Belief in Biblical Inerrancy Must be the Second Most Damaging, Misguided Christian Belief of All

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

Bible with pen

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.

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79 Responses to Belief in Biblical Inerrancy Must be the Second Most Damaging, Misguided Christian Belief of All

  1. tonycutty says:

    I have just been musing on the normal track a conversation about inerrancy will go.

    “If the Bible is not inerrant, then how can we know anything about God/Jesus?”

    A fair point. The usual answer:

    “God can reveal Himself to us, both through the Bible, through other routes – for example, nature – or directly”

    And the usual answer to this is, “Well, if you’re going to say thatm then surely anyone can therefore start their own religion based on what they feel God is saying to them. In other words, there is no ‘objective’ truth”.

    And they will usually go on to cite examples like Jim Jones, David Koresh (of Waco fame) or even mass murderers such as the UK’s Peter Sutcliffe – the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ mass-murderer – who claimed that God told him to murder all the women he did by speaking to him through a gravestone.

    But any objection to the denial of inerrancy along these lines necessarily restricts the sovereign ability of God to do whatever He likes, within any self-imposed limits such as always working within His love. If God wants to speak to us directly, not inerrantist is ever going to be able to stop that, although they may well object to what He says 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    • theotherlestrangegirl says:

      I think the idea of “anyone can start their own religion based on what they think God is saying to them” is an interesting one. And I believe it’s true. All you have to do is look around at the multiple denominations and variations of Christianity. All, of course, believe they are correct and all others are false.

      As for “how we can know anything about God or Jesus if the Bible is not inerrant,” I think the answer is simply: We can’t, for sure.

      However, I believe this is where faith comes into play. Can I say I know for 100 percent certain that our God wouldn’t throw all those who displease him into an eternal burning fire to satisfy his need for justice? No. But I don’t believe that is so, and I have faith that our God is much more loving and forgiving than that.

      The bulk of Christianity comes down to faith, and I believe that fundamentalists and inerrantists tend to forget that. We believe in Jesus because we have faith that he truly existed and died for us. We believe in a loving God because we have faith in the things Jesus told us about the Father. And so on and so on.

      I actually believe inerrancy is a very arrogant belief. The idea of reading something and believing with no question that it says exactly as you read it is faith, of sorts, but it is not faith in God or Jesus. It is not even the faith that you can find out more about it with the right tools and guidance. It is simply the faith in your own eyeballs, which is quite faulty indeed.

      And I know many people who believe in inerrancy have not read the Bible for themselves at all and only believe what others tell them to believe. Again, that is faith in the wrong thing. It is simply putting your ultimate faith and trust in another, fallible human being. Now there’s nothing wrong with putting some faith in humans, such as certain pastors or theologians or others you trust. But it becomes a problem when you exalt that person as the all-knowing, never-wrong authority on the Bible.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Very good points! Sometimes, I’m afraid to come out and just say it: We cannot be sure. And our beliefs are all about faith, not knowing for certain. Thank you for helping me clarify and solidify this!

        Liked by 4 people

      • tonycutty says:

        Brilliant. Especiially good about the point that people have not read the Bible. Interesting; I have read the Bible more times than I cn remember and there are still those who have not read it who try to tell me what it says! That’s hilarious! PS Don’t tell them, but I can also quote from memory huge parts of Lord of the Rings as well as huge parts of the Bible. But there are some who would not know which book each quote came from 😉

        Liked by 3 people

        • theotherlestrangegirl says:

          It’s a bit sad, but also very true, that people never read the Bible and yet will argue with you all day about what it says and what it means. Also, too funny about quoting Lord of the Rings. You’re right, there are many people who couldn’t tell the difference between that and the Bible! There are also many other literary texts that sound just like the Bible if you didn’t know it was something else (kind of like how the whole red, fiery hell thing isn’t from the Bible at all, but largely from Dante’s Inferno).

          I’m reminded of an image I see going around social media quite often. It’s a picture of a cloaked man holding a staff, and there are a lot of comments like “Praise Jesus!” and “Blessed be our Savior!” However, it’s actually an image of Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars. Ooohhhhh dear.

          It’s something I see that is, of course, meant to mock Christians and their willingness to blindly follow the crowd and believe without investigating. While I never think it’s kind to mock someone, I do think Christians share some responsibility for the way the world often sees them/us. It’s time to wake up and start using the eyes, ears, and brains that we were all equally gifted.

