Ever since I enrolled in seminary the study and use of hermeneutics have interested me. There is two reasons for this: 1) I go to dispensational school and dispensationalists tend to hear the Scriptures say things that are very foreign to my ears (along with other confessional theologians) 2) the school is build upon innerancy and innerancy is a bit weird to my thinking.
(For a recent statement about inerrancy that begs the question at almost every turn see here.)
The real beginning point for my questions and frustration started a couple of years ago when I was in a class which was being taught by the chair of the Theology department. The class started normally, as a praise service of Jonathan Edwards, but then the professor digressed and I heard the strangest thing I had heard up to that day. He said, “ inerrancy is what you say about the Bible and everything else is hermeneutics!” This was strange to me because I always had understood inerrancy as being the proper result of interpreting the Scriptures.
Honestly I have been trying to comprehend how someone would believe the “all else is hermeneutics” statement and then still fight for inerrancy since it de facto makes inerrancy unverifiable and unfalsifiable in the same breath? This came from a prof. who in the same class said, “you can be a Christian without believing in inerrancy but you cannot think Christianly without believing inerrancy!” (I swear I’m telling the truth.)
The way I understand inerrancy it is what one says about the Bible because of God’s nature and not what one says about the Bible because of the evidence. (So the logic in the previously linked article) So, the logic goes like this: 1.) God is inerrant and he gave us the Bible 2.) so the Bible must be inerrant. So, the theological-hermeneutical result is as long as you proclaim your belief in inerrancy you can do whatever you want to the text because that falls within the realm of hermeneutics and the Bible is still “inerrant.”
One of my (many) questions about this is, “Why even have a label for something if it has no practical import?”
Me: “Hey what you drinking?”
Inerrantist: “Sweat tea”
Me: “Word, I’m pretty thirsty. Can I get a hit?”
Me: “Pfffffffffffffff. [Cough, Cough, Cough] Oh shit what the hell did I just drink. [Cough, Cough, Cough] Man, call an ambulance I can barely breath. What, were you trying to kill me?! What kind of sweat tea is this?!”
Inerrantist: “The kind you start your car with”
Now some will probably object and say that I have misunderstood inerrancy because it really is the doctrine that states, “When the original writers words are properly interpreted the Scriptures are not wrong in matters that they intend to teach.” Fair enough, but what about when the Scriptures use other parts of Scripture in a way that is obviously different to the original writer’s sense? Some may say that who am I to say “authoritatively” what the writer of Scripture means? I think that reply is bogus because it is easy to see that Hosea didn’t come a million miles close to meaning what Matthew said. What is worse is that Matthew would not have said he was attempting to match meaning for meaning (that is unless he had been smoking some good stuff).
So I have two questions about inerrancy 1) why would I have to believe something that the Scriptures never say about themselves? 2) How does inerrancy actually make a difference?