A recent commenter to this blog wrote:
The bible is perfect and complete (James 1:25), it was written for and applies to everyone forever (Acts 2:39-42), and Jesus is referred to as the Word incarnate and sent the word through the Holy Spirit so that there would be no errors and nothing important would be left out (John 14:26).
James 1:25 does not mention “the Bible”, first of all because the Christian Bible, as we know it, did not exist then, and secondly because it was not referring to anything written down.
The “perfect law that gives freedom” in James 1 is the same as the “the law that gives freedom” in James 2:12. James is contrasting this law with the law that condemns (the ten commandments) and he says that if we act as if we will be judged by a law of mercy, then we will be just as kind to poor people as we are to rich people. So what law is this law of liberty/freedom/mercy? It would have to be the principle of God’s forgiveness of our wrongs. If I am not being judged by my sins, then I am also not judged by my works/brains/money/status/looks/clothing. This frees me from a great burden. I can respond to others in sin or poverty as equals. (The hard line Churches of Christ have misused and misinterpreted this passage for years, trying to make it say that the Law of Liberty consists of rigid rules about the work, worship and organization of the congregation. Nothing could be farther from the truth. See this blog post.)
The commenter also mentioned that Jesus is the Word incarnate, implying that that would make the Bible inerrant. It does not. The Bible is never referred to as “the Word”. Only Jesus is referred to as “the Word” (in contrast to the Hebrew reference to the Ten Commandments as “the Ten Words“).
The third passage referred to are Peter’s words on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:39-42 “for the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call.” The promise referred to here is the promise in verse 38 (the Churches of Christ’s favorite verse in the entire Bible) “…for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”. I affirm that the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit is for all time for all people that believe in God.
The fourth passage referred to by the commenter is John 14:26 “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John says nothing about the Bible being inerrant and for all time. It is a promise from Jesus to the apostles that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth.
A favorite passage not referred to by the commenter is I Timothy 3:14-16: “all Scripture is inspired by God, and is suitable for…that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work…” And we like to leave out the part before that: “how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” What Scriptures had Timothy known from infancy? Only the Hebrew Scriptures, none of the New Testament.
Also Paul was not saying in this passage that the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) were perfect. He merely stated that God’s breath breathed through the Hebrew Scriptures, and that when combined with faith in Jesus, these Hebrew Scriptures could empower the man of God. (Not what the hard line Church of Christ would like that passage to say at all.)
How did the early church establish what was truth and what was not? In Acts 15 they met, argued, took testimony and came to a unified consensus. The testimony consisted of words they had heard from the Holy Spirit, miracles the Holy Spirit had done, and references to the prophets in the Hebrew Bible. There was never an automatic acceptance of any one person’s testimony, regardless of whether they were a prophet or apostle. It had to be decided on as a whole. This consensus became the church rule. This is where the Catholic, Eastern, Coptic, Episcopal, Methodist and Lutheran Churches find their authority for church tradition as part of their authority. There was never a Sola Scriptura attitude towards truth in the early church that the Renaissance Reformationists insisted on.
No one needs a perfect Bible to enable them to believe in Jesus, any more than they need perfect knowledge, perfect preachers, perfect Bible classes, perfect congregations or perfect hymns and prayers. Jesus is perfect enough. I don’t need a perfect Bible for me to have mercy on poor people. I can treat overweight people, uneducated people, racially diverse people, rude people in traffic, all with the same respect. (Well, maybe not rude people in traffic. There must be an exception for those somewhere in the Bible.)
I do, however, need a perfect law of liberty: the law that says I will not be judged for my sins, but that God will be merciful to me. That’s what I need to empower me to be merciful– even to (yes, I reluctantly admit it) the guy who beeped at me in traffic (rudely, if I may say so).