What Is Meant by 'Infallible'



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You make some helpful distinctions, especially with respect to inerrancy and infallibility. Unfortunately, "infallibility" still has an authoritarian aspect that we find impossible to get around. I believe Scripture is instructive on doctrine and morality, but we are in the situation where because the Bible has contrary and even contradictory moral and doctrinal statements, as David Watson points out in his recent article, there will always be unsettled arguments based on the meaning of Scripture.

We would still be left with the Tillichian "protestant dilemma" where when we come down to it: each of us has to decide what is finally true doctrinally as well as morally because there is no tradition, reason, or experience that will ever totally convince everyone else! We are left with only one basis: loving one another as God loves us. Group can choose to agree at any given time about some moral or doctrinal issue. But if that group decides their agreement supersedes other covenental agreements, and schism follows, the group that established agreement and separates now faces the same problem, only on another moral or doctrinal issue. If we have to separate over every disagreement, that leads to a never-ending cycle of separation. Wherein that is love?

Doctrine used to include an earth-centric cosmology but that belief was eventually dropped as science clarified what is really going on out there. The place of women in church doctrine had to be revisited as did slavery. We may think of these as non-doctrinal now because we do not have them in the main creeds, but different traditions did include them because they were seen as supported by Scripture. So I have to argue that Scripture sometimes has already been superseded by science and experience, not the other way around as you argue.

The current argument over sexuality and marriage is not just based on experience and reason (or really tradition because that is dependent on which tradition is considered the norm, Catholic, Lutheran, evangelical, liberal, et al) but on Scripture. I still have not seen a cogent response to Walter Wink's classic argument about why choose just the passages on homosexuality and not all the other similar passages listed with them. Nor have I seen a careful challenge to Scriptural arguments based on the love passages that have been set out in the past year.

Past schisms as pointed out by Donald Haynes in UM Reporter had sociological and political aspects that were were not even cloaked by doctrine or morality. I believe that the current schism talk began and still bears the unmistaken nature of a struggle for power which is separate from doctrine and morality.

Maybe we are all subject to having the "right answer set" so much a part of how we were taught in school. I don't think God will be pleased to see us competing to be the only ones who are right.

Jerry Eckert more than 7 years ago