Many if not most of the major fundamentalist evangelical churches and congregations express the following as their reverence of scripture
“We believe in the plenary-verbal inspiration of the accepted canon of the Scriptures as originally given and that they are infallibly and uniquely authoritative and free from error of any sort in all matters with which they deal, including scientific and historical as well as moral and theological.”
Plenary verbal inspiration sounds like a sophisticated way of saying that if it’s in the Bible it’s absolutely true and you better believe it.
“The word plenary means “full” or “complete”. Therefore, plenary verbal inspiration asserts that God inspired the complete text(s) of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, including both historical and doctrinal details. The word verbal affirms the idea that inspiration extends to the very words the writers chose.” – Theopedia, an Encyclopedia of Biblical Christianity
For a more theologically academic declaration on the inerrant Bible, see The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. The statement was formulated in October 1978 by more than 200 evangelical leaders at a conference sponsored by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, held in Chicago. To my knowledge none of the leaders ever claimed that God told them to do it.
I guess then I am quite grateful that I was not born into nor raised in the pretend reality of a verbal-plenary inspired Bible-based religion.
Had that happened I might even now as an older earth-bound mortal remain stuck in the shallow end of the pool – having never learned to swim because of my restrictive verbal-plenary water wings.
I might even now be afraid of anything out there in the deeper spiritual world that has to do with being both mortal and eternal.
My youthful missionary scripture study of line upon line and precept upon precept was never hobbled by someone else’s scriptural interpretations – official or otherwise. Not McConkie in Mormon Doctrine nor Talmage despite his beautiful prose.
If the leaders of Mormonism intended otherwise, they never should have asked me to become a teacher of what for me is still the most powerful way to utilize written scripture.
I appreciate that no teacher or role model ever told me that there was a one-true-interpretation of what the Book of Mormon verses contain (although none hesitated to tell me I could get closer to God by following its precepts.) And no one ever told me that scriptural meanings for me had already been interpreted and I was not to tamper or alter the interpretations.
The Book of Mormon itself contains the challenge and promise that has served me well in every venue of my life – even after I came to understand that taking a grain of salt with every book of scripture (regardless of which religion or in whose standard works) is okay with God.
Here is what I learned and trusted from the get go … and it still works better than anything I’ve heard from any pulpit on the planet.
Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, … and ponder in your chearts. … I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true;
and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
And whatsoever thing is good is just and true;
All of that promise has unfolded itself over my lifetime and proven again and again to work.
Although there were many who insisted that if I asked if Joseph was a prophet, if the LDS Church is the true church, and if there is a living prophet today … I was able to avoid entrapment of that either-or sales job which could and more than once did lead to an insistence that if God did not confirm Joseph, the Church and living prophets to me then I had gotten a spiritual answer from the wrong source.
Setting aside the evangelizing selling job of all fundamentalist evangelicals (which in the strictest sense of proselyting purpose includes Mormons) if we buy into someone else’s definitions of scripture, verbal-plenary or otherwise, we leave incredible portions of powerful spiritual nourishment on the table
Those who would sell you on the inerrant Bible are for the most part those who make their living selling their opinions based on conformity to doctrines hammered out of fundamentalist and literalist doctrines and theology that never had anything to do with how Jesus referred to or taught about scripture and the use.
Neither Jesus nor his disciples wandered around carrying scripture in one hand and attempting persuasion by reading from it.
Scripture was never intended to be used that way.
Scripture was never intended to be the written base of an academic theological curriculum at a
bible … er … scripture institute. For that matter, higher learning theologians for the most part make their living presenting nothing more than academic speculations based on historical research and application of language and linguistic technologies that have very little to do with the spirit of any words.
It is my opinion that literalist Christians may very well continue to literalize themselves into inconsequential roles, or worse, continue to be the source of highly negative social events that have little socially redeeming value.
Basing one’s opinions by citing what the Bible says rather than what one has learned through daily interaction with what the scripture contains as life is experienced are two different things.
Just listen to any prayer within an evangelical church by professional pastors. A preacher who ministers based on an innerant Bible ends up, as Watts wrote, attempting to “tell God what to do and the people how to behave.”
The problem with inappropriate but formalized Bible verse interpretations is that the interpretations are primarily driven by what we through the eyes of our teachers expect to see, i.e. our own internal assumptions.
The assumption that the Bible is inerrant then drives the expectations one has as to what God does or will say, what God actually wills, and what God deems as important.
The logic of this sort of thinking is inescapable and Mormons ran into this a long time ago … If God were to somehow make known a concept not found in the Bible (and I’m not talking about a concept contrary to something in the Bible, but, for example a concept more apropos to 21st century living), how would a culture totally based on an inerrant Bible be ever able to accept it?
“Dogmatic” for me consists of rigidity and inflexibility.
I AM dogmatic when it comes to my perception of the Bible as something more than a law book limited to its literal statements.
I AM dogmatic when it comes to viewing the Bible as but one of many powerful means of achieving on-going communion with God.
A church full of Bibles is not a stable full of oxen all wearing one harness. It is a place where each person has an individual relationship via his or her personal scripture with the source of the scripture.
Otherwise we reduce the Bible to a course in Literalist Religion 101, denying ourselves the advanced knowledge to be gained through experientially living religion 201, 301, 401, 10001 and more.
Why would we deliberately remain in shallow water where only splashing is allowed when we can venture into deeper waters, learn to swim and discover the ocean?
What is true is that most literalist non-mystical religions contradict each other.
In the end, all we have are religions where some claim yes to a thing, and others claim no to a thing, and so on and so forth.
Therefore some religions have to be in error and false by definition since only in an either/or world defined in black and white terms by an inerrant Bible and specific assumptions that cannot be proven does one person’s absolute truth become another person’s absolute blasphemy.
In this circumstance the human mind – where the Holy Spirit is truly sensed and experienced – remains tragically closed.
As far as it is translated correctly
If the Bible is inerrant it leaves Protestants having to assume that at least in regards to the Bible, Catholic forefathers were totally righteousness and pious and knew precisely the mind and will of God.
They also have to assume that the first Roman Catholics left that knowledge intact and untouched in the Bible over the resulting centuries while simultaneously selling forgiveness and perpetrating crusades and inquisitions.
Belief in an inerrant Bible totally hangs on whether or not one is willing to accept that despite all other corruptions, those early Roman priests and scribes were faithfully copying and including EVERYTHING the earliest Christians knew and recorded about Jesus and God.
Whether one admits it or not, one’s relationship with God is totally and entirely personal.
What outside or published authority might be needed before such a relationship is established?
Who has ever seen or been told by God that a relationship with the divine is divinely rejected if not supported and justified by someone else’s verbal-plenary definitions of what God said and where God published what was said?