Friday, August 04, 2006

Biblical literalistic inerrancy is based on fear.

It’s not based on fear alone. There’s a positive side of the argument too, which essentially says that ‘if the Bible is inspired by God, then how can anything in it be wrong?’ That is actually an interesting idea, which I’m not addressing now.

But I’ve heard it consistently said that one of the main reasons to uphold inerrancy is that otherwise people will go off the deep end.

Here, I’ll argue that this fear is unjustified:

First, and obviously, people’s potential reaction to the idea that Scripture isn’t inerrant has nothing to do with the truth of the matter. (An interesting question is whether you would lie about it if you knew it would ruin their faith otherwise).

Second, I’ve seen plenty of good evangelicals make bad faith interpretations of Scripture to justify their behavior. Their belief in inerrancy did not reign them in. In fact, a lot of times Christians just do whatever they want without any pretense that the Bible, innerrant or not, justifies it.

Third, good-faith biblical interpretation is possible. The Spirit of truth and an open, honest, and humble heart lead people to a correct understanding of God, His word, His will, and His requirements. A hermeneutic does not save or sanctify. Who ever came to Christ because of a hermeneutic? Who ever grew in Christ or repented of any sin because they were finally convinced that the Bible was innerant and meant to be understood literally? Spiritual things happen by the power of the Holy Spirit through the various means, including the Bible, which He chooses.

In short, to the pure all things are pure. To the vile, all things are vile.

18 comments:

-Dave said...

"people will go off the deep end" meaning that people will take the Bible and use it to justify God's support for whatever they want to justify?

I think there is a significant element missing to the "fear" argument, and that is of authority. If the Bible is wrong about something that can be demonstrably true or untrue, then how can we judge it to be True - ultimately authoritative - concerning that which can't be demonstrably proven?

If the Bible says there was a worldwide flood during the time of man and there is conclusive geological evidence to the contrary, then on a matter of amoral fact, the Bible would seem to be wrong, in part or in whole (perhaps there was a flood, but it was limited in scope - the whole "known" world).

If the Bible is not historically authoritative, how can I trust it to be morally authoritative? Would you trust a man who called the sky green, the water red and gambling to be the way to salvation?

Kenny said...

Practically speaking, I don't see this as a problem. It would be an absurd overreaction to reject the entire Bible if it were shown that on some small or non-central point it were inaccurate. It would be like refusing to take the advice of your doctor because his secretary had given you the wrong directions to the bathroom.

I can't think of any realm in which we demand utter perfection of a source before we accept anything it has to say.

Similarly, the biblical concept of authority isn't based on the perfection of the authority. Governments, husbands, church authorities: their authority is not predicated on inerrancy.

Obviously, at some point you would start to grow doubtful of a source if they were always wrong. But, in regards to the Bible, I don't think the alleged erratta come even close to this leve; if so, the faith would have been chucked long ago.

-Dave said...

But it may be a bad idea to follow your doctor's medical advice if he claimed that humoric imbalances governed the way your body functioned.

We agree that there is a line that people set beyond which they reject the Bible as authoritative if it fails to line up with what is observable. Some people set the line at zero - no errors allowed, absolute perfection demanded. Others are much more liberal.

Open for evaluation are all claims about the physical world that the Bible makes. Things which in context are supernatural are beyond falsifiability, which is why the creation story is for me less of an issue than other events.

The scope of the sample open for evaluation s quite large. From the account of the Flood, to Babel, to the Exodus, to the wandering in the desert, to the establishment of a kingdom (including all descriptions of the nature, location, and heredity of any tribes named in the process). We include descriptions of the grandeur and scope of the Davidic and Solomonic kingdoms, the Diaspora, the geography and history of Jesus' time on earth and the activities of the early church.

When we see no evidence of a global flood, but do see evidence of an ancient earth and Universe; when matching accounts of the Exodus don't pop up on the Egyptian side and the Solomonic kingdom doesn't seem quite as influential as the text would suggest - these things could be troublesome.

If the Bible were nothing more than a collection of wise sayings, I would agree that it would be foolish even from a utilitarian perspective to reject the whole out of hand on account of the small or non-central.

But if the Bible makes claims that make the adjective life-and-death seem pathetically small by comparison, claims which by their very nature are unverifiable, and if those non-central points are our only points on which to test it, it is wholly reasonable to do so.

