Inerrancy & Infallibility of the Scriptures
In Inspiration of the Scriptures, part three of Doctrines & Disciplines of the Bible, we established the importance of a right theology, affirming trustworthiness of the Bible by way of its divine inspiration. Proper understanding of this doctrine demands affirmation of inerrancy and infallibility. If we claim our Lord and Savior to be Jesus Christ, and that Jesus himself affirmed the inerrancy of Scripture, we must accordingly embrace the Scriptures as true and right.
The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was ultimately produced by the meeting of three hundred preeminent evangelical leaders. This council’s purpose was to bring awareness of the battle for the Bible and to take a stand on the issue whose problem became prevalent even within evangelical Christianity. I refer you back to that statement here: http://www.danielakin.com/wp-content/uploads/old/Resource_545/Book%202,%20Sec%2023.pdf
- How would you define biblical inerrancy? Why is biblical inerrancy so critical to our walk with Christ?
- Is the issue of biblical inerrancy today equally as important to the world as it was in 1978? How might you see this battle for the Bible continue?
- If we, as fallible human beings, penned the Bible, how can this book be free from error?
- Why should doctrine of inerrancy and infallibility matter to me right now? How might a prideful attitude towards inerrancy and infallibility present itself in our habitual Bible reading and studies?
From the time the canon of Scripture was closed in the first century, God’s Word is, and always has been, the means by which God speaks to the church. In the times of the Old Testament, God spoke to his people in various ways. On occasion, He spoke to people directly. God primarily communicated to the people of Israel through prophets: Human beings just like us, who received their information from God. A common phrase heard from these prophets was, “Thus says the Lord.”
The counterpart to the Old Testament prophet was the New Testament Apostle. The apostle received a direct call by Christ; the term apostle itself means one who is sent or commissioned with the authority of the one doing the sending. They are Christ’s emissaries, given His authority to speak on his behalf. Knowing the backstory plays an important role in gaining full understanding of how the Bible functions today. Read the following:
- Mark 3:14
- John 14:26; 16:13-14; 17:17
- Acts 5:29-32
- Read Jonah 3:1-5, then read Matthew 10:40-41 and 12:39-41. What is the “something greater than Jonah” in these passages? Why is this Old Testament/New Testament connection significant?
- Which word or words in John 5:45-47 give Jesus’ own credibility to the writings of Moses?
- In Ephesians 2:19-21, what part does Jesus Christ play in the “whole structure?” Who would be the “foundation?” Why would this be critical?
- Read Romans 1:1-5 and 1 Corinthians 1:1. Why was it essential that Paul be identified as an apostle?
Al Mohler, distinguished president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, states, “Inerrancy is nothing less than the affirmation that the Bible, as the Word of God written, is totally true and totally trustworthy. When the Bible speaks, God speaks. This is the Bible’s own testimony about itself, and it is the historic faith of the Christian church.” As the Bride of Christ, we are called to trust everything Scripture affirms. Read the following:
- Psalm 12:6; 18:30; 19:8
- Proverbs 30:5
- John 10:35; 14:26; 16:13-14
- Hebrews 6:18
- We are a fickle people, but God is not like us. In Numbers 23:19 we find the counsels and promises of God respecting Israel are unchangeable. How are you reminded of your calling to Truth in Numbers 23:19? How is God not like us in regard to Truth?
- What unique qualities of God’s words are described in the Psalms verses? List them.
- In reference to Proverbs 30:5 as well as the John passages, what way might you benefit from God’s Truth?
- What aspect of God’s character do you find in Hebrews 6:18? Why is this pointed out?
The reliability of the Word confronts our tendency to be relativists – our culture would have us believe nothing is true in an absolute sense. As stated in the Chicago Statement, “Inerrant signifies the quality of being free from all falsehood or mistake and so safeguards the truth that the Holy Scripture is entirely true and trustworthy in all its assertions.” Inerrancy means the Bible is without error in the original manuscripts. Infallibility means that the Bible is “true and reliable in all the matters it addresses…Infallible signifies the quality of neither misleading nor being misled and so safeguards in categorical terms the truth that Holy Scripture is a sure, safe, and reliable rule and guide in all matters.” Infallibility logically flows from inerrancy. Since the Bible is without error (inerrancy), it is reliable (infallible) in all that it teaches. It cannot fail or be inaccurate. In common practice, the terms inerrancy and infallibility are often used synonymously.
- How do you see the correlation between the Doctrine of Inspiration of Scripture and the Doctrine of Inerrancy and infallibility?
- Does your view of inerrancy reserve a high view of divine action among human beings, as seen in the superintending action in the writings of Scripture?
