What is Biblical Inerrancy? (part 4)
Posted by Joseph Torres
Now let’s define 2 crucial terms for this discussion: error and contradiction. Clarifying these terms is absolutely essential for understanding inerrancy. Those who deny inerrancy believe either the Bible claims things that aren’t true, or that some passages of the Bible contradict other passages of the Bible. If it turns out that 1)”problem passages” do not affirm things that aren’t untrue, and 2) many who deny inerrancy are working with an inaccurate definition of ‘contradiction’, anti-inerrancy arguments lose much of their bite.
An error is a failure to relate accurate information due either to confusion, ignorance, or deceit. A contradiction occurs whenever we affirm two logically inreconciliable concepts at the same time and in the same sense (A and not-A). Many of the objections to inspiration (by unbelievers) and inerrancy (by both unbelievers and limited inerrantist Christians) based on supposed errors misunderstand what an error is. Remember this important principle:
Differences of perspective do not necessarily imply contradiction.
Theological Foundations for Inerrancy. So there are several possible causes for errors: confusion, deceit, or ignorance. That is to say, writers of the Bible may have gotten their facts mixed up, they could have intentionally desired to manipulate their readers, or perhaps they lacked vital information regarding an important point they wanted to make. But once we recognize that God is the ultimate author of the Bible (2 Peter 1:21), we realize that these causes of error do not plague God. God is neither confused (He not only knows but determines all facts), deceitful (Titus, 1:2, 1 John 2:21), nor ignorant (knowing all things). God is a God of truth (1 Jn. 1:5). The human authors claimed not to be deceiving their readers (Gal. 1:20, 2 Pet. 1:16), and to have checked all their facts carefully (Lk. 1:1-4).
The inerrancy syllogism. A syllogism is a form of deductive reasoning consisting of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. In deductive logic, if the major and minor premises are true the conclusion cannot fail to be true, it is logically certain.
- Major premise: The Bible is God’s word (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
- Minor premise: God cannot lie, deceive, or make errors (Titus 1:2)
- Conclusion: Therefore the Bible cannot lie, deceieve or make errors (2 Sam. 7:28, Prov. 30:5; cf. Ps. 12:6; 119:42; John 17:17).
Here is the syllogism, taken from explicit passages of Scripture, which if correct assures that inerrancy is a valid inference of biblical teaching.