This subject may not be relevant or familiar to those not taught it is essential to believe that the Bible is infallible. The Bible has been interpreted to imply God controlled what human beings wrote down: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteous” (II Tim. 3:16). This doesn’t fit with my view of God’s uncontrolling love evidenced by God’s lack of interference in the world in decisions made contrary to God’s wishes. This matter is important because interpretations may suggest God authorized, because God breathed it, genocide, slavery, or other atrocities. God’s reputation is at stake!
I began to realize insisting the Bible is infallible entails a major assumption. It seems to me that to insist the Bible is infallible implies God somehow verbally dictated the words to the writers, rather than gave the writers the freedom to use their minds in writing. God always gives writers the freedom to misunderstand and grow in their understandings of God. We also cannot prove that God somehow magically controlled over time which Books only should be recognized as Scriptures without error. God-breathed, which could only mean the Old Testament since the NT had not been formed when Timothy written, can mean God used Bible writings to reflect upon what God is really like with the help of the Spirit (Jn. 14:16).
The Bible can still be inspired by God while accepting God is not controlling, allowing an author the freedom to write the words they did. Many problems with the Bible can be resolved when considering the challenges in interpreting writings. Genesis is often thought to contradict science. The writers may have not intended “in the beginning” to be a strict, literal account. The writers may not have intended parts of Genesis to be an exact literal report as opposed to a rendering to explain essential spiritual truths. Adam and Eve may have been a representation of humankind but consequences for sin are real.
Claiming the Bible isn’t infallible doesn’t declare the entire Bible fallible or everyone’s opinion is right. Some interpretations are clearly wrong. God, unlike terrorists, would never violate one’s freedom to believe in God or not. It is always necessary in literature to discern a writer’s intended meaning. The OT speaks of God’s involvement in wars, but the NT says to turn the other cheek to our enemies. The main message of the Bible is clear. Essential truths about God are obvious. Maps that aren’t perfect still get us to our destination.
Many problems occur when the focus is on a Book than a personal relationship with God:
- When we insist the Bible is infallible, we often end up defending our interpretations as infallible. We become dogmatic in our views, failing to acknowledge that an author’s meaning in ancient literature is always subject to interpretation. Sincere people have different opinions of the same biblical passage or topic suggesting that discernment and a flexible attitude have always been necessary as we rely on God’s help in our relationships.
- When we insist the Bible is infallible, we often feel compelled to play mental gymnastics in defending certain actions contributed to God in the Bible. We fail to recognize our interpretations are disputable, thus sowing discord over God because the Bible supposedly says so. Thousands and thousands of different denominations, formed due to their understanding of Scriptures, attests to this. The Bible was meant for reflection than arguing over one’s view. God didn’t promise an inerrant Book but God’s spirit in guiding us.
- When we insist the Bible is infallible, the Bible is thought to be a magical book of rules rather than a book for reflections in one’s individual situation. When Jesus said turn the other cheek, He wouldn’t advise a woman to allow an abusive husband to continue to hit her. Read the Bible as stories about God’s desire for a relationship as you reflect upon your own personal circumstances.
- When we insist the Bible is infallible, we worship the Bible as an idol as opposed to who the Book is about. Our interpretations become the authoritative voice rather than God’s personal voice to each of us. The Bible can’t be God’s only form of communication because the majority born into this world didn’t have a Bible. The Bible was God accepting human means available to communicate to as many people as possibly what God is really like while not condemning those who unselfishly misunderstand it or never had a chance to read it.
I am still convinced there are often plausible interpretations that don’t contradict our intuitive sense of a loving God. If God and the Bible teach that God proclaims authority roles are based on gender than gifts, why did the Apostle Paul assume that women could prophesy just like men during worship (I Cor. 11:5). When the Bible says: “Women should remain silent in the churches” (I Cor. 14:34), maybe the writer would encourage men to be silent in certain situations for the sake of peace. It has been argued that many of the Old Testaments laws attribute inhumane actions to God. The Laws could also illustrate that God doesn’t simply override freedom to determine one’s own laws. But, we don’t have to get bogged down in rationalizations about God because the Bible supposedly says so.
I am concern those on the fence about God may be opposing supposed views of God and not who God really is. We do not have to assume the Bible is infallible. Neither do we have to assume the Bible doesn’t have truth about God. Avoid people who don’t listen carefully and respond respectful to your concerns about the Bible. What beliefs about God do you question that may keep you from leaning toward as opposed to away from God? Don’t allow others’ understanding of God keep you from exploring your own views. Faith in a God who cannot be seen always involves intuitions of the heart.