          Liked by 3 people

          • tonycutty says:

            Yes, I love the photos of Jesus as played by Ewan McGregor. Of course what the Evangelicals fail to mention is that Obi-Wan lived to a ripe old age before being cut down by Darth Vader.

            Jesus was also played by Liam Neeson in this remarkable image of Jesus fighting Satan in the Judean desert during the Temptations http://tinyurl.com/yaynw6pw

            Also, “…the whole red, fiery hell thing…” you mention – I consider that sort of thinking to be particularly hilarious because any ‘lake of burning brimstone’ – an archaic word for Sulfur – would burn with a quiet, blue flame, and not a roaring red/orange flame. Ah, the benefit of being a professional chemist… 😉

            Liked by 2 people

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Tony, thank you for this great piece of information (as I am not a chemist): “…the whole red, fiery hell thing…” you mention – I consider that sort of thinking to be particularly hilarious because any ‘lake of burning brimstone’ – an archaic word for Sulfur – would burn with a quiet, blue flame, and not a roaring red/orange flame. Ah, the benefit of being a professional chemist… 😉”

            Liked by 2 people

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Strange Girl, you make so many great points here! But I want to respond to one thing you said: “The idea of reading something and believing with no question that it says exactly as you read it is faith, of sorts, but it is not faith in God or Jesus…It is simply the faith in your own eyeballs, which is quite faulty indeed.” To which I agree; this is treating the Bible far too lightly.

        But you make another point that is more true than what I think most inerrantist are willing to admit: “many people who believe in inerrancy have not read the Bible for themselves at all and only believe what others tell them to believe. Again, that is faith in the wrong thing.”

        One of the big warnings among fundamentalists is to ‘lean not to your own understanding’, but the unsaid second portion, which is implied, is ‘lean to the understanding of our tradition instead.’

        Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Tony, I think it is interesting that there are incompatible doctrinal commitments even among inerrantists.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Doug Stratton says:

    35 years ago, I declared my confidence in inerrant and infallible scriptures, when I wrote my ordination paper. It is amazing what 35 years of ministry and studying the scriptures will bring about. As I have thought about it, I have come to understand the Bible as a living document into which God breathes inspiration. In addition I have come to understand that only as I read scripture through the lens of Jesus life and teaching can I begin to understand God as God reveals God’s own self to and through the created universe.
    So today, my ordination paper would be very different (in fact, my ordination may not have been recognized by that council). For this I thank God.

    Liked by 4 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Doug, I was a convinced inerrantist as well–but things didn’t really hold together. In fact, I went through more than a year of deep anguish, existential pain, and mourning the loss of God before I realized that Jesus–not an inerrant Bible–was the foundation of all my belief.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. sheila0405 says:

    I love this post. Period. Shared on Twitter.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. newtonfinn says:

    The “package deal” Tim describes as coming with belief in biblical inerrancy jibes with my own experience as a liberal Christian who has, on occasion, attempted to dialogue with more conservative believers. Yet just this morning I happened to read two of the “minor prophets”–Habakkuk and Zephaniah–and I was reminded about how angry God does appear in much of the prophetic tradition in which Jesus squarely stood. That divine anger, directed not to individual and personal sins of weakness but to larger social sins of injustice, oppression, and exploitation, seems also reflected in the teachings and tone of Jesus, as he confronted the “powers that be” of his time and place. So might God indeed be angry in the latter case, but not the former? Conservative Christianity seems to have reversed this dichotomy and preached a God angry not so much about social sin as about personal sin. Surely this unbiblical reversal cries out for correction. But does not the blanket rejection of an angry God sap some of the ethical and spiritual power of the prophetic tradition and of the Gospel, which revived, refined, and culminated it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s an interesting proposition. I would say “Yes”, as Revelation clearly shows God displeasure with the “system”, and the powers that be in this world. However, in the end, his anger wouldn’t be sequestering individuals to “eternal” fury, but his wrath would tear down our sinful and sad systems with which we trod on some many other people.

      Liked by 3 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Newton, I think I see what you mean; and there is a shift in tone in the depiction of God’s anger from the Flood, for example, to the later prophets who show God being upset by injustice, oppression, and exploitation.

      But I have difficulty thinking of the Father who loves and understands us all as being ‘angry’. Perhaps that is how we would describe his response to injustice, but perhaps another word would be more accurate than ‘anger’. Though I do not know enough about the inner workings of God to know what that word might be.

