Is Inerrancy A Bible Doctrine?

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by Reverend Anthony R. Locke

Matthew 5:17-20
English Standard Version

17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.[1]
 


 
During the late 70’s there was a heated debate in our denomination regarding the authority, sufficiency and accuracy of the Bible. The debates didn’t need to happen. Our Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) devotes the whole first chapter to the infallibility of the scripture.  It should be a settled conversation.

Through the WCF we profess that the Bible is infallible. A local newspaper might be inerrant. If there’s an error in the daily paper then the editor prints a retraction. Being inerrant is a matter of accuracy. Infallibility is a matter of supernatural inspiration upon the authors.

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Pope speaks infallibly from his papal chair. They teach that since he is supernaturally inspired by the Holy Spirit that as the Pope he cannot speak falsehood. We believe this about the original manuscripts of the Bible.

It is impossible for the Bible to have errors since it was given by direct revelation from God. 2 Peter 2:21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

The Bible is infallible because God wrote it. God used human agency, but it is still his Word. The Bible can’t have error for God is light. God is truth. God never lies.

The Bible is without error because it is God breathed. It is inerrant as a result of it being infallible. It is infallible since it comes directly from God. God will never print a retraction.

So how did our denomination get lured into a new debate regarding inerrancy?

Because college and seminary professors redefined the word infallibility to only apply to matters of faith and practice, not science or history. The word infallible was historically defined as the inability of the Bible to teach falsehood on any topic since God spoke the Bible.

Infallibility has been redefined to mean that God only spoke without error on matters of faith and Christian living. On those two topics God spoke perfect truth. The Bible is infallible in that respect only. Infallibility used to include inerrancy. It doesn’t anymore.

Liberal professors claim that God spoke error because He was using flawed authors. They reason that God wasn’t writing a science book, so when the Bible speaks on issues of science there might be human error. Liberal professors claim that God wasn’t writing a history or a treasure map for archeologists, so the history of the Bible may have errors. Liberal professors claim that God wasn’t writing a book about the origin of the species, so when God spoke about how the world came into being or how the animals and fish appeared, the Bible is wrong.

These Bible teachers claim, “the Bible is accurate regarding issues of faith and practice, but not necessarily anything else. The Bible contains the word of God. It isn’t all God’s word.”

So after debating these things for most of the 70’s, our General Synod in 1979 adopted the statement that “The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God without error in all that it teaches.” Church leaders thought this would end the debates.

But liberal professors found a loophole in that definition. Their claim was that the Bible didn’t intend to teach about history, science, or the origins of the universe, rather faith and Christian living. So the liberal professors accepted the newly minted position on the Bible and kept teaching that there were errors in the Bible regarding everything not related to faith and practice.

So in 2008, after 28 years of painful discussions and division within the body of Christ, our Synod adopted a new statement about the accuracy of the Bible.

It’s on page 514 of that year’s Synod minutes. “A motion carried that the General Synod go on record that the position of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church on Scripture is that the Bible alone, being God-breathed, is the Word of God Written, infallible in all that it teaches, and inerrant in the original manuscripts.”

We say the Bible is inerrant in the original manuscripts because when people made copies we can’t guarantee that they copied it perfectly. When God first inspired the Bible it was perfect. God gave us the Bible by inspiration so the Bible is incapable of teaching error – it is infallible, AND the Bible is in fact without error – it is inerrant.

The ARP went on record in 2008 to close the loophole that the Bible was perfectly given by God. It is without error – period.

This is the way Jesus understood the Bible. Jesus said that every part of this book will be fulfilled. Every iota and every dot. Every jot and every tittle.

That’s like saying every ‘T” will be crossed and every “I” dotted as God fulfills His Word. The iota is the smallest letter and the dot is the smallest part of a letter.

The point Jesus is making is that even the smallest part of the Bible is important. Nothing is fluff. Every chapter and every verse holds eternal significance.

Select in your mind the passage which makes the least sense to you. Some day we will discover that Jesus is the fullness of that passage. The Bible is like a secret treasure map to the glory of Jesus which will be revealed in heaven.

Fortunately, this confession that the Word of God is inerrant will not be redefined in the future by liberal theologians. In 1980 a group of Christian leaders met in Chicago and came up with the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy. The ARP is using that definition of the word inerrant when we confess that we have an inerrant Bible.

When we speak of the authority of the Bible we also confess that it is verbal-plenary inspired. Jesus responded to Satan’s temptation by affirming verbal plenary inspiration.

This simply means that all the words in the Bible are in complete agreement. No words are outside the purpose of the Bible. Every passage sustains faith. The Bible is unified down to the single words.