In school one is tested on a variety of topics. I presume that in the practice of law, one may not always need to know specific (but non-central) elements of law covered in the bar. But it is precisely because those elements are non-central that they are useful for testing you on the full scope of your education. To claim "I don't really need to know X to do Y" may be true, as it may not matter to Jesus' claim that no one comes to the Father but through him if there really was a worldwide flood.

In a friendly game of darts, accuracy matters very little because of the stakes. In professional sports, it matters more; still more in surgery. If what you are handling is nothing less than the eternal reward or damnation of a single soul it matters still more, how much more so if it is the eternal fate of some 10 billion or more souls?

And I would argue that familial, governmental and religious authorities are in fact based on a standard of perfection - not inherent in the subject but present in the appointer. But that leads to an evaluation of your unaddressed positive argument.

"...in regards to the Bible, I don't think the alleged erratta come even close to this leve; if so, the faith would have been chucked long ago."

Unless, of course, "long ago" people had no good way of evaluating the factualness of the erratta, analysis of anthropological and archeological sources being a relatively new and ongoing science. I don't know which but I think saying "it's true because it's always been accepted" is a logical fallacy.

-Dave said...

Missed an important point:

Following " as it may not matter to Jesus' claim that no one comes to the Father but through him if there really was a worldwide flood."

But what they do serve as are signals concerning the otherwise unknowable elements of your education in Y or whether Jesus really is the only way to the Father. Testing Y with X is an accepted and common practice as a response to the scarcity and costliness of knowledge.

jose said...

I was talking with someone about the spiritual gifts listed in the Bible. I suggested there wasn't an exhaustive list of gifts anywhere in the Bible to which he assented. But I could tell he was afraid of the potential for a Pandora's Box.

The fear seemed to be less that some would justify some sort of behavior, but rather that some would lapse into heresy.

http://jackswords.com

jose said...

Did I make clear that the Box contains people suggesting they have spiritual gifts not listed in the Bible. For example, I have the gift of pointing fingers. "Man, Kenny really needs to hear this sermon on being merciful."

I would add that good faith interpretation must also be done in community. If you have a teaching, we'll weigh carefully what you say.

Ρωμανος ~ Romanós said...

Kenny, I don't know you and this is the first time I've looked at your blog, which I am reaching through another blog called "The Ugly Evangelical," but I think I like what you're saying in this post. I am coming from the Greek Orthodox angle on the Word of God being the holy scriptures understood and accepted at least literally and within the context of "the fathers."

The whole philosophical framework of "biblical inerrancy" versus the plethora of opposite or alternative views just doesn't really come up for us at all, and so sometimes it's hard for me to understand what all the fuss is about. When it comes to fitting in with non-Orthodox Christians, I fall in with those who believe that the Bible is infallible and inerrant because, from a Christian practical point of view, that's the best match to Orthodoxy.

"Biblical literalist inerrancy"… hmm, well, if Christ being the second Adam and all that it implies is only true if there is a literal first Adam, what or who or when or how does that first Adam have to be? As an Orthodox Christian, I just accept that Adam existed personally, because Christ had to personally yank him up by the wrist like it shows in the icon of Christ's victory over death and Hades, and so if that's true (and it has to be, because no one could ever dream up the icon if it didn't really happen!), then of course the first Adam existed, and so Christ can be the second Adam. The Bible says that sin and death came through one man, and forgiveness and life comes through Another. What could possibly be wrong with that? So, of course, the Holy Bible is inerrant and infallible!

The previous paragraph is how one Orthodox Christian thinks, as naive as it may be.

"If the Bible is inspired by God, then how can anything in it be wrong?"… hmm, in what sense wrong? If something Qoheleth is saying in the book of Ecclesiastes, which is an expression of the limitation of human knowledge, is obviously untrue, then who or what is wrong? And if Apostle Paul says in one of his epistles, "and this is not from me but from the Lord" (1 Cor 7:10) and contrasts it with "The rest is from me and not from the Lord" (1 Cor 7:12), what is going on there? Again, who or what is possibly wrong or at least "not of the Lord"? Golly, when the Word of God expressed in human language as the Holy Bible has things in it that seem to contradict other things, can it perhaps be, that the Lord wants us to use some common sense in sorting out what's what?

