Synod of Bishops: Question of Bible’s inerrancy

The Christian Church as a whole has always held as a tenet of faith the inerrancy of the Bible, meaning the Bible does not contain errors because it is the Word of God and God cannot err.

The Christian Church as a whole has always held as a tenet of faith the inerrancy of the Bible, meaning the Bible does not contain errors because it is the Word of God and God cannot err. However the details of this nature of inerrancy has not been fully explained. The last ecumenical Council (2nd Vatican Council 1962-1965) taught that the biblical inerrancy is found in matters regarding faith and morals (not for example scientific facts) in the Bible that is elemental in salvation.

Some bishops, such as Cardinal George Pell of Sydney , Australia , have floated the idea that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith produce a document on the inerrancy of the Bible, in order to resolve what has been an open question since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and its document on divine revelation, Dei Verbum.  

This point gets technical in a hurry, but in essence, here's what's at stake: How much of the Bible is "inspired" and free from error? Is it just what one might call the Bible's "theological" content, meaning what it teaches about salvation? Or is the whole Bible inerrant, and therefore "true," even if that doesn't necessarily mean literally, factually true?  

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago , widely seen as one of the leading thinkers at the senior levels of the church, said in an interview this week that the second option better represents "where we're at today," but acknowledged that the issue hasn't been resolved.  

There's something of a Scylla and Charybdis dynamic inherent to this debate. Veer too far towards saying that only the theological parts of the Bible are inspired, and it can seem like the church is flirting with skepticism; go too far toward saying inerrancy applies to every jot and tittle, and it can end in a kind of Catholic fundamentalism.  

Whatever view one takes, there's also the practical question of whether now is the right time for the Vatican to say something. The process of defining this mystery of faith has taken already 2000 years and may still need more reflection and prayer before anything definite is declared.

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