The Bible Isn’t Perfect And It Says So Itself


If you blog long enough, someone will eventually call you a heretic.

Self-appointed orthodoxy watchdogs plague the internet almost as much as porn.

Say something outside their particular theological tradition and they’ll damn your soul to an eternity in hell as fast as you can click “publish” on your blog post.

My latest accusation of heresy came last week on Twitter. My theological crime?

I don’t believe in Biblical inerrancy.

I tried pointing out to my inquisitor that Biblical inerrancy is a 20th century fundamentalist invention, not something which is actually intrinsic to the Christian tradition, but things like “facts” and church history are but minor inconveniences to the religious zealot.

Sure, heresy might technically mean a “breaking away from traditional dogma” and thus a new doctrine like inerrancy which breaks with the church’s traditional dogmatic approach to Scripture (going all the way back to the early fathers) would technically be heresy.

And sure, establishing your claim as a truer (i.e. “fundamental”) form of Christianity over and against virtually all those who came before you would put you squarely in Joseph Smith and the Latter-Day Saints territory.

But I’m the heretical one here.


Anyway, this post isn’t about the historical problems with affirming Biblical inerrancy. It’s about the lack of faith it takes to do so and what the Bible actually has to say about itself.

That’s right. I said a lack of faith.

But in an ever increasingly post-Christian society, isn’t affirming Biblical inerrancy a bold act of faith?

Not at all.

Faith, as Paul Tillich say, requires an element of doubt. It’s a choice to believe in the face of incomplete, or even imperfect evidence. Inerrancy, on the other hand, is an arrogant claim to certainty in the face of a definitive reality.

And, as Anne Lamott so eloquently points out, “The opposite of faith is not doubt. It’s certainty.”

Biblical inerrancy is certainty grounded in fear and the need for control. Allow for any “error” in the Bible, so the inerrantists claim, and how can you trust any of it? The answer to this supposedly challenging question is actually quite simple.


How do I know this? Because I have a mother.

When I was child my mother told me to look both ways before crossing the road. If I didn’t look both ways, she said, I might not see an oncoming car. If I didn’t see that car and stepped out in front of it bad things would happen, like broken bones, maybe even death.

My mom isn’t perfect. She would be the first one to tell you so. She has several degrees and a lifetime of experience, but she would also tell you she’s not inerrant.

And yet, I can still trust her when she tells me that stepping in front of an oncoming car will have negative consequences for my well-being.


Because inerrancy or “perfection” is not a necessary condition for conveying truth, knowledge, or even trust. While something can’t be completely wrong and still be “true” and “trustworthy,” mistakes don’t render someone or something completely invalid.

This is why the example of my mother is so important here.

As I grew up, I went through that stage that all of us go through when we realize our parents aren’t perfect. No matter how much I wanted her to be perfect, I had to accept the fact that my mother made mistakes and that there were things she was wrong about. But that reality didn’t negate all the true things my mother taught me growing up, like how walking in front of traffic is a terrible idea.

When I became an adult I went from a place of certainty in which I believed my mother was perfect, to a place of faith when I recognized her flaws. Nothing about my mother changed during that time. She still loves me as much as she ever did and I love her just the same. I may ask more questions of her than I did when I was 5, but a lifetime of her love and guidance allows me to continue to put my faith in her that she wants what is best for me, that when she speaks she speaks what she believes to be the truth, and that while I may find some mistakes in what she says or does, that doesn’t mean she suddenly becomes an untrustworthy liar.

In other words, my mom is a lot like the Bible. She’s not perfect, but I can still trust that what she says is true.

You see, it’s ok to believe that Noah’s ark was filled with all the animals on earth when you’re 5 years old, and then change your mind when you realize the physical impossibility of that when you’re adult, but still have faith in that story. Why? Because the truth of Noah’s ark is not found in zoological arrangements. It’s found in the message of a God who watches over and cares for His creation even in the midst of a storm.

These sorts of truths, the sorts of truths the Bible is concerned about conveying, are not contingent on their authors’ perfection or even on their authors getting all the facts right. These sorts of truth only require a truthful message.

And, yes, I said authors.

The simple reality of the Bible is that it was written by people. If you don’t believe me, then I have to question how carefully you’ve actually read it as countless books of the Bible explicitly state their human authorship, i.e. every single one of Paul’s letters just to name a few.

Now this doesn’t mean the Bible is not “God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correction, and training in righteousness.” It very much is. But “God-breathed” scripture and “inerrant” scripture are two very different things. How do I know?

Because the Bible told me so.

Do you remember the other big moment when we read about something being “God-breathed” in scripture? Sure you do. We find it in the very beginning, in Genesis chapter 2 verse 7 when God took the dust of the ground and breathed life into it to create humanity.

In that moment God breathed something into existence…..which wasn’t perfect. It couldn’t be. It wasn’t God.

(And before you try arguing we were perfect before the Fall, first ask yourself why the forbidden fruit would have been a temptation if we were already perfect. Remember, God called us “good” not perfect.)

Because scripture is also “God-breathed” it means it too isn’t God. Nor does it even come directly from God, but instead it passes through an intermediary. In the beginning, the intermediary between us and God was dirt. God breathed into it and the result was that we were created.

In the case of the Bible, God breathed His truth into the hearts and minds of people and the result was that the Bible was created. But like that ancient dirt that gave birth to us, the people who wrote the Bible, God’s intermediaries, weren’t perfect. Which is why Paul says “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”

If Paul believed the Bible, or what parts of it he had, was perfect he would have simply said “We fully know because we have scripture.” But he didn’t because he knew that even with scripture as his source of knowledge that knowledge was imperfect because it was God-breathed not God Himself.

In other words, the God-breathed Bible is just like the God-breathed people who wrote it. It isn’t perfect. And that’s ok because as is the case with our parents, we can still learn important truth from imperfect people.

This is where faith comes in. Faith forces us to rely upon and put our trust in God. Without the need for faith, there is no real need for God, at least not this side of eternity. When Paul spoke of seeing through a mirror dimly, it was a statement of faith that even though his knowledge was only in part and wasn’t perfect, it was sufficient for his salvation, sufficient enough to see him through until Christ’s return. When we take the path of inerrancy the space for this sort of humble faith evaporates and is replaced with an arrogance that claims more certainty than even the Biblical writers themselves were willing to affirm.

Which means when we affirm inerrancy, we reject the need for faith.

When we affirm inerrancy, we ascribe perfection to the creation rather that to the Creator.

When we affirm inerrancy, we create an idol fashioned out of the same need for certainty and control that drove Adam and Eve to snatch divinity away from God.

Simply put, Biblical inerrancy isn’t Biblical.

Now, I’m not naive enough to think that someone who believes in BIblical inerrancy will read this post and suddenly “see the light.”

Our fear and ingrained need for control are not overcome that easily.

So, if you are reading this post and you do affirm Biblical inerrancy, please know that not only are you breaking away from Church tradition, you are also rejecting the imperfection the Bible claims for itself, the very imperfection that is necessary for faith.

You may have certainty and therefore have no need for faith in the Bible.

But the apostle Paul sure needed faith.

And so do I.


Grace and peace,

Zack Hunt

  • Désiré Rusovsky
    May 28, 2013

    Excellent! Can I translate this in French for my blog?

    • ZackHunt
      May 28, 2013

      Absolutely, I would be honored! Thanks for asking!

  • Elisabeth Grunert
    May 28, 2013

    I loved this post. Loved. One of the problems with belief in biblical inerrancy is it tends to make you think that there are two worlds, the Bible, where God acts and speaks, and the real, modern world,where God does neither. This consideration of scripture leaves one with the subtle impression that God can’t possible speak or act through & among beings such as ourselves, in our time. But the whole point of the incarnation is that God did come and dwell among real people, in time, in place, in circumstances not too unlike our own.

    One minor quibble about pre-fall humans: isn’t there a difference between things being imperfect and their being corruptible? Like all created things, they have the potential for corruption in their inherent being, but aren’t yet corrupted? Just a question.

    • ZackHunt
      May 28, 2013

      That’s a great question. I think there is definitely a difference between something/someone being imperfect versus being corrupted. Everything that is not God is, by definition (at least in most senses) not perfect. I would definitely affirm that before the Fall we were corruptible. When I said we were not “perfect” this is the sort of thing I had in mind – we merely “good” but were capable of corruption (or we couldn’t have been tempted), otherwise if we were perfect we would not have been capable of corruption or sin and the Bible (and the world) would look very different. Hope that helps clarify what I meant.

  • Lance Conn
    May 28, 2013

    Very nice connection between God-breathed and the creation. Great article and greatly appreciated. Keep up the heresy!