      Liked by 2 people

      • newtonfinn says:

        Yes, Tim, the hijacking of God’s “anger” by those who relentlessly focus it on personal sins of weakness (which then merit eternal torture unless one believes the right way) is probably a very good reason to try to find another way to express what the prophets and Jesus were getting at in expressing God’s righteous condemnation of oppression and injustice.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. theotherlestrangegirl says:

    Unfortunately, my mom is an inerrant fundamentalist who ticks every one of these boxes. She stays in an abusive marriage because her church has told her that God wants her to, and she believes it. She believes that women should never have any influence or be in power and that Republicans are as close to God as you can get. She is an ardent Donald Trump supporter. She believes that God is very wrathful and is quick to judge and punish every perceived sin. She is homophobic and believes LGBTQ’s to be an “abomination.” She wholeheartedly believes that Satan is around every corner and is always trying to tempt us.

    I tried to have a conversation with her last week about the different beliefs I have now. I wasn’t trying to convert her or anything, I simply wanted to her to listen to another point of view. However, she wouldn’t hear a word of it. She insisted that her and her church’s beliefs were the only true way, and that she was disappointed in me.

    I told her once that I was considering attending a Catholic church (not because I consider myself Catholic, but because my husband has always had an interest in Catholicism and I told him I’d be open to trying it out with him), and my mom made fun of me for falling for a “fake” religion.

    Fundamentalism is just like mind control to me. I would give anything to reason with my mom, but I can’t break through her barrier.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Doug Stratton says:

      I understand the frustration and the pain. To hear a parent express his/her dissapointment in your faith commitment is deeply hurtful. Remember Gods smile is the one you seek.

      Liked by 2 people

      • theotherlestrangegirl says:

        Thank you. It is hurtful a little bit, but I’m pretty detached from it at this point. I have spent 20+ years trying to talk to my mom, and I’ve always gotten only a brick wall in return. I’m quite used to it by now, and I just accept things for how they are. I only wanted to talk to her because I think some of what I have to say could help her, but she’s far too in love with her misery.

        Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Strange Girl, I am so sorry for your situation. My parents were fundamentalists as well (my father was a minister and has now passed). We never agreed on such things after I began to change, though my Mom did get an NIV instead of her KJV. However, she still contends that I am leading people straight to eternal hell.

      I try not to talk about it too much. I hope you can enjoy as much peace with your family as you can.

      Liked by 2 people

      • theotherlestrangegirl says:

        Ah, yes, I find that many parents and children have very differing ideas on religion as time goes on, and it causes discord more often than not.

        I actually rarely talk religion with my mom, and we typically get along just fine on most other points. The only reason I brought it up with her recently is because she is finally, after 25 years, just starting to think of leaving her abusive husband and is trying to figure how she might do that, but she said one of her church elders told her God wants her to stay married because it is biblical. I told her to be very careful of anyone who claims to speak for God.

        I thought that might be a good time to introduce her to some of the new things I had learned and come to believe, but I was wrong. I think that is just a conversation that is going to have to stay closed, unfortunately.

        Liked by 3 people

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Strange Girl,
          I am sorry the opportunity to discuss broader issues did not work out, but I am overjoyed that you were able to give her better counsel about leaving her abusive husband than she got from the elder. Boundaries are important–and you can even forgive someone and take out a restraining order at the same time. Your mom has no obligation to put up with abuse.

          I hope she takes your advice.

          Liked by 2 people

  6. Lori says:

    This is great ! You have just reiterated most of what I already believe and try to explain to others. I hope I can share your words because you explain it all so eloquently. Thank you !!🍷

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Beth says:

    This article is disturbing and just wrong. I am saddened to see the state of “Christianity” this article is promoting. I am a believer, trusting in Jesus to bring me to heaven, loving my neighbor in the meantime as we are all called to do. My heart breaks for people who can’t believe in and rely on His word.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jesus himself is the Word (logos) of God, not the Bible. Additionally, inerrancy is a NEW belief in Christian history. No one believed in inerrancy for the first 1500 years after Christ, and the Jews didn’t believe the OT to be inerrant, either. Same thing with most every aspect of American Christian fundamentalism, such as young earth Creationism, penal substitutionary atonement theory, and many other American ideals that fundamentalists preach as the Gospel truth.

      Liked by 3 people

      • tonycutty says:

        And what is especially interesting – and disturbing – but a selection of those items is usually on an arbitrary list of things that one must believe ‘or else you are not a real Christian’. If you have to believe in all those things to get into Heaven, then a) no-one os going to get into heaven (see this article for a humorous slant on this idea: http://tinyurl.com/ybgtqcmd) and b) it makes a mockery of these people’s claim that they believe that Jesus died to save them and also of their favourite question, ‘if you died tonight, would you know where you are going?’ Because if we have to believe every. single. point. of every. single. law. then we are all up the creek without even a canoe.

