For My Inerrantist Friends: Why Appeals to Inerrancy are Totally Ineffective in Discussion

Frequently, I receive comments from those who disagree with me—and this is as it should be! I enjoy dialog with those who disagree with me because I never learn anything if I only talk with people who already agree!

However, it is often impossible to have real dialog with some inerrantists because their main arguments are based on inerrancy, and no response contrary to inerrancy is satisfactory to them. If we cannot discuss an issue without appealing to inerrancy then it is no discussion at all for those of us who do not accept inerrancy.

I, myself, used to be a committed inerrantist. But I no longer am so appeals to inerrancy have no persuasive value to me—at all. And it seems that inerrancy is the only argument some inerrantists have. I think the only place where appeal to inerrancy works well is when both discussion partners share the same presupposition of inerrancy.

Now, I do enjoy dialog with inerrantists, just as I do with anyone else, as long as they can argue from other points; but if they cannot defend their positions without appealing to (or assuming) inerrancy the discussion just can’t go forward. The issue at hand is no longer the stated topic but, instead, becomes inerrancy itself. Of course we can talk about inerrancy–but it is its own topic.

Unless we get beyond appeals (or assumptions) of inerrancy we cannot deal with the issue at hand, as I recently discussed in a previous article.

I’m not being stubborn, I am just saying that appeals to inerrancy are ineffective arguments to me. So argue from a different direction.

blog Bible Inerrancy

The Inadequacy of Proof-texting

Proof-texting forms a lot of the argument for inerrantists. I love discussing biblical passages, but simply presenting a biblical passage as an argument, as though it is sufficient proof within itself, gets us nowhere.

And sharing a biblical passage without comment is of little value. Do you think I haven’t already read that passage—usually times without number? Do you expect me to be surprised by it? If you are going to use a biblical passage for support, then explain what you think the passage means and how it is pertinent to the conversation—without reference to inerrancy. Otherwise the proof-text is just hanging out there taking up space.

Context is very important, and stand-alone phrases and verses lifted out and offered without context do damage to the context.

Even less useful is making a statement followed by chapter and verse references alone without including the text or indicating what it says. If a dialoger doesn’t provide the text, or a link to the text, then I am not likely to look it up.

Accusations Inerrantists make as Arguments against Progressive Believers

Progressive believers encounter a number of common accusations from inerrantists. These accusations often come when proof-texting doesn’t work but are sometimes used a first response.

1. A very common accusation is that progressive believers are cherry pickers—choosing what they like and neglecting what they don’t like. This is simply not true—not for me anyway. As I have questioned beliefs I had been taught (which were all based on inerrancy), I worked hard examining each belief to determine if the proof-texts used for it were solid and to consider alternative perspectives.

Now, I think some people ARE cherry-pickers, there are cherry-pickers on both sides, but I don’t think this is the norm. Nor do I think most believers conveniently choose what they like and ignore what they don’t like. Rather, I think for the most part believers on both sides sincerely believe what they say.

2. A similar accusation is that progressives make the Bible into whatever we want it to be. I can say that reading the Bible without assumptions of inerrancy is not such a shallow exercise as this; it is a lot more work! An inerrantist can simply read a passage without regard to context or genre and decide what it means. Progressive believers must dig deeper.

3. If you can’t trust the whole Bible how can you trust any of it? I approach the Old Testament as Jewish national literature which forms a big part of the cultural background of Jesus and his audience. It is much like reading an American Literature book. We will likely find the Declaration of Independence, a Martin Luther King piece, a story from Huckleberry Finn, Jonathan Edward’s Sinner’s in the Hands of an Angry God, and perhaps Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe. All of these are important to the American heritage, but if we find inconsistencies do we throw out the entire collection?

The New Testament is the story of Jesus and his impact on his earliest followers. I look at each part of of the Bible individually, analyze it according to what it is, and use the results of scholarship.

4. You need to read the Bible! I guess the assumption is that if I read the Bible I must come to the same conclusions they do. I was ‘saved’ in a fundamentalist church when I was 7, and by the time I was 9 or 10 I began reading the Bible voraciously. I am now 63 and I pretty much still do that–along with commentaries and other biblical tools. So that’s over 50 years of fairly intense Bible-reading.

5. You didn’t answer my question. What inerrantists usually mean is that I didn’t answer their question to their satisfaction, so they often pose the same challenge over and over even after it has been addressed. Because, to an inerrantist, everything eventually boils down to inerrancy; and any answer inconsistent with inerrancy is unsatisfactory.

