Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Inerrancy's Spirit of Fear

The God of inerrancy has many young evangelicals scared to ask questions about the Bible. The God of inerrancy reigns over a kingdom whose rules come across loud and clear: Don't challenge what inerrantists say about the Bible or there's a chance on that final day God will actually say to you, 'Depart from me, I never knew you.' For what happens on the final day does not depend upon how well you live your life or how good of a person you have become through the process of sanctification. It's all about one thing: what you believe. Do you believe in God--that he's all-powerful, all-knowing, and as good as good comes? Do you believe he has given his people a Scripture that is all-powerful, all-knowing, and as good as good comes (in fact, it's God's Word)?

If you have doubts about Scripture, then you have doubts about God [and inerrantists will quickly begin having doubts about you!]. That is the inerrantist spirit and what a stifling effect it has on young evangelicals (especially students)! Unless, of course, for whatever reasons, one cannot help but keep asking critical questions and more seriously probing Scripture, pushing it to its limits. Then something awful happens. You realize that Scripture cannot hold the weight that it's supposed to hold. Scripture is not God, but rather more like a book--in fact, uncannily similar to many books of its time. You realize, 'Scripture is not all-powerful, Scripture is not all-knowing, Scripture is not as good as good can be.' But the thing is, who can you tell? To whom could you possibly say, 'I'm not so sure the Bible's inerrant' or 'I'm not finding inerrancy to be helpful any more.' Who has ears to hear this? Your pastor? Your denomination? Your seminary professors?!

Well, if you're like me, it wouldn't matter even if there was someone you could tell because you may initially be too scared to tell anyone, afraid even to face the fact yourself. But I have some advice if you are wont to listen. Start by telling someone who already knows; start by telling God. He already knows about Scripture. In fact, he knows about your doubts. If God strikes you down after you tell him, it won't be because you told him. He already knows about your doubts regarding Scripture; he's learning nothing new from your confession. Many students are scared to tell God that they doubt; some suffer silently as their doubts gain in strength and severity. If the God of inerrancy is fading, what kind of god is left?

This might be a good time to ask a Bible trivia question: Do you know what the most frequent command in the Bible is? It's 'Don't be afraid.'* Is inerrancy helping you obey this command?

* According to N. T. Wright, Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 66.