The Council on Biblical Inerrancy starting back in 1977 was a group of ministers who decided to admit that the Bible has some seeming irregularities but to assure us that it is still infallible despite it’s errors. While I’m glad to learn the issue of infallibility has been addressed, I’m certainly not satisfied with the council’s reasoning. (you can read more here: http://library.dts.edu/Pages/TL/Special/ICBI.shtml)
Infallible despite its errors? Hold on to your thinking caps, kids, it sounds like we could be in for a light speed jump into human logic hyperspace. But first…
In this episode of “Let’s Find the Truth at All Costs,” I will eventually be switching roles and actually defending the Bible against dogmatic, ruthless Bible Experts, who in defending the Canonized Scripture, even to the point of sacrificing logic, inadvertently doom the truth of the Bible to the trash heap. Once again, they are giving people permission to throw out baby Jesus with the Holy Water.
The experts attempting to defend the the jots and tittles of the Bible, actually succeed in convincing us of only one thing: while they may allow us to love the Lord Our God with our Hearts, our Souls, and our Strength, apparently we are not allowed to love him with our own Minds.
This is How They Do It
In my first post I made a generalized statement that when experts insist on the Bible being perfect they give implied permission to throw it out if errors are found. I didn’t think I’d find a Bible Expert to completely agree with me. But I did.
I am currently reading a book called Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason L. Archer. After reading my first blog post my dad sent me this book. Thanks Dad. I know you’re looking out for me.
Archer was one of the signers of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and began work on this Encyclopedia shortly after the Council on Biblical Inerrancy was formed. It was published in 1984.
After warning us of revisionist positions on the Bible which make excuses for the Bible’s errors, Archer declares that “Without Inerrancy the Bible Cannot be Infallible.” This statement is made after spouting off his credentials of course. He knows Greek and Hebrew and blah, blah, blah.
Does he really grasp what he is saying here? Mr. Archer is telling us that if we can find one true mistake or contradiction in the Bible, he is willing to throw out the whole thing. Even the Gospel?
I’m actually shocked to hear a Bible Expert admitting this all or nothing view of the Bible. Personally, I thought I was being over simplistic in my reasoning but it does makes sense. I mean, if these 66 books are indeed the perfect word of God they should be…. well, perfect.
Okay, so I guess the burden is mine to prove The Bible has errors. But wait, thanks to Mr. Archer I don’t have to; he does it for me. He freely admits that the copies of the Scriptures we have today are flawed.
So the question is, Mr. Archer, how do you explain the errors in my Bible? His hypothesis is simple. The original texts which make up our modern Bible were indeed perfect; free of error. So where did these errors come from? Archer insists on blaming the scribes for making mistakes in their copies which were past down for generations.
That’s it?! That’s your brilliant explanation of the Bible’s inconsistencies?! A neat little theory, Mr. Archer, but may I point out that without those original texts you can never offer convincing proof. Oh, he uses his knowledge of Hebrew to show that if this word was written slightly different it would mean something else, and even gives examples. Okay, I’ll admit, it’s compelling evidence but certainly not proof. It seems like a whole lot of work for nothing.
One troublesome thing about Archer’s approach is that he doesn’t seem to realize by admitting the Bibles you and I possess contain errors, he is assuming the burden of proof. I mean, if the Bible was the perfect document we are led to believe it is, then it would be up to the skeptics to knock it down. But it’s not perfect, he admits it, so he and these other Bible experts should shoulder the burden to prove and convince us.
But instead, in his commentary on the Kings vs. Chronicles problem of King Asa, Archer offers two possibilities to explain the error. He actually uses the word “possibilities.” He is not stating anything definitive. Without definitive answers, no one can truly be convinced.
In setting up his all or nothing, “No Infallibility Without Inerrancy” doctrine he gives a nice metaphor of a witness on the stand in a court of law. If an attorney can discredit a witness, his testimony, whether true or false, can be dismissed. Likewise if one part of the Bible can be discredited, the whole comes into question.
