… in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began…. [Titus 1:2]
In the last blog, I dealt somewhat with issues concerning why I believe in the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Bible. Deriving from that, we will now look at why I accept the Bible as an inerrant and infallible document.
This touches on three questions:  What does the Bible teach about itself in this regard?  What did Jesus believe and teach concerning the nature of Scripture?  What did the apostles and the early Church teach regarding the nature of Scripture?
There has developed within the evangelical community, during the past 30-40 years, a doctrine which claims that, although the Bible has errors with regard to matters of science and history, we can still accept it as infallible with regard to matters of salvation and faith. The biggest theological names who advanced this were Clark Pinnock [who in the 1960s and early 1970s had defended the doctrine of inerrancy; but who had, by the 1980s, abandoned sound doctrine], Jack Rogers, and Donald McKim.
Those who claim that we can dismiss the doctrine of an inerrant Bible, while maintaining it is still infallible and authoritative claim that the Bible nowhere teaches its inerrancy, that Jesus, the apostles, and the early church did not accept Scripture as inerrant, and that doctrinal formulations such as the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy represent a theological novelty which is inconsistent with the historic teachings of the Church.
First off, the idea that the concepts of inerrancy and infallibility can be separated linguistically and logically is itself a fallacy. If one looks up the definition of the word “inerrancy” in a standard dictionary, one finds the following: “exemption from error: INFALLIBILITY.” [Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition] If one looks in the same source for a definition of the word “infallible,” one reads: 1: “incapable of error: UNERRING, 2: not liable to mislead, deceive, or disappoint: CERTAIN, 3: incapable of error in defining doctrines touching faith or morals.” Thus, each concept is defined in terms of the other and are inextricably linked together.
Even if the two concepts could be separated logically and coherently, a Bible which could be proven to be in error could no longer be viewed as infallible or authoritative. Those who insist the Bible need not be accepted as inerrant to be infallible and authoritative misrepresent the argument from proponents of inerrancy as being “false in one, false in all.” That is not the position of inerrantists. The argument of inerrantists is that if the Bible can be proven to be in error on any point of history, then it is suspect in any point concerning spiritual matters because there no longer remains any objective means by which to gauge the trustworthiness of Scripture. To put it succinctly: “False in one, suspect in any.”
Many of the points made in Scripture concerning what are “spiritual” truths, are grounded in what Scripture presents as historical facts. Take away or cast doubts upon the historicity of those events, and there no longer remains any basis for accepting the “spiritual truths” based on those events.
Let’s take, for example, fallen man’s inherent sinfulness which Scripture traces to the original sin of Adam in the garden of Eden. [Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:20-50] Not only does Scripture tie our condition of fallenness and our separation from God to this event, but, by way of antithesis, bases our redemption in Christ in this historic reality by showing that Christ is the new Adam for all who receive Him in faith. The issues of sin and redemption are meaningless if Adam is merely a mythological representation of sin.
It is not foreign to reality to think in terms of “false in one, suspect in any.” This thinking plays out in everyday life. In 1995, in a highly publicized murder trial, one factor that played into the jury rendering a verdict of not guilty, was when the star witness for the prosecution perjured himself. The defendant was a black man. The lead detective in the case had presented himself as being fair-minded and not motivated by racism in his conducting the investigation. When the defense found audio recordings of the detective using ethnic slurs in reference to the defendant, the prosecution’s case fell apart because they could not overcome the reasonable doubt that the lead detective might have planted incriminating evidence [since none had been found prior to this detective entering the case] and withheld or destroyed any exculpatory evidence.
So what is the witness of Scripture for itself? It is perfect. [Psalm 19:7 – the Hebrew word is tamiym, meaning flawless, without blemish]. It is sure. [Psalm 19:7 – the Hebrew word is aman, meaning verifiably true. It is the root word from which we derive the word “Amen.”] It is right. [Psalm 19:8 – the Hebrew word is yashar, meaning morally right as a reflection of God’s character.] It is true or truth. [Psalm 19:9; Psalm 119:142, 151, 160 – the Hebrew word in these instances is the same: emet, meaning it is firmly established, it is absolute and without contradiction in reality.]
