Inerrantists believe that every word in the Bible is literally true; to believe otherwise, they say, is to remove the foundation upon which one may have a certain understanding of how one may achieve salvation and reach the kingdom of heaven. That makes perfect sense, on one level. If one could indeed know that everything in the Bible is true, then one would just have to turn to the part where the method of salvation is described, do what the Bible says, and live forever.
St. Augustine (354-430) was one of the founders of the Roman Catholic Church. He well understood that Christianity was like a house of cards; if the church dared to admit to even a single error in the Bible, who could say there wasn't an error on every page? The resurrection story might then be false and everyone's hopes are in vain. This is what he said:
"The most disastrous consequences must follow upon our believing that anything false is found in the sacred books....If you [even] once admit into such a high sanctuary of authority one false statement, there will not be left a single sentence of those books, which, if appearing to anyone difficult in practice or hard to believe, may not by the same fatal rule be explained away as a statement, in which intentionally, the author declared what was not true."--St. Augustine in <i>Epistula</i>, p. 28.
However, literalists seem to be blinding themselves to the very real possibility that the God didn't orchestrate the writing of ALL of the Bible; perhaps he authorized only part of it, and he wants believers to study the Bible and sort out the bad from the good, to earn their way into heaven, so to speak, by diligent study and thoughtful criticisms of what they read. Until they have cast aside the blasphemies, such as the story Samuel told about the Lord ordering the killing of suckling babes (1 Samuel 15:1-3), they will never have a chance of getting to heaven, perhaps. Perhaps they have overlooked what the Bible says about people needing to sort out the good from the bad, and discern for themselves what is right. The Bible tells us to test everything, and that would seem to include the Bible itself. Here are the relevant verses:
"Let us discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good." (Job 34:4)
"My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight "(Proverbs 3:21)
"Test everything. Hold on to the good." (Thessalonians 5:21)
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away." (Matthew 13:47-48)
Perhaps this last verse <i>was</i> authored by God, who wanted readers to know that those people who blindly believe false or blasphemous words in the Bible will be cast away?
Aren't believers taking quite a gamble on their salvation by assuming that every word in the Bible is true? After all, nowhere in the Bible is to be found a statement from God about <i>which</i> books in the Bible were authorized by him, is there? The Bible wasn't dug up from the desert sands, dropped there by God; the contents of the Bible were voted on by fallible men. If there is a salvation to be gained, taking these men's word literally might cost one everlasting life.
Joseph F. Alward
"Skeptical Views of Christianity and the Bible"