Authority, reliability and inerrancy

I do believe Adam, global flood, etc to be literal events. But, there are true born-again Christians that love Jesus that do not believe these to be literal events. Are they still going to heaven? Yes. So, ultimately, it doesn’t matter if a Christian takes these literally or figuratively.
It’s my personal belief that I believe in a global flood. I do not claim, nor believe, that belief in a global flood is necessary to accept the Bible as authoritative. There are many Christians that do not believe in a global flood and still are saved. But, for myself, if the Bible makes such a large claim of a global flood and it is actually not true, then it makes the Bible more suspect. Judging from how many have clamored for me to debate these, it looks like we all feel the same.
Mithrae wrote: Tue Oct 12, 2021 12:52 pm While rejecting ‘omnipotence’ you maintain that God is ‘almighty,’ suggesting that it’s more an issue of what these words mean rather than envisaging a weak deity.


Once upon a time we had a Jewish member (cnorman perhaps) with a signature line saying something like “The Torah is the word of God… and some of it is even true!” In other words, it is errant but still the ‘word of God.’

Yes, my belief has been influenced by Jewish thinking. It was a 4 hour message from Ray Vander Laan, “The Bible from Jesus’ Culture Perspective 2000 Years Ago”, that really opened my eyes.

The Bible was written (primarily) by Jews and to those familiar with Judaism. We do not really understand their mindset and perspective. We approach the Bible from a western (Greek) mindset and with our modern assumptions. And when we try to approach the Bible from those glasses, things look skewed. So, fundamentally, the issue is not really the Bible, but our own paradigm that we approach in reading the Bible that makes it look “incorrect”.

We’ve discussed one assumption already – that the Bible needs to be perfect. It appears to me the majority of the attacks on the Bible is that it is not perfect. However, this assumption of perfection is from Greek philosophy, not Hebrew philosophy. This standard of perfection also did not exist in the minds of the writers or the recipients (most of them anyway). And the degree of precision that we expect today certainly did not exist during the time of the authors. Dictionaries didn’t exist, they didn’t have access to vast amounts of information at their fingertips, masses did not have college degrees, they did not take high school classes on how to cite sources correctly. I even doubt people had a ruler in their homes.

eternal torture and so on are pretty much the most evil things in human history and human imagination

I do think this perspective is another major barrier to accepting the Bible. There’s a lot to unpack in this, but can dive deeper in this later.

in my case these major problems eventually led to my loss of ‘faith.’

You’re certainly not alone. Another person that has influenced me to think about this topic was Bart Ehrman. He is an eloquent and very intelligent person that was once a devout Christian. There are probably only a handful of people who know the Bible more than him. But now he is an atheist because he could not square up the Bible with the doctrine of inerrancy. And my personal conviction is it is the latter that is flawed, rather than the former. Unfortunately, this doctrine is so embedded into society that even atheists assume it is true.

That’s why I think it’s important to emphasize the fact that even many biblical authors themselves pointed to something better than the written word

No doubt about it. And this is another mentality that has crept into Christianity – that the Bible itself is God. It is not something to be worshipped. It is a pointer to God, not God itself. The Bible is a book about God written by regular people. And it is subject to the same limitations, flaws, imperfections like all other books.

However, it can still be trustworthy, authoritative, and our ultimate guide in understanding God and Jesus.

nobspeople wrote: Thu Oct 14, 2021 10:43 am If we accept the bible has errors, omissions, contradictions… how are we to determine which items are ‘correct’ and which are ‘in error’?

Same as with any source of authority. There is no authority that is inerrant – government, teachers, professors, police, managers, doctors, politicians, preachers, or even the pope. Though authorities have weight in what they say, not everything they say will be correct. But, that doesn’t mean everything they say is incorrect. So, we need to put on our thinking caps and do some research to find out the truth. It’s similar with the Bible. We need to dig a bit deeper and discern what is the truth.

Mithrae wrote: Thu Oct 14, 2021 11:46 am
Problems undermining the perceived main purpose/s of the bible – These are the issues which are really serious, to my mind. Is the bible meant to teach us to love one another? It endorses and in cases actively commands genocide, slavery, eternal torture and the like, in numerous different sections! Is the bible meant to promote a relationship with God?

I would agree with the thrust of your argument. The strongest arugments against my case would be fundamental flaws in the core teachings and doctrines of the Bible.

I’d hazard a guess that in most cases Christians who refuse to acknowledge factual errors or logical contradictions aren’t at their core doing so out of dishonesty.

There are probably several reasons for this. One is they haven’t really thought through it or seriously studied the Bible (which probably is most of the Christian population). Another possibility is having confirmation bias as Diagoras referred to. Or if they have really thought through it, they don’t want to be considered a heretic and lose their job or position by challenging the doctrine of inerrancy. Probably in most cases, they then become liberal Christians and deny the authority of the entire Bible or an atheist and reject any authority of the Bible.

