I was recently in a discussion at the skeptic site NW Ohio Skeptics (now defunct, 3/2017), and got into a discussion about the differences between Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, and one topic that came up is that of inerrancy. While I think all Fundamentalists hold to a plenary inerrancy, I don’t think that that position is the only one among evangelicals.
First check out Daniel Wallace’s great essay My Take on Inerrancy.
Then, check out the diagram I made comparing the different types of Christianity and their stands on different doctrines, including inerrancy – Neo-fundy Doctrines?
Now, you are ready to read my explanation of how I view inerrancy, and how I think many Evangelicals view it – but I bet there is a bit of diversity on this topic in Evangelicalism.
How I (an Evangelical of sorts) view inerrancy
- We believe that the bible is inerrant in all that it TEACHES – that is, a type of dynamic translation inerrancy, not a verbal one.
- Some of us believe that the original autographs were verbally inspired, and despite the fact that we only have a 95+% facsimile of the original autographs, that is enough to have confidence in the individual words, which means word study is still meaningful.
- Whatever minor imperfections lie in the text or translations do not matter, partly because they don’t affect the major doctrines of Christianity, but also because we depend on the process of ILLUMINATION by the Holy Spirit to instruct us, not just intellectual understanding. In this sense, though we use our reason, it is more of a rudder in study, while the experience and teaching of God is the engine. To think of it another way, we see the Bible as a sign pointing the way TO an experience with God, so when we are meeting w/ God, the imperfections in scripture mean less.
- We like to claim that the bible is inspired without it having to be inerrant. What that side-step really means is hard for me to put my finger on – I guess we can just claim the authority and specialness of scripture without having to be verbal inerrantists.