There’s a thought that’s been bouncing around in my head for a little bit and I just wanted to get some of it out.
Is the Bible correct in all of its “facts”?
When I preach I often “accommodate” myself to my audience as most wise missionaries and evangelists do. I don’t know how I feel about the doctrine of “inerrancy” since it is not a falsifiable idea. The original manuscripts don’t exist anymore and so there is no way to prove or disprove it.
Rather I prefer the term infallible, and will say that the Bible is inerrant in all that it intends to communicate. I attend a Nazarene church, am on the board and occasionally I preach. Affirming the doctrine of “inerrancy” is a prerequisite. And when I preach on biblical authority I will sometimes use that word to “accommodate” to my audience, but I will quickly define it as “inerrant in all that it intends to communicate.”
This is a more seasoned and cautious approach to the subject for me, and radically different from the more vicarious definition of inerrancy which I grew up affirming.
Today: the Bible is inerrant in all that it intends to communicate.
Past: the Bible is inerrant in the details of everything it says.
The Bible itself has pushed me into affirming the former (Today) and rejecting the latter (Past).
For example, in the book of Daniel we read: “But you, Belshazzar, his (Nebuchadnezzar’s) son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this.” (Daniel 5:22). We know as a matter of factual history that Belshazzar was not Nebuchadnezzar’s son. If we try to define inerrancy as “inerrant in the details of everything it says,” then by attempting to affirm inerrancy, we’ve made the Bible erroneous!
However, if we understand the way the language was used in those days and that it was common to refer to the most significant person in ones genealogical history as “father,” then we are compelled to read the passage in its literary and historical context. By understanding what it intends to communicate, we can affirm that the Bible has not made an error by referring to Belshazzar’s as Nebuchadnezzar’s son. It was rather giving Belshazzar an identity that Daniel’s readers would have immediately understood.
We can say the same about verses that talk about how the sun goes around the earth (a factual error, but not a biblical error) or about how the early genealogical records point to a 6,000 year creation (a factual error, but not a biblical error) and so on.