What is the point of ‘inerrantism’?

A belief in the inerrancy, in some sense of that term, of the texts which are combined to make The Holy Bible is common in Christianity. What are the advantages of such a belief?

It seems there are at least two key benefits. The first is ‘epistemic simplicity’. This in turn seems to apply to two major questions: 1. Where are important truths? In The Holy Bible. 2. Is this written here in The Holy Bible true? Yes. One doesn’t need to worry about where relevant truths about how to live in the large part may be found, or whether one needs to sift falsehood from truth where those truths are to be found.

The second key benefit is that believing a certain source is inerrant will lead one to seek truth from that source. I.e., the belief will cause one to seek usefulness in the texts. This is useful if, indeed, there is significant truth or usefulness to be found in the texts.

So, what is the problem with an inerrantist approach?

One problem with the supposed first benefit is that it often evaporates to an extent, because saying that the texts (or the original texts from which we now have copies) are inerrant doesn’t actually specify in what way they are inerrant. How is one supposed to interpret the texts (including language, culture, symbolism, intent, relevant importance, and so on)? How does one synthesize seeming contradictions? That is, by saying they are inerrant, one is saying “Under some interpretation, they are true.” This can end up saying surprisingly little in some cases.

A problem with the second supposed benefit is that it leads to someone taking on board as true, whether on not they make sense, all sorts of things. This can easily swamp the relevant truths that might be in the Bible, or at least make it feel that way until the person has been able to interpret the rest of the truths correctly.

On the other hand, one interesting thing about the second supposed benefit is that one can get a similar sort of benefit without being an inerrantist. For example, if one believes there is warrant for there being significant truth in certain interpretations of parts of the Bible, because there are traditions or practices which make use of them and are in turn useful. In this case, one has motivation (although perhaps not as much motivation as an inerrantist) for seeking truth in certain Christian texts, without feeling one must make sense of everything in them.

So, one can focus more time on what works or seems like it might work, and less on worrying about things that don’t seem to make sense presently. (Of course, sometimes it’s useful to focus on things that don’t seem to make sense, as that can signify a potential breakthrough. The point still applies, however.)

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