I’m facing a council tomorrow whose purpose is to determine my fitness for ordination. As part of that, I’m working through a number of theological issues that haven’t been dusted off since seminary, trying to figure out what my position is and how I will state it.
Take bibliology, for example. Bibliology is the branch of theology that deals with scripture. I minister at an independent Baptist church, one that is conservative in theology. Part of that theology takes a standard line in conservative, fundamentalist evangelical lingo: the Word of God/Scripture/Bible is inerrant in the original manuscripts.
Now, I can’t tell you the history of the belief in inerrancy. I’m sure I studied it at some point, and I’m positive that one of my dictionaries, systematic theologies, or tomes on Scripture can inform me if I so desire. But I do understand why inerrancy is such a big deal to so many people. Inerrancy gives a foundation for faith. It says that, as much as the Bible we have matches what was originally written whenever the first manuscript of Zephaniah was composed, it is God’s Word with no mixture of error of any kind, and we can then say that (insofar as it matches the original) it speaks utter and complete Truth – on matter as varied as faith, science, philosophy, and psychology, to name a few. The original manuscripts, then, become the base foundation for anything and everything someone believes. And if you take away inerrancy, then it jeopardizes the entire faith system that was built on that foundation.
Inerrancy is a big faith issue in the circles in which I minister.
And I have a problem in that I don’t believe in inerrancy; at least not the kind of inerrancy that I was taught in college and seminary. I don’t believe that basing our faith on a set of non-existent documents (those original autographs inerrantists love to tout) is a God-honoring placement of our faith.
I choose instead to put my faith in God. I choose to believe that God has used the process by which we have received the Scriptures that we use today in order to identify, communicate, and preserve His word. Rather than basing my faith on saying that God whispered in David’s ear the words to Psalm 23, I would argue that God chose Psalm 23 to communicate something about Himself, whatever the process that was used to place Psalm 23 in the Bible that I use on a regular basis. It may be that God whispered in David’s ear. Or that David sat in a zombie state while the Spirit moved His hand to write out the Hebrew letters of Psalm 23. Or that God used a group of temple priests to examine some of the writings of the illustrious King David and revealed to them the great value of a particular song of David’s that eventually got placed as the 23rd song in a collection of hymns useful for Israelite worship.
The point isn’t HOW God chose the psalm, but rather THAT God chose the psalm of David that begins, “The LORD is my shepherd.” God chose it and uses it to communicate to His people something about Himself, or to comfort them, or to bring them peace, or to lead them to salvation. It’s not in the how. It’s in the that.