Biblical Inerrancy: The Evidence-Part 1
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2004|
|What does the nature of God tell us about what we should expect from any book that purports to be His word?|
Biblical Inerrancy: The Evidence—Part 1
In previous articles we introduced the subject of inerrancy and discussed what the doctrine does and does not involve. We now examine the strength of inerrancy from the perspective of
- God’s character
- the biblical testimony to inerrancy
- the historic and prophetic accuracy of the biblical text
- the Bible’s scientific accuracy
- the lack of proven error in the Bible and
- the weakness of the alternate position concerning errancy
The Strength of Inerrancy From the Nature of God
Many errantists do not view inerrancy as a necessary corollary of inspiration; nor do they see any conflict between errancy and the character of God. Theologian Clark Pinnock argues,
- Although this position [of inerrancy] may seem reasonable at first sight, it is difficult to see how human beings would be capable of drawing such inferences from the fact of inspiration. God uses fallible spokesmen all the time to deliver his Word, and it does not follow that the Bible must be otherwise. We are simply not in a position by sheer logic to judge how God ought to have given his Word.
Nevertheless we are convinced otherwise. God does indeed use fallible spokesmen to deliver His Word but this hardly requires us to conclude that God permitted errors during the original inspiring of His Word. Inerrancy is a necessary corollary given inspiration by a truthful and holy God. Errancy and biblical inspiration are simply incompatible—and “sheer logic” can judge the issue because of the immutability of God’s character. Would we not expect a God of truth to communicate truthfully? And would we not expect an omnipotent God to safeguard the process of inspiration even though it comes through fallible men? What appears to this author as unreasonable is for a righteous God to be able to inspire error or to fail to exercise the power or means needed to preserve an infallible revelation through fallible instruments. Errancy can certainly be imagined from a Brahman or Krishna or even an Allah—but not from Yahweh.
Put succinctly, “Since God could not conceivably be the agent of falsehood, the Bible must be guaranteed free from any error.” Otherwise, how could we “handle accurately the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15)? Indeed, can the Holy Spirit inspire error; can the Spirit of Truth inspire untruth? The issue is not one of human fallibility, but of divine righteousness and divine sovereignty. Why would God permit or inspire error when He is obviously capable of preventing His Word from corruption during the process of inspiration? If we accept the idea of errant inspiration and are therefore incapable of determining where truth and error lie, aren’t we back to that subversive entity in the Garden who said “Did God really say…?!” (Gen. 3:1)
Nevertheless, God’s righteousness is not the only divine attribute one must discard. To argue God was incapable of inerrantly inspiring fallible men is a denial of both His omnipotence and sovereignty. If God was impotent to preserve His inspiration, is He truly the omnipotent God? If God is not absolutely in control of free human actions, is He sovereign? And if He is omnipotent and holy—is He nevertheless loving and merciful if He communicates errantly (when He can do otherwise) and leaves His people in an impossible dilemma and bewilderment over what to trust and how to find it? This would seem to suggest more of a divine apathy or even mischievousness rather than divine communication and compassion.
No, we think it is more logical that an omnipotent God of truth and love would inerrantly preserve His revelation than uncaringly permit its corruption and implicate His holy character. As B. B. Warfield once stated: “Revelation is but half revelation unless it be infallibly communicated; it is but half communicated unless it be infallibly recorded.”
If God is holy, righteous and true—what He speaks must also be holy, righteous and true, for God cannot deny Himself (Titus 1:2; 2 Tim. 2:13). Further it is impossible for God to lie (Num. 23:9; Heb. 6:17-18). If God is true (Jn. 3:33, 17:3; Rom. 3:4) then one would assume that which is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16) is also true.
Our conclusion must be that Scripture originated from a holy God, thus the doctrine of inerrancy is primarily a theological doctrine and secondarily a bibliological one. As Dr. Harold O. J. Brown points out:
- We contend, therefore, that the doctrine of inerrancy is essentially a theological doctrine, pertaining to the character of God, and only secondarily a bibliological one, pertaining to the nature of the Bible. It is doxological in the sense that it is an expression of praise to the God whom we know as the author of Scripture. To affirm inerrancy is to pay a particular kind of honor to certain aspects of God’s nature and character, to deny it, or even simply to refuse to affirm it, is to say either that those aspects are less important than Christians have traditionally thought them to be or that they are not displayed in Scripture.
- See, e.g., Part 3 (July 2004), where Paul Feinberg gives this definition of inerrancy: “Inerrancy means that when all facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences. (Paul Feinberg, “The Meaning of Inerrancy” in Norman Geisler (ed.), Inerrancy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1980), p. 294.)
- Clark Pinnock, “Three Views of the Bible in Contemporary Theology” in Jack Rogers (ed.) Biblical Authority (Waco, TX: Word, 1978), p. 64.
- John W. Montgomery, “Biblical Inerrancy. What is at Stake?” in John W. Montgomery (ed.) God’s Inerrant Word (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany, 1974), p. 21.
- Benjamin B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1948), p. 442.
- Harold O. J. Brown, “The Arian Connection: Presuppositions of Errancy” in Gordon Lewis and Bruce Demarest, Challenges to Inerrancy: A Theological Response (Chicago: Moody, 1984), p. 389.