Well, in light of my last post about Scripture and authority we might as well put this term on the table too: “inerrancy.” If I suggested in a hotly-commented post that “authority” does not tell us enough about our relationship to Scripture, and if I suggest that if we love God and God’s Spirit speaks to us in and through Scripture, then Scripture will be an element of our love of God for through it God shapes our identity, then I suggest that we use the term “identity.” Now, where does this leave “inerrancy”?
To begin with, for many this is the line one does not cross. Theologically, that is. For me…
My point would be this: if love of God re-shapes authority into a larger whole, namely identity, then love of God re-shapes inerrancy into another larger whole, namely trustable truth that summons me to live differently. (By “truth” I mean that the True and Living God, who is Truth, speaks truly and truth to us in the Bible.) Let me suggest that we think about “advancing” inerrancy with “living trustable truth” because “inerrancy,” like authority, also doesn’t say enough about what our relationship to Scripture to be adequate.
What we want to know is not this: “the Bible is not wrong” but this: “the Bible is true.”
But, let’s go further, believing that the Bible is true may be a theological test but what matters before God and the world is this: do I live it? Is that not where our theology is most fully expressed?
I grew up theologically during the days of the Scripture Wars — Harold Lindsell picked a fight with plenty when he wrote The Battle for the Bible. The book set many evangelicals against one another. Then we had books by Donald McKim and Clark Pinnock, and responses by a few like John Woodbridge and others. During my days I have sometimes thought inerrancy was being used as a litmus-test about theological purity. It never struck me as the one and only test: after all, I said to myself (and still do), it is not in the ancient creeds at all. Why? Perhaps because they assumed and believed that Scripture was trustable truth and that if you didn’t accept the apostolic testimony you weren’t even playing the right ballgame.
My response to using inerrancy as a litmus-test is nearly always the same: “inerrancy” is not enough. That word, by itself, though clearly a watershed for many and lightning rod for others, means “without error.” It thus means that there are no mistakes. David Dunbar, a colleague in the Theology Dept when we were both at TEDS, used to say that some phone books were (or could be) “inerrant.” I’ve trusted them for years, and don’t recall ever finding an incorrect number in a phone book. Nor did I go through them to prove their inerrancy. What I most care about a phonebook is if it will get me the number I need. But this is clear: I don’t stake my life on a phonebook.
What I’d rather confess about the Bible is that the Scripture is true — and then I want the confession to go further to the point where the Scripture is trustable truth. And then we need to go yet further: do I live it out? Living trustable truth.
That is, God speaks and we can trust that God is speaking to us in Scripture. But, believing that is designed so we will trust it and live it out. I believe the Bible is trustable truth. We can trust what is said. If you tell me that you think Scripture is true, well and good — what I want to know is if you trust it by living it out. This is what Scripture is all about: it is God’s story that we enter into so that God’s story becomes our story. This only happens if we trust it by embodying it — in how we live. Living trustable truth.