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Related question: What is the difference between "infallible" and "inerrant"?

I have heard lists of requirements to be considered Christian; among those, I find these the most prevalent:

  • Belief in the Trinity- very common
  • Belief in the Apostolic Creed- pretty universal
  • Belief in the infallibility/inerrancy of the Bible

Does this third point belong as an essential condition to be considered Christian?

Note:

In order to fit the format of this site, I expect answers to be well-defended and present both sides, articulating the points that make the most sense to a Christian point of view. I will pick the one that I find the most defensible, regardless of my personal opinion.

For example, if major religions denounce the view that the Bible may be imperfect as heresy, then this would be a very important note to make. I mostly grew up in a single Church, so I don't know the finer points of many other religions, only broad generalizations.

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closed as not constructive by Caleb Apr 13 '13 at 9:51

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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As always, I don't think it's appropriate to require answers from both sides. –  Flimzy Sep 29 '11 at 18:56
    
I realize this question is rather old to be messing with, but it hit the radar again and while we might have given it a pass in 2011 while we were figuring things out, this is far outside of our guidelines for constructive questions. Pitting potentially right/wrong answers on sensitive issues that divide Christianity against each other in the answer space is just not something we do. Questions need to be framed in a way that they can be objectively answered correctly even by those who don't hold a particular position. –  Caleb Apr 13 '13 at 9:55
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4 Answers

[Note: this answer was posted *before* the question was edited and refers to two questions that were in the original, paraphrased here: (1) what does the Bible itself say on the subject and (2) must someone accept that the Bible is inerrant and infallible in order to be considered a Christian]

Some people take the warning at the end of Revelation to apply to the whole Bible, and interpret it as saying "this is complete and correct" - in other words, inerrant.

Revelation 22:18-19 (NIV):

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

Regarding your second question, people define "Christian" in many different ways. Often that does include a requirement to accept the Bible or at the very least to acknowledge its authority - in fact I think that's probably true in the majority of cases, but I'm not aware of any firm statistics to back that up.

My own view is that it's healthy for everyone to question their own beliefs from time to time and certainly Christians with questions and queries about Biblical content are no less Christians. Christianity is first and foremost about a relationship with God, and while an understanding and acceptance of scripture is very important it is secondary to that relationship.

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Good point. I'm not going to bother attacking that verse, as this seems to be a commonly held belief. Just a question, would you consider the Bible to be inerrant/infallible? In what sense? This is what I was trying to expose. –  tjameson Sep 29 '11 at 9:00
    
I'd certainly go along with inerrant. Infallibility is slightly trickier as it can mean a few different things, some of which I believe are certainly true of the Bible and some less so. This probably isn't the right place to discuss it though but I'm happy to explore it further in chat –  Waggers Sep 29 '11 at 9:12
    
I've just created a room specifically for this subject: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/1468/… –  Waggers Sep 29 '11 at 9:15
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No.

On this site, a Christian is defined as someone who self-identifies as a Christian. Also, from a cultural standpoint, this is the only useful definition in my opinion.

And clearly, according to this definition, you don't even need to know the Bible exists to be a Christian. Early first-century Christians didn't have the Bible (to the extent that it talks about Christ), yet they called themselves Christian. Consider the Christians in the book of Acts, or Apostle Paul for examples.

A far more interesting question, in my opinion--and possibly the one intended by the OP, would be Is accepting the Bible as infallible and/or inerrant necessary for salvation?

To demonstrate that these questions are quite different, consider many who call themselves "Christians" do not "bear fruit" that would indicate that their lives have honestly been changed by God. David Koresh, The Crusaders, and Anders Behring Breivik all self-identify(ied) as Christians. However, by judging by their fruit, I think we can really wonder if following Christ's example was the most important thing in their lives. Now, I'm not saying it's impossible that any of these people were saved, but I think it's fair to save that the memorable parts of their lives were not a reflection of God's love.

Also, the Bible gives us examples of people who were saved, but never heard the name of Christ, and therefore could not possibly have been Christians. Abraham is perhaps the most obvious example of this.

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Summation of the chat for those interested. It comes down to this, my point of view is that being saved and being a Christian are the same thing, @Flimzy thinks they are separate. We have agreed to disagree. :) –  blundin Sep 29 '11 at 19:26
    
@blundin: Please see my updated answer... I hope it is more clear now. –  Flimzy Sep 29 '11 at 21:13
    
That definitely clears it up. While I don't agree with the approach of your answer it is more understandable and sets up a full examination of the question at hand. –  blundin Sep 29 '11 at 21:21
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In a general sense, No.

Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior of mankind. Christians believe that the Bible is Holy and is the revealed Word of God. Beyond that, the specifics vary, sometimes widely, between denominations.

  • Some believe the Bible is literal truth, and that every verse is accurately and precisely true.
  • Others believe the Bible contains truth, but also contains mystery and allegory, and must be prayed upon and interpreted.
  • Some believe that each of us must read and interpret the Bible ourselves.
  • Some believe that Biblical interpretation should primarily be done by those educated and immersed in the faith.
  • There are differences among denominations about which books are included in the Bible, and about which translations are authoritative.
  • Some believe that the Bible is the final authority for knowing God, whereas others believe that the Bible informs but is not the only authority.

I believe that the mainstream Protestant (Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopal, Presbyterian) denominations hold a similar view. Blundin's answer summarized beliefs of most Evangelical Christian demoninations. I am not sure about the Baptists and others.

I am a Roman Catholic. We believe that the Bible was given to us by God to help us know him, that it must be interpreted as a whole rather than by individual verse or story, and that it is part but not all of the revealed truth. We also believe in the teaching authority of the Church known as the Magisterium.

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Short answer: How you view the Bible is not the determining factor in your salvation. One can also certainly belong to a Christian church or denomination and deny inerrancy. However how you view the Bibles truth claims will in large part shape your own personal faith.

The vast majority of those who espouse this view specifically state that the inerrant nature of the scriptures only apply to original documents. In regard to translations they are only inerrant to the extent to which they faithfully reproduce the original document.

I would however say-- and this is just my opinion-- that the decision to claim Christianity as your personal faith while denying the full truthfulness of its sole sacred text is a shaky foundation.

Long answer:

I think the key to understanding this question is to fully understand how the people who believe in an inerrant Bible define that belief. We are operating in a culture that is moving from modern views of language which emphasize concrete and defined meanings for words to a post-modern view that allows for the re-defining of terms and an acceptance that the same words can represent different things depending on individual perception.

With that long preface out of the way, here is what those who espouse the view of inerrancy say:

“We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the authographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.

We deny that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.”

This statement is taken from the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (background and participants) which is held by many Evangelicals as the most comprehensive view of Evangelical doctrine on this topic. This is only an excerpt, this is only one of 19 articles regarding this topic.

When someone says they believe in biblical inerrancy the odds are great that they hold to this view.

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