In my case, I do reject inerrancy, but believe in the authority of the entire Bible and accept many of the fundamentalist/conservative interpretations of the Bible (literal 6 days of creation, literal Adam/Even, global flood, virgin birth, miracles of Jesus, bodily resurrection, etc).

The Bible is authoritative because it contains the collection of the earliest and best records that we have about Jesus Christ. Other non-canonical works exist, such as the Epistle of Barnabas, The Shepherd of Hermas, Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Judas, Acts of Peter, Apocalypse of Peter, Gospel of the Egyptians, Acts of Paul and Thecla, Infancy Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of James, and much more. If anyone wishes, they can read these other works for themselves and decide on their value. Some are good, some are not so good. I personally believe the Didache is worthy of being in the Bible.

From a secular perspective, Jesus Christ also has had the most impact in human history. Our timeline is split relative to his life. In ancient times, time was relative to kings. Now, our time is relative to Jesus Christ, whether you use AD/BC or CE/BCE.

Currently, we are in Christmas season, the biggest holiday season of the year for Americans and for many around the world. This is all based on the birth of Christ. Of course, Easter season is also a major holiday.

There also has been no other single person in human history that has been more influential in books, music, arts, movies, poetry, culture, ethics, etc.

If you look at his life, it was quite unremarkable in the sense that he never wrote a book, was not was a king, was not a military ruler, did not start any institution, was not rich, was not powerful, did not build an empire, didn’t travel to distant lands, and had a rag tag group of followers.

What can account for such a mundane life to result in him being the single most influential person in human history?

If we discount him being divine, he somehow had figured out something that we all don’t know. He had knowledge of something that is not obvious to any of us to become so unique. We all think to be influential, you have to be famous, powerful, or rich. Isn’t these things what practically everyone seeks? Jesus never sought any of these, and yet turned out to be on top of everyone else in human history.

Skeptics might argue Jesus is the product of a legend that developed over time, like Santa Claus. He was just a lucky person to be the recipient of everyone else mythologizing him. But, there was not enough time to have elapsed for that to happen. The “legend” of Jesus appeared pretty much immediately. The books of the New Testament were written shortly after the life of Jesus. And it would’ve been easy for people to falsify any claims that were not true.

For Jesus to have had such a quick and monumental impact in the minds of people, something must’ve happened. For those that accept the miraculous, resurrection from the dead would be the only thing that could account for his uniqueness and historical impact. For those that do not, it would be difficult to pinpoint any other reason for his legacy.

Tcg wrote: Fri Aug 12, 2022 12:04 amHow can one determine the reliability of something that no longer exists?

Exactly. That is one primary reason I think the term inerrancy should be discarded.

Tcg wrote: Fri Aug 12, 2022 12:20 am Yes, I’ve not seen you claim that here or anywhere else that I can recall. Clearly, the Bible was written by humans. The question I have for you is what God’s involvement in the creation of the Bible was assuming you think he was involved. I ask this partly because of the early chapters of Genesis and the creation story/stories.

Really, nobody knows the answer to that question. If someone could write a conclusive treatise on the inspiration of the Bible, they would be world famous.

Though in this thread I do not claim God wrote the Bible, I do believe God was a secondary cause of writing the Bible. God could lead someone to a source, put an idea in someone’s mind, arrange for a meeting with someone, etc. Christians claim this happens to them all the time and even I claim that God does that to me. But, this can’t be objectively demonstrated, so it’s of little value to claim this in a debate setting.

Note even if we don’t know God’s involvement in the creation of the Bible, it doesn’t affect my argument of the authority of scripture. What I argue is it is the text itself that supports if it is authoritative and not the source of the text. Most Christians believe the opposite. If you ask the average Christian why the Bible should be authoritative, I would say it’s because they believe God wrote it and it’s inerrant. Personally, I think this is a weak argument. I believe it should be based on the merits of what the text actually says.

Tcg wrote: Fri Aug 19, 2022 12:04 am

otseng wrote: Wed Aug 17, 2022 10:42 pm
My position is the term is meaningless and it should not be used, so it’s not my burden to define what I think it means.So, to return my original question back to you, do you think our Bible translations are inerrant or errant?Of course, whatever answer you give will be problematic. If you say it’s inerrant, then it is against the definition since scholars define the term as only applying to the autographs. If you say it’s errant, then you are admitting there are errors in the Bible.

My argument in dropping the term inerrancy is it leads to conundrums such as this.

