Earlier we discussed that Angry God is a foundational harmful belief because it gives rise to other misguided, harmful beliefs. We can say the same about Inerrancy and for the same reason.
In fact, the two are closely connected. Inerrancy leads us to believe that the behaviors of angry god in the Old Testament are genuine history and happened just as described rather than being written by various authors from the limitations of their eras, cultures, and inadequate grasps of God’s character; while belief in angry god makes us focus on the many ‘inerrant’ truths given to us throughout the Bible.
How Inerrancy Works
The inerrantists method of interpretation leads to harmful, misguided beliefs based on reading the Bible as a huge collection of propositional truths from God. A paragraph, a sentence, or even a phrase is often understood to express a clear truth from God. Context is often ignored. Chapters and verses disrupt the flow of the text making it even easier to pull out a sentence or even a phrase as a self-contained truth from God.
So proof-texting is very common–without regard to the textual or historical context, genre, or the authors’ intent. Another common problem in proof-texting is collecting unrelated passages that seem to speak to the same issue (when in fact they do not) to establish a doctrine. However, only one ‘inerrant’ passage is really considered necessary to prove a doctrine—because it is ‘inerrant’ all by itself.
It is frequently difficult to dialogue with an inerrantist because of proof-texting and ‘the Bible clearly says’.
Inerrancy as a Foundational Harmful Belief
Inerrancy is problematic enough on its own, but it is also a foundational harmful belief because it serves as a platform leading to, and supporting, the following harmful beliefs among others.
Angry God. Based on descriptions of God’s threats and actions, particularly in the Old Testament, many fear a God who is angry, demanding, and vindictive toward us, rather than seeing God as the Father with empathy, compassion, and care who wishes to heal our brokenness.
Eternal Punishment in Hell. This belief in angry god culminates in belief in, and fear of, eternal punishment in fire for those who do not measure up to God’s expectations—which includes most people who have ever lived. None of the proof-texts used to defend eternal punishment in hell are valid for this belief. They either refer simply to death, the imagery of Old Testament passages about Jerusalem, or are dramatic illustrations in Jesus’ parables.
Legalism. Legalism is the belief that God has specified a host of specific rules for us to follow in order to please him, so legalists tend to focus on rules, often even minor rules—recorded anywhere in the Bible—instead of living according to the principles of love and treating people right. This often leads to heavy judgmentalism and rejection of those who don’t keep all the ‘rules’. This is the opposite to what Jesus taught and demonstrated in his life.
Penal Substitutionary Atonement. Penal substitution states that God hates our sin so badly that he poured out his wrath for our sins on Jesus at the cross—thereby missing the true point of the crucifixion and resurrection and also mischaracterizing God’s true attitude toward us—one of empathy, compassion, and care.
Homophobia. This is the belief that God rejects and condemns gays and other LGBTs and that we should reject and condemn them as well. The results of this terrible belief are very clearly evident today as many churches and believers condemn and reject LGBTs and are particularly cruel toward LGBTs in their own churches and families. This often results in abandonment and suicide. Here, again, the proof-texts used to support the condemnation of LGBTs are not valid; they simply do not say what they are thought to say.
Christian Patriarchy. To put it simply, Christian patriarchy teaches that God’s plan is for men to lead and for women to be subservient. This is incredibly harmful to both men and woman—but especially to women (and girls). It is based on one or two New Testament proof-texts and ignores a wide range of Old Testament and New Testament witness to the contrary.
Satan and Demons. Even today, many believe that Satan and demons are a serious force that opposes God, God’s work, and God’s people. This concept was a rather late one in Jewish history and was influenced by the Zoroastrianism during the heavy Persian contact period and popularized by books like The Book of Enoch that appeared a couple centuries before the time of Jesus. Today, it is one more example of great and unnecessary fear among some believers.
Young Earth Creationism. Young Earth Creationists (YECs) believe the earth was created about 10,000 yeas ago and that evolution is a lie. An interesting recent development is the invention and embrace of ‘rapid speciation’ (rapid evolution) within the last 4350 years. This odd direction came as it began to be clear that not all species could possibly have fit on the ark. The denial of deep time and scientific evolution are based on the creation stories of Genesis, which YECs believe to be literal and historical rather than mythical or of some other literary genre.
Rapture and End-times Theology. (No resource page yet). Dispensationalists believe the Bible reveals end-time events and that we live in the last days and must be careful to not miss the rapture. Not only is this a tremendous distraction (and a source of fear for many), but in practical terms it drives many believers to support Israels’ cruel oppression of the Palestinians.
The results of belief in inerrancy are primarily negative. What other harmful beliefs can you think of that are suggested by belief in biblical inerrancy?
And why do certain believers even THINK the Bible is inerrant? We will talk about that next time.
Jesus without Baggage exists to assist and support those questioning beliefs they have been taught in fundamentalist, traditional evangelical, and other groups. If you know someone who might find Jesus without Baggage helpful, feel free to send them the introductory page: About Jesus without Baggage.
Articles in this series:
Belief in Biblical Inerrancy Must be the Second Most Damaging, Misguided Christian Belief of All
Why Do Inerrantists Think the Bible is Inerrant Anyway?
How the Bible Actually Works by Peter Enns: a Book Review
Did Jesus Confirm the Inerrancy and Historicity of the Old Testament?
5 Common False Assumptions Inerrantists Make about Me as a Progressive Believer
Inerrantists are My Brothers and Sisters in Jesus—Not My Enemies
Books and Resources on Inerrancy
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