Why is the belief in Biblical inerrancy important to people?

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  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    edited January 29
    First of all, we need to do something about our vocabulary. I'm hearing some people say "inerrantist" and by that they seem to mean "wooden literalist, fool". Others allow for a limited amount of allegory.

    I don't know how to fix this, but I will say that I have never met an inerrantist (I'm LCMS) who does NOT recognize that parables are fiction . . . .
    I have. I've heard or read at least two or three preachers who were fairly well-known (at least in certain quarters) state in no uncertain terms that at least some of the parables—the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, and Lazarus and the Rich Man come to mind—are about things that actually happened, not fictional stories. One went so far as to say that if Jesus said "there was a man . . ." or "a certain man . . . ," then it must be literally true that there was indeed such a man—that the man Jesus is speaking about really existed, and the things in the story really happened.

    Which just underscores your concern about vocabulary. This comes up in the difference between "inerrantist" and "literalist," as well as in different shades of meaning given both words.

  • for once i don't think my thought has been said before and said better. I was wondering about this issue the other day and thought there is a circular connection between how interventionist peoples God is. Very interventionist (i'm sure that the right theological term) and God will have "controlled" the authors and translators minds and done all the things the Bible claims. Closer to a non-interventionist (Deist?) and people will only be inspired by there interaction with God and recorded it but more of the humanness gets in.
    So, i fear we get stuck in a circle where our main source of information about God is in the Bible (giving away that i'm a recovering evangelical) but we view that information based on what we already think.
  • Back for a brief moment--

    Keep in mind that there are weirdos on the fringe of any group. I have met an individual who thought the NOTES in an English AV Bible were inspired, and gave me grief about it. But one ought not to assume that all inerrantists, or indeed the bulk of them, are of the sort that would take the parables as "must have actually happened just this way." The weirdos are always the loudest.
  • Back for a brief moment--

    Keep in mind that there are weirdos on the fringe of any group. I have met an individual who thought the NOTES in an English AV Bible were inspired, and gave me grief about it. But one ought not to assume that all inerrantists, or indeed the bulk of them, are of the sort that would take the parables as "must have actually happened just this way." The weirdos are always the loudest.
    Agree, and I didn't mean to suggest otherwise. But at least one of the preachers to whom I referred—the one who claimed that "there was a man" meant there really was a man—had a nationally syndicated radio show and accompanying "ministry." Definitely loud, but not without a large following.

    (And don't worry. He wasn't Lutheran. :wink: )

  • Okay, a little bit more.

    Regarding the "parts of the Bible are abhorrent and therefore inerrantists are, too" argument. I'll try to address this later, probably off company time. It requires some unpacking.

    On a less negative note: Why are inerrantists (the ones I know, which is a few thousand at least) committed to that position?

    The primary reason is because they do in fact think it to be true. And the primary reason for THAT is because we have textual evidence that the early believers, and Jesus himself, treated it that way.

    Actually "inerrancy" is a lousy term. I much prefer Jesus' words "The Scripture cannot be broken." What we are looking at is a basic underlying unity, under all the diversity which is as obvious to us as it is to you. A unity that the Holy Spirit created, working through so many and various human beings. That is what we believe cannot be broken. And having seen Jesus hang a whole major doctrine (life after death) on a freaking VERB TENSE (Matthew 22:31-32), I am not inclined to say "well, the broad strokes are trustworthy, but there's no need to attribute authority to single passages."

    Please note that this is all about submitting myself to the text. Contrary to what some idiots teach (and what even more, um, misled individuals take to be the normative position of inerrancy), the point is for me to submit myself to the text, not for me to submit my neighbors to it (and particularly not my non-Christian neighbors, which is a folly even Paul despised). God did not place us here to establish his kingdom by force, even by political force. For the freaks and weirdos who attempt to do based on their (often erroneous) reading of the text, see my comment on "all groups have fringe freaks" above.
  • It isn’t freaks and weirdos who have supported politicians and policies that have restricted the rights of others. It is normal, mainstream believers.
  • Okay, a little bit more.

