Friday, May 08, 2009

The Inerrancy of the Bible

It was brought to my attention this week that some people do not know what Bible-believing Christians mean when we say that we believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. Some have questioned its importance. Some have asserted that the doctrine is not biblical.

What do Bible-believing Christians mean when we say that the Bible is inerrant? In the Contact Church's workbook for potential new members, Discovering Contact Membership, we find a good description of the doctrine: "The Bible is God's Word to us. It was written by human authors, under the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is the supreme source of truth for Christian beliefs and living. Because it is inspired by God, it is the truth without any mixture of error" (p. 22).

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy further clarifies the meaning of the doctrine: "We affirm the propriety of using inerrancy as a theological term with reference to the complete truthfulness of Scripture. We deny that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose. We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations" (Article XIII).

In short, we believe the Bible in its original writings to be completely truthful, trustworthy, accurate, and reliable.

Is the inerrancy of the Scriptures a biblical doctrine? Some claim that the Bible never claims to be inerrant, because the word "inerrant" is not found in the Bible. However, the concept exists within the Bible. "All Scripture is breathed out by God" (2 Timothy 3:16), the God "who never lies" (Titus 1:2, English Standard Version).

Does the doctrine of biblical inerrancy matter? It would not matter if the Bible did not say that it was "breathed out by God." If it were merely a collection of human thoughts about God and life, its accuracy and reliability would not be very important. It would not matter if it did not claim that God "never lies." However, since it claims to be breathed out by the God who never lies, it matters. It gets to the heart of God's character. Is he trustworthy and reliable if you cannot trust his word?

This is not meant to be a detailed defense of the Bible's trustworthiness, but I hope it helped those who disagree with Bible-believing Christians to understand us a little better. We want to honor God by believing what he has told us in the Bible.



A pivotal scripture for understanding scripture...

All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine for reproof for correction for instruction in righteousness.

πᾶσα γραφὴ θεόπνευστος καὶ ὠφέλιμος πρὸς διδασκαλίαν, πρὸς ἔλεγχον, πρὸς ἐπανόρθωσιν, πρὸς παιδείαν τὴν ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ,

πασα adjective - nominative singular feminine
pas pas: apparently a primary word; all, any, every, the whole

γραφη noun - nominative singular feminine
graphe graf-ay': a document, i.e. holy Writ (or its contents or a statement in it) -- scripture.

θεοπνευστος adjective - nominative singular feminine
theopneustos theh-op'-nyoo-stos: divinely breathed in -- given by inspiration of God.

και conjunction
kai kahee: and, also, even, so then, too, etc.; often used in connection (or composition) with other particles or small words

ωφελιμος adjective - nominative singular masculine
ophelimos o-fel'-ee-mos: helpful or serviceable, i.e. advantageous -- profit(-able).

προς preposition
pros pros: a preposition of direction; forward to, i.e. toward

διδασκαλιαν noun - accusative singular feminine
didaskalia did-as-kal-ee'-ah: instruction (the function or the information) -- doctrine, learning, teaching.

προς preposition
pros pros: a preposition of direction; forward to, i.e. toward

ελεγχον noun - accusative singular masculine
elegchos el'-eng-khos: proof, conviction -- evidence, reproof.

προς preposition
pros pros: a preposition of direction; forward to, i.e. toward

επανορθωσιν noun - accusative singular feminine
epanorthosis ep-an-or'-tho-sis: a straightening up again, i.e. (figuratively) rectification (reformation) -- correction.

προς preposition
pros pros: a preposition of direction; forward to, i.e. toward

παιδειαν noun - accusative singular feminine
paideia pahee-di'-ah: tutorage, i.e. education or training; by implication, disciplinary correction -- chastening, chastisement, instruction, nurture.

την definite article - accusative singular feminine
ho ho: the definite article; the (sometimes to be supplied, at others omitted, in English idiom) -- the, this, that, one, he, she, it, etc.

εν preposition
en en: in, at, (up-)on, by, etc.

δικαιοσυνη noun - dative singular feminine
dikaiosune dik-ah-yos-oo'-nay: equity (of character or act); specially (Christian) justification -- righteousness.

This was the text we looked at in our school Scripture Union group a while ago. The teaching of scripture is moral (i.e. doctrinal - intended to impact upon and improve the way we live. The propositions which give this view weight are linked by the preposition "pros", which serves to intensify the idea of teaching being something which results in uprightness of life by stages:

1) teaching - διδασκαλιαν formative instruction, God-breathed... In the beginning GOD spoke to create. In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God. Similarly, God speaks to create what he commands. Here is how he does it in a Christian's life.
2) reproof - ie pointing out what is going wrong in a life. RED.
3) correction - ie putting what is going wrong, right! AMBER.
4) building up in righteousness - ie now that the base is secure, actually moving onward. GREEN.

Note that it is a circular argument to say that scripture is God-breathed because it says so in scripture. (It is internally contingent, in other words.) This does not mean it is wrong, merely that it is reflexive. Any number of observed situations contain similarly circular sentiments, but may be just as true, even though they aren't susceptible of external verification.
EG: I say it is good to be alive. It's good to be alive because I'm saying it is, and I'm alive to say that it's good to be alive... That's not objectively provable either, but it may still be a true statement.

Christy said...

God can NOT lie! AMEN! That's all I need to know.

Terry said...

Thanks for the comments, Ed and Christy. I appreciate the thought that you put into it, Ed. And I completely agree with your analysis, Christy. Thanks for taking the time to post a comment here!

DMH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DMH said...

"In short, we believe the Bible in its original writings to be completely truthful, trustworthy, accurate, and reliable"

I used to believe this too. I would've staked my life upon it. I was curious if you believe in the accuracy and trustworthiness of the bible only because that is what it says about itself (i.e. 2 Tim 3:16) or do you have further proof of its reliability? Just because the bible claims itself to be trustworthy, is that enough for you? Thank you for your response.

Terry said...

Thanks for the question. It deserves a good answer, so I will post a response within a few days. Since I'm not a scholar, my response may disappoint you because of its simplicity, but I will do my best to explain why I came to believe the Scriptures and how that led me to believe in Christ and to become a Christian.

I looked at your blog before responding to your comment, and I saw that you have become disillusioned with God (and possibly Christians). I'm not sure that I can help much (especially since I don't know the context of your disillusionment), but I assure you that I will not try to attack you for doubting God and Christianity. If I am unable to help, please keep questioning people who may be more knowledgable.