"…one of the main reasons to uphold inerrancy is that otherwise people will go off the deep end." Yeah, this is the key to the mystery after all, isn't it? To those who want to accept God's Word as it is, as He meant us to, in conformity with the mind of Christ, to them is granted to know at least the beginnings of the heavenly and divine Truth, which is in Jesus. To those who, despite their blab to the contrary, really want only to find justification for their own opinions, to them is granted to "see and see again but not perceive" (Isaiah 6:9). I think you are saying something like this in your post. In fact, your paragraphs numbered First, Second and Third are right on, brother! These thoughts are foundational thinking and actually quite orthodox (and Orthodox), especially these: "Who ever came to Christ because of a hermeneutic? Who ever grew in Christ or repented of any sin because they were finally convinced that the Bible was inerrant and meant to be understood literally? Spiritual things happen by the power of the Holy Spirit through the various means, including the Bible, which He chooses." Amen! Amen! Bravo! Axios! (Worthy!)

Forgive me for being so simple, but the comments left by Dave were lost on me. I do want to thank you for what you have written in this post. If you have time, visit my blog and write me an email and tell me who you are and where you "go to church." Your thinking is fresh, clear and right.

There is nothing better for us to learn from than the Holy Scriptures, which are the Word of God expressed in human language, and yes, the Word of God is inerrant and infallible, but only when studied, digested and practiced by one who has submitted himself and his all to God the Father, who takes up his cross and follows Jesus the Son of God, and thereby has received the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. To everyone else, without exception, it is a closed book, if they are not seeking the Truth.

Go with God, my brother!

Romanós

-Dave said...

They're mostly lost on me, too ;)

Kenny said...

I see Dave’s point. We claim the Bible as the preeminent epistemological authority. But if in the Bible we start to see a significant degree of factual error, then it casts doubt on its authority as to more important things, like heaven and hell. It reminds me of Jesus offering to heal a man to validate his claim that he had power forgive sins.

A few ideas that to respond:

I don’t see any of the disputed historical claims as cutting to the heart of Christianity. The killer piece of physical evidence would be the dead body of Christ. I don’t think anybody claims to have that. And I think we can build outward from there. Even if the Resurrection were all that happened, I’d be willing to hang my hat on it. I guess the procedure for thinking about these questions would be “If X didn’t happen exactly as specified, does that undermine my faith?” I don’t feel that a painstaking inquiry into the historical validity of the Old Testament is necessary for me to be an orthodox Christian.

Also, I don’t think we believe that the Bible is authoritative on all subjects. It’s a religious, spiritual, moral document. It’s not a textbook in math or science: imagine if your brain surgeon said that his textbook had been Leviticus. And even though the Bible does speak to history, if I wanted to be a history teacher, I’d have to consult a number of sources besides the Bible.

It seems possible to me that insofar as the Old Testament was the history of the Israelites, that it may bear a lot of the marks of any analogous historical document, such as one-sided tellings of stories and even some aggrandizement of Israel’s greatness, and even some myths about King David chopping down cherry trees. I’m uncommitted to whether that is the fact of the matter, but even if it is, I don’t see how that undermines faith. The OT texts are quite a bit older than the NT texts, so if they show their age a bit, so what? So its not perfect. Show me something that is.

There also for me is the intuitive level. Christian people, including myself, have been among my greatest disappointments in how far from perfection we are. But still, I’m as sure as I am of anything that I see the Holy Spirit in them. I just could not be dissuaded of this. Why? Because I see it. If someone else doesn’t, I’ll try to convince them, but if I can’t, then we’ll just have to go to our respective Makers and hope for the best. Similarly with the Bible, I just know that it contains the words of eternal life. This isn’t a deadlock – there’s obviously a big interface between facts and beliefs and intuition – but that’s the best I can do.

Another, point is a practical one. Since all statements as to “ultimate issues” require faith, one has to make a faith statement at the end of the day (even agnosticism is like leaving the answer blank). So a statement of faith in Christianity is also practical, as weighed against the alternatives. So for this reason, I don’t think I need to have a falsifiable case to still make a justifiable profession of faith.

I guess I’m also saying maybe we don’t get perfect proof. But it wouldn’t be faith otherwise.

Ρωμανος ~ Romanós said...

Kenny, again I say Bravo! Very good writing and good points made. Thank you, Dave, for forgiving my simplicity.

To add to the discussion, would you care to read a brief statement of "ground rules" for bible study that is posted on my oldest son's website? He is a graduated seminarian (M. Div.) currently working for the Greek Archdiocese in internet ministries, and not yet ordained (because as yet unmarried). Jacob (my son) and I have come to the same understanding of Holy Scripture, but through different avenues. He is much more brainy than me, plus he's studied with the best and brightest of theologians and bible scholars from the middle east (Nadim Tarazi, for one). Anyway, here's a link to what he says about the Bible: http://www.gornystudios.com/scripture.asp

I wish he would get a bible study circle going here in Portland.

