Inerrancy hits the fan. Again.
Ben Myers of Faith and Theology has run an amusing poll for the worst theological inventions. Last I looked, 'inerrancy' was the chosen leader of this poll ahead even of 'Double predestination', 'the rapture', 'Arianism', 'Christendom as an empire' and 'Just war theory'.
Now it is no secret that I don't like the doctrine of inerrancy, especially as it is formulated in the Chicago Statement. In fact, I wrote a series explaining why here, and I have seen no reason to change my basic view since then. I would hastily add that I have a very high view of scripture and have nuanced my views since I wrote that series, but I still stand by my posts. Especially helpful for me was Vanhoozer's article, "A Person of the Book? Barth on Biblical Authority and Interpretation" in Karl Barth and Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich., Baker Academic: 2006)
However, I personally think it an outrage that inerrancy has thus far been voted a worse theological invention ahead of the likes of Arianism, the latter having been labelled as heresy by the church universal for centuries due to central issues such as soteriology and doxology!
But inerrancy is not heresy. While not encumbered with the latter nuances that emerged in light of the 'battle with liberalism', similar understandings of scripture have existed for centuries in the church, facilitating healthy respect for and expectancy on the God who speaks through the biblical texts. A slightly unbalanced (and essentially unbiblical) understanding of the nature of scripture, inerrancy is, yes. A factually and demonstratably wrong doctrine, yes. Wild-goose-chase red-herring-infested, yes. But heresy, in my books, it is not. Indeed, many thousands of Christians have found that inerrancy formulates their understanding of scripture such that their faith in God to speak to them through the bible is enhanced. Again: Inerrancy has for many facilitated a respectful and expectant attitude towards God as Christians read the bible – and not just among hardcore fundies, but for many intelligent modern Christians, not to mention the thousands in developing nations for whom some of our theological subtleties are nothing but farts in the wind. OK, it has also been destructive to others who are taught the bible is inerrant, who then turn to read a bible that manifestly isn't, but it is hardly the worst theological invention. Inerrancy may well be the worst of all in the hands of the militant variety, but then again almost everything is awful when handled by such folk. Alas, I suspect the popularity of negativity against inerrancy is a sign that things have gotten out of perspective.
I told you I had a conservative evangelical operating system! Though I tried to deinstall my 'liberal rationalist quickly demythologise it and deny its historicity to be accepted as critical' patch, my system never was quite the same. Slower, but it calculated more accurately.