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Is The Bible Inerrant And Infallible

Inerrancy Governs Our Attitude To The Preaching Of Scripture

Is the Bible inerrant or infallible?

A denial of biblical inerrancy always leads to a loss of confidence in Scripture both in the pulpit and in the pew. It was not the growth of education and science that emptied churches, nor was it the result of two world wars. Instead, it was the cold deadness of theological liberalism. If the Bibles history is doubtful and its words are open to dispute, then people understandably lose confidence in it. People want authority. They want to know what God has said.

Inerrancy And Infallibility: Truth Claims And Precision

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The word inerrant means that something, usually a text, is without error. The word infalliblein its lexical meaning, though not necessarily in theological discussions due to Rogers and McKimis technically a stronger word, meaning that the text is not only without error but incapable of error. The historic Christian teaching is that the Bible is both inerrant and infallible. It is without error because it is impossible for it to have errors .

In his chapter on The Inerrancy of Scripture in The Doctrine of the Word of God, John Frame offers some important distinctions and clarifications on the doctrine. He points out that inerrancy suggests to many the idea of precision, rather than its lexical meaning of mere truth.

Frame points out that precision and truth overlap in meaning but are not synonymous:

A certain amount of precision is often required for truth, but that amount varies from one context to another. In mathematics and science, truth often requires considerable precision. If a student says that 6+5=10, he has not told the truth. He has committed an error. If a scientist makes a measurement varying by .0004 cm of an actual length, he may describe that as an error, as in the phrase margin of error.

Frame then reminds us that truth and precision are usually more distinct when we move outside the fields of mathematics and science:

Frame points out that a claim in this sense can be explicit or implicit.

Summary Question 5 What Is The Difference Between The Inerrancy Of Scripture And The Infallibility Of Scripture

While the words, inerrancy and infallibility are usually used interchangeably, there are some Bible students who make a distinction between the two. Infallibility has the idea of being trustworthy, while inerrancy goes further and says that the Scriptures contain no errors whatsoever.

Believers respond to the concept of inerrancy in a number of different ways. Some assume it should be used as a test of fellowship with other believers, while there are those who do not feel it is where the line should be drawn. There are also those Christians who are not necessarily convinced by the doctrine of inerrancy they think ones belief, or non-belief, in inerrancy is irrelevant. Consequently, they do not see it as a burning issue.

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Inerrancy Governs Our Faith In The Value Of Christ

We cannot have a reliable Savior without a reliable Scripture. If, as many suggest, the stories in the Gospels are not historically true and the recorded words of Christ are only occasionally His, how do we know what we can trust about Christ? Must we rely upon the conflicting interpretations of a host of critical scholars before we know what Christ was like or what He taught? If the Gospel stories are merely the result of the wishful thinking of the church in the second or third centuries, or even the personal views of the Gospel writers, then our faith no longer rests upon Jesus but upon the opinions of men. Who would trust an unreliable Savior for their eternal salvation?

What Happens If Inerrancy Is Denied

Part 3: The Bible Is Gods Inerrant Word

How important is inerrancy? What happens when this doctrine is denied? There are those who believe that inerrancy is not important. We do not need to defend the Bible, particularly as it relates to the details of chronology, geography, history, or cosmology or the so-called alleged discrepancies. But how sound is this kind of thinking and how does it stack up with the teaching of the Bible and particularly with what Christ taught?

If the Bible teaches inerrancy, then to deny it is to deny that which the Scripture claims is true. Further, if the Bible contains some errors, how can we be sure that its claims concerning Christ, salvation, man, etc., are true? Also, the chronology, geography, and history of the Bible are often woven together like strands of a basket with vital spiritual truths. As you cannot start pulling strands out of a woven basket without doing damage to the whole, so it is with the Bible.

For instance, is the history of Adam and Eve important? Absolutely, for Paul developed a theological analogy between Adam and Christ which essentially breaks down if it is historically not true. The Old Testament has dozens of prophecies of the coming Messiah that detail his lineage. If the genealogy of Matthew 1 and Luke 3 are historically inaccurate, then this raises questions about whether Jesus is the one anticipated as well as about the rest of His life.

When inerrancy is denied one may expect some serious fallout in both doctrinal and practical areas.

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Inerrancy And Infallibility Of The Bible

The question of authority is central for any theology. Since Protestant theology has located authority in the Bible, the nature of biblical authority has been a fundamental concern. The Reformation passed to its heirs the belief that ultimate authority rests not in reason or a pope, but in an inspired Scripture. Thus, within conservative Protestantism the question of inerrancy has been much debated.

The two words most often used to express the nature of scriptural authority are “inerrant” and “infallible.”

limited inerrancy. They limit the Bible’s inerrancy to matters of faith and practice, particularly soteriological issues. the Bible makes no false or misleading statements about matters of faith and practice.