These are not arguments; they are only accusations.

Let’s Dialogue!

I like talking respectfully with inerrantists. So, if you are an inerrantist and want to talk about issues—let’s talk! But be aware that appeals to inerrancy will not be effective.

Articles in this series: Inerrantist Believers

Why Call Out Fundamentalist Views: Isn’t Everyone Entitled to Their Own Opinion?
Why Progressive Believers and Fundamentalist Believers Disagree on So Many Important Beliefs
For My Inerrantist Friends: Why Appeals to Inerrancy are Totally Ineffective in Discussion
Jesus Without Baggage Welcomes Inerrantists!
‘The Bible Clearly Says’ is Always a Seriously Misguided Statement

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90 Responses to For My Inerrantist Friends: Why Appeals to Inerrancy are Totally Ineffective in Discussion

  1. notdodgy says:

    You forgot to mention SHOUTING – if you don’t give the required answer, put a scripture in CAPITALS.

    One interesting thing I found out recently is that there really are unicorns mentioned in the bible.
    (Note – not all versions, but a lot).
    It struck me as a good question to pose to someone convinced that the Bible is Inerrant.
    It is actually fascinating and serves to challenge us to look deeper.
    Original Hebrew word meaning is unclear – something to do with strength and horn.
    Translations that came via Latin have the old English word Unicorn (One horn?).
    In old English, Unicorn was another name for a Rhinoceros.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. tonycutty says:

    Right, this one’s getting reblogged…

    I’d like to comment by adding in those ideas about proof-texting which I sent to you in a private email last November, in response to your article here:
    https://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/2017/08/30/how-proof-texting-is-ineffective-and-disrespects-the-bible/

    “Proof-texting actually disrespects the recipient of the
    proof-text salvo.

    “First, it assumes that the recipient does not know their Bible, and
    needs to be ‘reminded’ or even told as if they haven’t read it at all.
    Granted, this is sometimes the case, but a proof-text is rarely couched
    in such terms that show respect for the recipient’s prior learning. A
    better way would be like Jesus did in saying, ‘But haven’t you read
    [this verse]?’

    “Second, it assumes that the recipient has to interpret that Scripture in
    exactly the same way as the proof-texter. Simply remembering that there are tens of thousands of Christian denominations is sufficient to illustrate that such an agreement on interpretation is not always achieved!

    “Thirdly, it does not allow the Spirit to have spoken Her own words to
    the recipient independently; this is as distinct from the above point
    about our own interpretation. It’s all very well us having different
    interpretations, but God has to be free to give us what He wants us to
    hear from any Scripture, and this may well be different from what others
    hear on the same Scripture, or even what the same person hears but at
    different times. Sure, it’s like doing the ‘God said it!’ claim, but
    actually that’s exactly what has happened!

    “In these ways, the autonomy of belief of the recipient of the proof-text
    is disrespected. But usually autonomy is not what the proof-texter is
    bothered about; usually it’s conformity!”

    Liked by 3 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Wow, Tony! These are really great points! Thanks for sharing them again.

      Inerrantists often do bombard us with salvos of proof-texts. It’s like, ‘There’s no way they can escape the power of this argument!’ As you said, this can be disrespectful in itself, but when it doesn’t work for them they sometimes get even more ‘in you face’ disrespectful.

      Inerrancy is a potent, but very harmful, drug. And withdrawal, when it happens, can cause great pain.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. BJohnM says:

    My challenge is that I’ve yet to meet a person who claims to believe in inerrancy, yet really does. They actually claim inerrancy only when it comes to scripture that supports the beliefs or narrative they want to hold, and easily discount ignore anything that doesn’t support their narrative. I guess my point is that I think claiming to believe in inerrancy is synonymous with cherry-picking. I’ve yet to meet someone who really does believe everything is actually inerrant.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Anthony Paul says:

      John, you make a very valid point here about parts that “don’t support the narrative”. An example of a general reading of Scripture and the mental gymnastics that one must go through to hold to this contradiction: Jesus said “Love your enemies; do good to those that hate you”… Jesus is God… The God of Israel commands His people to slay their enemies, laying waste to the land killing men, women, children, and the animals too.

      Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      BJohn, I know what you mean! If I were to offer a scriptural proof-text, the same way they do, that goes against their belief, then somehow it is deflected; my appeal to inerrancy doesn’t work with them!

