Does the bible assert its own inerrancy?
- Rather than go through individual verses – something that would take too much time, I will say a few points about how we use verses in the bible to build up a doctrine of scripture.
- Some of the verses used in support of inerrancy are pushed too far even without further comment. For example, 2 Tim 3:16 and the description of Scripture as ‘useful’ among other things, hardly lends support to inerrancy (cf. Inspiration, by David Law, 84 ff. for a discussion of this and many of the usually quoted verses)
- It needs to be stated that the bible says nothing about itself! The bible is a collection of materials of greater or lesser accuracy to the original, and weren’t officially collected together as one till hundreds of years after they were written. Thus, when it states in Rev 22:18 ‘I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book’, it is, of course, a reference only to Revelation, as there was no bible for it to correspond to. This is obvious, but a point amazingly overlooked by many defenders of inerrancy.
- Only by taking verses here and there and by putting them through a deductively logical wringer can one conclude a doctrine of inerrancy (see the chapter on Scripture in Packer’s, Fundamentalism and the Word of God as an example). It can be asserted that parts of the bible as we now have it, more or less, would have been seen as the words of God, as inspired by God etc., by the early Christians and by Jesus himself. However, a) the ‘more or less’ isn’t insignificant, b) more importantly, it is a step of deductive reason to take the premises to mean ‘without error’, however reasonable it may sound. c) This step of deductive logic is not a scriptural leap, but rather an inductive reading of the many clear contradictions and mistakes in the bible mean we must avoid such a logical wringer. One ceases to be biblical if one states that inspiration means inerrancy. As a Fundie, it was the realisation that my doctrine of scripture was itself no scriptural that started the process of my escape! I thank Goldingay’s Models for Scripture for this life-moving insight.
- However, after all of this, there is a far stronger reason for rejecting the doctrine of inerrancy, far stronger: The witness of the bible itself, read inductively. I suggest that it can be conclusively proved that scripture is not inerrant, and the bible’s own witness to this is decisive!