On Biblical Inerrancy:Is the Word of God True?

Edit: A lot of people were missing the context to this post and extrapolating my views far beyond what I meant. If it helps, read this work at Newsweek first nitpicking this historical inaccuracies of what we know as the Bible today. My point is that even if the narrative is inaccurate, the message is true. 

I do not claim to be a priest, or to speak for God in any shape or form. I merely explore my own understanding (which is fallible) and share them here in the hopes that someone would contribute to my enlightenment. I welcome all criticism.

I do not believe in the literality of the Bible in the sense that the things written in them are pure statements of facts. As an example, I believe the story of Genesis is true, but I doubt it’s truth is one that any of us could say that we understand objectively. Adam was made, then Eve out of his ribs. They were put in a garden. The garden had a tree. The serpent spoke to Eve. The fruit they ate ‘opened their eyes’. These are events which may or may not have happened literally. Eden could have been a real garden, or not. The fruit might have been a fruit in our sense of it, or it may not. Eve might have been genuinely formed out of an actual rib, or not. There is no easy way to verify any claim we might make about this. That goes for a lot of the stories in the Bible, bar maybe the historical or genealogical ones. Some people, Christian and non-Christian, feel the need to defend the literality of the Biblical narrative, and do not allow at all for the possibility that they may be wrong about this. I’m not one of them.  I allow for the fact that the collection of stories that make up the Bible could be a collection of literal events, anecdoctal retellings, cultural borrowings, myths and allegories and philosophical and theological traditions handed down over millenia. On what basis then, do I insist that the Bible is true?

On the basis that the Bible’s stories are not about those stories themselves. We aren’t told about Samson and his strength in order for us to know about Samson. Neither are we told the account of Genesis to enable us gain familiarity on Adam. Same goes for Abraham. And the Prophets. And the nation, Israel. And the apostles. Perhaps, the only exception is Christ because at some level, the Bible is about him. But the larger point of the Bible for us, what makes both it and Christ necessary, what makes it true, is what those narratives are mirroring, or what they are telling us about the world, and about ourselves. The truth of the Bible is a teleological one, it is true insofar as it points us to an accurate sense of the end or purpose for which human life, yours and mine and that of everyone who has ever lived, was created. To paraphrase that very Bible, we know in part, because we remain in the world but in the world to come, we will know in full. In plain English, whatever meaning we get from the Bible about the spiritual life, or God or heaven is only a hint, a paraphrase, a way of reducing it to human scale so that we could approximate a sense of it. I could easily say the entire Bible is a parable, but played out by using human lives and events as it’s illustration. There is a reason Christ always started speaking about his Gospel with “the Kingdom of God is like..” It is unknowable, directly, as long as we remain on earth. It is at the root of something the German logician and philosopher Wittgenstein said in one of his books , ” The sense (the understanding/the purpose/the telos) of the world must lie outside the world. In the world everything happens and is governed by chance. Within it there is no value – and if there were, it would be meaningless. If there is a value in the world, it must lie outside of all happenstance and becoming. For all happenstance and becoming is contingent (accidental/random/dependent on other externalities). What gives the world meaning therefore cannot lie in the world, for otherwise this would itself be subject to chance. It must lie outside the world.” The entire premise of the Bible is that there is INDEED a purpose for the world, a telos, or end point to which it is moving and then it points to that purpose so that we can see it and then orient ourselves towards it. To this end, nitpicking over the “literal” accuracy of the Biblical narrative is pointless, it’s not a mathematics textbook. And I speak both to Christians and non-Christians on this.

It would be like being told all those stories of Ananse the tortoise, or hare and your point of contention is whether or not the tortoise really spoke, or asked that question or did those things. You misunderstand the story. It is not about the tortoise. It is about you. Men lives lives, and did things, and knew a truth about this life, and this world that they decided to bind together in the Scriptures. The whole point of the Bible is based on the understanding that you are here, that you know life is beyond just the here and now, and that within you lives something transcendent which drives you to think about the eternal and life beyond the world we live in. And the answers the Bible provides for that, if you pay attention, are pure truth. Those are the things that make the Bible true.

Christ himself said he came into the world to bear witness to the truth. That means that Truth was here right from the foundation of the world. You can either believe as I do, that the Scriptures were inspired by God to make that truth available to us, or you can nitpick on whether the apple is a real fruit and whether Paul was a real historical figure or a collection of different writers masquerading as a zealous ex-Pharisee. Your call.

1 Comment

  1. This is a bit of digression but while we’re talking religion, all this makes a whole lot of sense, I’m actually one of a few (that I’ve met) who feel Christianity, and all other forms of religion along with their (for lack of a better general word) supporting resources like the Bible, Quran etc could possibly just be more man made than we think. Isn’t it a bit suspicious that each region of the world developed their own version of religion and the popularity of the most influential religions we have today are only as a result of bilateral trade and political domination? What is a perfect way to define which of these religions are wrong or right especially since most of them are so similar? Why do humans rush to criticize each other’s religions even though a lot of critical teachings of these religions are almost the same; Peace, Love, self and communal commitment/development e.t.c.

    I believe there is a God, but I don’t think he cares if I follow Jesus, Budha or Mohammed. I think he just wants me to live healthy, Contribute as much good and as little bad to the people and world around me as much as I possibly can, and try to leave a better world for the next batch. I think if we got a glimpse of heaven’s guest list right now we would find less priests/pastors and more communal benefactors. Less politicians and more slavery abolitionists/freedom fighters, less front row church members and more visionaries (people who find cures to diseases, inventors who reform the way we live so life becomes easier than before). I think religious categorisation is killing the world just like classism and racism have been doing for centuries. A man shouldn’t be looked at or brought up in a certain way because he’s Muslim just as a man shouldn’t be looked at or brought up in a certain way because he is Black, Asian, or from a certain income grade. A man, at the end of the day, is and will always be a man. What we should do is try to make a world of men (and women) believe that.


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