  • Brannon Hancock
    May 28, 2013

    I’m a nazarene, so I don’t believe in unqualified inerrancy. Our statement is not about what scripture IS but what scripture DOES. We don’t say the Bible “is inerrant,” but that the Bible “inerrantly reveals the will of God to us in all things necessary to salvation.” Two very different things. One is a statement that a text is without error (which is absurd), and one is a statement that what the Bible does (reveal the will of God to us in all things necessary to salvation), it does without error (I.e. it is trustworthy). Some call this “soteriological inerrancy,” and I for one am fine with this.

    Great post, Zack.

    • ZackHunt
      May 28, 2013

      I know a guy who’s a Nazarene too. He’s a really big fan of the Nazarene article of faith on scripture. ?

    • Truth Preacher
      June 12, 2013

      “One is a statement that a text is without error (which is absurd), and one is a statement that what the Bible does (reveal the will of God to us in all things necessary to salvation), it does without error (I.e. it is trustworthy).”

      That is absurd. How can God reveal His will to us pertaining to salvation if the texts that tell us these things are no inerrant? How STUPID unbelief is, while posing as enlightened and wise. The Nazarenes of former days, who walked in the power of God would have none of your kind. It is just that, as has often happened in denominations ” And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.”Jdg 2:10

      • Nate
        July 28, 2014

        “That is absurd. How can God reveal His will to us pertaining to salvation if the texts that tell us these things are no inerrant? How STUPID unbelief is, while posing as enlightened and wise.”

        To borrow from Zack’s illustration, I’ll ask you this: how can your mother reveal to you how much she loves you if she once told you that storks deliver them when you asked her where babies came from? Would you question your her love if she lied to you in such a way?

        More to point, just because the Bible uses the word “day” to describe the length of time God used to create the world, which, when we apply our definition to the word “day,” would make very little scientific sense, does that mean we can’t trust the Scriptures when it tells us about Christ’s resurrection?

        I wouldn’t view any of what he said as “unbelief.” Rather, I’d see it as a depth of trust in a God who used broken, imperfect people and language to convey to us his unfathomable truths.

        • Instinct
          June 25, 2015

          “To borrow from Zack’s illustration, I’ll ask you this: how can your mother reveal to you how much she loves you if she once told you that storks deliver them when you asked her where babies came from? Would you question your her love if she lied to you in such a way?”

          See, the problem with this is that you and Zack are comparing your admittedly imperfect mothers to the perfect God. Furthermore, God also doesn’t lie (Numbers 23:19). In fact, He can’t (Titus 1:2).

          “More to point, just because the Bible uses the word “day” to describe the length of time God used to create the world, which, when we apply our definition to the word “day,” would make very little scientific sense, does that mean we can’t trust the Scriptures when it tells us about Christ’s resurrection?”

          I don’t see the point you are trying to make here. As if it impossible to believe that an All-Powerful God couldn’t create the world within six 24-hour days. Also, the interpretation of the word “day” in Genesis 1 does seem to suggest a 24-hour period, especially when compared to it is introduced during every day of Creation (the morning and the evening were the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth day; if you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t take it from me; read it yourself: Genesis 1). Mainstream science is most certainly pushing an agenda against Biblical history with Old Earth and Evolution theories, but there is plenty of scientific study conducted by Creationist scientists to suggest that the Earth is only about 6,000 years and that evolution doesn’t make sense, given the evidence.

          I would love to go on, if someone is willing to listen and discuss, but this is already a reply to a comment made a year ago, so I digress.

    • Cerbaz
      July 2, 2013

      Is God not sovereign? Could He not have made sure that His word was error free? Is God who is control not capable of this?

      • David Michael
        July 5, 2013

        “Is God sovereign?” Yes, depending on what you mean by “Sovereign.” “Could he have made sure his word was error free?” Yes. “Is God who is control not capable of this?” I think you mean *in* control. God is not control; God is love. And to respond to the unasked question, “Did God do that?” I don’t think so.

      • James Barringer
        January 5, 2014

        God is sovereign, but He makes no claims of having created a factually inerrant scripture. God need not do something just because you require it or say it is so. You are imposing what God never imposed.

        Rather God asks that we have faith, hope and love, and the Scripture tells us clearly and forcefully that faith is believing God’s promises will be fulfilled. It does not say faith is anything but this. Indeed, Paul, within his letters in the Bible, tells us that our knowledge is imperfect (“Now we see dimly, as in a mirror. Then (not now) we shall know fully, even as we are fully known.”

        To create requirements that God did not create is the sin of the Pharisees. To state God requires us to believe in an inerrant scripture is to levy a requirement that God never levied, and you create a stumbling block for others. You are not serving God in laying on heavier requirements than He himself handed down.

        You may believe the Bible is inerrant, and you may be right, but God makes no requirement that his people believe as you do. Rather he asks us to live with Hope, Faith (that He will fulfill his promises), and most of all, Love.

  • Ryan Robinson
    May 28, 2013

    I’ve tried to say things like this and the response is usually people sticking their fingers in their ears and going “lalalalalala I can’t hear your heresy!” I got it a few days ago on another’s blog for daring to suggest that Jesus was the ultimate revelation of God, and a reply insisted that even though the Bible itself points to Jesus, the ultimate revelation of God is still the text itself.

    • ZackHunt
      May 28, 2013

      “people sticking their fingers in their ears and going “lalalalalala I can’t hear your heresy!”” – You hit the nail on the head. That sort of thing drives me nuts.

    • Andrew Tatusko, Ph.D.
      May 29, 2013

      So they accuse of heresy when they are overtly practicing idolatry. Good show people of the golden calf, er…, book.

      • Truth Preacher
        June 12, 2013

        Nonsense. Christ said “my words are spirit and THEY are LIFE-“John 6:63. Christ also said not one jot or tittle of the Old Testament Scriptures would pass away til all is fulfilled, and that His WORDS would never pass away. So then, you are guilty of idolatry, of thinking that dumb grey-matter up there is wiser than God and His word.

  • Mark
    May 28, 2013

    Great post. This is sure gonna piss some people off though.

    • ZackHunt
      May 28, 2013

      What? Me piss somebody off? Never! ?

  • John Hanan
    May 28, 2013

    The problem I see here is that you equate inerrancy with perfection, and perfection with completeness, which simply isn’t true. Inerrant simply means without error. Something can be without error while still being incomplete. No where does Scripture make a claim on perfection, or completeness for itself or for Man before the fall.

    The argument that because we are not God we are therefore not perfect is valid. But there’s a difference between perfection and being complete. I would argue that being God-breathed, both Scripture and Man before the fall were simply incomplete. This means Paul is accurate when he says he knew in part, and Adam and Eve were tempted because they didn’t have a total picture of what was going on. Satan played on this incomplete knowledge, and still does today.

    I believe the Scriptures to be inerrant, but also incomplete. As big as the book is, there’s no way the Bible could possibly encompass all of God. Which means I still have faith that what I’ve seen of God is enough to know He actually is good, and worth knowing more. In fact, I’d argue that believing Scripture to be inerrant requires more faith in the face of the “physical impossibility” you mention, and other passages that just don’t make sense from a natural understanding of the world. Faith is not denied by inerrancy. It is tested and tried by it, especially in a world that requires a natural understanding of everything.

    • ZackHunt
      May 28, 2013

      I equate inerrancy with perfection because that’s what the word means “without error.” I don’t, however, equate perfection with completeness. You’re taking a minor point I made and portraying it as my thesis in order to support your mischaracterization of what I said. I equate perfection, as the word the implies, with being “without error.” The Bible contains inarguable scientific, historical, and geographical errors, not to mention internal contradictions such as the number of people who arrived at the tomb on Easter morning. Personally, none of that bothers me. However, it is not faith to believe “in the fact of the physical impossibility” of something. That is denial and a rejection of the very laws of the universe God created. Which means you’re left with a problem of divine integrity. But, as I said in this post, you wouldn’t have this issue if you took the historical and Biblical position of the church and stopped affirming something that simply isn’t true. Affirming inerrancy doesn’t make the church virtuous. It just makes us look arrogant and naive.

      • Trent DeJong
        May 28, 2013

        There is the issue that when a resident of the 20th century says the word inerrancy, she will usually mean something entirely different than a 1st century or ancient author. I bring this up because so many of the so called scriptural “inconsistencies” are a direct result of ancient authors having a different set of criteria for writing “true stuff” than do we moderns.

      • Peter Kirkpatrick
        May 29, 2013

        “I don’t, however, equate perfection with completeness.”

        But in fact you do seem to make this equation. I have some sympathy with John because that’s how I too read your article. For instance:

        “…the people who wrote the Bible, God’s intermediaries, weren’t perfect. Which is why Paul says ‘For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.’ … If Paul believed the Bible, or what parts of it he had, was perfect he would have simply said ‘We fully know because we have scripture.’”

