Oxford philosopher Peter Millican, in this free series on philosophy (you should download it and listen to it – it’s free!), raises a very simple challenge to biblical innerancy. I’ve adapted it slightly below:
1. Commanding genocide is not morally praiseworthy.
2. Every act of God is morally praiseworthy.
3. God commands genocide in the Bible.
4. Therefore, not everything in the Bible can be true.
This is just a more formal representation of the type of argument you hear all the time. You may have heard something like, “How can the word of God contain all these atrocities?” I think this syllogism is actually quite powerful (even if we may have to adapt it slightly to meet a few objections).
I can see a few ways out of the problem – say that genocide can be morally praiseworthy when God commands it (huh?), say the bible is not inerrant, or say that not every act of God is morally praiseworthy. I don’t think any theist wants to take the third route, so let’s just consider the first two.
The first is to say that, if God commands it, then genocide is morally permissable and I would assume even praiseworthy. As far as I can tell, that is what Divine Command Theory – the moral theory of William Lane Craig – would entail. I would say we have some real problems with this view, but I’ll save criticism for it unless someone wants to comment and defend DCT.
So, we’re left with the idea that the Bible is not inerrant. And that, whether you’re a theist or not, is a very sensible conclusion.