Rachel Held Evans has recently asked readers whether or not there is room for Christians to “debate the nature of Scripture – like what we mean by ‘authority’ or ‘inerrancy’ or ‘inspiration’?” (source). In her own writings, Evans has certainly been calling these issues into question, and she has been giving answers that consistently land on the liberal end of the theological spectrum. She reveals that she herself long ago stopped believing in the “Bible’s exclusive authority, inerrancy, perspicuity, and internal consistency” (source). I for one am grateful that Evans is willing to engage this conversation. These issues do in fact relate to the nature of scripture, and I can hardly imagine a more important topic.
Nevertheless, Evans’s most recent contributions to the discussion seem to me a bit of a rabbit trail. After critics called into question her commitment to scripture, she wrote an essay titled, “I love the Bible.” In short, she expresses admiration for the Bible even though she rejects its inerrancy and exclusive authority. In her own words:
I love the Bible, but I love it best when I love it for what it is, not what I want it to be…when I live in the tension and walk with the limp
In other words, she loves the Bible not as the inerrant and authoritative word of God but as a flawed collection of stories. Loving the Bible for “what it is” means loving it warts and all. And Evans believes that the Bible has warts.
Yet this approach differs drastically from the Bible’s own testimony about itself. When biblical authors write in praise of scripture, they do not praise the Bible in spite of alleged shortcomings. They extol scripture on the basis of its excellencies. As the Psalmist writes, “Thy word is very pure, Therefore Thy servant loves it” (Psalm 119:140; cf. 119:129).
And that brings me to the point of this post. The discussion that we’ve been having the last several weeks has not been about how we feel about the Bible. Rather the discussion is about what the Bible is. That is where the real difference is between us.