Inerrancy and Problem Passages

John Frame, in Doctrine of the Word of God, explains how one should maintain a belief in the inerrancy of Scripture in light of the difficulty of ‘problem passages’:

Now, when many readers look at Scripture, it appears to them to contain errors. So many writers have urged that we should not derive our doctrine of Scripture merely from its teachings about itself, but that we should take into account the phenomena. And if we take the phenomena seriously, they tell us, we will not be able to conclude that Scripture is inerrant. This approach is sometimes called and inductive approach…

I believe the inductive method, so describe, is a faulty method for determining this character of Scripture. Of course, Scripture contains “difficulties,” problems, apparent errors. But what role should these play in our formulation of the doctrine of Scripture? It is important to remember that all doctrines of the Christian faith are beset by problems. The doctrine of God’s sovereignty seems in the view of many readers to conflict with the responsibility of human beings, and the apparent contradiction has led to many theological battles. The doctrine of the Trinity says that God is both three and one, and the relation between his threeness and his oneness is not easy to put into words. When speaking of Christ, we face the problem that he is both God and man, both eternal and temporal, both of omniscient and limited in his knowledge. Would anyone argue that because of these problems we should not confess that God is sovereign, that man is responsible, that God is three and one, that Jesus is divine and human?

The very nature of Christian faith is to believe God’s word despite the existence of unresolved difficulties. When God told Abraham that he and his wife Sarah would have a child, that promise was beset by difficulty. How could a man father a child when he was over a hundred? How could a woman bear a child when she was at far past the age of childbearing? From a human point of view (even in the time of Abraham close parentheses, the fulfillment of such a promise seemed highly improbable. But Romans 4:19 – 21 says this:

He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

So with the proper method in theology is not to withhold judgment until the problems are solved. It is rather to believe God’s personal word, despite the problems. We will never solve all the problems in this life. So we live by faith, not by sight. That must also be our attitude when we seek to formulate the doctrine of Scripture. When we say that Scripture is inerrant, we encounter many problems.But Scripture’s claim to inerrancy is entirely clear; it is not in doubt. It is God’s personal word to us. We must believe it, despite what we may be tempted to believe through an inductive examination of the phenomena.

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Posted on July 17, 2012, in Inerrancy, John Frame, John Frame Stuff, Scriptural Authority and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. michael white

    I believe you are right professor Frame and thats not a far shot from what Vantil said about “apparent” contradictions. I for one, like the mysteriousness of things such as these : for I know in my heart of hearts that ,”God works all things together for the good to them that love him”(Rom.8:28).

  2. I think you have a voice-to-text typo – “both of miss you and limited in his knowledge” probably should be “both omnicient and limited in his knowledge”? Love these posts.

  3. Yep, that’s exactly what it was. It’s been corrected. Thanks!

  1. Pingback: Inerrancy and the Danger of Forced Harmonization | KINGDOMVIEW

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