Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Non-inerrantists and their inerrantist comrades

I have had an exceptionally tough time with church since leaving inerrancy behind. Maybe it's all those times well-meaning laypeople have told me that there's something more vibrant and special about the inerrantist's faith that rarely appears in the faith of the non-inerrantist. Inerrancy to me is much more than a single doctrine, it's a whole mindset to religion that becomes a burden to the soul, a mindset, I might add, that non-inerrantist churches can very easily retain even if they happen to formally deny the doctrine of inerrancy. I have been trying to work through for a number of years now how a non-inerrantist mindset might get along in an evangelical church that conducts its services and other operations through the assumptions of the inerrantist mindset, whether or not inerrancy is explicitly part of the package. The ecclesial dynamic seems to me to be extremely complex and takes an exceptional amount of patience to functionally work through, an amount of patience, I regret to say, that I have not yet been able to muster.

"Non-inerrantists often assert that inerrantists betray a basic insecurity about a faith based solely on the Christ's word of promise. But if some inerrantists fearfully yearn for a greater certainty, the only adequate and faithful response is the proclamation of the Gospel's 'fear not' spoken in the name of Jesus. The 'fear not' cannot be addressed in the name of assured scholarship and surely it is inappropriate to respond with a barrage of 'difficult' passages. Secondly, if some inerrantists stifle the freedom of the Gospel, the response must be the continued proclamation--in word and deed--of the freedom of the Gospel. If that does not 'work,' then perhaps non-inerrantists should argue with God, not the inerrantists. Being a noninerrantist does not protect the freedom of the Gospel--that is the gift of the Holy Spirit and only the Spirit can maintain it.

Inerrantists ought not be dismissed as simply uninformed or sectarian. Many of their arguments present an occasion for non-inerrantists to ask hard questions of themselves. To adapt Karl Barth's comment on D. F. Strauss, inerrantists may simply be the bad conscience of modern theology." (Richard Nysse, "Inerrancy: Questions from Its Advocates," Word & World 7/3 [1987]: 301,

The non-inerrantist must still deal with the inerrantists' questions seems to be the pastoral wisdom coming from many quarters. But one of the main benefits of becoming a non-inerrantist in the first place is that the inerrantist problematic no longer bears upon the conscience as it once did. So how are non-inerrantists supposed to commune with their inerrantist partners-in-crime? By reliving the very problematic from which they resolved to become free? This doesn't make any sense. The grievance seems to me, then, to be chiefly with God in this matter of dealing with inerrantists in church and school and wherever in a diplomatic way, not primarily with the inerrantist (or with non-inerrantists for that matter). This really is quite a pickle, and not one that I'm happy to know about.