Is Inerrancy the Linchpin of Evangelicalism?

by C Michael Patton

I believe in inerrancy. This means I believe that there are no errors in the Bible. Of course, this comes with the usual disclaimers which say that we must be talking about the original manuscripts and we must be assuming that the Bible is being interpreted correctly. In other words, none of our Bible translations are inerrant and we are not inerrant in our understanding of the text. To solve the translation problem, you could become a KJV Only advocate and believe that the King James is inerrant (but there is no warrant at all to make such a move). To solve the problem of interpretation, you could head to Rome and believe that the Pope is the infallible interpreter (but, again, no warrant – besides that, who would interpret the Pope?!). Therefore, I am left with the type of inerrancy I have. I am good with it.

However, while I believe that the Bible is inerrant, I do not believe this is the linchpin of Evangelicalism, much less Christianity. While I agree with most of the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy, I think I disagree with it when it says that one cannot deny inerrancy without incurring “grave consequences” on his or herself (XIX). “Grave” is a very strong word. Too strong, in my opinion. Nevertheless, inerrancy is important because it speaks to the nature of Scripture being in harmony with the nature of God. I have looked enough into this issue to believe that I probably won’t ever change my stance here. It is one of those issues that is pretty well settled in my theology.

However, if I were to find something that I believed was a legitimate error in the Scripture, I don’t think my faith would be affected too much. Why? Because the central truths of the Christian faith are not affected by inerrancy. I come across so many people who think that if they expose one error in the Bible, the entire Christian worldview will fall apart like the proverbial house of cards. This is simply not true…

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