The Bible is the essential document that Christians look to for divine teachings and directives on how to live according to the Creator’s purposes.  In order to take Scripture seriously, however, one must not only understand that the Bible is authoritative and inerrant but why it is as well.

Scripture’s authority comes from two places: from itself (otherwise known as its ontological authority) and from the conferred authority of God (the one in view of whom the book is revealing).  This ontological authority centers on the repeated assertions from the Bible itself that God has spoken through history — Genesis 8:15, 12:1-2; Job 38:1; and Jeremiah 35:17 being a few examples.

The Bible also reveals the nature of our Creator, most importantly, that God is truthful in all things:  “All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal” Psalm 119:160.  If the ontological precept about the Bible is true, then not only should the words of God be considered veridical and authoritative but also all of the events recorded as well.

The way that God communicated to the authors of Scripture is through what 2 Timothy 3:16 calls “theopneustos” or God-breathed inspiration.  This “inspiration” is qualitatively different than what is usually meant by the term today.  Currently when someone speaks of “inspiration” the person is the object that is inspired and is therefore reliant upon conveying that inspiration through subjective means.  Biblical inspiration, “… affirms that the living God is the author of Scripture and that Scripture is the product of his creative breath.”[1]  Therefore, God’s inspiration lies directly in the words of the Bible (“Verbal Inspiration”), not the authors themselves.

If God is truthful (Psalm 119:160) then the Bible should be trustworthy as well.  There cannot be any deceit or falsehoods in the text given the notion of a consistently truthful God.  Therefore, it is logical to conclude that the Bible is inerrant.

A cumulative approach to the implicit teachings of inerrancy can best be used to make this point.  2 Timothy 3:16 says that all of Scripture is God-breathed.  Since prophecy was a specific proof-test of Scripture, Moses issued a decree that anyone who prophesied falsely (without God’s inspiration) would be put to death in Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and 18:20-22.  Jesus himself stated that the Bible could not be broken (or contradicted) in John 10:35.  These examples all hinge on the notion of inerrancy.  No one would certainly make these statements if the text that they were defending was in error.

There are four primary arguments for inerrancy, the strongest of which I have already just employed – that the Bible teaches its own inerrancy (“The Biblical Argument”).  The second is called “The Historical Argument” and states that the church has always held the view of inerrancy.  This is a good argument to counter the notion that doctrines are fickle and subject to change.  Luther and Calvin both testified to the inerrancy that the Bible taught about itself.  “The Slippery Slope Argument” simply says that, “those who give [inerrancy] up will soon surrender other central Christian doctrines.”[2]  While this may not be true for everyone, it certainly can be true for a number of individuals proving the point.

The last and weakest case is “The Epistemological Argument.”  One form of the argument says that, in order to be justified in a belief, one’s knowledge claim must be beyond doubt.  Inerrancy proves the claim is beyond doubt.  Therefore inerrancy is crucial to this argument.  The second form of the argument goes like this:  If there is a false claim in the Bible, we will probably never know which one.  Therefore it’s best to fall back on the inerrancy claim to avoid this problem.  Both forms can be viewed as suffering from circular reasoning, at least from an errantist’s point of view.  Because of this “The Epistemological Argument” shouldn’t be the hill to die on, as it were, when making the case for inerrancy.

If it is the case that all Scripture is God-breathed and therefore divinely inspired and that the object of this inspiration is not the human author but the actual words written, then the notion that God is without fault (Deuteronomy 32:4, 2 Samuel 22:31, Matthew 5:48, etc.) and by extension his word (Scripture) is also true.  This places a very serious burden on the heart of the reader who is now forced to either take this particular document, including its teachings and warnings, very seriously or reject it and risk the consequences of its truth.

[1] Henry, C.F.H., “Bible, Inspiration of.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd ed., 160. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001

[2] Feinberg, P.D., “Bible, Inerrancy and Infallibility of.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd ed., 158. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001

5 COMMENTS

  1. “Moses issued a decree that anyone who prophesied falsely (without God’s inspiration) would be put to death”

    Pentecostals are fortunate that this is no longer enforced.

  2. If God is truthful (Psalm 119:160) then the Bible should be trustworthy as well. There cannot be any deceit or falsehoods in the text given the notion of a consistently truthful God. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that the Bible is inerrant.

    So what I’m understanding you to say, Nate, is that it is equally logical, that if errors are found, that your god is not consistently truthful?

    • Hi, thanks for the comment. Yes, if the Bible had errors (depending on what you mean by “errors”) then that is certainly a possibility. God could be an untruthful deity. Although, I would suspect that would be a less likely option, given other factors. The more likely option would be that the Bible is not inerrant and the human authors were not inspired.

      • You might want to pop over and take a quick peek at some of the errors documented by Dr. DiMattei: contradictionsinthebible.com

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