        Liked by 2 people

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Tony, I must agree. Inerrancy often leads to a long list of doctrines one must believe or not be a Christian at all. That is simply wrong-headed!

          Liked by 1 person

    • tonycutty says:

      But you see that’s sad too…why, given the choice (and there are Bible verses that indicate both options) would anyone choose to believe in an angry god rather than a loving one? In Him there is NO darkness. And if god’s anger exists because of sin, then that means that sin has the power over the Ultimate Power to make him angry. Which is just plain wrong. No, God is loving, with no darkness – and don’t try to disguise his anger as loving, it’s not. “God is love, BUT” is a contradiction in terms and means that the thing following the BUT is more powerful than His love. Think about it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • newtonfinn says:

        Tony, I choose to believe in a God who has strongly negative “feelings’ toward evil on the socioeconomic level in the same way that He has strongly positive “feelings,” on the individual level, about each human being and indeed every creature He created. I use the word “feelings” to point toward a personal God as opposed to the God of Spinoza, etc.–that rather amorphous and “bloodless” being that Pascal called the God of the philosophers, distinct from the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. While those coming from a conservative evangelical background see through the false angry God that was used to frighten and manipulate them into adopting a theological belief system, I, coming from a liberal Christian background, see through the smiley-faced, domesticated, therapeutic God equally distinct from the righteously sharp-edged and demanding God of Jesus and the prophets…the God who, while loving the individual sinner, abhors injustice, exploitation, and oppression, calling believers to a life of just and compassionate conduct AND conflict with the PTB. Again, let me post a Christmas essay on this subject written a number of years ago, a piece which, I believe, gets to the heart of this crucially important matter.

        https://newtonfinn.com/2011/12/15/the-harder-edge-of-christmas/

        PS: It’s precisely because there is no darkness in Him that He opposes and repudiates the social, political, and economic darkness that human beings (perhaps with the assistance of what Jesus called “the evil one”) bring into the world.

        Liked by 2 people

        • tonycutty says:

          Yes. Maybe I should have been more specific and said that we shouldn’t try to disguise God’s anger *towards humans* as loving. Good point, Newtonfinn.

          Liked by 2 people

    • Dennis Wade says:

      Beth, I think I can speak for everyone who is posting here today and say that we also have faith and trust in Jesus, and are trying our best to love our neighbors as He commanded.
      What we don’t trust is this teaching that the Bible is the infallible word of God and that every word in it came from the mouth of God.
      Most of us see the Bible as a collection of writings about what it means to believe in God, to know God, and to live as God wants us to live. Humanity has struggled with these questions for all of our history, and the Bible is a reflection of that struggle.
      And that is exactly why God entered into a human birth about 2000 years ago: so that He could demonstrate to us exactly how we ARE supposed to live. Jesus demonstrated this through both His teachings and His actions.
      For me, to trust in Jesus means that I trust in God’s love as both a path of salvation AND transformation. Love saves me by accepting me just as I am, while at the same time transforming me into someone who can accept and love others just as God does.

      You said you were disturbed to see the state of Christianity that this article is promoting.
      I know this state of Christianity first hand, and it is a strong and vibrant Christianity, full of love and grace. ….. and joy!
      If your faith also feels strong and vibrant to you, then I rejoice with you!
      But there are millions of people in this world who would love to have a faith and trust in Jesus, but who stay away from Him because they can’t accept having to believe in the literal truth of every word in the Bible. And blogs like this exist just for them.
      These are the other sheep that Jesus spoke of who are not of the regular fold. and we are doing our best to reach them also.
      The least you can do is to honor the author’s intentions.
      Also, you may want to re-read this article and ponder all of the harmful beliefs that this doctrine of inerrancy gives rise to. Each of these harmful beliefs are just someone’s interpretation of what the Bible says, and have no more weight behind them than do any other interpretation of scripture. But they DO have a record of bringing forth harsh, divisive and unloving minds in those who hold them, and have kept many away from Jesus and God’s love.

      Liked by 3 people

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Dennis, this is all well said! I want to pull out a particularly special point to me: “I know this state of Christianity first hand, and it is a strong and vibrant Christianity, full of love and grace. ….. and joy!”

