The Rationality Of Belief In Inerrancy -- By: J. P. Moreland

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 07:1 (Spring 1986)
Article: The Rationality Of Belief In Inerrancy
Author: J. P. Moreland


The Rationality Of Belief In Inerrancy

J. P. Moreland

Baltimore, Maryland

In recent years, scholars arguing against a conservative understanding of biblical inerrancy have appealed to a wide range of issues. It has been argued, for example, that belief in inerrancy should be abandoned or redefined because inerrancy is not taught by the Bible and it was not the view of many leaders in the history of the church. Others argue that the concept of inerrancy is not adequate to capture the nature of the Bible as revelation.

As important as these and related issues are, one suspects that Donald Dayton put his finger on the central reason why some scholars feel a need to abandon or redefine inerrancy: “For many, the old intellectual paradigms [including inerrancy] are dead, and the search is on in neglected traditions and new sources for more adequate models of biblical authority.”1 Simply put, many no longer think that it is rational to believe that inerrancy is true.

What are we to make of this objection? Is it no longer possible to hold that belief in the inerrancy of Scripture is a rational position to take? The purpose of this paper is to argue that belief in inerrancy is rational, i.e., one is within his or her epistemic rights in believing that inerrancy is true.2 In what follows, I will clarify the objection that belief in inerrancy is not rational. Then, some relevant features of the theory of rationality will be sketched and applied to the question of the rationality of inerrancy. For the sake of argument, let us assume that we possess a clear definition of inerrancy as it is understood by, say, the Evangelical Theological Society. This is not to imply that no more work is needed in clarifying all the aspects of a definition of inerrancy. But the doctrine of inerrancy, as it is held by the ETS and other conservative evangelicals, is sufficiently clear for our purpose. After all, proponents and opponents of inerrancy have understood the doctrine well enough to argue about it. The question before us is whether or not belief in inerrancy, so understood, is rationally justifiable.

I. Inerrancy Is Not Rationally Justifiable

The view that inerrancy is not rationally justifiable involves at least four distinct theses.

I. Inerrancy is not rationally justifiable because it is not supportable when a genuinely inductive method is applied to the phenomena of Scripture (where “phenomena” refers to all the relevant data inside and outside the Bible, e.g. problem passages, archaeological discoveries, scientific facts and theories, e...

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