For a while now I have been talking about the importance of an honest approach to the Scriptures. I think it is time for a little self-reflection. Here are some of my thoughts at this time on inspiration, inerrancy, and infabillity.
Of the three I's, inspiration is the easiest one for me to buy into.
Inspiration is the most important of these three. Inerrancy and infallibility arise as a result of inspiration. Said another way, because the text is inspired, it is inerrant and infallible.
Inspiration is vitally important for the Believer who wants to take the Bible seriously. And I believe it is a prerequisite for studying and understanding the Scriptures properly.
The reasoning behind belief in inspiration is logically problematic. I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God because it says is is (2 Tim 3:16). However, I believe it's statement about its nature because I have already assumed what it says is inspired. This just may be my postmodern mindset, but I am fine with this reasoning as long as I understand it for what it actually is, a logically indefensible position. A position of faith.
Inerrancy, is a little more difficult because I see what may be contradictions in details in the Bible
These can be explained in several ways:
our concept of proper historiography in the modern world is different from the ancient world's. We need to be careful not to impose modern assumptions about proper method on a book that is over 2,000 years old.
Most of these can be explained in a somewhat satisfactory manner, and are probably the result of not understanding important details of the text.
The most likely scenario for some of these contradictions is that inerrancy occurs only in the original manuscripts, of which we have none. Although we can reconstruct these original manuscripts with astounding accuracy, we are still left with questions over possible scribal errors.
Because inerrancy is only present in the original autographs, it is somewhat ludicrous to believe that the Bible we (hopefully) take to church on Sunday is free of errors. It is a translation from copies, of copies, of copies, that is the subject of the theological bias of the translators. Is there any surprise that our modern Bibles are not error free?
That the Bible is free from errors does pose some rather difficult questions. However, it has been demonstrated time and again (in my opinion) that the Bible, as a record of selected historical events, is almost unparalleled for its reliability in the ancient world.
In spite of numerous attempts to discredit it, it has always come up trustworthy. In light of this, I do hold to the inerrancy of Scripture, even though I can almost hear, higher-critical readers snickering in the background.
Infallability is the difficult one, although to be clear I have not given up on this belief.
I am down with people believing the Bible is without error, but that doesn't mean the bible is incapable of error. One does not necessarily lead to the other.
It seems to me that many people who ascribe to this belief do so in two ways
they believe it without really thinking in detail about its implications
they somehow believe that the Bible looses most if not all importance without infallibility. The importance of the Scriptures comes from their inspiration, not their infallibility. If infallibility exists, than it is as a result of inspiration, not the other way around. They need the Bible to be infallible so they can justify their high view of it, although I believe one can have a very high view of Scripture without needing to subscribe to infallibility.
At the end of the day, these three beliefs are all founded in faith. It is one thing to prove the historical superiority of the text, which has been done many times over. But it is another thing entirely to take that historical accuracy and build from it a case of inerrancy, inspiration, or infallibility.
we all need to understand and appreciate this fact. These beliefs are the result of faith in a text about faith.
It goes without saying but I don't have any of this figure out. This just reflects my current thinking, as backward and simple as it my be.
Also, I recently finished reading Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel by Eugene Merrill. It is a fantastic survey of OT history from a evangelical mindset. The introduction, which includes a section on pursuing an accurate historical reading while holding conservative assumptions about the text, is reason alone for picking up this Book. Below is an amazon affiliate link.