will is being applied in service to the greater moral truth of man’s utter inalienable right, as evidenced by his very creation, to LIVE and to BE himself, according to all his ability, when that will does not violate the two greatest commandments, which imply and apply moral restrictions on the larceny of another human being. One does not have the right to force another person into bondage, or to curtail their right to own themselves or be themselves in service to some command or truth of the Bible when that person is in no way violating the physical and spiritual/emotional property of another human being (which is the root of the two greatest commands). The Bible is helpful instruction, and the Holy Spirit will and does convict individuals of Biblical points according to their unique circumstances or needs. But “authority” in regards to controlling or owning another in service to some scriptural command or truth or interpretive method or understanding or opinion is simply not Biblical; it is a lie. For this larceny and oppression, Jesus had much to say. The Bible is NOT a club to bludgeon people with. PEOPLE are more important than the Bible and all the revelations and commands therein. And if this is true, then the Bible was never intended nor implied in itself to be infallible or inerrant. No, God first; then man. That is Christianity. The Bible is just a book. A great, helpful, inspired book…but loving God and human beings is more important than dogmatic adherence to any Biblical command or truth. Not that obedience is not important…it is just fundamentally less important than your fellow man.
“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
2 thoughts on “On the Inerrancy and Infallibility of the Bible”
Argo, so glad you are here! About inerrancy, you do realize that the entire SBC was turned on it’s ear with that one word as the rallying cry over the course of a decade from about 1979 to early 1990’s?
The reason it worked is because there were a FEW profs teaching heresy such as no virgin birth, etc. A FEW. One from the moderate view predicted back then (80’s?) that eventually it would turn into a fight over Calvinism. What a prediction!
For a long time the Calvin issue was buried because ALL agreed on cultural issues. And the focus was a culture war.
I cannot believe how naive I was about the term inerrancy. It was like only heretics did not believe in “inerrancy”. I did not realize that what I really believed was that it was “inspired”. There is no way on earth that human translators are inerrant! And I believe this rally cry moved us away from the Holy Spirit in a way that has been detrimental to personal faith and obedience.
Sorry it took me a while to respond. I’m still getting used to this…never done this blog thing before.
Thanks for the information regarding the history of the word. That is very helpful…and I suppose I get it, but like history has shown time and time again, the church’s response to things tends to be as problematic as the issue it is responding to (e.g. Spanish Inquisition anyone?).
For me, the issue is clear, really. Because I’m all about the faith being predicated upon logical metaphysics, I tend to eschew things that are clearly contradictory. My very first take on the issue was this: by definition, metaphysically speaking, only ONE thing can be inerrant: God Himself. Because God needs nothing by which His truth is revealed. He is the I AM, and that means, apart from any creation, He is still 100% TRUE. He is his Truth’s own context and definition. Nothing more needs to be said of God than He IS.
This is not so with pretty much anything else. Furthermore the problem of claiming a created THING is inerrant means that it can never need nor have any qualification, so it must be true apart from context. If that’s the case, man means nothing…HE must conform to IT, which is impossible, given that man creates the context for his own life. In short: take away man and you take away the Bible.
Remember, if it isn’t God, it is created, period. And that includes the Bible. Inspired, does not = GOD, which is what we say when we declare the Bible “infallible”. Infallible minimizes the human and elevates the thing. This is not only not Christian, it’s not metaphysically possible. The only thing which can be elevated beyond mankind is God Himself. This is the nature of our creation.