        So true!

        Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Beth, you said: “I am a believer, trusting in Jesus to bring me to heaven, loving my neighbor in the meantime as we are all called to do.” I believe the same things you say here, but you add:

      “My heart breaks for people who can’t believe in and rely on His word.” I do believe and rely on Jesus’ words and his actions. In fact, that is EXACTLY what I rely on as the foundation for all my belief. But I don’t believe in biblical inerrancy.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. This is speaking directly to my childhood, and also to my current squabbles with my siblings. They cannot conceive of a Christianity that does not claim the Bible to be inerrant. They head off in the direction of strawmen immediately when they hear it, such as “I guess I can murder people, then”, or “How are we supposed to know anything about Christ without the Bible, so therefore the Bible has to be inerrant or else nothing we believe about Jesus is valid”. There are many more. It’s trying to have to hear these things from siblings who I thought were emancipated from the spiritual abuses of our upcoming.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Dennis Wade says:

    It is extremely hard to find any evidence that this doctrine of Inerrancy can bear even the smallest good fruit in anyone’s mind. I guess I can imagine times when having complete confidence in the Bible as being absolute and infallible could help someone in their time of need, but more often the case seems to be that it only gives rise to fear, anxiety, and rigidness even in the minds of those who cling to it.
    I know that it sure gave me countless nights of horror as a young person trying to open my heart to God. I often wonder how many “dark nights of the soul” have actually been brought about by the anxieties that this doctrine causes.
    In fact, I also ponder the idea that in order to become free from the influences of this doctrine, a “dark night of the soul” is necessary.
    I look back at my “dark nights”, when I questioned everything I had been taught, and all the anxiety that arose when I began to realize that I either had to accept that God was the angry and punitive Deity that Inerrancy said He was, or I had to learn to live with the idea that there is no God and therefore no purpose and reason to anything.
    I can now see that if i had not gone through these “dark times”, my mind would not have been able to finally come to know God’s love and grace. But going through it was not a pleasant experience at the time.
    You can’t reason with someone who is in the grip of this doctrine, because it leaves no room for reason. It seems that they will have to go through a “dark night” of their own in order to even begin to question it.
    And all we can do is be there for them when they do go through it.
    It is a lot like the “pains of giving birth’, isn’t it? Maybe this is what Jesus meant when He said we must be born again?

    Liked by 3 people

    • tonycutty says:

      Dennis, that’s exactly what happened to me. I am currently entering a new ‘Dark Night’ and I relish it because I eagerly anticipate the blessings that will accompany my going through it. But I know we have spoken on these matters before 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Tony, I am sorry you are entering a dark night, but as an experienced believer I am sure you will make the best of it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Dennis Wade says:

        Tony, I recently read something very interesting about the universe that can be applied to “dark nights of the soul”.
        When we look out at the universe, it appears to be this huge empty space filled with darkness, except for where we see stars. The space between these stars has the appearance of being dark.
        But what has recently been discovered is that what looks like dark, empty space to us is actually filled with light photons!
        The dark and empty space is actually filled with the presence of these light photons, which are everywhere!
        In 1 John 1:5 it says that “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all!
        So the illusion of a “dark night of the soul” is nothing but that – – an illusion!
        Our “dark, empty space is actually filled with the light of God.
        I know that you are already aware of this, because I know how strong your faith is, but I just wanted to share it as an example of how the natural creation is filled with lessons about God if we would only pay attention!

        Liked by 2 people

        • tonycutty says:

          Yeah, thanks Dennis, I like that analogy and I will take it on board! Interestingly, I am an amateur astronomer (amongst other things) and I also play a space exploration game called ‘Elite-Dangerous’. In that game, I am about to embark on a tour of the constellation of Orion, taking my ship out to at most 2300 light years (about 700 parsecs) from Earth. As part of my research into the stellar distances, I have found this lovely picture of the constellation of Orion on Wikipedia. It illustrates perfectly what you are talking about, in that the space between the brightest seven stars of the constellation is actually full of the dusting of other, fainter stars. This sort of image cannot be seen with the naked eye, but is only obtainable through astrophotography.

