This is another topic on my mind lately that it seems God is now prompting me to write a little on.
First, I would like to define inerrancy. There are different perspectives of what this could mean but the two main points, which are also combined by some, seem to be:
1. The Bible is accurate from a historical standpoint.
2. The Bible is accurate about what it says as a rule book.
Both of these statements tend to be tied together under phrases such as: “The Bible says it, therefore I believe it.” However, there’s a lot the Bible says that seems to be glossed over.
The historical standpoint has yet to be definitively proven by any historical records or physical evidence. This doesn’t mean it isn’t accurate, just that the proof hasn’t been found yet. There are other historical records of Old Testament times, though, that don’t align with how the story is said to have unfolded in the Bible. I don’t want to get into that topic here as that could be a post or ten of its own. The overall point is, while historically there is the probability that the Bible may not be accurate, it doesn’t diminish the overall lessons and story of the Bible. In fact, it strengthens these aspects for me personally as I began to understand why those ancient, tribal people, who believed in warrior gods that demanded violence and sacrifice, would initially view and write about Yahweh in that same manner. They only knew any divine being to be vindictive and fickle. God came to them where they were in their understanding and guided them, step by step, to a greater reality.
This leads into my next point—the rules the ancient Israelites developed were based off of the violently disturbing world in which they lived. Rape, slavery, and murder were common practices. Genocide and taking women as possessions was to ensure a tribe’s survival or further their power in a region. God came to them where they were at and let his children tell his story even though they had little ability to comprehend him as love. Things like the Ten Commandments, which seem almost common sense today, were huge steps forward in the chaotic world of that time. Yet, because these rules were so astounding, the Israelites seem to have made a long list of caveats to ensure their survival by the means they thought were necessary in the times they lived. Do we still make lists of caveats today to justify not being love to others?
For example, God says, “Don’t Kill.” The Israelites are recorded, in the Bible, to have committed genocide against multiple societies. Does this sound like the God of love of the New Testament? Does someone writing “God told us to do it” mean that God condones such things? Besides, when Jesus came along he said, “No, really, don’t kill.” In fact, he raised the bar on what the law actually meant—love your enemy, do good for them, pray for them, bless them. Jesus showed us how to “destroy” our enemies in a radically different way—by loving them into friendship, no matter the cost. Are we doing that for our enemies today?
If we uphold that the Bible is inerrant, we will attempt to apply those “perfect” words to our lives today. Then, we can find archaic passages, that were meant to tell a progressive story of a certain people at a certain time, and use them to justify any kind of hatred and injustice that we want. Additionally, we have to attempt to defend all the messed up stuff going on as though God was just cool with it. This can harm our witness immensely and put us on the defensive to justify every concerning passage of the Bible.
That said, there is a third kind of inerrancy that I would like to point out—The Bible is accurate in that it points us to the perfect love of God. While there’s a lot of messed up things recorded, we still see the story of God’s love winning out in the end, and I think that is the real story worth retelling.