20200217 Must a person subscribe to biblical inerrancy to be saved?

Monday Musings for February 17, 2020

Good morning, Musers,

Did Jesus subscribe to biblical inerrancy? You bet he did! He said that the Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35) — and he must have believed this. He quoted from it 283 times! (Matthew 4:1–11). Also, he claimed to be the “Son of Man” (Daniel 7:13; Luke 5:24). This shows that he believed in its prophecies  He also taught that Scripture was reliable down to the level of the individual letters (Matthew 5:18; Galatians 3:16). In this, he attests to its verbal inspiration.

But what about the thief on the cross? Did he subscribe to biblical inerrancy too? We don’t know specifically. What we do know is, if he were a scripturally literate person, then he didn’t take the “thou shalt not steal” part too seriously. So, he might have held a philosophical position that supported biblical inerrancy... but one that didn’t percolate through his life in any meaningful way.

Now, there’s no record of Jesus discussing this on the cross with him. Yet this penitent thief found himself in Paradise that very day (Luke 23:43). In this, we have a useful model to test for primary versus secondary doctrines: we ask, is it reasonable to think that a person can be saved no matter what he or she believes about this doctrine?

If the result of that test is true, then the issue is beyond the scope of “mere” Christianity. We have passed into the realm of denominational Christianity — and that’s where most of us live.

Don’t get me wrong, though. Secondary doctrines matter! What I am saying is that a person can believe anything he or she wants to about them and still be saved... although there are plenty of legalistic preachers who would disagree with me here. So, let’s look at the end times.

There is a certain way that the future will play out — and the truth about that matters! But believers from the Reformed tradition tend to be amillennialists, so they do not subscribe to the premillennial rapture view that has taken quite a hold on Evangelicals. But since both groups have an orthodox view of God’s redeeming work through the person of Jesus Christ, then biblical salvation is common among them... their views on eschatology notwithstanding.

This demonstrates that all doctrines are not equal. So, if millions of plausibly saved people disagree on a doctrine like biblical inerrancy — and this is demonstrably so — then I am comfortable classifying it as a secondary doctrine. But how do I rank it?

I rank biblical inerrancy among the most important of the secondary doctrines. Indeed, a strong stand on inerrancy is one of the pillars of sound hermeneutics! But the truth is that millions of people have been saved without even knowing that it is an issue in Christendom — let alone having an informed opinion about it! ... and that’s the population we are dealing with.

As believers, we want to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18) — and all that God has for us! — and wrestling with secondary issues like biblical inerrancy is an important part of that process. But let’s not “add” to salvation. That can be worse than taking things away.

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