Inerrancy of the Bible and Sarah Palin

June 7, 2011

The two possible meanings of the title of this post are intentional.
It seems to me that the same tactics that Christians who believe in the
Bible’s inerrancy use to deal with evidence to the contrary are the
tactics being used to defend the inerrancy of Sarah Palin (and other politicians – Palin just provides one obvious recent example – and to do something similar with other subjects altogether).

What do inerrantists do when it seems that the Bible, or even Jesus
himself, is wrong? Among the responses are: looking for ad hoc
explanations, things that might have been meant even though
they are less likely meanings of the words/phrase in question, and, when
necessary, rewriting Wikipedia or positing historical events for which
we have no evidence because the Bible – or the politician – must have been right.

I’d like to ask a question to those who take this approach: Where in
the Bible are Christians called to defend the Bible’s reputation? Where
do we find any evidence within the Bible itself of authors concerned to
reconcile every contradiction or avoid any appearance of historical
inaccuracy? In fact, it is precisely the failure of Biblical authors to
provide such reconciliations that leaves inerrantists in the position of
feeling they must do so. But if writing things that contradict what
others wrote, and presenting things that appear to be historically, scientifically,
or otherwise factually untrue, without explaining how the reality is
different than the appearance, was good enough for the Bible’s authors,
why isn’t it good enough for conservative Christians?

I suggested recently that one of the most fundamental elements of Christianity is repentance – acknowledging we were wrong and making efforts to be less wrong in the future.
And one can see a faithful expression of this core Christian conviction
in the history of Liberal Protestantism and its role in developing and
embracing the tools of critical study of the Bible, and the integration of new scientific knowledge.

Admitting the Bible was wrong, admitting Jesus was wrong, when the evidence points in that direction,
is not a denial of the Christian faith, but an expression of one of its
most basic tenets: the fallibility of human beings and the resulting
need to be open to correction.

Originally posted at Exploring Our Matrix.


Define your terms

What do you mean by inerrancy? This word has been used in different ways by different it is incumbent upon you to define what you mean.

Interpreting the Bible can be tricky, but concluding that the Bible "was wrong" or "Jesus was wrong" can be as indicative of arrogance as Biblical error.

We have not suddenly gotten smart. Augustine did not view the creation story as totally literal. Bashing prior understandings of the Bible (in vogue today are those having to do with sexuality) is not necesarily an exercise in intelligence.

If you think the Bible was inspired then it should be approached with reverence. If you don't think it was inspired then you are basically fabricating your own religious beliefs. Have the honesty to admit that.

Yes we ARE "smarter" now

Would you claim that modern doctors are no smarter than Galen, the great second-century physician?

Maybe the "wiring" of human brains isn't any more capable than in patristic times. But we know so much more about God's creation -- including human psychology and sociology -- than they did. 

In computer terms, our "processors" aren't necessarily any better than those of the Fathers, but our "data" is orders of magnitude better than theirs -- a fact which in itself tells the glory of God and proclaims his handiwork.


So many things wrong with this article, but I'll comment on one glaring problem first. The most basic tenet of Christianity is actually in the fact that Jesus Christ is GOD, and the Bible is the Word of GOD. Everything else is secondary. So if somehow your faith ever leads you to a point where you say that God is wrong, you may want to rethink everything that you percieve to be true. Strictly speaking, that's Satanic, in so far as that's exactly what Satin said in the garden to Adam and Eve. God is not wrong. He cannot be wrong.

I find it ironic that you asked "where in the Bible are Christians called to defend the Bible’s reputation?" in an article to defend your own point of view. I mean, where in teh Bible does are Christians called to point out to everyone all of its own "errors"?

Any examples of where the Bible is wrong? And where Jesus was wrong? I'm just curious...

Jesus was clearly wrong in predicting his imminent return

Jesus was clearly and demonstrably wrong in (purportedly) predicting his imminent return in Matthew 24.3-6, 30-35:  "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened."

So which is it: Did the author of Matthew erroneously attribute these statements to Jesus (in which case we should ask, what else did the author get wrong), or was Jesus incorrect?

Even if we assume Jesus was God -- an assumption contrary to the clear weight of the New Testament writings -- kenosis would imply he was not infallible.

Thoughts on Matthew 24

My response centers on your critique of "Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."

I don't believe you can claim Jesus was wrong in his words. By reading the previous verses (I'm thinking starting at verse 3 and finally ending with verse 35) it is clear "this generation" refers to the generation of people who are experiencing the trials foretold by Jesus.

Jesus personally admits he does not know the specific time or day of his coming (as you claimed he did, because that is how you claim he is contradicted). Verse 36 reads, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

However, Jesus does know the signs which will point to his second coming, and he tells his followers to look for them. He didn't give a day, a year, or an hour. He gave a warning signal, a set of conditions upon which his followers should be observant for. Since these things have not yet happened, and Christ has not yet returned, it would be wrong to conclude that Jesus himself was wrong.

"This generation" can't mean what you say

> By reading the previous verses (I'm thinking starting at verse 3
> and finally ending with verse 35) it is clear "this generation"
> refers to the generation of people who are experiencing
> the trials foretold by Jesus.

Jesus' followers certainly didn't think that was the case. As time went on, they became increasingly restless, wondering why their teacher hadn't returned.  The apostles' writings start to sound increasingly defensive in urging believers to be patient, Jesus really is coming back Real Soon Now, you just wait .... See, e.g., 1 Thess. 4.15-17; 1 Peter 1.13, 20; 2 Peter 3.3-10; James 5.7-9.

And let's not forget Jesus' putative words to the high priest, in Mark 14:61-63, clearly implying that he (Jesus) would return in triumph within the lifetime of his priestly prosecutors:

Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?"  "I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."  The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked.  [Emphasis added.]

So the notion that "this generation" somehow refers to the people who would be alive at some unspecified future time simply doesn't comport with the available evidence.

So, Jesus = Harold Camping

I wonder if Steve Thorngate, David Henson or others in the liberal christian community believe mockery is the appropriate response?


It seems to me that the same tactics that critics--who believe that the Bible's full of errors, contradictions and a misguided, misquoted Jesus--use to deal with the evidence to the contrary are the tactics being used to destroy the otherwise decent reputation of Sarah Palin.

Yep, it says a lot

Even though Sarah Palins recent comments regarding Paul Revere are found to be historically accurate, liberals keep telling us she was wrong because they want to believe Sarah Palin is always wrong.

These liberal commentators are doing the same thing to Jesus and the Bible for pretty much the same reasons.

Spam Comments

Its pretty interesting that the spam comments are always added with usernames and thus bypassing moderation.

Yes, we're working on

Yes, we're working on that--logged-in users bypass moderation, but unfortunately the spambots have figured out how to log in.

peculiar biblical justifications

I could not agree more with the perspective from which this blog is written. We have a near-by congressman who loves to show "Christian" and put down thoughts of loving one's neighbor when it comes to health care. I am sick and tired of calling out "Lord, Lord" and ignoring the broaden lovingness of the Master. If that is wrong headed, I have willing to have that judgmental standard applied to me.
Robert Colle

Peculiar Indeed

you agree with the perspective of this article, which is basically Christian deconstructionism, yet you evoke "lovingkindness-of-the-Master" talk? Seems to me you are confused. I see just as many liberal politicians pulling out the religion bag when they need it, it's just in a different form (the "least of these" should be taken care of with government programs which, not coincidentally, give the liberal, Christian-when-it-suits-his purpose, politician more power and adoration).