“But the text says…”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in conversation with others (many believers, some unbelievers) who say something like, “But the Bible says…”, you fill in the blank. In fact, however, the text does not say that. Typically I’ll respond with something like “But the text says…” Most of those I encounter are educated and intelligent, so it’s not the inability to pay attention to the details. Why then are they not reading the text as it is written? Two possibilities come to mind: 1) They have some preconceived notion of what the Bible says and read that notion into the text. This preconception blinds them to the details. 2) They have a low view of Scripture’s authority and are coming to the text with a liberal and loose framework thinking “The text can’t really mean what it actually says.”

So I ask: Can we trust the Bible as it was written or do we just treat it like a “User’s Guide” with best practices and suggestions? Do we just invoke the Scriptures for our own ends or are we submitting to the Scriptures as God’s very Word? One of the summary statements from “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy” says this:

Holy Scripture, being God’s own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it affirms; obeyed, as God’s command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God’s pledge, in all that it promises.

And, Article VI of the Statement reads:

We affirm that the whole of Scripture and all its parts, down to the very words of the original, were given by divine inspiration. We deny that the inspiration of Scripture can rightly be affirmed of the whole without the parts, or of some parts but not the whole.

You can download the whole thing here.

Each year, I have to reaffirm my commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture when renewing my membership in The Evangelical Theological Society and I heartily do so because, when rightly interpreted, every word, clause, phrase, sentence, paragraph, and book is the mind of God communicated to us. And, everything God says is of ultimate importance and has sovereign authority over my life.

For some excellent sources on reading about inerrancy (trusting the truthfulness of Scripture) see Some Suggested Reading on Inerrancy.

4 thoughts on ““But the text says…””

  1. So what you’re saying is that we don’t need to trust the Bible because it’s not authoritative. At least, “that’s what your post ‘means to me.'” There, I feel better already! Now, what did you say about some text? 😉

  2. Paul. I came here by way of your comments on Trevin Wax’s blog about that Mole at SBTS on his mind change about women pastors. You have a good blog – how would you apply this particular post to those who do not support women pastors. They have 1Tim 2:12, the text says it right there… how do you get around it? Thanks (p.s., my wife is a pastor).

  3. Greetings and thanks for dropping by here. I’m encouraged you find some usefulness to my musings.

    Good question re: 1 Tim 2:12. For many years it was this passage alone that kept me from committing to a full-orbed biblical egalitarianism. Until I heard Linda Belleville present a paper on this text at the ETS in Orlando, ’98 and then began some follow-up reading. After reading Phil Payne’s treatment of this passage (see my summaries here, here, and here), I would respond with some probing questions to my interlocutors.

    Perhaps I need a follow-up post to this one titled something like, “But the text [really] says…” (wink).

  4. I’ll check them out – I have the book too and need to read and review it too. blessings – so hard to talk with people who have a “the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it” approach to the Scripture. It’s tragic really.

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