So the other day I was scrolling around Twitter, which I do quite a bit. I came across a tweet that I thought would be a great way to have conversation with some well meaning people.
What’s one theological take you hold that other people might not know about you?— Jane (@janeelisabethh) March 11, 2021
Now I don’t hold many controversial opinions. For the most part, I think I fit in pretty well with most churches. I simply ask that people not have a blind faith, and question everything. Any way, I chose to respond to this by being open and honest because I’ve learned that I am not incredibly open about my actual beliefs. My response was
Apparently I haven’t made it obvious to people that I do not believe in the Rapture or the inerrancy of Scripture— Preston Howell (@pshowell23) March 11, 2021
I’m sure you can guess which of these opinions has led to the writing of this post. As far as I am aware, the Rapture is not something that is widely accepted outside of the American Evangelical church. I, of course could be wrong about this, since I haven’t done the research, but my anecdotal evidence of conversations with other Christians at least assures me that there are plenty of people that doubt the reality of the Rapture. Now to my opinion of the Bible.
As far as the Christian Theology is concerned, Biblical Inerrancy is a rather new concept. In a document produced in 1978 called the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” signed by over 300 scholars and church leaders, we find that Biblical Inerrancy means “Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God…” It continues to state “The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible’s own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.” Effectively, these statements are claiming that the Church needs for the Bible to be without error so it can claim to have divine authority. These scholars and church leaders determined that in order for the Church to have any logical leg to stand on, it has to have an understanding that it’s Scriptures, in their current presentation, is exactly as God intended for them to be and any teaching found within cannot be incorrect. This is, of course, not unique to Christianity as many religions have similar claims on their Scriptures.
The mistake that I made is in not being clear about why I question a belief in inerrancy. I do not doubt that God is revealed in Scripture. I believe that God is revealed both through His Creation and specifically through Jesus and Scripture. Scripture is a tool that God uses to communicate with His people today. My problem with a the claim of inerrancy is that it promotes a blind faith that is unwilling to have a firmer grasp of the God that it claims to believe in, because it believes it already knows everything that can possibly be. Essentially placing God in a box that we have designed and forcing us to believe that He would do anything outside of it. I admit that much of Christian Theology chooses to do exactly this but I believe it is the work of theologians to help us understand God, not limit Him.
Many of the responses I received were arguing that the Bible is absolutely inerrant, which I assumed was going to happen. The problem with this belief is that it applies to every translation of Scripture that is not penned by the original author. Everything else has too much possibility of being tainted by human biases. Yes, God can work through the things that we do not intend for good, but to believe that the Scripture we currently read is without problems, is itself a problem. Much work as been done by scholars showing that the Biblical text is riddled with inconsistencies. Plus, there are many places where the Bible makes claims that do not fit with evidence gathered from archeology, biology, geology, paleontology, and other sciences that seeks to discover the ancient world. Yes, the Bible does still have good historical record but this doesn’t mean that we can assume everything is 100% accurate. Just look at the Gospels and you will see enough evidence that there are inconsistencies within Scripture.
We do not need the Bible to be inerrant in order to have faith in God. We can believe in His revelation through Scripture. We can recognize the authority of the Apostles and the Prophets to give guidance in living God honoring lives. We can trust in the historical writings without needing everything to be 100% accurate (this isn’t even the way history was written in the ancient world). What we need is to develop a Church that is comfortable with doubt and asking questions. The outside world is most certainly asking questions of themselves and us. When those questions come, the response cannot be “cause the Bible says so.” Believing in the inerrancy of Scripture has made the Church soft in its philosophical power. We have put too much faith into a book, written hundreds of years ago, edited and translated hundreds of times, to be the guiding force of our faith. We have turned the very Scriptures that reveal God to us, into an idol that inhibits our faith. God warned us of making idols. Now, many of us are paying the price because we are unable to recognize God. The God of the Bible has not made the Bible into God. To make this mistake costs us the ability of faith in God. Instead, too many people believe that the answers they need are found within the pages of a book, rather than on their knees before the God who created them. I believe that Scripture is inspired, authoritative, and instructive, but it is not and cannot be perfect and without error. Only God can be these things, and Scripture isn’t God.