That’s what Jesus was saying when He said Matthew 4:4 But he answered, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Jesus testifies that the whole Bible is real history.

  • Jesus speaks of Adam and Eve as two human beings, created by God in the beginning (Matthew 19:3-5; Mark 10:6-8).
  • Jesus spoke of Jonah and his experience in the belly of the great fish as a historical event (Matthew 12:40).
  • Jesus verified the events of the flood in Noah’s day along with the ark (Matthew 24:38-39; Luke 17:26-27).
  • Jesus verified God’s destruction of Sodom and the historicity of Lot and his wife (Matthew 10:15; Luke 17:28-29).

These are only a few illustrations; many others exist.

The Bible is reliable because it is God’s word (Matt. 26:54). The Bible is indestructible: heaven and earth will not pass away until it is all fulfilled. (Matt. 5:17-18).

The Bible has a unified message about the person and work of Christ. Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

This is why Jesus would never abolish the Bible laws. Even Old Testament laws that are national and ceremonial. All of the Bible is necessary if we are to make a full study of God’s glory as revealed in Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the fullness of what was prefigured in the law. The law required sacrifices. Jesus is the sacrifice. The law required the dedication of the firstborn. Jesus is the firstborn of a new creation. The law required tithes. Jesus is the first fruits of the resurrection.

We can’t understand the Bible without seeing the fullness in Jesus. Jesus is the Temple. Jesus is the ark of the covenant. Jesus is the light of the menorah. Jesus is the rainbow over the earth that promises protection from God’s wrath. Jesus is the boat that carries us safely through the storm of destruction that pours down on humanity.

This book doesn’t become God’s word by preaching. It doesn’t become God’s word by the Holy Spirit speaking it to our heart. This book is the eternal, real, objective, unique and divine revelation from divinity to humanity. It is infallible  –  unable to speak error because God inspired the authors. It is inerrant from cover to cover.

We need to confess this plainly to the world. We believe that we have an inspired, infallible and inerrant Bible as a presupposition of our faith.

We do not believe that Mormons have more of God’s word that we need to read. We do not believe that the Koran contains more of God’s word. The Roman Catholic Church does not have extra words of God in the Apocrypha. People are not speaking inspired words of God today. The Pope does not speak infallibly.

This book is the Holy Book. There is no other.

We are more confident in this being God’s word to us then if an angel were to speak to us from the heavens. 2 Pet. 1:19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place – ( and Galatians 1:8)

God’s Word is true. The Bible says over and over again that God cannot lie (Numbers 23:19). This book is 2 Corinthians 4:6 the light that shines out of darkness, which has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. No words of this book teach dark and erroneous things. No words lead us astray.

Don’t let an unbelieving world influence your heart to lose faith in this Bible. 2 Timothy 3:15-17 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

God did not give us the Bible so we could critique it. Our eternal destiny is determined by the words in this book. We are not it’s judge. The Bible judges us.

Inerrancy is not an intellectual construct that we build in our mind after we make a careful analysis of the data. Jesus considered the Bible to be without error. Inerrancy is a Bible doctrine. We confess and defend Bible doctrines. We don’t debate if they are true.

Inerrancy is a theological construct like the Trinity. To not fully embrace the doctrine of inerrancy is to pervert the Gospel and put your soul in danger.

We do not prove the Bible to be God’s word by labeling it inerrant as a matter of reason or logic. The Bible claims this for itself. We place good doctrines in our creeds. The Westminster Confession of Faith places infallibility and inerrancy in the first chapter of our confession. We should close the debates and refocus our collective energies.

Jesus considered the Bible to be without error and perfect in every way. We join with Jesus and profess that we also believe that the whole Bible, every iota and every dot will be fulfilled in due time.

Let me end with some statistics. In 1994 a survey was done of American churches.

  • 95% of Episcopalians said that they think the Bible is full of errors.
  • 87% of Methodists said the same.
  • 77% of American Lutherans
  • 67% of Baptists
  • and 82% of Presbyterians said the Bible contains errors.

The ARP church has endured decades of painful debates to set our public testimony straight on this important matter. May we have the fortitude to stand our ground and not shift with the culture, or even the Christian culture.

May God bless our church to aid our denomination in holding forth this Word of Truth.


[1] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


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Tony Locke

Live in Gwinnett, GA next to Lake Lanier Islands. Married with four children. Pastored three churches over 18 years. Spent time serving as an Army Chaplain. Traveled in ministry to over 34 countries. B.A., M.A., M.Div., M.A.T.S., D.Min. BCC with NSC. Covering Georgia and upstate South Carolina

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