Do you believe in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Scriptures?
The ideology of inerrancy (without errors) and infallibility (never failing or making mistakes) of the Scriptures is one that depends on many variables. Pertaining to which translation are we asking this question? To which language shall we apply our answer? Is inerrancy and infallibility probable (or possible) when human beings are involved? Do readers bring with them presupposed interpretations of the Bible regarding this question? Is the question about the Scriptures themselves or is it really about our hermeneutics (interpretation skills) of the Scriptures? Without any qualifiers, my answer would have to be, “No, I do not believe that about the Bible.”
However, with certain qualifiers included – If we are speaking about the original autographs, if we can assume that the ideology is not loaded with bias, and if we can agree that inerrancy and infallibility preclude any doubt in our hermeneutics – then I would answer in the affirmative concerning this question; then, and only then, would I answer with a resounding “Yes” to this fundamentalist principle.
But, do we have access to the original autographs? Can we logically say that our minds are a blank slate when it comes to our interpretation of the Scriptures? Or can we honestly believe that we have interpreted the Scriptures in perfect accuracy? “No,” we do not have original autographs, for they are long gone; “no,” we are not absent of presuppositions when it comes to our interpretations (or this question would not be, in fact, a question) and; “no,” we are not perfect in our interpretations of the Scriptures (because we are human beings).
Now, I do believe that when the writers originally “penned” the Scriptures, the writings were divinely inspired. The writers did not write of their own knowledge and will, but that of God’s. Neither were the writers “possessed” – autonomous, as in a trance – when they wrote, but God utilized their minds, vocabularies, characteristics, and experiences to produce the Scriptures. Incidentally, the longevity of the Bible, as well as the accuracy of the copies from the oldest extent manuscripts, speaks volumes concerning its inspiration.
When compared to the oldest Greek manuscripts in existence, the transliterated translations are very accurate. In fact, with the exception of the Latin version (Vulgate), none of the few differences change the message originally penned. Yet, there are errors in the translations and, therefore, not inerrant, nor infallible. In fact, any and every translation is going to have errors simply because we are “translating” from one language into another, and one copy from another will certainly have minor errors. Also, differences from the original manuscripts can be blamed simply on human error – i.e., scribal mistakes, poor condition of manuscripts copied, presuppositions, etc. The differences, again, are minimal and of no threat to the message (in most translations) and of all the translations down through the centuries (again, with the exception of the Vulgate) there is not a single change in orthodoxy (as far as the Scriptures alone go).
As God inspired the original autographs, so God inspires the reading of the Scriptures today when we seek His face concerning them. Though we bring to the table our own dispositions and presuppositions when we read, God is willing and able to work in us that which we need for life and living from the Scriptures. And though I think that the ideology of inerrancy and infallibility brings with it too many variables, I do stand firmly behind the ideology of the Scriptures – in any language – as a necessity (logically speaking) for Christian faith. After all, the first principle of the Christian faith is the Bible, without exception.