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New Resources on Biblical Inerrancy

Tomorrow I should have the next entry in our memeology series. But for now I wanted to notify you all that I’ve collected the biblical inerrancy series I wrote a few years back into a short 6 page document. You can find it here and on the ‘resources’ page. Below are a few videos on biblical inerrancy. The first is by Ligon Duncan, Al Mohler and Kevin DeYoung on why we defend biblical inerrancy.

The second is G. K. Beale addressing the question of whether there are contradictions in the Bible.

Michael Horton asks and answers the question, “Is Inerrancy Defensible?”

Scott Oliphint on inerrancy and apologetics.

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What is the Inerrancy of the Bible? (part 1)

In an earlier post, I noted it appears the historicity of Adam may become a point of debate among conservative evangelical Bible scholars.  I briefly summarized the view of Dr. Peter Enns on his book Inspiration and Incarnation and the difficulty it raises for the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. What I’d like to do in this series is briefly lay out a positive case for inerrancy and provide a few responses to some common questions about the doctrine. So the goal isn’t to attack anyone, but to set forth some reasons for why we can trust every word of the Bible. For resources on contemporary writers who question the doctrine, see the last post in the series.

Knowing what we’re talking about. Before we get any further, let’s define our terms. Here’s my definition of inerrancy:

When all the relevant facts are known, and when properly interpreted, Scripture never contradicts itself, nor does it misrepresent the facts.

This is the standard evangelical definition of inerrancy as reflected in the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy. So, this is the definition we’ll need to examine and explore.

A ridiculously brief history of the controversy. Theological liberals and proponents of higher critical scholarship denied the Bible was of ultimate divine origin and worth little as far as history was concerned. On the other hand, those who came to be known as fundamentalists argued that each passage of Scripture was literally true and precise. Looking to avoid this impasse, a number of Christian theologians grew tired of the liberal/fundamentalist debate, and affirmed biblical infallibility while not affirming its inerrancy. So, “inerrancy” was taken as loaded with fundamentalist baggage. So the term inerrancy (and the concept) was denied in favor of infallibility (as they define it). At this point I should note that these theologians were often 1) true and sincere Christians, and 2) defining infallibility in a different way than what I’ve provided above. Their definition would be something close to saying that the Bible generally will not deceive us or lead us into spiritual darkness. Let’s think through this further. These theologians would say the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture means that Scripture is our supreme authority for faith and practice. But more often than not, by faith they meant theology, and by practice they meant ethics. Scripture wasn’t intended to speak with authority in matters of history and science. It’s here where we run into problems.

Next, we’ll take a look at some of the problems with affirm biblical infallibility, while denying biblical inerrancy.

“But the Bible was written by men!”

A frequent dismissal of the Christian faith comes in this fashion, “I can’t believe the Bible to be the word of God, because after all, it was written by men.” Many have run into this objection at some point in their evangelistic efforts. How should we respond? Fortunately, as common as this objection may be, a proper response is not difficult to provide. There are various approaches to handling this objection. Let us walk through several of them, one by one.

First, my father has the habit of responding to this objection by replying, “Of course the Bible was written by men, would you have preferred monkeys write it?” I’ve always enjoyed that reply. It does make a strong point. If Christians are right, and God is invisible and without physical extension in space (i.e. Spirit), how is it that God is to write the Bible Himself? Theoretically, the god of Mormonism could have written upon the golden plates found my Joseph Smith all by his own hand. But this is not the God orthodox Christians are arguing for.

Secondly, the statement, “I can’t take the Bible to be the word of God, because it was written by men,” is not an objection. The person uttering these words may perceive them as a refutation of biblical authority. But, in fact, they are merely a statement of what the unbeliever cannot subjectively accept. I believe I understand the intention behind this objection, but we must make the non-believer aware that this statement is a display of their psychological state, and has no bearing on whether or not Scripture is God’s revealed truth.

Third, we should ask the unbeliever whether they would prefer the Bible to be written by the very hand of God Himself (i.e. by way of some physical manifestation, akin to the case of the first pair of tablets containing the Ten Commandments). If their reply is in the affirmative we may respond, “But why would God have to do that?” This approach to authority, if consistently acted out, would result in potentially dangerous actions, at least for them. Suppose the President of the United States summons this individual to the Pentagon because the CIA is suspicious of their current activity. Would this person ignore the Presidential command simply because the letter was not hand-written and personally signed by the President himself? What about jury duty? No, naturally we understand that the means by which someone communicates to us does not necessarily have to be absolutely unmediated and direct.

Forth, I believe the intention of the unbeliever’s objection is meant to convey the idea that since men are fallible, and the Bible was penned by men, therefore it must have errors and therefore is like any other religious book. Fair enough. But, we must ask, “Is it absolutely essential to human nature that everything that comes out of our mouths (or from their pens) must be false?” Of course not. Though mankind may be fallen, fragile, and fallible, not every word we utter is false. People make true statements all the time, do they not? For example: my name Joseph Emmanuel Torres and my birthday is November 7th. That is a true, completely 100 percent error-free statement. Imagine the kind of life that the objector must live in order to be consistent with this mindset. They could not trust anything that has ever been told to them, simply because we fallible humans have said it! Imagine their mother telling them as a child, “Son, I love you.” Lies! All lies! How could the objector’s mother be trusted, after all, to err is human. Naturally, I am well aware of the fact that the unbeliever does not live this way. Daily they watch the news for the weather, follow their Doctor’s instructions, and so on. But the objection seems to imply that simply because humans penned the Bible that it must not be trusted.

Lastly, we come to the strongest defeater to this objection. This objection simply assumes that which it ought to prove; it begs the question. When they state, “the Bible was written by men” the unbeliever of course implies that men can fail in total accuracy. This is true, given the qualifications above. But this ignores the Bible’s own testimony of its perfection and accuracy. Scripture says that God the Holy Spirit guided and directed the entire process so that the very words that the authors freely chose were perfectly preserved from error (2 Peter 1:20-21). Therefore, the words that they penned were nonetheless the very words of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Much like Christ the living Word, the written word is both divine and human. To ignore the Scripture’s testimony regarding its inspiration and accuracy is in essence to say “the Bible isn’t true because the Bible isn’t true!” How trivial. It’s a narrowly circular argument, all it serves to do is to show that the unbeliever has no true objection to Scripture; at least they haven’t given us one. They simply do not want to submit to the voice of their Lord!