Romanós

-Dave said...

[For the record: I think Jesus prefers simple faith, as it is by nature a thing of belief, trust, and simplicity - not a discourse or proof. I agree with Kenny by and large, but have the unsatisfied question of "can I trust the Bible somewhat if I can't trust it completely?" I find working my thoughts out here helps me flesh them out.]

If you are willing to allow that there may be some stretching of the history in the Old Testament, how far does it go? Why not into the New Testament? Perhaps Jesus did not walk on water, feed 5,000 with a handful of fish and bread, heal the sick, or raise the dead (including himself).

The lack of a physical body is evidence inaccessible to us one way or the other - even the burial site is a matter of speculation. Our not having a(n identifiable) body for Julius Caesar is no proof of his resurrection or lack thereof - even if we had a preserved body we would have no one to say if it was him or not. But even if the Resurrection is a fact, you have to trust that the accounts of it, and of what other things Jesus said and did are accurate in order to have anywhere else to go.

"...one has to make a faith statement at the end of the day (even agnosticism is like leaving the answer blank)." Unless, of course, there is no question, because if there is no question, there is no answer blank to leave unfilled. In that case, creating a question to answer is the first falsehood and any answer you give simply compounds that error.

[Though I can't defend the position that what we see is all there is - even physicists are trying to use 11 dimensions to explain the fundamental forces and particles of matter. The Universe is far stranger than it appears.]

If the argument comes down to "the Bible as it is has some pretty worthwhile opinions about how to live one's life," then I call it worthless, a trap and snare, a cruel thing to inflict on others. If the effect of the resurrection - something by definition beyond my own power to accomplish and wholly miraculous - is false, to live as a Christian is something Paul himself would not do. And if I cannot trust the other accounts of the miraculous God of the Hebrews, why should I trust the most miraculous?

As it is, I watch as the things I have learned in the church seem slowly but surely reduced as belonging more to the realm of myth and legend. Things I learned as true and cherished facts, as possibly no more real than Odysseus. Are Jesus and the cross no more factual? That is what scares me. Because if He is just another story that someday "shows its age," then I have believed a great many things not worth believing.

Kenny said...

I think it is a useful proxy for the whole issue to just answer question "do we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus?" If so, one is fairly well compelled to take as authoritative the teachings of the New Testament and the Old Testament.

(I'm assuming into evidence everything written by Josh McDowell and his ilk, which in short states that the NT accounts are highly reliable documents at every level).

I don't really follow the point of why there would be "no question." It seems to me that we're asking the "question." And as far as I know, no one claims that Caesar was resurrected, so we don't have to respond to that claim.

At some level, your comments prove to me one of the biggest things that's wrong with inerrancy. Evangelicals have made it a hill to die on, and if it turns out to not be true...then you die on that hill. But what if it's not a hill to die on?

Your summary question is helpful: "can I trust the Bible somewhat if I can't trust it completely?" I'd like to make the point that we don't apply this standard to anyone else or anything else. It seems to me that evidence is actually quite compelling for the Resurrection. If that's true, I feel strongly justified in accepting everything else. The NT writers wouldn't have been right about the Resurrection and wrong about walking on water (and then martyred for fables to boot). And they accepted OT stories as Scripture, and that actually seems good enough to me without getting overly troubled about whether Genesis is allegorical or literal.

Kenny said...

...also, Christ's resurrection is the only belief Paul cites as that which if it is not true, we of all men are most miserable.

Obviously, he wasn't responding to this argument. But I think it still shows that the Bible by its own terms declares what is central. And if the central point is true, I'm pretty willing to go with it the rest of the way, without a commitment to whether one of David's mighty men really killed 800 Phillistines with the jaw bone of a donkey (I mean, that's really, really hard to believe :)

-Dave said...

My concern with Josh McDowell has something to do with the current debate. He makes a good argument, but to the uninitiated so can people who argue for a six-thousand-year earth. What sort of holes might I be missing because I don't know any better?

I bring up Caesar because if one were to claim that he had risen from the dead, they could also offer the argument "can you show me the dead body of Caesar?" The analogy is imprefect, but meant to say that asking for the dead body of a two-thousand-year-dead person as evidence is unreasonable.