    Regarding the "parts of the Bible are abhorrent and therefore inerrantists are, too" argument.
    Nonone is making that argument. Inerrantism is aberrant and, in practice, often aborrent as well. That is different to what you said.
    The primary reason is because they do in fact think it to be true. And the primary reason for THAT is because we have textual evidence that the early believers, and Jesus himself, treated it that way.
    Contested of course, as in the anti-divorce passage twisted into an anti-homosexual one.
    What we are looking at is a basic underlying unity, under all the diversity which is as obvious to us as it is to you.
    This sounds reasonable, but inerrancy doesn’t allow for a unified message without a lot of fudging. Which is the exact complaint inerrantists have against more traditional ways of reading scripture.
  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    It isn’t freaks and weirdos who have supported politicians and policies that have restricted the rights of others. It is normal, mainstream believers.

    Says who? I am speaking as an inerrantist, for the large chunk of us who aren't raging all over the media acting like assholes. I have been in this community for forty years, and am aware of its history going back centuries. What is your familiarity with us? What gives you the right to designate "normal, mainstream believers" in inerrancy?
  • Says the demographics crossed referenced with voting records.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Dead Horses Host
    Lamb Chopped. Which of the various definitions of inerrancy is the one which you apply to yourself. Of course you are right that there is confusion over terms but a belief in inerrancy has never to my mind implied a wooden literalism.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    Barnabas62 wrote: »
    Lamb Chopped. Which of the various definitions of inerrancy is the one which you apply to yourself. Of course you are right that there is confusion over terms but a belief in inerrancy has never to my mind implied a wooden literalism.

    There seems to be a confusion between "inerrancy" (the Bible is without error) and "literalism" (the Bible is a literal, factual account of real events, occasionally rendered in poetic or allegorical format). In a lot of cases this is because people who claim to be both literalists and inerrantists will dismiss any seeming errors as poetic or metaphorical. The problem is that this division of literal vs. metaphorical is typically not done in any systematically consistent manner, leading to suspicions that the literal inerrantist (or inerrant literalist) is just swapping back and forth to suit whatever pre-determined outcome suits his or her preference.

    For example, floodgates in the dome of the sky holding back the waters of heaven - metaphor.
    Waters pouring through those metaphorical floodgates - literal.
  • And having seen Jesus hang a whole major doctrine (life after death) on a freaking VERB TENSE (Matthew 22:31-32),

    You see this one of the key reasons I'm not on the inerrancy bus.

    Language is simply too vague to hang any major doctrine on a "freaking verb tense" in one verse; I can't even out which verb you're referring to or why this doctrine depends on that verb in that text.

    And this is what I meant by my view that a lot depends on whether people think truth resides, ultimately, in specific words.
  • Still not fully sorted the new computer, but comments so far....

    When I mentioned 'Animal Farm' I wasn't intending deep discussions of that book itself, but simply to offer an accessible example of the idea of writing which is significantly true/valid/useful but not at all simplistically 'literal'; and also an opening into the idea of how straightforward (!) figures of speech and issues of 'genre' affect interpretation. And in the process to point out that while I see what 'inerrantists' were trying to say, I'm not sure 'inerrant' is an ideal word to describe what can be going on in the Bible.

    As LC points out, those who use the term, for example LC and Packer, generally do mean something like the Tyndale passage I quoted, and far from a 'dumb wooden' literalism.

    I can't help feeling that a reviewer at the time of publication of Animal Farm who "thought it was a not-very-good children's story" must have been either all kinds of out of touch - or knew perfectly well what it really was and reviewed it that way with destructive intent....

    I'm going to resist the temptation to do a kneejerk response to the relationship of Protestant inerrancy and RC 'Papal Infallibility" - but I will try and comment on it tomorrow.
  • Barnabas62 wrote: »
    Lamb Chopped. Which of the various definitions of inerrancy is the one which you apply to yourself. Of course you are right that there is confusion over terms but a belief in inerrancy has never to my mind implied a wooden literalism.

    I wouldn't expect it of you, from knowing you on the Ship. Some others, yes.

    I'm really not sure how to define my position better than I did above ("The Scripture cannot be broken" and "submitting myself to the text"). I do think we should use all the tools of modern scholarship to get as much as we can out of the text. I do not (or try not to) a priori reject certain passages because they pose difficulties to my mind; I tend to assume rather that I have not properly understood something, and I try to learn more.