      I agree that this can be ‘cherry-picking’, but I think something else is involved; it is bi-level inerrancy. Not only is the Bible inerrant, but the body of interpretation of the Bible they have received through their particular tradition is inerrant as well.

      Liked by 2 people

    • fiddlrts says:

      I wholeheartedly agree. In what is probably not a coincidence, pretty nearly every inerrantist I know has found a way to ignore or explain away Christ’s warning in Matthew 25 that our eternal destiny (in their case, literal heaven or hell) depends on how we treat “the least of these.” I guess that part isn’t inerrant or literal or clear, right?

      Liked by 2 people

      • And then there are other inerrantists like me who totally wrestle with how that plays out every day!

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Fish, I really respect inerrantists like you who actually wrestle with how it plays out. I think it shows that you are genuine thinker rather than a person who accepts the belief package you received as is.

          Liked by 1 person

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Fiddlrts,

        I agree! But this does not mean they don’t use this same passage in their argument for a burning hell. This is the parable of the sheep and the goats (not a prophecy of the end-times). They point to the part: “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'”

        I think they have completely confused the essence of this parable.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Good article. Unfortunately many people do not have the courage to seriously consider a differen’t point of view,or truth. They are in their comfort zones and don’t want to be disturbed. Jesus said “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” The truth can be painful but it is preferable to error.

    Liked by 3 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Robert, I agree. I think people don’t want to be disturbed from their comfort zone, but I think for some there is another element as well. Inerrancy is the foundation of their entire belief system, and if that cracks their entire religious worldview is in jeopardy.

      At the same time we inerrantists (used to be) are heavily indoctrinated and one aspect of that is fear–if we question our beliefs we will likely spend eternity in hell. Inerrantists are often warned ‘not to lean on your own understanding’ with the unexpressed corollary being ‘lean on our understanding instead’. Avoiding punishment in hell is a big motivation.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Mike says:

    I consider myself a relatively well-versed Christian. I commonly listen to the likes of David Jeremiah and Rhavi Zacharias. That said, I have absolutely no idea what inerrancy means in a biblical context and it may have been helpful for you to define that for us laypeople in the beginning of your article. Just saying

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Anthony Paul says:

    Tim, I loved this piece on several levels… for the obvious years of scholarship and study that have gone into your thinking about the nature and efficacy of the Bible and what it means in your life; for the journey that you have taken to get to this point; and, for me perhaps most importantly, by the fact that, unlike so many others, you have not become angry and bitter by the personal experience of moving away from fundamentalist teachings to a more free and progressive view of Scripture. This is of great value to me because I know that when we touch on a subject upon which we may disagree, I really have to stop and consider my conclusions with a bit more depth because I know that your own beliefs were not arrived at lightly or as some form of apologia in defense of church doctrine.

    I would like to add something to the excellent comments made above by both you and Tony regarding proof texting… even allowing for the fact that inerrantists believe that certain texts “prove” their point about the Bible, what is so often overlooked are the passages which seem to say something which, even if not totally contradictory, at least seem to imply a concept which stands in considerable opposition to the primary thesis. In my many discussions with people over the years on this matter, what I’m told is that “we must rightly divide the word of God” and that one part cannot contradict another; the problem, we’re told, is not with The Word but with our inability to discern its true meaning… and so I’ve found that their appeal is either to circular reasoning on the one hand or ignorance on the other.

    Liked by 4 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Anthony!

      Contradictions in the Bible. You had to bring that up didn’t you! For a normal reader of the Bible it doesn’t take long to run across passages that seem to contradict each other; they are all over the Bible. But did you know these are just ‘apparent’ contradictions? I am sure inerrantists have a solution for every contradiction we can fine–though they may be far from persuasive tor us.

      I used to have about 10 books from inerrantist providing ‘answers’ to these contradictions, and they were very convincing (to other inerrantists). For the rest of us it was often, ‘Say What!’

      Yes! I definitely think contradictions in the Bible are a big problem in the inerrantist argument. I have thought perhaps about doing an article on these ‘solutions’ to contradictions. What do you all (all of you) think about that?

      Liked by 4 people

      • Anthony Paul says:

        “I have thought perhaps about doing an article on these ‘solutions’ to contradictions.”

        That would be a great topic; like you I also had a shelf full of books supporting this idea and so it would be good to get a unified view from the other side.