Sorry Gleason, I’m going to have to use your reasoning against you. In your testimony, you discredit yourself. It doesn’t matter how great your credentials are or how many ancient languages you are fluent in, when it comes to the discovery of truth, if you are not proven to be objective, your opinion and research means nothing to me.
If Senor Archer was a witness on the stand, I would ask him a version of the following question: “In this pursuit of learning the truth about the validity and inerrancy of the Bible, are you willing to accept the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth even if it indicates the Bible is not the perfect document Christians want it to be? Can you prove yourself to be objective in your research?”
Here is his answer: There is a section in the beginning of his book called Recommended Procedures in Dealing with Bible Difficulties. Procedure number 1, and I quote, “Be fully persuaded in your own mind that an adequate explanation exists, even though you have not yet found it.”
He is encouraging his readers to be completely biased when searching for answers about the Bible’s errors. We should be prepared to do whatever intellectual gymnastics we must do to prove that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. This feels more like preaching to the choir than a real serious of defense of the Bible. We should all feel insulted. We are all being instructed by Archer to be dogmatic.
No Soup For You!
Why, in Jesus Name, is Archer so adamant about this all or nothing view of the Bible? Why does he tell me I have to stomach all of it or have none of it?
Because if the Bible was proven fallible, he says, “what solid truth it may contain would be left as a matter of mere conjecture, subject to the intuition or canons of likelihood of each individual.”
Because each person searching out the truth for themselves would be such a travesty (this statement is dripping with more sarcasm than syrup on a waffle). Are you kidding me?! Oh, you’re right, Biblical interpretation in the hands of just a few elite has been a glorious experiment in human corruption. You know what, even better, let’s just give the right to interpret the Bible to one person, that way we all believe the same thing and there’s no more arguing and we can just turn our brains off and follow King Richard on another one of his bloody crusades in the name of Jesus Christ. Oh, wait, but we protestants rejected the whole one person Pope leader thing.
It’s Getting Dark in Here, So Turn Your Brain Off
I am not opposed to putting my faith in the Truth of the Bible contains. But I am very wary of Biblical experts telling me I am wrong about the Bible being imperfect when it clearly is. What I’m wary of is this implied power play that seems to undermine my ability to see and assess the Scriptures for myself. It seems like the Dark Ages to me. The religious leaders telling me what the Bible says or doesn’t say. I can read it for myself now, thank you very much.
The experts need to realize when they ask us to believe that the Biblical Canon is without error despite our questions and reservations about its numerous problems, what they are really asking of us is to put our faith in them and their “brilliant” minds. Again, it sounds like the Dark Ages. “Don’t think for yourself. Don’t question our logic and doctrines. Just be good little Christians and do what you are supposed to do best: Believe the unbelievable.”
Why is this such a big deal to me? Because if we turn off our brains enough to listen to these so called Bible Experts, what’s next? We believe what they say about the Bible being inerrant, then they’ll start claiming the Bible tells us to wear blue suits and never listen to the Beatles. They’ll say women should always wear skirts. We should all homeschool our kids. I’m sure these references are not lost on many of you.
My wife as a little girl was shamed when she questioned portions of the Bible she didn’t understand. She was told that in order to be a good Christian she had to believe everything the Bible says.
I know Christians who believe in evolution. Are you going to call them heretics because they don’t believe in a literal 6 day creation? Are you really confident enough in your understanding of Genesis to make that judgement of a sincere fellow believer? Do you realize the Genesis account was written thousands of years after “the fact”?
Move Over Gleason, Here Comes Something that Makes Sense
Okay, it’s my turn to defend the Message of the Bible from the doctrines of men who leave the intelligent, objective seeker no other choice but to laugh and discard.
What should we do about the Bible then? How should we approach it? How can we be sure if it is true or not? Or which portions may or may not be true?
Let’s revisit Archer’s courtroom scenario. He says if we put the Bible on the witness stand and it does not stand up to the tests of history or science it can not be trusted in matters of religion (he actually said that, page 23 paragraph 4). So he is in essence asking us to put the writers of all 66 books on the witness stand at the same time. Right? Imagine being in a courtroom with 40 witnesses being questioned simultaniously. So how does that work? I guess we ask a question and instruct them on the count of three to all answer at the same time. If one or more of the 40 witnesses answer differently from the rest, the entire testimony must be thrown out.