    Which is probably a good place to mention something Keats referred to as "negative capability," that is, the ability to hold two seemingly contradictory bits of data in mind without either rejecting one or else rushing to force a reconciliation (emphasis on the "force"). IMNSHO humility is key to dealing with the text in a right way.
  • As for the verb tense I referred to, this is the passage (Matthew 22:32):

    32 Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ θεὸς Ἀβραὰμ καὶ ὁ θεὸς Ἰσαὰκ καὶ ὁ θεὸς Ἰακώβ; οὐκ ἔστιν [a]ὁ θεὸς νεκρῶν ἀλλὰ ζώντων.

    Jesus hangs the doctrine on the "eimi" bit--"I am", not "I have been" or "I once was" the God of Abraham etc. etc. I see no other way to understand the thread of his argument.

    I do not myself find Greek particularly vague. Hebrew maybe. Words in that language seem to me more like a series of probability clouds (where's the electron now?). But Greek seems sharper cut.

    Before anybody says it, I generally don't build a whole lot on the "Jesus must have said it in Aramaic, therefore we must try to reconstruct what he said and base everything on that" idea. That seems to me to be a) discounting the choice of the Holy Spirit to work with the writers in Greek, and b) to be very nebulous speculative territory indeed. Fun to visit, maybe; I wouldn't try to build a spiritual house there.

  • Now about "suspicions that the literal inerrantist (or inerrant literalist) is just swapping back and forth to suit whatever pre-determined outcome suits his or her preference"--

    well, that would obviously be an uncomfortable thing to have people believing of me, but I have no real control over what others think, and it's not my primary concern anyway. My own intellectual integrity demands I not lie to myself in such a way. However, you are certainly free to believe that I am self-deluded. I can't disprove that to you, and I won't try.
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited January 29
    As for the verb tense I referred to, this is the passage (Matthew 22:32):

    32 Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ θεὸς Ἀβραὰμ καὶ ὁ θεὸς Ἰσαὰκ καὶ ὁ θεὸς Ἰακώβ; οὐκ ἔστιν [a]ὁ θεὸς νεκρῶν ἀλλὰ ζώντων.

    Jesus hangs the doctrine on the "eimi" bit--"I am", not "I have been" or "I once was" the God of Abraham etc. etc. I see no other way to understand the thread of his argument.

    Yes, but he's referring back to the great statement of God to Moses at the burning bush, where he refuses to be named but simply insists that he is "I Am", eternally living and the God of the patriarchs, long dead (physically) by that time. In other words this sentence is not original to Jesus. By the way, I'm no Greek scholar but I think I'm right to say that the use of the personal pronoun Ἐγώ adds particular emphasis (something like "I myself am") since it is already implicit in the verb.

  • Certainly he's referring back to that. I'm not clear on why you think I was claiming it's original? I meant to say he was referencing the OT text, and treating it as authoritative, even down to the verb. Which we have here new-rendered in Greek, as I believe under the Holy Spirit's direction.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Dead Horses Host
    Lamb Chopped

    Is your position on scripture traditional Lutheran, perhaps? Given your background, I could understand that. But I think what Luther says about the authority and reliability of scripture is not the same as the Chicago Statement.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    As for the verb tense I referred to, this is the passage (Matthew 22:32):

    32 Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ θεὸς Ἀβραὰμ καὶ ὁ θεὸς Ἰσαὰκ καὶ ὁ θεὸς Ἰακώβ; οὐκ ἔστιν [a]ὁ θεὸς νεκρῶν ἀλλὰ ζώντων.

    Jesus hangs the doctrine on the "eimi" bit--"I am", not "I have been" or "I once was" the God of Abraham etc. etc. I see no other way to understand the thread of his argument.

    I do not myself find Greek particularly vague. Hebrew maybe. Words in that language seem to me more like a series of probability clouds (where's the electron now?). But Greek seems sharper cut.

