Coming to Terms

I have argued that the parameters that emerged over the Christian centuries, expressed in terms such as inspiration, authority, and word of God, are actually unscriptural and inhibit an articulation of the theological status and function of scripture.

–John Goldingay, in a review of Paul Achtemeier’s Inspiration and Authority: Nature and Function of Christian Scripture

The Bible never uses the term inerrant or infallible, and I doubt that any Biblical writer means “the canonical scriptures” when he says “the word of God.”   In my upbringing in Churchesgeneva bible of Christ, I was taught to “call Bible things by Bible names” and to be wary of traditional human interpretations.  Those are still my instincts, which is part of why I’m troubled by the insistence on framing the debate in terms that don’t appear in scripture.  Everything that the Bible says about scripture, I gladly affirm.  It’s useful for training in good works, it can make us wise for salvation, it points to Jesus.  If the debate centered on those propositions, a lot of what we fuss over would evaporate.

The traditional terms of the discussion have the unfortunate effect of stripping away all nuance.  If I don’t like the inerrancy doctrine, that doesn’t mean that I am proposing a theory of scriptural errancy.   I don’t want to poke holes in the Bible or comb through it to make a list of factual errors.  (Although it can be done, if you absolutely have to go down that road.)  I want to drop the idea of inerrancy altogether and take the Bible as it is, for what it is.  Framing our doctrine of the scriptures in terms of error (of the absence thereof) has shifted a bizarre amount of attention away from things like the resurrection and onto things like whether the four resurrection accounts can be harmonized.  I really don’t care whether they can or not. I just don’t. That’s not supposed to be the point. What I really want is to be spiritually formed by the four accounts without having to do some nit-picky modernist analysis of “what actually happened that morning.”  If God wanted us to have a harmony of the Bible, I suppose he could have given us one.  But he didn’t.



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