Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Does The Bible Contain Errors Or Not? How Should A Simple Christian Think This Through?

            The question “Does the Bible contain errors or not?” will evoke contradictory responses even from the most eminent Christian evangelical scholars. The two major contradicting groups are unlimited inerrantists and limited inerrantists.

            Unlimited Inerrancy teaches that the Bible is without error in all that it affirms.1

            Limited Inerrancy considers the Bible as inerrant (without error) in only what it teaches. In other words, the Bible’s inerrancy is limited to only redemptive matters.

            Christian evangelical scholars have studied, discussed and debated this subject at the highest academic forums for years and yet hold contradictory positions. But they remain as true and sincere Christians.

            Given this situation, how should a simple Christian – who is not trained in a Bible college or seminary – contemplate the complex theme of biblical inerrancy?

Faith Alone

                          Famed Christian evangelist Billy Graham went through a crisis of faith when his evangelist friend Charles “Chuck” Templeton questioned the veracity (truthfulness or accuracy) of the Bible and abandoned his faith in Christ. Billy Graham, however, overcame his crisis situation.

            Billy Graham reminisced those moments, “The exact wording of my prayer is beyond recall, but it must have echoed my thoughts: “O God! There are many things in this book I do not understand. … I can’t answer some of the philosophical and psychological questions Chuck [Templeton] and others are raising.” I was trying to be on the level with God, but something remained unspoken. At last the Holy Spirit freed me to say it: “Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word—by faith!” … I sensed the presence and power of God as I had not sensed it in months.”2

            Templeton’s departure from Christianity did not deter Billy Graham. He survived the crisis and became a more committed believer in Christ.  


            Through faith. Simple faith!

            You and I will not be remiss if we simply believe that the Bible is the word of God.

Truth Alone

            The truthfulness of Christianity is independent of the Bible. Christian apologist Frank Turek explains this position:3

Is Christianity true just because the inerrant Bible says it is?  No.  Christianity would still be true even if the Bible was never written.
… some of us erroneously think that Christian beliefs cannot be sustained unless the Bible is without error.  That would mean that the Christian faith is a house of cards ready to collapse if one verse or reference in the New Testament is discovered to be false.
Although I think are good reasons to believe in an inerrant Bible, inerrancy is an unnecessarily high standard by which to establish the central event in Christianity—the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth (which we celebrate this Sunday).  Christianity hinges on that historical event.  If Christ rose from the dead, then, game over, Christianity is true.  On the other hand, if he didn’t rise from the dead, then, as a first-century eyewitness by the name of Paul admitted, Christianity is false.
But you don’t need inerrant sources to establish that the Resurrection actually happened, or any other historical event for that matter.  For example, if you found an error in the stat line of a football game, should you assume that every game, story and stat line in the newspaper was a complete fabrication?  Then why do some people do that with the New Testament?   Why do they assume that unless every word of it is true, then most of it is false?
They assume that because they are confusing the fact of the Resurrection with the reports of the Resurrection. Conflicting reports of a historical event are evidence that the event actually occurred, not the reverse.  In other words, to return to our sports analogy, the only reason there is an error in the stat line, to begin with, is because the game was actually played and someone tried to report on that game.  Neither the stat line nor the error would exist unless the game had actually been played.  After all, who reports on a game that didn’t actually take place?
The same is true with the documents comprising the New Testament and the Resurrection.  Even if one were to find an error or disagreement between the multiple accounts of the Resurrection story, the very fact that there are several eyewitness accounts shows that something dramatic actually happened in history—especially since the folks who wrote it down had everything to lose by proclaiming Jesus rose from the dead.
That is, all of the New Testament reporters (except Luke) were observant Jews who would pay dearly for proclaiming the Resurrection.  Why would Jewish believers in Yahweh—people who thought they were God’s “chosen people” for two thousand years—invent a Resurrection story that would get them excommunicated from the “chosen people” club, and then beaten, tortured and murdered?
Answer:  they wouldn’t. They saw something dramatic that they weren’t expecting.  Then they proclaimed it, altered their lives because of it, and later wrote about it, despite the fact that doing any of that would get them killed.
So Christianity isn’t true just because the Bible says it’s true. Christianity is true because an event occurred.  True, we wouldn’t know much about Christianity if the reports of the Resurrection had never been written, but the Resurrection preceded the reports of it.
As my friend Andy Stanley asks, “Do you realize that there were thousands of Christians before a line of the New Testament was ever written?”  Paul was a Christian before he wrote a word of the New Testament.  So was Matthew, John, James, Peter, etc.  Why?  Because they had witnessed the resurrected Jesus.
Contrary to what some skeptics may think, the New Testament writers didn’t create the Resurrection—the Resurrection created the New Testament writers.   In other words, the New Testament documents didn’t give us the Resurrection.  The Resurrection gave us the New Testament documents!  There would be no New Testament unless the Resurrection had occurred.  Observant Jews would never have invented that.
This why the foundational beliefs of Christianity—what C.S. Lewis called Mere Christianity—are true even if the reports have some errors.  Getting details wrong in reporting the Resurrection doesn’t change the larger point that the Resurrection actually happened.  In fact, if all of the accounts agreed on every detail, we’d rightly assume they colluded.  Actual eyewitnesses never describe the same historical event in the same way.
For example, survivors of the Titanic disagreed how the ship sank.  Some say it broke in two and then sank.  Others say the thought it went down whole.  Does that disagreement mean that we shouldn’t believe the Titanic sank?  Of course not.  They all agree on that!   They were just viewing the same historical event from different vantage points.
Likewise, all the writers agree that the Resurrection occurred, but they differ on the minor details (Who got to the tomb first?  Did you see one angel or two? etc.).  And these differences aren’t necessarily contradictions, but the natural result of viewing the same historical event from different vantage points.
The historical documents we’ve collected and put into one binding we call the New Testament are just what the name implies— they are testaments or reports of what honorable people witnessed and had no motive to invent.  In fact, given who they were and how they suffered, they had every motive to say it wasn’t true.  And there are several other excellent reasons that show it takes more faith to be an atheist than a Christian.
So inerrant Bible or not, the Resurrection we celebrate on Sunday actually occurred about 1,985 years ago. That means you can trust that one day you’ll be resurrected like Jesus if you put your trust in him.

            There is nothing wrong if we, by mere faith, believe that the Bible is God’s Word.

            Christianity is true whether or not the Bible has errors. Without diluting the significance of the Bible to any extent, there is also nothing wrong if we do not consider biblical inerrancy as an essential doctrine of Historic Christianity.





Websites last accessed on 21st August 2019.

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