    Before anybody says it, I generally don't build a whole lot on the "Jesus must have said it in Aramaic, therefore we must try to reconstruct what he said and base everything on that" idea. That seems to me to be a) discounting the choice of the Holy Spirit to work with the writers in Greek, and b) to be very nebulous speculative territory indeed. Fun to visit, maybe; I wouldn't try to build a spiritual house there.

    First off, there's every possibility that Jesus said it in Hebrew, not Aramaic, since He's quoting the Torah. That gets you back to the problem of electron clouds and Jesus having said (presumably):
    וַיֹּאמֶר אָנֹכִי אֱלֹהֵי אָבִיאֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם אֱלֹהֵי יִצְחָק וֵאלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב

    In other words, it's an interpretation dependent on "Matthew" being a reliable translator of Hebrew into Greek.
  • Actually, this may be a quotation from the Septuagint--I don't have my copy handy--in which case you are looking at an anonymous Jewish translator from a few centuries previous.

    In any case, my position holds that the Greek is trustworthy by the Holy Spirit's work. Not sharing that belief, of course you are going after the spoken language you assume Jesus used. (and how do you know he didn't translate the Hebrew on the fly into Aramaic, which would make perfect sense if he is speaking before a lay audience?)
  • Barnabas62 wrote: »
    Lamb Chopped

    Is your position on scripture traditional Lutheran, perhaps? Given your background, I could understand that. But I think what Luther says about the authority and reliability of scripture is not the same as the Chicago Statement.

    I am not familiar with the Chicago Statement--LCMS Lutherans tend to be very shy about subscribing to, well, basically any statement after the Lutheran Confessions. We also hesitate to draw hard and fast lines when we can't back something up with clear Scripture, no matter what logic suggests--which is why we are so annoying when it comes to defining our position on the Lord's supper.

    Forgive me for not studying up on that right at the mo--just came home in the cold and had an asthma attack.
  • Having had a quick gander at Wikipedia, it appears that Robert Preus of one of our seminaries did sign it. Which is of course interesting, and I must do more reading. But this does not commit the denomination one way or another.
  • I agree with @Barnabas62: I'm not sure you're an inerrantist as usually defined.

    One can believe in 'submitting to the text' and treating it as 'authoritative' (I know 'raving liberals' who do in the sense that they take the text absolutely seriously, more so than many evangelicals in my appraisal) without believing Scripture is 'without error' or, as the WEF declaration now has it, 'infallible' (!).

    Where things get complicated is with the sentence that often follows in confessions of faith, along the lines of "in all matters of faith and conduct".
  • Actually reading @Barnabas62's link I think it's absolutely correct that the Chicago statement is more political than theological and that like many such statments, it is designed first and foremost to exclude.

    It's also somewhat ironic that a statement by so-called evangelicals should seek to be so authoritative in dictating the nature of what to them is a higher authority (i.e. Scripture); by what authority does one go about doing that? At least the Catholics have a logic for their decrees and ex-cathedra statements.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Dead Horses Host
    edited January 30
    Forgive me for not studying up on that right at the mo--just came home in the cold and had an asthma attack.
    Sympathies. I have asthma and it can be triggered into high gear by a winter virus. Take care now, this stuff can wait!

  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    Actually, this may be a quotation from the Septuagint--I don't have my copy handy--in which case you are looking at an anonymous Jewish translator from a few centuries previous.

    In any case, my position holds that the Greek is trustworthy by the Holy Spirit's work. Not sharing that belief, of course you are going after the spoken language you assume Jesus used. (and how do you know he didn't translate the Hebrew on the fly into Aramaic, which would make perfect sense if he is speaking before a lay audience?)

    I don't know that, hence my "every possibility" qualifier. The point still holds that, regardless of who is doing the translation (Jesus, Matthew, one of the seventy sages) it unambiguously is a translation from a language without an explicit present tense for the verb "to be", yet you prefer a translation into the present tense for purely theological reasons.

