Thursday, January 13, 2011

I don't care about the doctrine of Scripture (well sorta)

Recently I was going back and thinking through some of the books I have read on the biblical interpretation and what Christians believe concerning the Bible. No little writing has been produced, critiqued, praised, and caused so much division as the beliefs one holds concerning scripture. Many of you might not have any idea what I'm talking about, but have heard terms such as "inerrant," "infallible," "inspired," and the like. Many denominations have very specific statements on the Bible. It might be helpful to define some of these words used to describe what is called the doctrine of Scripture.

inerrant- without error
inspired- divine guidance
infallible- not able to fail

Throughout the last year I have come to a conclusion about these words and the doctrine of Scripture. I REALLY DON'T CARE. In my opinion, the best definition of one's view of scripture comes from comes from Scot McKnight in his book The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible.

In this book he recounts a meeting he had with a student. And rather than me messing up what was said, I will simply quote from his book. The following is found on page 94-95.

A student sat in my office one day when he turned our conversation to the right set of beliefs about the Bible. His observation: "Why does my youth pastor ask me all the time if I still believe in the 'inerrancy' of the Bible?" I was about to explain to him the history of the doctrine of Scripture and the battles Christians have wages over the Bible when he interrupted me with these words (and this is how he said it): "You know, Scot, I really don't give a damn what my youth pastor's view of the Bible is because he doesn't give one frickin' dime to the poor and he's never met a homeless person in his life and he didn't even know about Darfur when I mentioned it to him at Christmas." This student was obviously a bit worked up, so I sat back to listen.

He continued: "My view of the Bible is this: I read it often--not every day-- and I do what I think God tells me to do. I don't make much money, but I give" --he was about to tell me what percent he gave to the poor but stopped himself because he thought it might be self-congratulatory. Then he asked a pointed question, a good one: "What good is 'inerrancy' if you don't do what God says?" Then he asked a question that shook me a bit: "If I do what God says, doesn't that show that my view of the Bible is the right one?"

Many churches and denominations make one's view of scripture the litmus text for orthodoxy or whether or not someone gets tagged with the dreaded (and many times unfounded) label of "liberal." These churches and denominations can then by labeling a church/person/denomination as unorthodox or liberal, can dismiss them entirely without taking seriously what they are saying. Sadly all of this back and forth and labeling is an exercise in missing the point.

A correct doctrine of scripture MUST include action. So instead of arguing definitions or participating in a labeling of churches/denominations/people, maybe we should be more focused on doing what Scripture says.

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