Growing up evangelical, one of the core teachings was of the significance of the Bible to our faith. In the future, this teaching will either mean radical changes to the evangelical faith or radical diminishment, as study after study show my generation displaying less and less interest in what the Bible says. One of the big struggles my generation has with Christianity, and in evangelicalism particularly, is with the teaching of the “Inerrant Bible,” the teaching that the Bible is without error.
This teaching came about in the early 20th century when fundamentalists saw how some people were questioning the nature of the Bible. They adopted the teaching of the “Inerrant Bible.” Among one of the proclamations of what it meant to be an evangelical came from David Bebbington who said that one of the four marks of an Evangelical is their regard for the Bible. Shortly before Bebbington came around their was an Evangelical theologian and professor from Princeton Theological Seminary named B.B Warfield who held to the belief in the “Inerrant Bible” but only in its original artifacts, original manuscripts. The wars over the “Inerrant Bible” are no longer. We don’t have them, and we probably never will. Although, Biblical archaeology is getting better all the time.
One of the pitfalls of Evangelical Christianity has been our ability to think we own the “Inerrant Truth” because we believe we have the correct interpretation of the “Inerrant Bible.“ David Fitch, in his wonderful book The End of Evangelcalism?, describes the potential chaos if we were to find the original artifacts. He says, “ ‘The Inerrant Bible’ in essence allows us to interpret the Bible to mean anything we want it to mean it to because after all we believe it to be ‘Inerrant.’ To exaggerate, we can say just about anything based on the Bible and then declare our allegiance to the Bible’s inerrancy. No one then can dare question our Orthodoxy!… As a result, ‘the inerrant Bible’ holds together a wide variety of institutions and churches that have very little in common in terms of their practice except of course the desire to self-identify as evangelical.” When we look at the difference of Churches who hold to an “Inerrant Bible” then we see a wide variety in what is claimed as Truth. Organizations and Churches like Saddleback and Willow Creek are going to have very different theological interpretations than Joel Osteen’s Church and World Vision, but both hold to the belief of the “Inerrant Bible”, so who is right and wrong?
The idea of Christian pluralism ought to be held for our social and biblical practices. It takes a strong ego to say we hold the whole truth. especially since, we don’t have the original artifacts. The ego that doesn’t allow pluralism cannot allow expression outside of its understanding. Therefore, how we interpret theology and mission of the Church is pushed aside by their “right” interpretation. If this ego is true, then how do we accomplish God’s mission of blessing others because we are blessed (seen in Abraham) and the reconciliation of all things (seen in Jesus). What I believe, is that we are called to trust in authority of the Bible, seen through Jesus Christ. How do we see God working through the narrative of the Bible, while maintaining a Christ centered reading. We understand God and his mission through the eyes of Jesus. This demands a more generous and creative reading of the Bible. And, to take the Bible more seriously than before. We should remain open to historical understanding and what God wants to reveal to us. This opens up the Bible to us and produces less hostile people. We simply cannot continue to have the theological wars and separation that we saw around Love Wins Especially when Jesus says that the world will know God by the way we love each other.
What do you think it means to be a Biblical Christian?
A video from someone I deeply respect (Greg Boyd),