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.