“Inerrancy is not and can never be a doctrine that respects the Bible. It is a framework imposed on the Bible and which is antithetical to giving the Bible respect, to say nothing of authority.”
So says James McGrath at the Exploring our Matrix blog.
Maybe I don’t understand the teaching about biblical inerrancy. But it seems to me it is a useless doctrine anyway. Only the original autographs, the first texts written down, are inerrant according to the doctrine. We do not have those. So until we discover some of those originals, any Bible we have will be errant.
McGrath’s post is mostly about harmonizing scriptures that seem to contradict each other. He uses the example of the genealogies of Joseph (Matthew 1:16 and Luke 3:23). Matthew and Luke do not agree. People rush in to harmonize the two passages. But the simplest explanation is that they really do not agree.
Is it respectful of the Bible to force them to agree? Or is it more respectful of the Bible to let the Bible be the Bible and let Matthew tell the story his way and Luke tell the story his way?
Some progressives think that the reality that the Bible is not verbally inerrant gives leeway for an any-thing-goes kind of theology. Some conservatives think agreeing that the Bible doesn’t have the quality of inerrancy means that you have started down that slippery slope toward an any-thing-goes kind of theology. (see the comments on McGrath’s post).
But there are alternative approaches. I will pick up with the approach of Jaroslav Pelikan in another post.