Wow, that is an incredibly stiff burden of proof. I think most judges and juries would be satisfied with two or three witnesses who materially agreed with each other when attempting to establish the facts of a case. We find that the Bible states in no less than 5 different places a matter may be established by two or three witnesses.
Are you following me? The Bible has 40 authors. The Koran has 1 author. The book of Mormon 1. In our Protestant Bible, The Good News story of Christ is told in no less than 4 different accounts.
We don’t have to wave a magic wand over these 66 books and demand that people accept them as truth with their brains turned off.
This is How We Do It
We must each approach the Bible like any good truth seeker should. Just like we do in our court rooms. The truth in a matter, the facts of a case can not be discovered without the testimony of witnesses. Because everything we believe is based on the testimony of another human being, the burden of finding truth has more to do with the reliability of the witness than anything else. Who is the source of this so-called truth? What are his/her credentials?
I propose we approach the Bible as a collection of testimonies; some of which are eyewitnesses and some simply repeating oral traditions. We take the focus off of the Canonized Scripture, stop insisting it is “without error,” and focus on what it’s writers are claiming.
Do you realize in defending this Bible you are really just defending the Institution of Men who compiled it? Bible experts are nothing more than self-proclaimed “expert” witnesses to the testimonies written in the Scripture Writings. But why should I listen to them when I can read the testimonies for myself? I’m a witness to the testimonies too. We are all on equal ground deciding whether or not the testimony of these witnesses is believable.
The inconsistencies of the Bible don’t bother me. Based on the principle of 2 or 3 witness, I think the writings contained in these 66 books are quite compelling.
I want to be fair to Mr. Archer. Understanding how some of the errors in the Scripture Writings may have happened can be helpful. But let me state this clearly: we do not have to insist on the Scripture Writings perfectly agreeing with each other in order to build a strong case for the truth they contain. I guess we’ve been so embarrassed and insecure about all these holes and errors in the Bible we’ve failed to see the strength of it’s testimony.
Maybe we’ve been trying to patch the holes in our vessel so it will float, while not realizing it actually has wings and can fly.
Again, everything you and I think we know has come from the words and testimony of another human being. This is certainly true in matters of History and Religion. Determining which witnesses are reliable is mandatory to discovering truth. This is the essential element in determining any truth on any subject.
I want to be fair to the Canon of New Testament Scripture. The main principle used in determining the inclusion of a Writing is the witness principle. Which goes something like the writing must be by someone who has at least first hand testimony of Christ or of his Apostles. This makes sense. The writing only has as much strength as it’s writer’s witness to Christ and or His Apostles.
Therefore, what is convincing about the Scripture Writings is the witness accounts they provide. The long process of deciding which books should be included in a collection of Scripture Writings called the Bible by men who force their authority on us does not convince me one bit of their accuracy, truth or inerrancy.
Did you know Martin Luther wanted to throw out the books of James, Hebrews, Jude and Revelations because they didn’t line up with his doctrines and theology? Did you know the current version of our Protestant Bible wasn’t established until 1885?
Let’s stop placing our faith in the Institution of Men who decided on which Scripture Writings to place their big magic rubber stamp. We must push past the voices of men, to hear the voice of God. Like the woman with the issue of blood, we must push past the crowd of men to touch the hem of Christ’s garment for ourselves.
Yes, I agree it is much more convenient to place a big magic stamp over the whole Bible and declare it all true. But having a blind, dogmatic faith in a magic book is not necessary for us to call ourselves believers. We must reject any message that would discourage us lay people from loving, seeking, and worshipping God with our own individual minds.
Decide for yourself. Don’t follow self proclaimed Bible experts who promote Man Made Institutions. First step in discovering truth for yourself is throw out all the “expert” voices and re-read the Scripture Writings again for the first time.
Anyhoo… it’s just another beautiful day in the neighborhood. And we are all coming closer to free.
One last thought, do you realize Jesus is more concerned with freeing you from religious oppression than anything else?
Love you all.