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.