Given the recent blog discussions between myself and a person who takes the literal inerrant view of the Bible I want to spend a few minutes on that subject. There are basically two views on how to interpret Biblical text:
Literal and Inerrant Approach – People who espouse this view believe that absolutely every word in the Bible is written by God through human authors. Therefore everything in the Bible is absolutely and literally true as God is not capable of anything else. To those people, among other things, the earth is around 5,000 years old and was created in six 24 hour days and Jonah indeed spent three days in the belly of a whale.
The Inspired Writings Approach – These people believe that the Bible was written and assembled by human beings and that much of the writing was inspired by God. This group believe that although all of the Bible is useful for teachings it did not come totally from God but instead has a very human aspect. They believe that much of the Bible was gleaned from verbal accounts passed down from one generation to another. They also interpret some of the text to be stories, similar to the parables of Jesus, so they are not necessarily literally true except in the messages they convey.
The proponents of these two Biblical approaches each treat the Bible as a holy document worthy of constant study throughout their lives. Those who believe in the Inspired Writings Approach seem to have tolerance for those in the other camp. But, in some cases those who believe in the literal and inerrant approach are much more defensive. To that end they think they must therefore attack anyone with a different viewpoint in an attempt to prove them wrong. They say that carbon dating and all the science that shows the world is millions of years old is just God tricking us. They believe that the creation text couldn’t possibly be just a story used to relay a message; it has to be literal fact to them.
The literalists mostly believe that God quit giving revelations after the last book of the Bible was written. To them there is nothing that can be added or subtracted from the current biblical text. The inspired writing believers for the most part think that God continues to give us messages today that sometimes those messages are in addition to the Bible but they are most often a re-enforcement or personalization of current biblical messages. Some literalists seem to believe that most revelation that people think they get today is really from the devil or other sources and not God. The Catholic church, which makes up the majority of Christians, also believe that God gives us revelation through the Pope and church traditions.
It is sad to me to see the warring that goes on between these two groups. There is so much kingdom work to be done we shouldn’t be wasting our energy battling each other! But then this is not the only place were Christians battle each other over our human understanding of God. There are literally thousands of divisions in the Body of Christ over this and similar issues. This greatly saddens me.