Can the Bible Be Trusted?

William Lane Craig offers some very helpful insights in resolving Biblical inerrancy and apparent Bible difficulties.  That Christians believe the Bible "literally" is easily misunderstood because the Bible is a collection of literature and genres written nearly 2000 years ago.  Now, some take that fact to justify making the Bible simply a book of antiquity with wise teachings or even a reason to reject Christianity.  Dr. Craig, I think, brings some important nuance to Biblical inerrancy while affirming that doctrine.  Read the whole piece carefully.

Now the question raised by your letter is what our reaction should be if we become convinced that there really is an error in the Bible.  Won’t such a conclusion have a kind of reverse effect along our chain of deductive reasoning, leading us to deny Jesus’ resurrection and deity?  This was apparently the conclusion of Bart Ehrman, who says he lost his faith in Christ because he discovered one minor error in the Gospels.

Such a conclusion is unnecessary for two reasons.  First, we may need instead to revise our understanding of what constitutes an error....

Defenders of inerrancy claim that the Bible is authoritative and inerrant in all that it teaches or all that it means to affirm.  This raises the huge question as to what the authors of Scripture intend to affirm or teach.  Questions of genre will have a significant bearing on our answer to that question.  Poetry obviously is not intended to be taken literally, for example.  But then what about the Gospels?  What is their genre?  Scholars have come to see that the genre to which the Gospels most closely conform is ancient biography.  This is important for our question because ancient biography does not have the intention of providing a chronological account of the hero’s life from the cradle to the grave.  Rather ancient biography relates anecdotes that serve to illustrate the hero’s character qualities.  What one might consider an error in a modern biography need not at all count as an error in an ancient biography....

We can extend the point by considering the proposal that the Gospels should be understood as different performances, as it were, of orally transmitted tradition....hat matters is that the central idea is conveyed, often in some key words and climaxing in some saying which is repeated verbatim; but the surrounding details are fluid and incidental to the story.

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Melinda Penner

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