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I’d love to hear how you guys view the Bible.
What is it? The traditional view is that God spoke explicitly through Biblical authors, making Scripture the tangible Word of God.
Do you agree? Or do you disagree with the concept of inerrancy? Do you think the Bible is simply a collection of observations?
Or is it something in between?
Let me know!
I appreciate the approach that the first two posts took in regards to context and truth. I’m going to take a bit of a different approach to the Bible, since those two stole my thunder There’s so much that can be said, but I’m going to stick with looking at Paul’s words in 2 Timothy regarding Scripture.
The go to passage for most Christians when Biblical inerrancy is discussed is 2 Timothy 3:16, which states “All Scripture is breathed by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” I have often heard this passage referenced to prove that the Bible is perfect. The logic seems to go “God is perfect, God breathed out Scripture, therefore Scripture is perfect.” However, that view seems to miss out 2 Timothy 3:16 is actually about. Before I dive into my interpretation on 2 Timothy 3:16, I want to take a step back to look at the standards we hold the Bible to.
I feel that it is crucial to ask ourselves the question “What is the purpose of the Bible?” Answering this question is vital, because as we discover what the Bible was meant to do we also can discover what it was not meant to do. If the Bible is seen as being a perfect document in every regard and understood literally, that puts a lot of people in a very dangerous position. What if science comes out with a hypothesis that presents a different case than the Bible? A faith crisis can easily occur in that setting and it creates a false dichotomy. The purpose of the Bible was not to be empirically accurate in every possible way. When held to certain standards, the Bible fails. I believe that the Bible fails many of the standards that a traditional view of inerrancy would wish to put on it. I personally have felt let down by the so-called “inerrancy” of Scripture. What if the problem is not the Bible, but the measuring stick we use? So if the Bible is a failure when held to some standards, under what standards is it a success, is it profitable?
Let’s jump back to 2 Timothy now. I believe that the conversation actually needs to start at 3:14-15, rather than just 3:16-17. Paul is writing to Timothy, a companion who Paul sees as his own son, and encouraging him in what could possibly be the last time the two of them can talk to each other. In 3:14-15 Paul points Timothy towards what he calls the “sacred writings” and then goes on to tell Timothy (and us) exactly what those sacred writings are good for. Paul states of the sacred writing that they “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” (3:15). Not that they “are able to tell you everything about the world” or that they “are Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth” or that they “are the most perfect document in human history.” They are able to make Timothy (and us) wise in regard to our salvation in the person of Jesus Christ. This same approach, that Scripture’s purpose is to point towards Christ is repeated all throughout the NT. I won’t point to all of the places that this occurs, as other theologians have done that quite a bit and expanded on the idea that the Bible is meant to be read “backwards”, in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Looking now at 3:16-17 we can also see another aspect of what the purpose of Scripture is. This aspect is clearly outlined in 3:17: “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The Bible is meant to prompt action. It’s designed to make us move, not to give us an answer book or cheat sheet for life. There are many things that Bible simply does not give us the answers for. It points to Jesus and inspires us to be prepared and ready for any kind of good work that is called of us. I’d say that it does a pretty fine job of that. Maybe it’s not inerrant in a traditional sense, but it fulfills it’s given duty: to point mankind to salvation in Jesus and to good works. The Bible succeeds at it’s mission, which is to prepare us and equip us for the mission of God, salvation in Jesus Christ.
I’d also suggest taking a look at Greg Boyd’s recent work on cruciform hermeneutics that he has been doing. He’s wrestled with this question of inerrancy quite a bit. Christopher Wright is another recommended author in terms of the mission of God and how the Bible fits into that.
One question I have about the Bible being inerrant has to do with the way certain letters or documents came to be considered Scripture. If anyone has any thoughts on that I’d love to hear those, especially in regards to how the people of Israel and the early church saw their sacred writings and decided what was sacred writing and what wasn’t.