        Liked by 2 people

      • sheila0405 says:

        My indoctrination had *plenty* of answers to contradictions. As I grew older & was exposed to other views, I left inerrancy. I, too, spent years studying the Bible & using commentaries. The proliferation of new translations also helped me. I respect my Progressive Christian friends.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Teri Raia says:

    I stopped reading the Bible about a year ago after reading a particularly disturbing text in the Old Testament. I was of the belief then if I did not believe the entire Bible that my belief in Jesus would not be valid. This has caused me a great deal of distress and questioning of everything Christian – really of all religious belief. Once I went down that rabbit hole the simplicity and beauty of my faith just crumbled. Happy that I found this blog and know that others have the same questions. I still embrace the Christian values that Jesus taught and truly love the New Testament. It is the Old Testament that I have trouble reading. It just leaves me with more questions and doubt.

    Liked by 3 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Teri, I grieve at your experience. But it is one that many of us have experienced in one form or another. Most of us here once believed (as we were taught) that the entire Bible was the very truth from God, and it can be devastating to discover that this is not so. Losing that belief about the Bible can create great fear, confusion, and insecurity.

      I am glad you still embrace the values Jesus taught–that is the most important thing in my opinion. This might help you with the Old Testament, if you are interested.

      https://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/2018/01/08/we-often-become-what-we-think-god-is-like-angry-god-part-1/

      Feel free to continue this conversation and to share any observations or concerns you might have.

      Liked by 1 person

    • newtonfinn says:

      Teri, somewhat the same thing happened to me at one point in my life. What I grasped onto (to escape the rabbit hole) was the fact that religion/spirituality has to do with the now and the future, much more than with the past. I came to the conclusion that if my experience of a loving God was genuine, then I and everyone else and the entire universe were safe and secure in Abba’s hands. Perhaps Jesus had something like this in mind when he said words to the effect that those who put their hands to the plow, and then look back, are not able to enter the Kingdom of God. Your faith is about your life right now and your ultimate destiny–not about whether you’ve been able to figure out what happened millennia ago.

      Liked by 2 people

    • sheila0405 says:

      Glad you’re still continuing your journey!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. hoju1959 says:

    In my experience, Christian inerrantists don’t approach their own scripture with the same skepticism they approach other faiths’ holy books. That is, you can have a YEC Bible who defends his beliefs dogmatically yet points out all sorts of “absurdities” in, say, the Book or Mormon. Obvious discrepancies in his book are “apparent” discrepancies. Any “apparent discrepancy” a True Believer can’t resolve is an “unsolved mystery.” They say, we’ll just have to ask God about that when we get to heaven!

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Hoju, I think that is a very good observation! Christian inerrantists seem to have tremendous skepticism of other holy books, but none for their own.

      Like

  9. Paz says:

    Great topic, enjoying reading everyone’s comments 🙂
    It is also clear to me that the Bible has to be read with an open mind, always taking into consideration the language used and the period when it was written, including the audience for whom and to whom it was written. I think it is important that the core message in Jesus teachings (love, kindness, compassion) must remain relevant to how we interpret and approach Scripture in our hearts and minds today, for the betterment of ourselves and our world.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Chas says:

    Tim, the difficulty that you now have is that, with this post, you are closing the door on inerrantists, the very people who are weighed down by the fundamentalist baggage that you are hoping to take from their shoulders. It is very noticeable that our recent inerrantist visitors are absent, maybe they feel that they are not welcome to this topic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Chas, you are absolutely right! And this did not occur to me. Of course, my point was for inerrantists who aggressively and endlessly try to argue with us using appeals to inerrancy. I stand by that. But I did not think of the overflow impact it might have on those questioning their beliefs who would also need to use appeals to inerrancy in their interaction.

      Thank you so much! I have already made notes for a remedial blog that I hope to post in a couple weeks. I hope it is okay to quote you.

      Like

  11. Robert Woods says:

    A few years ago I heard a lecture by, I believe, D A Carson. He was urging students not to take a face value when someone made statements followed by a string of scripture references. It doesn’t matter whether one is an inerrantist or not, each reference needs to be looked up in its context to be sure it is being used properly.

    Applying this makes for slower reading but adds great insight into how an author interprets scripture. Surprisingly, allegory is alive and well today.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Robert, I agree. I try to never use a biblical passage without checking its context and making sure it is used properly. And you know what? Sometimes the passage in context does not say what I remember it saying!

