Saturday, August 21, 2010

Infallibility Without Inerrancy?

Since Dr. Roger Olson recently posted his views on the doctrine of inerrancy, myself and a few other bloggers have been discussing it at Arminian Today.

One thing that really hasn't come up in that discussion is can you even consider something infallible if it contains errors? Now, when speaking of inerrancy, one isn't speaking of things like rounding numbers or possible spelling errors, one is speaking of what the text is teaching, asserting, and affirming. I could accept that the original documents of scripture could contain spelling errors and still be inerrant. What cannot be in error is what the scripture affirms as the truth. But when many give up the doctrine of the inerrancy of the Bible, they want to continue affirming that it is infallible; that it won't lead you astray.

Assuming that inerrancy is how I've defined it here, and not some strict wooden literalism, if you do give up that doctrine, how do you maintain the doctrine of infallibility? If the Bible contains errors in what it asserts to be the truth, does that not de facto lead one astray? Even if it's on something minor, like what King Saul said to David at some point, does that not lead you astray on what happened at that point? How could you maintain infallibility without inerrancy?


bethyada said...

Brennon, While I agree that if the Bible in errant, it is harder to be certain what (and when) it teaches is true; do note that infallibilists have a meaning they ascribe to their position and it is important to recognise what they claim before we take them on about their position.

Of course infallibilists should understand inerrantists also.

I previously wrote a post about what I think they mean, and how they differ, i.e. what are real differences, and what are imagined differences. Have a look.

A defense of inerrancy

Jc_Freak: said...


And here you point out something which is innately the problem with arguing this topic: what does the term mean? Quite frankly, the word inerrancy has gone through several meanings over the years, and it is difficult to pin down precisely what it means.

For instance, I would not claim the word "inerrancy" to discribe my beliefs, but that is not the same thing as saying that I believe the Bible is full of errors. It is more that I reject a lot of the modernist assumptions of what constitutes an error, and it is precisely within that context that the term was born.

Recently, it has become such a shibboleth that it can mean any high view of Scripture, yet there is a specific idea that is held by many that can only be called "inerrancy" is that is an idea that I reject.

For more on my view, you might want to check out this essay I wrote a couple of years ago. You may note that I am using a different definition of inerrancy than you gave here.

bossmanham said...

I agree with you both and think that defining terms is key when speaking to anyone on the subject. I don't, however, think that simply because some people misuse and misunderstand certain words or ideas that we should all of a sudden abandon them. People misunderstand doctrines such as the Trinity or Total Depravity, but I don't think we should abandon our terminology there.

Jc_Freak: said...

Here's sorta of the problem there Brennon. I don't think I'm abandoning the term because some have misused it, but because I'm going back to what it meant when it was first used. It is not a term that has been used more strictly than it was intended, but that it is now being used less strictly by you and others. Perhaps I am wrong about that, but it would really require looking through the history of this debate, and which terms arose when and why.

bossmanham said...

JC, I don't know of anyone who would or has defined inerrancy as including exact numbers and interpreting things intended as metaphors etc. as literal. It seems to me that you perhaps initially were exposed to a skewed, incorrect definition of it. There are some lay Christians who, out of their zeal, don't think very hard when thinking about inerrancy.