One argument for the veracity of the gospels is that there is documentary evidence that they were written soon after the time of Jesus, and so were refutable if they were false. That doesn't seem to be quite the argument I used to think it was. Assume the gospels were false. This argument presumes (1) that witnesses to the acual events would hear the lies being told, (2) that they cared enough to argue the point, (3) that their arguments would either quash the stories when they arose or survive to this day.

We say, for example, that the disciples couldn't have suffered from mass delusions concerning the ressurrection because he appeared to over 300 people. But those people aren't named, only mentioned in passing. We do not have their independent accounts witnessing appearances of the Christ, just a footnote saying that this is what happened.

Concerning "we don't apply this standard to anyone else or anything else," I would suggest that a lot of criticism from Christian camps toward other groups (e.g. LDS or Islam) is leveled at inconsistencies in historical accounts. I know when I had youth group meetings about "Why Mormons Are Wrong" that was the biggest selling point - Book of Mormon accounts of events in ancient America don't seem supported by the record.

When we cannot test the veracity of something, we have to come at it from various angles. If there is a single witness to a crime, I presume one would test the witness's reliability concerning other knowable events (maybe the color of the victim's shirt, or hair), because if the witness's testimony is in doubt concerning knowable events, it is in doubt concerning unknowable ones.

I am not saying that there can be nothing reliable in a document if any part of it is wrong, and I suppose if that is how I am coming across there will be no end of circling about the topic. I am saying that if some part of a document is false, another part is true, and a third part is unknown or unknowable then you cannot prove that the third part is true just by proving that the second part is. You have to show that the third part is more like the second part than the first part, but even that is not absolute.

We test scientific theories by making specific predictions about how those theories will play out in practice. General Relativity can be tested with gravitational lensing of light. People are trying to test String Theory by smashing atoms to try and see a graviton pass out of our three dimensions. Might we make predictions concerning Christianity? Is it testable? Or are doctrines like the freedom of God meant to give us a way to wiggle out when we in faith command a mountain to throw itself into the ocean and it doesn't happen?

Kenny said...

Regarding McDowell’s argument. I’ve heard respectable people reject the Old Earth theories; I haven’t heard a good refutation of the McDowell argument. And, Dave, you’re hardly the unitiated. Even the fact that you know that New Earth theories are bad, but don’t have similar evidence regarding the McDowell argument, suggests that the latter stands up while the former falls down. I guess you could make a real point of it and insist on pursuing the McDowell argument yourself by traveling the world, examining the texts, geographic locations, etc. Or you could rely on the market to give you good information, and I don’t see a reason to think that the market place of ideas has given us bad information regarding the McDowell argument. The frivolousness of New Age Gnostic/Da Vinci Code type claims has been the most recent illustration of this point. There are now and always have been people with the motivation to debunk the stories of the NT, but I think they’ve been unsuccessful.

Regarding the dead body as evidence, it’s not that there’s not body today, but rather that people at the time don’t seem to have produced the body. Jews and Romans wanted to quash Christianity, but they didn’t produce a body. I’ve never heard of any account that suggested that they had the body and showed it around to prove there was no resurrection.

“Assume the gospels were false. This argument presumes (1) that witnesses to the actual events would hear the lies being told, (2) that they cared enough to argue the point, (3) that their arguments would either quash the stories when they arose or survive to this day.”

Ok, 1) the apostles were witnesses to the events and would have heard (because they told) the lies, and they could have recanted instead of being killed and persecuted 2) Jews, Romans, Gnostics, and again the persecuted Christians all would have cared enough to do so, and 3) there are disputes and arguments that do survive, such as the Gnostic writings. If there were other significant disputes, why wouldn’t they have survived too?

A claim like “and he appeared to 500 people” is the sort of thing that is more easily refutable if one wants to do so because of the greater scope of the claim. If I were to say to you that I met the Messiah, and he appeared to 500 of us here in Durham, North Carolina – you could think of good ways to test that claim, for example, showing up and asking me to introduce you to those 500 people. Again, I think I’ve cited a number of parties that would have had the motivation to test and refute this claim. It’s an argument from silence, but it’s silence in a time in which there was a great deal of noise about the central facts of the matter.

And I understand your evidentiary question, which relates to the way in which I am willing to let a piece of ancient history (Genesis, Exodus) have some literal flexibility as compared to accounts of Jesus as understood through by the McDowell argument. I would liken it to this, at worst: Witness testifies to incident X. Witness correctly identifies all material facts. Witness has valid motivation to tell the truth about incident X. Witness also has clear recollection that as a child his father was well-known as the strongest man in the world. However, historical accounts show no record of the witnesses father holding any acknowledged records for strength.

