Friday, December 06, 2019

Inerrancy is the enemy!

As is well-known, there are believers who lose their faith in Christianity when they lose their faith in biblical inerrancy. As a result, there's an increasing number of apologists–with W. L. Craig as the ringleader–who regard inerrancy as expendable–a "house of cards". By the same token, they regard inerrancy as a stumbling block to conversion. On that view, inerrancy should be permanently bracketed. 

But there's a flip side to this. A paradox that hasn't received the same attention. There are believers who'd lose their faith in Christianity if inerrancy is true. Their faith requires a fallible Bible because there's too much in Scripture they find intolerable. They disagree with many biblical teachings, viz. exclusivism, eternal punishment, spanking, "slavery," "misogyny," "homophobia," "genocide," &c. Inerrancy poses a threat to their faith, not if it's false, but if it's true. There are things in the Bible they're just not prepared to accept, and biblical fallibility gives them the elbow room they require to avoid a hard choice. Not because the offending teachings might be wrong, but because their truth is incompatible with a progressive worldview. So the can't afford for Scripture to be too true. Ultimately, they need a different religion than biblical theism, and biblical fallibility gives them the loophole to have a designer religion. 

Of course, a religion that conveniently changes whenever you change your beliefs can't be objectively true. It becomes a mirror rather than a guidepost. It takes its lead from you, not vice versa.  


  1. That's one thing that confuses me about those who want Christianity to fit what they already think and feel. Just leave/don't join if you don't like it. Do they even take seriously (at least as they see it) a "Christianity" they've created?

  2. Steve, if you haven't already, maybe in the future you can address the following:

    What would you say to, or how would you counsel a professing Christian who can't get himself to continue believing inerrancy because of what he perceives to be a real error or contradiction; or because he can't get himself convinced of any of the offered solutions to the problem? And because he hinges the truth of Christianity on inerrancy, he's now tempted to reject Christianity? Or is the question too vague? Would you need to address the specific problems?

    But, what if it's not any particular problem but the weight of all the apparent problems that, because of their great number, weigh on him? Analogous to how many very small pebbles, while light individually, when placed in a bag can become very heavy because of the accumulated weight. As you know, some apostates claim that's precisely what happened to them.

    For myself there are some Bible problems that I haven't found satisfactory solutions to. But they don't undermine my faith. Probably because [inter alia] 1. I'm too emotionally and existentially invested in Christianity [which you addressed HERE]; 2. I've had my own supernatural experiences which I interpret as sometimes having come from God, and others from evil spirits; 3. I'm aware enough of my intellectual limitations that it's not difficult for me to be humble enough to admit that I [and most humanity] could be missing something in any particular Biblical problem; 4. As a Calvinist I believe that God has inspired Scripture to enlighten the elect, but stumble the non-elect. I'm reminded of some quotes from Blaise Pascal's Pensées which I'll quote in a second comment. For the sake of others, since you've seen me cite them multiple times.

    Not everyone is as emotionally and existentially attached to Christianity as I am. Or have had what he believes [rightly or wrongly] to have been supernatural experiences. Or intellectually limited enough to more easily admit he might be missing something. Or is a Calvinist who believes in some form of [hard or weak] reprobation whereby God providentially works positively and [or only] negatively to lead the non-elect away voluntarily. Whether it's a negative hands off form of preterition and passing over [in the decrees and providentially in time], or a more active and direct form of leading people into error. Also, I suspect you too would admit that your own negative experiences which appear to have been demonic attacks kind of reinforces your belief in God.

    1. The Pascal quotes:

      Willing to appear openly to those who seek him with all their heart, and to be hidden from those who flee from him with all their heart, God so regulates the knowledge of himself that he has given indications of himself which are visible to those who seek him and not to those who do not seek him. There is enough light for those to see who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition.


      563 The prophecies, the very miracles and proofs of our religion, are not of such a nature that they can be said to be absolutely convincing. But they are also of such a kind that it cannot be said that it is unreasonable to believe them. Thus there is both evidence and obscurity to enlighten some and confuse others. But the evidence is such that it surpasses, or at least equals, the evidence to the contrary; so that it is not reason which can determine men not to follow it, and thus it can only be lust or malice of heart. And by this means there is sufficient evidence to condemn, and insufficient to convince; so that it appears in those who follow it, that it is grace, and not reason, which makes them follow it; and in those who shun it, that it is lust, not reason, which makes them shun it.

      577 There is sufficient clearness to enlighten the elect, and sufficient obscurity to humble them. There is sufficient obscurity to blind the reprobate, and sufficient clearness to condemn them, and make them inexcusable.—Saint Augustine, Montaigne, Sébond.

      574 All things work together for good to the elect, even the obscurities of Scripture; for they honour them because of what is divinely clear. And all things work together for evil to the rest of the world, even what is clear; for they revile such, because of the obscurities which they do not understand.

      562 It will be one of the confusions of the damned to see that they are condemned by their own reason, by which they claimed to condemn the Christian religion.

      576 God has made the blindness of this people subservient to the good of the elect.

    2. BTW, in that previous blogpost of yours, I had planned on pointing out that sometimes the difference between a Christian who had doubts and falls away and another Christian who perseveres is that the latter was willing to do some apologetical investigation and study to find out if there are answers to the problem. I find that so many internet apostates bare did any research on the topics they claim led them away from Christianity. Because of intellectual laziness and/or because they weren't existentially invested in Christianity enough to sacrifice the time to study the apolgetical solutions available. Which, from our Christian point of view, is a moral failing. What you've called, if I recall, "self-reinforced ignorance". Often coupled with various confirmation biases and indirect doxastic voluntarism whereby they intentionally study the arguments against Christianity in order to convince themselves of its falsity. Though, they'll often claim they they were intellectually honest and courageous enough to follow where the evidence led.

    3. 1. They should have a realistic expectation of what inerrancy looks like. Vern Poythress has a good model.

      2. They should have a realistic expectation about inevitable obscurities in a sacred anthology written by multiple authors in multiple genres over a c. 1500 year span c. 2000-3500 years ago.

      3. They should appreciate as a practical matter that it boils down to Christianity or atheism, and atheism is never a viable fallback option. Consistent atheism commits the atheist to moral, existential, and epistemic nihilism.

      4. They should prioritize the answers we need and the answers we want but can live without.

      5. They should continue the spiritual disciplines of Christian faith, viz. prayer, Bible reading, hymns, Christian fellowship.


    5. 6. What's puzzling is not how an inerrant ancient anthology might have some apparent errors at this distance from events but how an uninspired ancient anthology has so few.

  3. "Consistent atheism commits the atheist to moral, existential, and epistemic nihilism."

    A post expanding on these points would be utterly satisfying. If such post does not exist already. Just saying.

    1. There's 15 years worth of such posts. You can start with these:

  4. I read this quote recently at the beginning of chapter 13 of Gabriele Kuby's " The Global Sexual Revolution ", inerrancy obviously isn't the topic of the book, but I thought the quote appropriate here:

    "When we assume that people's actual behavior should be the standard for rescinding the positive laws of the Church, we run right back into the great secular error of our time: the idea that religion should be adapted to people, and not people to religion."

    Dietrich von Hildebrand

    This fellow is likely a Roman Catholic, as Kuby herself is, but I appreciated what he was getting at.