It was a peaceful Saturday evening, or so the hero of our story, Ken Ham, thought. He was enjoying a bit of quiet study in his library at Ham Manor, when the night’s tranquility was shattered by the blare from his home’s high-tech alarm system.
Recognizing that sound only too well, our hero dashed to the window of his study to see what he already knew he would find: the Ham-Signal was shining a bright distress call over the skies of Petersburg.
“Oh, no,” Ham muttered to himself. “The Bible is in trouble.”
Our hero had faced down many a threat before to protect his beloved (interpretation of the) Bible, but, still, seeing that beacon hanging in the sky never failed to quicken his pulse or dampen the back of his neck with cold sweat. The very thought of anything happening to his precious (interpretation of the) Bible was enough to keep him awake night after long, dark night.
Without a moment to lose, our hero dashed to the grandfather clock in his main study, which held an incredible secret, as only he and his trusted butler and confidant, Alfred, knew. His fingers moved quickly, having memorized long ago the movements necessary to set the clock to read the numerals of his closely guarded password: 1:01. An ingeniously disguised door in the wall promptly opened, and our hero disappeared through it.
“Talk to me, computer,” Ham said, trying (and failing) to keep the tension from sounding through in his voice. Then, though he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to hear the answer, he forced himself to ask, “Is someone defiling (my interpretation of) the Bible?”
The Ham-Computer whirred to life with a frenetic series of bright flashes and strange beeping sounds.
“I’m afraid so, sir,” the digital voice gravely replied. “Inerrancy is under attack.”
“NO!” Ham shouted, pounding his fists into the the computer’s cold metal facade. “Not again! Why? WHY?!”
And, suddenly feeling the crushing weight of a(n interpretation of the) Bible that so desperately relied on his strength for its protection, our hero collapsed to his knees. The responsibility of the life that he had chosen, and that had been chosen for him — sometimes, it seemed too much for one man to bear. He felt so alone.
Poor K-Ham. Fortunately for us, his devoted fans, he mustered the strength to fight one more day with this column bravely defending biblical inerrancy. Where would we be without him?
Ham was responding to “The Bible isn’t perfect and it says so itself,” an essay by Zack Hunt, writer, speaker and blogger at The American Jesus. In it, Hunt states that he doesn’t believe in biblical inerrancy (I’m guessing this was the point at which the Ham-Signal went up in the sky) and that the doctrine itself is a 20th-century invention.
I think Hunt makes some good points; it was only fairly recently that inerrancy became an essential plank in the fundamentalist platform. The Bible, after all, is not the true Word of God — that’s Jesus (you know, according to the Bible). The Bible, then, is important to Christians not because it is God, but rather because we believe it to be the most reliable witness we have as to God’s nature, actions and relationship with human beings, as well as his guidance for how he would have us live our lives.
The copies of the Bible we possess today most certainly do contain minor scribal errors and a slew of apparent and sometimes-difficult-to-explain-away contradictions. And I have no problem acknowledging that the scriptures were written, copied over thousands of years and eventually assembled into a canon by fallible people, while still trusting that the same Spirit of God I believe originally inspired the authors also protected the essential truths of the text from being corrupted or lost over the millenia.
But, though I join Hunt in affirming that we Christians don’t need to be dying on a hill to defend the modern fundamentalist notion of inerrancy, I think he takes an ill-advised turn in a detailed metaphor involving his mother.
“[M]y mom is a lot like the Bible,” he writes. “She’s not perfect, but I can still trust that what she says is true.”
As much as it pains me to say this, I have to agree with Ken Ham (ew, right?) here. I don’t think Hunt’s mom telling him not to cross the street is a good parallel for the Bible, unless Hunt’s mom was directly inspired by the Holy Spirit in her warnings about the dangers of fast-moving vehicles. By equating the two, Hunt seems to be confusing common sense or practical wisdom (like, for example, “Don’t eat rat poison” or “Don’t stick that in the electrical outlet”) with the special revelation theologians hold to be obtainable only through an act of God.
Of course, being K-Ham, our hero has a lot more to say than simply tweaking Hunt for his poor choice of an analogy. Here’s a snippet:
And yet, Hunt doesn’t believe everything the Bible says. Noah’s Ark, for instance, he says is okay to believe when we’re five years old. But as adults, we have to realize that the account of the Ark and the Flood is just meant to teach a theological truth — it’s not literal history.
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t trust a God who intentionally lies to me just to teach me some truth about Himself — however one determines what that truth is!
Do me a favor, and make sure you read that last sentence over a second or third time, just to make sure you really understand it. If it seems contradictory (or just plain idiotic) to you, it’s probably because your faith isn’t as strong as K-Ham’s.
But don’t feel bad. It’s not easy to obtain the kind of faith K-Ham has, the kind of faith where you know the only two options for the bulk of the biblical text is 100-percent complete and absolutely factual history or “intentional lies.”
What do you think, readers? What does the term “biblical inerrancy” even mean to you, and do you believe in it? And, the most important question of all: Did I read too many comic books when I was a kid?
Update: Zack Hunt has written another post on biblical inerrancy in an attempt to further clarify his views.