- How can we affirm inerrancy of the Bible in a world claiming it to be full of errors? How can Christians become more certain of biblical inerrancy?
Since the Bible is God’s voice, literally God breathed revelation (inspiration), and God cannot lie, the conclusion would be that the Bible is without error. “God is true; the Scriptures were breathed out by God; therefore, the Scriptures are true (since they came from the breath of God who is true)” writes Charles Ryrie. The Bible declares itself to be inerrant. Jesus noted that the whole of Scripture (“law”), down to even a portion of one letter, would not pass away until all was accomplished.” Read the following:
- Psalm 19:7
- Matthew 5:18; 22:29
- Romans 3:4
- Titus 1:1-3
- As God’s testimony for the truth, what function(s) of His Word is described in Psalm 19:7?
- What are the dangers of not believing the Bible to be inerrant? Refer to Matthew 22:29.
- What is the contrast of God and man seen in Romans 3:4?
- Where is the Christian hope rooted (Titus 1:1-3)?
Author Timothy Ward writes, “The idea that the Bible is ‘infallible’ means that it does not deceive. To say that the Bible is ‘inerrant’ is to make the additional claim that it does not assert any errors of fact: whether the Bible refers to events in the life of Christ, or to other details of history and geography, what it asserts is true.” A classic statement of the inerrant view would be in the Chicago Statement’s twelfth article: “We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit. We deny that biblical infallibility or inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the field of history and science.”
- How does the Bible correspond with reality?
- Do you trust everything the Scriptures affirm, beginning with creation?
Critics of inerrancy often misunderstand the concept when applied to the Bible. Scripture employs ordinary speech and everyday language. Loose quotations are at times paraphrased, summarized, or alluded to. The Bible can be inerrant and still include loose or free quotations. Read the following:
- Genesis 1:16-18
- Numbers 12:7
- Psalm 104:4
- Hebrew 1:7 & 3:2
Other things to consider would be the fact that Jesus taught in Aramaic, and the New Testament is written in Greek. We find a different ordering of events, not necessarily chronological, though events recorded are the same. Variant accounts relate the same event in the Gospels but often present with significant differences. Inerrancy is consistent with these variations. Inerrancy still allows for variety in style, variety in details in explaining the same event, and does not insist on the verbatim reporting of events. To the contrary, inerrancy requires that the account does not teach error or contradiction.
- Matthew 4:1-11; 8:5-13; 27:1-10
- Luke 4:1-13; 7:1-10
- Acts 1:15-19 (note the parenthesis)
- Comparison with the Luke and Matthew accounts does not indicate clear contradiction. What are your observations on the variety in details of the same events?
- The awkwardness of the parenthesis in the acts passage noted the number in Jewish law required to establish community and thus, an interruption in the story. Should the reader see this as added information or pertinent to the text?
In his Pilgrim Theology, Michael Horton writes, “Inerrancy does not mean that the human authors were exhaustive or exact. God spoke to his people at different times, in their own context, and according to their ordinary capacities. We should not impose modern standards of exactitude on ancient texts. There are discrepancies in reports, which one would expect of any series of witnesses in a courtroom, but these are due to different perspectives (as in witnessing a traffic accident) rather than to error.”
The Bible is uniquely infallible. The church historically confirms that out of all the written literature in history, the Bible alone is seen as infallible. It has not yet failed, and will not ever fail due to God’s character. It is “that which cannot fail.” Infallible means that something is incapable of making a mistake. Truthfulness, inerrancy, and infallibility is seen in the high view of Scripture in the Old Testament and the New. Read the following:
- Psalm 18:30
- Isaiah 55:11
- Matthew 19:3-6; 24:36-39
- John 5:45-47; 10:35; 14:26; 16:13 & 17:17
- 1 Corinthians 2:10-13
- Use Hebrews 6:18 and Titus 1:2 for clarifying that it is impossible for God to lie.
- Referencing Psalm 18:30, in trusting the Scriptures, are we trusting God himself?
Jesus used historical events in the Old Testament in a manner that showed total confidence in their facts. He acknowledged that in creation, Adam and Eve were two living human beings, not merely symbols of man and woman who acted in specific ways. He verified and authenticated Noah’s flood, and on more than one occasion, the destruction of Sodom. Jesus accepted the story of Jonah as truth, and accepted historicity of Isaiah, Elijah, Daniel, Abel, Zechariah, David, Moses and his writings, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Christ’s authentication of these events should serve us well in our own trusting, even including many of these controversial passages. If our Lord felt he had a reliable Bible, we too can have confidence it is historically true and every word is reliable. Read the following:
- Matthew 8:4; John 5:46
- Matthew 8:11; John 8:39-41
- Matthew 10:15; Luke 17:28-29
- Matthew 12:17 & 40
- Matthew 17:11-12
- Matthew 19:3-5; Mark 10:6-8
- Matthew 22:45
- Matthew 23:35
- Matthew 24:15
- Matthew 24:38-39; Luke 17:26-27
- As you work through the verses, note verification and authenticity of their historicity.