This is the view of Scripture which was held by the Jewish people. Was that the view shared by Jesus and the apostles?
Jesus used the existance of Adam and Eve to explain God’s intention for marriage as being between one man and one woman [Matthew 19:3-6]. Jesus cites the account of Jonah and the big fish typologically as prefiguring His resurrection [Matthew 12:39-40]. He also uses the account of Jonah as a type prefiguring the judgment to come at the end of this age [Matthew 12:41]. He cites the three-fold division of the Old Testament as the word of God and Scripture, declaring that it cannot be broken [John 10:35]. Conservative commentators agree that Jesus is here affirming the inerrancy of Scripture. [Bible Knowledge Commentary, NT:312; MacArthur Study Bible, pp. 1400, 1604; NKJV Study Bible, pp. 1497, 1680; Ryrie Study Bible, p. 1701)
Jesus further declared that the Apostles themselves would be declaring the word of God [Matthew 18:18]. It is important to note the tense and aspect of the verbs deo (to bind) and luo (to loose). Most translations such as the NKJV, the ESV, and the NIV render them as future perfects (“shall be bound” and “shall be loosed”). The fact of the matter is that the verbs are perfect past participles, which is a different matter altogether. The use of future perfects would suggest that God is simply rubber-stamping declarations made by the apostles. The perfect past participle, correctly translated [as in the Holman Christian Standard Bible, the NASB 1995 Update, and the NKJV marginal rendering] would be shall already have been bound, and shall already have been loosed. The perfect past participle, shows that far from God rubber-stamping the declarations of the apostles, the declarations of the apostles, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, reflected what God had already ordained.
To suggest, as Rogers and McKim do, that the apostles did not view the Scriptures as inerrant simply because no NT writings state propositionally, “the Scriptures are inerrant,” is to make an argument from silence. Such statements fail to take into account the historical backgrounds which informed and led to the NT books being written. Simply put, if the apostles did not speak to the issue, it is because the issue was never a controversy for the church during the apostolic era.
However, it is interesting and important to note that Peter considered the writings of Paul to be Scripture according to 2 Peter 3:16. If Peter regarded the writings of Paul to be Scripture, he has no less a view of his own writings or the writings of other apostles. He considered the apostolic writings to be the prophetic word confirmed [NKJV] or the prophetic word made more sure [NASB95] in 2 Peter 1:19.
Even in the post-apostolic era of the church councils, a debate never arose within the councils simply because the veracity and integrity of Scripture was never an issue. A review of the patristic writers shows a view consistent with the modern conception of inerrancy. I will not make lengthy citations, but simply refer the readers to the following sources:
Clement of Rome: 1 Epistle to the Corinthians, Chap. 45.
Justin Martyr: Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 65.
Irenaeus: Against Heresies, II:xxiii:2-3.
Alexandria: The Instructor, II:xi.
Origen: De Principiis, IV:i:7.
Athanasius: De Synodis, I:6; II:23.
Augustine: Letters, LXXXII:i:9; The City of God, XVI: ix.
John Chrysostom: Homilies Concerning the Statues, ii:22; Homilies on the Gospel of John LXIII on John 12:39-41.
Gregory of Nyssa: Against Eunomius VII:2; Answer to Eunomius’ Second Book.
It would appear to me, based on this evidence, that any view which sees the Bible as less than fully breathed out by God, and as being less than fully inerrant in all that it affirms is not a view which is consistent with the faith once for all delivered to and through the apostles.
Note: For those who do not have immediate access to a copy of the Ante-Nicene, Nicene, and Post-Nicene Fathers, an electronic edition is available for free as an add-on module to the free Bible Study software called The Word. This software is available as a free download from www.theword.net.
* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.