There are three core fundamentals to the Christian faith and they have often been called the “In’s”:
- The Inspiration of Scripture
- The Infallibility of Scripture
- The Inerrancy of Scripture
In gist (and I’ll really try to keep it as a “gist”) the first one deals with the origin of content found in the Christian Bible (hint, hint: It’s from God, Himself), the second deals with Scripture’s inability to fail (e.g. it has infinite endurance), and the last one deals with the reliability of what has been written.
The difficult thing about these three in practice is simply this: There is a great distance between our own mental and psychological assent of what these three “In’s” mean and a practice based on real, authentic understanding.
In other words, it’s hard to practically apply these things in our everyday lives since our understanding of these truths are constantly evolving, growing, and maturing.
(And let’s be completely honest: Sometimes our understanding of these things is just plain wrong.)
This brings me to a 4th “In” which is related to us (e.g. man) and not Scripture: Our Incomplete understanding and consequently, our practice.
I’ve thought about this deeply as my Pastor, Andy Stanley, has been accused of some “heretical-ish” preaching (specifically statements that may challenge Inerrancy and Infallibility). Honestly, this makes me chuckle a bit.
The reality is this: It is perfectly impossible to be absolutely complete in our speech and to perfectly represent the entire Gospel message in all that we do, all the time. It is (and we are), instead, perfectly incomplete, all the time.
You see, the problem is that we all want and desire a perfectly clean, cut-and-dry presentation of all these difficult truths without flaws (an inerrant performance) and when we don’t get it or see it or experience it we cry foul. This demand, by the way, is hypocrisy defined.
But how does one exactly, communicate, flawlessly, the three “In’s”? The answer is that they do not. They do it Incompletely. What should naturally fill the gap (one would hope) are things like grace but that is generally in short-supply (especially on the internet).
We believe incompletely about a knowable God, a risen Savior, and a Spirit that delivers the goods for a life transformed and, by the Spirit, our incomplete understanding becomes less incomplete as we grow. But that incompleteness is more than enough and we will not, apparently, be delivered from it completely until the very End.
One of my favorite stories of the New Testament is the heartwrenching story of the man and his demon-possessed son. The disciples were unable to cure the boy with their incomplete understanding and practice; so Christ enters the stage. The man then exclaims something that has become part of all of our stories:
I believe; help my unbelief!
And with his perfectly imperfect, completely incomplete faith, Christ heals the man’s son. The truest form of God’s work among men in this age (and all ages) is His uniform ability to do life-changing work with really stupid, incomplete, and terribly fallible vessels (e.g. us, humans).
It’s magical, this thing called faith, natch.
[Thanks to Norman Geisler for the jump-off.]