Similarly, make “dubious biblical history” A, make “plausible resurrection story” B, and make “claims about eternal life” C. I think C is more like B. They are more contemporaneous, often taking place in the same document or are purported by the same writer; meanwhile A is thousands of years removed from C, and takes place in documents that are clearly different types of literature and written by different authors.

And, again, I think it’s appropriate to keep in mind that it’s not Christianity in a vacuum. It that or some other idea about the nature and meaning of things: another religion, another philosophy. As to whether Christianity can be tested, by its own terms it shouldn’t be. I mean, Thomas got to stick his finger in the wounds, and Job got his audience with God, but those seem to be the exceptions to the rule.

-Dave said...

Uninitiated in critiques of documentary evaluation? Yes. Of cosmology? No. The McDowell argument seems pretty soild to me. But I remember when other things seemed pretty solid, too. I don't really know good arguments against it, never having really looked (though I have seen that arguments are made from the atheist side). What I'd love is a look at it from a neutral perspective. Feeling lied to about one thing, I'm sceptical about the other.

That established Christianity was the way of the world for at least 1,000 years means that there is a non-zero chance that other arguments were suppressed. As I recall, the Gnostic gospels are largely a discovery of the last 100 years or so, though we know they existed at the time. We also know that church leaders actively tried to destroy them, as heretical doctrines. This lends support to the view that other arguments were successfully wiped out.

If the person who makes the claim regarding 500 people is readily available, then it is easily refuted. But if the author is dead, or in doubt then it is harder to do so. Without names (an understandable omission if being listed puts your life in jeopardy), independent access to the witnesses is limited to the word of the author. The ammount of noise on the matter is largely a local matter, as the only other history I know of that mentions it comes from Josephus, and then as a footnote.

But really, I have no solid complaints with the gospels. I wish I had a neutral commentary to compare the life of Christ to, that I might see how well the gospels compared, but I don't.

I think the best point made yet is that the Bible is really several books by many authors. Perhaps if the canon were published as individual books, associating the reliability of one with another wouldn't be so strong in my head. As it is, I'm left with another argument McDowell makes - that of the amazing internal consistency of the Bible. That's why when one part seems in question, I have a gut reaction that the rest might be in doubt.

But I'm tired of trying to hold up what I think from the start is a losing side to the argument. I once seriously contemplated leaving the church, abandoning the faith, and letting the God I wasn't sure existed know what he could go do. The only thing I couldn't get around was the resurrection. If it happened, Jesus was a person worth listening to. The gospels and the epistles were the best accounts of that, and the stories in the Old Testament were the foundation for how these people thought.

Matthew said...

I wonder if it matters?

Once you believe, discipleship is a matter of acting, of following God's prompting in the moment. If God prompts you to walk across a shaky bridge while on mission in Cambodia, will your decision rest on whether Charlton Heston's parting of the Red Sea was precisely historical?

Before you believe, Christian assertions of inerrancy are unpersuasive. If you ever do come to belief in inerrancy, and not all Christians do, this will be only after you already accept Christ for other reasons.

What prompts belief in the first place? Seeing the Spirit in others, as Kenny said. Feeling Christ's presence in our own heart. Seeing coincidences too strange to dismiss. You could continue this list, but I think it would be the odd person for whom something related to inerrancy made it onto this list of conversion aids.

If inerrancy doesn't inform the moment to moment relationship of a believer to Christ, and doesn't turn a non-believer into a believer, why does it seem like such a central question, and such a crucial litmus test?

Kenny said...

The reason inerrancy has become crucial is because Evangelicals have made it so. It seems to offer an Archimedean Point.

It would be wonderful if all Holy Bibles were physically indestructible due to some metaphysical quality of being "God-breathed." It would be a powerful tool for evangelism: 'go ahead! take your best shot! rain! wind! storm! fire! it'll with stand anything!...SEE! Don't you believe in Jesus now!?!' However, when the first piece of gilded rice paper ripped, well, there goes the faith of millions, right down the drain.

It's also an interesting attempt to answer age-old questions of epistemology, and to reign in the skeptics of the age. But I think it's important to note that the skeptics won't be reigned in, "even if they saw a man rasied from the dead, they wouldn't believe."