        You have written a blog worthy of respect and discussion, but I’m not sure that I agree (or perhaps understand?) this element of it.

        • ZackHunt
          May 29, 2013

          I think you guys are honing in on one point I made and extrapolating it as my main thesis. It certainly is a component of my argument, but I spent much more time on the example of having faith in my imperfect mother, who’s “errantedness” (if that’s a word) is due to the fact that she makes mistakes. This is also where I brought in Paul to make the connection between God-breathed scripture and God-breathed people. I don’t mind you guys taking issue with completeness being equated with perfection (though I would argue that it very much is and am not sure how something that is incomplete could in an reasonable sense be called perfect), but please don’t misconstrue what I said.

          • Peter Kirkpatrick
            May 30, 2013

            I’m not meaning to be picky, I’m just saying how I read your article. But to take your explanation in good faith, let me comment on the ‘faith’ aspect of your article. You say this (Once again it’s a quote but I’m doing my best to pick a representative sentence):

            “When I became an adult I went from a place of certainty in which I believed my mother was perfect, to a place of faith when I recognized her flaws.” In other words, perfection and certainty are linked, while faith and imperfection are likewise linked. Have I read you correctly?

            I would ask: Why? Why those particular links? To me, believing in my mother’s perfection is the act of faith. Reaching the point where I see my mother as flawed is a loss of faith. In the same way, believing the scriptures to be true is an act of faith. It’s not being certain, because there are questions I have and texts I don’t understand. But if I let those questions cause me to deny the truth of the scriptures, that’s a loss of faith. Isn’t it?

          • Jason
            June 1, 2013

            The problem with the first faith that you espouse here, the faith in a mother’s perfection, is that it is faith in a lie. A mother is not perfect. Once you realize this fact, it is not a loss of faith in your mother, but a loss of faith in the lie. To move from a place of having faith in your mother’s perfection to faith in your mother’s love and intention may be a loss of faith, but it is a loss of a useless faith.

            This is where the distinction comes about for me. I used to believe the Bible was inerrant, but as I came face to face with the inaccuracies and inconsistencies found in scripture, I realized that my faith was in a lie and in God’s creation rather than in God. My faith in God is stronger now and the Bible is more meaningful to me now than ever, but my faith in the lie is broken.

          • Peter Kirkpatrick
            June 2, 2013

            Jason, there’s much you say that I agree with, but I have a
            different perspective at some points.

            If I have faith in a mother’s perfection and she is not perfect, then my faith is misplaced. Agreed. But I would add that this is true at every level. If my faith is based on my mother’s love for me and she doesn’t love me, that faith is also misplaced. The real issue is what is actually true.

            So the issue of faith can in principle be reasonable regarding both God and God’s words. I’m glad that you have a faith in God and find value from reading the Bible. I also understand why, if you find mistakes in the Bible, you take the view that you have stated. For my part, my Christian journey on this point has been one of questioning some texts in the Bible, then over the years finding for a lot of them interpretive answers where I don’t have to throw my brain away. I don’t have all of the answers, but I have a
            basis for seeing that it may be my limited understanding that is the real issue. I need to be very cautious about conclusions on difficult texts.

            I agree that using inerrancy as a club for a particular
            interpretation of biblical texts (“The Bible is inerrant! You have to read Genesis 1 as a six day creation!”) is totally wrong. Those who seriously believe in the inerrancy of the Bible should be the first to affirm its full humanness as the other side of the coin, because they will want to understand
            correctly this inerrant text as God has ordained it.

          • Truth Preacher
            June 12, 2013

            All who take your course, cease to win souls, or even care to. I am certain belief in Eternal Damnation is not high on your list of concerns. What you described is called apostasy. There are not errors in the Bible. After 250 years of vicious attacks against it, it has been vindicated over and over, as its critics have been exposed as pseudo-intellectual LIARS. That is all they are. I refuse to be duped by such dimwits, esp after examining hundreds of their claims over a 30-year period.

          • John Dasher
            September 12, 2014

            Truth Preacher – I would encourage you to take a different tone when engaging in dialogue about life and the topic of faith. No reason to respond hastily with such unappealing remarks and criticism. As someone who grew up in the faith, I could easily use scripture to call you out, but that would be completely unnecessary. I’m asking you kindly to refrain from such responses. In regards to your argument – first I would like to say that you are entitled to your response and I think most people would agree with your statement. There is a lot of evidence out there that shows the constancy in translation over time and how accurate the bible is today in comparison to some of the original pieces still left; however, this is irrelevant to the argument of inerrancy. The content of the bible can be accurate in terms of how well it was preserved over time, but that doesn’t mean the actual content within scripture cannot be questioned. The bible can be as accurate today as it was 250 years ago, like you say, but that has nothing to do with what the scriptures actually say. I personally think Zack made some great points, but I think his mother comparison was a bit of a stretch. It’s an argument I have heard before, and I think there is too much room for interpretation that it causes more confusion than focus. He could have written this post without including that. Overall, very well put minus the mother analogy.

          • Truth Preacher
            June 12, 2013

            Your analogy is false. If your mother’s life and decisons were all inspired of God, then her humanity wouldn’t matter, seeing divine intervention overrode it. You see, Christ came as fully man, and made NO MISTAKES, and committed NO SIN.
            The Bible is Christ in written form, and though God used his holy ones to write it, who weren’t perfect, but well on their way, He bridged the gap with inspiration
            This is SIMPLE to one who TREMBLES AT HIS WORD. You don’t. And it is because you don’t believe it that you don’t tremble. But to the one who does, God looks to him and dwells with him

      • Truth Preacher
        June 12, 2013

        You are rather touchy and combative. You committ category errors, and then are annoyed when it is pointed out to you. Biblical inerrancy is not a 20th century Fundamentalist invention. The fact you can cite NOTHING historically to back up this 21st century-invented proposition shows you are the zealot. You are trying to create a wedge between inspiration and inerrancy. NICE TRY. Inspiration demands inerrancy.

        The fact is you don’t have “faith” and that Tillich was an unregenerate false teachers. You are full of unbelief. This is warned of over and over in Scripture. Christ said if you believe not Moses writings, then you won’t believe on Christ.

        You surely are heretical. And this is not coming from a fundamentalist “zealout”. It is simply an obvious fact.

    • Courtney Campbell
      June 9, 2013

      To quote Kip, “Napoleon, like anyone can even know that”. Mild diatribes don’t make truths. Your best statement is this:

      I believe the Scriptures to be inerrant, but also incomplete.
      You hit the nail on the head, you “believe”. Belief is not based on facts. You’ve got your blinders on. You cannot state what you belief as if it is truth. You can have an opinion, and that’s cool. Look, your just as correct as anyone on these matters. Because it is all about belief, interpretation, conformation bias, etc. etc.
      I’ll put it this way, I have never seen faith move mountains, but I have seen gravity pull objects time and time again. I personally think it is all fiction. And thankfully I live in America, where I can have no faith and you can have your faith. If we ever lose that, we are screwed. Hopefully the future inhabitants of Mars learn from our mistakes.
      Jer 8:8

  • Peter McCombs
    May 28, 2013

    I love the Anne Lamonte quote.

    • Eric Boersma
      May 29, 2013

      Seriously. I think it will be the best thing I read this month.

  • Ross S. Heckmann
    May 28, 2013

    I agree in part and dissent in part. I believe Scripture is only as free of error as it needs to be to serve the purposes for which Scripture was intended. With respect to anything pertaining to our salvation, it is 100% error-free. Salvation is indeed rooted in history, historical persons and peoples, and historical events, and with respect to history, Scripture is 100% accurate as to the general flow of events and major and material matters. Scripture doesn’t need to be 100% accurate as to immaterial, picayune details. If we cannot 100% harmonize every single detail of the Biblical narratives, frankly, so what?

    I believe that the doctrine of inerrancy can be abused to replace a loving relationship with a personal God with whom we have first-hand personal communication , to replace it with a silent God and a Biblical text that we can, whether we realize it or not, manipulate in accordance with our own desires, preferences and agendas.

    I believe in miracles which (as you describe them) are “physical impossibilities.” I believe Jesus miraculously rose from the dead, though as adults we know that it was a physical impossibility. I believe his body miraculously passed through walls and that Jesus miraculously healed people, though as adults we know that these are physical impossibilities. I believe the God miraculously preserved his creation in the ark, and that all of creation existed as a holy and happy harmony, a Peaceable Kingdom, such as it originally was in the beginning, even though as adults we know that this is a physical impossibility. I believe one day the wolf will lay down with the lamb in perfect peace and harmony, though as adults, we know that this is a physical impossibility. I believe God created the universe out of nothing, though as adults we know that this is a physical impossibility. I don’t know what your position is, and I don’t use the word lightly, but can’t a pretty good case be made for the proposition that the denial of the miraculous is indeed heretical?