    Even if we grant that the present tense is the proper translation for the Torah passage involved, your interpretation doesn't necessarily follow. Yes, the present tense could indicate that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob still exist as individuals in some coherent, post-death state, ergo "life after death". On the other hand the names of various patriarchs are often used to refer to their descendants long after their deaths so "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" could just as easily mean "the God of Abraham's descendants, Isaac's descendants, and Jacob's descendants" in the present tense. Another possible interpretation is that referring to God in the past tense is avoided for other theological reasons, like the implication that the supposedly everlasting covenant between God and Abraham has been abandoned by God. All I'm saying is that your interpretation doesn't necessarily follow, even if we grant the dubious nature of the translation involved.
  • IMHO you are arguing with Jesus, not me. I didn't come up with the interpretation he puts on it, nor did I do the translation. Feel free to go for it!
  • So do you think the text is, while allowing for allegory, etc. "without error" in all areas? (This is what is usually meant by "inerrancy").
  • Yes. Though as I'm sure you expect, I will say that I'm talking about the autographs, and I'll give the usual caveats about interpolations, miscopyings, misunderstood allegory, mistranslations, differing standards and SOPs between now and ancient cultures, and the like.
  • MPaulMPaul Shipmate
    Well what is important to me is not terminology. Inerrancy is merely a pejorative term that creates a convenient straw man. The definition of it that opposers use, is I suspect, just a tactical ploy to score points. What is important about the Bible is that it is the ONLY reliable basis we have for learning about God’s character, God’s intentions and man’s identity.
    Every time you go away from it or try to put tradition in its place, you get distortions. On example is infant baptism. It is not in the scriptures. You cannot become a believer sans volition.
  • This phrase "We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood." from the Chicago statement jumped out at me. But perhaps inerrantists have a more nuanced view of this than the statement reads? But it also apparently rejects evolution and some other aspects of well-accepted science.

    Not wanting to deflect into too much discussion of inerrancy itself, which is properly another topic. I previously noted and will again, is there something about be set apart, part of the elect, being of the chosen people that inerrantists want? That they are against the mainstream, the sinful material world in some way? which might mean against popular culture, some aspects of government or governments in general, social or technological progress.

    I'm also struck locally by the inerrant stream in some rural areas, where the farm is akin to Eden, which everyone idealizes after they've left** (farms export a lot of people), and the anti<something> talk rural people often seem to engage in. Which has led me to think of inerrancy as something used to reassure some people, to help with their anxieties, in presence of a perception of constant change.


    **but which they couldn't wait to leave when young
  • Yes. Though as I'm sure you expect, I will say that I'm talking about the autographs, and I'll give the usual caveats about interpolations, miscopyings, misunderstood allegory, mistranslations, differing standards and SOPs between now and ancient cultures, and the like.

    If all those caveats apply, what functional difference does inerrancy make for you?
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    Yes. Though as I'm sure you expect, I will say that I'm talking about the autographs, and I'll give the usual caveats about interpolations, miscopyings, misunderstood allegory, mistranslations, differing standards and SOPs between now and ancient cultures, and the like.

    Since we don't have the autographs of any biblical text, doesn't that make "inerrancy" a useless doctrine. I mean saying there's an inerrant text, but no one has access to it doesn't really tell us anything of value.
    MPaul wrote: »
    Every time you go away from it or try to put tradition in its place, you get distortions. On example is infant baptism. It is not in the scriptures. You cannot become a believer sans volition.

    You know what else isn't in scriptures? An example of any Christian owning or operating a wheeled vehicle. The closest we get is the Ethiopian eunuch from Acts, who owns a chariot. Of course he owned the chariot before his conversion to Christianity. Acts tells us that after his baptism this eunuch "went on his way" (ἐπορεύετο γὰρ τὴν ὁδὸν) but it doesn't specifically say he did so in his chariot. Maybe he abandoned it as required by his new faith. Maybe you can't be a believer and adhere to the Rotan* heresy. I guess it comes down to whether you're more 'that which isn't explicitly permitted is prohibited ' or 'that which isn't explicitly prohibited is permitted '.


    * From the Latin "rota" for "wheel".
  • MPaul wrote: »
    Well what is important to me is not terminology. Inerrancy is merely a pejorative term that creates a convenient straw man. The definition of it that opposers use, is I suspect, just a tactical ploy to score points. What is important about the Bible is that it is the ONLY reliable basis we have for learning about God’s character, God’s intentions and man’s identity.
    Every time you go away from it or try to put tradition in its place, you get distortions. On example is infant baptism. It is not in the scriptures. You cannot become a believer sans volition.

