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Sometimes when I tell people that I think the Bible has no errors when read with literary sensitivity, they reply:

“That is so nineteenth century of you.” This is quite offensive to me since it is my politics and taste in fiction and architecture that are Victorian, not my theology.

Evidently, runs the argument, believing the Bible contains no errors is a weird obsession I picked up from my “modern” vision of Christianity. Since I am often accused of having a pre-modern view of Christianity, this seems an unlikely source for infection, but is the idea really so new?

It is true that one does not read many discussions about Bible errors in the early Church, but isn’t this because everyone assumed the Bible had none? After all, if God had a hand in writing a book wouldn’t you anticipate it would be error-free? Most early discussions of the Bible centered on how to read it and how not to read the Bible, but I am hard pressed to think of many that assumed the Bible was just wrong about anything.

You don’t have to get bogged down in the belief to believe it!

How many Patristic sources doubt the existence of Adam or Noah and his ark? They might not have been as interested in the actual ark as Henry Morris (more interested in turning it into a theological image of the Church), but they believed it was real.

Belief that the Bible was without error was the default position, even if the position is wrong. This is best illustrated by a story my pastor told me about a monk applying to an evangelical seminary. He had been in relative seclusion for many years and was not given to long answers. The seminary, very conservative in their views of Sacred Scripture, was trying to see his theological drift. When they asked him if the Bible contained historical errors, he was silent. Justifiably wondering if he was hiding something, the seminary prof pressed the monk harder about his view regarding the Bible and errors. Finally, the monk said something like: “I am having a hard time deciding if I want to attend a school where they ask such impious questions.’

Now I cannot testify to the truth of this story personally, but it seems capture for me the essential nature of the historic Church’s attitude toward Sacred Scripture. Human authors, but human authors under the guidance of the Holy Ghost wrote them. Scholars before the modern era tended to have a high view of any (even secular authority) and were hesitant to attribute mistakes to them, so the casual way many of my Evangelical colleagues refer to errors in the Bible would shock most Christians in most places at most times. Recently a member of my denomination applied for a job at an Evangelical college. He was asked nothing about the defining views of our church. When asked his view of Scripture, he replied that he believed it to be inerrant. The interviewer literally leapt from his chair with a “d-n” and asked if higher ups knew of this weird view of the Bible.

This attitude strikes me as one that would be unfamiliar to the Fathers.

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