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Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience (1 Peter 3:15b-16a ESV)

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5/11/2004

The Fundamentals and Inerrancy 

This link has a copy of chapter 21 of The Fundamentals, which discusses the idea of inspiration, and defends the idea of verbal inspiration. A lot has been said on this subject already throughout the blogosphere, so I decided it was time to add my two cents.

Does inspiration automatically lead to inerrancy? If we hold to the doctrine of inspiration, that is, that the Scriptures are inspired (literally theopneustos, or God-breathed) by God, can we believe that these Scriptures contain mistakes? Many people point to apparent contradictions in Scripture as evidence that it is not inherently. Many more people have researched the contradictions and found that there are reasonable, logical explanations for them, and that inerrancy is not affected one bit by any of them.

I like the word theopneustos -- 2 Timothy 3:16 is the only place it occurs in the Bible. The idea of something being breathed out by God is fascinating to me. How did it happen? Did God come down like He did on Sinai, and carve the words into stone? Did He prompt the writer, telling him what to include and what to leave out? Did He simply monitor what the author was writing, and nudge the writer in the correct direction? Or was it something different -- something that is so totally different from anything we can experience that we cannot really know how it was done until we see Jesus in Heaven?

Inerrancy, to me, is very important. If the Bible is not inerrant -- if it isn't free from error, trustworthy in all it's claims -- how can we use it as the final authority for our faith? To me, sola scriptura relies on a Bible that is dependable, reliable, and free from error. If an error is possible, how can we be sure that e are following the part that is error-free? When we say that All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God -- how do we know that that part is one of the correct parts?

One of the things I am learning in reading on this subject (and I'm just getting started on it) is that when we interpret Biblical passages, we have to understand the genre that they are written in. When quoting a Psalm, for example, we must remember that we are quoting poetry, and treat it accordingly. We must also remember that Hebrew poetry is different from American poetry, and we must take that into account, too. If God inspired the writers, didn't He also inspire the method, the genre, of writing? Otherwise, why do we have poetry, apocalyptic writing, history, prophecy, biography, and epistles? Why not just one long narrative? There is a reason for each style of writing in the Bible, and we need to learn that reason. When we do that, we can understand why some numbers are different in different accounts of events, and why some figures of speech are used, etc.

I believe that the Bible is inspired by God, and that it is free from errors -- unless that error is an error of interpretation. The fault is then ours, not God's.


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