This post has been updated to include additional content on 10/2

TargetSome Christians believe that while the Bible is without error when it speaks to spiritual matters (God, salvation), there may be errors in those sections that speak to scientific and historical matters, which should not concern us.  This view of Biblical inspiration is often called limited inerrancy.

While it would be worthwhile to examine each of the purported scientific and historical errors in the Bible to determine if they are indeed errors, the notion of limited inerrancy can be evaluated in a more fundamental way.  Greg Koukl has observed that it makes little sense to believe what the Bible says in matters we cannot test (such as miracles, resurrection, incarnation), when the Bible is shown to be untrustworthy in those matters we can test.  That’s not to say the presence of errors would necessarily invalidate every truth claim the Bible makes, but it is to say that it would make it much more difficult to trust its spiritual claims.  If God was not able to ensure that the Biblical authors accurately transmitted matters of history and science—which were naturally more accessible to them—why think He was able to ensure that they accurately transmitted spiritual matters?  I see little reason to do so.

(The following content has been added as of 10/2)

It’s a credibility issue.  Credibility is earned.  It is gained by being right, and lost by being wrong.  Limited inerrantists are telling us that we should trust everything the Biblical authors tell us about spiritual matters, but we cannot trust everything they tell us about non-spiritual matters because they have proven themselves to be mistaken in various ways on such matters.  But if they have proven themselves to make mistakes in areas that we can test them on, why should we think they haven’t made any errors on matters that we can’t test them on?  The limited inerrantist can’t respond by saying God’s involvement ensures that they will not err on such matters, because God is involved in the whole process.  If He couldn’t keep the authors from erring on non-spiritual matters, there is no reason to think He could keep them from erring in spiritual matters. 

A limited inerrantist might respond that God was only involved in those sections of Scripture dealing with spiritual matters.  But this portrays an absurd picture of inspiration.  Scripture goes back and forth between non-spiritual and spiritual claims.  Surely God’s involvement was not iterant so that when the author writes a word about geography God checks out, but when he is about to write a few words on spiritual truth God checks back in!  Even if this were possible, what reason would God have for deciding to inspire only those words dealing with spiritual matters?  He knew that people would question the credibility of the religious claims if His authors flubbed up their facts on non-spiritual matters.  So why wouldn’t God, in the interest of giving more credibility to the spiritual claims, superintend what His authors wrote about all matters?