I also do not consider the Bible spiritually infallible, and my reasons are empirical. There has been too much mischief and flat-out evil committed in its name for me to be able to say with a straight face that the Bible provides reliable guidance to anyone who sincerely seeks it. Others might reasonably reply that the problem is not with the Bible but with the depravity of those who interpret it. I might even agree with them, except that if a Bible intended to communicate God’s message to humans is so easily corrupted by human interpretation, what sense does it make to call it infallible? As soon as we qualify infallibility with the requirement of correct interpretation, the game changes: we are not longer talking about the Bible as a simple, reliable source in which anybody can look up the right answers. Instead we are dealing with the competing authority claims of its interpreters. Granted, many of those interpreters deny that they are advancing their own authority. They claim that they are just following the rules set by the Bible itself. The trouble is, the same claim can be and often is made by other interpreters who arrive at different results. Even when we seek to be faithful to the Bible’s own principles, human judgment plays an inescapable role in biblical interpretation. (8)
I have previously argued that confessions of inerrancy based on non-extant textual witnesses (i.e. the biblical autographs) are of little value. If we had them, the discussion would be different. What we do have is fragmentary and occasionally disparate witnesses to ancient pieces of literature and traditions which bring these literary works together into a unified Bible. This is where confessions about the Bible should begin insofar as we are speaking of our interaction with sacred literature. If God is speaking to us today, it is not by means of texts that do not exist.
Steussy is using similar logic to make a slightly different argument. Because we never come to the Bible without the need to interpret it, any attempt on our part to make claims about the Bible’s efficacy that does not take into consideration this interpretive dimension is misguided. We do not have access to the Bible apart from interpretation, and our attempts at interpreting it are marred by our own intellectual and spiritual insufficiencies/deficiencies. The Bible has great potential for enriching our lives and the world in which we live, yet nothing about the Bible prevents it from being abused—even by the most sincere individual. Confessing the Bible to be an infallible guide tends to obscure this latter detail.