      Like

      • newtonfinn says:

        And as you know, Tim, additional challenges are posed by the fact that we don’t know the actual contexts of many of Jesus’ sayings and stories. It seems, at least to many NT scholars, that the gospel writers took sayings and stories often passed down to them orally as stand-alone units (or compiled into written lists) and then molded those separate units into connected narratives. To make matters even more complicated, it appears that the gospel writers sometimes used questionable criteria (like similar words) to join together into longer discourses what were likely independent, unrelated sayings. I remember working through “Gospel Parallels” in seminary, where similar material in each gospel is put side by side, and coming to the conclusion that much of the context and chronology of the Jesus story had been supplied, in different ways, by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The baptism by John comes at or near the beginning, of course, and the passion obviously comes at the end, but what happens in the intervening two or three years of Jesus’ public life is a series of snapshots, shuffled by each gospel writer, much as one would shuffle a deck of cards. But please don’t misunderstand me here–I firmly believe that these sayings and stories, however contextualized and sequenced, together paint an unmistakable portrait of a man and message worthy of the devotion of a lifetime.

        Liked by 2 people

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Newton, I agree. “Additional challenges are posed by the fact that we don’t know the actual contexts of many of Jesus’ sayings and stories.”

          The gospels are certainly not like modern biographies. You are perhaps aware that scholars generally agree that Matthew and Luke both use two sources in common (Mark and Q–a presumed collection of Jesus’ saying). It would be great if we had actual biographies, but those would need to be carefully analyzed as well.

          Like

          • newtonfinn says:

            I’ve always wondered, Tim, whether there were additional written sayings sources other than Q. Given the discovery of the so-called gnostic gospels, who knows what might yet turn up at some archeological site…or merely by accident? There’s also been recent work by certain scholars concerning whether at least some of the gospels were written in liturgical form for early church worship. Clearly, there are more developments to come in the fascinating field of NT scholarship. You’re certainly right in saying that the canonical gospels weren’t intended to be biographies in any modern sense.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Newton, I am sure there were lots more writing about Jesus that have not been preserved at all. Your mention of the gnostic gospels is appropriate in that many scholars think the writer of the Gospel of Thomas may have had Q among his sources.

            I think it would be great to have a clearer view of the life, teachings, and example of Jesus, but I’m afraid right now we have to work with what we already have.

            Liked by 1 person

        • Paz says:

          “…I firmly believe that these sayings and stories, however contextualized and sequenced, together paint an unmistakable portrait of a man and message worthy of the devotion of a lifetime.”
          Newton, well said! I totally agree.

          Liked by 2 people

  12. One of my favorite things to do is to force the conversation in a different direction – usually away from an English translation (which can’t possibly be the actual Word of God, since that’s not what the Bible was written in) to that of Greek and Hebrew. Most people give up the argument at this point and we can either have a conversation about the topic at hand or the conversation ends because they don’t have the background in those languages and know that if they proceed the house of cards will crumble.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Luther, I really like that idea! I wish I could use it on occasion but my Greek is quite rusty and I never took Hebrew. Of course, there are inerrantists who also know Greek and would probably toss it right back at you. Have you encountered that?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Not yet. But it would move the debate to a neutral field. The challenge for inerrancy is then on defending an English translation of another language. Here’s an example of a argument within Lutheran circles, but not regarding inerrancy, but still hits the point. It’s no different than arguing about the difference between betrayed and handed over. The same greek word used can mean both of those things. But the context makes all the difference. When we say “On the night in which Jesus was betrayed” a better translation is “on the night in which Jesus was handed over.” The reason is that the same greek word is used throughout the passion narrative and the translators always translate it as “handed over,” not “betrayed” in the other instances it is used. Why is it that when it comes to Judas, it gets translated as “betrayed” but when the same word is used in describing how Jesus is handed over to the chief priests, and they hand him over to Pilate, and Pilate hands him over to the soldiers, and they hand him over for death, that it gets translated as “handed over.” Handed over is a divine passive which means that God is the key actor in all of it. If Judas “betrays” Jesus, then who is in charge? Judas is. And that’s not what we believe and that’s not what the Greek shows us.

        When it comes to people arguing inerrancy, I think most of the time, it’s a false argument. They are really arguing for their preferred English translation of the text. And anyone who studies language can attest, there is no 100% infallible translation of any language into another. Yes, there are some inerrantists who know Greek and Hebrew, but they have to acknowledge that there are mutliple ways of translating many of the words that are used. They do not have an authority in determining the translation, nor does the Bible have it’s own authority in translating from one language to the other. The mere fact that the possibilities of how words can be translated forces us to open ourselves to the possibilities that an alternative is a legitimate option. If someone isn’t willing to acknowledge that, then there are two other options – just stop, or start using English words that have multiple meanings and using them incorrectly, just to make the point.

