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Can anyone provide an overview of major Christian viewpoints regarding the infallibility of the Bible?

Background: I am struggling with accepting that the Bible is 100% correct in all it says. All the pastors I know hold to the belief that the Bible is right and any view that contradicts it is wrong. They hold that every part of the bible is God inspired and thus without error.

As an example - but not the point of this question or post:
I have debated with friends about the relationship between works and faith and being saved. We can all point to scripture that says what we want it to say and seems to imply the other person is wrong. After 2000 years of Christianity we still have very different interpretations of the Bible and of salvation.

I believe in God, I question whether the Bible is the unspoiled word of God.

I don't believe in arguing over things that are impossible to prove, but I'd like to understand the topic better by reading some well thought out viewpoints.

Thank you for your time.

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    Related: What is the history of the doctrine of inerrancy?. There are a number of other questions on biblical inerrancy/infallibility as well, though I don't see one that asks for an overview of Christian views. – Nathaniel is protesting Aug 5 '15 at 17:27
  • I've spent some time researching this and it helped a lot to have links and key terms to draw upon like inerrancy and sola scriptura. I have found a great link that discusses the topic of inerrancy in great detail and would like to share it. crivoice.org/inerrant.html – Adam Heeg Aug 7 '15 at 3:20
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Without much detail, here is an overview of how different Christians view the Bible. These are major categories, and there is going to be some grey area between all of them.

  1. The Bible is inerrant on all matters it addresses, and should be taken to speak the literal truth unless the Bible itself says otherwise. Also called Biblical Literalism. Adherents to this view believe that Genesis is a literal historical description of the creation of the world, for example.
  2. The Bible is inerrant on all matters it addresses. This is usually called Biblical Inerrancy. It differs from Biblical Literalism in that it admits of the possibility that the Bible may use non-literal descriptions even when that is not explicitly stated. It is the view of many churches (especially but not only Evangelical churches) who do not explicitly hold to the Literalist viewpoint. The Catholic church holds approximately this view, and says ""the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation."
  3. The Bible is inerrant in matters of faith and Christian practice. Also called Limited Inerrancy. This would mean that the descriptions of God, and commands to his people, are infallible, but that the history of early Israel (for example) might not be completely accurate.
  4. The Bible is an accurate enough description of God and his interactions with his people in order for us to know him. Some adherents to this would attach special weight to the Gospels and to the sayings of Jesus.
  5. The Bible is a helpful book.
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What is an overview of Christian viewpoints on the accuracy and truthfulness of the Bible?

There are basically two views of inerrancy. The first is that the Bible is 100% true as it was originally written in the original language. The second is that the Bible is 100% true in a particular language (most often the King James English version).

There are a variety of views regarding the Bible allowing for various degrees of error and or allegory.

Here are some reasons I favor the first inerrant view;

Jesus felt that the Bible was reliable even to verb tenses;

Matthew 22:32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

Jesus felt the record of the flood was accurate;

Matthew 24:37-39 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

Jesus thought the record of the law was accurate in every detail;

Matthew 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Jesus felt the God had created the world;

Mark 13:19 For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.

I can understand the passion of those who feel a particular version of the Bible has been kept inerrant. However, I have found places where even the JKV does not have the best translation from the Greek. Another problem with translating the Greek into English is that the English cannot provide enough room to bring over all the information found in verb tenses. For example the Greek might say that something should be done repeatedly, but the English might just say that something should be done and the informational component of "repeatedly" is often left out.

Often the KJV only people are against using the Alexandrian manuscripts that many newer English translations have used. The textus receptus on which the KJV is based is often rejected in favor of the Alexandrian texts for these newer translations. I can understand the concern.

I have asked some scholars why they feel that the Alexandrian texts should be considered superior or at least preferable. Their reasons seem to boil down to;

The Alexandrian texts are older. Alexandria had the problem of allegoricalism and would not have needed to adulterate the text.

For me, this argument is not persuasive enough to support a view that the Alexandrian texts are to be preferred.

I can understand the confusion so many competing claims can create.

The Bible is under increasing assault. It can be from evolution, literary or textual criticism, and even contemporary social pressure. This is by design. Because the Bible is considered truth (as are God and Jesus) that which is not truth must by definition seek to undermine or destroy it.

Those who use the KJV only position as a shield to protect their faith from an almost constant assault from the world can be seen from a sympathetic perspective.

As far as the other views within Christianity, one might consider that one of the works of the flesh written about in Galatians is hairesis in the Greek (from which we get the word "heresy") which means divisions and we could almost say denominations.

It is unfortunate that Christians within their own churches should also be exposed to that which can unsettle and even undermine their faith.

It should not be unexpected that the world would assault the Bible to undermine faith. It is sad but also should not be unexpected that many churches would surrender to this assault. However, our faith is in our Savior and his word. Institutions may fail, but our God and his word will never fail. There are those who would seduce you with doubts. However, you can take courage from the God who created the universe and made the sun come up this morning that he will be faithful and fulfill all he has promised.

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    Those aren't the only two Christian perspectives on inerrancy. – ThaddeusB Aug 7 '15 at 14:49
  • I didn't say there were only two view points. I said that there were various views that had a compromise of the integrity of the Bible to one degree or another. Since Adam asked whether the Bible was "unspoiled" or not, I decided not to use my answer to delve into the detail of how various compromise translations have been made. I did not think his interests would be served belaboring the minutia of various Biblical assaults. DJClayworth had already done a good job of succinctly painting the "sliding scale" of errancy. – timf Aug 8 '15 at 13:11

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