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Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Is the Bible Ever Wrong?

Is the Bible ever wrong?  In other words, is the Bible Inerrant or does the Bible ever make mistakes?

This blog is part of a series where I try to answer your questions about Christian faith. I’m Pastor Chris.  I’ve been a pastor for 2 decades--thinking about the mysteries of God, the Bible, and the Christian faith.  So in this series, I’ll do my best to answer your questions and share something that will help you grow and be fruitful. Comment and ask me your questions and I’ll try to answer them in upcoming videos.

In this blog, I want to answer the question:  Is the Bible inerrant?  So let’s get into it.

The word inerrant means “incapable of being wrong” and inerrancy means “without error”. As a Bible believing Christian, I believe the Bible is the written Word of God, that everything in the Old and New Testament was inspired and preserved by God and contains everything we need to know for salvation and to live as faithful followers of Christ. I believe God speaks to His people primarily through the Bible and the Bible must be the foundation for all faithful Christian teaching and living.

Though the Bible was inspired by an infallible God, it was written down by very fallible people. God speaks through these fallible authors, using their mixed up cultural ideas and shaping their broken words into His written Word that speaks His timeless truths.  For these reasons, you cannot read the Bible the same way you would read a history book or a science book. 

To hear God’s Word in the Bible, you must submit yourself to God while you listen to His conversations with people through the ages.  To get the most from the Bible, you need to understand the historical contexts of the people who wrote under God’s inspiration and you must allow the Holy Spirit to inspire you anew today.

The Bible is God’s inspired Truth.
However, there are clear examples of errors and inaccuracies in the Bible. For example, Jesus said in Matthew 13:32 that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds. Now the mustard seed is a small seed, but it’s not the absolute smallest seed in the world. That distinction belongs to tropical orchids–20 times smaller than a mustard seed. So Jesus’ statement about mustard seeds is factually incorrect.  But that doesn’t mean the meaning of His statement is untrue.  The Truth Jesus illustrates with the mustard seed is about how a tiny amount of faith is all you need to do incredible things.  Maybe Jesus’ disciples didn’t know about orchid seeds.  This inaccuracy doesn’t affect the Truth of the Bible’s deeper spiritual meaning.  

There are also minor copying errors that inevitably occur when any text is copied by human hands.  These don’t affect the truthfulness of the texts, but they do show the imperfect nature of a book recorded by imperfect people.  

We must also take into consideration the cultural contexts of the authors of biblical passages. Just because someone helped write the Bible doesn’t mean their way of life was without fault.  In fact, quite often, their cultural ideas were even judged by God to be wrong.  God meets people where they are and works through them–even their broken culture.  So we shouldn’t just accept what the Bible says uncritically.  We must approach the Bible holistically asking: what is the overarching message of the Bible?  And: how does what we know today from Christian tradition, reason, and human experience help us understand what God is saying to us today in the Bible?

Questions about Biblical inerrancy can be very loaded questions. These questions didn’t really come up as much until the late 1800s.

As society grew more interested in scientific discovery, Biblical Inerrancy got tangled up with American religious and political debates of the 20th century.  Events like the “Snopes Monkey Trial” of 1925 pitted evolutionary science against religion.  Many Bible believing Americans felt their faith under attack by more liberal-minded thinkers who taught modern science is more important than Scripture. Conservative Christian leaders often overreacted defensively to protect the Bible and Christian faith from liberal attacks.  

In 1978, a group of evangelical leaders issued the Chicago Statement proclaiming the Bible "is without error or fault in all its teaching" or, at least, that "Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact".  Suddenly Christians across America found themselves pressured to choose sides.  “Are you a true Christian who believes the Bible is absolutely inerrant and infallible or are you one of those evil, anti-Bible, anti-Jesus, anti-American liberals who wants to destroy the church and replace God with science!?!?”

Why does the truth have to be either the Bible or science?  Can’t truth be found in both? The Bible was never intended to be a science book (or even a collection of historical facts).  The Bible teaches spiritual Truth that runs deeper than scientific or historical inquiry. Yet because of increasingly divisive American politics over the last century, many have felt forced to pick one side or the other–science or religion.  It’s sad, really, and it does nothing to help us grow closer to God or find Truth.

I knew of a Southern Baptist minister who moved his whole family down from Kentucky to pastor a church in Middle Georgia.  After only a month on the job, one of the congregants who disliked the new pastor stood up in the middle of a church service and demanded an answer: “Do you believe in the inerrancy of Scripture?”

The minister tried to reason with the man and explain the truthfulness and reliability of Scripture. The disgruntled congregant would have none of it and demanded: “I just want a simple answer.  Do you believe the Bible is absolutely without error? Yes or no?”

When the minister finally said “No,” the congregation immediately voted to fire him.

So, to answer the question:  The Bible does sometimes make mistakes.  It has a few minor errors–factual or textual.  However, these do not significantly detract from the Bible’s purpose as God’s inspired Word.  The Bible is the most reliable source of spiritual Truth available to mankind.  It is the best way to learn about God.  It is the foundation of all orthodox Christian faith and practice.  And the Bible–including the Old and New Testaments–contain everything you need to know for salvation.  

Furthermore, the Bible keeps us anchored to true Christianity so we don’t drift off into heresy.  2,000 years of history shows the world always suffers terribly when the Christian Church disregards the clear teachings of Scripture in favor of human traditions and cultural norms.  It is incredibly arrogant and dangerous to assume what people believe in our own time and culture must be right and the timeless truths of the Bible must be outdated.  You better have overwhelming evidence and absolutely pure motives if you’re going to claim we know better than the written Scriptures authorized to speak as God’s word that have been upheld for 2,000 years.

My calling from God is to serve as a minister of biblically faithful Christianity. I will always seek to lead my congregation and everyone I can influence to trust the Bible as God’s inspired written Word. 

I encourage you to take advantage of the incredible biblical resources so readily at your disposal.  Read the Bible.  Study it.  Memorize it.  Most importantly, grow closer and closer to God as you live the principles revealed in the Holy Bible, God’ written Word.

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