Arguments Against Inerrancy

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Is the Bible Inerrant?

My seminary class notes present refutations for several of the common arguments against inerrancy. I remember not being too impressed by these refutations at the time, but now, some of them seem quite absurd.

Do not misunderstand. I believe in inerrancy. But I believe a slightly different version of it than what I learned in seminary. We will discuss my view later this week. (If you are new here, make sure you subscribe to the posts so you don’t miss out).

So here are some of the typical arguments against inerrancy, and how to refute them. I include my own comments in parentheses.

Cults Teach the Inerrancy of Scripture

The argument here is that inerrancy cannot be right because some of the biggest proponents of inerrancy are found in the teachings of cult leaders. They use the doctrine of inerrancy to support their outlandish teachings from the Bible. Therefore, inerrancy must be wrong.

Refutation: So what if they teach it? They teach all sorts of things that agree with sound Christian doctrine. So do other religions. Similarity in teachings does not mean that the teaching is wrong.

(My Comments: The argument is weak in the first place, and so this is a good refutation. Similarity of beliefs does not mean the beliefs are wrong.)

Men are Fallible, So the Bible is Fallible

Since men wrote the Bible, and all men make mistakes, then the Bible must also have mistakes.

Apostle Paul justification

Refutation: If all men are fallible, then you are fallible too. Therefore, your argument is fallible.

(My comments: I’m sorry, but this “refutation” is laughable. It sounds like the playground argument where one kid says, “You’re stupid” and the other kid says, “Oh yeah! Well, you’re stupider!”)

Refutation Cont: Furthermore, we believe that Jesus was both human and divine, and yet He was perfect in every way. This is called the “hypostatic union.” If this was true of Jesus, it can also be true of Scripture, so that we can talk about the “hypostatic union” of Scripture. Just as Jesus was a divine man, so Scripture is a divine book.

(My Comments: Yikes! Though the initial part of the refutation was laughable, this part is downright scary! This comes so close to making the Bible equal with Jesus, that I find it frightening. The hypostatic union of Scripture?! The Bible as a divine book?! No wonder that those who question the inerrancy of Scripture get labeled a heretic just as fast as those who question the divinity of Jesus!)

Inerrancy is not a Scientific Way to Approach Scripture

The Scientific Method is the way to approach everything in life. And since everything in life has flaws, we must assume that the Bible does too. We cannot presume that it is inerrant.

Refutation: The Scientific Method cannot presume that the Bible has errors either. You cannot presume anything if you use the Scientific Method. But when you use it, you find both internal and external evidence that the Bible is without errors of any kind. There are a few difficulties, but most of these can be explained.

(My Comments: This is a decent refutation. If someone wants to test the Bible scientifically for errors, they cannot presume that it has errors or that it doesn’t.)

Inerrancy Only Applies to the Original Manuscripts

Since inerrancy only applies to the original manuscripts which no longer exist, what’s the point? Everybody agrees that errors have crept in over the thousands of years of copying the text, and so what we have now is not inerrant, so why even believe in it?

Greek manuscripts

Refutation: Jesus and the biblical authors only had copies, and they seemed to have believed that the Bible was inerrant (Matt 4:4; John 10:35). Also, the original manuscripts do exist. They are “hidden” within the tens of thousands of copies that we have today, and we must use textual criticism to determine what the original manuscript said.

(My Comments: I think the traditional doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy have created this problem. Since the current copies have errors, and since we want something that is without error, we must make educated guesses about what those copies contained, and call them “inerrant.” But even if we had the actual original manuscripts, I don’t think it would solve much.

It would be like saying, “The original United States Constitution is inerrant.” This is a document we do have, but does having the document solve any of the problems about what the document means or how to apply it to our current situation? Not one bit.

However, if we slightly tweak our views of inspiration and inerrancy, as I am trying to do, the entire problem fades away into irrelevance.)

There are Errors in the Bible

This is probably the most common argument against inerrancy that you will hear. People simply state that there are errors, and therefore, the Bible is not inerrant.

Refutation: The easiest way to refute this argument is simply to ask, “Where?” People who say there are errors don’t actually know of any errors. They have just heard that there are errors. By asking “Where?” you reveal their own ignorance.

(My Comments: Ha ha ha ha ha! Sigh. What a refutation! Wow. It’s fighting ignorance with ignorance. What happens when someone does point out an error? Then what? By far, the better response is honesty. Own up to the fact that there are difficulties in Scripture, maybe even some errors, but with some careful thought and peaceful discussions, solutions can be found.)

Conclusion

The bottom line is this: I never, ever want to refute the arguments of people against the Bible. Not ever.

Why not? Because it’s not about defending the Bible. I don’t need to defend the Bible. I don’t care to defend the Bible. I don’t want to defend the Bible. When I set out to defend the Bible, almost without fail, the discussion quickly degenerates into a full-blown argument, complete with flailing arms, red faces, flying spittle, and bulging blood veins. Well, not always, but you get the point.

When I have discussions about the Bible with people who have different views than I do, my number one goal with them is not to win the argument, but to win another discussion. I want to build the relationship, keep the conversation flowing, generate mutual trust, openness, and honesty. I want to give them a safe place to voice their doubts, and show them that I am willing to listen and consider their ideas, without judging or condemning them in the process.

What good is it to refute all the arguments against inerrancy of Scripture if in the process, we fail to speak and act with love, patience, kindness, gentleness, and respect? Such behavior does more to refute Scripture than any logical argument against inerrancy ever could.

The greatest argument against inerrancy could be how you and I behave when we try to defend it.


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Comments

  1. says

    Argument against inerrancy:
    See all of the above…

    Refutation:
    “Good for you. I’m glad you know where you stand on the subject. It doesn’t, however, affect my viewpoints. All I’m saying is that you better be sure.”

    Note: inerrancy as far as every “a, an, and the” being flawless and “God dictated” is useless. Faith in somethig void of any reason is superstition. I do buy into innerrancy on Wednesdays, though, because Wednesdays are “don’t believe in dinosaurs days.”

  2. says

    The point is that at some point it becomes very much like someone devaluing your favorite NFL quarterback. We can be very defensive about the stupidest of things while ignoring the real issues of the world (I.e. Human suffering). Willing to debate biblical inerrancy for weeks at a time but unwilling to serve at a soup kitchen one day a month is bullshit.

    • says

      Bonar,
      Absolutely true.

      Of course, I believe that if a reading of the Bible doesn’t lead one to serve others, then it is absolutely the wrong way of reading the Bible.

  3. says

    Jeremy, you ended up where my thinking always goes to in discussions of inerrancy, inspiration and similar topics – If you (generic) think it is the word of God, then prove it to me by the way you live your life. Prove it to me by showing me how you love others, including me. Prove it by your sweet spirit. Prove it by loving “the least of these”. Prove it by being generous with your life, your time and what you own. Otherwise, it is just religion.

    Always needing to be right, always needing to be in charge and control, always too busy and self-centered for others and always trying to figure out ways that you can profit from God, the Bible, church and religion tells me who you are, in which case I care not what you think about what the Bible says, whether or not it is without error and so on. (Again this is the generic “you”. I do not think you personally are this way at all, Jeremy.)

    All our language studies, charts and arguments will never prove the Bible to anyone. Our lives and our love are the best proclamation of the Gospel any of us will ever have.

  4. Kirk says

    I agree with you. What good does it do to argue with people?

    It is better to find some common ground first and then talk about the other issues after establishing that.

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