It has taken me many years to get a clear handle on what the Bible is and what it is not. The idea that it is a book of inerrant revelation from God is THE fundamental, principle doctrine of Evangelicalism. This doctrine of the Bible was drilled into me in seminary. But it just is not true, and the wide world of biblical scholarship has known this for hundreds of years now. But the doctrine simply will not die. The reasons are many, but the strongest one in my opinion is the fundamental desire people have for certainty. I know this desire myself too well. We want an absolutely certain word from God. Of course, even when one regards the Bible as such, it does not work. For there is the fact that the Bible must be interpreted and that interpretation is not easy.
Does this mean I think the Bible is worthless? Nothing could be further from the truth. I think it’s value is truly priceless. But only if it is not used as an inerrant guide. Even the best of it must be used as an imperfect guide alongside other imperfect guides. The other imperfect guides may be summarized as God’s revelation of himself in creation, God’s law written upon our hearts, and the accumulated wisdom of the ages. We must consult these several imperfect guides, the Bible included, to best discern what is true of God and true of ourselves. And when this is done, at least when it is done with prayer and an open heart and mind, I believe we are able to discern that God is the most beautiful being we can imagine – indeed, more beautiful than we can imagine. And I believe we are able to discern that we are his precious creatures whom he has created to live as sons and daughters of him in a relationship of mutual friendship, even love. And not only has he created us for such, but he has at great suffering to himself carried out a plan to rescue us from our lost, estranged condition – a plan of redemption, culminating in the sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth on our behalf, the sacrifice of a son of God who could not have been more dear to God, so intimate was their bond and relationship.
Clearly I am living proof here that one does not need the erroneous Evangelical view of the Bible as inerrant revelation from God to know the truth about God and ourselves. I would challenge anyone to draw a better, truer picture of reality than what I have just sketched. And yet I do not believe the Bible is inerrant revelation from God.