Yesterday I mused about some comments Al Mohler made during an ETS meeting about inerrancy. He said,
Would God give inaccurate information in a revelation to us? No. But in revelation he would give us information that we can see, can hear, and can know.
A few more questions have occurred to me, slow thinker that I am.
What kind of information would God give us? In this question I’m following Mohler in being vague about the referent of “us.” If the Bible is taken to be the locus of divine information giving, it becomes apparent that God thinks it is more important for us to have information about the ancient near eastern world and its cultures and history than of the cultures and history of our own times. It is also the case that the information God gives us in the Bible, unless we engage in something like bibliomancy or divination with the text, is more general than personal. The information content does not, for the most part, pertain to my life. I had to do a car repair recently. I was able to order the part without difficulty. I was also able to get the old, broken part off. But the new part had a feature that made it very difficult to install. Getting that new part on was a very practical need. I’ve read the Bible several times over the years, but I have yet to find the information I needed for something as simple as making that car repair.
Some may accuse me of mocking the Bible here. I have nothing of the sort in mind. If I’m mocking anything it’s the reduction of the Bible to a book that primarily exists to impart information. That said, I do take the Bible to be a book by which information is imparted, information that I need. I need to know what God has done in history, particularly through Jesus. I need to know how to respond to that action. I don’t particularly need to know how to put together a tabernacle, handle the sacrifice of a lamb, the names of Jesus’ disciples, or the sites of Paul’s missionary visits. When I abstract from the Bible the information I really need, a huge amount of text remains, apparently unneeded.
But maybe my problem is that I can’t adequately assess what information I truly need. Perhaps I really do need to know those details presented in the text. But then I would be going beyond the text, since the text doesn’t seem to present those details as essential information that I need to know if I want to be saved.
My thought is that salvation is much bigger than God flipping some sort of switch upon my responding to coming to faith in Jesus (or, if I were a Calvinist, my coming to faith in Jesus in response to some sort of switch God flipped from all eternity). What kind of information is Jesus imparting in the tale of the two sons? That there were two sons? That the father killed the fattened calf when the younger was restored to him? “No, the information is the principle in the story, the principle that God receives those who turn to him in humble faith.” That’s a good principle – I like it. I think it’s even biblical. But I also think it misses the point of Jesus’ story. Jesus didn’t tell that story to impart information – even accurate information – but to provoke his hearers to take up his mission to those who were lost. Just look at the framing verses at the beginning of the chapter.
Information – sure we need information! And accurate information is better than inaccurate information. But the impartation of information is secondary to the invitation and provocation to enter into God’s story, a story that climaxes in Jesus. As I experience the Bible today – whether through reading, praying, meditating, memorizing, preaching – God speaks and draws me into the story.