  • DMLeitch
    May 28, 2013

    Looks like I have a blog to follow.

    • ZackHunt
      May 28, 2013


  • glitter tits
    May 28, 2013

    Just another liberal conspiracy from the bleeding heart “Christian” blogging Illuminati. Tl;dr, but your heresy is clear. Have fun in hell.

    • Justin Summerlin
      May 28, 2013

      Said “glitter tits”. LOL.

    • Micah J. Murray
      May 28, 2013

      ^ Is this a joke? It can’t be real. What the heck.

      • Eric Boersma
        May 29, 2013

        Hooray for Poe’s Law!

  • Trent DeJong
    May 28, 2013

    I’m no expert, but it seems to me that the Bible was assumed to be inerrant for a long time before it was declared so. I believe the Bible to be inerrant. But what the “fundamentalists” often seem to forget is that it needs to be interpreted. This is by no means clear and simple. This is perhaps what you are saying. I prefer it because I am much less frequently accused of being a heritic.

    • ZackHunt
      May 28, 2013

      I would certainly concede that there were some people who believed in something along the lines of inerrancy before the “five fundamentals” were codified in 1910. However, Christian orthodoxy doesn’t operate, at least not historically, through assumptions. This is why we have so many creeds and statements of faith. Just like as is the case with the Bible, writing things down is incredibly important. It clarifies exactly what we believe….as well as what we don’t. The fact that no group in the church never affirmed inerrancy before 1910, but churches did affirm “obvious” or “assumed” doctrines like the divinity of Jesus speaks volumes… does the writings of early church fathers like Augustine, who rejected what we now call Biblical inerrancy (see “On the Literal Meaning of Genesis” as an example).

      • Trent DeJong
        May 28, 2013

        I appreciate this information. There is definitely a problem with Christian certainty. I’ve usually come at the problem from a hermeneutic angle. When I read your post, I had a lot of questions regarding the history of inerrancy. You’ve begun to answer these questions.

        Speaking of Genesis, I just finished Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis 1. Very good stuff. Not sure it helps with inerrancy, but it certainly helps with hermeneutics.

        • Andrew Tatusko, Ph.D.
          May 29, 2013

          You have to toss out all modern assumptions when reading the text from the perspective of the early church. The word “inerrancy” isn’t a question at all much less any form of criticism you can come up with. With that said, take Chrisostom’s sermons for instance, there is a great deal of textual analysis. Even there that is to the service of finding the spiritual truth of the text. Everything pointed beyond the words as it still does in Orthodoxy. The text is handled like an icon – a window to God. We are to look beyond it for the purpose of communion with God. Any form of using the text as a tool to create a system of moralism was heresy and still is. Read the allegorical interpretations which were common back in the day. “Criticism” is a 19th century phenomenon.

          • Smeldrow
            June 3, 2015

            Except you can’t toss out modern assumptions. We don’t live in bronze age Palestine. We live in the modern era, so naturally we think differently. I take this as an argument against bronze age religions, but that’s just me. The bible is not inerrant. Nothing except for God is inerrant and that is only by definition. (I don’t believe in a God)

  • pastordt
    May 28, 2013

    Thanks so much for this. Good analogy, good look at history, too. There is a Grand Canyon difference between infallible and inerrant. Words do matter.

  • Jenn Baerg
    May 28, 2013

    There seem to be some quibbles about what inerrancy actually is – the Chicago Statement is the foundational document from which current statements most often arise – ( It doesn’t leave much wiggle room if you want to support the inerrancy position. I would suggest skipping the Chicago Statement on Hermeneutics if you do not subscribe to a literalist reading of the text, it might make you a little or a lot frustrated.

    While I would love to have the certainty of claiming the inerrancy of scripture, for myself I know that while the text we have is beautiful in its complexity of origin, I cannot in light of the endless number of redactors, the fragmented texts and the flaws in our human translations believe that the text is inerrant. And yet, sometimes I wonder if that is what makes it truly beautiful and compelling – Moses didn’t write the Pentateuch and maybe (I agree with the yes) there wasn’t an actual Adam and Eve, but those aren’t the important questions, but rather in all of it, who is God revealed as through our brokenness?

  • daryl carpenter
    May 28, 2013

    Zack, have you by any chance thought about becoming a Catholic? I’m not being snarky here, it’s just your hermeneutic often seems more Catholic than Protestant. I like Catholics and their crazy non-biblical esoterica. More power to them.

    And surely calling anyone a heretic today is bordering on the ridiculous, isn’t it? What is this, the Middle Ages?

    • ZackHunt
      May 28, 2013

      I’ve definitely thought about it, but I have some serious theological issues with Rome, most notably their closed eucharistic table. Also, I love and am indebted to my tradition. For what it’s worth, there are many Protestants who work with a similar hermeneutic that I do. We’re not all fundie evangelicals. ?

  • sallyg
    May 28, 2013

    I needed this today. Thank you.

  • Urbane_Gorilla
    May 28, 2013

    But…but…it’s the word of God….Pat Robertson says so…It must be true!

    • ZackHunt
      May 28, 2013

      Touche ?

  • Micah J. Murray
    May 28, 2013

    But if the Bible isn’t infallible and it says so itself, how do we know the part of the Bible where it says it isn’t infallible is correct? What if that part of the Bible is fallible, thereby rendering it’s suggestion that the Bible is fallible incorrect? That would mean that the Bible IS infallible!


    • ZackHunt
      May 28, 2013

      You got me. ?

    • @pataphys_of_sim
      June 11, 2013

      Language is fully capable of paradoxes, and the Creator made it that way, so as to force us to: “make up your own d*mn mind” as the Oracle so well puts it to Neo. Faith is not only how we believe, but also what to believe. Sounds even more heretic, but does it sound that strange really if you think about it?

  • Tom Cooperider
    May 28, 2013

    knowing in part is not admitting error as much as incomplete knowledge….I am fine with inspired text (not the same as inerrant text) that only gives the amount of information we can handle as finite beings. The genre of scripture is also something seemingly ignored by my more inerrant brothers and sisters….some of the stories were in my opinion never meant to be a “how” explanation but a “why” (ie: creation) because of the genre. My big problem however is with my inability to love as God has loved me, something which needs no theological degree or fancy hermeneutic…this and a lot of other easy to understand, hard to live scriptures make me less inclined to throw stones at people. – blessings

  • daryl carpenter
    May 28, 2013

    “Because the truth of Noah’s ark is not found in zoological arrangements. It’s found in the message of a God who watches over and cares for His creation even in the midst of a storm.”

    A storm God created. To kill everyone.

    Is this how God demonstrates his caring nature? By wiping (almost) everything off the planet? That’s a rather peculiar way to express love.

    I appreciate this a tangential point in the post, but whether you believe the flood to be straightforward history or some sort of story/allegory/metaphor/God revealing himself to his creation, etc., haven’t you got to ask yourself whether these actions are in any way right or reasonable? Or are they right and reasonable simply because God does them?

    • Eric Boersma
      May 29, 2013

      This gets into Theodicy and questions of the origin of the Noah myth, but the basic answer to your question is “maybe”. Disqus probably isn’t the right avenue to have such a discussion, because you’re going to end up needing a whole bunch of information and the final answer to your question is going to depend heavily on which theological breed you hearken to.

    • Nathan Bubna
      May 30, 2013

      Read a book on it. Seriously, there are tons on theodicy and the nature of God by Christian theologians over the millenia. You’re not the first to ask, and many have answered.

  • Patrick Craig
    May 28, 2013

    farewell, zack hunt. ; )

    (someone had to say it)

  • A.O. GREEN
    May 29, 2013

    Can you provide a list of the “inarguable scientific, historical, and geographical errors, not to mention internal contradictions” besides the one you mentioned?

    • Eric Boersma
      May 29, 2013

      This is a good start:

      • FatAngel
        May 29, 2013

        Hey, great link! From someone disproving the Bible by holding up
        the Quran instead.

        • Eric Boersma
          May 29, 2013

          The source of the video is irrelevant to whether or not the content is accurate.

      • Gabe Martini
        May 29, 2013

        Most of these problems arise because people have adopted the Masoretic Hebrew for the Old Testament, rather than the older, more accurate (and utilized by Christ and the NT writers) Septuagint.