    Ahh yes, this is the problem. What is your basis for putting the Bible before Tradition?

    I speak as one who does hold the Biblical text as the basis for my faith and I would put it before Tradition but I have learnt a lot on the Ship. Let me give you an example of a position that people hold. I am not seeking to put words in anyone's mouth here but to demonstrate the issue:

    Person 1: The Bible is the reliable means to know about God.
    Person 2: How do you know that the Bible is reliable?
    P1: Because God, by his spirit has kept it so I can read his words.
    P2: Cool. I believe that Church Tradition has handed down God's teaching from the first apostles to the present day...
    P1: How do you know that's reliable?
    P2: Because God, by his spirit, has passed the teaching down through the generations of the church.
    P1: Oh, cool.

    Now, obviously I am being deliberately simplistic here, but you hopefully see the point. It is very easy to get into circular reasoning. In my experience, such circles often don't overlap and mean that people just talk past each other.

    Which brings me back to my initial point at the beginning of the thread. I do believe there are very good reasons to believe the Bible is reliable and thus to build your faith and theology from that starting point. However it has often been my experience that many within the churches that I have attended believe the Bible to be reliable because they have to in order to have any security. Which remains my answer to the original question.

    AFZ
  • MPaulMPaul Shipmate
    Crœsos wrote: »
    Yes. Though as I'm sure you expect, I will say that I'm talking about the autographs, and I'll give the usual caveats about interpolations, miscopyings, misunderstood allegory, mistranslations, differing standards and SOPs between now and ancient cultures, and the like.

    Since we don't have the autographs of any biblical text, doesn't that make "inerrancy" a useless doctrine. I mean saying there's an inerrant text, but no one has access to it doesn't really tell us anything of value.
    MPaul wrote: »
    Every time you go away from it or try to put tradition in its place, you get distortions. On example is infant baptism. It is not in the scriptures. You cannot become a believer sans volition.

    You know what else isn't in scriptures? An example of any Christian owning or operating a wheeled vehicle. The closest we get is the Ethiopian eunuch from Acts, who owns a chariot. Of course he owned the chariot before his conversion to Christianity. Acts tells us that after his baptism this eunuch "went on his way" (ἐπορεύετο γὰρ τὴν ὁδὸν) but it doesn't specifically say he did so in his chariot. Maybe he abandoned it as required by his new faith. Maybe you can't be a believer and adhere to the Rotan* heresy. I guess it comes down to whether you're more 'that which isn't explicitly permitted is prohibited ' or 'that which isn't explicitly prohibited is permitted '.


    * From the Latin "rota" for "wheel".

    So..is there a relevant point anywhere?
  • MPaulMPaul Shipmate
    AFZ: However it has often been my experience that many within the churches that I have attended believe the Bible to be reliable because they have to in order to have any security. Which remains my answer to the original question.
    This implies fragility and insecurity on their part rather than positive faith and hope. There are great minds in the last 200 years that saw the rise of our present technologies, who contributed to them but did not deviate from an honest intellectual stance and combined it with faith.
    CS Lewis comes to mind. All of them though begin with a heart conversion and not a mental conviction.
  • MPaul wrote: »
    Inerrancy is merely a pejorative term that creates a convenient straw man.

    Not in my experience. Innerancy is a specific belief that is claimed by some churches, organisations and individuals, and often appears in statements of faith because it’s so strongly held. It’s a self-describing term, much more that it’s ever been a pejorative term.
  • MPaul wrote: »
    Well what is important to me is not terminology. Inerrancy is merely a pejorative term that creates a convenient straw man. The definition of it that opposers use, is I suspect, just a tactical ploy to score points. What is important about the Bible is that it is the ONLY reliable basis we have for learning about God’s character, God’s intentions and man’s identity.
    Every time you go away from it or try to put tradition in its place, you get distortions. On example is infant baptism. It is not in the scriptures. You cannot become a believer sans volition.

    Um.

