What Does it Mean That Scripture is Inspired and Inerrant?

The most important aspect of understanding God begins in understanding the way in which He has chosen to reveal specific information about Himself. The inspiration of scripture and the inerrancy of Scripture are corollary doctrines in that they directly inform a person’s understanding of God. A person’s view of Scripture’s inspiration will necessarily affect that person’s view of Scripture’s inerrancy.  The inspiration of Scripture provides information for how Scripture came into existence, and by understanding inspiration properly, readers of the Bible come to understand the authority by which the Words of Scripture came to be recorded.  By understanding that Scripture did not originate in the minds of men, but originated with God, it is then understood that Scripture is inerrant.

Inspiration of Scripture

Inspiration is defined as God’s superintendent work, via the Holy Spirit, in using human authors to record His Word in a manner that employed the personalities, theological perspectives, writing and grammatical styles, and abilities of the authors.  Inspiration ensured that what the authors wrote was the Word of God itself, exactly as God intended, containing divine authority, and being fully truthful and without error.  In superintending the writing, God did not treat the authors as transcriptionists, mechanically dictating His Word for them to record, but rather brought together Scripture in a flowing together of the Holy Spirit and the human authors’ thoughts in a stream of confluence.  This perfect concursive confluence required both the Holy Spirit and the human author to each provide one hundred percent engagement in the process, working together in bringing about the Holy Writ.  2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God,” and 2 Peter 1:21 says “no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”  While biblical orthodoxy holds the divine inspiration of scripture to be true, the actual mode by which the authors received inspiration is still largely mysterious.  This is because the actual method of inspiration is not discussed in Scripture.  The emphasis is instead left on the result, the divine written Word, rather than on the manner by which it was brought about.  While there is much mystery surrounding the inspiration of Scripture, there are several modes that are known to have been employed.  Luke, for instance, tells readers that he wrote by employing natural powers and abilities.  Luke did the homework of retrieving data for the purposes of writing his gospel, and then, guided by the Holy Spirit, Luke recorded his gospel from his personal experience.  Several biblical authors record revelations received through visions or dreams, writing from modes of revelation would be considered miraculous.  Jesus said in John 14:26 that the Holy Spirit would bring to the disciples’ remembrance all the things that He taught them.  This seems to be the mode by which Matthew and John recollect and record their gospels.  Paul says that the majority of what he writes comes from specific teachings of Jesus, but he also offers sound judgment, or a Spirit-led guidance, in certain issues where he does not have a teaching from Jesus.  Finally, there are also some moments in which God does directly dictate what He desires to be written down.  One place this is seen is when God orders Isaiah to take a large scroll and write His words on it in Isaiah 8:1.

All told, what is found in Scripture is an authoritative account of God’s message, free of error, originating not within the will of the human authors, but originating with God Himself.  An accurate image of inspiration is that of a ship whose sail is filled by a wind which moves the ship along.  The sailors steer and control the ship in the degree in which they are required, but the originator and driving force of the ship is the wind itself, which is in the case of Scripture, the Spirit.

Inerrancy of Scripture

The doctrine of inerrancy is the belief that the Bible, in the original autographs, is without error in any regard.  Throughout Scripture, the Bible makes the claim that it is the very Word of God.  The exact words, “Thus says the Lord,” appear over four hundred times in Scripture, and very clearly make the claim that Scripture is a direct message from God.  In areas where the Scripture does not claim to be direct dictation from the Lord, the Bible still claims to be the inspired Word of God (2 Tim 3:16).  The Bible is consistent among the 40 plus authors in relaying that Scripture is breathed out by God.  Being inspired by God, the Word carries with it God’s authority.  Recognizing that Scripture is the Word of God, breathed out by God, carrying the authority of God, it logically follows that the scripture is without error.

Advocates of the doctrine of inerrancy use a number of methods to arrive at the conclusion of the Bible’s godly perfection.  These methods include the confessional method, presuppositional method, and classical method.  The confessional method is defined as the method by which the Scripture is acknowledged as inerrant by faith alone.  The presuppositional method involves a circular reasoning that begins with acknowledging the Bible as the Word of God.  If it can be presupposed that the Bible is the Word of God, and the Bible attests to its own infallibility, then it can be concluded that the Bible is the infallible Word of God.  The classical method defends the inerrancy of Scripture by concerning itself with the deduction and induction of external and internal evidence.  The reasoning of the classical method states that on the basis of the Bible being basically reliable, there is sufficient evidence to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  Jesus, being the Son of God is an inerrant authority.  During His ministry, Jesus taught that the Bible is the Word of God.  If Jesus is the Son of God, He says the Scriptures are the Word of God, and God is trustworthy, then it necessarily follows that the Scriptures are trustworthy.  Unlike the presuppositional method, the classical method does not involve circular reasoning because the conclusion is not present in the first premise.  The classical argument also does not involve a priori assumptions or subjective leaps of faith in that the method involves historical and empirical investigation to come to logical conclusions.  The classical method still depends on the fallible reasoning of man, and Calvin does well to point us back to the fact that, “our conviction of the truth of Scripture must be derived from a higher source than human conjectures, judgments, or reasons; namely the secret testimony of the Spirit.”

Because none of the original autographic texts of Scripture exist today, modern texts cannot be claimed to be inerrant.  The inerrancy of the words of the Bible can only be applied directly to the original autographs.  According to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, it can, however, “be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy.”  It is believed that by the discipline of textual criticism that Bible scholars are able to reconstruct the original writings to within ninety-nine percent accuracy.

The inerrancy of Scripture asserts that when all the facts are known, and the Scriptures are interpreted absolutely correctly, the original autographs will prove to be perfectly true in all that they affirm in terms of doctrine, morality, and the physical and life sciences.  Inerrancy does not intend to defend the grammatical precision, the exactness of quotes, or the perfection of man’s interpretations of the Scriptures.  Inerrancy recognizes that imprecision in writing does not equate to a failure of truthfulness.  Inerrancy also acknowledges that there are false statements in the Bible, for instance, words spoken by Satan the deceiver, which are not true but are in fact accurately recorded.  Inerrancy simply means that Scripture possesses full divine authority that “cannot be broken” (John 10:31), and is free from any liability to mistake, making it completely incapable of error.

In October 1978 more than 200 evangelical leaders from a variety of denominations signed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy to affirm the inerrancy of Scripture and stem a growing trend toward liberal views of Scripture.  Since the signing of the of the CSBI the evangelical church has made serious efforts in advancing a conservative resurgence, but the accepting of inerrancy will always depend first and foremost on a proper understanding Christ’s view of Scripture.  As Jesus Christ saw Scripture as fully inspired, authoritative, and free from error (Luke 24:25-27), so too should anyone who claims to make Him their Lord.  Ultimately, as Kahler said, “We do not believe in Christ because we believe in the Bible, but we believe in the Bible because we believe in Christ.”

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