I agree and find your objection reasonable. And as we have already discussed, if it applies only to the autographs as most if not all definitions do, how could anyone possibly support such a claim. We have none to examine. It’d be perhaps like claiming the holy grail was made of the purest gold known to humankind. Oh, do you possess the holy grail? No, but based on the replicas we have of it we know that is true.

At the root of what people are trying to convey is the Bible (autographs, copies, translations) is reliable, authoritative, and trustworthy. I affirm all of this. And I even believe many of the accounts in the Bible to be literal (unlike others who label themselves as an inerrantist).

I’ve been thinking why do so many people strongly hold to the position of inerrancy. I even know people who are scholars who won’t admit they are not an inerrantist. It’s the same dilemma of asking if translations are inerrant or errant. They do not want to admit they are not an inerrantist because it would imply they are an errantist.

The battle over inerrancy or errancy is a false dichotomy. Neither is a correct view of the Bible. And it takes all sorts of twisting, manipulation, and imagination to uphold (as well as attack) either of them. And at the root, it’s because the words are meaningless (not sure this is the right term, but can’t think of any other way to describe the word).

Though the term is meaningless, it is still very possible to defend what the word is trying to convey. And in this thread, I show that it’s possible to defend the Bible as being authoritative, reliable, and trustworthy without holding to inerrancy.

Athetotheist wrote: Fri Mar 10, 2023 8:26 pm If inerrancy doesn’t invalidate any religious text you consider false, then what does?
I’m saying inerrancy is not relevant as a factor in any discussion. A text is trustworthy if it is corroborated by external evidence. If there’s a lack of external evidence, then its veracity is suspect.
Athetotheist wrote: Sat Jul 29, 2023 3:58 pm This isn’t about the Jews. It’s about you claiming to treat the Torah like any other book in this thread and then ascribing special merit to part of the Torah.

My starting point is reading the Bible like any other historical document, with no assumption of inerrancy. Then by analyzing the text and external evidence, I come to the conclusion that it is authoritative.

If you’re conceding that it’s not all profitable for doctrine, then you’re conceding that a false statement is made in 2 Timothy 3:16. If any false statement is made in Christian scripture, all of it is cast into doubt.

False dichotomy. It’s not either it is all true or all of it is cast into doubt. There is no document that can hold to your standard. Just because any document has a false statement does not mean all of it is cast into doubt.

That relegates the Christian Bible to being no better than any other document.

It’s no better than any other document in that inerrancy is not assumed. But even without inerrancy, it is rational to accept the Bible is reliable and authoritative, as what I’ve been arguing for in this massive thread.

Athetotheist wrote: Tue Aug 01, 2023 10:51 pm  Then why do you keep referring to it as “authoritative” and “reliable”?
Because the Bible is the highest authority on Christian doctrine, faith, and practice. We can rely on the testimony of the Bible in regards to historical, moral, and spiritual claims. It contains the testimony of Jesus Christ and what he has done for us.

Athetotheist wrote: Wed Aug 02, 2023 10:25 pm [Replying to otseng in post #3001

Then how should a text be determined to be authoritative?

For one thing, by inerrancy.

Again, are there any authoritative documents that are inerrant?

Not even sure why you’re trying to focus so much on inerrancy. From the very premise of the OP, we are assuming the Bible is not inerrant. If you’re going to assume inerrancy is true to argue against the Bible, that is for another thread.

Athetotheist wrote: Thu Aug 03, 2023 10:03 pm [Replying to otseng in post #3012

Then how should a text be determined to be authoritative?

For one thing, by inerrancy.

That means no document can be authoritative, except with the possible exception of the Bible and other religious texts which people claim to be inerrant.

So, you’re saying there do not exist any documents outside of religious texts that are authoritative?

Again, are there any authoritative documents that are inerrant?

I assume you’re taking the position that the Quran and Book of Mormon are authoritative.

I’m not referring to religious texts, but any text – constitutions, contracts, dictionaries, wills, deeds, rules, papers, text books, journals, rule books, etc.

Athetotheist wrote: Thu Aug 31, 2023 12:14 am If Jehovah doesn’t author confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), then everything in the Bible should be clear and unambiguous with nothing to “assess”. If the Bible can be variously “interpreted” like any other work, then it’s no more authoritative or reliable than any other work.

Anyone can make up any interpretation. So just because someone can make up any interpretation doesn’t mean the Bible is not authoritative. Hermeneutics is a huge field and it would take forever to dive into that on how to interpret text.

Actually, the fact that it is not “clear and unambiguous” is evidence God inspired it. If it was written by man, then it would be much easier to interpret. Since it’s inspired by an infinite God, we’ll be studying the Bible for a very long time and not be able to fully understand it all.

