Friday, September 09, 2005

The Gettysburg Principle and Biblical Inerrancy

In American writing, Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is considered among the true masterpieces. I'd heard for years that, if run through a style checking tool in a word processor, the style checker would fault the Gettysburg Address. I tried the experiment tonight, pasting the text of Lincoln's address into MSWord and running the style checker. And, according to the computer, there are quite a few errors for such a short speech. Roughly 40% of the text was underlined as needing attention. So is Lincoln's style not really as good as we think he was, or does the computer analysis have roughly as much awareness of the greatness of the speech as a silverfish (paper-eating insect) who complains the speech is too dry?

I've long been impatient with the errancy/inerrancy debates on the Bible because, like the silverfish or the word processor, they're analyzing the wrong thing to be relevant. I could rush to defend Lincoln's grammar from the word processor ... or I could mention that the word processor actually has no clue about what's really important about the speech. The inerrancy debate on the Bible often focuses on things like how many years such a king sat on the throne, or how many generations passed between one person and the next. And while the Bible has shown itself to be generally reliable in its record, the fate of the universe does not actually swing on whether Saul's daughter Michal ever had a child. The fate of the universe swings on whether God loves and forgives and restores to life.


David said...
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Craig said...

Hi Fisher,

I found your blog through Disert Paths. Good stuff.

You hit the nail on the head when you said the inerrancy debate analyzes the wrong thing. It seeks to answer the wrong questions. The focus has become how to make the Bible "a reliable, provable document," or some such, as if our faith is just another problem which can be reasoned out with logic and observation. This debate is Enlightenment thinking come home to roost in the nave of the church.