Brian Zahnd: Denying the Inerrancy of Scripture

Before reading this article, I recommend you read the 1-minute devotion Believing God's Word is Inerrant

Brian Zahnd, popular preacher, teacher, and author, believes the Bible contains truth but is not the inerrant Word of God. Examining his beliefs will help us respond to this growing error. #Inerrancy #BibleLoveNotes #Bible #Devotions #BrianZahnd

While the word "inerrancy" is a relatively modern term, the belief that God's Word is without error has been held from the beginning of Christianity (source / source).

Sadly, a number of popular teachers are now denying this important tenet of our faith.

One prominent example is Brian Zahnd, megachurch preacher, teacher, and author. He believes the Bible contains truth but is not the inerrant Word of God. Examining his beliefs will help us understand and respond to this modern false teaching.

Zahnd criticizes traditional Christians for intimidating those who don’t believe God’s Word is inerrant. Ironically, in a single blog post, Zahnd calls biblical inerrancy “wrongheaded and anti-intellectual.” He calls those who believe it “flatlanders” who enjoy a “flat” reading of Scripture, lack curiosity and courage, endorse “unsustainable theories,” and defend “morally repugnant ideas from a primitive era” (source).

I typically avoid articles that employ ad hominem arguments like these, but that makes it difficult to study Zahnd’s beliefs because he regularly uses shame as a tactic (source). And, since he is an incredibly popular spokesman for “progressive Christians,” it’s important to examine his teachings.

I’m one of those Christians that Zahnd calls a flatlander. 

Without calling him names, questioning his intelligence, or doubting his sincerity, I’d like to present Zahnd’s explanations in his own words and then evaluate them. 

1. Zahnd believes: “Jesus is the only perfect theology.”

Brian Zahnd, popular preacher, teacher, and author, believes the Bible contains truth but is not the inerrant Word of God. Examining his beliefs will help us respond to this growing error. #Inerrancy #BibleLoveNotes #Bible #Devotions #BrianZahnd
Zahnd: “Every story is told from a vantage point; it has a bias. The bias of the Bible is from the vantage point of the underclass” (source).   “The exploration of God as revealed in Christ — which is what we mean by Christian theology — is an ongoing venture, not unlike climbing a great mountain. So instead of sitting in the flatlands pretending that a flat reading of our sacred text will reveal the full glory of God, we need to grab our ice axes, strap on our crampons and climb the mountain of God!” (source)

Zahnd believes some of the Bible is simply the biased beliefs of ancient, culture-bound men. He explains that when he reads Scripture, he asks Jesus which passages are true and which are not (source).

2. Zahnd believes: The church creeds are “fixed ropes” that keep Christians from falling off “the mountain of God” into heresy.

Zahnd: “Throughout the history of the church this [Apostles’] Creed, along with the Nicene and Chalcedonian Creeds, have defined what it means to believe as an orthodox Christian. I confess these Creeds. Therefore I am orthodox in my Christian faith. Beyond the Creeds we may have disagreements about how we interpret the book of Revelation, how old the earth is, and how many people will be in hell, but these disagreements do not amount to heresy” (source).

Let me respond to Zahnd's two beliefs:

1. Jesus is certainly a perfect revelation of God, but without Scripture, we can’t know for certain who Jesus is.

If Scripture is not divinely inspired, who decides which parts are biased and which are not? Did men properly record the life and words of Christ? Did they properly record the death and resurrection of Christ? Is there forgiveness of sins? Is there a heaven? 

If we decide some passages were carelessly or intentionally corrupted by the human authors, how can we be sure of any? We are left to trust our own human understanding or the human understanding of teachers like Zahnd (Proverbs 3:5). Man's opinions become the final authority about God.

It’s no wonder that Zahnd has come to these conclusions that contradict major tenets of Scripture:

He claims Christ’s death was not atoning, not required by God the Father, not necessary for the forgiveness of sins (source).