- Where do you see correlation in the Matthew passages to the paired writings in the other Gospels?
- In your own words, how can we have greater confidence in reliability of the Scriptures from reading and believing the above passages?
Every Christian doctrine is drawn from the Bible. In the words of R.C. Sproul, “When we say the Bible is the only rule of faith and practice, it is because we believe this rule has been delegated by the Lord, whose rule it is. Therefore, we say that the Bible is inerrant and infallible.” God always speaks the truth. Not only does he not lie, but he cannot lie. “The Bible is the Word of God, and God cannot err. So, to deny inerrancy, rightly understood, is to attack the very character of God. Those who deny inerrancy, soon enter the dangerous terrain of denying all Scriptural authority for both doctrine and practice,” writes Ravi Zacharias.
Therefore, the Bible speaks accurately in all its statements. Paul Enns writes in The Moody Handbook of Theology, “Inerrancy is reflected in translations. Interestingly, through the science of textual critics (collating some 5,700 ancient Greek manuscripts), we have what is essentially the original reading of the Scriptures, and we can authoritatively use our translations in proclaiming the Word of God.” Read the following:
- Numbers 23:19
- 2 Timothy 3:16
- Why is the Doctrine of Inerrancy and Infallibility foundational for the Christian faith?
- How does the church affirm the Bible’s infallibility?
- Can a mature Christian really believe the Bible contains error?
- How might you use Matthew 4:1-11 in defense of inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible?
- How do Matthew 4:4 and 2 Timothy 3:16 support the fact that God is true, God breathed out the Bible, and the Bible is true?
In his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem writes, “The problems that come with a denial of biblical inerrancy are not insignificant, and when we understand the magnitude of these problems it gives us further encouragement not only to affirm inerrancy but also to affirm its importance for the church.” One of the problems Grudem lists worth noting is, “If we deny inerrancy, we essentially make our own human minds a higher standard of truth than God’s Word itself…this is in effect to say that we know truth more certainly and more accurately than God’s Word does (or than God does), at least in these areas. Such a procedure, making our own minds to be a higher standard of truth than God’s Word, is the root of all intellectual sin.”
“Inerrancy means that we have a Bible that is completely trustworthy, reliable, and without error in its original form. As we study it, we can eagerly anticipate answers to the questions that are essential.” writes DTS Professor Howard Hendricks.
- In what ways does the infallibility of Scripture urge the church to be hopeful while we patiently wait?
- How does inerrancy of the Scriptures urge believers to communicate the gospel?
“The claim that the Bible is inerrant is a conclusion drawn directly from what Scripture says about God, and about itself in relation to God. Scripture says that is breathed out by God, as his own words. In addition, in Scripture God states with great clarity that his character is such that he cannot lie, and that he alone is utterly truthful and trustworthy. The conclusion that the Bible is inerrant is essentially derived from linking these two related truths closely together,” writes Ward. God has chosen to tie Scripture to himself (see Hebrews 6:17-18). Upholding the Doctrine of Inerrancy and Infallibility, we can stand with the church in trusting all Scripture.
As a result of inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility, all of Scripture is trustworthy. The Bible can be inerrant and still speak the ordinary language of our everyday speech. In human language through His Scriptures, God has spoken. Like a father talking to his children, God has humbled himself by using frail mortals to communicate this infallible word. Realizing this, when we open the text, we should humbly bow before the Lord and pray that through it we will hear as God is speaking through the working of the Word.
“To demonstrate trust in the inerrant Word of God is to exhibit faith in the One who spoke life into existence. History and human nature prove the truth of the Bible every day, but the greatest evidence is seen in changed lives that cannot be denied. This infallible Book is its own great commentary: ‘The entirety of Your word, Lord is truth’ (Psalm 119:160).” – Franklin Graham.
- Reflect on the Doctrine of Inerrancy and Infallibility of Scripture.
- My goals for informing my theology with the reality of inerrancy and infallibility are…
- As a result of hope for the church, resting in infallibility of Scripture, I hope…
- My prayer regarding the Doctrine of Inerrancy and Infallibility of God’s Word in relation to the gospel is…
All sources for this series are listed here: https://debbieswindell.com/2019/05/30/excited-to-share/