The Inerrancy of Scripture – Part One
A couple of weeks ago I was playing with my son in his room. We were sitting on a blanket on the floor and he had a few toys that he was interacting with. In the background I had on some “Veggie Tales” music for some wholesome encouragement through song. As we were playing, one of their songs caught my attention. Or rather, the lyrics caught my attention. Here they are:
The B-I-B-L-E Yes, that’s the book for me I stand alone on the Word of God The B-I-B-L-E
What a great foundational belief to instill in children at a young age! Here, in this catchy and simple song, we have a perfect little picture of how Christians should view the Bible. It was at that moment that I was inspired on what I wanted to do next for Mystery Revealed Theology.
As I tried to express in my first post, true theology is first and foremost Biblical. We cannot expect to get very far or be informed correctly about theology if we do not begin and end with the Bible. Wayne Grudem wrote in his systematic theology book, “Systematic theology is any study that answers the question, ‘What does the whole Bible teach us today?’ about any given topic.”That definition indicates that unless you’re studying the Bible, you cannot actually engage in a proper study of theology. We need the Bible to be our primary source and guide as we navigate our pursuit of the knowledge of God. As someone who is passionate about teaching proper theology, I would be remiss if I did not allow the Bible to do just this. Establishing a Biblical foundation will allow us to enter into more robust Biblical and theological study.
With that in mind, I would like to spend the next few posts looking at our theology of the Bible. We will look at several characteristics and attributes of the Bible and how that impacts how we engage with it. All of these attributes stem from the belief that the Bible is the actual Word of God in written form. As evangelical Christians, we agree on this fact and it is how we then establish the rest of our theology about the Bible. Remember this as you read through these next few posts: the Bible is the Word of God. Let us now take a look at the first attribute of the Bible.
The Bible is inerrant.
Inerrancy, in my opinion, is the most important attribute of the Bible that we need to understand. It is what allows us to enter into Biblical study with the right attitude towards the text. Before going any further, let me offer a couple of simple definitions of “inerrancy.”
If you were to look up the word in a dictionary, you’d come across something along the lines of lacking error, free from error, possibly the word “infallibility.” The idea of “free from error”, I think, captures the definition best. Now when you apply this definition to the Bible, you get the concept of Biblical inerrancy, which according to R.C. Sproul means the Bible is “free from falsehood, fraud, or deceit.”That is an impactful statement on how we should view the Bible. Let’s break down that comment phrase by phrase.
Free from falsehood – In the same way, when God desired to show even more clearly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it by an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God would prove false, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to seize the hope set before us. (Heb 6:17-19, NRSV).
This concept could be simplified by saying the Bible is only full of truth and there is nothing false in it. When we take this into account, we know that we can trust what it says. There would not be any reason to NOT trust it because we already know there is nothing false about it.
Free from fraud – All scripture is inspired by God and is usefulfor teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17, NRSV)
What do you think of when you hear the word “fraud”. I think of someone who is misusing or misrepresenting information for selfish gain. We can be confident that the message and words in the Bible are not attempting to commit fraud against us. Re-read the passage out of 2 Timothy I referred to just now. God is not out to defraud us with His word. His words are meant for our benefit and to glorify Himself.
Free from deceit – God is not a human being, that he should lie, or a mortal, that he should change his mind. Has he promised, and will he not do it? Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Num 23:19, NRSV)
I think this is just affirming that the Bible does not lie. The passage from Numbers is essentially stating that it is not even in God’s nature to lie, because He is not human. Therefore, we can be confident that the Bible, which is His word, is also incapable of lying. It is only going to give us the truth of God. Not only that, but when the Bible has been put to the test against skepticism and other forms of “truth”, it has endured. The Bible does NOT lie.
Everything that we just looked at should inform the attitude and posture in which we approach the Bible. We must believe that it is indeed inerrant or else we try and strip some of its power away. The reason the Bible has so much relevance and impact on our lives is because of the fact that we can trust it and it is true. If the Bible were not inerrant, that would have far reaching impact to not only our theology, but to our foundational beliefs. We MUST agree on the inerrancy of Scripture before moving further in Biblical or theological study.
Look at what the Bible says about its own inerrancy:
And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true, for the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.” “See, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Rev 22:6-7, NRSV).
This is a passage near the very end of the Bible. It is an angel delivering a message to John, the author of Revelation. Just look at what the angel is saying and consider that he is referring to the entirety of the text up to this point. According to this angel, the Bible is:
- Should be kept
To me, that is a great picture of what inerrancy should look like. Something that we can trust, something we know is true, and something we should cherish through study and reflection (keep). God Himself wanted us to understand the importance of agreeing on the fact that we can consider His word, the Bible, to be inerrant. There is no sign of error or falsehood. We can put our complete faith in what it says.
The inerrancy of the Bible is, for me, the key to properly engaging with the Scripture. If we are going to be informed in our faith through the words of this scared text, the Word of our LORD, we must hold to its inerrant nature. If the Bible were shown be in error, that would put into question the rest of what we believe. Again, this is why coming to terms with its inerrancy is so critical to not only theological study, but to the entire Christian faith.
What I hope I have provided you with is a sufficient, yet non-exhaustive look at what Biblical inerrancy is. Truth be told, there is much more to dive into, which is where I’ll spend my next couple of posts. Next time I would like to look at theories of inerrancy and how they play a role in our understanding of the Bible. We will then look at the idea behind the inspiration of the text, and how that relates to our understanding of inerrancy. I pray you will be encouraged and enlightened as we continue to shape our theology of the Bible.
Written by Zach Stallings
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Grand Rapids: InterVarsity Press, 1994), pg. 21.
R.C. Sproul, Scripture Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine, (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2005), pg. 151.