t{squared} The Inerrancy of Scripture

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theology

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When I think of the inerrancy of Scripture the first image that comes to mind is that of my pastor as a child up on the stage, holding the Bible up in the air, and shouting that this is the “inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God“, which was quickly followed by a round of “amens” in a church that didn’t usually “amen”. Bro. Mickey served as my pastor for my entire growing up years. He retired just last year after pastoring my church for over 25 years.  If that man taught me anything, he taught me that God’s Word is inerrant, infallible, and inspired.

After covering the truthfulness of Scripture last week, you may think it a bit redundant to cover inerrancy. Maybe so, but we can never reinforce the truthfulness of Scripture too much, eh? There are also so key implications of inerrancy I want us to see.

If you are new to this study, up to this point, we have established that the Bible is made up of God’s words. Because God cannot lie, then His words must be true in turn making the Bible true. This leads us to conclude that the Bible is our ultimate standard of Truth-to disobey the Bible is to disobey God.

What is Biblical Inerrancy?

Grudem defines Biblical inerrancy as “the inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact” (91). In other words, the Bible always tells the truth about everything it talks about. It does not claim to talk about everything, but that which it does address is factually true and without error.

A few notes about being “factually true and without error”:

  • Using common language of the day does not make the Bible inaccurate. The precision used by the original authors within the Bible should adhere to the degree of precision expected by their readers. Therefore, they may use common language and round or estimated numbers to describe without making the text inaccurate or untrue.
  • The Bible remains inerrant even though writers may use loose quotations. One of the first rules of interpreting a biblical text is to interpret within the rules of the literary genre in which it was written. During the time of the New Testament, Greek had no “direct quotations” like the English language does. Therefore the readers expected only an accurate representation of what the speaker was saying rather than his exact words.
  • The Bible contains unusual or uncommon grammatical constructions, but this does not affect the accuracy or truthfulness of the text. Grudem uses the example of an uneducated backwoodsman who has earned the reputation of being trustworthy over a lifetime of honest dealings with people. His speech my be grammatically incorrect, but that does not make him a liar (92).

I’m not going to address all of the challenges to inerrancy. You can peruse a limited preview of Grudem’s Systematic Theology on Google Books if you are interested (Chapter 5).

I do want to address the argument that because inerrancy applies only to the original manuscripts that we cannot apply inerrancy to our current copies of the Greek and Hebrew texts. (Original manuscripts no longer exist or at least have not been found). Suffice it to say that through a very technical and precise process called textual criticism, highly educated individuals over along periods of time have compared copies of Scripture and determined that we know for certain 99% of what the original manuscripts said. For those places where there is textual variant (different words in ancient copies for the same verse–your Bible will say in the footnotes “some ancient manuscripts read…”) the meaning and proper choice is often very clear. Then in the extremely few places that there is some argument over which words to choose, the general meaning of the sentence can be determined through context.

Grudem summarizes this nicely: “For most practical purposes, then, the current published scholarly texts of Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament are the same as the original manuscripts” and therefore inerrant (96).

Another argument is that there are clear errors in the Bible. Grudem responds simply by asking, “Where?” He then suggests inspecting these passages closely, consulting a solid commentary (Augustine or Calvin are recommended by Grudem), checking Greek or Hebrew, and finally asking someone with training in Biblical studies if necessary. After following this procedure, the perceived error is almost always resolved. However, even if it isn’t, we must remember that “our understanding of Scripture is never perfect” (99). We trust in God and his faithfulness, knowing that one day we will understand.

Application

2 Quick Points of Application:

  1. Belief in the inerrancy of Scripture (as well its truthfulness) is important because without such a belief, we inevitably will lose trust in God. If His words in the Bible cannot be trusted, can he?
  2. Belief in the inerrancy and truthfulness of the Bible does not guarantee that one will hold to sound doctrine. In order to develop sound doctrine and a solid Christian life, one must learn how to study the Bible and understand its truths–this is called hermeneutics and exegesis. (Let me know if you are interested in a post on this, and I will work one up.) I highly recommend the Focused 15 studies by Katie Orr for those beginning to study the Bible themselves (I use them!).

If you are new to t{squared}, I am using Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine to guide this study! The numbers you see in parenthesis refer to page numbers in this text.

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This post is linked with thanks to:

Thought Provoking Thursday
Thoughtful Thursday
Thankful Thursday
Proverbs 31 Thursday
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Thrive at Home Thursday

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Photo Credit: William H. Perkins

Comments

  1. Sisterlisa says:

    I think admitting that the English translations have erred a bit helps people not to become so critical when they discover those errors. When we try to make the claim that the English versions are inerrant, then we look foolish. I prefer to say the Bible rings true in my heart and I claim Soul Liberty in studying and understanding it. When I weigh my perspectives of scripture with the fruit of the spirit to test it, then I do well. God gives us wisdom and the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. So I rest my faith in that. When I don’t understand something in the bible, I rest in grace..knowing that God does not fault me if I don’t “get it”. If people want to, or don’t want to, believe the Bible, then I can’t do anything to convince them. That’s up to the Holy Spirit. :) I actually like Origen’s writings too. There are so many theologians we can glean from. None of them were infallible men, but I try to hear out what they all had to say.

    • Well I want to be clear, I believe English translations are inerrant in the sense that we can trust what we read there in English is God’s Word to us. I’m not familiar with the term “soul liberty” so I don’t know what you mean there. But I would suggest just the opposite, I weight “fruit” against the standard of God’s Word. If it holds up against the Word, then it is “fruit of the Spirit” If not, it’s fruit of the flesh.

  2. I’m stopping by for the first time and love what you’re doing here. What a solid post! Would you consider sharing a version of this that would be appropriate for teens at my website, http://www.moretobe.com. You just nail the truth and I’d love for you voice to be heard amongst the next generation. Thanks for considering! I look forward to meeting you at Allume, too!

  3. TereasaM says:

    Mary Beth,
    I love exegetical studies! I don’t have a lot of time right now, but you have my mind spinning. Scott and I fought for the inerrancy of scripture where we used to be. (oh…. soooo much to say…)

    I also wanted to tell you that you made me laugh a few times throughout this post, eh? ROTFL! Sorry, I know it wasn’t meant to be funny, but I guess you might be one of those girls that make people laugh without even trying. I am, too, and it drives me crazy!

    • I’m going to have to go re-read and see just what was so funny. Besides the eh? I picked that up from another blogger. Just seemed appropriate. :)

      • TereasaM says:

        Yep, “eh?” made me giggle. So did your first paragraph, “If that man taught me anything…” I could totally imagine you saying that with a “Miss-ippi drawl”. LOL

  4. Thankful I popped by today. This is great. Loved learning and the word. Blessings as you share.

  5. I so appreciate what you are doing here! Keep it up! If it is okay with you, I’d love to post something with a link to your page.

  6. Marissa says:

    Great post – just found my way over from Live Called, and I agree and am glad to see it so well put into words – it’s hard to explain the why sometimes. Thank you!
    Marissa @ forfunreadinglist.blogspot.com

Trackbacks

  1. […] tendency to misinterpret God’s testimony through nature. Therefore, Scripture (as God’s inerrant and infallible words) alone is the lens through which we view and understand creation’s testimony about God. […]

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