Question 1: Is it important to believe the Bible is without error?
Is the debate about whether or not the Bible can be trusted merely a theological quibble? Certainly not! The question of ultimate authority is of tremendous importance for the Christian. If the Scripture is unreliable, can we offer the world a reliable gospel? How can we be sure of truth on any issue if we are suspicious of errors anywhere in the Bible?
A pilot will ground his aircraft even on suspicion of the most minor fault because he is aware that one fault destroys confidence in the complete machine. If the history contained in the Bible is wrong, how can we be sure the doctrine or moral teaching is correct?
The heart of the Christian message is history.
- God creating the universe that was very good,
- Mankind rebelling against a holy God.
- God becoming a man through the Virgin Birth of Jesus.
- The life of Jesus and who he claimed to be.
- His death on the cross,
- His resurrection and ascension.
If these recorded events are not true, how do we know the theology behind them is true?
We cannot have a reliable Savior without a reliable Bible. If, as many suggest, the events in the Gospels are not historically true and the recorded words of Christ are only occasionally his, how do we know what we can trust about Christ? Who would trust an unreliable Savior for their eternal salvation?
If we believe the Bible contains errors, then we will be quick to accept scientific theories and listen to secular historians that appear to prove the Bible wrong. In other words, we will allow the conclusions of scientists misinterpreting evidence based on a secular worldview and secular history to dictate the accuracy of the Word of God.
When we doubt the Bible’s inerrancy, we have to invent new principles for interpreting Scripture that for convenience turns history into poetry and facts into myths.
Thankfully, God has given us his inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word. His people can speak with authority and boldness and we can be confident we have his instructions for our lives and a true account of history.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 1:8
Question #2. How should we interpret the Bible?
God is capable of accurately relaying his Word to us in a way that we can understand. It is crucial that we interpret properly to determine the intended meaning rather than forcing ideas into the text.
Bible-believing Christians generally follow a method of interpretation known as the historical-grammatical approach. That is, we try to find the plain (literal) meaning of the words based on an understanding of the historical and cultural settings in which the book was written. We then follow standard rules of grammar, according to the book’s particular genre, to arrive at an interpretation.
We seek to perform careful interpretation or exegesis—that is, to “read out of” the text what the author intended it to mean. This is in contrast to eisegesis, which occurs when someone “reads into” the text his own ideas—what the reader wants the text to mean. In other words, exegesis is finding the author’s intended meaning of the passage because its true meaning is determined by the sender of the message, not the recipient.
We must carefully observe what the text actually states. Many mistakes have been made by people who jump into interpretation based on what they think the text states rather than what it really does state.
- Who is this passage written to, and why?
- Is the verse a command, historical, or a question?
- What is the tone of the passage; are emotional words used?
Failure to carefully observe the text has resulted in numerous misconceptions about the Bible. Take the time to study the text.
We also need to take the word, phrase, or passage in its proper context. Critics of Scripture often take verses out of context when they attack the Bible. This allows them to make the Bible “say” just about anything if they do not provide the context.
For example; the critic might ask, “Did you know that the Bible says, ‘There is no God”? Then he may go on to claim that this contradicts other passages, which certainly teach that God does exist. How do we handle such a charge? We look at the context of the quoted words, which in this case comes from Psalm 14:1. It states, “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God.” So, it’s true that the Bible says, “There is no God,” but it attributes these words to a foolish person. So the Bible is not teaching both the existence and non-existence of God, as the skeptic asserts.
The context clarifies the meaning of the word, phrase, and verse. With the Bible, it is important to know the context of the particular passage you are studying. It is also important to understand the context of the entire book in which the passage is found and how that book fits into the context of the Bible.
We also need to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. The core beliefs of the Christian faith are built on more than one passage. When we read numerous verses teaching the same concept or doctrine, we can be sure that God is giving us correct information.
Here is a great example: We know that the days in the creation account are 24 hour days, based on the context of each day having a number assigned to it and the statement, “And there was evening, and there was morning…”. But what you may not know is that there is another verse that tells us that the creation days were indeed 24 hour days.
For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:11
What is the literary style of the book or passage? In the book of Proverbs we read a verse that states, “if you train a child in the way he should go, he will not depart from it.” But you may know a good Christian family that had a child rebel from their biblical upbringing.
This is not a promise, this is a proverb. Big difference. Is the book written as history, poetry, or prophecy written to the people of Israel? Or is the book written by the apostle Paul for the church today?
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the Word of Truth. 2 Timothy 2:15