Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Not sola inerrancy

After reading through some articles that recount 20th century attempts to purge schools and even entire denominations of non-inerrantists, it has become obvious to me that inerrancy alone cannot account for the degree of spiritual and psychological dysfunction that characterizes the cumulative set of incidents. In a book written back in the 80s (Daniel Sloat, The Dangers of Growing Up in a Christian Home), there is a personality rubric that delineates four main personality trajectories. The pertinent one for the present context is the one the author calls "high-D." This personality trajectory is characterized by the following tendencies (pp. 41-43):

-The person will tend to have a very high opinion of him/herself.

-The person will not tend to be able to stomach discussions that have to do with details.

-The person will tend to be impatient and want to "take action," making sure they are in charge.

-The person will tend to go on the offensive in order to maintain control of situations.

-The person will tend to want to change the way things presently are.

-The person will not likely be moved by others' existential pain and dissatisfaction.

-The person will likely be in a leadership position of some kind.

-The person will tend not to listen to lengthy explanations, preferring a direct answer.

Inerrancy contributes negatively to the spiritual formation of those who have hyper-D (really high D) personalities. Inerrancy will considerably magnify each of the traits listed above and intensify the hyper-D's greatest fear: being taken advantage of. The D-personalities who seem to lead evangelical institutions and congregations so capably have a deep-seated fear, according to Sloat: if they are not in charge, not only will things likely go wrong, but they themselves will somehow be taken advantage of. When this fear is interpreted in terms of evangelical spiritual warfare, the D-personality convinces himself that he must do everything in his power to purge his community of unbelief, lest spiritual enemies take advantage and finally get the better of him. Of course, this thought process is brought about naturally, in accord with the D-personality's emotional and psychological makeup. In fact, the thought process comes so naturally to a hyper-D, he may interpret his easily made decisions as God communicating his will in clear and uncertain terms--and this is an interpretation that others will have an incredibly hard time arguing against.

So it seems to me that it is not sola inerrancy that is killing evangelicalism, it is inerrancy-in-context, in this case, inerrancy in the context of high-D personalities. High-D's will do as they do, driven by their personalities, but the majority will often not be in agreement with their flagrant, self-serving actions. If high- [and especially hyper-] D's could somehow learn to stop and consider how their actions are effecting those around them (in this case, students ) evangelical Christianity would be much easier place to live.