Is Bible inerrancy a key doctrine for christians?

Difficult issues series


The inerrancy of the Bible has become a divisive doctrine in recent years. Many churches and colleges, in the US in particular, treat this as a “make or break” doctrine, lecturers have been sacked for denying it, and accusations are made against those who hold a different view. At the same time, a growing number of christians, it seems, are questioning the doctrine or saying flat out that it isn’t true.

Is the doctrine worth the fight? Is it necessary to hold it, or the whole of our faith is thrown into doubt? Is it even true?

This post is a summary of what I have written in In what way is the Bible a special book?, and if you want to consider this matter further, please check out that page.

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Face to face with the Old Testament

Old Testament scholar

The Old Testament presents a number of problems for many christians. We are taught it is the inspired Word of God, yet it contains many things we find difficult – Genesis 1-3 is contradicted by evolution, God commands his people to invade and kill, and there are some strange events that are hard to swallow (e.g. the Nephilim, Noah’s Ark, God trying to kill Moses but not succeeding, and a talking donkey).

The Old Testament is probably a major reason why many people brought up as christians reject their belief, and it probably causes far more difficulties to christians than the New Testament does.

For many years, I put the problems aside. Jesus was the basis of my faith, and the New Testament told me all I needed to know about him, and how to follow him. I read the Old Testament mainly for understanding Jesus as a Jew, and I left the problems on the backburner.

But a couple of years ago, I started to pray that God would show me how to understand the difficult and nasty parts of the Old Testament, and then I read a few good books on the topic. Whether God has answered that prayer or not is not for me to judge, but I have certainly come to some conclusions…..

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Old Testament God angry, New Testament God loving. Right? Or wrong?

Painting of God

In the Old Testament, God, who is variously known by names like Elohim, Yahweh, Adonai and El Shaddai, is active, angry and violent – talking to Moses, defeating armies, guiding by pillars of smoke and of fire, and threatening those who disobey.

But in the New Testament, God seems to be more relaxed – a voice at Jesus baptism and not much else – while Jesus, and later the Spirit, take centre stage.

Is this a fair picture, a caricature, or totally wrong? What should christians think about the Old Testament picture of God, especially the violence he seems to sometimes initiate?

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When the Bible becomes a reason to disbelieve

Reading the Bible

I began this blog almost 4 years ago with a post that included this comment:

“In recent years I have met, mostly on the web but also in person, many believers who struggle with some aspects of their faith that they feel no longer seems right. They don’t have significant doubts about Jesus, but they do have doubts about some of what they have been taught.”

In the subsequent 4 years, many christians have emailed me via this blog, asking questions about their faith. For some it has been some doctrines that didn’t cause them to doubt Jesus, but for some, unanswered questions about the Bible have led them to the edge of the cliff of giving up their faith.

It seems there is a growing crisis of faith in the Bible, and there is more than one way to respond. Which way is right?

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CS Lewis on the Bible, history and myth

CS Lewis was one of the most influential christian writers of the past century. His view of the Bible comes from his expert knowledge of ancient literature, history, language and culture.

I think he points us to a better and more faithful understanding of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, that can help us all understand difficult aspects and explain them to others.

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