A reminder, my primary audience is people who are struggling with 'the faith question.' I hope that I can be of support to others who are in the faith walk as well.
There is a raging debate on the authority of Scripture. At times the debates seem to boil down to one of two positions: Do you believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God or are you a faithless Modernist? I think that neither of these options is accurate. In fact, many Christians have lost their faith in recent years because they were only given these two options. They hunger for a middle way which was never identified.
So back to the two options. The extreme version of the Modernist view is that the Bible is a collection of religious writings witnessing to religious experiences from an ancient people. As such, the things they wrote were authoritative to them, but we live in a different world. (The Jews believe God chose them, but so does every other people so the Bible can't be right!) Anything that does not fit into our world view is tossed out as not relevant. Moral norms that do not fit contemporary norms are ignored (or villified) as holdovers from a flawed culture. As I read somewhere recently, many of these folks treat the Bible like a High School term paper, and not a very good one at that.
On the other hand, others make claims about the infallible nature of the text. They demand that because we are under the authority of Scripture: Every detail is historically accurate. Every word is straight from God's mouth. To quote a bumper sticker I saw many years ago: "God said it. I believe it. That settles it."
Where do I find myself in this? Well, as you might guess, the first view makes me sick and I think it is flat wrong. It replaces God with "Me" as the final authority. (Or worse, the current popular culture.) I prefer the second view. I much prefer it. It is clean and simple and a great way to be obedient. It is also, unfortunately, not exactly true. I tried really hard for a long time to hold that position. It just doesn't work.
If I have integrity, then I must admit that there are places where the Biblical accounts are not always historically accurate (based on a Positivist view of history). This freaked me out in a huge way for many years. I had bought into the premise that either the Bible is totally true and accurate in every detail or it is untrustworthy as a witness and useless. I bought into the assumption that God is perfect so therefore the Bible shares in His nature and it is perfect. I battled for the Bible because it was my only hope for knowing God. (I also did this because I had adopted the Modernist world view and tried to fit the doctrine of inspiration and authority into Modernist thought categories)
Then I learned about more about Jesus. The Jesus of my youth was God. Period. I knew He suffered on the cross, we were real clear on suffering. I saw Jesus crucified before my eyes, sometimes in graphic detail, at most churches I attended. But the humanity I knew about Jesus was pretty super-human. He was (in my understanding) God dressed up like one of us. It was many years later that I learned that this is heresy. Probably lots of the Progressive types in our churches today had a similar journey of understanding. Unfortunately, what happened to them, repeats the battles of the early church. Those people tried to correct their view that Jesus is 'only God' and ended up in a place where He is reduced to 'only human.' It is an understandable error. In any system, there is a tendency to "over correct" and to then err in the other direction. I think that the analogy of Jesus is helpful for understanding the Bible. It is God's Word, YES! (thanks be to God!) but it is also a fully human book. It was not God delivered from the sky. It was written by human hands (under God's inspiration). That fact makes it a bit trickier than the bumper sticker makes it look.
To use another analogy, from the old catechism of my youth:
Q. Who made me?
A. God made me.
Q. How did God make me?
A. Umm, well. you see there is this thing.... O, just go home and ask your mom and dad
I made up that last part, but I hope you see the point. Did God make me or did my parent's sex act? It is not terribly difficult to say both, is it? What about the Bible? Who authored the Bible? GOD!!! How did God author the Bible? Through a very long, human shaped process that looks just like human authorship. How then do we read the Bible? With the church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit!
Where to draw the line on the Bible? It is fully human, yet fully conveys God's word. Is it trustworthy even if there are discrepencies? I have based my life on it and I believe it!
And we make choices about one another because of our different views of the Bible.