TheoThought 300

 

Inspiration/Inerrancy

 

Introduction: What are we to do with the Bible? Is it a good book only? or is it God’s Book? Has God spoken through human authors, and preserved it down to our day without error? If so, how do we explain the “discrepancies” in the pages of the Bible?

 

These and other fundamental questions drive us to study the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy (infallibility).

 

1. Definitions:

 

a) Inspiration proper: Scripture finds, as it’s creative source, the very breath of God.  = words were inspired (breathed out)

 

b) Inspiration: Human authors were superintended by God the Spirit that they what they authored, using their own understanding, vocabulary and style, ended up being a “one-for-one” with what God breathed out. = both words and men were “inspired” (words were breathed out; authors were superintended)

 

2Tim. 3.16  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

 

2Pet. 1.20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  21 For  no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God  as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

 

The Sequence:

Inspiration à

                  Inscripturation à

                                    Preservation (Canonicity)à

                                                                Translation à Interpretation

“What are the practical consequences of “Inspiration?”

 

• Authority

• Sufficiency

• Utility (does it work in you: 1 Thess. 2:13; 1 Peter 1:22-2:3)

• etc.

 

“But, all of this is only true if the Bible is true! If there are found to be errors in the Bible, everything we’ve said to this point is up for grabs! Errors in the Bible would cast horrible doubt on God himself, on his nature, his work, and his plan for human history.”

 

Which brings us to the issue at hand:

 

c) Inerrancy: Inerrancy means that, when all facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences. (From Inerrancy, pg. 294, in The Meaning of Inerrancy, Paul Feinberg).

 

WE AFFIRM  that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.

WE DENY  that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.

 

 

d) Infallibility: This term speaks to the impossibility of error in the Bible. Usually it is taken to mean the Bible, correctly interpreted is incapable of promoting, signifying, or teaching error. It speaks to the nature of Scripture as well as the Scripture itself.

 

This term comes with baggage simply because the Roman Catholic Church affirms Scripture as “inerrant” while infallible is used to affirm the authority of the church and its teaching function  in particular (Magisterum).

 

In the evangelical world recently this term has been championed by those arguing for a “limited inerrancy”. They claim the Bible is inerrant in areas of faith and doctrine, but not science and history for example.

 

The orthodox position is that, the Bible being inspired, must therefore be inerrant, and certainly then, infallible as to its nature and effect.

 

WE AFFIRM  that Scripture, having been given by divine inspiration, is infallible, so that, far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses.

WE DENY  that it is possible for the Bible to be at the same time infallible and errant in its assertions. Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished, but not separated.

 

2. Biblical Evidence for Inerrancy:

Does the Bible claim to be inerrant?

 

A.  Logic Demands It

 

John 3.33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this,  that God is true.

 

Rom. 3.4 By no means!  Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words,   and prevail when you  are judged.”

 

John 17.17 Sanctify them  in the truth; your word is truth.

B. The Character of God Demands It:

 

Titus 1.2 in hope of eternal life, which God,  who never lies,  promised  before the ages began

 

John 14.6 Jesus said to him, “I am  the way, and  the truth, and  the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

 

1John 5.6   This is he who came  by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And  the Spirit is the one who testifies, because  the Spirit is the truth. 

 

C. Old Testament Claims:

 

Psa. 12.6   The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.

 

Psa. 119.89    Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.

 

Prov. 30.5     Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

6   Do not add to his words,   lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.

 

• Actions of OT leaders:

 

Elijah: 1Kings 18.36   And at the time of  the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD,  God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that  you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that  I have done all these things at your word.

 

Psa. 119.9    How can  a young man keep his way pure?   By guarding it according to your word.

 

Psa. 119.11  I have  stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

 

Psa. 119.16  I will  delight in your statutes;   I will not forget your word.

 

Psa. 119.17     Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word.

 

Psa. 119.25     My soul clings to the dust; give me life  according to your word!

 

D. New Testament Claims:

 

2 Timothy 3:16, 17; 2 Peter 1:20, 21; 3:15, 16

 

2Tim. 3.16  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  17 that  the man of God  may be complete,  equipped  for every good work.

 

2Pet. 1.20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  21 For  no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God  as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

 

2Pet. 3.15 And count  the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as  our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you  according to the wisdom given him,  16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters.  There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction,  as they do the other Scriptures.

 

“If the claims of biblical inerrancy are correct, we would expect this to be the consistent belief and teaching of the church down through history.”

3. History of Inerrancy as a Belief in the Church:

Is Inerrancy the consistent belief of the church down through history?

 

“… the position of the church, as it has been delineated by scholars, clerics, and teachers, is that of the absolute authority and inerrance of the Scriptures. That was the view of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, as well as of the entire church; inerrancy is the ‘central church tradition.’” The novel interpreters of the doctrine of Scripture were not Turretin, Hodge, and Warfield, but Orr, Barth, Berkouwer, and Rogers. Those who argue that belief in an inerrant Bible is anovel historial position, that accommodation has been its ‘central tradition,’ grievously err in calling the great figures of the church to witness for them.”

