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Bibliology - Week 4 - Inerrancy

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In this lesson, we will talk about the doctrine of inerrancy.

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Intro/Review

Good morning. Welcome back to our class on Bibliology, the Doctrine of the Bible. It’s been two weeks since we were last together. So let’s pray and we’ll begin. (Pray).
When we last left off, we talked about the doctrine of Inspiration. And we said:
Inspiration: ‘the act of God “breathing out” Scriptures through human writers so as to ensure its authority and perfection.’
We said that the Bible itself teaches that it is inspired by God. And we said that by ‘inspired’ we don’t mean it like when someone is inspired to paint, or inspired to write a poem. Instead, ‘inspired by God’ really means ‘breathed out by God’, or originating from God. In other words, the Bible was written by God, through human authors. It is a divine book. And God guided the human authors to write what he wanted to have them written. And so, in this doctrine, the Bible is making a claim about itself that cannot be said about any other book. Where does this idea of inspiration come from? Two main passages that we talked about:
2 Timothy 3:16–17 ESV
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 complete, equipped for every good work.
and...
2 Peter 1:20–21 ESV
knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 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.
So you see, in both of these passages, it is telling us that all Scripture - all of the Bible - is more than just a history book, or a book of morals, or a record of Jesus’ life & teachings. All Scripture is breathed out by God. It is unique, it is revelation, it is perfect. And it is this idea of perfection that leads to today’s topic of Inerrancy.
If we look back in the Old Testament, to , we read the following important truth about God:
Numbers 23:19 ESV
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
This is important, because if the Bible really is ‘breathed out by God’ (), and God cannot lie (), then it logically follows that the Bible must be inerrant. It must be perfect. For it is a reflection of God’s character.
This week’s lesson:
Inerrancy: the condition of Scripture being free from error in all that it teaches.

The Doctrine of Inerrancy as Taught By the BFC

This is in fact is a doctrine that the Bible Fellowship Church holds to. Let’s look once again, at Article 1 of the BFC ‘Articles of Faith’, the official Belief Statement of our denomination. And as we do so, watch for the words that speak to this doctrine of inerrancy.

“The Articles of Faith” - Article 1 – The Holy Scriptures

1-1  The Holy Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are the inspired (), infallible Word of God (, , ), a divine revelation, the original writings of which were verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit (; ,; ). They are the supreme and final authority of faith and conduct (; ,; ).
1-2  Inspiration is a special act of the Holy Spirit by which He guided the writers of the Scriptures so that their words would convey the thoughts He wished conveyed, would bear a proper relationship to the thoughts of the other inspired books, and would be kept free from error of fact, doctrine, and judgment ().
1-3 The Holy Scriptures, the written Word of God, are composed of all 66 books of the Old Testament and New Testament.
*Again, that is what our church teaches about the Bible. And as I read that, you would have seen that we declare the Bible in article 1-1 to be ‘the inspired, infallible Word of God’ (in other words, incapable of making mistakes or being wrong), and also in 1-2, we say that God authored the Bible in such a way that it ‘would be kept free from error of fact, doctrine, and judgment’.
This is important, and it also is a position that is affirmed by many other major denominations in the United States and around the world.