    This is actually a very good test case to look at, because I am an inerrantist and a believer in infant baptism. The difference between us (assuming you are also inerrantist) lies in the assumptions we bring to the text, as well as the interpretive decisions we make looking at the text.

    I'm obviously not going to do that here (that would be a lengthy thread indeed!) but I would like to point out to those who are no doubt waiting to sneer that I never denied people bring assumptions to texts, nor that they make interpretive decisions. Those facts are IMHO obvious.

    But they do not make Biblical interpretation a free-for-all, either.

  • Not wanting to deflect into too much discussion of inerrancy itself, which is properly another topic. I previously noted and will again, is there something about be set apart, part of the elect, being of the chosen people that inerrantists want? That they are against the mainstream, the sinful material world in some way? which might mean against popular culture, some aspects of government or governments in general, social or technological progress.

    For what it's worth, I do not think of myself in this way, nor do the majority of the inerrantists I know, judging by their words and behavior. Not that the concept of "elect" and all the rest is not to be found in Scripture, but for me it's a side issue, not something that makes up much of my psych self-concept. And by the by, material != sinful. The material world is awesome.
  • Eutychus wrote: »
    Yes. Though as I'm sure you expect, I will say that I'm talking about the autographs, and I'll give the usual caveats about interpolations, miscopyings, misunderstood allegory, mistranslations, differing standards and SOPs between now and ancient cultures, and the like.

    If all those caveats apply, what functional difference does inerrancy make for you?

    I need to apologize for all these posts-in-a-row--I'd be smoother and less greedy-looking if I wasn't so personally zonked right now. Forgive me.

    What functional difference does inerrancy make for me? Well, frankly, it messes up my life. <devil smiley> No, really. Everything's fine as long as my personal ideas/wishes/philosophy run parallel to what I find in Scripture, but when I hit a spot where they DON'T--well, that kinda sucks. Because then I have to fix the screw-up--which is of course on my side. And being a normal human being, I don't like that. I don't want to admit I'm wrong, I don't want to do the mental and interpersonal work, I don't want to take the hit to my ego, I really don't want to "step out in faith" and face the fear when it happens to be one of those issues. It sucks.

    So yeah, inerrancy fucks up my life. :wink:

    On the other hand, it also makes a pretty firm foundation for my feet. Like having that one friend in your life who will never lie to you, even when you want them to. Many uncomfortable moments, but you wouldn't give that relationship up for anything.

  • Crœsos wrote: »

    Since we don't have the autographs of any biblical text, doesn't that make "inerrancy" a useless doctrine. I mean saying there's an inerrant text, but no one has access to it doesn't really tell us anything of value.

    This is actually not the case. Given a sufficient number of independent manuscript lines, one can figure out with high accuracy what the original must have said. In fact, my dissertation was an instance of doing just that for an English Renaissance text.

    It's really very fascinating, though incredibly painstaking work. I had quite a small project (a Chihuahua next to the elephant that is New Testament textual studies) and it still took me five years and several feet of three ring binders just to collate and analyze everything. It appeals to the kind of people who like sudoku, I think.
  • Security. Well.

    I can't deny that there is a certain security in having a reliable text, particularly when one is over one's head with regard to some life problem. Nor would I want to deny that.

    At the same time, I have always had an allergic reaction to anything (anyone) that promised me security or comfort at the price of truth. As in various hand-waving and "don't you bother your pretty head about it, just trust us." It's the reason I learned Greek and Hebrew in the first place. I didn't trust the freaking translators. How could I be sure there wasn't some sort of bullshit conspiracy going on (yes, I was young) to get me to do what someone else wanted? And so I took the languages.

    No doubt there is some deep-seated psychological reason in my background that explains why I am so freaked out by the idea of someone lying to me or pulling the wool over my eyes. It probably has to do with alcoholism in the family. But note the effect it has had--it didn't send me running for an authoritative text, or tradition, or community, or church. It sent me running for truth. In fact, it turned me into a research hound, and my whole education and career followed from that. The Bible got no special treatment from me--I began reading it with the same attitude I had toward fairytales, and expected nothing more than the pleasure of a new thick book to read.

    I'm not telling this story because it proves anything (anecdata, yah). But there is at least one inerrantist who didn't choose her position because of yearnings for security.

