Why Inerrancy Should Not Be Your Focus

Is your worldview centered on the wrong thing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As many of you know, Inerrancy is a topic that is an important one for discussion with me as it has had a great impact on my family. I describe myself as someone who upholds Biblical Inerrancy, but by this, I simply mean that I believe that in the end, when we find what the Bible teaches, that it will be true. Inerrancy is something that we should talk about and I think we should be clear what we mean by it, but at the same time, I think that if you make Inerrancy your focus, then you are playing a very dangerous game and jeopardizing your own faith as well as the faith of others.

I say this because recently i have seen some discussions of Inerrancy. I get concerned when people marry their faith to Inerrancy or when people think that if you disprove Inerrancy, then you disprove Christianity. I reviewed David McAfee’s book awhile back and found it to be extremely lacking, and the biggest weakness really is that McAfee makes no arguments against the resurrection but merely makes arguments about contradictions in the Bible as if when you find these contradictions, then Christianity is disproven. I could grant every one of his contradictions is a legitimate contradiction and still keep Christianity. Would I have to change my doctrine of Scripture? Absolutely. That does not mean I would throw out Christianity.

But if you don’t have Inerrancy, how will you know what’s true in the Bible and what isn’t? We’d use historiography. We’d treat the Bible the way we treat any other ancient document. This is normally the charge we always make to our opponents. We tell them that if you treat the Bible the way you treat any other ancient document, that you will find that it passes the test. We cannot do that if we are not willing to accept the standards ourselves. Too often it sounds like we’re saying we believe in the resurrection because we believe in the Bible. Instead, it should be that we believe in the Bible because we believe in the resurrection.

If your Christianity is built on anything other than the resurrection of Jesus Christ, then your worldview will have a weak foundation. We could add many other doctrines to this. One of the greatest ones today to consider for that is young-earth creationism. The danger with each of these is that if you disprove young-earth creationism, then that will mean that you will be convinced Jesus did not rise from the dead. If you do this with Inerrancy, then that will mean that if anyone shows you any contradiction that you cannot answer, then you will have to believe Jesus did not rise. I often wonder how far this will go. Mythicism for instance is an absolute foolish position, but will a lot of these people become mythicists when they see contradictions in the Bible? The sad reality is that many of them do.

The Bible is a complex book whether you think it is or not and too many of us expect it to be simple. One of the greatest claims I receive from non-Christians is that the Bible should be clear. Clear to whom? This is always a difficulty. We are in a narcissist culture if we live in the modern west and assume that it must be us and our time. It does not have to be. The Bible requires a lot of study and people who want to ignore the scholarship on the issue are frankly not really worth wasting time on. People who are sure of their position are not afraid to read the best the other side has to offer and interact with it.

If you make Inerrancy your focus, you will have it that you have to be able to give an answer to every contradiction at every moment. That is a ridiculous standard to have. I happen to think I have a good memory when it comes to Biblical matters, which makes it really fun for my friends when they play Bible trivia against me as it gives them a real challenge, but I would not dare attempt to be able to say I will keep in my mind every answer to every Biblical contradiction that is out there. It is far too difficult. Do you really want your faith to hang on that? Sure, it takes a lot to defend the resurrection and that requires effort, but the differences are vast.

There are times I think it is important to address contradictions and those are only two. The first is if you are dealing with a Christian who is wrestling with doubt. You can deal with the contradiction they present at that point. If it does not help them, then you know the real focus of the problem is elsewhere. The same applies to the person who is a non-Christian and you think is seriously considering Christianity. If the person is not there, I do not do it. Otherwise, a person can go to a website and get a list of 101 Bible Contradictions and post them all in a thread. Let’s suppose you answer all of them which will require much time and effort. What will be the response? It will not be “Wow. I hadn’t considered these. Thanks!” It will be going to another web site and getting 101 more Bible contradictions. You don’t need to play “Stump the Bible Scholar.”

Keep in mind I am not saying any of this to downplay Scripture. I have a robust and deep doctrine of Scripture and I’m quite conservative, but I will not bow down at the altar of Inerrancy. Jesus is the greatest revelation of God. The Bible is the greatest revelation we have of who He was and what He did and I hold to it being Inerrant, but that is not the focus. The only question I really want to know is if Jesus walked out of that tomb or not. If He did, then I have Christianity. If He did not, then all we are talking about is indeed nothing but trivia.

In Christ,
Nick Peters