This is a follow up to a post much earlier on inerrancy of the Bible. In the comments of that post I put comments back to The Bible Reader over at bittersweetend.wordpress.com.
Here was his questions:
“In your opinion can you define inerrancy, and how it applies to the bible…”
And my response:
First my personal thoughts are not terribly well researched. For something broadly accepted and acceptable by Christians I go to some statement like the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.
I think like Dr. Daniel Wallace. In the Bible God has had recorded his great acts in history. I think about Exodus 15 where there is a summary of what God had done over the years, preserving the children of Israel.
Next, I believe that the bible is infallible, that is, the Bible is true in what it teaches. The truth referred to here in my thinking is related to faith and practice.
Next we come to inerrancy. The Bible is true in dealing with historical issues, but with regard to the new testament we have to understand 1st century historical practices.
What do I mean by that? If you look at some incident in different Gospels, we see some differences in wording. That’s okay if we are not thinking in terms of quotations being nailed exactly, like a tape recorder. They didn’t have or use quotation marks in Greek. No spaces in the Greek texts of the new testament. They had to conserve paper because there was not lots of it around. What’s in red letters in some bibles are not exact quotes, word for word, of Jesus, they are summaries of what he said but maintaining the essence of what he said.
I just picked up a quote from Dr. Bart Ehrman on the Gospel of Mark which relates to inerrancy. He said in a debate with William Lane Craig: “Mark’s Gospel is filled with theological reflections on the meaning of the life of Jesus; this is Mark’s Gospel. It’s not a datasheet; it’s a Gospel.” He’s right. It is not a datasheet. It is telling a story of very good news about a person, a historical person, named Jesus Christ.
So, yes the concept and the belief in inerrancy is there but these seeming contradictions are not faith-killers. Seeming contradictions is a very important concept when we are looking at the “data/facts” contained in the Word of God.
Dr Wallace wrote an analysis of the issues with Mark 2:26 and I Samuel 21:1-6–one of these seeming contradictory documentations. Dr. Wallace’s analysis is record here: http://bible.org/article/mark-226-and-problem-abiathar .
Mark 2:26 is supposedly the verse that threw Dr. Bart Ehrman over the edge.
Though Dr. Wallace does a thorough analysis of all the issues and comes up with possible resolutions of the seeming contradictions, he tells Lee Strobel that he did not conclude what the resolution was in his own mind.
That can actually be a good thing because faith does not “require” a resolution to every question that we have about events or details of history. The reason is because many of those details of history have nothing to do with the essence of the message of the Bible: Old and New.
And as the Chicago statement puts it in Article XVII:
WE AFFIRM that the Holy Spirit bears witness to the Scriptures, assuring believers of the truthfulness of God’s written Word.
WE DENY that this witness of the Holy Spirit operates in isolation from or against Scripture.
There is a mystical element, that is the Holy Spirit working in a believer’s life and mind to bear witness to the relevance and trustworthiness of the words of the scriptures.
So, a belief in inerrancy is not a requisite of faith and neither do I believe that the believer in Jesus is to take a view that every detail of history touched by the scriptures where apparent inconsistencies appear are necessarily resolvable.
For almost every inconsistency I have heard of or seen, there are analyses of them done by scholars like Dr. Wallace which demonstrate there are possible explanations which do resolve. However, it is idealistic to assume that resolutions are straightforward or that all will be resolved.