Have you ever found it odd that so many churches’ belief statements start with the Bible? It seems to me that we should start with the most important first, which (at least for me) is God and each member of the Trinity. Perhaps we should ask our church pastors and elders why our congregation wants to put the Bible before God? But anyway, on with the show.
I believe the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, to be the primary and authoritative means that God has used to communicate with humanity in the aftermath of Jesus Christ’s resurrection and the birth of his church. I hold that the Bible remains without error regarding that which it was designed to communicate.
The doctrine of inerrancy holds that the Bible’s original documents (from the pen of their respective authors) were free from any mistake whatsoever. None of these “original autographs” exist any longer. Given this situation, focusing too heavily on the late-to-the-party church doctrine of biblical perfection can be unhelpful and set Christians up to get mired in pointless debates. Since the Bible does not claim “perfection” for itself, it is difficult for me to defend the later church doctrine that developed on the subject.
The original documents from the original authors’ pens may have been perfect, but it is functionally impossible to claim perfection for our translations, and yes, that includes the King James Version of 1611. Nevertheless, because none of us understand the text perfectly anyway, arguing about a “perfect” text is simply not where I would prefer to spend my time and energy. Be that as it may, we can still trust the Bible, even if we no longer have the original documents, because God is involved in our understanding. Our primary relationship is with Jesus Christ (not the Bible), and he has given us his Holy Spirit to help guide us as we encounter and seek to understand the text. I affirm that God can communicate effectively regardless of the specific media he uses at any particular moment. He has also given us history, reason, tradition and a community of believers as found in the church, each of which helps us develop our understanding of him and his call in our lives.
Jesus is the complete and final authority for Christian belief and behavior, and he has apparently chosen the Bible to be the primary means of forming that belief and behavior in his physical absence, in both the past and the present (2 Tim. 3:16,17). There is no reason to think that this will be any different in the future until the day we meet him face to face. Then the importance of the word (the Bible) will diminish in the presence of the Word (Jesus).