Unorthodox Faith: Wrestling with the Inconsistencies

“All Scripture is breathed out by God…” 2 Timothy 3.16

Inerrancy is a fancy word which means that the Scriptures are perfect and without any error. Christians believe in biblical inerrancy because God does not lie or speak falsely in any way. Thus, the Bible is without error.

This claim can seem difficult to make when we see read inconsistencies in the Scriptures.

Example: let’s look at Genesis 1 again. There’s a day/night cycle from day 1 yet God doesn’t create the two light sources until day 4. And technically speaking the moon isn’t a light sources but reflects the sun.

As a young Christian I would blindly argue that these weren’t inconsistencies at all.

Along with all the other seeming contradictions of the Bible, I’d try to reason them all away and defend that definition of inerrancy.

It felt like a battle I was losing.

There were two huge points that reaffirmed (though altered) my stance on inerrancy.

  1. The Scriptures were written to a prescientific group of farmers, not theoretical physicists.

God used redemptive language in a context where the scientific errors went uncorrected. That’s ok, because the Scriptures speak primarily of salvation. The Bible was not intended to advance science but transform lives.

Augustine would call this “accommodation”. Essentially using concepts and terms the audience is familiar with even if they’re not entirely accurate. In the case of Genesis, the author talked about the beginnings of the world in terms they would understand in the ancient Near East.

Accommodation then does not imply errors. It was a device used to communicate its primary message.

2. Scripture is God’s truth in human words. Written by man, but no coauthored.

The Bible is not one book but 66 written in three languages across three continents and 13 countries with over 40 authors yet there is an amazing consistency in the nature of God and his redemptive story.

I believe scholar and author N.T. Wright wrote it best  “The Word of God through the words of men.”

God used these authors to communicate spiritual truths all while allowing writers to write from their own experiences and uniqueness as God used them to communicate his Word.

At the very least, the inerrancy of Scripture is:

  • Inerrant in the truths it tries to communicate. They are  spiritual in nature and not intended to advance science or be accurate historically. Sometimes event order, lists of names, etc. were changed but this does not change inerrancy as it was not relevant nor intended to deceive early readers.
  • Inerrant in the original manuscripts. Most inconsistencies in the Bible are a result of translation errors and are minor in nature.
  • The Scriptures are inerrant but our interpretation is not.

Having a view that sees Scriptures as inerrant as I’ve written has made knowing God through his word easier. Remember we worship God, not the Bible. The Bible’s goal is to show us who God is and how to know him.

Check back later in the week as we’re going to discuss Jesus’ first miracle!

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5 thoughts on “Unorthodox Faith: Wrestling with the Inconsistencies

  1. Adam Lockhart says:

    I’ve read the statement over the years several times and including before posting this. In fact, it’s been open in one of my browser windows for the last couple of days.

    It’s no shock that you would disagree or comment after I explained how exhausting it has been to deal with you and your Calvinist arrogance.

    Most of what I’ve written, in my opinion, is either consistent with the Chicago Statement or taken from it or some of your Calvinist authors including Driscoll from the book Doctrine.

    In particular, it is completely consistent with articles I, IV, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XIV, and XV.

    I pray you would come to know truly what grace, understanding, self-awareness, and the need to show love instead of always try to be right means and to not be so skeptical and confrontational always.

  2. Adam Lockhart says:

    And I already feel the need to walk my reply back at least in part.

    You know the old theory that you may receive a hundred positive statement but it is the one negative statement that always sticks with you? That’s where I feel the relationship is at.

    I get it.

    I am not a Calvinist nor will I likely ever be again. I flirted with it, and I found it strong in some areas that I’d still agree with but in other areas I found it brutal and eventually decided those areas were too important for me to turn a blind eye to.

    So I will apologize for my harshness. It wasn’t necessary. It came from a place of frustration and certain not the love that I was asking you to show. How hypocritical of me. I’m sorry.

  3. E Bryant says:

    You definitely have baggage with Calvinism. This is the second time that you’ve brought it up when it isn’t even relevant to the topic at hand. There are plenty of non-Calvinists that signed the Chicago Statement.

    I take no offense at your response and your apology is very gracious. I thank you for it. These matters are important to both of us and I have been as guilty as you feel about my handling of these things online. I know that we would be able to talk more like brothers were we face to face. So, don’t sweat it.

    The Chicago statement is a package deal. You can’t pick and choose. You told me that you have a high view of Scripture. I am telling you that your post does not convey that. Now, maybe we have different definitions of what a high view of Scripture is, but mine includes Article XII: “WE AFFIRM that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit. WE DENY that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.” And I believe that church history is consistent with my view.

    Finally, what you see as arrogance troubles me because I have been guilty of that at times and I have been trying to cut it out of my life. I will take your words to heart. I meant my comment not as arrogance, but in the context of being zealous for truth and seeing a mature brother losing an important foundational element of the faith. This also has elements of a mistake I made in my past thinking, so perhaps I am overreacting. But, in my experience, if you take this position on Scripture you are fundamentally saying that you can’t trust God to speak to his people with authority and trustworthiness. If Scripture is God-breathed, as you have affirmed, then there is no error in it. That’s the only logical conclusion. The only possible error is in us and our understanding of it. Apparent contradictions are just things we don’t understand. I’m sure you’ve heard or read this before, so I’ll move on. I pray that there are men in your life who will challenge you on this. It is truly critical to the foundation of our faith.

  4. dpatrickcollins says:

    E Bryant and Adam Lockhardt: Great exchange. I especially appreciated the reference to the Chicago Statement.

    Regarding inerrancy, I must agree with E Bryant here at least in principle. I have been a practicing evangelical for my adult life and have been startled recently by the evangelical movement’s near-cavalier abandonment of scriptural authority. I do not levy that charge at you, Adam, but simply wish to underscore a trend we should be vigilant against.

    True, the Bible was not written to theoretical physicists. At the same time, it was written to men and women just as intelligent as we are. Meaning: It does not take a physicist to observe day/night cycles existed before the light sources mentioned existed, and would have been apparent to the first readers of Scripture, and even to Moses as the text was being authored, so there must be some explanation derived by proper exegesis other than “they just weren’t that scientific, poor folk.” The problem is our modern-day egocentrism that views any prior period with intellectual condescension and the ancient world as dimwitted peasants who were extremely gullible and would apparently buy into anything. This sets the stage for the attack that Scripture itself is just as dimwited, instead of prompting us to deeper understanding < my two cents.

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