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Inerrancy is a term which needs clarification by those who still seek to use it. I would probably still uphold to inerrancy but my definition would be so nuanced that the term inerrancy is probably no longer helpful. When I arrived at university as an undergraduate to study theology my faith was shaken when I read the gospels alongside each other. I had a wooden understanding of inerrancy which, when boiled down to its basic components, saw the evangelists as being so filled with Spirit that they dictated God’s word. I have just been reading DeSlilva ‘An Introduction to the New Testament.’ in which he highlights a number of questions which are raised upon a close reading of the gospels. (From Chapter 4)

  • Why do Matthew, Mark and Luke, on the one hand, tell many of the same stories in almost the same ways but then display puzzling lacks of overlap with regard to other aspects of their Gospels?
  • Why are the sayings of Jesus grouped differently in different Gospels?
  • Why does the same saying or parable appear in different contexts in Matthew and Luke?
  • Why are some sayings and parables unique to certain Gospels?
  • Why does John share so little sayings material in common with the other three?
  • Why does John arrange the story so differently, including events that have no parallel in the other Gospels and leaving out so many events from the other Gospels?
  • Why do only two Evangelists include infancy narratives, and why does each share so little material with the other in this area?
  • Why are the stories and order of postresurrection appearances so different

After many years of study I am able to be confident in the bible as God’s word. However, for those involved in teaching in CHurches, it is important that when we speak of the authroity of scripture, we do not create unnecessary problems for those who are engaged in serious study of the bible.

Here is the logic of what happenend as I began to study theology.

a) Christian Faith is based on the bible

b) The bible is without error and was dictated by the Holy Spirit. (Note no reference to Genre/Ancient Historiography)

a+b=c  Christian faith stands or falls on the bible being without error.

On arriving at university, and studying the gospels, I could not see (b) as being true. This meant as I held to (c) that CHristianity was undermined.

By God’s grace and sustaining power he has kept me close to him and in his Church. This crisis of faith was, in some sense, caused by a version of authority which wanted to protect the church from liberalism. However, it seemed to use modernist notions of truth/error to defend scripture without taking into full account the genre and the techniques of ancient historiography which the evangelists used.

Some usefull discussions of inerrancy are found at ‘The Naked Bible’ blog.

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Ok, here it goes. This is my first theologcal ramble whch I have entitled ‘living by the script’.  I am not going to edit myself so I offer my apologies to those who may think I need for structure or better spelling.
How should we lve as Christians? I guess a typical answer would be ‘We live by the bible? This appears fine but I woudl want to ask what we mean by this?- The bible doesn’t seem to speak about issues which face us in the 21st century. Questions like ‘How should we respond to global warming?’ ‘What about capitalism? should we seek to impose democracy overseas?what about  civil partneships for practising homosexuals? I guess we may be able to find some proof texts for these things. However I want to suggest, as with Tom Wright, that we should view the bible as a script. It doesn’t give us the answers for everything but allows us to see how previous genrtaions of YHWH followers and the ‘communities of the king’ have responded to the issues they faced.
Bear with me as I want you to sue your imagination.
You are an actor who is looking for work. You are approached by a stage director at a local theatre. He says thsi to. ‘Hey I hear you want some work. Well we have a job for you. You see we have found a play written by Shakespeare. The probelm is we have the first 3 acts, but the fourth act is missing. We do have the ending however.’ As a skilled actor you accept the job. You read the script and you decide that you can make it work. You just need to improvise, along with the rest of the cast, so that it makes sense of where the play had got to, and also to make sense of where the play is going.
Ok, back to the bible. We have a story in the bible. The story of the mighty acts of YHWH and the story of a community who lives sometimes faithfully, and sometimes unfaithfully before him. In the last part of the story we have seen how with the arrival of the Messiah the spirit has now been poured on his community. The community are working, growing and strugging as they await the return of the King.  As Christians we are now part of this community and we are given the job of improvising. 
A few reflections on improvising.
    a) There is good improvisiation and bad improvisiation. Its not just a case of anything goes
    b) improvsiiation must take direction from previous charcetrs and acts in the story. However, the previous ats should not simply be repeated. A story, our story of redemption, works in a linear time format. We are going soemwhere as we await the return of the king.
Now back to the fictional story. If a number of other theartres developed a similar project using the same script. We would not expect the plays of the differant theatres to be exactly the same. The improvised acts may well be similar (as they make sens eof previous acts and work towards the final act) but they will also be differant.
Church, as covenant communities improvsing the story, will offer differant expressions of this improvisiation. Any theatre/church which says they have THE improvisition is mistaken. However, I would neither want to say that anything goes. We need to hold these ideas in tension, we  steer a line between simply repeating previous episodes, and with taking a line that anything goes.
  The church needs to reinvent itself every generation, not simply repeating previous acts but responding to character devlopments whetehr that be changes in the their communties or changes in the larger world of worldviews. It seems to me that some of the emergent folks are improvising based on the the developemnt of the postmodern mindset.
 I hope you catch my drift….

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