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by Mark Driscoll
Does the bible contain errors?
If God is real, and if the Bible is “God’s word,” there’s a lot at stake when it comes to its reliability. So is the Bible riddled with errors or is it a reliable revelation of God?
I’m a nervous flyer.
Airplanes just freak me out. But fly I must from time to time, and so I place my trust in a hunk of brilliantly engineered metal, several computers, and pilots I’ve never met.
But let’s say I had reason to believe that the aircraft I’m supposed to board is faulty.
Guess who’s feet are staying on the ground?
If God is real, and if the Bible is “God’s word,” there’s a lot at stake when it comes to its reliability. Big question things. Life and death things. Eternal things.
“Does it err?” is the question of the day and, sadly, the answer from academia and modern culture—even in Christian circles—is ever increasingly “Yes.”
But if the “Check Engine” light starts flashing on something that’s stood the test of time as well as Scripture has, it makes sense to diagnose the claimed problem before walking away altogether.
It may be that the errors are coming from somewhere else.
The Bible contains errors, right?
When someone claims that the Bible contains errors, I automatically ask, “What kind of errors?”
The answer determines the direction of the conversation.
Oftentimes, the issues lie with seeming scientific inaccuracies or alleged contradictions in the text.
The Bible is not a science book
It was during the Enlightenment of the 18th Century that scientific works began to be as detailed in writing as they are today. Though that was a good advancement, it is unfair and unwise to hold a book penned thousands of years ago to post-Enlightenment writing-style standards.
Inerrancy simply means that the Bible does not err in what it intends to communicate.
When Joshua reported that the “sun stood still” on the day the Israelites defeated the Amorites (Josh. 10), he wasn’t offering an exhaustive scientific evaluation. The writer’s intention was to describe what he witnessed.
While the Bible isn’t a science manual, it does not disagree with science.
Whether or not the sun can remain in the same place in the sky for a day leads to a different conversation (i.e., one that centers around the miraculous), but it doesn’t demonstrate that the Bible errs in what it is communicating.
As for the question of miracles, if an omnipotent God exists, why can’t he manipulate his own natural laws to accomplish something? If the claim is that God doesn’t exist, then it is that presupposition that excludes a supernatural explanation of the Joshua event, not scientific inaccuracy.
While the Bible isn’t a science manual, it does not disagree with science. Even the Genesis account squares nicely with scientific cosmology. (Keep in mind that the author’s intent was simply to communicate that God created the universe out of nothing.)
What about the contradictions in the Bible?
If the objection is “contradictions,” it’s important to remember what is meant by the term.
“Contra” means “other.” The Law of Non-Contradiction states that “A” cannot be both “A” and “Not A” at the same time and in the same sense.
What are often called biblical contradictions are not contradictory at all by definition. They are actually paradoxes or are simply a matter of mystery.
Is there a contradiction between Matthew 26:34 and Mark 14:30? In one, Jesus says Peter will deny him before the rooster crows the next day. In the other, Jesus claims Peter’s denials would happen before the rooster crows twice.
But a mystery does not make a contradiction.
Some cry foul between “once” and “twice,” but no contradiction is present, only accounts that vary in the amount of detail included.
Some look no further than the Trinity before playing the contradiction card. The claim goes “1+1+1 cannot equal 1!” But that is a misunderstanding of the doctrine.
The Trinity is paradoxical, not contradictory. It claims that God is one essence and three persons. In other words, God is not three and one in the same sense.
Finally, if the Bible is as it says it is—a revelation from an infinite God to finite human beings—some mystery is inevitable. But a mystery does not make a contradiction.
There is much in the fields of science and history that remains mysterious, but the mystery factor doesn’t necessarily make those things untrue—it just means we lack full knowledge at this time.
Inerrancy is rooted in inspiration
Paul, in his final letter to Timothy, admonishes the younger disciple with these words:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).
John even makes an ontological connection between “the Word” and Jesus, shocking his Greek audience when he said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1: 1, 14). In other words, God’s words are tied directly to his very being.
If the true author of Scripture is God—if the Bible is divinely inspired, as it claims to be —biblical inerrancy logically follows.