I wrote a post a few days ago about Young Earth Creationism and the inerrancy of Scripture, and I think some of the commenters misunderstood the point I was trying to make, so let me try again.
Imagine an isolated group of non-religious people discover a new book about reality. It purports to offer answers to their deepest questions, and includes a lot of details like predictions, history, and other information about how the world works. At this point, there are three possibilities:
- The book is wrong about everything.
- The book is wrong about some things, and right about others.
- The book is right about everything (inerrant).
Now, imagine that as they explore the book, the more discrepancies they find between the book and reality. So now they know that the book is not inerrant. Or do they? Assuming binary truths where one of the two sources (reality or the book) are true, there are two ways to explain these discrepancies:
- Where the book and reality differ, reality is wrong and the book is right. (Actually, it’s really only fair to say that the interpretation of reality is wrong, because reality by definition is what’s real, what’s true. So reality can’t be untrue, because then it would be both true and untrue simultaneously.)
- Where the book and reality differ, reality is right and the book is wrong.
Actually, there’s a third way to explain the problem: perhaps our interpretation of reality is true, and the book is true, but our interpretation of the book is untrue.
In the context of Scripture and science, I think this is essentially the situation we find ourselves in. The problem is that a dogmatic attachment to a particular interpretation of Scripture rules out explanation #3. In other words, we cling desperately to our particular interpretation of Scripture as being the only way to interpret it. So when discrepancies between Scripture and our interpretation of reality (science) are found, we have no choice but to conclude that it’s the interpretation of reality that’s wrong (#1), not that Scripture is wrong (#2) or that our interpretation of Scripture is wrong (#3). This is not a terribly unreasonable line of reasoning to take, but only to a point. If we find only a few discrepancies, it could very well be that our understanding of reality (via science) just hasn’t quite caught up yet. However, the further that science and Scripture diverge (and again, assuming you’re unwilling to reevaluate that your interpretation of Scripture may be flawed), the more you have to argue that reality is not at all what it seems. And it gets to the point where you start to wonder what’s more reasonable: believing that everything you can see and hear and touch is fundamentally different from what it seems to be, or that the book just simply is wrong about some things?
Which brings me back to my original point: if the group of people who found this random book found everything or nearly everything in it to be perfect and true, it seems very reasonable to conclude that it’s probably inerrant. But the more errors that arise in the book, the more an outside observer would have to wonder why they clung so desperately to the belief that it’s inerrant in the first place?