Throughout the last couple of years, many have questioned my beliefs about the Bible. Since I, at the very least, am at odds with the doctrine of inerrancy, many believe that I’m on the border of becoming a heretic. Disliking the feeling of being rejected by fellow Christians for my version of the Christian faith, I’ve had it on my heart for some time to write out what I believe and why. I apologize in advance to all those who dislike church politics, but sometimes certain things arise that need to be set in order. This is one of them.
The doctrine of inerrancy, as the ESV Study Bible states it, is the belief that “The Bible is entirely truthful and reliable in all that it affirms in its original manuscripts,” (2507). What this article in the ESV Study Bible does not discuss is where those original manuscripts are: We don’t have them. Scholars (as usual) have often debated as to whether or not it’s possible to get back to the originals through the manuscripts we have, but no matter what is produced from such a study, it will be subject to the scholars’ varying opinions (even amongst the “conservative” and “liberal” sides).
When it comes to faith in Jesus Christ, though, I find no need of the doctrine of inerrancy itself. Even if it is true, my faith is in the blood of Jesus Christ shed for me and the resurrected life that He has given and is working through me. This is the point in my beliefs where many of my fellow Christians get unsettled. “What, then, do you really believe about the Bible?” some have asked. Answering this question has taken some time, prayer, and difficult conversations with pastors and a favorite professor.
But then, just yesterday, I read a quote from N.T. Wright that encapsulates my view of Scripture. Discussing “Inspiration and ‘the Word of YHWH,’” Wright says, “‘Inspiration’ is a shorthand way of talking about the belief that by his Spirit God guided the very different writers and editors, so that the books they produced were the books God intended his people to have. … And in and through it all we find the elusive but powerful idea of God’s ‘word,’ not as a synonym for the written scriptures, but as a strange personal presence, creating, judging, healing, recreating,” (Scripture and the Authority of God, 36).
As Dr. Falk, my favorite professor from U of O, once told me, the Spirit of God has been treated (even in the very Scriptures we hold dear to) as the first testament – the supreme authority – to our hearts. It’s the internal revelation we had when we first came to Christ and it’s the internal convictions we’ve had since that have corrected our thinking, speaking, and acting in order to follow God’s commandments and teachings more closely. If this is the same Spirit that inspired the Scriptures, then that means, as Dr. Falk told me, the Scriptures are the second testament to the first: The Holy Spirit, living and breathing within us.
N.T. Wright puts it this way: “When John declares that ‘in the beginning was the word,’ he does not reach a climax with ‘and the word was written down’ but ‘and the word became flesh.’… Since [this is itself a] ‘scriptural’ [statement], that means that scripture itself points – authoritatively, if it does indeed possess authority! – away from itself and to the fact that final and true authority belongs to God himself, now delegated to Jesus Christ,” (22).
Jesus is the reason I was baptized. Jesus is the reason I bought a Bible and started reading it. Jesus is the reason I have devoted my life towards something greater than myself. And Jesus is the reason why I have chosen to gather with Calvary-Fellowship instead of any other “sound-doctrine” church.
Some have told me to be careful. Some have told me there are too many “red flags” at Calvary. And some have told me that I’m “walking on a slippery slope.” But an interesting thing about those who’ve warned me against Calvary: They’ve never met my pastor, let alone have a conversation with him about inerrancy and biblical authority. And even if they had, I would much rather follow God onto a slippery slope than follow man’s commandments and doctrines that usually lead to religious bigotry instead of sincere faith.
Of course, sadly, the debates will continue to rage and false rumors will continue to spread. We’re human; we like controversy and gossip. What I would encourage everyone adamant about church politics is to read over Philippians 1:27, specifically where Paul encourages the Philippians to “[stand] firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”
At the end of the day, I worship, pray to, and seek Jesus. For any of His teachings and commandments, I refer to and study Scripture. “Wouldn’t that mean you believe it’s inerrant or perfect?” Does it need to be? I have yet to find any indication from Scripture that the doctrine of inerrancy is a prerequisite to being a follower of Christ. If that’s the case, Christians for the first 300 years or so (who had no Bible) cannot be regarded as “real” Christians. (Here is where I’ve been referred to 2 Timothy 3:16 as verification for inerrancy, but, quite frankly, it’s not that simple – and nowhere does Paul say “mandatory” regarding Scripture; it’s either “profitable” or “useful.”)
Think about it for yourself and your own personal faith; have you come to Christ believing the Scriptures were perfect? Do you think they need to be in order to have a genuine faith in Jesus? Or is it sufficient for them to be “reliable” rather than “perfect” (two very different words)? As I always have been, I’m open to discussion – insofar as it’s a discussion. Inerrancy is often a topic that leads to people “correcting” me, which only seems to push me further from the doctrine.
One final thing: If you want to know what my church believes or, more specifically, what my pastor believes, go to him. I can say what I think his beliefs are, but I’d rather let him speak for himself. In many regards, he and I agree, but in some others, we don’t. That’s the beauty of the Christian faith; it allows for different people with different backgrounds, different beliefs, different opinions to come together as one body (the church) for one faith.
May we all seek to love God with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, and all our strengths.