“rejecting infallibility” Coming out of the theological closet, no. 2
Evangelicals (allied with fundamentalists) now prefer to use the term “inerrant” to describe their idea of biblical accuracy. The informed holding this view assert that whatever the non-extant autographs of scripture said is absolutely accurate on whatever subject is addressed, history and science included. The logic of the word inerrant therefore requires absolute 100% compliance with facts to maintain a position of overall biblical effectiveness. An earlier and more common descriptor that a much broader spectrum of Christianity has historically employed was “infallible.” This term attributed complete reliability to what the Bible teaches regarding faith and practice.
Already Compromised, p.42, asserted: “I have heard other scholars say that “the Bible is true in all that it affirms” (whatever that means), but they go on to say that it was never intended to be an academic text and should be trusted only in matters of faith, not matters of science. This equivocation is heresy to me considering that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ (Col. 2:3, and “all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16; NKJV emphasis added).”” The writer conjectures that Col. 2:3 and 2 Tim. 3:16 somehow refute holding a narrower view of accuracy. I cannot deduce how anyone who carefully reads these two verses (in context might help even more) can decide that they truly carry the weight of this conjecture. Do you see any declaration that the Bible was and is accurate in "matters of science" in either of these selected texts? I challenge anyone to find any such declaration anywhere in the biblical text. First the concept presented in Col. 2:3 has nothing whatsoever to do with the Bible, unless one is proposing that some equivalence between Christ and the canon. That leaves the four functions included in 2 Tim. 3:16 which unfortunately omit any explicit reference to historical and scientific matters.
A wide spectrum of Christianity decades ago had agreed upon how to understand the nature of scripture and published this decision. The International Congress on World Evangelization was held at Lausanne, Switzerland, July 16-25, 1974. It brought together 2,473 participants from 150 countries and 135 Protestant denominations. One outgrowth of that International Congress was the Lausanne Covenant. Section 2 of the Lausanne Covenant is entitled: "The Authority and Power of the Bible." It reads:
We affirm the divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both Old and New Testament Scriptures in their entirety as the only written Word of God, without error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice. We also affirm the power of God's Word to accomplish his purpose of salvation. The message of the Bible is addressed to all mankind. For God's revelation in Christ and in Scripture is unchangeable. Through it the Holy Spirit still speaks today. He illumines the minds of God's people in every culture to perceive its truth freshly through their own eyes and thus discloses to the whole church ever more of the many-colored wisdom of God. (II Tim. 3:15; II Pet.1:21; John 10:35; Isa. 55:11; I Cor. 1:21; Rom. 1:16; Matt. 5:17,18; Jude 3; Eph. 1:17,18; 3:10,18)
The Lausanne declaration influenced the position taken by the Church of God in 1981 where the General Assembly,
“RESOLVED that this Assembly declare its convictions that the Bible truly is the divinely inspired and infallible Word of God. The Bible is without error in all that it affirms, in accordance with its own purpose, namely that it is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NAS), and it therefore is fully trustworthy and authoritative as the infallible guide for understanding the Christian faith and living the Christian life; …” (The Assembly Speaks (36-38), compiled and edited by Barry L. Callen).
Here again this decision follows a faith and practice approach, not one promoting scientific accuracy.
Disputing a claim of complete scientific accuracy for the Bible is easy since it represents the common view of 21st century faith. My question this week examines the more commonly held stand as referenced above by the Lausanne Covenant statement and the General Assembly resolution.
The rule of faith and practice position maintains that the Bible is entirely reliable in matters concerning belief and conduct. I shall only consider the practice/conduct side of this long held view.
For us to honestly maintain this declaration the Bible must be completely reliable in all matters of practice. Finding even one clear example where the teaching it enjoins is contrary to established norms would demand rejecting any such affirmation. Does the Bible offer any such examples? Yes, it does. The Bible presents a positive review of slavery by offering Old Testament regulations about the exercise of this institution and even in the New Testament presents instruction on how slaves and masters are expected to conduct themselves. It clearly does not prohibit the exercise of slavery. Since from the 19th century followers of Christ have condemned slavery can we continue to hold scripture as infallible? Obviously such slavery mandates show that Scripture does not always offer absolute truth, that is, truth for all times, and for all people everywhere. If on select matters of conduct we must reject that Scripture offers absolute instruction on specific conduct can the Bible can be honestly received as infallible regarding faith and practice as traditionally confessed? The Bible is our infallible rule of faith and practice (except for slavery and ….). I can no longer affirm the view that scripture is our infallible rule of faith and practice. Rejecting this confession raise another threat. Since the Bible's slavery discussion falls short of absolute reliability, what other absolute conduct teaching may be found deficient now and in the future?