First, I want to say I respect that many wonderful and godly people hold to the view that the Bible is inerrant and/or infallible. I believe this is a noble position and is usually a reflection of how much a person loves Jesus. All great stuff.
What I find difficult is the lack of nuance in a position that preaches that the Bible is ‘all true’. When someone states that they ‘just believe the Bible’ or say that this or that view on any given subject ‘is biblical’, I’m the guy asking ‘which bit of the Bible’? Usually in my head, of course. If it’s ‘all true’, then how do we apply that to attitudes towards slavery, given that ‘the Bible’ on first glance seems ok with it in principle? Or to mass slaughter like at Jericho?
As Pilot said – “what is truth?”
As we all know, the Bible is made up of 66 amazing books. They clearly form the narrative of redemption history and contain within their stories, poetry, history and personality the story of the relationship between God and humankind. Written over thousands of years by scores of different individuals, the Bible is a miracle in itself and I believe it is ‘God-breathed’ – inspired.
However, I believe it contains the truth about the Word of God – Jesus Christ. The Bible reveals truth about the nature of God, but it is not God. The difference is important. In wrestling with scripture, applying what clever people call ‘hermeneutics’ (basically understanding the text better through scrutinising context), we get to truths about God and His Christ. It’s a messy, sometimes brutal, sometimes shocking account of the fallen world, and God’s persistent, faithful and ultimately successful rescue plan.
The fact is, there are contradictions – inconsistencies in the text. Just for example, in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the last supper happens on “the first day of unleavened bread”, but in John, it seems to happen “before the feast of Passover”. Which is true? They can’t both be right – can they? Does this bother me? Not at all. My confidence is in the truth of what the scripture reveals, not in a ‘perfect and seamless account’. If you and your friends tried to write about something that happened several years ago, you may get a few differences in your memories. Jesus said: “I am the truth.” The truth is a person.
In a conversation with a friend recently we talked about the difference between ‘right and wrong’ and ‘grace and truth’. Humans throughout the centuries have studied the Bible, some looking for rights and wrongs to form a moral code from – but Jesus was full of grace and truth. Rather than seeing people who are wrestling with this vast and incredibly deep resource as ‘pick ‘n’ mixing’, I think we should ask whether they might be searching for grace and truth.
Grace calls us to prefer one another in love. To lay down our rights and defensiveness, to seek understanding and build bridges. Truth calls us to honesty – to vulnerability. It also brings us to revelation. The holy spirit leads us into all truth. The Bible is useful for teaching and correction and from its pages the holy spirit will open eyes to see who Jesus really is. If we slam people for trying to reconcile what the Bible is at it’s core, we run the risk of replacing ‘Grace and Truth’ with ‘Rights and Wrongs’ – essentially creating a new law.
I trust the holy spirit to open the scriptures and lead me into all truth about Jesus. I think that’s his primary concern – not whether I believe in six literal days of creation or not. Am I ‘pick’n’mixing’ if I believe Jesus is the truth, the way and the life but am unsure if Paul meant that all women, for all time, should be silent in church? I hope not. If I am, then so be it, pass me the scoop.