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10/06/2004

Is Inerrancy Important? 

From the 1689 London Baptist Confession:
1._____ The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience, although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times and in divers manners to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterward for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary, those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.
( 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Isaiah 8:20; Luke 16:29, 31; Ephesians 2:20; Romans 1:19-21; Romans 2:14,15; Psalms 19:1-3; Hebrews 1:1; Proverbs 22:19-21; Romans 15:4; 2 Peter 1:19,20 )
So, is it important that Scriptures are inerrant? After all, the word doesn't show up at all in this confession.

The word infallible means: "Incapable of erring". That is actually MORE than just inerrant. Inerrant says that the Bible doesn't contain errors. I can write a report that is inerrant, as long as I do my research carefully and make sure that someone else proofreads it. Infallible, which shows up in pretty much every major confession in early Protestant history, says that the Bible is not capable of making a mistake. I can't write an infallible paper -- anything I write is capable of being mistaken, whether it actually is or not.

But is it important that Scripture contains no error? Yes, because if we find any error in it, how can we be certain that we have caught them all? What I'm trying to say is that if there's one error that we know of, how can we be certain that the things we believe in Scriptures aren't actually errors? If we cannot trust that God has given us a reliable, error-free book, how can we base something as important as our eternal destiny on anything that is in that book?

Some would say experience. We have to experience God, and we can do that through the Bible. How can we know what we are experiencing if we cannot trust the medium we are experiencing it through? Without a Bible that I can trust, how do I even know that Christ really has risen from the dead? I cannot experience that historical event -- unless someone is hiding a time machine that they haven't mentioned before. I can only know about that event through the historical record. If the Bible is not trustworthy, I have no reliable record to turn to.

If I have to trust experience, how do I judge what is a good experience? Experience is subjective, so I can't judge based on what others have experienced. How can I tell what I am encountering, without a reliable guide to show me? How do I discern that it is the Holy Spirit guiding me into knowledge if I have no guidelines to show me what the Holy Spirit's job is?

I know people who sincerely believe that they are being led by God in directions that are contradictory to the Scriptures. Is their religious experience any less valid than mine? Is mine any less valid than theirs, for relying on the Bible rather than on experience? Does it even matter, as long as we each have a meaningful religious experience?

Experiential revelation, that is, revelation based solely on personal experience or encounter, can be very meaningful and life changing. But if it contradicts the Scripture, how do we know what the source of that experience is? God is not the only spiritual being in existence, after all. Satan is a great deceiver, and our perceptions are not always the most reliable ways of gaining information, even about the physical world. Objective rvelation is a must, if we are to seriously contend that Christianity is God's Truth.

If we are to take seriously the Reformation idea of sola Scriptura, we have to believe that the scriptura is without error, and is totally trustworth.


This is the first of (probably) several posts about the idea of inerrancy, infallibility, authority, etc. of Scripture. I'll end up talking about what sola scriptura actually means, vs. what people think it means, theories of inerrancy, and maybe even a little translation theory and the original autographs. yeah, I'm being ambitious. I figure it will make up for the weenie posts I've had here recently.


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