- Inerrancy and the Church, John D. Hannah, ed; pg. ix

 

Early Doctrinal Definitions:

- we find none!

 

In speaking about the way other doctrines were scrutinized carefully in the early church, James Bannerman (quoted in Inerrancy and the Church, pg. 4) asserts the doctrine of Scripture was assumed:

 

“ The question of the authority and infallibility of Scripture did not, however, pass through this process until many centuries afterwards. There are no definitions and limitations of the doctrine on one side and another, elaborately drawn out and reduced to systematic form, as if armed on every side to repel assault, or fortified around to prevent controversy or misunderstanding. The belief of the early Church in an infallible Bible was too simple to require to be fenced about with the safeguard of explanations, and too unanimous to need support from argument. There was neither controversy nor theorizing demanded to satisfy the faith of Christians; nor did the one or the other appear in connection with inspiration for the first 800 years.”

 

Willis Shotwell, in The Biblical Exegesis of Justin Martyr, pg 4 summarizes this church father’s view of Scripture, and in so doing evidences the view broadly held by the Early Church:

 

“This, then is Justin’s concept of the inspiration of the Scriptures. God had spoken to the Old Testament writers through the divine Logos or the Holy Spirit. These prophets had written down the messages given to them. Because the words were inspired and from God, they were of inestimable value and could not contradict one another. The inspiration of these words was beyond all proof and must be accepted by faith. Through this faith the grace to understand these words was given by God to men who were Christians.

(Use other quotes in Inerrancy and the Church, Hannah, ed)

 

4th/5th Century: Augustine:

 

“Accordingly, He who sent the prophets before His own descent also dispatched the apostles after His ascension … He stands to all his disciples in the relation of the head to the members of His body. Therefore, when those disciples have written matters which He declared and spoke to them it ought not by any means be said that He has written nothing Himself; since the truth is, that His members have accomplished only what they became acquainted with by the repeated statements of the Head. For all that He was minded to give for our perusal on the subject of His own doings and sayings, He commanded to be written by those disciples, who He thus used as if they were His own hands.” (quoted in Inerrance and the Church, pg. 44,45)

 

16th Century: Luther and Calvin:

 

Luther:

 

“I have learned to ascribe the honor of infallibility only to those books that are accepted as canonical. I am profoundly convinced that none of these writers has erred. All other writers, however they may have distinguished themselves in holiness or in doctrine, I read in this way I evaluate what they say, not on the basis that they themselves believe that a thing is true, but only insofar as they are able to convince me by the authority of the canonical books or by clear reason.” (WA, 2. 618. Contra malignum Iohannis Eccii iudicium ... Martini Lutheri defensio 11519).

 

Speech before Diet of Worms:

“Unless I can be instructed and convinced with evidence from the Holy Scriptures or with open, clear and distinct grounds and reasoning—and my conscience is captive to the Word of. God—then I cannot and will not recant, because it is neither safe nor wise to act against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other.  So help me God.”

 

Calvin:

“He {Paul} commends the Scripture, first, on account of its authority, and second, on account of the usefulness that springs from it. In order to uphold the authority of Scripture, he declares it to be divinely inspired; for if it be so, it is beyond all controversy that men should receive it with reverence … Whoever then wishes to profit in the Scriptures, let him first of all lay down as a settled point this, that the law and the prophets are not teaching delivered by the will of men, but dictated by the Holy Spirit … We owe to Scripture the same reverence we owe to God, because it has proceeded from him alone, and has nothing of man mixed with it.” (Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:16, en loc).

The famous Calvinist B. B. Warfield wrote:

“Such, then, are the Scriptures as conceived by Calvin: sixty-six books, dictated by God to his notaries that they might, in this public record, stand as a perpetual special revelation of himself to his people, to supplement or to supersede in their case the general revelation which he gives of himself in his works and deeds, but which is rendered ineffective by the sin-bred disabilities of the human soul.(Princeton Theol. Rev. VII, p. 259.)

 

• Calvin’s Institutes:

 

Here is the supreme power with which pastors of the church, by whatever name they are called, should be invested—namely, to dare all boldly for the word of God, compelling all the virtue, glory, wisdom and rank of the world to yield and obey its majesty. Although, as I have observed, there is this difference between the apostles and their successors, they were sure and authentic amanuenses of the Holy Spirit; and therefore, their writings are to be regarded as the oracles of God, whereas others have no other office than to teach what is delivered and sealed in the Holy Scriptures. We conclude, therefore, that it does not now belong to faithful ministers to coin some new doctrine to which all, without exception, are made subject. Institutes IV, 8, 9.6.

And at another place he speaks in the following manner:

Since no daily responses are given from heaven, and the Scriptures are the only records in which God has been pleased to consign his truth to perpetual remembrance, the full authority which they ought to possess with the faithful is not recognized, unless they are believed to have come from heaven, as directly as if God had been heard giving utterance to them. Institutes I, 7, 1.