The Bible Is Infallible Not Inerrant

While the cruciform understanding of the God-breathed nature of Scripture is in tension with the way most talk about inerrancy , I do not believe it is at all incompatible with what the Church has always sought to express by affirming the infallibility the Scripture. The core conviction is that Scripture will not fail you when you rely on it for the purpose for which it was intended. Even ancient thinkers such as Origen and Augustine understood that one can find mistakes in Scripture if you hold it to the wrong criteria. While infallible must be more precisely defined, it does not require us to use modern scientific and historical criteria to evaluate Scripture as does the word inerrancy.

I believe the word infallible succinctly captures the attitude of Jesus and the earliest disciples regarding Scripture. Moreover, while the concept of inerrancy is inapplicable to certain genres within Scripture , the concept of infallibility is broad enough to be applied to any genre of literature. Whatever purpose an author had for composing whatever kind of canonical literature we might consider, we may affirm that, because it is God-breathed, this writing will not fail to achieve its purpose, assuming, once again, that we are relying on it for that purpose instead of for the purpose of satisfying our epistemic angst or some other imported agenda.

Image by Freaktography via Flickr.

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Are Evangelicals Really So Divided

And on the issue of unity on the doctrine of inerrancy there is significant unanimity among believers. For the doctrinal statement of the largest body of evangelical Scholars in the world declares, the Bible alone and the Bible in its entirety is the Word of God written, and therefore inerrant in the autographs. As for spelling out what this means, ETS refers its members to the ICBI statements formed by the largest body of evangelical scholars ever to deliberate on and give a detailed definition and defense of inerrancy.

The Doctrine Of The Scriptures : Inerrancy And Infallibility

Is The Bible Inerrant?

Evangelicals affirm that the Scriptures are both inerrant and infallible. If there is misunderstanding of the term inerrancy, that misunderstanding and confusion multiples when you add the word infallible.

Many today conclude inerrancy is the stronger term, infallibility the weaker. Many believe that the term infallible is a way of avoiding inerrancy, of affirming the authority of the Scriptures though without needing to affirm they are inerrant, i.e. without error. This is related to and a carry-over of the inerrancy debates in the 1960s when the expression “limited inerrancy” was used in relation to the Scriptures.

Is this accurate?

It is actually a misunderstanding. Both terms affirm the authority of the Scriptures and that they are without error. Inerrant means there are no errors, they are without error infallible means there can be no errors, it is impossible for them to have any errors. The Scriptures are both inerrant and infallible.

John Frame, The Doctrine of the Word of God, helpfully defines the terms :

One of the criticisms of inerrancy is that the reality of what the term means dies a thousand deaths through caveats, concessions and qualifications. To claim a text is inerrant and then to follow that up with all the qualifications seems to undermine the very definition. But this is to misunderstand the nature of Gods revelation in written words, the Bible.

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What Is The Difference Between The Inerrancy Of Scripture And The Infallibility Of Scripture

Answering Bible Difficulties Question 5

There are two theological terms that are often used to explain the nature of the Bibleinerrancy and infallibility. They are used to point out how the Bible is different from all other books that have ever been written. Many use these terms interchangeably. Infallibility means incapable of making a mistake, while inerrancy means the absence of any error.

These concepts arose when the issue of the divine inspiration of the Bible was being addressed. Questions arose such as: In what sense, or to what degree, is the Bible the divinely inspired Word of God? How does it differ from all other books?

How Is The Bible Indelible

Indelible Definition: When you get into the habit or practice of reading the Bible regularly, its lessons seep through despite attempts to white it out or paint it over. It leaves its mark on us, somehow, in some way. It does not come back empty. The Spirit keeps calling to us through the written Word, telling us of God’s love and grace. God’s word will be heard, and it will have an impact.

You can also find the dictionary definition of ‘indelible‘.

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The Inerrancy Of Scripture Versus Infallibility: Whats The Difference

In their book Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology, Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy discuss the inerrancy of Scripture and explore one of the core distinctions of evangelical theology: the conviction that the Bible is the inspired Word of God .1 And closely related to biblical inspiration is the long-held evangelical claim that the Bible is the final authority on faith and practice.

Despite this claim, disagreement exists among evangelicals concerning certain differences in Scripturelike why the fourth Gospels record of Jesus activities while on earth differs so much from the other three and why resurrection details in the Gospel accounts dont match down to the last jot and tittle. For some, these differences are enough to land respected theologians on one side or the other of the Bible-is-historically-accurate fence.

Thus was born in the 1970s the biblical inerrancy debate , which has led to two perspectives on whether the Bible is inerrant on all matters: infallibility and inerrancy. And though they are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a slight distinction between the two.

First, the more recent view.

