I am standing firmly on the slippery slope.

Several months ago I gave up the belief that the Bible is inerrant. I had been taught this ever since I was “born again” at age 15 and never questioned it. I was told this was the hallmark of a good Christian: they don’t question the inerrancy of Scripture. And I was a good Christian.

What is inerrancy? Dave Miller gives a good description when he states

“Inerrant” means “wholly true” or “without mistake” and refers to the fact that the biblical writers were absolutely errorless, truthful, and trustworthy in all of their affirmations. The doctrine of inerrancy does not confine itself to moral and religious truth alone. Inerrancy extends to statements of fact, whether scientific, historical, or geographical. The biblical writers were preserved from the errors that appear in all other books.

I completely bought into this belief. I wanted the bumper sticker that proclaimed “The Bible said it, I believe it and that settles it.” I would argue with people about minute points of contention. I read and re-read Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict. But as I matured as a person and as a Christian I began to harbor secret doubts. I love reading about astronomy and quickly ran into descriptions of how old the universe is. Apparently 6,000 years is not quite enough time. Why were there no dinosaurs mentioned in the Bible? Are gays really deserving of punishment when it appears that is how they were put together in utero? How exactly did Judas die?

I would vacillate back and forth between the inerrant view and my increasing doubts. I was regularly told that “great and grave confusion results from ceasing to maintain the total truth of the Bible whose authority one professes to acknowledge.” The reality of my life was that I was already experiencing great and grave confusion from trying to reconcile a literal interpretation of the Bible what I was learning from science and history. Mark Mattison sums up the problem nicely:

Inerrancy as taught in many churches focuses too much attention on the Bible and not enough on what it teaches. It drives commentators to harmonize passages that were never meant to be harmonized, turning literary accounts of faith into wooden historical biographies and homogenizing Scripture in such a way as to overshadow the original authors’ individual meanings. Finally, it tends to weaken Christian faith by unnecessarily tying it to an indefensible Bibliology. Every historical detail, no matter how insignificant, becomes as important as the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. If in actual fact Caesar Augustus did not really order a census while Quirinius was governor of Syria – if it turns out there really was only one Gadarene demonaic rather than two – then the entire Bible becomes worthless and every tenet of Christian faith falls flat. If one single discrepancy emerges, it’s all over. This makes Christian faith an easy target for skeptics, and drives believers to unimaginable lengths to “defend” the Bible.

I am not prepared to paint my faith into a corner and then have to belligerently defend my territory.

I am now standing firmly on the slippery slope. You know the slippery slope don’t you? Once you stop believing that the Bible is free from error it’s just a short hop, skip and a jump to pantheism, atheism, secularism, Buddhism, child molesting, murder, rape and hell. Not necessarily in that order. Well so far I’m resisting. And as the details of how to successfully reconcile contradictory geneologies fades from memory I find I enjoy reading the Bible much more now. I can focus on the true messages of Scripture. God loves us so much that he sent his only son to save us. We should love our neighbors as we love ourselves. There is hope and meaning. Amen.