Theology

Does Biblical Inerrancy Matter?

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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.

 

It 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 there 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 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 can not 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.

 

 

References:

 

International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. (Chicago: International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, 1978).

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17 thoughts on “Does Biblical Inerrancy Matter?

  1. K. This reminds me of Paul’s words to the Corinthian church. Spiritual things are understood by those who are spiritual, meaning that the Holy Spirit gives the only true understanding of God’s Word. We cannot expect those whose hearts are not changed first, to agree on all that the Bible says. Before He gave me a new heart and spirit, I had doubts. Even when I did not understand or something seemed contradictory, the Spirit led me to wait, to pray and believe that He would make those things clear for me in His timing. I believe that His children, those who are born of HIs Spirit, accept the Bible as HIs Holy Word to us. We can only pray for those who disagree for Him to work in their hearts. Thank you for posting ~ Fran

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  2. I think you hit this right on the mark. I remember reading C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, and he mentioned that a map is a document put together by a bunch of men who traveled to different places. They made the maps according to their personal accounts. Lewis used the example that we use a map to get from point A to point B. Even if we have never traveled, let’s say to California, we know that when we get there, there will be a coastline. We know that the coastline exists, not because we have seen it for ourselves, but because someone else has been there and they saw it. Some may say the Bible is just a book. I say, if the Bible is just a book, than a map is just a picture.

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  3. I think of the Bible as along the lines of a fisherman’s tale; what does it matter that every detail is factually accurate is the stories provide you with hope and faith?
    (That, and I don’t dig the idea that women have to literally wear head coverings because God wants them to submit to their husbands is an eternal truth just because Paul happens to mention them in 1 Corinthians 11.)

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      1. But were accurate facts all that important to the original audience and hearers of the Bible? Some of the numbers we read in the Bible are more about the symbolism of what they represent than an actual fact; when we pay attention to the facts and figures, we miss the symbolism that was intended to say something about what’s going on.

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      2. When something is meant to be taken symbolically it’s made pretty clear. For example, when Christ says he is the door (John 10:9), He is not literally a door.

        Accurate facts were important to people of the times, as we can see by the extensive care that was taken to record genealogies, building instructions for the temple, etc. The physician Luke records very precise facts, data, and detailed accounts in the gospel he wrote.

        Even when passages in the Bible are intended to appeal more to the emotions or when certain pieces use various creative literary devices, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it has untruths in it.

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      3. And such are fisherman’s tale, it might not be true that a fish was as long as a guy’s leg and it took exactly fifteen minutes to reel it in, what’s more important was overcoming the struggle of catching it, admiring it, having mercy on it and letting it go.
        Besides, I understand that in the process of writing down manuscripts the same clerical errors that we see today crept in there, doubled letters and words, transposed letters and words, misspelled words, that sort of thing – no two manuscripts are the exact same. So what we have as the Bible has human fingerprints all over it. The Bible did not fall from the sky as one bound volume of books into the laps of the church elders.

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      4. That’s correct what you say about the Bible not dropping from the sky, but I don’t think you fully read my article. I had mentioned that the quality of inerrancy most accurately applies to the original autographs. In God’s sovereignty, the subsequent translations faithfully represent the originals.

        Grammatical errors are a given due to the process of many fallible scribes copying the words.

        I still hold that God’s Word is His Word. He decided to use the medium of human authors and literature to communicate it and translate it to us.

        Because it is God’s word, it makes no sense to embrace the idea that there are any lies or inaccurate facts in it.

        The issue of Christians not wanting to believe the Bible as fully true and accurate typically stems from people not liking something in the Bible, or not understanding something due to the extensive time that has passed (ex. Women covering their head).

        My point is that it can become a slippery slope that leads to cherry picking and compromising the faith as a whole.

        Personal preferences, emotions, cultural ideals, perceptions all change. The truth still remains the truth.

        When things are looked at within context we often find that the accuracy and historicity of the Bible remain in tact. This is even despite limited knowledge, doubts, and misunderstandings.

        This is my stance on the issue. I will never say that acceptance of Biblical inerrancy is necessary for salvation. I do, however, think it’s important in other areas of faith and practice.

        Either way, I do appreciate your views and it is interesting to hear a different idea on the topic. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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      5. I’m glad. I watched too many Christian leaders use inerrancy as hoops to disqualify those who held different opinions as true believers. In my former denomination, it was used to kick out the liberals first, then the moderates; all that’s left is for the conservatives to challenge their own tribe to see whose theology is most inerrant and who is too liberal to be properly conservative. So to me, the greatest danger is when too many people agree and there aren’t any checks and balances on their perspective. I think it’s fine for one person to hold to inerrancy as a personal belief, but that it’s not meant to be used as a “faith detector” for believers. I think that God’s okay that we have different ideas about how to go about worshiping him and the Bible was never meant to be used that way.

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  4. Great article. If we cannot trust EVERY word that proceeds from the mouth of God, then how could we trust any of them. Christians who only believe part of God’s word are picking and choosing -basically creting their own religion in the process.

    I also wanted to comment on the title of your blog. I only just learned this year that Lazarus means God is my help, and that it is Eleazar in the OT. So I was intrigued by your title and tagline, and had to check out more of your posts. 🙂

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