We begin with a tweet from Brian Zahnd:
“Biblical inerrancy” is an empty signifier. Why? Because an inerrant text still has to be interpreted. Then you run into the problem of pervasive interpretive pluralism (to borrow a phrase from Christian Smith). Plenty of people agree on inerrancy and disagree on everything else!”
Next, we have a reply from Derek Rishmawy:
“Not quite for at least 2 reasons 1. It functions as a meaningful statement about God and his speech. 2. And it reinforces our reasons to mutually wrestle with the text together despite our disagreements.”
And here was my tweeted comment on both Zahnd and Rishmawy:
“I think both @BrianZahnd and @DZRishmawy are correct. Inerrancy is not useful as a *boundary marker* but it is useful as a commitment to wrestle through each text, knowing it is all there to teach, rebuke, correct, and train us in righteousness.”
Enter “Cognitive Discopants” who replied to me:
“or it’s an albatross around the neck of its adherents, forcing them to perform hermeneutic gymnastics to salvage problematic texts when the more parsimonious explanation is that the text is just plain wrong.”
So I replied in kind,
“Apparently, you didn’t understand what I said. To say a text is ‘wrong’ is to assume a hermeneutic of that text. Inerrancy commits you to no particular hermeneutic of the text.”
And Cognitive Discopants:
“You miss my point. The hermeneutic is what I’m criticizing. Inerrancy forces interperters [sic] into unjustified and sometimes far-fetched hermeneutics in order to avoid the fact that the text is problematic on the more obvious hermeneutic.”
And, at long last, me again:
“It’s not ‘far-fetched’ and certainly not ‘unjustified’ if you believe God is the divine author/editor of the text. So your comment begs the question.”
So what is the lesson of all this back-and-forth? Or at least, what is my lesson?
It’s simply this: if you believe the Bible is divinely authored/edited, then you will be committed to finding meaning and significance even when the text seems to resist easy explication.
By comparison, imagine that a short film is discovered in a vault. It does not appear, at first viewing, to be especially significant. But then you learn that it was the final work of the great Ingmar Bergman. The belief that Bergman is the director will commit you to another viewing as you look for meaning and significance where you hadn’t seen it before.
And how much more would one be inclined to find meaning and significance when one believes God is the divine author/editor of all Scripture?