Warning: possible heresy to follow.
Did everything in the Bible happen exactly as it’s written? I don’t know. More to the point, I don’t care. Was Jonah actually swallowed by a large fish and spit out three days later? Did Noah really live in an ark for months with a bunch of animals? Maybe. Maybe not. Could God have made all that happen? Absolutely. Did God make all that happen? No idea. I wasn’t there.
I’m not trying to intentionally cause ass-twitching in the conservative evangelical community, but I don’t really care if I do. There is such fervent argument for the inerrancy of scripture and earnest pleading that one MUST believe that everything in the Bible happened EXACTLY THE WAY IT’S WRITTEN. I’ve even had good friends (whom I love and respect) say they believe the things in the Bible happened b/c Jesus & Paul believed that they happened. How do we know they believed they happened? They used illustrations from the Old Testament b/c it resonated with their audiences, not necessarily b/c they knew they were 100% accurate descriptions of historical reality.
Here’s what I think: being a person of faith does not mean I am a person of certainty. It requires a lot more faith and fortitude to believe that through the centuries and possible mishandling of manuscripts God can still manage to bring God’s truth to me, conceptually intact, and that God can use an imperfect text to reach out and communicate God’s love to the world.
Since when has God only been able to use perfection to accomplish God’s purposes? We take great comfort in the assurance that David, Paul, Moses, Noah and other biblical heroes were deeply flawed and tell the story of God working through human brokenness. Why then, can’t we apply that same principle to scripture?
In my opinion, people who harp on the inerrancy issue are trying to make themselves feel better about their choice of faith journey. The very definition of faith requires us to say “I don’t know” a lot, because at the end of the day, we don’t KNOW. We BELIEVE. It’s a less comfortable place to live, but it puts God squarely in control, which is where God belongs. Being a person of faith calls me to stop arguing about scripture and start submitting to it, a much more difficult proposition.