A reasonable Christian voice RE: inerrancy

Over the past couple of years, I have really grown to enjoy and appreciate internetmonk.com.

The bloggers at that site are skeptics within their belief system: challenging various attitudes and assumptions that they feel are inconsistent with (and detrimental to) essential Christianity.

This post has had a profound influence on me, though not in the way the author intended. It demonstrates, beautifully, that a Christian need not — and should not — regard every word of every book in the Bible as straight historical narrative.

One of its points is that the authors of the Bible employ a wide variety of literary styles, some of which present ‘truth’ in a way that is not meant to be taken literally. Another is that the ‘truth’ of something (an event, a principle) is not negated by the existence of nuanced writings about it.

In making these points, the post’s author challenges what he sees as a false dilemma: take it all literally or reject it all. He seems to be saying that it’s enough to believe that the authors of the original manuscripts witnessed (or heard) certain things and wrote about them — that this is enough proof of the essential truths of Christianity.*

I agree with the author that the inexactness of the Bible does not automatically invalidate it.

I also share the author’s view that sometimes it is unclear how literal or how precise a biblical passage is meant to be, and that faith is a factor in interpreting such a passage.

However, we disagree in our conclusions. The author writes that a combination of faith and the Holy Spirit can enable the reader to determine the truth. I have far less confidence in that approach. “Faith” is simply committing to a guess, and one man’s Holy Spirit is another man’s (biased) gut feeling.

But I love the way the author makes his points, especially when he zeroes in on those who demand ‘perfection’ or a ‘magic book.’ He and the other “imonks” strive to promote rational thought in the context of Christianity, and I admire that.
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* I have such doubts about the historicity of the gospels and the book of Acts — the ‘eyewitness accounts’ that form the foundation of Christian belief — that for me this point is moot.

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Posted on November 1, 2011, in Arguments for theism, Sympathy for the theists. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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