Friday, October 17, 2014

The scriptures are more genuine than inerrant

The theory of inerrancy, in general, refers to the belief that the scriptures we have today have come down to us intact, without errors, omissions, or corruptions. Inerrancy asserts, not only the apostolic origin of the scriptures, but also their preservation in their present forms. Inerrancy, as some believe it, also asserts that each individual word selected by the authors was chosen by the Holy Spirit, "From His lips to their pen," therefore rendering each word in each passage as the exact and precise word of God.

In my opinion, inerrancy, as a theory, has many rational difficulties especially when placed against the nearly two thousand years of intervening history. For example, is it the Hebrew words Jesus spoke, the Greek words recorded by the apostles, or the English words we read today that are inerrant? Of the many manuscripts and fragments, which one is the inerrant manuscript? How can we select one over the other and declare one inerrant ant the other errant? Where the apostles differ in their recollections of events, which one is the inerrant memory? Finally, how can we assign inerrancy to scriptures that the early church themselves struggled to declare as genuine?

My problem with inerrancy is two fold. First it is often used as a wedge to divide the church between those who are "true believers" and adherents to one version or translation of the scriptures against those who prefer another. Inerrency has been used as justification to to divide the church and as a weapon to wage war against others who differ in their beliefs. Secondly, inerrancy can place too great an obstacle for those who wish to believe in God. For some, while they believe the Gospel message, to require faith in the inerrancy of scriptures is an obstacle they cannot get over. For some, inerrancy seems to require the deliberate suspension of their rational faculties in order for them to accept such a belief,

My position on the scriptures is that they are genuine. not inerrant. By this I mean that, the scriptures as they have come down to us, are the genuine production of the apostles and of other apostolic men. They are the works of whom they claim to be. They are the genuine teachings, memories, and inspiration of those who actually lived and experienced those events. The historical evidence lends much credibility to the genuineness of the scriptures. In fact, quoting from Phillip Shaff, some of the most convincing evidence comes from early enemies of Christianity.
"These heretical testimonies are almost decisive by themselves. The Gnostics wouldrather have rejected the fourth Gospel altogether, as Marcion actually did, from doctrinal objection. They certainly would not have received it from the Catholic church, as little as the church would have received it from the Gnostics. The concurrent reception of the Gospel by both at so early a date is conclusive evidence of its genuineness." (Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church Vol 1., Chapter 83)
There is no historical, or even intellectual, reason not to believe that these scriptures are anything other than what they purport to be. Where differences do occur among the memories of the apostles, its not a question of forcing inerrancy upon their memories, but an acknowledgement that each one remembered the events as they affected them personally. Speaking of the writings of the Apostles, Clement of Alexandria says,
"These things are written in the Gospel according to Mark; and in all the rest correspondingly; although perchance the expressions vary slightly in each, yet all show identical agreement in meaning." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich, Chapter 5)
Clement acknowledged that differences of memory may exist between the apostles, but the message is the same. What is important is not the words chosen but the message conveyed. What is inerrant is not that part that is human, the choice of words or the precision of their memory, but the message which their words and memories contain, for the message is not human but divine. This is how we should approach the scriptures, as the genuine and accurate communication of the divine message as recorded and expressed through human agents. We should not fear the scriptures or the words they contain for the message they deliver is from God.

David Robison

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