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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Answering Bible Difficulties

Don Stewart :: Why Do Some Christians Believe the Bible Contains Errors?

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Question 8

Why Do Some Christians Believe the Bible Contains Errors?

The fact is that there are a number of Christians who believe the Bible is God’s divinely inspired Word to the human race, yet also believe it contains some errors or may contain errors. Most believers who hold this view would say the errors are few in number and have nothing to do with the overall message. What causes Christians to believe this? Why do they accept a Bible that may be imperfect?

There are a number of possible reasons:

  1. They Are Convinced That There Are Genuine Errors in Scripture

    For a number of Christians, they hold to an errant Bible because they are convinced that there are genuine errors in Scripture. They see certain problems as unresolvable. Consequently, they assume the only honest thing to do is admit there is an error instead of trying to harmonize something that really cannot be harmonized.

    This position is especially true for those who have done some type of advanced study in secular institutions. Technical problems regarding the Scripture are brought up and no solution is given. The assumption, or in many cases the outright claim, is that the problem is not resolvable. Therefore, errors must be admitted.

  2. They Do Not Believe Inerrancy Is a Biblical Concept

    Some people reject the idea of inerrancy because they do not believe inerrancy is a biblical concept. There is no passage that clearly teaches inerrancy, neither is the word inerrancy used in the Bible. Consequently, the inerrancy issue is a non-issue. They do not think it really matters, one way or another, whether the Bible is totally inerrant. Any errors in Scripture would be only in the incidental details that really have nothing to do with the main message. Thus, we should not spend time in all the minute details of Scripture but rather proclaim the message of Christ and His forgiveness of sin. Since there seem to be errors in Scripture, the concept, as well as the term, should be abandoned.

  3. Inerrancy Is a Purely Negative Concept

    There is also the rejection of inerrancy because it is a negative concept; the Bible does not contain errors. Instead, we should be emphasizing the positive message of Scripture. The real message of the Bible is true even if there are a few small errors here and there. Consequently, they want to be positive about the nature of Scripture so they emphasize that the Bible is God’s truth to humanity even though there may be a few errors.

  4. They Do Not Believe Denial of Inerrancy Leads to Unbelief

    Others do not see the logic of their position. They have accepted the fact that the Bible contains certain errors, but the idea does not bother them. They have not really thought through what this may mean or they are not convinced that it will lead to unbelief. While not everyone who accepts a Bible with errors will ultimately deny its truth, there is certainly nothing stopping people from doing such a thing.

  5. Certain People May Want to Appear Scholarly or Intelligent

    There is also the likelihood that some people who deny inerrancy do so to appear wise in the eyes of others. This is especially true for those who work in academia. They want their colleagues to accept them as informed and intelligent. They do not want to appear to be ignorant. Thus, they accept the prevailing idea among non-believing scholars with respect to the inerrancy of Scripture.

  6. Some May Want to Have an Excuse for Not Obeying God’s Word

    The final reason why certain believers reject the idea of inerrancy has nothing to do with actual problems in Scripture; a belief that the Bible does not teach inerrancy, or some intellectual crisis they are having. Some people use the idea of an errant Bible to disobey certain of the commands found in Scripture. While this is not necessarily true of every Christian who rejects the idea of biblical inerrancy, it is true of some. By accepting the idea that the Bible has errors, this gives a person the excuse to obey, or disobey, portions of Scripture as they so choose. The reason for the rejection of inerrancy is not so much an intellectual crisis but a moral crisis.

Response

Whatever the reason, there are a number of Bible-believing Christians who do not accept the idea that the entire Bible is free from error. However, the idea that God’s Word somehow contains errors is not consistent with the totality of the teaching of Scripture on the subject. In fact, it is totally contradictory to it. A number of points need to be stressed.

First, while there are difficulties in Scripture, these difficulties are not the same as proven errors. Indeed, most difficulties have plausible solutions. Those difficulties that do not presently have an obvious solution should not be assumed to be errors. This is because of the nature of the Bible. It is God’s Book—His God-breathed Word. He does not lie. As the God of truth, He would not mix truth with error in His Word. If so, humans would be in the hopeless position of determining which was which. An error-filled revelation from God is as bad as no revelation at all. No consensus would ever be arrived at to determine which parts should be believed and which parts rejected.

Thus, those who reject the idea of inerrancy, either because the Bible does not use the word, or does not specifically teach the doctrine, are not being genuine with all the data. There really is no other conclusion to come to when the entire teaching of Scripture is considered.

While the salvation of the lost through Jesus Christ is the main message of Scripture, it certainly does not follow that there are no other important truths in Scripture. One of these truths is that the living God has accurately, truly, and inerrantly revealed His truth to humankind through a number of sacred writings that now make up one Book—the Bible.

There is something else. While those who do not think that denial of inerrancy necessarily leads one to unbelief, they are not really thinking through the logic of this position. Non-Christians would have no real basis to accept the truths of Scripture if it was proclaimed to them as a Book that has God’s truth mixed with some error. They could conclude that this does not make the Bible different from any other so-called sacred Book that claims divine truth. Indeed, Islam says that every word of their holy book, the Quran, was dictated by Allah to the prophet Muhammad.

All of it is true. Yet, the Christian would be saying that this is not necessarily the case with their holy Book the Bible. Such a position would not give the non-believer much motivation of investigating the claims of Scripture, or believing it. Why should they?

The position of arguing for a Bible that has errors puts the authority of Scripture into the hands of fallible humans and not an infallible God. We now become the judges of what is, and what is not, God’s Word. Not only are we incapable of doing such a thing, it is really a blasphemous idea to think we should even attempt this.

Thus, we conclude the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture is a vital one for a Christian to hold. Otherwise, there is no firm basis in which to live their own life or to tell others the message of Jesus.

Summary - Question 8
Why Do Some Christians Believe the Bible Contains Errors?

  • There are a number of Christians who accept the Bible as God’s holy Word, yet deny that it is inerrant. The reasons as why this happens can be summed up as follows:
  • First, some Christians believe there are actual errors in Scripture. Consequently, in an attempt to be intellectually honest, they admit this to be the case. Others do not believe the concept of inerrancy is clearly taught in the Bible. Thus, the entire idea is a non-issue. Therefore, they can accept the idea of a few errors.
  • There is also the position that inerrancy is a negative concept that should be abandoned. The message of Scripture is Jesus Christ and His forgiveness of sin; it should be proclaimed in a positive way without insisting the Bible is error-free.
  • Others who think there are errors in the Bible do not feel this takes away from it being the Word of God. They do not believe it will eventually lead people to reject the entire message of Scripture because a few errors exist.
  • In the academic world, there are some believers who reject inerrancy for reasons other than intellectual. They do not want to appear less knowledgeable or less educated than those whom they work with. Consequently, they go along with the majority of non-Christian scholars who reject inerrancy.
  • Finally, there are personal reasons as to why some Christians would claim errors in Scripture. This is done because of a certain sin, or sins, in their life.

It has absolutely nothing to do with intellectual problems with the Bible. By denying inerrancy, one may assume they can escape their responsibility to be obedient to the totality of Scripture.

Can the Scripture Be Trustworthy If It Makes Mistakes in Scientific and Historical Statements? (Limited Inerrancy) ← Prior Section
What Is the Difference Between a Difficulty and a Contradiction? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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