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Bird voices a concern about a view of biblical inerrancy combined with a rationalistic interpretation of the Bible. He says that such a view is “pastorally dangerous:”

In their theological training, [Erhman and Bell] were given shallow and terse multiple-choice answers to deep questions and were never equipped with a proper hermeneutical tool kit to deal with the ambiguity or complexity that they can be confronted with in scriptural study and application.

Inerrancy as defined in the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy does not provide a detailed hermeneutic on how to interpret the Bible. Often, the doctrine of inerrancy is used to support rationalistic/modern interpretations of Scripture. The Bible, however, does not support that worldview. Instead of changing the interpretation, which the interpreter perceives as hand-in-hand with inerrancy, the interpreter rejects unreservedly the doctrine of biblical reliability.

Bird provides an apt description of this view of biblical inerrancy: “It produces not a faith seeking understanding, but a rationalism seeking certainty.” The character of God as testified to in Scripture identifies Scripture as a reliable document; it is, after all, God’s word. But we should not be reductionistic in our application of inerrancy. Let the Bible speak for itself.

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I started reading Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy. It was heavily discounted at SBL ($8). It was also the subject of debate at ETS this year. Here’s one thought-provoking quote from the book:

Here inerrancy is not a conclusion drawn from exhaustive investigation into the veracity of Scripture’s claims but a rule for reading Scripture in ways consistent with the conviction that God is truthful. Inerrancy establishes both a set of expectations about the text and the condition of sound readings of the text.

For Geisler, this definition of inerrancy, which is established on the truthfulness of God and the identification of Scripture as God’s word, precludes the biblical authors from using certain genres. So basically, just suggest midrash and gospel in the same sentence and you will raise a firestorm of debate.

I have a confession. I am an inerrantist. I think the doctrine makes sense with the teachings of Scripture. I also think that genre gives us rules for reading too. Genesis 1 is not a scientific account about the beginning of the world; reading it as such breaks the rules for reading this text (Genesis 1 says a lot more!). If the creation of the world did not occur the way Genesis 1 lays it out, I don’t think that sinks inerrancy. Moses may not have intended that text to be read that way.

So the question is: does that definition of inerrancy provide the absolute answer for what genres can and cannot be used? I don’t think it does. While I don’t think the gospel writers employed midrash, I don’t think it’s helpful to argue against that interpretation with the assertion that it violates inerrancy. Provide a better interpretation too.

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