        How this would work would be to say something really embarrassing out of context. For instance, if you are in debate with someone, and someone asks what is going on while the other person is present, you say that you are having intercourse with this person. Technically, this is true. But out of context, you’ll get some odd looks. And I’m willing to bet the person won’t like your use of the word. Yet, how is this any different than someone who holds inerrancy as the only way. They are forcing the use of definitions and translation, that while technically correct, are not always the best option available.

        I hope those examples are helpful.

        Liked by 3 people

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Luther, these examples are VERY helpful! I always contend that context is important, and I think the context of language is part of that. You shared some good insights.

          “When it comes to people arguing inerrancy, I think most of the time, it’s a false argument. They are really arguing for their preferred English translation of the text.” I agree, and often I think it is even that they are arguing for the inerrancy of the interpretation tradition of that passage that they have received.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Great point about arguing for the inerrancy of the interpretation tradition of that passage. Which is an amazing argument to hold really. It’s trusting in another human being and that they are perfect in their understanding of God’s word, will, and the context, and language of the time. None of us are that good. We might get bits and pieces of it right, but not the whole thing.

            Liked by 3 people

        • Anthony Paul says:

          You’ve made some really important points here, Luther. For quite a long time now I have suspected that language has had a great deal to do with understanding the original meaning of a particular text… but not until now have I fully appreciated the amount of work and real study that is required to be able to do it properly. Thanks!

          Liked by 2 people

  13. “An inerrantist can simply read a passage without regard to context or genre and decide what it means. ”
    This is incorrect. When having conversations with other inerrantists, we typically all agree that context is very important. And any comments where verses are quoted without context will not be taken seriously by scholars who maintain that scripture is reliable. The progressive, on the other hand, is free to interpret verses any way he pleases, since any supposition of reliability is thrown out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Wild, I realize that not all inerrantists understand inerrancy the same way and also that there are differences in the levels of sophistication among inerrantists. So, Yes, context is more important to some than others. It is difficult to cover all aspects of discussion with inerrantists in a short article.

      Not everything I said in the article applies to all inerrantists, but the difficulties I mentioned in talking to inerrantists are all genuine; I was an inerrantist myself for many years (starting off as a not so sophisticated one), and in the many years since I have interacted with many inerrantists. So I have seen it from both sides.

      And I am glad you brought this up, “When having conversations with other inerrantists, we typically all agree that context is very important. And any comments where verses are quoted without context will not be taken seriously by scholars who maintain that scripture is reliable.” It would be mistaken to say that this us not true among some inerrantists–but certainly not all.

      But this leads me to your further statement, “The progressive, on the other hand, is free to interpret verses any way he pleases, since any supposition of reliability is thrown out.” As I have explained before, this is not true either; though there are also differences of sophistication among progressive believers and this would aptly describe some of them.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Just from the comments on this blog it is clear to see that there is no consensus on any Biblical topic. Which is exactly what one would expect when there is no basis for consensus. But, you’re right as far as it goes, there is little point to a dialogue about scripture when one decides scripture is not reliable. When having arguments with believers who take scripture to be God inspired, we all at least have a starting point that we agree on. We may strongly disagree on the interpretation of certain passages, but we at least know that everyone believes in salvation by the actual life, death and resurrection of Christ.
        You say “Let’s dialogue” but if I put the Bible on the same level as Huck Finn, I have no clue what to dialogue about. It would have to be very shallow, as in a subjective, “What did you get from the book?” but how much can it really matter if the book is fiction? If there is no absolute truth to discover, it has no more value then reading poetry which can mean something different to every listener.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Wild, I understand what you are saying.

          Like

          • If I might add one more to the list of what inerrantists tell you, it would be to approach the book with an attitude of prayer and humble submission, and this applies to everyone, regardless of what they think scripture is, or whether they have ever read it before. Come to it expecting God to reveal himself, not expecting that these are mere words on a page. Try reading it with a child’s heart, instead of an adult’s skepticism. The most sincere world changing believers I’ve known were often simple people, not sophisticated scholars.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Wild, you might not think so but I do approach the Bible with openness and humility. I have essentially devoted my life to the Bible and to Jesus; this is why I want to understand it the best that I can. I appreciate your words to me.

