The doctrine of Inerrancy and a working definition for the Inspiration of Scripture

The concluding post on the doctrine of inerrancy and how it ties together with the inspiration of Scripture. Also, I conclude with a personal working definition of the two concepts.

The Doctrine of Inerrancy

“Divine inspiration assures the inerrancy of what God inspires.”[1] The inerrancy of Scripture is demanded by the doctrine of inspiration to affirm that Scripture is true. To put it simply, inerrancy says that if God is true, then what His Word says is true, and if Scripture is God’s Word and God is a trustworthy God, then Scripture is true, or inerrant. To say it another way, God’s Word is always true and is never false.[2] Paul Feinberg defines inerrancy as, “that when all facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical or life sciences.”[3] In a response to attacks and misunderstandings on inerrancy, a group of biblical scholars gathered in Chicago to produce what is known as “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.” In it, they define inerrancy as, “being wholly and verbally God-given Scripture is without error or fault in all of its teachings, no less than what it states about God’s acts in Creation, about the events of world history, about its own literary origins under God, and its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.”[4] This group went on further to say that one of the essential components to fully grasping and confessing the authority of the Holy Scriptures is a recognition of its total truth and trustworthiness.[5] Recognizing the importance of the issue, the board went on to say, “to deny it is to set aside the witness of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit and to refuse that submission to the claims of God’s own Word which marks true Christian faith.”[6]

Before moving any further, some qualifications and clarifications must be made about inerrancy. First, the doctrine of inerrancy only applies to the original autographs. Technically, it does not pertain to the copies or transmissions of the original text. In conjunction with that, inerrancy does not deny that there are not any contradictory or “problem” texts. It does not guarantee that solutions will ever be discovered to those text, only that a solution does exist. Believing in inerrancy, one can only assume that all the information is not available to address those problem texts.

Furthermore, inerrancy applies to the affirmations of Scripture. Scripture does record lies, errors and false statements but those are quoted accurately. Inerrancy does not demand strict adherence to the rules of grammar.[7] Inerrancy “does not exclude the use either of figures of speech or of a given literary genre.”[8] This means that general, phenomenal and metaphorical assertions are allowed. Inerrancy does not demand chronological, historical and scientific precision. It also does not require direct quotations in the quoting of others. This includes the “verbal exactness in the citation of the Old Testament by the New Testament writers.”[9]

What does inerrancy mean and allow? It means that the accounts that are presented as historical are accurate and actually occurred. It asserts that they are not myth or legend. Inerrancy means that what is stated in the sacred Scriptures is fully and completely accurate, reliable, trustworthy and authoritative. It means that the Bible is infallible, true and has no contradictions that cannot be resolved. Inerrancy means that Scripture is completely sufficient to achieve its purpose that is, the revelations of God and His redemptive works through Jesus Christ. Finally, inerrancy means that the authors aren’t simply stating their opinions, but the interpretations presented by the authors are truth.

Tying the doctrine of inerrancy back to inspiration, Bahnsen reminds us, “As the Spirit of truth He would not generate error…their message was made inerrant.”[10] Since the doctrine of inerrancy is grounded in the biblical teaching about inspiration, then Scripture being given by “divine inspiration, is infallible…it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses.”[11] “If one interprets Scripture according to its own nature, standard, and purpose, there is no need whatever to hesitate in affirming its infallibility…God is himself truth, and his Word never falters.”[12] So, what does inerrancy mean? In this writer’s opinion, inerrancy applies to the original autographs of Scripture and affirms that Scripture is the true, authoritative, accurate and reliable Word of God. The Holy Spirit, as the witness to the Scriptures, authenticates and gives authority to the Bible’s claims and purposes by presenting a trustworthy collection of books that is infallible and free from all error and deceit.

Conclusion

Taking into account what has been discussed about inerrancy, the doctrine of inspiration can now be summarized. Inspiration applying only to the original autographs, is the act of the Holy Spirit working, moving and breathing out the very Words of God through human authors that were prepared by His Spirit to produce a sacred work that is totally inerrant and authoritative. The Holy Scriptures were written by God to provide instructions and promises to His people to obey in equipping them for His service.

The doctrine of inerrancy and inspiration technically applies only to the original autograph. One must remember that because God is God and in His providence has given and established His Word that we use today, and has not tried to distance Himself from it, yet calls us to obey it and for it to have authority in our lives, then we must conclude that it is the Word of God. Since it is the Word of God, and God is the source, it must be true and thus inerrant. God in His sovereignty and authority could have corrected the transmission or printing errors at any time, yet He continues to use this Scripture to mold and shape His believers, to reach the rest of the world and change hearts. At stake here is the character of God, and God has proven that He is willing to have His name attached to these Scriptures and use them to reach people each day, thus even the Bibles we use today must be called inerrant. “Copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.”[13] As Jesus Christ made all of His references to the Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament, most likely using the available copies, we too can put our entire confidence in the accuracy and veracity of God’s written Word.[14] They must be true because God is truth. “The Holy Spirit bears witness to the Scriptures, assuring believes of the truthfulness of God’s written Word.”[15]

The Scriptures are at its simplest a product of the divine, that “God-breathed” them out by His creative breath.[16] We do not have any idea or indication as to how God operated in producing them, only that God did breathe them out of these human authors to produce His inerrant masterpiece of literary work. “The purpose of the biblical writings is to give man all that is necessary and sufficient for his redemptive rescue and obedient service of his Maker.”[17]

[1] Ibid, 35.

[2] Paul Feinberg, The Meaning of Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 294.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 493.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Feinberg, 299.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid, 300.

[10] Greg Bahnsen, Inerrancy of the Autographa,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 152.

[11] The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, 496.

[12] Henry, 34.

[13] The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, 496.

[14] Archer, 82.

[15] The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, 496.

[16] Benjamin B. Warfield, “Inspiration 1-7” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Internet, available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/4618/Inspiration-1-7.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

[17] Henry, 25-26.

Bibliography

Archer, Gleason. “Alleged Errors and Discrepancies in the Original Manuscripts of the Bible,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler, 57-82. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Bahnsen, Greg. “Inerrancy of the Autographa,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler, 151-193. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Bromiley, Geoffrey. “The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture,” Eternity, August 1970, 14. Quoted in Carl F. Henry, “The Authority and Inspiration of Scripture,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein, vol. 1, 2-35. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.

Erickson, Millard J.. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983.

Feinberg, Paul. “The Meaning of Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler, 267-304. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Henry, Carl F.. “The Authority and Inspiration of Scripture.” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein, vol. 1, 2-35. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.

Ryrie, Charles. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1999.

“The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler, 493-502. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Warfield, Benjamin B.. “Inspiration 1-7.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Internet. Available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/ 4618/Inspiration-1-7.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

Warfield, Benjamin B.. “Inspiration 8-18.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Internet. Available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/ 4618/Inspiration-8-18.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

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