Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Scriptural inerrancy.

While driving to get a sandwich during lunchtime, I heard this on a Christian radio station:
"Do you believe that the Bible is unconditionally and completely inerrant, infallible, without defect and perfectly authoritative for every matter of faith and living out your life? If not, you're in trouble."
I find this to be horribly bad preaching. Rather than encouraging folks to take comfort in the work of Christ on the cross, the preacher raises up fears about exactly how much one believes in the scriptures. Can we ever believe enough? Maybe not! Perfect justice from God would require absolute belief-- all would fall short of the glory of God.

Don't get me wrong. I hold the bible to be so authoritative that I'm apt to attract the label of "inerrantist" or "literalist" from some I've debated with. I have not yet found any doctrinal matter in Christian tradition to be so difficult as to require my reaching for the concept of errancy as a solution. I am much more willing to invoke my lack of understanding or my incomplete sense of justice than I am errancy. Most of the justifications for errancy are quite cheezy and tenuous if I may say so, including those dredged up in the debates over creation and sexual ethics. I also believe that training folks to reach for the concept of errancy in the simple questions ultimately sows seeds of disbelief when the big ones come. I would also stress that cheezy-invocations-of-errancy are so problematic that I can imagine myself switching congregations or at least Christian magazine subscriptions over the topic.

The only thing worse than pushing errancy as an easy answer to tough theological questions, however, is pushing inerrancy as a condition for salvation and fellowship. On the Last Day, the Lord may take with Him some who don't even understand the scriptures let alone have an established opinion on inerrancy. This preacher is still wrong. It is not our failure to maintain perfect intellectual assent to the scriptures which has displeased God but our sins in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. The answer is not greater intellectual assent on our part but rather the work of Christ on the cross.


Immediately following that preacher's sermon was a report on how Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice was fighting the ACLU over the existence of a giant cross on public property in San Diego. More misplaced witnessing. A pox on both houses, I say...

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