A Couple of Preliminary Ramblings on Biblical Inerrancy

If you head over to the Gospel Coalition, you’ll find a couple recent blog posts on inerrancy and Scripture written by Kevin deYoung:


Being the kind-of-Barthian that I am, I found plenty to complain about in the above exposition of inerrancy, and I am intending to complain quite a bit. First off, the idea of inerrancy as a whole.

Here’s my idea: inerrancy is a reaction to a skepticism about the Bible that pretty much started in the Enlightenment and has continued to today. I’m no expert, but if you take a gander through church history, you don’t really find the modern day understanding of inerrancy emerging until the 19th century, or thereabouts. Once the Enlightenment kicked off, the bible was seen as an old book and pretty much not a whole lot else. Christians felt a need to reply to skepticism about the bible, Christianity, etc, and from that the modern understanding of inerrancy was born.

I see its development as particularly unhealthy, and here’s why. Inerrancy becomes something that *has* to be true, or else (insert consequences here). It *has* to be true. It’s a theology of defense-or-else. If it’s not true, then how can you trust any part of the bible? Why believe verse X is true but not verse Y? Where do you draw the line? Why believe anything in the bible if you can be mathematically certain that the entire thing is inerrant as understood by most modern evangelicals?

I found this neat little quote by Torrance to be thought-provoking:

[T]he extraordinary fact about the Bible is that in the hands of God it is the instrument he uses to convey to us his revelation and reconciliation and yet it belongs to the very sphere where redemption is necessary. The Bible stands above us speaking to us the Word of God and yet the Bible belongs to history which comes under the judgment of God and requires the cleansing and atoning activity of the Cross. When we hear the Word of God in the Bible, therefore, we hear it in such a way that the human word of Holy Scripture bows under the divine judgment, for that is part of its function in the communication of divine revelation and reconciliation. Considered merely it in itself it is imperfect and inadequate and its text may be faulty and errant, but it is precisely in its imperfection and inadequacy and faultiness and errancy that God’s inerrant Holy Word has laid hold of it that it may serve his reconciling revelation and the inerrant communication of his Truth. Therefore the Bible has to be heard as Word of God within the ambiguity of its poverty and riches, its weakness and power, and heard in such a way that we acknowledge that in itself in its human expression, the Bible comprises the word of man with all the limitations and imperfection of human flesh, in order to allow the human expression to fulfill its divinely appointed and holy function for us, in pointing beyond itself, to what it is not in itself, but to what God has marvellously made it to be in the adoption of his Grace. The Bible itself will pass away with this world, but the Word of God which it has been inspired to convey to us does not pass away but endures for ever. [Thomas F. Torrance, Divine Meaning: Studies in Patristic Hermeneutics, 9-10] (stolen from http://growrag.wordpress.com/)

Hopefully this will generate some good discussion. Like I said, I’m a Barthian, more or less, when it comes to Scripture, so I don’t really have to deal with this problem too much since this view pretty much sidesteps most of the things that cause this issue to come up. I welcome criticisms and challenges though.