The Bible is inerrant except for all those mistakes that don’t count.

Fundagelicals love to tell you the Bible is inerrant. What they mean by that is often fuzzy. Fundamentalists at the beginning of the 20th century were upset about textual criticism applied to scripture. Discoveries like the Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, two Biblical manuscripts older than the majority text used to create the King James Bible, showed variations in texts of Bible passages. It was easily demonstrable that different manuscripts, in different languages, from different time periods did not record exactly the same words of scripture. Besides copyist errors, there were additions and deletions of entire passages. Fundagelicals have been trying to do damage control with various statements of inerrancy ever since.

Fundagelicals try some sleight of the tongue by claiming that the Bible is inerrant in the original auto scripts. This means that what Paul wrote down on a piece of papyri or parchment in his letter to the Romans was exactly what God dictated to him. This sounds nice until you realize that none of these original auto scripts exist. They are long gone. What we have are copies. The copies we have are much older than the originals. The copies have variations of spelling and grammar, additions and deletions. What we have translated into English are what most scholars agree is probably what the originals manuscripts said based on a reconstruction of the text. That is a far cry from what most people think of when they hear the term inerrant. Ask your average Fundagelical what the word inerrant means and they will tell you that the Bible contains no errors whatsoever.

In 1978, the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was formulated. They concede that

“Since God has nowhere promised an inerrant transmission of Scripture, it is necessary to affirm that only the autographic text of the original documents was inspired and to maintain the need of textual criticism as a means of detecting any slips that may have crept into the text in the course of its transmission.”

However they continue to say,

“The verdict of this science, however, is that the Hebrew and Greek text appear to be amazingly well preserved, so that we are amply justified in affirming, with the Westminster Confession, a singular providence of God in this matter and in declaring that the authority of Scripture is in no way jeopardized by the fact that the copies we possess are not entirely error-free.”

            In other words, God doesn’t say the Bible is inerrant, but we say it is, and even though there are errors, we say its close enough. Oh yeah, and it still has authoritative power over you.

What’s behind all the need for inerrancy? The Chicago statement makes it very clear.

“The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible’s own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.”

It’s about authority. It’s about “God said it; I believe it; that settles it.” Fundagelicals need this kind of authority to weaponize the Bible and suppress all dissent. Get into an argument with a Fundagelical and be prepared to play Battling Bible Wars where chapter and verse is the sword to smite you.

The Chicago Statement further says,

“We are conscious too that great and grave confusion results from ceasing to maintain the total truth of the Bible whose authority one professes to acknowledge. The result of taking this step is that the Bible which God gave loses its authority, and what has authority instead is a Bible reduced in content according to the demands of one’s critical reasoning and in principle reducible still further once one has started. This means that at bottom independent reason now has authority, as opposed to Scriptural teaching.

In other words, the confusion is people disagree with Fundagelical teachings! People actually use reason and think for themselves. OH MY GOD, it’s like the Protestant Reformation all over again with people encouraged to read the Bible for themselves and think for themselves. Fundagelicals aren’t having any part of that.

The loss of authority means the Bible is suddenly de-weaponized and becomes a tool to open discussion between people. Instead of trying to win arguments, people can talk about their faith, their beliefs and interpretations, and journey together to become more Christ-like.

Authoritarian leaders need something to legitimize their authority. Fundagelicals have the Bible. They aren’t fighting for the Truth in the Bible; they are fighting for the power they hold as wielders of the Bible’s authority.  

By the way, have you ever noticed that God doesn’t leave stuff lying around? No Ark of the Covenant, No bronze serpent, no original auto scripts. It’s as if God didn’t want us to make idols of those things.

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