Bible,  Inerrancy

Inerrancy – It’s Not That Complicated

The recent Evangelical Theological Society conference was about biblical inerancy. Some are for it, some are against. What strikes me is that the doctrine, while raising all sorts of questions, is not that complicated. So let me have a shot at a simple defense.

The first thing to realize is that we know God because God reveals himself to us. Revelation is “God’s disclosure of His nature and His will to mankind.” There are two kinds of revelation, general and special. General revelation is general information about God – he exists, he is powerful that is generally available to all human beings. In Scripture we learn that all Creation reveals God (Psalm 19) and that all human beings know God (Rom 1).

Special Revelation is specific revelation, through specific means, Jesus Christ (John 1:14) or spoken words (2 Samuel 23:2), that is available to specific people, Israel, the church.

The Bible, Christians believe, is special revelation, inspired by God, devoid of error and authoritative on all that it speaks about. Despite all the recent debate about the matter (just Google inerrancy debate) it remains a simple, straightforward set of beliefs.

First off, the Bible is Inspired. Inspiration is “the work of the Holy Spirit in the writing process in order to produce writings that are both the words of God and of the human writers.” The Holy Spirit uses human authors, their style, vocabulary and personality, to ensure that their words are accurate and are what God wants to say. And all the Bible is inspired, every word and all the word.

  • 2 Tim 3:16: All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
  • 2 Peter 1:20-21: So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
  • Exodus 32:16: The tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing engraved on the tablets.
  • Isaiah 1:1-2: The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz concerning Judah and Jerusalem, which he saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. “Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; For the Lord speaks,”

Second, the Bible is Inerrant. Inerrancy means that the Bible, in the original autographs (the original writings as God gave them) is entirely true and never false in all it says in all fields – physical, social etc. This might not mean precise in all it affirms, but that does not negate its truth. As John Frame says, “When we say that the Bible is inerrant, we mean that the Bible makes good on its claims.” It also doesn’t matter that we don’t have the original autographs since the assertion that they are inerrant is not based on having in our possession the original autographs.

For what reason do we believe it? Because the Bible is inspired, scripture is God’s word. And God knows everything (He is omniscient, Ps 147:4 “He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.”). God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18 “it is impossible for God to lie”). Therefore, scripture is the ultimate standard for truth (John 17:17 “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth”).

Third, the Bible is Imperial. The Bible is the supreme authority on all matters relating to God and creation. The authority of scripture is based in the person of God (as is every other doctrine). God is the supreme being, upon whom all things that are not God are dependent. He controls all things, knows all things, sustains all things and is always right. God inspired scripture to the extent that all scripture is devoid of error. Therefore, the Bible is imperial, to be treated as the supreme authority.

  • 2 Tim 3:16: All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
  • 1 John 5:9-12: If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for the testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son. The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.
As well as what scripture is, there are some words beginning with “I” that apply to the reader to complete the logic. The main thing is that the Bible needs to be Illuminated. Illumination is the work of the Holy Spirit acting upon those who are in right relationship with God (the specific people we talked about) so that they are able to know that the Bible is the word of God.

We need illumination because natural human beings are hostile to spiritual truth without the help of the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14 “The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them”). Believers can accept spiritual truth because we are taught by the Spirit (1 Cor 2:12 “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God”).
Finally, believers should be Infatuated by the word of God. We love his word. Psalm 119 is an expression of love for God’s law. The Law is as sweet as honey. The psalmist delights in God’s word.

Many find the belief in inerancy to be objectionable. While I understand the objections, the doctrine itself is not that difficult to grasp and it contains nothing irrational or incomprehensible. There are a few doctrines that entail a limit to our comprehension (Tri-unity of God, incarnation), but inerrancy is not one of them. 

Assistant Professor of Philosophy and History of Ideas at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and The College at Southeastern.

One Comment

  • Luke

    I think this is more of an issue in the international church that people in the States realize. I noticed in "Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy" by J. Merrick, Stephen M. Garrett,and Stanley N. Gundry, they had a section that was actually called "Inerrancy outside the United States". I thought that was kind of strange, but there are many places in the world where the Bible is not considered inerrant. Thanks for raising an important issue brother.