Athetotheist wrote: Fri Sep 01, 2023 12:08 am If text written by men is so much easier to understand, why are there so many disagreements over the legal, literary and historical writings which you yourself have mentioned?

Exactly my point. The fact that there are disagreements in interpretation of any text does not show they are not authoritative.

You tout the Bible as special and unique, vastly different from other writings, but when its inconsistencies are pointed out you respond with, “Well, there are inconsistencies in other writings……” …….the writings from which the Bible is supposed to be so vastly different.

Inconsistencies in the Bible are granted in this thread. Again, inerrancy is not assumed to be true.

In this thread, I’m not placing the Bible a priori as having a special status. The starting point is the Bible can be treated as any other book. From there, I’m arguing the Bible is special and unique.

Athetotheist wrote: Fri Sep 15, 2023 11:36 pm  Just as men wrote the texts of every other organized religion? If so, how then is the Bible any more reliable or authoritative than those?

As noted by the sheer size of this thread, this requires a long time to address. But for now, we can say it’s differentiated from all other religions in that Jesus was resurrected from the dead and we have empirical evidence for it.

Athetotheist wrote: Sun Sep 17, 2023 12:16 am The sacred status of the Bible in Judaism and Christianity rests upon the conviction that it is a receptacle of divine revelation. This understanding of the Bible as the word of God, however, has not generated one uniform hermeneutical principle for its interpretation. … rpretation

This is one of the possible assumptions going into hermeneutics that can affect the interpretation outcome. So, it’s important to understand at the outset what are the assumptions before starting to interpret the Bible.

As I’ve been stating in this thread, I have not been assuming the Bible has a sacred status and I’ve been approaching the Bible as any other book. Further, there is no assumption the Bible is inerrant in this thread.

Why do I do this? Because I believe it’s circular logic to argue the Bible should have a special sacred status while also assuming it has a special sacred status. Also, there are no textual documents that are inerrant, so assuming the Bible is inerrant would also give it a special status. The Bible should be able to speak for itself and demonstrate it is authoritative and reliable without these special assumptions.

What makes the NT authoritative for Christians? Because it is the most reliable records we have of Jesus and his teachings. And what testifies to Jesus as being special? His resurrection. And of course we all know what I’ll say that backs up the claim of his resurrection.

So, the fundamental issue is on what authority can Christians claim the New Testament is also scripture? The basis is the NT is the most reliable records of Jesus that we have. They are early, with most dating to within a few decades of Jesus’s life. And the next issue is what’s so special about Jesus? What is unique about him is his resurrection from the dead and the fulfillment of prophecies from the Tanakh.

Athetotheist wrote: Thu Nov 09, 2023 10:49 am Applying a higher standard to the Bible is necessary because the Bible claims to be of a higher standard.

In this thread, I’m not presuming the Bible by default has a higher position than other texts. Surprised really any skeptic would disagree with this since they typically balk when a Christian presents the Bible while assuming it does have a divine status.

What I’m doing in this thread is approaching the Bible like any other text, having no more and no less of a status than any other historical document. Then by analyzing it, I’m arriving at the conclusion it is reliable and authoritative and confirming it does have a higher status than other texts.

Athetotheist wrote: Sun Nov 12, 2023 9:14 pmYou’re trying to ride both sides of the fence, admitting that it isn’t inerrant but still claiming that it’s authoritative.

I’ve already discussed this many times. This thread does not assume inerrancy of the Bible. The whole point of this thread is to argue the Bible can be authoritative without the assumption of inerrancy. We have many texts that we consider authoritative (constitutions, laws, references, books, journals), but none of those claim to be inerrant. It is more special pleading that the Bible must be inerrant in order for it to be considered authoritative.

Athetotheist wrote: Mon Nov 13, 2023 9:52 pm None of them have a religion founded on them either.

What are you suggesting? That all religious texts should be inerrant? This would again be special pleading.

Really what is the issue is how should a text be considered authoritative, regardless if it’s a religious or secular document. They should all start from the same starting point and none should have a presumed starting point that is different from another.

No it isn’t, because the Bible is supposed to have a supernatural source whether you want to admit it or not.

For the purposes of this thread, I’m assuming it is not of a supernatural origin and approaching it like any other textual document. Now, I might personally believe it also has a divine origin, but I’m not using that to argue for the authority of the Bible. Again, I’m surprised any skeptic would disagree with this. Every time I see skeptics argue with Christians about this, they say the Bible cannot be assumed to be divine when arguing for the authority of the Bible because that’s just circular logic.

Athetotheist wrote: Tue Nov 14, 2023 10:13 pm And if they all turn out to be errant, one shouldn’t be presumed any more authoritative than the others.

And if a secular text is errant, should it likewise no longer be authoritative?