I was just listening to a lecture by JP Moreland on the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy.
A few highlights – these are not comprehensive arguments by any stretch but are aspects of the bigger argument that struck me:
1) The importance of a robust understanding of the epistemology of theory justification for biblical inerrancy. A theory is a way of categorizing or generalizing a group of particular experiences. The Theory of Gravity is a system that describes the particular experiences of bodies moving toward one another. Biblical inerrancy is another theory.
Most theories have anamolies. Anamolies are experiences that do not fit into the theory. The question is how many and how strong must the anomalies be to jettison a theory. Moreland gave the example of the dehalohydration reaction that chemists built a theory around. In almost all the tests on certain substances, the reaction went the same way. However, in a few particular cases with certain substances the reaction went the other way. Scientists tried for years to find a harmonization of the anamolies with the theory. Finally, years after the problem arose, someone found out that the methodology for the experiment was flawed, which solved the problem of the anamolies.
Moreland argues that the theory of biblical inerrancy should not be jettisoned just because of apparent anamolies such as the temptations occurring in a different order in different gospels or an apparently harsh God in Joshua versus an apparently merciful God in Acts. Instead, we should hold the doctrine of inerrancy despite the anamolies (as long as we find good, independent reasons for such a view such as historical accuracy) and try to find how those anamolies fit into the theory. Patience, as in so many aspects of life, is an intellectual virtue as well.
2) The blessing of multiple copies of the original manuscript. JP argues that it’s actually a good thing the original manuscripts of the Bible are destroyed. Imagine if the original text of Romans, for instance, was found in a monastery in Egypt. If that were the case, all the skeptic would have to say is, “Can you prove that someone was guarding that manuscript day and night? It could have been replaced with a forgery sometime in the last 2000 years or at least altered, after all.” Because of the multiplicity of copies of the manuscript (for a good book on the New Testament manuscript check out Metzger’s The Text, Transmission and Corruption of the New Testament), we have a very accurate idea of the original manuscript confirmed from a number of sources.
These ideas both increased and strengthened my understanding of the the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. For more complete arguments for the doctrine, I’ve heard that the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy is an excellent evangelical expression of it. It’s pretty short, too.
By the way, you can check out Moreland’s website here.