Inerrancy and Infallibility

We cannot explain or resolve all parts of Scripture. However, to surmise that apparent conflicts in the Bible must be ‘errors’ is an arrogant and dangerous supposition. Too many people give up too easily—if it doesn’t make sense they aren’t willing to dig deeper. Or to trust. Bible

A few years ago I listened as wise, godly friends discussed the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. All of them are mature Christians. The issue was not the authority of Scripture for faith and practice. The issue was whether it is necessary and/or appropriate to include in our statement of faith that the Bible contains the ‘inerrant’ and ‘infallible’ word of God.

While I try not to get too personal with this blog, the most that I can contribute on this topic is personal. Specifically, the more I study, the more it all makes sense. Not just in a little way, but in one “Oh wow!” realization after another. Many (not all) passages that at one time confused me or caused me to wonder if the text was correct came into sharper focus with deeper study. This detailed-study-leads-to-edification process has happened so many times that my views on the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible have strengthened considerably.

Just one example—I audited an apologetics course entitled Creation and the Bible by Reasons To Believe. Dr. Hugh Ross, an astrophysicist and the founder of Reasons To Believe states in his testimony that he became a Christian by reading the foundational books of the world’s religions and discarding them one by one based upon scientific errors apparent in their text. When he got to the Bible, however, he found 13 scientifically accurate statements about the creation of the universe in the first chapter of Genesis. If you take the time to dig, the details are amazing and dramatically support the case for ascribing inerrancy and infallibility to the Bible.

There’s no shortage of opinions on the accuracy of the Bible. Our post-modern culture promotes individual opinions and disharmony over conformity and agreement. Fine. Got it. No one wants to give a straightforward yes or no to the question of Biblical inerrancy, and actually that should be the case. What do you do with translation differences, poetry, allegorical statements, the use of Koine (slang) Greek, textual criticism, differing accounts of the same events by different authors, a lack of modern technical precision, observational descriptions of nature, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, and so on? It takes a fair amount of clarification before we can get to a yes or no response.

But the concepts behind these adjectives are extremely important, and there are those who have done a very good job building a case for unity on this topic. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy is a document worthy of very careful reading. Before I read it, I had my own unfocused views on the subject. After reading it and thinking it through, I’m in. I support the Chicago Statement.

So back to the question of whether it is necessary or appropriate to include that the Bible is inerrant and infallible in our statement of faith. In its constitutional context, the Williamsburg Community Chapel’s statement of faith is reduced to eight points about which we believe so strongly that we would break fellowship with those who would disagree. In this context, personally I believe it is appropriate—but not necessary—to include these terms (see Article XIX of the Chicago Statement). In other words, would I break fellowship with someone who was struggling with the genealogies of Christ in Matthew versus Luke? No. Would I break fellowship with someone who insisted that the differences in these genealogies prove the errancy of the Bible? Absolutely. More importantly, do I believe that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible, inspired word of God? Yes.

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2015 Personal Discipleship - Week 8
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HT: Dave Rudy

About John Paine

This blog is topical and devotional--we post whatever interests us, whenever. If you want to follow in an orderly fashion, please see our Kaqexeß page. View all posts by John Paine

6 responses to “Inerrancy and Infallibility

  • Planting Potatoes

    amen! In our modern age – we tend to look at things we don’t understand and assume they must be wrong…..hence why God wants us to “get understanding” right?

    • John Paine

      God makes it very clear what we need to know and how we are to live. He even dumbed it down to two commandments, but we have a hard time keeping those straight. Instead of admitting that we don’t, and can’t, know it all we want more explanations. It’s wonderful to meditate on Scripture and to just begin to appreciate how much He loves us, and that’s where a well-formed doctrine of inerrancy can be helpful. Thanks for your encouragement Mark!

  • Woody Perry

    Seems to me, if we are as flawed by sin, as the Bible says, how can we judge the scriptures as errant. It is the imperfect, judging the perfect. Without the Spirit, we can’t make sense of anything. If the Bible is inspired by God, and God is inerrant, then the Bible has to be inerrant. A bit of a circular argument.

  • John Paine

    I wish more people had your perspective Woody. Unfortunately, many have God on trial in their court instead of the other way around. Inerrancy is a powerful and sometimes insidious doctrine. A lot of the real challenges come from within the Church, particularly when prominent leaders start painting history with an allegorical or genre brush. I find it to be very helpful in appreciating the intimacy of the Bible, even as we struggle with interpretation.

    By the way, your tribute at Mel’s funeral was touching and inspiring. I agree with Clarke, I want to be like Mel. We will surely miss him.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Augusta Otey

    I heard a great sermon yesterday that if there were mistakes in God’s word, it would mean God isn’t infallible.(my words)A

    • John Paine

      I think pretty much everyone would agree with that logic, faithful follower and skeptic alike. To have a defensible and sound doctrine of inerrancy we have to address translation differences, poetry, allegorical statements, the use of Koine (slang) Greek, textual criticism, differing accounts of the same events by different authors, a lack of modern technical precision, observational descriptions of nature, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, and so on. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy is extremely helpful to support our interpretation of Scripture, particularly when Scripture is painted with bad doctrine. Thanks Augusta for commenting!

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