Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology

Biblical Inerrancy

by Daniel Audette

In our day, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is for many people a huge “stumbling block” (not only for unbelievers, but for some “Christians” too). These people stumble on this doctrine because, according to them, the “evidences” and the “facts” of Scripture would prove without any doubt that the Bible contains some errors. Evidently, the logical consequence of such an assertion against inerrancy is that the confession of the Bible’s divine inspiration and authority is not any longer taken for granted. Indeed, these people believe that a fallible Bible cannot in any way be God-breathed nor be filled with His sovereign authority. 

It would be difficult for us to reproach to these people who reject biblical inerrancy the logic with which they proceed (this logic leads them to bind biblical infallibility together with the God-breathed character of Holy Scripture). Indeed, we too believe that a fallible Bible cannot be of divine origin. We thus share this view with them, but in a positive manner: it is in order to support the thesis of inerrancy, and not to reject it. 

Yet, regarding the assertion of these people who deny biblical inerrancy (that the Bible contains errors), we refuse categorically, promptly, vigorously, to assume it. We do not want, on this subject, to yield them even one millimetre! It is true that the Scriptures present certain difficulties; all the biblical texts difficult to interpret and which are “phenomenally[1]” contradictory or erroneous. We do not ignore these particular texts. But to assert on the basis of these that the Bible contains errors, it is claiming a lot, it is affirming too much! 

If we want to be Christians, truly Christians, it is necessary for us to abide in Christ. Not any Christ, but in the true Christ, the Christ of history and of faith, the Christ of Scriptures. Now what does the Bible say about Jesus? This: “but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). And what does Jesus say about himself? This: “Which one of you convicts Me of sin?” (John 8:46). Thus, the true Christ, according to the Bible and according to Jesus himself, is an infallible, pure, holy, immaculate Christ. What does this same Jesus now say about the Old Testament? This: “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18). And this: “and the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Moreover, he says: “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me” (John 5:39). Finally: “But regarding the resurrection of dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God[2]”(Matthew 22:31). Thus, according to the One sent by the Father, the Son of God, the Old Testament is the very Word of God, verbally and infallibly[3].

To tell the truth, a “Christianity” without an infallible Christ is not authentic Christianity. In the same manner, a “biblical” religion without an infallible Bible is not true biblical religion. Consequently, an infallible Christ who bears witness of a fallible Bible is as impossible as an infallible Bible who bears witness of a fallible Christ. In the opposite way, a fallible Christ who bears witness of an infallible Bible is as impossible as a fallible Bible who bears witness of an infallible Christ. If we ought to choose, it is necessary then to retain both: Christ’s infallibility and the Bible’s infallibility. Because it is absolutely impossible to retain only one of these two propositions without at the same time maintaining the other. Notice however that we are not playing on words here. In fact, we speak about these truths in such a way that the laws of logic themselves cannot refute them. Better than that, the logic with which we proceed is not from us, but from the written Word (the Bible) and from the living Word of God (Jesus-Christ)[4]! The Bible is the infallible and sovereign Word of God[5]

The basis of our faith in the Bible and in its unique divine status is the powerful testimony that Jesus gives to it. Out of this relation with Christ, the “proofs” in favour of the God-breathed character of Scripture (and there are many proofs!) will never be sufficient to convince the unbelievers[6]. Because, let us tell it straight, these “proofs” are clearly seen only in the eyes of faith[7]

The responsibility of the Church, then, consists in repeating after Christ, in faith and through the preaching of the Gospel, that the Bible is the infallible Word of God[8]. And to God belongs all the conversions! But this responsibility comprises also its own “defence”: if it is not possible to prove to the unbelievers that the Holy Scripture is the infallible Word of God, it is at least necessary to defend ourselves against all the attacks they direct against the doctrine of biblical infallibility and to show them by and through the Scripture itself that, truly, their arguments are not well founded. Where the enemies attack, there we have to counter-attack; where the detractors of the Bible pretend to find errors in it, there we have to refute them.

[1] From the Greek word “phainomenon”: what appears. Thus, a phenomenon, in Scripture, is what “appears” to be an error but which is not actually one; it is like we often hear an apparent error or an apparent contradiction.
[2] Jesus is quoting here Isaiah 3:6. We added the italics.
[3] This same reasoning can also be applied for the New Testament. In the opposite way however: it is by anticipation, in predicting the testimony and the preaching of the apostles, that Jesus attested in advance the divine authority of the neo-testamentary writings. The twelve, indeed, were not solely the only authorized witnesses of the resurrected Christ, but they were also filled with his Messianic authority and were anointed of the Holy Spirit. Thus, regarding the God-breathed character and authority of the New Testament, the emphasis falls on the conjunction of the work of the Holy Spirit in the apostles and the solemn authority they received from Jesus. They were the authorized spokesmen of God.
[4] Our reasoning has mainly been drawn (with some personal additions however) from the brilliant article of John MURRAY, “Inspiration and Inerrancy”, in Collected Writings of John Murray 4: Studies in Theology, Edinburgh, Banner of Truth, 1982, p. 22-29.
[5] The Bible is inerrant in all that it says either in an explicit or implicit way, in all that it claims to be right or truth, in all that it declares to be false or untrue. Such is the presupposition that it seems to me we have to retain from the Scripture and from the Master.
[6] The Bible is “autopistos” (what the Bible teaches about itself). However, the recognition of this self-testimony of Scripture is only the privilege of believers. On that subject, Francis F. Schaeffer says: “There are two reasons in our day for holding a strong, uncompromising view of Scripture. First, and foremost, this is the only way to be faithful to what the Bible teaches about itself and what Christ teaches about Scripture.” (See The Complete Works of Francis F SCHAEFFER, a Christian Worldview; volume two: a Christian View of the Bible as Truth; book two: No Final Conflict, Second Edition, Wheaton, Crossway Books, 1994, p. 143. 
[7] Do not forget: the preaching of the Gospel does not rest “in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).
[8] Of course, this responsibility does not exempt the Christians to seek “to persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:11; see also Titus 1:9).

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