Innerancy or Inherency? Reorienting the Issue

In the last few hundred years there has been a lot of talk among Christians about "inerrancy". In the last few months, this has been particularly true of Christian bloggers. Often, we see polarized views: A) The Bible is inerrant or B) The Bible is errant. Others attempt to take a position somewhere in between these two poles. Some want to hold on to what seems like traditional language; they want to keep the term "inerrant" but they may redefine it or add a nuance here and there.

I wonder, though, if the debate about inerrancy is actually more of a debate about inherency? To put it differently, when persons affirm one position or another, is it because theologically, they have inherent beliefs about who God is (or isn't) and what the Bible is, isn't or cannot be? It seems to me that this is always the case. There always seem to be inherent concepts of both what God and this book that contains a narrative of how God interacted with certain ancient peoples must, must not or can and cannot be.

Inherent in the idea that the Bible is inerrant is the theological supposition that God is trustworhty. But also inherent is the notion that somehow, God was involved in the composition of this book that is made up of many books. It is at this intersection that we can raise questions: 1) What does it mean for God to be trustworthy and 2) does that have anything to do with the book(s) that make up the biblical canon? I will not attempt to give an answer here, instead my goal is to simply illustrate that the notion of inerrancy might be based on questions of inherency. The same is true for those who hold that the Bible is errant. Questions arising here might be: 1) Can humans do anything that calls God's trustworthiness into question, and 2) If not, how then, can a humanly composed book put God (and God's trustworthiness) on trial?

As for the questions I've raised above, I may be off a bit on those. Just as well, there may be other questions that are more "inherent" than the ones I've selected. If so, that's fine. My aim here was not to define or defend inerrancy but rather to attempt to move beyond (or perhaps behind) the issue and ask deeper questions about inherency. It seems clear to me that inherency is an issue worth talking more about because without a doubt, whatever position one takes on issues pertaining to inerrancy, there are always inherent presuppositions and assumptions. Perhaps, then, that is where our conversations should begin (and end)!

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