          Them there Flat Earthers are missing out on so much…. 😉

          http://tinyurl.com/ycagjjps

          Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Dennis, I have been through many of those dark nights myself, and they are no fun. I really liked a lot of what you said here, but the biggest grabber might have been: “You can’t reason with someone who is in the grip of this doctrine, because it leaves no room for reason.” You nailed it!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. newtonfinn says:

    While waiting in a doctor’s office this afternoon, I wanted to read a short book of the Bible and just happened to pick Esther. It had been a long, long time since I read it. For those like me, who concentrate their Bible reading on the NT and only selective portions of the OT, Esther is a story about how a group of Jews living in a foreign land are targeted for death and then, praise God, wind up turning the tables and killing those who wanted to kill them. Put this little story side by side with the Sermon On The Mount and then try to argue that the entire Bible is God’s seamless revelation.

    Liked by 2 people

    • tonycutty says:

      I suppose it shows us that people did what they had to do in order to survive. Most Evangelicals would try to distance themselves from the idea that even Paul did what he had to do – several times, he actually ran away. In Acts, the bit where he gets lowered out in a basket… Paul’s desire to preach the Gospel outweighed his desire to be martyred. But you won’t hear many fundies talking about that; they’d rather we didn’t ‘deny Christ’, whatever that means, and die ‘for the cause’ instead. Interesting!

      Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Very good comparison, Newton!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Rocky Glenn says:

    Outstanding post as well as discussions in the comments. So happy now that I have found God outside the box.

    Liked by 4 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Rocky, I am so glad you liked the article and the comments. Feel free to visit and comment more as you wish!

      Liked by 2 people

    • newtonfinn says:

      I really like your phrase, “God outside the box.” Maybe the “name” of God, first revealed to Moses, should be interpreted not only as He who is who He is, or He who will be as He will be, but also as He who is outside the box.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Dennis Wade says:

        Hmmm, is God inside or outside? . . . . kind of like Schrödinger’s cat of Quantum Physics!

        Liked by 2 people

      • Rocky Glenn says:

        I like this quote from Jon Scott on the Holy Heretics Podcast, “I got out of the box, turned around and looked behind me, and there wasn’t a box to start with. All that was an illusion.”

        Liked by 2 people

        • Dennis Wade says:

          Rocky, this is a basic Buddhist idea, that the mind gives rise to boxes of interpretation about life which it then mistakes as actual experiences of life. Our job has always been to escape the “boxes”, or “false appearances”.
          One of the biggest “boxes” is the mistaken appearance of being separate from God, outside of His loving presence. It’s exciting and wonderful when we discover that that particular box never existed!
          “Holy Heretics” . . . . what a cool name for a podcast! I’ll have to look that one up.

          Liked by 2 people

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Wow, Rocky! That is a great quote! I love it.

          Like

  12. Sojourner says:

    Wow! I am falling so far behind on keeping up with this blog. There is so much good stuff on it but I don’t want to just accept what seems to click as true to me without investigating it. Like strange girl said, use the brain God has given me. The problem is I am a very slow reader. Anyway, one thing I struggle a lot with is that, though Tim is not an inerrantist, he seems to use scriptures that support his view of God and Jesus and other doctrines and simply ignore those that don’t. One of the reasons it may seem this way to me is that I have not read all of his articles. I did read one of his articles which attributes much of the Jewish and Christian belief in satan and demons as an opposing force to contend with to Persian and Zoroastrianism influence. Does that mean we can discount all scriptures that refer to those evil powers as errors and the belief in such as baggage. Bottom line, how do we know what is an error and thus baggage and what isn’t when we read the Bible? I’m just looking for truth here as I enter this conversation again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • newtonfinn says:

      Sojourner, what Jesus meant by “the evil one” or “the strongman” is something that many Christians wrestle with. Obviously, the idea of a superhuman bad guy in a red suit with a pitchfork is as inadequate as its opposite–an even more powerful and superhuman good guy with a beard in the sky. But for me, as I find I must personalize God as Father in my mind and heart (following Jesus’ lead) in order to better relate to Him, so I am also drawn to personalize extreme evil like the Holocaust, which seems in my gut to transcend even the worst aspects of human nature. Paul speaks of heavenly “powers and principalities,” demonic forces which exist on a higher level, and this provocative article, written in a modern context, seems to get at the same thing that Paul was talking about. Although I’ve linked to this article before on JWOB, you may have missed it, and, if so, I hope it helps a bit as you struggle, along with the rest of us, to get a better handle on the age-old theological problem–and soul-wrenching existential reality–of the deepest, darkest forms of evil in our midst.

      https://www.plough.com/en/topics/justice/social-justice/powers-and-principalities

      Liked by 2 people

      • Dennis Wade says:

        Newtonfinn, I followed your link, and once again you have led me to a very well thought out article that is helpful and informative.
        Thanks for sharing it.

        Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Sojourner, you said: “though Tim is not an inerrantist, he seems to use scriptures that support his view of God and Jesus and other doctrines and simply ignore those that don’t.”

      I think that is a valid observation. Some believers accuse people like me of cherry-picking what we like and dismissing what we don’t. I disagree with that assessment. I believe that, rather than a commitment to inerrancy, we should approach the Bible with as much understanding of the era, culture, history, and other context as we can. This takes a lot more work and thought, but I think it is far more rewarding in terms of results.

      One thing I do wish to make clear is that I could be wrong about some things. In fact, I am sure I am–I just don’t know what they are. And it is important that nobody takes me to be their authority in place of the people who were their authorities previously. What is in order is to read the Bible as well informed as we can and ask questions all along the way.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Dennis Wade says:

      Sojourner, that is a really excellent question, and one that we all struggle with. I can see that you have already received a couple of very good responses on this topic, and not being a very scholarly person, all i can add is a few thoughts on how I work with these questions in my life.
      First of all, what Tim said about approaching the Bible “with as much understanding of the era, culture, history, and other context as we can” is extremely helpful. The Bible really is written through the lens of the understanding and culture of the Israelites, which was very different from ours.
      If you haven’t read it yet, I’m going to recommend a book by Rob Bell, “What Is The Bible?” It is sure to help with a lot of these things. And he has a chapter at the end of the book where he recommends a lot of other books that he has found to be helpful in his searchings.
      Like all of us, I am faced with this question of what is baggage and what is to be retained, and there is so much that I wonder about. After giving this much thought I have begun to work out a way of proceeding while my wisdom and understanding grow:
      First of all, I accept that I am going to have mistaken understanding about a lot of things. I’m not perfect and my wisdom is still very small. And included within that is accepting that God knows I don’t have perfect understanding either, and does not hold it against me. In fact, He is continually and patiently working with me to improve all of this.
      Secondly, when I am faced with the question “Is this something that I should take as literal truth?”, I find it helps to then ask myself “If I DO take it literally, how would that affect my behaviour and what fruits would come from doing so?”
      For instance, on your question of “Is there a literal Satan and literal demons”, I find that from what I can see from other people who do believe this literally, it often gives rise to seeing demons at work everywhere, and to fearful and judging attitudes. Fear separates us from love and from peace and joy, and perfect love casts out all fear.
      We have often been taught that we shouldn’t be led by our emotions, and there is good advice there, but we shouldn’t be led by our logical minds alone either. God created us with emotions, and if we learn to use them properly, they can help us with these types of questions. Logic and emotions should compliment each other, instead of being adversaries. A lot of the fruits of the Spirit are experienced through our emotions. Fruits like love, joy, peace, acceptance, forgiveness, etc., all create emotional responses in us that leave us feeling good and whole. And I believe that God gave us these things to help us in our discernment.
      I have also learned to be very mistrustful of any mind that makes me feel “more righteous and correct” than others. Nothing good has ever come of it.
      These are a few of the ideas that have helped me with questions about what to take as literal.
      But most of all, I keep trusting that God knows my incomplete wisdom, and He will let me know if I am going off course.
      I hope these ideas may be of some help.

      Liked by 2 people

      • newtonfinn says:

        Boy, Dennis, do I relate to your comments and appreciate them for their wise humility. “Truly I tell you, you must be as wise as a serpent and as innocent (humble) as a dove.” Tough to put those seeming opposites together as well as you do in this response to Sojourner’s perceptive and sensitive post.

        Liked by 2 people

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Dennis, I think this is the reality for all of us–and God understands it: “First of all, I accept that I am going to have mistaken understanding about a lot of things. I’m not perfect and my wisdom is still very small. And included within that is accepting that God knows I don’t have perfect understanding either, and does not hold it against me. In fact, He is continually and patiently working with me to improve all of this.”

        Liked by 2 people

  13. Sojourner says:

    Thanks for your very humble response Tim. I know you have put a lot of time and work into your understanding of and relationship with God and your willingness to share what you have learned is very much appreciated by me and many others. As I have stated in the past on this blog, it was the book “the shack“ that got me to first question the whole angry God concept along with hellfire and eternal punishment. Once through that door it goes without saying that the inerrancy of the Bible needs to be questioned. At this point in my journey with God I have a gut feeling, could it be the Holy Spirit, that tells me the Bible was put together by men with an agenda to “control the masses“ so to speak. I believe there is truth in all the writings of the Bible but I do not believe that the whole thing is truth and that it is the only truth. So I am left to know that God is with me, loves me and is endeavoring to draw me closer to themselves in both my understanding and my actions. It is a good place to be because I have peace in the midst of many many questions and I find myself learning to judge people, all people, less and less and to trust that God is working in amazing ways In all peoples lives.