  • Peter Kirkpatrick
    May 29, 2013

    In principle I don’t see why inerrancy and faith are incompatible. For instance, one might say, “I don’t have all the answers about difficult questions of scripture, but I still trust that the God who spoke through scripture spoke truly.” This position would be no different than trusting in God’s perfection despite the fact of evil in his creation. In both cases the relationship between truth/error or good/evil is a difficult one to define and we need to proceed with humility.

    My view is that interpretation is the real issue, because one can’t say that the scriptures are either errant or inerrant until one is sure that they have correctly understood what those scriptures are saying.

    Thoughtful article. Thanks.

  • NinaK
    May 29, 2013

    I must say Zack, I never considered this before, and my immediate response to the title of your article was “nut”. But I read it and you make an excellent point. You’ve given me something to think and ponder.

  • Tyler Geffeney
    May 29, 2013

    You bring up some good points here Zack, and thanks for writing this as it gets people thinking about important points of doctrine. By way of humble commentary, it does seem as though you have not engaged with the fundamental arguments for inerrancy from scholarship, however. The analogy of your mother, while interesting, is also, like any analogy of the divine, woefully inadequate. I think you will discover once you have read more on the scholarship of this topic you will discover a far more robust substantiation for inerrancy. And if you have read some of these then it would be far more helpful to engage with those arguments and show how they don’t work.

    • Nathan Bubna
      May 30, 2013

      My thoughts exactly. I feel like this article does a great job of tackling common misunderstandings about the doctrine of inerrancy and little to address the most prominent formal definitions of inerrancy.

  • Solskyn
    May 29, 2013

    Thank you for this post! I have long believed that the Bible had stories that were inaccurate, despite the lesson they sought to teach. I have stayed out of church for a long time because of this belief. I got tired of the shaming I received when I questioned the accuracy of a Biblical story. I still believe in God and his message and have faith, but I refused to idolize the Bible. It holds important lessons and messages within it, but that didn’t mean that it was inerrant. It was written, compiled, translated, and edited by men who were far from perfect. Because of the backlash I received by questioning the Bible, I began believing that I was not as faithful and have felt immense guilt for thinking differently than my fellow Christian friends and family. Your post helped me see that I can still be faithful and understand that the Bible isn’t 100% accurate. No more guilt and no more shame and for that, I thank you.

  • Andrew Tatusko, Ph.D.
    May 29, 2013

    Irony: The early Church Fathers would look at so-called fundamentalists and “bible believers” as heretics and call them anathema. So there’s that.

    • Truth Preacher
      June 12, 2013

      No they would not. Your PhD you keep adding after your name simply proves the Scripture infallably correct when it says “men of high degree are a lie”. You, with your vaunted PhD are no better morally than a Used Car Salesman. You will lie with as much ease and no compunction of conscience. Anyone actually acqainted with Church history and the writings of the Ante-Nicen fathers knows you are a liar

      • Smeldrow
        June 3, 2015

        “men of high degree are a lie”

        Is a dangerous sentiment. It encourages the dismissal of education as evil. Which is evil in itself. I’m worried that you preach to people sir. Very worried.

  • Greg Borchert
    May 29, 2013

    Much needed posting. Thanks. Faith is not fact! I have been active in both fundamentalist megachurches and smaller mainline churches, as a Southern Baptist and as a Lutheran. One of the things I admire about those who claim Biblical inerrancy is that they often do take their own life in faith very seriously, and really do try to use God’s word as mostly positive life application. But, they more than others tend to use specific excerpts to proof text what they have decided is most convenient for them to believe. They also try to make the Bible into a science book, when clearly God never intended it as that. The Bible was intended to answer the who’s and the why’s of Creation, not to be a biology or astronomy textbook. Taken as “God-breathed”, Scripture helps empower and support an active faith; a living and dynamic relationship with God.

  • co_otter
    May 29, 2013

    Zack – you made some points that I’m going to have to think harder about. As a “young Christian” (8 years as a Christian, 28 years as an Atheist) I’ve never questioned the inerrancy idea, I figured it was a requirement. Now I’m going to think about it some more… a lot more. So thank you sincerely for stirring-up an argument that I obviously need to consider!

    In this article – you start by giving Christians permission to believe that scripture can have error – which is cool (that you find a way to give us permission to ask questions about this) – I think we should question everything we believe that we know to be true at one time or another and research and pray through those things heavily… but you finish your post with a disappointingly heavy-handed insistence.

    Your conclusion is my least favorite line in your post:

    “So, if you are reading this post and you do affirm Biblical inerrancy, please know that not only are you breaking away from Church tradition, you are also rejecting the imperfection the Bible claims for itself, the very imperfection that is necessary for faith.”

    It’s almost as if you were striking out first against the people who will certainly call you a heretic by first calling them one. I don’t like that and it makes you look bad.

    This line leaves no room for humility. I would never call you a heretic, even when you write things that I disagree with…. but man… you better be REALLY REALLY sure before you call out someone else as one.

    • Truth preacher
      June 12, 2013

      Don’t give up your faith in God’s Holy Word. This man is a hypocrite. And He posts NO HISTORICAL EVIDENCE for his claim that inerrancy is a 20th century invention. Anyone can site the Westminster confession of faith and others from FOUR HUNDRED YEARS AGO and see this man is a liar.

      My friend, I suggest you enter a period of FASTING AND PRAYER, and seek the Lord to strengthen your faith. Don’t allow a dupe of Satan to STEAL THE WORD sown in your heart-Mark 4:15

      • co_otter
        June 13, 2013

        Thanks TP – I will always first seek wisdom and then through prayer, decide personal faith issues by consulting God through my pesonal relationship with Jesus Christ and the HS.

        It didn’t take me long to figure out that allowing any one person to decide these things for me wasn’t a good idea – particularly if such a person insists that their way is the right way. I saw Zack’s not-so-subtle passive-aggressive hinting at that very thing to be a red flag about his ‘pulpit’ and his theology and I stopped following him after this post.

        Don’t get me wrong – I believe in the local church and I’m an active and intensely contributing member to mine – but – if my lead pastor ever took the stage and told me that I’m going to hell because I disagree with his ‘take’ on some of the things I consider to be ‘unknowable’ then I’d know I was in the wrong place. As it is, I don’t think he’d ever do that.

        Thanks again for your time and reassurance. It’s disappointing to see so many persuaded so easily, but I suppose we were warned that would happen.

      • Smeldrow
        June 3, 2015

        Can you provide me with historical evidence, outside of the bible, that proves the inerrancy of the bible? I would be absolutely amazed and would instantly convert if you could.

  • A.O. GREEN
    May 29, 2013

    Panel Discussion: Revisiting Inerrancy

  • scott calvin
    May 30, 2013

    This article is ridiculous. The precedent of inerrant scripture goes all the way back to Calvin and the reformers, and even earlier, and is in no way a 20th century fundamental invention.

    You realize Jesus affirmed the principle of inerrancy?? Think about it. Jesus said Scripture cannot be broken. Well, if it is not perfect, that means it has errors by definition, even though they may be really subtle and insignificant. But how can an error in the biblical text “not be broken” according to Jesus? Clearly, Jesus doesn’t think it has even minute errors in it, because it all MUST be fulfilled perfectly. And if Jesus affirms it doesn’t have errors, then it’s inerrant.

    Biblical inerrancy is not concerned with spelling of words or textual variants. That’s superstition, not Christianity. The message of the whole revealed council of God is perfect and divine, and just the way God wants it.

    • Tylor Standley
      May 30, 2013

      I’m not saying that I agree entirely with Zack’s post, but I’m not sure you understand the point of it. Even if inerrancy stretches “all the way back to Calvin and the Reformers,” that’s still the 16th century-not that long ago in relation to the time of the writing of the New Testament.

      First, you need to define your understanding of inerrancy. Much of the comments are dealing with that very issue, namely, how is it connected with perfection, completion, and faith. Second, if you are going to claim that Jesus affirmed inerrancy, you need to supply the scripture rather than a paraphrase of a fragment of a passage. Third, no one is arguing that the message of God is not revealed in scripture or that it is not the way he wants it, only that his message is delivered through men who are imperfect-and that’s ok. I’m not sure if you intended this, but your last sentence implies that the Bible (“message,” in your words) is divine, which I’d say is MUCH more disturbing than someone who does not believe the Bible is flawless.

  • Josh DeForest
    May 30, 2013

    great article!
    I loved the illustrations. Especially the God-breathed connection between the old and new testaments!
    i think one of the arguments the “inerrancy” crowd would use is this:
    If the bible is not inerrant, then would the moral claims within be up for debate? including the new testament one’s? If so, where would morality come from?

    Once again, I LOVED your article. I want to bring this up with some friends of mine and i know that will be one of their questions!

