There is something undeniably different about the Bible compared to other books. It is both influential to people as well as controversial. Somehow it just seems vastly and deeply alive. Perhaps this is because it remains perpetually relevant to the human experience no matter how much time has passed.
Now, I would like to take this opportunity to share some ideas I had wrote about in an academic paper concerning biblical inerrancy, as I think it could be very educational for those that love the Bible.
The Bible is a collection of writing that is simple enough that children can read it and understand, yet it is so hugely profound that scholars and critics can study it for centuries and still not grasp everything about it.
It is an incredible masterpiece, yet there are so many who try to look over the masterpiece with a microscope, investigating and searching for any tiny crack, error, or fly that may have gotten stuck in it.
With so many people studying it, analyzing it, scrutinizing it, and interpreting it over the course of human history, it is of some benefit to map out and consider one’s stance on the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. I will only briefly summarize my stance here.
Infallible basically means that something is absolutely trustworthy and effective. Inerrant means that something is capable of being without any untruths or errors. Some limit the Bible to being only infallible, meaning that though there are errors in facts we can absolutely trust it in matters of faith and practice.
I believe in both the infallibility of the Bible as well as the inerrancy of the Bible. This means that not only does the Bible’s perfection extend to matters of faith but also it contains no errors dealing with historical accounts, facts, records of creation, and genealogies.
Most specifically I apply these attributes to the original manuscripts. Now, of course, we do not have the original autographs; however, despite this, I hold that both these qualities (infallibility and inerrancy) are still faithfully represented in subsequent translations.
For what reasons do I believe this? Well, the simple answer is that I have faith that the Bible is God’s word. My reasons for this faith are numerous. It includes things like fulfilled prophecy, instances of scientific accuracy (even within the context of very primitive times), archaeological evidence, historical accuracy, timeless truths, incredible unity, life experiences, etc.
Now, I understand that me simply having faith is not a suitable answer for someone who is not a Christian, but if you don’t hold that Christianity and the Bible are true this discussion is mostly useless to you anyway. What does biblical inerrancy matter if you don’t have some type of belief in the accounts in the Bible?
Basically, I’m assuming that the majority of my target audience for this post would not consider me having faith as irrelevant and inconsequential. So, I have faith that the Bible is God’s word. A person’s word is their word. If there is falseness to it or incorrect facts then it can’t really be fully trusted.
Just like if there was some false information given in a news report. If there are mistakes within the report, though there may be some things that are accurate, you would still wonder about the integrity of the entire broadcast.
2 Timothy 3:16 reads that all scripture is “God-Breathed.” Hebrews 6:18 reads that God cannot lie. So why, as a Christian, would I entertain the notion that God breathed out any type of falsehood?
To be clear, the Bible itself affirms the perfection of God’s word. Psalm 12:6 for instance states:
The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. KJV
Then also we have Proverbs 30:5 which says:
Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. KJV
Finally, we also have Psalm 19:7 which clearly asserts that:
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. KJV
Now, for those Christians that do not align with the doctrine of inerrancy, what I’m doing here is circular reasoning. I’m picking out scripture that confirms inerrancy from a book that they do not consider to be inerrant. Since they believe there can be errors in the Bible then these pieces of scripture are not necessarily accurate.
But we should see a clear problem with that in itself. Anything from the Bible could now be considered inaccurate or only partial truths; this even includes Christ’s death and resurrection.
I find it interesting when a Christian does not believe that the Bible is inerrant, and I try to understand what makes them draw this conclusion. Many will say it is because the Bible was written by fallible men.
I wonder, if they believe that God created everything we see: human beings, the Earth, the entire cosmos, etc., then why do they have so much trouble believing that God wrote a book without error through his chosen medium of different human authors?
God can create men. Which makes it more conceivable that He could easily orchestrate their lives, experiences, and talents in such a way that inspires and leads them to write what He wants when He wants it, exactly how he wants it to be.
With that being said, I fully align with Article Nineteen of the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy:
We affirm that a confession of the full authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of scripture is vital to a sound understanding of the whole of the Christian faith. We further affirm that such a confession should lead to increasing conformity to the image of Christ. We deny that such a confession is necessary for salvation. However, we further deny that inerrancy can be rejected without grave consequences, both to the individual and to the Church.
I believe that inerrancy is in many ways connected with authority. We stumble across problems and contradictions within the church that are the products of doubt in the Bible’s authority.
If people begin to doubt the Bible’s authority due to fallible human knowledge or based on the ever-shifting fabric of human cultural norms, then we are compromising the integrity of the solid foundation God gives us to stand upon when we defend our faith.
If the foundations be destroyed, what shall the righteous do? Psalm 11:3, KJV
To cherry pick what we believe is or is not a fact in the Bible can quite simply become a slippery slope. In conclusion, I have faith in the inerrancy of the Bible. Though, by saying this I am not necessarily saying that we shouldn’t think about it and further study it.
There are often things in scripture that appear to seem contradictory or cannot be fully understood. In these instances, I maintain my faith in the inerrant word of God and I trust that these matters could be cleared up with further study and/or revelation from the Holy Spirit.
Just because my understanding is not perfect does not change the inerrancy of the Bible I am studying.
This is a pretty large topic and has been the subject of much debate even among evangelicals and Christian leaders. I just gave the briefest glimpse of my stance on the matter, but I’m interested in hearing what others have to say about it too.
International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. (Chicago: International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, 1978).