    Liked by 3 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Sojourner, your excellent observation pretty much says it all doesn’t it!

      “I believe there is truth in all the writings of the Bible but I do not believe that the whole thing is truth and that it is the only truth. So I am left to know that God is with me, loves me and is endeavoring to draw me closer to themselves in both my understanding and my actions. It is a good place to be because I have peace in the midst of many many questions and I find myself learning to judge people, all people, less and less and to trust that God is working in amazing ways In all peoples lives.”

      Very well said!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Sojourner says:

        Thank you Tim, Newtonfinn and Dennis Wade for your comments on my post and suggestions. I followed Newtonfinns link and am amazed at the timeliness of the article as I find myself being drawn into a situation in the small city of 8000 plus people where I live in which a Native American was recently and seemingly unjustifiably gunned down by a police officer. Dennis, I intend to order Rob Bell’s book that you suggested today. I will continue to seek truth and enjoy the conversation along the way. God bless y’all. I know She will cuz that’s what They do.

        Liked by 3 people

  14. Pingback: Why Do Inerrantists Think the Bible is Inerrant Anyway? | Jesus Without Baggage

  15. michaeleeast says:

    Tim, There is certainly no shortage of negative results of inerrantism.
    The Old Testament tradition of explaining Israel’s military defeats as punishment from God for unfaithfulness etc. is an obvious example of mischaracterizing God.
    Perhaps only now are we approaching an understanding of God as transcendent – beyond our human understandings of dualism and judgement.
    You are right when you say that God is our loving, caring Father.
    HIs only intention is goodwill to all.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Michael, I agree of course. But it is difficult to demonstrate the harmfulness of inerrancy to the satisfaction of most inerrantists. But then, I don’t think we are called upon to spend time on the effort if they are not already questioning it in their minds.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Edward says:

    With all due respect this article is well written but sets up a false straw man of what the belief in inerrency is. It is broad sweeping and speaks in undefended genetalities. Sure there are always extremes but no serious theologian thinks the English translation we have is inerrant. We believe the original autographs are. We believe that we do have very reliable mostly correct texts where the believed differences do not amount to much. Bruce Metzger holds only about 40 verses of material in our present Bible is in question. As for saying serious dangerous errors come from inerrancy is quite a hyperbole. And saying it leads to legalism is amusing as Baptists hold scriptural inerrancy and yet hold Once Saved, Always Save which is ironically the oppisite of legelism.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Edward, thanks for your comment. I am aware that more sophisticated inerrantists ascribe inerrancy only to the original autographs (of which we have none), but as a practical matter rank and file inerrantists tend to read their English Bible from a position of inerrancy as well–this accounts for a lot of proof-texting.

      You are also correct that most Baptists (including Southern Baptists and Independent Fundamental Baptists) do believe in eternal security, which may not lead to the same level of legalism. But Free Will Baptists, General Baptists, and quite a number of other evangelical/fundamentalist groups do not hold to eternal security and are very legalistic. So inerrancy does not necessarily lead to the same harmful beliefs in all groups.

      However, The SBC and IFB do believe very much in the harmful belief of eternal torment in hell.

      Liked by 1 person

      • tonycutty says:

        My tke on ‘Once saved, always saved is this: Once in Christ, always in Christ. You can’t duck in and out of Christ at will; once you’re ‘in’, you’re ‘in’, in fact, you always have been. I could of course prooftext this but, well, given the subject of the OP and the dislike that both of us have for that practice, I think I’ll leave it there 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Tony, I like your version of ‘once saved–always saved’; however it is not the same as the Baptist version, of course. I had five scripture references without context for you to look up and read but I seemed to have misplaced them–sorry, your loss…

          Liked by 1 person

  17. Paul Jones says:

    “(for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God),”
    ‭‭Exodus‬ ‭34:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬
    https://www.bible.com/59/exo.34.14.esv
    “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
    ‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭1:21‬ ‭ESV‬‬
    https://www.bible.com/59/2pe.1.21.esv

    Liked by 1 person

  18. tonycutty says:

    Tim, I am sure you never read those two passages. Consider yourself admonished in the Lorrrrd 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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