Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Roger Olson on "Why inerrancy doesn't matter"
Roger Olson of Truett Seminary has a good article in The Baptist Standard on why the concept of biblical inerrancy isn't really that important and shouldn't be considered as a requirement for faithful evangelical belief. He traces the history of the debate and why it has become such a big deal in contemporary conservative and fundamentalists circles. He then goes on to make a good argument about why it is essentially useless concept. This part in particular stood out to me:
The trouble is that, by and large, “inerrancy” has become a shibboleth—a gate-keeping word used to exclude people rather than to draw authentic Christians together for worship and witness. Even its most ardent and staunch proponents admit no existing Bible is inerrant; they attribute inerrancy only to the original manuscripts, which do not exist. They kill the ordinary meaning of the word with the death of a thousand qualifications. If you doubt that, please read the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, which usually is considered the standard evangelical account of the concept.

Think about this: If the Bible’s authority depends on its inerrancy but only the original manuscripts were inerrant , then only the original manuscripts were authoritative. The logic is impeccable and irresistible. And if “inerrancy” is compatible with flawed approximations, faulty chronologies, and use of incorrect sources by the biblical authors, it is a meaningless concept.
Excellent point IMHO. It's interesting to think that insisting on inerrancy actually undermines the authority of the Bible.

Click here to read the whole article.


posted by Mike Clawson at 11:44 PM | Permalink |


At 3/13/2008 11:55:00 AM, Anonymous Karl

Good article.


At 3/13/2008 04:59:00 PM, Blogger TBrookins

Mike, what sources do you know of that actually explicate alternative views on the mode and extent of inspiration? I don't just want an argument that undermines inerrancy; I want a source that clearly offers something in its place.


At 3/13/2008 07:10:00 PM, Anonymous Karl

TBrookins that's a fair question and I'll be interested in Mike's response. At the same time, I think the article makes the point that inerrancy as presently defined and conceived is a relatively recent concept, and itself came "in place" of earlier terms like inspired, trustworthy and authoritative.

While waiting for Mike's response, this article might approach something like what you are asking for:


At 3/14/2008 01:14:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Sources? I dunno. I just thought through the issue for myself and reached my own conclusions.

Sorry, I can't be more helpful.


At 3/14/2008 07:28:00 AM, Blogger TBrookins

Well I suppose you'd count as a source then, Mike. What's your view on the mode and extent of inspiration and its connection to biblical authority?


At 3/14/2008 07:29:00 AM, Blogger TBrookins

Karl, thanks for your answer. I'll check this out.


At 3/14/2008 09:18:00 AM, Blogger jazzycat

What you have in essence is a living and breathing Bible just like liberals have a living and breathing constitution. In both cases you can simply ignore things that don't square with your personal policy opinions.

The things men will do to massage their unbelief!!!!


At 3/14/2008 10:32:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson


As far as I'm concerned the entire Bible is God-breathed (aka "inspired"), and (agreeing with NT Wright) is "authoritative" (another word the Bible doesn't use for itself) in so far as it is a means by which God exercises his own authority in the life of the believer through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Actually, in terms of resources, I just thought of one. I'd highly recommend Wright's book "The Last Word" for more on his view of scripture. I especially like his metaphor of the authority of scripture in the church as the beginning acts of a 5-Act play, whose ongoing story it is our job to improvise.

For more on my view of the Bible, you can also check out this past post of mine:
How to Read the Bible


At 3/14/2008 07:50:00 PM, Blogger TBrookins

Thanks, Mike. I'll check this out.


At 3/15/2008 11:12:00 AM, Blogger Julie

For a very evangelical take on the issue that presents other options read - Peter Enns Inspiration and Incarnation. I found it to be helpful.


At 3/16/2008 10:36:00 AM, Blogger TBrookins

Karl, I read the article you recommended (, and I liked it. But I didn't see anything in there incompatible with the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy.


At 3/17/2008 07:59:00 AM, Anonymous Aaron L

Very interesting concept, though I don't think I can fully wrap my mind around it. I think it might be too early in the morning.


At 3/17/2008 10:47:00 AM, Blogger TBrookins

(A qualification to my last comment): ...except maybe the Lewis and MacDonald quotations, though they were used to prove scripture's diversity rather than errors in it.


Links to this post

Links to this post:

Create a Link