  • Joe
    May 30, 2013

    Oh cool. So we get to decide truth now. Thanks anyway God, it seems like I don’t need you any more.

    • Spherical Time
      June 6, 2013

      Odd. Zack’s stance requires more faith and therefore more of a reliance on God.

      I don’t think you quite understood the point of the article, if you make a comment like that.

      • Truth Preacher
        June 12, 2013

        No it doesn’t. He’ll go full New Age down this heresy road, and when the Antichrist appears, the man of sin, Zack will worship him and take the Mark. People like Zack are child’s play for the Devil

  • NinaK
    June 1, 2013

    I’ve spent some time thinking about this and I’m just convinced you are wrong…

    of Divine Inspiration:

    “Inspiration is the work of the Holy Spirit by
    through the instrumentality of the whole
    and the literary talents of its human authors,
    constitutes the words of the Bible in its
    entirety as
    His written word to men, and therefore of
    authority and without error in the original

    Kenneth Kantzer —

  • Pilgrim
    June 1, 2013

    Thanks for being willing to be a “heretic” Zack! I’m with you and appreciate your post here. I’m a staff pastor at a church where “inerrancy” is a pillar and in my circles to even discuss it (among other issues!) is anathema. This type of expected intellectual uniformity in Christian circles is a great evil in my mind.

    Honestly, I don’t know how anyone can honestly believe inerrancy. All scholars agree that the 66 books that we have have errors and contradictions. They get around this by saying (as in the quote by previous poster NinaK) that they don’t claim that the scriptures we have are inerrant, but that the original autographs are inerrant. Problem is: there are no extant original manuscripts to examine and substantiate such a claim!

    What would we say if Muslims claimed inerrancy of the Koran, but only in the nonexistent original autographs? We’d laugh at them! Inerrancy is just not provable.

    • Truth Preacher
      June 12, 2013

      You are dishonest and a hypocrite. You need to FESS UP to your leaders about what you really believe, unless your agenda is to destroy as many people’s faith in God’s Word keeps you where you are.
      Read THE KING JAMES VERSION DEFENDED by EF Hills if you want answers to inerrancy and the very things you brought up about no having the autographs. God preserved His Word, and it is found in the Masoretic Hebrew and the Greek Textus Receptus, and in English, beautifully translated for us in the 1611.
      God has preserved His word, but there are corruptions and counterfeits of it, wherein all the descepancies lie

      • Timios Zander
        June 18, 2013

        If YOU represent the inerrancy position with your personal attacks and name-calling, then I want nothing to do with it!

  • sheila0405
    June 2, 2013

    Nicely stated.

  • Patricia
    June 3, 2013

    One thing I never hear brought up on this subject — Which scriptures are we saying are God-breathed? The NT wasn’t together when that was written. Someone has written below about Jesus affirming the scriptures. Well, He only had the OT to refer to. Or are we suggesting He already knew which of the gospel collections and various letters and that other bit by John would be voted on to become “the scriptures”? And how about the other bits the Catholics like?
    BTW I actually DO believe God speaks to me through this book but I don’t believe it’s the third (or fourth) part of the Trinity.

  • Veronica Carr
    June 4, 2013

    So we have a book that says all kinds of ridiculous things, and we have no idea how flawed it is because it was written by humans, and now we just have to sort through the rubbish and hope we aren’t doing it wrong?

    • Ben English
      June 4, 2013

      Welcome to the human condition. ?

  • SDG
    June 5, 2013

    It seems to me there’s a gaping lacuna between “inerrancy,” which perhaps claims too much, and “trustworthiness” in the sense that the author affirms (i.e., “I can trust my mother based on her lifetime of experience”), which claims too little.

    For one thing, while the obligation of filial piety lasts a lifetime, filial obedience does not. We should never outgrow love and respect for our mother, and may seek her opinion well into our adult lives, but there comes a time when she can no longer tell us what to do. Our adult judgment at some point may be as good as hers, or perhaps better. Possibly much better. If our mothers live long enough, eventually they may need to trust our judgment and experience and do what we tell them, rather than the other way around. Even if our judgment isn’t better than our mother’s, it is we, not she, who has ultimate authority in our lives.

    Is that our adult relationship with the Bible? Do we eventually outgrow not only belief in a literal garden of Eden and a literal Flood, but also the belief that Genesis authoritatively teaches us anything at all that we must accept?

    For another, any two mothers may be in principle equivalent in maternal trustworthiness. Or, while I owe filial piety to my own mother, someone else equally owes filial piety to theirs — and at the end of the day theirs may be wiser or more trustworthy than mine.

    In the same way, granted that the Bible, on even a sensitive humanistic reading, is a powerful repository of human wisdom and religious insight does that make it qualitatively different from any other sacred text out there, or even any other great body of literature or even art in general, religious or otherwise? Can’t we find valid insights worthy of trust and acceptance in the Book of Common Prayer, the Hindu Vedas, the Talmud, Shakespeare, the Philokalia, The Lord of the Rings, the Great American Songbook? Is our unique relationship to the Bible simply that it is “our” most sacred text? Or is there something unique to the Bible that all mankind would be better for recognizing?

    Is the Bible only “trustworthy,” whatever that means? Or is it in any sense authoritative? Uniquely so, even? On the answer to that question hangs in part, it seems to me, the author’s claim to any sort of Christian orthodoxy, or perhaps even Christian faith, as distinct from mere identification with a Christian cultural heritage.

  • Mark Powley
    June 5, 2013

    Hi Zack, I really enjoyed this provocative piece – thank you. You’ve put your finger on a few things I’ve been grasping after, things John Goldingay was driving at in Models for Scripture.

    Two thoughts for you: first, the London tube map. It bears at points only a loose relation to the actual path of the rail tracks; but it is just about perfect as a map, iconic even. It is perfect for its purpose. I love the way the Scriptures gather human voices up into the divine story and the way – as you say – they require faith to really work. In their imperfection, they do their job brilliantly (I could say perfectly, but I wouldn’t want to be dogmatic about it!).

    Second, have you ever connected this thought with Isaiah 50:10-11?
    “Who among you fears the Lord
    and obeys the word of his servant?
    Let the one who walks in the dark,
    who has no light,
    trust in the name of the Lord
    and rely on their God.
    But now, all you who light fires
    and provide yourselves with flaming torches,
    go, walk in the light of your fires
    and of the torches you have set ablaze.
    This is what you shall receive from my hand:
    You will lie down in torment.”
    With thanks,

  • Jan
    June 6, 2013

    Very interesting premise. I wonder what you do with 2 Peter 1:21?

  • Shawn
    June 8, 2013

    Oh No! You got Ken Ham from Answeres in Genisis mad! You better become a young earth creationist soon.

    Having a brain just won’t cut it for Ken Ham.

  • bean701
    June 10, 2013

    Great piece Zach.
    I spent 12 years in a very conservative (almost fundamentalist) church. A key belief that was the Bible was the inerrant, wholly inspired, total word of God.
    I left that church after 12 years. Too much reading and thinking had been done by me to stay.
    Recently I’ve been struggling with doubt and right now I am really thankful that I woke up and realized the Bible is a bunch of stories, written by imperfect men and not a single book. I have the most problems with the stories written by people who lived in the bronze age and thought the world was flat. Also, I struggle with the violent God that the early Hebrews projected into their work. Go slay every member of a certain tribe? That the sun stood still so the killing could continue? Doesn’t really sound like the God of love to me.
    And then I realized that people have been trying to figure out God for a long time.
    Glad to be in a fairly progressive mainline church where I feel free to use my brain as well as my heart as I figure out God…

  • Brittany Shields
    June 10, 2013

    I find many flaws in your reasoning and your use of Scripture. I first want to point out that when God created us- we were perfect. Temptation does not equal imperfection- Jesus was even tempted by the devil. Having temptation just means we have free will. God gave us a choice in the beginning- that’s why the fruit was there. How can we show God love if we don’t have a choice?

    I also would challenge that believing Scripture is inerrant would require faith just as much as believing it wasn’t. If you believe God is all-powerful than He could totally have enabled an inerrant book to be written through the Holy Spirit. If you have faith that he could….

    You make some good points, and maybe the real problem is just what you view as ‘inerrant’. What constitutes an error? The Bible never claims to be void of spelling or grammar mistakes, rounded numbers, etc. The Bible must be taken in its context- the literary context in certain passages- whether it was meant to be read as history, narrative, poetry, etc.

    This article was written by someone far more knowledgeable than me, maybe this would offer an alternative perspective for you.

