Should our faith weaken if the Bible is proven to be with errors? Isn’t the Bible the core of Christianity? If the core of Christianity is erroneous, shouldn’t Christianity crumble?
If these thoughts resonate in you, you are not totally off the mark.
To relentlessly assault the Bible is the fervent passion of many. To rattle the faith of the Christians is their vocation.
As if to add to this predicament, quite a few evangelical Christian scholars and institutions are migrating away from committing to inerrancy i.e. the Bible is without errors. But interestingly, they commit to Bible’s infallibility i.e. the Bible is incapable of failing.
Broadly there are two categories of Christians in the context of Historic Christianity and biblical inerrancy. The biblical inerrantists defend the view that the Bible is without errors.1 The other group, the non-inerrantists, is rather lenient in this position. They consider the Bible as a document that is susceptible to errors, but not in the matters pertaining to the redemptive (salvation).
For instance, the National Association of Evangelicals, in their statement of faith, do not commit to the inerrancy of the Bible, “We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.” 2 In this view, biblical inerrancy is limited to matters pertaining to salvation and not the entire content of the Bible.
The limited inerrancy view offers room for the Bible to err in non-redemptive matters – matters that are not salvific by nature e.g. geographical, historical, scientific etc. The proponents of this view state that the main purpose of the Bible is “spiritual transformation” – to bring the lost man into a saving relationship with God. They then affirm that “If the Bible contains some errors, some discrepancies, that do not affect its power to transform lives through faith-filled communion with God, that is not important.” 3
But the unlimited or total inerrancy view does not offer any room for the Bible to err. The unlimited inerrancy view affirms that the Bible is true in all its content, be it redemption, history or science.
Those who defend total inerrancy state, “We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science” (Art. 12). It further declares that: “The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible’s own (A Short Statement, 5, emphasis added).”4
The picture becomes rather clear now.
Those who believe that the Bible contains no errors (the biblical inerrantists or those subscribing to the view of unlimited inerrancy) hold the doctrine of biblical inerrancy as an essential doctrine of Historic Christianity.5 The non-inerrantists or those who hold to the limited inerrancy view do not consider the doctrine of inerrancy as a core tenet of Historic Christianity.
If the Bible is proven to be with errors, you and I could respond in two broad ways. These options are predicated on whether we hold to the doctrine of inerrancy as an essential doctrine to Christian faith or not.
If you consider inerrancy as an essential doctrine, and, if the Bible is proven to be with errors, then your faith could weaken. But if you consider inerrancy as a non-essential doctrine, and, you consider the Bible as a document that is not erroneous in the redemptive but otherwise susceptible to errors, then your faith would not weaken.
Easier said than done!
Those who consider the Bible to be without any errors (biblical inerrantists) argue against the argument that the Bible has errors but is infallible (biblical non-inerrantists).6 Their argument is predicated on two very strong facts:
- God cannot lie either intentionally or unintentionally. If the Bible is God’s Word, and if God cannot lie, then the Bible ought to be without error.
- Christ (God-incarnate) proclaimed that God’s Word is without any errors (cf. John 10:35 & Matthew 5: 18).
So it is quite plausible that the Bible cannot or should not err.
But think from another vantage point.
Would an erroneous Bible entail the non-existence of God? No, not by any chance!
God exists necessarily. God’s existence is not predicated or intricately linked to the veracity of the Bible. In other words, God will not cease to exist if the Bible is erroneous.
In fact, God existed even before the Bible was written. It was God who inspired the human authors to write the Bible. Bible reveals God. However, the Bible is not the only source that reveals God (cf. Romans 1: 19-20).
The Lord Jesus Christ, the means to salvation of mankind, existed independent of the Bible’s veracity. For instance, history affirms Christ’s existence and resurrection.
Dr. Gary Habermas asserts that Jesus’ death by crucifixion, HIS postmortem appearances to HIS disciples, and Paul’s vision of the resurrected Christ, are the most affirmed historical facts by both Christian and non-Christian scholars. 7
Therefore, if the Bible is proven to be with errors, neither would God cease to exist nor would Christ. If history affirms Christ’s resurrection, then salvation through Christ is also a fact that remains independent of the Bible.
This is not an exercise to undermine Bible’s authority. This is a mere exercise to affirm the independent existence (apart from the Bible) of God, the Lord Jesus Christ and salvation of mankind through Christ.8
Therefore, even if the Bible is proven to contain errors, it would not and cannot undermine God, Christ and salvation of mankind. In other words, Christianity would not crumble if the Bible is proven to be with errors.
God is at the core of Christianity. Christ and the salvation that HE offered to mankind are at the core of Christianity.
But inerrancy of the Bible need not be at the core of Christianity. If inerrancy of the Bible is to remain at the core of Christianity, then it would presuppose that inerrancy of the Bible is far superior in value to God, Christ and salvation. However, since God is the source of the Bible, God ought to be at the core of Christianity and not the inerrancy of the Bible. Inerrancy is the corollary of God’s nature.
Unfortunately, this is not what Bart Ehrman thought. Bart Ehrman, the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, lost his faith in Christ because he apparently discovered one minor error in the gospels. It seemed Professor Ehrman held the doctrine of biblical inerrancy as the core of Christianity.
When a particular passage in the Gospel of Mark befuddled Bart Ehrman, his strong belief in inerrancy of the Bible was shaken. He became a liberal Christian and then ended up as an agnostic atheist after being unable to reconcile the philosophical problems of evil and suffering.9
So should inerrancy be an essential doctrine of Christianity? Maybe so. However, God, who is the source of the Bible, ought to be at the core of Christianity and not the inerrancy of the Bible. Disputing inerrancy would not and cannot damage God or Christ or salvation of mankind.
This article is intended to impact Christians, who are not into serious Christian pedagogy or academics. The full blown wrath of Christianity’s detractors, such as the New Atheists, is aimed to rattle the faith of these Christians. At the first instance, when you hear the relentless tirades of these detractors, your faith in Christ may shake.
Inerrancy of the Bible is not the beginning and the end of Christianity.
So, fear not!
God is at the core of Christianity. Christ and the salvation offered to mankind are at the core of Christianity. The Bible reveals our triune God. The Scripture cannot be broken. Let us continue to totally trust and study God and HIS Word. Amen.
1 http://defendinginerrancy.com/, last accessed on March 21, 2016
2 http://nae.net/statement-of-faith/, last accessed on March 21, 2016
3 http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2015/11/is-the-bible-inerrant-or-infallible/, last accessed on March 21, 2016
4 http://defendinginerrancy.com/unlimited-vs-limited-inerrancy/, last accessed on March 21, 2016
5 http://defendinginerrancy.com/why-is-inerrancy-important/, last accessed on March 21, 2016
6 http://defendinginerrancy.com/roger-e-olsen-is-the-bible-inerrant-or-infallible/, last accessed on March 21, 2016
7 http://www.garyhabermas.com/articles/southeastern_theological_review/minimal-facts-methodology_08-02-2012.htm, last accessed on March 21, 2016
http://www.garyhabermas.com/articles/J_Study_Historical_Jesus_3-2_2005/J_Study_Historical_Jesus_3-2_2005.htm#ch5, last accessed on March 21, 2016
8 I personally subscribe to the 3-ins – inspiration, inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible.
9 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bart_D._Ehrman, last accessed on March 21, 2016
This article was published at http://rajkumarrichard.blogspot.in/2016/03/the-bible-has-errors-what-do-we-do.html on March 21, 2016