We've looked at how the Bible was written, first passed down via oral tradition and then eventually penned on parchment by various individuals.
We also looked at the review process through which various documents were passed and voted on in order for them to be canonized to give us our present Protestant Bible,
In addition, we saw where errors are present for a variety of reasons. After making this study (this was all part of a Tough Questions book I was working on) at the conclusion of my book in process, I reached the conclusion that it is more accurate to say that the scriptures are God-Breathed than to say the Bible is inerrant.
Those who still hold to the complete inerrancy of the Bible must either be unaware of its history and the errors that exist, or they choose to block them out. I must ask why we should we respect the beliefs of those who stick to the inerrancy argument if they choose to live in such ignorance? It certainly doesn't lend them much credibility.
Here is what I originally wrote while concluding my chapter on inerrancy in Tough Questions.
The Bible is over 3,500 years old. It has a history of textual issues as any translated document would. Despite this fact, it is one of the most accurate documents ever translated. If someone confronts you saying the Bible is filled with errors, you might surprise them by agreeing with them. Then you can choose several errors or discrepancies to talk about and how insignificant these are.
Inconsistencies can be explained without loss of integrity to the Bible. Rather than saying it is inerrant, it is more accurate to say it is God-breathed and the inspired word of God. The Bible remains a solid foundation for our faith.
Having written those words a little over two years ago, I have to say that I am in continuation of transformation and refinement and I no longer feel that even this conclusion is absolutely spot on.
There have been times all throughout my Christian formation where certain passages in the Bible have troubled me because they seem so completely out of sync with what Jesus taught and how he responded to people. At times, especially in the Old Testament, God seems almost bi-polar. One minute He's kind and loving and the next minute He's wiping people off the face of the earth.
In one story Abraham goes toe to toe with a very patient God trying persuade Him not to destroy the people of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18:16-33). Little by little He whittles down the numbers until God agrees to sparing the cities if just 10 righteous people are found.
How could God be so approachable and merciful in this story and so harsh and destructive in others. Why would God give such strict and meticulous laws as the Levitical laws? The 10 commandments seem right in sync with what seems reasonable Then come these Levitical laws with so many details and impossible scenarios. They sound so much like the rules the Pharisees placed on the public.
Have you ever noticed how Christians skip over them because they are so overwhelming? God sure was into making things hard. Why are there two different accounts of the Babylonian captivity? Why are there three different versions of the story of Christ's birth. You get the idea.
Have you ever read something in the Bible that really troubles you because it puts God in such a harsh light? Have you ever read something in one book of the Bible that seems to contradict something you have read in another book of the Bible? Have you ever been bothered by depictions of ethnic cleansing in the Bible that made God seem like a vengeful, hateful God and then tried to reconcile it with Jesus being God's son and how different and loving he seems and yet he says, "I and the father are one?" (John 10:30)
I have, but in order to cope with these seeming disparencies I did what many Christians do, I shut them behind a door in my mind because they are so troublesome and I don't know what to do with them. I have heard Christians explain away the behavior in answers such as this, "God is all wise and all knowing. His ways are not our ways and He knows best."
Peter Enns, author of The Bible Tells Me So calls these incidents cases of the Bible behaving badly. In my next post I will talk more about what I learned from the book that has rocked me to my core and what I currently believe about the Bible and how we should be using it.