Theologians Reject Biblical Inerrancy
The Lutheran is a magazine associated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. In the January, 2000 issue, there is a brief article by Norma and Burton Everist. “The Reverend” Norma Everist, as she bills herself, is a professor of church and ministry at Warburg Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. Ms. Everist’s photo accompanied the article—clerical collar and all. Her husband is a minister for the Lutheran Church.
The Everists were asked their views of the “inerrancy” of the Scriptures. They replied, “This church accepts the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as the inspired word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith and life” (ELCA Statement of Faith).
The statement sounds pretty wonderful, doesn’t it? But be careful—cheese on a trap looks good to a mouse. Read on:
The Scriptures do not need us to defend them. Rather, we need to “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them,” as Luther instructed, so that our words and lives proclaim Christ. The fundamentalist approach sidetracks the meaning of the Scriptures, arguing that the Bible is inerrant in the fields of history, geography, and nature.
This so-called “fundamentalist” concept, Mr. and Mrs. Everist wholly reject. Several comments are appropriate:
It is the epitome of inconsistency to claim confidence in the “canonical Scriptures” in one breath, and then trash the sacred documents in the next. If the Bible is inspired, it is inerrant (without error in its original form); and if it is not inerrant, it is not inspired.
It is correct that the Scriptures stand on their own. They are true whether or not any man (or woman) says so. God will be found credible if every man on earth turns out to be a liar (Romans 3:4). Still, we have a responsibility to defend the sacred writings. Paul was confident that providence had led him to Rome in order that he might be involved in a “defense of the gospel” (Philippians 1:16). And Jude admonished the saints to “contend earnestly for the faith” (v. 3).
Sometimes the claim, “We don’t need to defend the Scriptures,” is made because:
- The person so claiming is basically infidelic anyhow, and so has no interest in defending the Bible. They simply don’t believe it.
- Others cannot make a reasonable case in defense of the Scriptures; they’ve been too preoccupied with other pursuits to be interested in such matters. The issue thus has become irrelevant.
The notion that the Scriptures can be used to “proclaim Christ” though they err in matters pertaining to history, geography, and nature, is absurd. Christianity is a historical matter. If the New Testament is mistaken in its history, how does one know that there is any reliable information about Jesus? There is no comprehensive body of data regarding the Lord apart from the biblical record. One must take that, or else he has nothing upon which to build a case regarding the nature and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth.
Mr. and Mrs. Everist probably are very nice people. But they are shamefully uninformed about the most elementary biblical matters. They have the need that someone teach them the first principles of the oracles of God.
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.