  • rebecca
    June 19, 2013

    thanks for being brave enough to wrestle with this and allowing us to follow along. i think if more christians could embrace some of this logic and be willing to struggle with the gray, maybe our churches might be more “real”. i am finding in conversation is when real community happens and when there is one right way there is really no need for conversation. why do we need our absolutes and formulas? why is it so hard to accept the other person where ever they are at in their journey?

    i know i am so weary of all the judgement “you are on your way to hell” bs when questions are asked, when lifestyles are different.

    LOVED this Anne Lamott quote, “The opposite of faith is not doubt. It’s certainty.” thanks for sharing that.

    Oh i think i found you through RHE (i am a blog junkie) and i will be back ?

  • David Michael
    July 5, 2013

    Mind. Blown.

  • disqus_gHEJFWd06Y
    August 28, 2013

    Great article!!

  • ZD
    September 9, 2013

    Best wishes to you.
    I grew up in a church full of people who believed in the inerrant nature of scripture, and, whoo boy am I glad to be rid of that. The only way to keep such illogical and anti-Christian fallacies alive is by trapping people in a bubble and convincing them that everyone who disagrees with their dogma is dangerous.

    When I ventured out into the world and realized that the overwhelming majority of Christians today and throughout history were nothing like the Evangelicals of the Midwestern bubble society I knew, it didn’t take long to move on with my life.

    The comments here by people who still cling to inerrancy prove how much better we are to ignore them and move on. Even if you could be right about this, I’d rather go to a hell with decent human beings than be sent to a heaven full of fundamentalist anger, arrogance, and bigotry. Your “inerrancy” produces more atheists and unbelievers than most anything else.

    Hopefully people like the author can gain some traction in modern American Christian thought.


  • BB
    November 8, 2013

    Where does the Bible claim to have error? And if the Bible has error, how do you choose which parts are true and which parts are false?

  • Erin Kleider
    December 23, 2013

    This was very eloquently stated. Thank you for championing faith because without it, I would have been lost long ago.

  • Victoria
    March 6, 2014

    I would like to start off saying that this is an interesting article and it is a different perspective.

    I am not going to say by any means that I am a biblical scholar but I would like to pose some questions and ask for some clarification.

    Firstly, I would like to look at the word inerrancy. I didn’t know what in the world what this word meant so I looked it up on several website, including the oxford dictionary (being a college student this is the credible dictionary to site from) and it says that something is “incapable of being wrong.” Now, does that mean that you are arguing that the bible has the capacity to be proved wrong? If so I was wondering if you or if someone has found a fallacy in the bible? I think also to truly find an error, someone would have to know and fully be able to interrupt every verse as well. Which is we’re faith comes in. Faith is define as “complete trust or confidence is something or someone; because we do not fully understand every part of the bible, we build faith in what we do know.
    This actually leads me to your verse that you quoted several times. This verse, that I am sure you know comes from 1 chronicles 3:12 ” For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” ESV. Now not being a bible scholar I looked through several commentaries so see if there was a general theme and “Paul here makes use of another illustration to show the imperfection of our knowledge,” ( ) . Also, from what I have read and understood of the bible we cannot fully understand everything because we do not have God’s capacity Isaiah 55:8-9 “Isa 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. ” We cannot comprehend why or how he does everything but we have confidence and trust (faith) in Him.
    Next, I would like to touch on the faith vs doubt theory. Maybe I am being very tedious, but going to the root of each word, again, faith is having confidence whereas doubt means having the feeling of uncertainty. I would honestly like to say that I do not have uncertainty because in Jesus Christ because I know that “… the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake.”
    This is long enough but I would like the keep the comments going because like I said it is an interesting perspective. But please feel free to clarify, oppose, or anything ?

  • Odessa Franklin
    May 11, 2014

    First of all – great article. After spending the last decade reading and studying the entire Bible over and over again – I fully agree with you and have pages of contradictory / issue verses I have recorded myself and then confirmed with theologian research, etc. Nothing touched by humans is inerrant. Secondly – if the people calling you heretics and being nasty and hateful are the ones supporting an inerrant Bible, I’d be running the other way if I wasn’t already a Christian. Further proof many of those who believe in a perfect Bible don’t actually read it, they cherry-pick. If they did, perhaps they’d be a little more like Jesus instead of being more concerned with being nasty and unkind… just a thought. Perhaps they’d like to literally run to Rome for Paul and fetch his
    cloak and parchments if their name is Timothy… if they even know that
    verse is in the Bible (Paul’s letters…which I assume they also know were only 50-60% actually written by Paul. He only co-authored the other letters – it’s right in the beginning of them if y’all would care to read it).

  • Rational Prophet
    June 8, 2014

    I just discovered your post on my journey towards my own spiritual development.
    I was intrigued by what you wrote and even more so by the comments left behind.
    Many things are quoted by people who want to demonstrate the validity of what they say. People who capitalise phrases to do with God as some of the more vocal of your respondents have done are mildly amusing but concerning as well.
    History is taught by the victors who then have the duty/luxury of indoctrinating their children and culture with their truth.
    Knowledge of the holocaust and other tribulations and persecution of the Jews only exists today because there were survivors, liberators, silent opponents, and witnesses who documented the events. In many ways the Jewish community are the victors over the Nazis in the outcome since the attempted genocide. Had strategic mistakes not been made by the Third Reich I doubt very much that today’s civilian population would have known anything about what happened to the Jewish people.
    I for one would not have been enriched by the traditions of the Jewish members of my extended family and the appreciation I gained for them. I can see where the resentment of the culture may have come from though – it’s not as easy as dunking yourself in a river and saying what others expect you to say to convert from goyim to Jew.
    Back to my point and my prediction.
    Christians and Jews have been the dominant and most influential cultures on Earth for the past several thousand years.
    Many other cultures have come and gone in similar stretches of time.
    We may be at the end of our period of dominance. The arrogance, belief in infallible faith, and sense of entitlement of Western culture has created “frenemies” in the far and middle East.
    We sometimes forget the remnants of the previous generation’s Mutually Assured Destruction mentality and that there still remains enough firepower to destroy the planet several times over.
    It will be archaeologists (whether human or alien) in the future who will be the ones who determine whether the most sacred of our cultures texts were truly inerrant.
    Until then I believe we need to obey the golden rule at the very least with those we love as well as our frenemies and just maybe we can continue to write the history of our race.

  • Christophany
    August 7, 2014

    The blog author begins by attempting to undercut any objections with a fallacy known as “poisoning the well”. This is a pre-emptive attack on the character of those holding the opposing view and in this case it proceeds as follows:

    – people who hold to biblical inerrancy are heresy hunters and religious zealots who stand ready to condemn you to hell at a moments notice

    – they are ignorant fundamentalists who don’t read church history

    – they don’t read their bibles and they lack faith

    These points would seem to rule out the possibility of an intelligent, educated, and charitable engagement with biblical inerrantists from the word go.

    This fallacy runs throughout the article.

    An alternative to this entirely negative and slanderous misrepresentation of biblical inerrantists would be that they are generally people who read the bible regularly because they believe it is normative for all matters of Christian faith and practice and seek to understand it properly in pursuit of not only sound doctrine but holy living. In many instances biblical inerrantists are among the most literate and are well educated on church history, they understand how our doctrine of scripture has developed over time. They are aware that the Bible is a collection of books in a variety of genres written by human authors in several eras, they are also quite often keenly aware of those places where apparent contradictions are supposed and seek to harmonize the scriptures and resolve those tensions because they believe that God does not inspire anything false, incorrect, or misleading. They are highly committed to maintaining the internal consistency and reliability of the bible against critics because they believe that to do so preserves the content of the faith once for all delivered to the saints, in doing this they show love for God and love for their neighbors.

    Whether they are right or wrong in this is to be determined, but it’s always good form to present your opponents view positively and truthfully rather than caricatured into a straw man argument.

    Next, the author asserts that belief in biblical inerrancy is not a historic Christian position and cites a single Wikipedia article on the conflict between fundamentalism and modernism to prove it. I would like to congratulate the author of this blog on settling the matter with erudition and scholarship.

    Oh yes, biblical inerrancy is a completely modern idea! Which is why John Calvin writing his commentary on Psalm 51:4 in the
    16th century says “the works of God, as well as his words, are characterized by unerring rectitude”

    And commenting on Psalm 62:11 “It is of great consequence that we be established in the belief in God’s Word, and we are here directed to the unerring certainty which belongs to it.”

    And in his commentary on 1 Tim 3:16: “This is the first clause, that we owe to Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God; because it has proceeded from him alone, and has nothing belonging to man mixed with it.”

