I do not believe in biblical inerrancy. I think inerrancy is a very harmful belief, and I often demonstrate the errors of the assumption, or presupposition, of inerrancy. Of course, I get a lot of push-back from inerrantists and (though I try to be civil) I don’t back down from calling it a misguided perspective.
Some of those who disagree with me are not so civil; but, whatever they say, they are NOT my enemy. They are, in fact, my brothers and sisters in Jesus, and I know Jesus loves them just as much as he loves me. And I must admit that I love them, too—from my heart—fully and without reservation no matter how badly they try to beat me up. Jesus tells us to love our enemies, but in this case they are NOT my enemies—they are my brothers and sisters.
I Am Committed to Jesus’ Final Command to Us
John chapter 13 tells us of the last time Jesus assembled with his twelve disciples. It was just before the Passover festival and they were gathered in the upper room of a home. It was then that Jesus surprised his disciples by washing their feet. Later, Jesus predicted his betrayal and also Peter’s denials.
It is within this context that Jesus says,
My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”
Many of us seem to be much like Peter—thinking about other things instead of absorbing the magnitude of Jesus’ command. Perhaps this is why so many Christians seem to NOT love other Christians with whom they disagree.
But we follow the same Jesus, how can we not love each other?
Questioning Beliefs vs. Questioning Character and Motivation
I firmly disagree with inerrantists on the issue of inerrancy. But I don’t question their motivations—not even the motivations of their leaders and teachers. I think they really believe what they say about the Bible being inerrant; I know I did for years when I was an inerrantist. Now there are always a few in every group who have questionable motives, but it is not my job to judge that. I believe the vast majority of inerrantists are genuine in their belief. But, in my opinion, the problem is that their belief is misguided and is very, very harmful.
On the other hand, many inerrantists often attack my character and motivations. I become subject to accusations, name-calling, denigration, and personal attack. I become a deceiver and tool of Satan to draw people from the truth and put them on the road to hell—a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Not every inerrantist does this, but many do. And I don’t take personal offense to it, but I do tire of hearing it over and over.
Even so, we still follow the same Jesus who loves us both; we are brothers and sisters in Jesus, and I love them and wish them well. They may think I am their enemy, but I don’t think they are my enemy. In fact, I am not even interested in trying to change their mind on inerrancy. Who am I to tell someone else what to believe?
Then Why Not Just Let it Go? (The Bad Fruit of Inerrancy)
The legitimate question might be asked, ‘If we are not enemies, and we both follow Jesus, and I am not interested in changing their mind, then why not just let the issue of inerrancy go?’ The answer is that, instead of trying to change people’s minds on inerrancy and other harmful beliefs, I try to be a resource and support to those who already question what they have been taught. It is very difficult and frightening for a person to question the authority of their tradition by themselves.
But there is a second reason, as well. Inerrancy is a doctrine that leads to all sorts of bad fruit.
Inerrancy leads to restriction of the Bible.
A flat reading of the Bible does not produce the richness to the reader they otherwise would experience from a more complex and well-rounded approach. The biblical writers wrote from different eras, cultures, and understandings about God to a range of situations that were important to them at that time. They also wrote in a variety of genres that were not literal or historical. It is a great loss to ignore those things.
Inerrancy leads to proof-texting instead of contextual reading.
A peculiar result of inerrancy is proof-texting. Proof-texting pulls a verse or phrase from the Bible to ‘prove’ some doctrinal point—often with little regard to context—as though that short passage, being ‘God’s inerrant word’, is all that is necessary to prove the point. Often these snippets are gathered together from many different places that are not even contextually connected to make an even stronger proof.
This is not how the Bible works.
Inerrancy leads to fear and unnecessary burdens.
Perhaps even worse, assumption of inerrancy and the use of proof-texting give rise to fear and burdens in a host of other very harmful beliefs, such as angry god, punishment in eternal hell, legalism, abuse of women, and condemnation of LGBTs.
So, in addition to being a support to those who are already questioning their beliefs, exposing the false assumptions of inerrancy might cause others to begin to question and begin a new journey. And that is a good thing!
In the Meantime
In the meantime, remember that inerrantists and progressive believers should not be enemies—they are brothers and sisters in Jesus. And we should love each other just as Jesus loves us.
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