He teaches that God is either a God of love or a God of wrath. He cannot be both (source).

He teaches that “gay Christians” must be accepted and affirmed as they are (source).

Brian Zahnd, popular preacher, teacher, and author, believes the Bible contains truth but is not the inerrant Word of God. Examining his beliefs will help us respond to this growing error. #Inerrancy #BibleLoveNotes #Bible #Devotions #BrianZahnd
Zahnd is human, and human minds are not capable or qualified to understand God’s character apart from Scripture. Our only hope for knowing the full, unbiased truth is to trust what is written in God’s divinely inspired Word (Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). 

Without confidence in the full counsel of God’s Word, every truth of Scripture must come under human scrutiny.

Out of context and deceptive:

Zahnd often pulls difficult Old Testament passages out of context as proof texts for his belief that the Bible is not completely God’s Word (source). This is actually a common tactic of atheistic critics who don’t understand that we deserve God’s wrath and who don’t understand the fulfillment of Christ’s atoning mercy. 

But Zahnd claims to understand the New Covenant, so his use of these Old Testament passages is especially troubling and deceptive. 

In my 45 years of Bible study, I have sometimes come across passages that confused me, but careful study has eliminated most of my questions. I can trust God with the few insignificant questions that remain because His Word gives me confidence that He is trustworthy and someday it all will make sense (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Then there is Zahnd’s second premise for his beliefs:

2. The creeds are accurate and based on Scripture, but they are not designed to fully explain the gospel.

The creeds were written by men and have been amended by men. The Apostles' Creed in particular has been criticized for its lack of clarity on Christ’s divinity. 

Zahnd, however, considers these man-written creeds the litmus test for Christianity, which actually places them above Scripture and makes them inerrant. 

Because he believes the words of the Apostles' Creed, Zahnd feels free to deny the necessity of the cross and the existence of hell. 

That’s like believing the pledge of allegiance to the American flag but denying the American Revolution and claiming that everyone is an American, whether they’ve applied for citizenship or not.

Brian Zahnd, popular preacher, teacher, and author, believes the Bible contains truth but is not the inerrant Word of God. Examining his beliefs will help us respond to this growing error. #Inerrancy #BibleLoveNotes #Bible #Devotions #BrianZahnd
But the truth is this: We are not the final authority on what constitutes a citizen of the United States, nor are we the final authority on what constitutes a citizen of heaven. Both involve “higher powers,” and unlike the policymakers in the U.S., the Policymaker of Scripture is not decided by majority rule.

Zahnd claims that people like me lack courage to climb what he calls “the mountain of God.” I agree that I am not climbing the same mountain Zahnd is climbing, but I believe the mountain I’m climbing requires more courage, not less.

In a world of selfish, unrepentant people, it takes courage to admit that every person, myself included, deserves God’s wrath. It takes courage in a world full of human excuses to admit that nothing short of repentance and acceptance of Christ’s sacrificial death can save me. It takes courage to stand firm on God’s moral commands when culture is intolerant of those who hold biblical principles.

I admit I can only climb in God’s strength, a strength I gain from the knowledge that He knows what is best for me and has shared it with me in His inerrant Word. People on other “mountains” may call me an anti-intellectual flatlander, but I will respond: “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
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There's nothing new about doubting God's Word. Thomas Jefferson actually created his own version of the Bible for this reason, leaving out the miraculous and other portions he didn't believe. See Jeffersonian Christians

This is also the method of cults which use the Bible. See 4 Signs of False Teaching.  

For other articles on "Progressive Christian" errors, see the Ex-vangelical Archive.

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1 comment:

  1. Just last Sunday, I was teaching my SS class that the Bible is the only foundation for our faith. If we do not believe the Bible is God's Word to us, Satan will pick us apart. Without that firm foundation, that firm commitment in our hearts, we cannot withstand the attacks that will come our way from a Godless society. We must believe it and we must know what it says. Thank you for your commitment to sharing truth!

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