Thursday, 12 December 2013

Inerrancy and interpretation

Derek Rishmawy in his article Inerrant Text ≠ Inerrant Interpretation states
We often hear that appealing to an inerrant text shuts down conversation and identifies one's own interpretation with the Word of the Lord. The argument claims that a basically trustworthy, but still fallible text means we have to wrestle and humbly open ourselves to conversation with others, experience, and so forth.

I can't say I've ever found this a mildly convincing argument. Yes, there is a serious temptation for believers trained in certain conservative circles to short-circuit the dialogue and to shun tension, questions, and the deep trust required to believe in the midst of questions. That can, and sadly does, happen. All the same, the higher a view of the text you affirm, the more it should lead to real struggling with the text, given that you think it's the truth of God somehow.

When dealing with the issue of contradictions in the Bible, G. K. Beale points out that, far from cutting off wrestling and intellectual struggling with the text, a high view of Scripture's truthfulness has led to deeper study, prayer, conversation with other interpreters, and wrestling to see how it's true.
I concur. It is too easy to say that the text is wrong when it contradicts another text or worse, your own opinion. Now the Bible in either inerrant or it isn't, and the ease at which one may disregard Scripture does not determine its errancy status; though it may influence your belief in errancy—do I not like what Scripture teaches, well perhaps the Bible has mistakes.

But if the Bible is inerrant this does not make interpretation always easy or simplistic. I have found that apparent contradictions force me to examine the text even more closely. God has given me reason thus I do identify difficult passages. But I am fallen and my reasoning is broken. Scripture helps me reason rightly.

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