The first time I learned that th Bible was “wrong” about something was while I was at Bible college.
There’s a term that people use sometimes called geocentrism, and what it means is that the earth is the center of the universe. Long ago refuted (Copernicus and Galileo championed heliocentrism in their day, which places the sun at the center of the universe), geocentrism is the predominant worldviewin the world of the bible. Who can blame them? From the perspective of an average Israelite, it really does look like everything is revolving around us.
But it’s still wrong. There’s something WRONG in the Bible.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “Patrick, really? Is this that huge of a deal? Don’t you have some protest to be writing about like you used to?” Truth be told, I don’t think that much of it, and I’ve given up the whole protesting deal for the time being, but there’s an interesting point to make here. Inerrantists are INSISTENT that the Bible cannot, absolutely cannot, have errors in it. While degrees of inerrancy vary from having no errors at all to having no errors in regard to theological matters, inerrantists can’t help but push the unblemished nature of the Bible and trumpet it as ultimate truth over all matters of science and history.
Except geocentrism (and perhaps a few other matters, but let’s stick with this one).
I’ve only on one occasion ever met an individual who believed the Earth was the center of the universe, and needless to say we all were a little unsure of what to say when he openly admitted to it. His reason? “The Bible says it does.” Never mind the works of Kepler, Galileo and Copernicus, who took to studying the skies day and night. Never mind our missions into space. Never mind the Hubble, Voyager, Pathfinder, Curiosity, Viking, or any other probes and satellites we’ve launched and have piled up continuous evidence to the contrary. The Earth is the center of the universe because the Bible says it is, and God wouldn’t lie to us.
Now, you’d be hard pressed to find a theologian who adopted a geocentric view because when we read the Bible talking about the sun standing still, or the sun rising and setting, it’s not some scientific treatise, but a mere matter of the individual’s perspective while he or she writes about something completely unrelated. Very few people have any trouble acknowledging that the Bible isn’t a science textbook.
Mention evolution, cosmology, or differences in historiography, however, and it suddenly is. At our church gathering last Sunday, we were discussing how to best understand Genesis 1 & 2, and the fact that some of us chose to understand the text as a poetical narrative extolling the greatness of the Hebrew God had some people in a bit of a tizzy. One gentleman stood and said, “It does NOT say, ‘This is the poetical narrative of God’s creation. It is the HISTORY of God’s creation.” Pointing out that standards of how history is written differ from time period to time period did not move him; he just sat there with his arms folded.
What I’m getting at in too many words is that, often, Christians refuse to acknowledge the possibility that their understanding of something like biblical inerrancy may not actually hold up to the Bible’s original purpose or a scientific discovery. They cling tight to what they’ve been taught about the Bible without giving it any scrutiny or at least attempting to understand it in its context. Am I trying to say that everything in the Bible is necessarily subject to science and archaeology? No, but our understanding of the Bible does depend on it pretty heavily. We have no trouble trumpeting the discovery of a new scroll detailing the book of Isaiah, but we panic at the mention of Jesus having a wife in a post-card size piece of parchment.
This is where I came to question inerrancy: not because I don’t love the Bible, but because I love the Bible enough to not hold it to my standards, even if that means acknowledging “errors” in the text. We have to answer the findings of science and archaeology; to not do so is poor scholarship.
OK, so there’s a LOT of ground to cover when talking about inerrancy, and this is just scratching the surface. I’m going to be focusing on this for the next few posts, so hold on to your hats, and I’ll see you Friday!