Challenges to Inerrancy & The Chicago Statement of 1978

The doctrine of inerrancy is not new. Even the Early Church Fathers of the first few centuries after the time of the apostles affirmed the Bible to be authoritative and trustworthy. But if you look at some of the early creeds, such as the so-called ‘Apostle’s Creed’, you do not find many statements about the doctrine of the Bible. And that is because doctrine statements often arise in response to the heresies of the day. In the first centuries, heresies were often focused on the person of Christ (either denying his humanity or his deity). But in modern times, in the 20th and 21st centuries, the doctrine of the Bible has come under attack, and this has led to clearer statements on what we believe about the Bible.
In the 19th and 20th centuries especially, liberal theologians began to question the Bible and its reliability. Some liberal theologians, like Joseph Henry Thayer said that while ancient civilizations, who were ignorant of science, could accept the Bible as the Word of God, we who live in a more educated time, know better.
Well, contrary to what some may say, I don’t believe that science disproves the Bible, or that trusting in the Scriptures is somehow, antiquated. The Bible is true and trustworthy throughout all generations.
To answer these kinds of liberal challenges to the Bible, a group of over 200 Christian leaders came together in October 1978, in a conference sponsored by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. The people who gathered were some of the most famous and influential Christian leaders of the time, including Jay Adams, James M. Boice, D.A. Carson, Wayne Grudem, Walter Kaiser, Josh McDowell, John MacArthur, J.I. Packer, Charles Ryrie, and R.C. Sproul. And for those of you who know Pastor Dan Allen, who used to pastor our Ephrata BFC, and also was director at Pinebrook for a time, his father, Rev. Russell T. Allen, was also one of leaders at the conference. Together, they created a document known as the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. This served as one of the clearest defenses of biblical inerrancy ever produced. I’ve included it in your handout, at the end. We won’t read it all here, but I will just give you a brief excerpt.
Signed by some of the most famous theologians at the time: Jay Adams, James M. Boice, D.A. Carson, Wayne Grudem, Walter Kaiser, Josh McDowell, John MacArthur, J.I. Packer, Charles Ryrie, R.C. Sproul, and Dan Allen’s father, Rev. Russell T. Allen,
(See the complete Statement at the end of this handout)

An Excerpt - Article IX

We affirm that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience, guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write.
We deny that the finitude or fallenness of these writers, by necessity or otherwise, introduced distortion or falsehood into God's Word.
So you can see that there is a pattern that is repeated throughout the document (‘We affirm..’, ‘We deny...’), that helps to clarify the doctrine better. You can look at the full document later.

Helping Skeptics With the Question of Inerrancy

But… with that being said, understand that they are rarely sufficient for our conversations with those outside of the church. Church historian Mark Noll has said in the book, “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind”, that while “Statements give short answers; they don’t engage deep questions.”
But… with that being said, understand that they are rarely sufficient for our conversations with those outside of the church. Church historian Mark Noll has said in the book, “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind”, that while “Statements give short answers; they don’t engage deep questions.”
In other words, if we want to be able to dialogue with others about this notion about the Bible being inerrant, we’ll need more that just a doctrine statement.
In other words, if we want to be able to dialogue with others about this notion about the Bible being inerrant, we’ll need more that just a doctrine statement.
Answering the Emotional Question of Inerrancy
Answering the Emotional Question of Inerrancy
But I want to leave doctrinal statements behind for a moment. Understand that these statements (the BFC Articles of Faith, and the Chicago Statement, and others) are meant for the church. They are written for believers, to help us articulate what we believe.
But they often are not very helpful for unbelievers.
But… with that being said, understand that they are rarely sufficient for our conversations with those outside of the church. Church historian Mark Noll has said in the book, “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind”, that while “Statements give short answers; they don’t engage deep questions.”
Christian author Mark Noll has said, “Statements give short answers; they don’t engage deep questions.” Therefore, you will need to be willing to engage in deep conversations with someone who struggles with the authority of the Bible.
Therefore, you will need to be willing to engage in deep conversations with someone who struggles with the authority of the Bible.
In other words, if we want to be able to dialogue with others about this notion about the Bible being inerrant, we’ll need more that just a doctrine statement.
Because let’s face it: Inerrancy is a tough doctrine to grapple with. I mean, if you are a believer and you trust the Bible, I imagine you would say, ‘yes the Bible is true.’ But for someone who is not a Christian, that might be really hard for them to accept.
Because
I will say that a similar statement has been created just this year, not on inerrancy, but on the Bible’s position on Human Sexuality and Gender Identity. A new group of pastors and theologians have put together what is known as the ‘Nashville
Why do non-Christians often struggle with the concept of the Bible’s authority/inerrancy?
People in today’s culture are naturally skeptical of claims of authority.
people assume that the Bible is filled with errors. In fact, if you tell someone that the Bible is inerrant, that will likely be what they say - “Isn’t the Bible full of contradictions?”
Because so often in today’s secular culture, people are naturally skeptical of claims of authority. “You believe the Bible is perfectly true? Well a Muslim would say the same thing about the Koran. All religions say something like that.” And the assumption is that any claim of authority is ridiculous. Now, you have to understand that people have reasons why they feel the way they do. There are so many examples of people or institutions that can’t be trusted, that people are naturally skeptical about anyone or anything claiming to be 100% true. And secondly, for most secular people who are largely unfamiliar with the Bible, it is generally assumed that the Bible is filled with errors. Even if they’ve never seen or looked for an error in the Bible before, this is what they would believe. It is very likely that at some point in your life, if you try to talk to a non-Christian about the trustworthiness of the Bible, they will likely say something like, “How can you trust a Bible that’s full of contradictions?”
“You believe the Bible is perfectly true? Well a Muslim would say the same thing about the Koran. All religions say something like that.” And the assumption is that any claim of authority is ridiculous. Now, you have to understand that people have reasons why they feel the way they do. There are so many examples of people or institutions that can’t be trusted, that people are naturally skeptical about anyone or anything claiming to be 100% true. And secondly, for most secular people who are largely unfamiliar with the Bible,
Many people falsely assume by default that the Bible is filled with errors.
Even if they’ve never seen or looked for an error in the Bible before, this is what they would believe. It is very likely that at some point in your life, if you try to talk to a non-Christian about the trustworthiness of the Bible, they will likely say something like, “How can you trust a Bible that’s full of contradictions?”
How do you answer someone who says that? I think the best thing you can do is sit down with that person, and have a conversation. Don’t shove a copy of the Faith and Order, or the Chicago Statement into their hands. Instead, sit down and talk to them about it.
First of all, ask them “What contradictions did you have in mind?” Many times, you’ll find that people really don’t know of any specific contradictions. They simply are repeating what they’ve heard from teachers or professors, or from TV. Tell them that if there are any contradictions that they know of, to let you know, and you can tell them the answer, or look into it. And if that sounds daunting, ask me their question, and we can look together! Again, many times, people don’t even have a contradiction in mind when they make the statement that the Bible is full of errors. They just are repeating misinformation.