 

Confessions:

 

• Westminster Confession

I. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable;[1] yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation.[2] Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church;[3] and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing;[4] which makes the Holy Scripture to be most nIV. The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.[9]ecessary;[5] those former ways of God's revealing His will unto His people being now ceased.[6]

 

VI. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.[12] Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word:[13] and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.[14]

 

• 1689 Baptist Confession

This confession is almost word-for-word the same as the Westminster in this article. Yet, this is added:

 

The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of its writing was most generally known to the nations) were immediately inspired by God, and were kept pure through subsequent ages by His singular care and providence. They are therefore authentic, so that in all controversies of religion , the church must appeal to them as final.

 

• Grace Baptist Church

The Bible: We believe that the sixty-six books of the Bible are God’s inspired revelation to man. They are the very word of God, without error, completely authoritative, essential, sufficient and trustworthy, and constitute the only infallible rule for truth and life. It is our constant privilege to read, study, teach, obey, and model God’s word in order to be truthful and loving ambassadors for Christ to our world.

 

Psa. 19.7     The law of the LORD is perfect,     reviving the soul;    the testimony of the LORD is  sure,    making wise  the simple;

8   the precepts of the LORD are right,   rejoicing the heart;   the commandment of the LORD is  pure,    enlightening the eyes;

9  the fear of the LORD is clean,   enduring forever;   the rules  of the LORD are  true,   and righteous altogether.

10  More to be desired are they than  gold,   even much  fine gold;    sweeter also than honey   and drippings of  the honeycomb.

11  Moreover, by them is your servant warned;    in keeping them there is great reward.

 

Psa. 19.12     Who can discern his errors?    Declare me innocent from  hidden faults.

13   Keep back your servant also from  presumptuous sins;   let them not have  dominion over me!   Then I shall be blameless,   and innocent of great transgression.

 

Psa. 19.14    Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart   be acceptable in your sight,   O LORD, my  rock and my  redeemer.

 

2Tim. 3.15-17 and how  from childhood you have been acquainted with  the sacred writings,  which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that  the man of God  may be complete,  equipped  for every good work.

 

2Pet. 1.20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.

 

2Pet. 3.14    Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him  without spot or  blemish, and  at peace.  15 And count  the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as  our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you  according to the wisdom given him,  16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters.  There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction,  as they do the other Scriptures.

 

Matt. 5.18 For truly, I say to you,  until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

 

John 10.35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be  broken—

 

1Th. 2.13   And  we also thank God constantly  for this, that when you received  the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it  not as the word of men  but as what it really is, the word of God,  which is at work in you believers.

 

John 17.17  Sanctify them  in the truth;  your word is truth.

 

Heb. 4.12 For  the word of God is living and  active,  sharper than any  two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and  discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

 

John 19.37 And again another Scripture says,  “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”

 

Rom. 9.17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh,  “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

 

Rom. 10.11 For the Scripture says,  “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

 

Rom. 11.2  God has not rejected his people whom he  foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 

 

Conclusion:

It is clear that the consistent belief and teaching of the church, preserved through history despite numerous errors being introduced and heresies being promoted, it the divine origin of the Scriptures, including a firm belief in the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture.

 

Understanding Inerrancy Today

 

c) Inerrancy: Inerrancy means that, when all facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences.

 

Vanhoozer: To say that Scripture is inerrant is to confess faith that the authors speak the truth in all things they affirm (when they make affirmations), and will eventually be seen to have spoken truly (when right readers read rightly).

 

Right readers: = those who read in faith and humility, and have a sense of general literary competence!

 

Rules:

 

1. Reading rightly means having a literate understanding of literal.

 

2. Reading rightly means understanding the ways words are used in the literary culture that surrounds the author.

 

3. Reading rightly means understanding the difference between “precise” and “true” as well as recognizing the arenas in which both are necessary. (See Justin Taylor’s Article: What does inerrancy mean?)

 

“Scripture is inerrant, not in the sense of being absolutely precise by modern standards, but in the sense of making good its claims and achieving that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed.” (quoted by Vanhoozer, 5 Views of Inerrancy, pg. 211)

 

Questions:

 

 

 

TheoThought 300

Inspiration/Inerrancy

Resources

 

Articles:

 

• Al Mohler: Is the Bible Inerrant?

https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2013/12/is-the-bible-inerrant-al-mohler-on-biblical-inerrancy/

 

• Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy

http://www.bible-researcher.com/chicago1.html

 

• Justin Taylor: What does inerrancy mean?

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2013/07/26/what-does-inerrancy-mean/

 

Books:

 

Inerrancy; Norman L. Geisler, ed; Zondervan, 1980.

This is the book summarizing the conclusions reached by the International Conference on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI), the group responsible for writing the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

 

Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy; J. Merrick and Stephen M Garrett, eds; Zondervan, 2013.

This is the most recent and accessible volume presenting both the historical position of inerrancy as well as contemporary criticisms and proposed enhancements to the discussion of the Bible as inerrant.

 

Inerrancy and the Church; John D. Hannah, ed; Moody Press, 1984.

This book also came out of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. It presents the history of inerrancy in the church.