            Going back to your observation about fiction in the Bible I would like to say that fiction can be a powerful tool for expressing deep insights. I think the writer of Jonah made a tremendous point about God in his story of the prophet and his mission. And what would we do without the tremendously powerful story of Job and his struggle over how such bad things can happen to honest and righteous people. That these books are stories rather than history does not diminish their value.

            I don’t know if you have read Huckleberry Finn, but it is a book with a message at a very important time in American history, unlike Tom Sawyer which was more of a delightful adventure. The whole scenario of Huck and his relationship with the escaped slave, Jim, was a commentary on the times, and it had a tremendous impact on me.

            Liked by 1 person

        • Paz says:

          “…we all at least have a starting point that we agree on. We may strongly disagree on the interpretation of certain passages, but we at least know that everyone believes in salvation by the actual life, death and resurrection of Christ.”
          wildswanderer, I agree! I think this can potentially be one of many good starting points to dialogue for all believers.

          Liked by 1 person

        • newtonfinn says:

          Hang in there with us, wildswanderer. We may not come to agreement, but we will learn from each other. The major bones of contention seem to be whether you can keep the baby (Jesus) while disposing of the bath water (inerrant scripture), and, if so, how this might be done. Those bones are certainly worth chewing on some more.

          Liked by 2 people

  14. sheila0405 says:

    Tim, having been a Progressive Christian for a time, I can attest to the veracity of your numbered points. The Progressives that I met are lovely people who truly love Jesus & the Bible. I also long for loving dialogue!

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Of course fiction can be helpful an understanding certain truths. I love fiction. I write fiction. I liked huckerberry finn. I would add song lyrics to the list of words that remind me of Truth
    Often even lyrics that aren’t meant to be Christian.
    Of course I have no reason to see Job or Jonah as fiction. They are not presented that way. And Jesus doesn’t refer to them in the way he does parables. If I don’t see Jonah as literal history, why should I see the stories about Jesus life as literal history? Is it somehow harder for God to keep a man alive in a fish then it is for him to bring a man back to life? The reason certain stories are rejected is because they don’t fit into our modern mindset, so we relegated them to tall tales to tell children. I hope there are unicorns in the new Earth..there is no reason to believe there won’t be.
    Of course I don’t read scripture like I do fiction. If it was merely stories with a nice moral I would have no reason to keep reading it. What’s inside has the power to change lives permanently. It’s the very Oracle of God, not a nice book of tall tales.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Wild: “I have no reason to see Job or Jonah as fiction. They are not presented that way. And Jesus doesn’t refer to them in the way he does parables.”

      Wild, it’s fine with me if you read Job and Jonah as history, but I think they both read as stories and make perfect sense as stories. But I do have a couple questions about Job. In chapter 1, and again in chapter 2, the accuser had a conversation with God in which God pointed out Job as blameless and upright and then gave permission for the accuser to the attack Job in terrible ways.

      The first question is, who do you think witnessed these exchanges between God and the accuser in order to write them into the book? Secondly, why would God do such a thing to Job?

      You also asked, “If I don’t see Jonah as literal history, why should I see the stories about Jesus life as literal history?” I believe the general character of Jesus presented in his teaching and example by the gospel writers because of the impact that they had on the lives of his followers. Jesus’ teaching and example also have a tremendous impact on me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jonah’s actions also had a tremendous impact on real people that I expect to meet in the future, in heaven or on the new Earth. If the story was told with fictitious characters, then explained as to it’s meaning, it would make sense to see it as fiction.
        Why does it matter how God revealed story of Job to the writer? God talks to people all the time in dreams and visions in Scripture. God didn’t do anything to Job, he merely allowed it to happen. You might as well ask why any believer has bad things happen to him. Jesus said, in this world you will have trouble. I assume it happens to cause us to rely more heavily on him. I did a post on job once, but I don’t really feel very comfortable posting links to my stuff cuz I’m not really here to promote my site.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Wild, the king of Nineveh was a big thing; he was head of a huge empire. I am not aware of any mention from historical records or in later Jewish documents that the king of Nineveh was converted. But the story does tell us how we should not wish for, nor gloat from, destruction of other people–not even the head of the Assyrian Empire.

          I really like the book of Jonah, but I don’t see its significance beyond this lesson.

          You asked, “You might as well ask why any believer has bad things happen to him.” I agree! So do many other people; people ask this all the time–and, in my opinion, so did the writer of Job. It is a great philosophical reflection on that very question.