    And really, if it was security I wanted above all, couldn't I have found that more easily in money, or an insurance policy, or a love affair with some staid but dependable person? Or at least some more accessible cult, like Mormonism.
  • MPaulMPaul Shipmate
    MPaul wrote: »
    Inerrancy is merely a pejorative term that creates a convenient straw man.

    Not in my experience. Innerancy is a specific belief that is claimed by some churches, organisations and individuals, and often appears in statements of faith because it’s so strongly held. It’s a self-describing term, much more that it’s ever been a pejorative term.

    In this forum, to admit to being an ‘inerrantist’ is to almost to invite derision.
  • But they do not make Biblical interpretation a free-for-all, either.
    The problem is that everyone interprets, every decides some bits are good/right/wrong. It comes down to competing interpretations and the thing that makes sense is comparing the text to the overall message of the most important bit; Jesus.

  • MPaulMPaul Shipmate
    MPaul wrote: »
    Well what is important to me is not terminology. Inerrancy is merely a pejorative term that creates a convenient straw man. The definition of it that opposers use, is I suspect, just a tactical ploy to score points. What is important about the Bible is that it is the ONLY reliable basis we have for learning about God’s character, God’s intentions and man’s identity.
    Every time you go away from it or try to put tradition in its place, you get distortions. On example is infant baptism. It is not in the scriptures. You cannot become a believer sans volition.

    Um.

    This is actually a very good test case to look at, because I am an inerrantist and a believer in infant baptism. The difference between us (assuming you are also inerrantist) lies in the assumptions we bring to the text, as well as the interpretive decisions we make looking at the text.

    I'm obviously not going to do that here (that would be a lengthy thread indeed!) but I would like to point out to those who are no doubt waiting to sneer that I never denied people bring assumptions to texts, nor that they make interpretive decisions. Those facts are IMHO obvious.

    But they do not make Biblical interpretation a free-for-all, either.
    Of course everyone brings assumptions. I think you are very brave sticking your head over the parapet.
  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    But they do not make Biblical interpretation a free-for-all, either.
    The problem is that everyone interprets, every decides some bits are good/right/wrong. It comes down to competing interpretations and the thing that makes sense is comparing the text to the overall message of the most important bit; Jesus.

    Well, I'm certainly not going to argue with that!

    I will say that it's wise to keep in mind that Jesus is considerably "bigger" than I am, and I may not know his mind quite as well as I think. Which is why we even bother with the rest of the text.
  • It's kind of you to call me brave. Foolhardy is probably more like it; I've had a bit of a sick feeling every time I opened this thread, wondering what I might be in for.
  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    But they do not make Biblical interpretation a free-for-all, either.
    The problem is that everyone interprets, every decides some bits are good/right/wrong. It comes down to competing interpretations and the thing that makes sense is comparing the text to the overall message of the most important bit; Jesus.

    Well, I'm certainly not going to argue with that!

    I will say that it's wise to keep in mind that Jesus is considerably "bigger" than I am, and I may not know his mind quite as well as I think. Which is why we even bother with the rest of the text.
    The problem I have with inerrantists is that they ignore Jesus message in viewing his words to the detriment of particular groups. As they did with slavery, as they do with homosexuality.
  • MPaulMPaul Shipmate
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    But they do not make Biblical interpretation a free-for-all, either.
    The problem is that everyone interprets, every decides some bits are good/right/wrong. It comes down to competing interpretations and the thing that makes sense is comparing the text to the overall message of the most important bit; Jesus.

    Well, I'm certainly not going to argue with that!

    I will say that it's wise to keep in mind that Jesus is considerably "bigger" than I am, and I may not know his mind quite as well as I think. Which is why we even bother with the rest of the text.
    The problem I have with inerrantists is that they ignore Jesus message in viewing his words to the detriment of particular groups. As they did with slavery, as they do with homosexuality.
    Then your problem is not with inerrancy however that is defined, but with inerrantists, viz people whom you assume do not share your social justice views. For what it’s worth, I am going to a same sex wedding this year. I don’t think they are a good idea but I have been invited and I love the people. Bet that surprises you.

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