Box 3818, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266 Phone: (310) 545-7831
July 14, 1992
Thank you for your letter and inquiry regarding my stand on inerrancy. I will say that my main quarrel with the inerrancy theory is that it is not a biblical doctrine (being established much later, after the canonization of the Bible around 400 A.D.) and that the geological and historical record offers some serious contradictions with the timing and order of the events in the book of Genesis. I also do not believe that the events of Revelation were written to be fulfilled in our day, but were meant to apply to the first and second century. Since I am an history buff regarding the early church, this is a matter of honesty to me in representing the Bible.
As with many spiritual issues, few things can be "proved" as verifiable as in a court of law, with hard facts and cold evidence. Much of everything we believe is taken on faith. For instance,
There are three synoptic gospels, which are not all eyewitnesses. The three describe the same events differently. Apparently the material came from another historical source that many call the "Q" documents, that we do not possess. We cannot be sure of the accuracy of the translation from "Q" to their gospel form. If the three accounts were not contradictory, this would be less of a dilemma.
Since we don't have the original manuscripts of the Old or New Testament, we assume the copies or fragments of copies we have are essentially unchanged from the originals.
The twenty-seven books of the New Testament were not recognized as the "New Testament" or even as a handbook of Christianity until the fourth or fifth century, and only after much dispute. The already-corrupted-by-politics Catholic Church decided on the canon at that point, and it became official. Not all church fathers were convinced, however. Even centuries later, Martin Luther felt that James' letter did not belong in the canon.
The criterion used by the early church for deciding what belonged in the canon was not as foolproof as one might think.
The Catholic Church destroyed much Gnostic literature in the first few centuries. It is also not blasphemous to surmise that they may have changed the text of the New Testament a little. It appears the Jews did this at times in their copies of the Old Testament in order to clarify irreconcilable numbers and historical events in the manuscripts.
The order of the events concerning Creation (as well as the flood) and the timing of it is irreconcilable with the geological record and the fossil record, as well as several dating methods currently used by scientists. Christians are as unaware of these facts much as are Jehovah's Witnesses unaware of information that is critical of their organization. Christians generally read heavily biased books by such authors as Josh McDowell or Dr. Henry Morris, rather than also considering contrary information.
It appears obvious to me that the early New Testament writers believed and put in print that the end of the "system" or the world as they knew it would come in their lifetime, not 2000 years later. A reconsideration of the Revelation of John may open our eyes.
These are only a few of the issues that have confronted me these last three years. I was forced to re-look at them (I thought I had dealt with them years earlier when I first was born again). It was mainly an issue of honesty. We are out there challenging the cults for claiming God's direction and inspiration when their books contain many errors, and yet we are sometimes unwilling to consider outside evidence that conflicts with our own beliefs. I could no longer be a hypocrite in this regard. I was also long aware that most students who study the Bible long enough from a historical standpoint and who are not afraid to look at outside evidence always become aware of these issues, and it alters their belief system one way or another, though most tend to keep quite about it for various reasons. One of the most noted scholars of the twentieth century, F.F. Bruce (who has written numerous books and widely acclaimed commentaries on the New Testament), was not an inerrantist. Neither was the noted author C.S. Lewis. As a JW and in the early years of my Christianity, I considered F.F. Bruces "lack of faith" to be a result of the "devil putting doubts in his mind." However, working in the field of cults has taught me to be objective and consistent in considering evidence, even if it contradicts cherished beliefs. I am no longer afraid of the devil, and believe that God is big enough to allow us to use our minds to weigh the evidence. Apologetics is a worthless endeavor if we do not apply it to our own beliefs. I do not believe God wants us to be stupid or cult-like in our approach to information.
Therefore, though I do not believe in inerrancy, I believe the Bible teaches the basics of orthodoxy, such as the Trinity, eternal punishment, salvation by grace, the soul, the virgin birth, etc. I have faith in God's love for me and for others, and that He is fair. We will know all someday! I do not desire to confront people with these issues, unless they ask me pointedly. Since you have, this is my response. I choose not to be dogmatic, however.
Two books that I recommend for further reading are:
The Canon of the New Testament by Bruce Metzger, Oxford University, 1987, and A General Introduction to the Bible by Norman Geisler, 1986. Though both books attempt to prove the coherency of the Bible and Geisler attempts to illustrate inerrancy, I look between the lines to what they are leaving out. Metzger's book is especially scholarly and I respect him.
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