This essay is now published in the Springfield News-Leader!
The short answer is: if you believe it is, then so it is! But the early followers of Jesus did not share this holy view of the Bible—were it otherwise the Bible would not contain contradictions and errors, which it does.
Mr. Paul Summers, in a News-Leader column (1/4/14) made a case for homosexuality being sinful based on two main propositions: 1. "The Bible is the very word of God," and 2. "There is no contradiction in the Scriptures because God cannot lie." Mr. Summers is wrong on both counts. The truth of the matter is that his argument is based on his belief about God and the Bible. The Christian Bible (meaning it includes Hebrew Scriptures and a collection of Christian texts) has many instances in which it disagrees with itself, as many conservative scholars well know. Otherwise they would not argue that the original autographs of the Bible do not contain contradictions and errors. The problem with this argument is that no original autographs exist! Most New Testament texts are third century and later (two small fragments each of John and Matthew exist from the second century), and the bulk of the Hebrew Bible manuscripts date from the ninth and tenth centuries Common Era. Hence the "original manuscripts argument" is specious at best, for it claims nothing about the manuscripts that have survived from antiquity, which do contain contradictions and errors, and from which we derive the versions of the Bible that serve the church today.
It is also the case (unless you believe differently) that the Bible is a human word about God (and other things), since human beings authored the original texts and other human beings later copied them, freely making changes as it seemed best to individual scribes. The Bible becomes God's word for many by means of the belief that God inspired its original authors (probably not the later scribes, since under the "original autographs theory" scribes introduced the contradictions and errors). There is no evidence to validate the inspiration of these writings, however, except the belief that such is the case. And in any case a number of theories exist about how inspiration may have occurred.
I have no objection to Mr. Summers believing both of his principal propositions—many people do. What I object to is his attempt to sell his personal beliefs about the Bible to the public as fact; hence he misleads the public in suggesting his belief is based on historical data when there is no data to demonstrate either proposition. Indeed the evidence at least partly suggests a different explanation.
The Bible is God's word only if you believe it is! It is better understood, however, as a human search for God. It should finally be noted that what authorizes Mr. Summers' argument about homosexuality is not God, but rather his own personal belief about the Bible.
Charles W. Hedrick
Missouri State University