          Liked by 1 person

  16. newtonfinn says:

    You raise an interesting question that deserves intelligent answers. That’s one of the reasons why I’m glad you’re still engaging with us. If we liberal Christians do not take Job or Jonah as history (and the vast majority of us don’t), then why do we (although in a variety of ways) usually take the resurrection as history or, for that matter, some or all of Jesus’ seemingly-miraculous healings? By what criteria do we liberal Christians draw lines in scripture between fact/reality/history and myth/metaphor/culture-bound descriptions? Without attempting to provide an answer in this brief response, let me just say this for starters. The same processes that went on in your heart, mind, and soul and led you to accept the inerrancy of the Bible, also went on inside us and took us in a different direction. I’ll try to flesh out how these internal similarities yielded divergent results in future posts.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Chas says:

    I do not take Job, Jonah, the ,or Jesus’ healings as being true. They come out of the imagination of men.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Have you ever experienced something you felt was a miracle? Have you ever had a reliable person tell you about a real miracle? It baffles me that someone who probably believes God created everything in one way or another has a problem with miracles.

      Liked by 1 person

      • newtonfinn says:

        Chas and I are in agreement about Job and Jonah, but differ when it comes to Jesus’ healings. You’ll find that kind of honest, reasonable disagreement throughout the liberal side of Christianity. For liberal Christians, such differences are taken as matters of course, as reflections of the deep and rich diversity of human thought, especially when contemplating things that transcend linear logic. But note how on the conservative side of the faith, such differences often lead those who take one position to accuse those who take another as not being genuinely Christian. If the Bible is God’s inerrant word, and Christian faith is tantamount to getting it right, then there is little room for–and much danger in–differing interpretations of what the Bible says or how it is to be understood.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Chas says:

        Have I ever experienced something that I felt was a miracle, Yes, but have I ever had a reliable person tell me about a real miracle, No.

        Liked by 2 people

        • To me, one of the most amazing miracles is how God will sometimes taylor make a moment, or a series of moments or events or even a dream to show his love in a way that is unique to my experiences and nature and personality. It gives me chills when I suddenly realize what he is saying.
          These “little” big miracles when God speaks to us in our language, in the most intimate way possible, that is relationship, because only he can know all our deepest longings and just how to speak to them.
          Physical miracles? Those are child’s play for an omnipotent creator. If he can speak to my soul, he can do anything.

          Liked by 1 person

  18. Pingback: Jesus Without Baggage Welcomes Inerrantists! | Jesus Without Baggage

  19. dover1952 says:

    Jesuswithoutbaggage. If youins and yer readers do not believe in Biblical inerrantism, youins is all a goin’ ta Hayul. Nowins, if youins wants to be a learnin’ the truth ’bout Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism, youins had better go over ta this here other blog–er else youins is a gonna be a burnin’ in Hayul forever with that there Joy Behar, who spoke agin the Second Anointed One of the Lord named Mike Pence. Here, this’un’ll save all youins from the fars of Hayul. Jist cleek on the safe link that follers:

    https://faith17983.wordpress.com/

    Jesus Saves—and so do the peoples whut puts their munnys in East Tennessee Savings & Loan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Dover, thanks for the link and the introduction. I did some reading there an will go back when I have more time. By the way, I spent 15 years in East Tennessee–Cleveland, if you know where that is.

      I like your Boston accent.

      Like

      • dover1952 says:

        Thanks. I grew up in the Nashville area. Back in the 1950s, some American linguists did a national survey of American cities and found that the best grammatical English in the United States was spoken by the Nashville citizens they surveyed. Boston was second on their list.

        When I moved to East Tennessee in 1974, the local language was a new experience for me. I had to learn numerous new linguistic oddities, like “youins” and “back air” and strange grammatical structures. Here are a couple of sentences:

        “Is youins a goin ta the movie tonight?”

        “Step back air into the store room and bring me a case of dopes.”

        The old people in East Tennessee refer to full Coca-Cola bottles as “dopes” because they, their parents, or grandparents actually drank some of the first Cokes that briefly had a small amount of actual cocaine in them.

        Much love to all of you folks here. I have to get to back some of my “rat killien” now.

        Liked by 1 person

  20. Pingback: Why Call Out Fundamentalist Views: Isn’t Everyone Entitled to Their Own Opinion? | Jesus Without Baggage

  21. Pingback: Why Progressive Believers and Fundamentalist Believers Disagree on So Many Important Beliefs | Jesus Without Baggage

  22. Pingback: ‘The Bible Clearly Says’ is Always a Seriously Misguided Statement | Jesus Without Baggage

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