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I know there are several Christian traditions that do not claim that scripture is inerrant (and therefore do not interpret everything in the Bible literally). If this is the case, then it seems like a slippery slope of interpreting the Bible in a way that favors one's own opinion.

What do these traditions use to keep their interpretations in check with what they understand to be God's will instead of what they want to be true?

Maybe another way to ask this question that will limit it to something that is not too subjective is: What other sources of "truth" do people use to supplement scripture in their beliefs, and how do they justify it (biblically or otherwise)?

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What's an example of such a Christian tradition? –  svidgen Jul 22 '13 at 19:02
And do you mean inerrant, or inerrant and literal? Catholics, for instance, teach that scripture is inerrant. But, inerrancy does not eliminate the need for educated interpretation. Consider that even the bare, literal interpretation of scripture is an application of externally acquired knowledge and skill to a large collections of texts. –  svidgen Jul 22 '13 at 19:11
It might be best to tailor this question to ask for a particular tradition's rationale or understanding in interpreting scripture. I suspect there are a lot of denominations that do not require a raw, literal reading of Genesis, but still teach that the Bible is inerrant. Just thinking of Lutheranism and Catholicism, for instance -- different attitudes toward scripture; but to the best of my knowledge, neither requires YEC beliefs. –  svidgen Jul 22 '13 at 19:16
I'd be happy to discuss the Catholic handling of scripture more with you in chat, rather than in the comments here. For the purpose of this question, I don't expect you'll get a meaningful answer without nailing it down to a particular tradition, and make the question reflect the beliefs of that tradition a little better -- else your answer will be, "they don't believe that." –  svidgen Jul 22 '13 at 19:28
Maybe, Do any Christian traditions teach that scripture is errant? would be a good starting question. Because frankly, I can't think of a "real" group (excluding Christian atheists) offhand that don't teach scriptural inerrancy. –  svidgen Jul 22 '13 at 19:30

2 Answers 2

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In the ACC (Anglican Catholic Church,) Church tradition (the doctrine of the first seven Ecumenical Councils)is supported by scripture when scripture is properly interpreted by the Fathers (2nd - 6th. cents.) Passages in the text that appear, when taken literally, to contradict one another, are resolved through mystical interpretation (communion with the Holy Spirit of God.) "Blessed are the Peacemakers," Jesus said - which means we are to refrain from dissension, and are to find harmony with different readings.

We depend on the Greek and Latin Fathers' mystical understanding to check that our own understanding through the Holy Spirit is in agreement with the majority of Fathers' understanding.

As for inerrancy, it is considered that the NT has no errors when it comes to an explanation of morals and of Faith, but that in matters of science it may be in error. And of course during the transmission of the text from the 4th. cent. to today, there have been thousands of mistakes in copying, and there are many disagreements between publishers about the actual words to print, so that hardly any two versions of the NT agree word for word. The interpretation, however, should remain constant over time for this is the job of the Church - "Keep my words," Jesus said. To ensure this, we return to the writings of the Church Fathers who were trained by disciples of the disciples, for an explanation of what Jesus said.

The Torah has been inerrant since the 11th. cent. through very careful copying. The interpretation of Torah, however, evolves with every generation.

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I think this question confuses Biblical interpretation with Biblical authority.

One does not need to believe any document to be without error in what it says, in order to be able to read and interpret it. "What is this saying?" and "Is it true?" are two distinct questions.

Sadly, there are people who reject the authority of Scripture, but do not want to openly admit that they do. So they pretend to be "interpreting" it, when they are really picking and choosing what they will accept. One can pick this up sometimes, by looking closely at the reasons they give for taking one meaning over another. Often anything that doesn't fit the "interpretation" they want will simply be ignored. On the other extreme, there are cults who argue a skewed doctrine from carefully selected passages, and yell about how anyone who dares disagree with what they are claiming the text means is rejecting God's plainly revealed will. Again, when one attempts to bring to their attention the passages that do not fit their doctrine, they will simply refuse to listen. The modernist liberal and the biblicist cultist are alike in that respect.

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