I had originally planned to wait to address the topic of Scripture and the Bible in Redefining Orthodoxy. However, most orthodox Christians won’t consider any of my following perspectives unless I first address the issue of the nature of scripture, the Bible, and its inerrancy.
Conservative perspectives vary on their positions concerning the nature of the Bible. However, most profess that the Bible was divinely inspired/written by God, and that it is inerrant/literal. Scripture and the Bible are interchangeable terms. Being divinely inspired or written by God means that God either literally wrote the Bible, as God did in the Biblical account of the 10 Commandments, or God inspired humans to write it (in which case, it was only physically written by humans. Through God’s spirit possessed the writer through mental incarnation. Humans physically produced a verbatim manuscript of the message that God wished to impart). Since the Bible is the verbatim word of an infallible god, it must be inerrant and literal (although many who believe this in theory often contradict themselves in practice).
The problem with such a perspective is that it blurs distinctions between God and the Bible. The Bible becomes an idol, placed on the same level as God. Any challenge to the inerrancy of the Bible is an assault on the infallibility of God. The Bible isn’t truth, it is absolute Truth.
Science, logic and even the Bible itself demonstrate clearly that the Bible is neither inerrant nor meant to be taken literally. A number of contradictions exist within the text itself. Some passages were never intended to be taken literally. Demanding that such passages be taken literally requires one to discard of all rationality and logic.
I would like to distinguish between the Bible and scripture. Scripture reveals Truth. The Bible reveals truth, and therefore, is scripture. However, the Bible is not the only source for scripture. If we define scripture as anything that reveals Truth, then other writings or even personal revelation may be described as scripture. Furthermore, revealing Truth is not the same as being Truth. Although the Bible reveals Truth, it is not Truth.
I think most people who believe that the Bible is literal and inerrant are unwilling to consider alternatives because they fear that such viewpoints will diminish the value of this piece of scripture. A common response to such challenges to Biblical inerrancy is, “Well, if the Bible is wrong or made up, why even bother with it? Either throw the whole thing out, or accept it all as Truth.” I find such polarizing views unhelpful. In the words of one of my former professors, “Just because a story isn’t factual, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.” Even if the Bible isn’t an accurate historical account, that doesn’t mean it fails to reveal beautiful insights into the nature of God. In fact, relinquishing strict adherence to a literal, inerrant Bible has opens the possibility for new, refreshing perspectives and deeply profound insights into the text and its message.
Put simply, a logical, rational, academic consideration of the text contradicts perspectives that the Bible is the literal, inerrant word dictated by God. The Bible is a reflection on a spiritual experience; therefore, it is divinely inspired. It offers insight into the nature of God, and therefore, is scripture. The longevity and degree of its significance makes it the most important piece of scripture in the Christian tradition.