Monday, March 01, 2021

Anonymous Asks (134)

“Do I have to believe the Bible is inerrant to be saved?”

I believe the Bible is the product of men who “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”; that all scripture (as the Christians of the first century understood the word “scripture”) is breathed out by God and is not only profitable but fully sufficient to equip those who seek God for everything he will ever require of them. I believe the scripture cannot be broken. Its own writers claim repeatedly that God was speaking through them and that what they wrote and said was trustworthy.

The Word “Inerrant”

However, the word “inerrant” is not to be found in the Bible. That the original manuscripts of the books of the Bible were perfectly accurate and reflected the precise intentions of God himself is a logical deduction made by people like me who believe the claims the writers of the Bible made about what they wrote.

Moreover, believing in inerrancy was not what saved me, and I am quite sure it never saved anyone.

According to the Bible itself, salvation comes by trusting in the resurrected Christ and confessing him as Lord. No other method is possible. Believing specific theological details about God is insufficient. Even the intellectual belief that God exists and rewards those who seek him is not enough. It is necessary to “draw near” ... to come to God by the method he has chosen, which is always and only through faith in his Son Jesus, who is “the resurrection and the life”.

Making It Easier

Now, I am quite sure that believing in the inerrancy of the Bible makes it a lot easier to trust what it says about Jesus Christ and to come to faith in him. That said, many saved men and women have never worked through for themselves whether the book of Esther is 100% historically accurate, or whether the book of James, in the words of Martin Luther, is indeed “an epistle of straw”. If someone throws you a lifeline when you are drowning, it is hardly practical to insist that he first demonstrate his qualifications to save your life to your intellectual satisfaction; what is necessary is to grab the rope and allow yourself to be pulled to shore. The question “How did you do that?” comes later.

So I am fairly certain Martin Luther was a saved man notwithstanding his reluctance to admit James to the canon, and there are many like him whose trust in Christ is absolute, but who still struggle with questions about scribal errors, translation issues and which manuscript tradition is most faithful to the autographs.

Adequate for Life and Godliness

I believe the Old Testament because Jesus believed it right down to the finest details. All his arguments in the gospels are premised on its truthfulness and reliability. And I believe the New Testament because it was written by his followers, who he promised would be guided into “all the truth”, and who describe their own writings with the same word Jesus used to describe that perfectly reliable Old Testament, graphÄ“ or “scripture”. I believe that the word of God passed on to them in its various forms — by way of prophecy, teaching or in writing — was adequate to save them and is adequate to save me too, even though not one of those first century believers ever possessed it all in the way we do today. (For example, scholars seem fairly confident the apostle Paul never got a glimpse at the books of Jude or Revelation, but he seems to have managed just fine without them.)

I also believe that if you take the time to look into the history of the scriptures and read both what is in them and what has been written about them, you will over time develop the same sort of confidence I have in them. That, or you can just believe them because, well ... they work.

Inerrancy?

Does all that add up to “inerrancy”? You will have to decide for yourself. But however we define the word, it is not inerrancy on which my faith rests: my faith is in Christ.

All the same, I am thankful his word reached me ... by whatever means it came.

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