    And if Calvin is too modern and I’ve failed to make my point, here’s Saint Augustine writing in the 5th century to Jerome ”
    I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honor only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it. As to all other writings, in reading them, however great the superiority of the authors to myself in sanctity and learning, I do not accept their teaching as true on the mere ground of the opinion being held by them; but only because they have succeeded in convincing my judgment of in truth either by means of these canonical writings themselves, or by arguments addressed to my reason.”
    (Letters 82.1.3)

    Tertullian also writes as early as the 2nd century ”
    “The statements, however, of holy Scripture will never be discordant with truth.”
    (Tertullian, A Treatise on The Soul, ch. 21)

    Nothing to see here, move along. What were we saying? Oh, right, belief in biblical inerrancy is a modern development and not at all to be found in historic Christianity.

    Ok, so the author then goes on to quote his favorite liberal theologians who say that faith is opposed to certainty, to which I might respond, are they certain of that?

    Hebrews 11:1 defines faith this way: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

    Certainly (pun intended) faith requires something to lay hold of which is as yet unrealized. The content of the scripture, rather than the scripture itself gives us the object and end which we are to hope for: the salvation of our souls, deliverance from sin, judgment, the resurrection of our bodies, and the life everlasting, world without end.

    The content and nature of scripture as God’s inspired and inerrant written word is not the object of our desire yet unrealized, the promises it contains are. The Bible, as such, is the ground of our assurance.

    Next comes the oft used line that the bible can’t be perfect because it is written by humans and humans are by definition not perfect.

    R.C. Sproul answers this objection in his book Sola Scriptura: “If being human demands error, is a man not a man when he speaks the truth? The term fallible describes an ability, not an act. To say that men are fallible is to say the men are capable of error, not that they must err or that they always err.” (Sola Scriptura pg. 85)

    Was Jesus human? Completely. Did Jesus ever sin or err in his teaching? No.

    Thus, it is completely possible and even reasonable that the bible being written by men and inspired by God is free from error.

    The author uses the example of Noah’s ark to prove that the bible contains absurdities and errors. Clearly it would have been impossible for Noah to fit two of every kind of animal on the ark! But this begs the question. Perhaps there were fewer species in Noah’s day than there are now, perhaps Noah built a really big boat, or perhaps the God who upholds the universe by the word of his power and causes things to be which are not, who caused the sun to stand still and the Red Sea to part, the God who raises men from the dead worked an unbelievable miracle.

    It would seem that the blog authors incredulity here reveals an actual lack of faith in the clear account of scripture. And you see where this leads don’t you? It starts by denying lesser miracles found in the historical narrative of the bible because they are incongruent with modern science and ends by denying the historical resurrection, you end up with a Jesus who is alive in your heart but whose body is still dead in the grave, a similar sort of thing happens with the word of God too.

  • Christophany
    August 7, 2014

    I have written up a response to this post here:

  • Gary
    March 10, 2015

    Almost all Christian doctrines are based on the New Testament of the Bible. But, how do Christians know that these 27 books are the inerrant, inspired words of God, as Christians tell us?

    Answer: A bunch of fallible, scientifically illiterate Churchmen in the second, third, and fourth centuries said so! That’s it!

    When and where did God say that a bunch of old Churchmen have the authority to determine what is and what is not his Word? When and where did God say that Saul/Paul of Tarsus was speaking on his behalf? Or the writers of the Gospels? Or James? Or Peter? Or any other writer of the New Testament? Even if the apostles themselves had voted unanimously for the 27 books of the current New Testament to be designated as the “Word of God”, that still would not prove that God had authorized them to do so. We have no evidence that the Eleven achieved a state of perfection and omniscience on Pentecost. They, like every other human being, were fallible. So where is the evidence that God left a list of what should and what should not be considered his Word in a new testament?

    Answer: No where!

    We have no evidence from the Bible or anywhere else that God gave Christians a list of what is and what is not his Word! Christians have created an “inerrant, inspired, you-are-damned-to-Hell-if-you-don’t-believe-it” Holy Book based solely on the opinions of men living almost 2,000 years ago.

    Bombshell: Christians have zero evidence that proves the New Testament of the Bible to be the Word of God; the inerrant message of the Creator of the Universe to mankind. Most Christians have never asked the question: How do I know that the Bible is God’s Word. It is time to start asking that question, friends.

  • John MacArthur
    March 24, 2015


  • Rational Life
    August 19, 2015

    This is a super old post, but I wanted to add my thoughts. I admire your attempt to reason this out; however, your logic is flawed. Granted, your mom (in the scenario above) is not perfect, but she gave you some truthful wisdom, based on actual evidence. It’s true that if children just run out into the street without looking both ways, there is a high probability they will get injured. This is a universal truth. Anywhere there are cars and children, this truth will be applicable. Saudi, Canadian, African, Russian, Italian, et al, parents give their kids the same advice. How do we know it’s true? Because countless kids have run into the street, without looking both ways, and have been injured. So, like any wise/moral teaching, it is taught with the goal of preventing harm or suffering. That’s it. The messenger is not as important to the teaching (your mom, the Bible, a prophet, etc.) as the actual message. The message, or truth claim, is what needs to be vetted. Reason, reality, science, history, statistics, emergency room admission, etc. all support your mother’s truth claim that “looking both ways before crossing the street” is wise. It was true when you were little, and it’s true now

    Now, contrast that with the truth claims of the Bible. Virgin births, bodily resurrections, walking on water, demonic possession, satanic influences, etc. Unlike your mother’s sound (and demonstrable) admonitions, the extraordinary truth claims of the Bible require extraordinary evidence before any rational person should believe it. This issue of whether the messenger (ie.: your mom, the Bible, etc) is inerrant or non-inerrant is a “red herring”. Again, whether or not the messenger (vehicle/medium of transmission) is perfect is not the issue. It is the TRUTH CLAIMS that are worth vetting, not necessarily the source, and there clearly is no extraordinary (or even ordinary) evidence that the truth claims of the Bible are actually “true” (other than the Bible claiming itself to be true, which is the logic fallacy of “circular reasoning”, so that is not evidence). This is why people must commit to Christianity via faith alone. There is no evidence. Faith means “Belief without evidence”. Whereas, your mother’s advice is a “belief based on A LOT of evidence”. Ergo: Every day, kids get hit by cars because they didn’t look both ways,

    Nice try though. Seriously, I admire your attempt at reconciling this issue. The reality is, the Bible must be inerrant for the “story” to be cohesive. However, we know that the Bible is not inerrant and has, in fact, been tampered with. Google the following: “comma johanneum” and “last 12 verses of mark” and you will see 2 direct and irrefutable additions to the Bible (these are called “interpolations” by scholars).

    Also, you seem to be coming from a position where you believe (a priori) that the Bible is true. But there is no compelling evidence that the “truth claims” of the Bible are true-this is called “confirmation bias”. The Koran, Bible, Book of Mormon, Dianetics, etc. ALL claim to be true. How do you know the other books are false, and the Bible true? Other than faith, how do you “know” you are in the “right” religion?

    This statement you made: “In other words, my mom is a lot like the Bible. She’s not perfect, but I can still trust that what she says is true”

    …can easily be re-stated as…

    “In other words, my mom is a lot like the Koran. She’s not perfect, but I can still trust that what she says is true”

    – or –

    “In other words, my mom is a lot like the Book of Mormon. She’s not perfect, but I can still trust that what she says is true”

    Do you see how illogical that assertion is? Not trying to be insulting, just trying to help you become a more sophisticated thinker.

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  • bowie1
    August 22, 2016

    I didn’t see a biblical reference that the “bible isn’t perfect and it says so itself.”

  • Ryan Lee
    August 25, 2016

    So this popped up on my facebook but i see that i am late to the conversation. Interestingly i have recently finished a paper for my ordination on inerrancy that is pretty similar to the post on a good many of these points.

    Not sure if anyone else mentioned this but i think a point that builds upon what has already been said in this article. It is that when we talk about inerrancy we often leave out an active and imperative component, that is the Holy Spirit. As imperfect beings our ability to recognize perfection is limited. Furthermore our ability to recognize God is limited. Take the travelers on the road to Emmaus for instance, and in the conclusion of that story their eyes were opened. Jesus many times says to his disciples that the knowledge/answers that they spoke had been given/revealed to them by God. Not to mention the selection of books in the canonization process the bible went through. How is it that a person or any number of persons could recognize God in one piece of literature and not the other? Paul certainly wrote more letters then what we have in the NT yet they are not part of the NT. Certainly it is the work of the Holy Spirit that and the faithfulness of God that allows us to claim that the bible is perfect in leading to salvation.

    I do feel like your argument comparing that which is God-breathed and God, is weakened by the reality of Jesus. Jesus is both begotten and God and the Gospel of John wants to solidify this connection, not least of this claiming that the Word is God. I dont think this completely undoes the point you make in the comparison but it think it certainly softens it. Great article though!

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