Is The Bible Inerrant And Infallible

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Many Christians speak of the Bible as inerrant and infallible.Inerrant means simply without error, or some would say incapable of error.Infallible is from the Latin in, meaning not, and fallere, meaning deceive.Infallible would then mean that the Bible does not deceive or, more commonly, that it is incapable of being wrong. To say that the Bible is inerrant and infallible is to say that it contains no mistakes. Some have replaced inerrant and infallible with the phrase totally true and trustworthy. Because these words have become a kind of litmus test for some Christians regarding the orthodoxy of ones faith, this is an important question.

Those who hold to inerrancy and infallibility sometimes point to Christians like Augustine, who noted in the fifth century,

“I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the is faulty or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it.

Many mainline Christians and an increasing number of moderate evangelicals have rejected the idea of inerrancy that has been championed by conservative Christians, offering instead a view of scripture that takes seriously both the Bibles inspiration from God and the humanity of its biblical authors.

Article 13 of the Chicago Statement offers this denial:

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The Death Of A Thousand Qualifications

The term inerrancy doesnt work because, in the words of Roger Olson, the very definition of the word succumbs to the death of a thousand qualifications. When Erickson and others use the word inerrant, they dont mean without errors but without errors when rightly interpreted. Wed like to assume that all Christians at all times in various cultural backgrounds would all interpret the Bible in the exact same way, but we know such an assumption is false. From the early days of the birth of the church, and exponentially since the Protestant Reformation, Christians havent agreed on how to interpret the Bible rightly, a phenomena Christian Smith calls pervasive interpretive pluralism.

The quest for inerrancy puts too much pressure on the Bible. It asks the Bible to be more than it was ever designed to be. The questions regarding the possibility of errors in the Bible comes from modernity. The Bible itself is an ancient collection of books. It is simply unfair to force this ancient collection of books to answer modern questions. To read a book from antiquity through the constricted lens of hyper-rationalism is to obscure the readers eyes from the full meaning of the text.

Is The Bible Infallible

Also, yes. The Bible is exclusive in its infallible nature. It cannot be mistaken about anything all recorded history and spiritual veracities in Scripture bear full truth it is incapable of error of any sort. Skeptics will scour the Word seeking any and all perceived inaccuracies. One such indictment comes from doubters who take exception to the biblical accounts of the ministries of Elijah and Elisha. The record of the progression of the reigning kings does not seem to match up when comparing the accounts as written in the books of 1 and 2 Kings. An exhaustive study, however, carried out by Dr. Edwin Thiele titled, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings , explains and uncovers the seeming fallacy. As scholars advanced the historical study of ancient Assyria and Babylon, they have been able to discern the accurate timetable of their kings. In one account, the biblical timeline did not match up with their findings. What Dr. Thiele discovered was a difference in calendars used by Judah vs. Israel, which made the discrepancy disappear. Once the calendars were aligned, the kings reigns matched up perfectly with what the scholars found.

Year after year, the Bible has withstood the human-centered tests of people such as Voltaire, Darwin, Christopher Hitchens, and various other atheists and scientists who declare the Bibles claims are untrue. In every case, the Bible is proven true. Every case.

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What’s Inherent In The Bible

inherent . Definition: That which is part of the essential character of something part of its nature or habit, something that is so much at its core that it can’t be separated or removed from it.

“Inherent” was popularized among mainline Protestants through its use by such leading writers as Walter Brueggemann and Martin Marty. Unfortunately, it was quickly put to use by mainline seminarians and theological liberals to simply blow off important Evangelical challenges to the mainline attitudes toward the Bible. That was not the main intent of Brueggemann or Marty. They were trying to find a more truthful and helpful word to describe howthe Spirit communicates through Scripture. For the Spirit, through Scripture, tells us the story of God’s covenant relationship with a people, the Hebrews. From there, it became the story of how the Lord of Life lived among us as a human, to die as a human, to be alive again as a human. In doing that, the Bible can’t help but communicate what God wants of us, what God is up to, and how to find out what is of God. By telling us about the life of Christ and God’s dealings with humans, God’s Word is inherent to the Bible. It comes with the story, as the heart of the story.

A More Purposeful Distinction

infallible and inerrant bible

Another way that people often explain the difference, and one that I find more useful, focuses on the idea that people use texts to accomplish different purposes. For example, when I leave home this morning, I can write a note to my daughter in which I leave her the following:

  • A list of chores to do after school.
  • A promise that Ill be home by 6:00.
  • A description of where shell find her backpack
  • All three of those have different purposes. The first conveys a command, the second a promise and the third a fact.

    All three of these statements could be talked about in terms of their fallibility. Im goofy enough that its entirely possible for me to mess up any one of those. I could easily have worded the first so that it looked to my daughter like a list of things she could do if she has time after school rather than an explicit list of things she must do regardless of whether she has time. Or I could have mistakenly indicated that Id be home by 6:00 when I really meant that Id be home by dinner . And, of course, no one in their right mind thinks that I would actually know where my daughters backpack is. So I almost certainly got that one wrong. In other words, its not hard to think of ways where each of the three statements could have failed to accomplish what Id intended.

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