More on Inerrancy
My understanding of inerrancy implies some fair rules about the application of inerrancy to reading the Bible. First, inerrancy only applies to the original documents. This might pose a serious problem (since we do not possess any of the original Biblical documents), but since we have strong textual evidence for the Bible (especially for the New Testament) we can know with reasonable certainty what the original documents said. Second, inerrancy only applies to interpreting Scripture according to the right genre. What this means is that poetry should be read as poetry, history as history, fiction as fiction, etc. Since the Bible contains so many different forms of literature, it would be unfair to interpret all of Scripture according to one monolithic genre.
It is important to see that inerrancy by itself does not commit one to believe in young earth (six day) creationism or a literal worldwide flood concerning Noah or some specific view about the end times. Whenever the genre of Scripture is unclear or when a number of different interpretations are real options by a fair reading of Scripture (i.e., those that take into account historical background, literary genre, etc.), then one who believes in inerrancy has latitude to interpret Scripture without giving up inerrancy. A prime example of this is B. B. Warfield (an early 20th century theologian) who is believed to have formulated the contemporary understanding of inerrancy and who was also an ardent believer in theistic evolution.
The second point, about the importance of taking genre into account, is the one that I endorse. The first point makes me wonder if a mistake in transcription couldn’t simply be Providential. If an original document should turn up, of course that too would be Providence and any errors that turn up in light of it should then be overturned. Thoughts?
The Warfield Wikki entry is interesting as well – this sound like a man I would have enjoyed hearing, since I share his ideas about both non mechanical Biblical inspiration and Evolution.