Green Ears, a Bow Tie, and an Inerrant Bible

Check out my friend Byron's interaction with some Emergent Church folk about the inerrancy of the Bible.

Again, I implore us to keep the Bible as our central authority.

We can articulate theology in fresh, and even radically different, ways. But please, please, prove it from the Bible!

To quote Byron, "What is the Bible?" Is the Bible God's Word TO us, or is it man's word ABOUT God?"

When we decide that the Bible is nothing more than man's testimony about God, and not the God-breathed Word from God, then we are relying on the best ideas of men (which is nice, but nowhere near as great as relying on the very WORDS OF GOD!)

Byron Harvey's "A Ticking Time Blog"


Graham Old said...

Do you really believe that we should keep the Bible as "our central authority"?! Doesn't that honour belong to Christ?

Bob Robinson said...


Excellent point.

Maybe we should differentiate between the Incaranate Word (Jesus Christ) and the Living Word of Scripture.

But when it comes to figuring out how to do ministry, what we are going to believe, how we are going to glorify God, etc., then I will indeed keep the Bible central--for it is THE revelation of the Incarnate Word for us to know this stuff!

If not, then we're left with our "opinions." Don't you agree?

Phil Steiger said...

Great points. From time to time I worry about the direction of many in the Emergent movement. I hope we can all keep our feet on solid ground!

lyricano said...

As soon as a being reads, hears or in any way becomes cognizant of the Bible it no longer matters whether "the Bible God's Word TO us, or is it man's word ABOUT God." Unless one believes that the receiver of the Word has perfect and complete knowledge and perfect/complete capacity to understand the Word, the person receiving the Word is using their humanity to understand, therefore the text is being translated by a human for a human. which means it is for all intents and purposes (except for the perfect/complete imaginary person who would then by definition be God) "man's [sic] word about God."

Bob Robinson said...


In a sense, I agree with you. The Bible is a very human book. It was written by humans for humans. But it is also the God-breathed book. Both divinely inspired and humanly articulated. Amazing.

How else would our God reveal himself to his image-bearers, but through the language and images that he has blessed us to use and understand? And how else would he choose to do so, but through his very own people? That's seems to always be his M. O.!

lyricano said...

ergo, there question of inerrancy is nothing more than a debate about angels on the heads of pins.

Graham Old said...

Bob, I'm not sure if I can agree with that statement or not. Given the kinds of issues that Lyricano alludes to, I'm not sure it's sufficient to say that "The Bible" is The revelation of Christ.

Which Bible? Which books should be included? Do we use the LXX? Do we have a greater revelation than the Apostles in the early centuries?

It depends on how the Bible is approached, read, understood and obeyed as to whether it is The revelation or not. The Bible can very often hide the revelation of Jesus, rather than revealing it.

I think that Lyricano's questions are great for not necessarily denying inerrancy, but questioning how useful it is.

lyricano said...

G.O.'s comment is exactly what I would hope for (although I confess that I am not in the fold); that is, since as Bob said, "God reveal[s] himself to his image-bearers, through the language and images that he has blessed us to use and understand" we necessarily are using translating the text and therefore the inerrancy question loses practical relevance. I think that a church which wants to engage postmodernity must learn from the important pomo insight that the text has a life of its own that cannot be controlled and is different for every receiver of the text. ("Text" herein used in its full pomo meaning which includes the Text). Insisting that everyone believe in the inerrancy of the Text only serves to divide and alienate. I would hope for a respectful acceptance that no one knows, therefore, we should not impose our subjective perspective as if it were something more.

Bob Robinson said...

Byron and I have discussed this in the past, so I think he knows what I think (and he doesn't like it).

It's this: While I hold to the doctrine of inerrancy, I simply do not feel that the concept is as relevant to the current mission of the church in reaching postmodern people as he does. It seems to me that it is a battle of an age past--a remnant from the liberal-fundamentalist wars of the middle 20th Century. (For an excellent anaysis of this past battle and how the "left" and "right" both over-reacted, See Nancey Murphy's book, Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism: How Modern and Postmodern Philosophy Set the Theological Agenda).

So while I will defend inerrancy within the camp, it seems like it is not really all that important in the grand scheme of things.

That being said, I don't buy the postmodern idea, as articulated by Lyricano, of a "Reader Response" hermeneutic. He said, "I think that a church which wants to engage postmodernity must learn from the important pomo insight that the text has a life of its own that cannot be controlled and is different for every receiver of the text."

Lyricano, I think that adopting that way of reading the Bible would be insufficient (though, of course the Spirit of God can speak individually as they read the Living Word of God). I'd much rather seek to understand the original intention of the author as the standard by which to interpret--this helps me from tangentally going off on some individualized idea that has nothing to do with God's intention for the text.

What if, to use a wildly hypothetical example :-) , someone were studying Virginia Woolf (of course, Lord knows why anybody would want to do that!). Would it be honoring to her legacy to disregard HER intentions for her texts? Isn't it important to try to get to what she was trying to say rather than what I personally want to make of her words? Would it not be more honorable to try to understand her place in life, her political situation, her desires, her audience, how she used language, etc.? Would I actually be doing MYSELF a disservice if I were to read her writings without any regard to the author's intent?

Rick said...

Dear Bob,

Thank you for this post. I too think we need to keep the Word of God as central. I also think that many however worship the Bible and not the word of God. I too believe the scripture was written by humans inspired by God. I read Paul and am blown away. When we treat scripture as the wordS of God and not the WORD of God we fall into trap of making our bibles idols. Statistically the Evangelical Church has done very little in transforming the world. Our divorce rates are higher than those on the outside, we suck on social justice issues, we don't tithe anymore than the average church goer. The idea that the bible needs to hold authority in our lives has done very little to tranform the church or the world.

The central theme of God's revelation in Jesus Christ was restoration in one form of another of the world... God's dominion. We keep looking to the bible for instruction on how to live moral lives and not how to love.

Graham makes a good point when hes says , CHrist ought to have the honor of central authority. We say CHrist, but too oftn we mean our interpretation of our view of the bible. What about the Apocrypha? Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans use it? Who is the heretic?

Why do we think we need to protect God or defend Christ? We've made our religion about our kingdom and not his. The last time someone attempted to defend Christ he called him Satan and told him to step back.

The bible is central to my faith and understanding of GOd and I've read it everyday for 20 years. Yet I worship GOd and not the bible. Ierrnacy is a very recent and modern understanding of scripture.