Why I’ve Given Up on Biblical Inerrancy

Growing up within conservative evangelicalism I always assumed that the people I went to church with thought of the Bible in the same way.  More specifically, I always assumed that when Christians talked about the Bible as “inerrant” they all shared a common definition.  After attending two Christian Universities and obtaining degrees in biblical studies and theology, you might say my assumptions about common definitions have been dashed.  When Christians talk about inerrancy I’m finding  that they might be talking past each other because definitions vary from person to person.  The more recent  evangelical statement on inerrancy known as “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy” lays out a provisional framework that can be helpful.  I do want to explain, however, that it seems as though the term “inerrancy” is often used in a way that deviates from this framework.  So what’s the issue you may ask?

Let me pose a question. Does the Bible contain errors?

If you say yes then you’re probably not a Christian…I’m kidding, but let me explain.  When some people say the Bible contains errors, they mean that certain literal numerical or related claims are not correct.  For example, in Jeremiah 15:8 God states that, “I have made their widows more in number than the sand of the sea.”  This statement is literally false and so could be viewed as containing error.  The same thing could be said of Jesus’ claim in Mark 4;31, “is like a grain of mustard seed which when sown upon the ground is the smallest of all the seeds on earth…”  Sorry Jesus, a mustard seed is NOT the smallest seed on the earth so yet again we have a biblical error…depending on your definition.  We could also bring up chronological inconsistencies within the gospels and conclude that errors have been made. (Compare the calming of the storm event Mt 8:23-27 = Mk 4:35-41 = Lk 8:22-25)  What can we say about these so-called errors?  Is the Bible not to be trusted?

I’ll let this idea hang out for a while and give you some time for further thought and feedback.  What say you?


5 thoughts on “Why I’ve Given Up on Biblical Inerrancy

  1. Since you have set down a line of questioning and therefore are on a quest to find an answer; I will ask you to please permit me the luxury of laying down a line of questioning to guide you because I have recently been down a similar road and left it when I saw what you wrote. When you look closely at a painting do you lose sight of it beauty to only pick out is flaws? Dose a harvester during harvest season examine the grain to see if it is worthy of being harvested at all? Dose one walking though a forest stop to stair at a tree that he believes should not be in that specific area and then come to the conclusion that he is some where else? Dose one sifting for diamonds find one and based on what he perceives as flaws throw it out rather then putting it in his satchel? Dose… (lol, this mite not work for this generation… shame) a man that is lonely and finds a women that fills that gap in his life marry her to only start searching again?

    • In light of your poetic line of questioning I want to clarify what you seem to be getting at. You are asking if occasional flaws/errors detract from the beauty of the whole. I would say that it all depends on the nature of what you believe “the whole” to be. When talking about canonical scripture there is far more at risk for some, than merely looking at a beautiful painting only to find a misplaced brush stroke. What do you think?

      • What I wrote, I believe was given and I believe the questions should not be taken so lightly. Not that I believe myself some grate man of theology, for I do not; I am lowly and with out standing amongst theologists. What I wrote, is how I understand what has been put in me. To what you believe the questions mean: no, that is not what I believe they mean, nor do I believe they can not be connected so easily. I believe each is to be pondered in its own right. They are similar but different questions. By the by, I never said there was a misplaced brush stroke. The line of questions are parables and each parable is like a check point on a map. When you set out on a road trip, you pick out different places you want to stop and see a long the way; and for this do you not gain more from the journey? In this case the line of questioning leads to an understanding and the questions are things to ponder on the way. I believe, You stopped at the first question, looked at question the wrong way and decided the rest of the journey was not worth the effort. Why?

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