Clearing Up Common Misconceptions

But another way you can help someone to understand the inerrancy and trustworthiness of the Bible is by clearing up misconceptions.
Inerrancy, in its strictest sense, refers to the original documents that were written by the biblical authors.
So, what that means is if someone made an error in one of the copies of the Bible, decades or centuries after the originals were written, that does not destroy inerrancy. For example, let’s say that in 200 years after Mark was written, a monk somewhere in Egypt was copying the Gospel down, and he wrote Paul instead of Peter in a particular verse. That does not destroy the doctrine of inerrancy. When we say that the Bible is inerrant, we made the original autographs as they were written, not all of the thousands of copies that were made afterward. And in a future week, we’ll talk about how the Bible was copied and transmitted through the ages, so that even if one copyist made one error, we can usually tell pretty easily, through the 1,000’s of other manuscripts that exist, which variation is the error, and which is correct.
Inerrancy allows for several different liberties in the Biblical record.
Approximations
Loose quotations of the Old Testament
Different emphases when recording the same event.
Phenomenological language (language used to describe phenomena experienced by a human author.)
by a human author.)
For example - sunrise and sunset
Figures of speech.
Faithful recordings of inaccurate points of view, evil actions or incorrect attitudes of biblical characters.
For example - Job’s friends
None of these are errors. In fact, we use these types of expressions all of the time and we wouldn’t consider ourselves to be in error. This is all helpful for us to remember what inerrancy means.
None of these are errors. In fact, we use these types of expressions all of the time and we wouldn’t consider ourselves to be in error. This is all helpful for us to remember what inerrancy means.
But with all of that being said, we do affirm that the Bible is free from error in all factual matters and judgments.
Now, again, different people react to that statement differently. For me, I love inerrancy! I love doctrine! And so for me, if someone challenges me on it, I will take it as a challenge to find the answer and dialog with that person. But I know that for some Christians - and maybe you’re included in this - the doctrine of inerrancy might give you a bit of anxiety. It might seem overwhelming to you, if someone were to challenge you on this.
Andy Stanley, the teaching pastor of the megachurch, North Point Community Church, in Georgia, and also the son of TV preacher Charles Stanley, preached a very controversial sermon in November of last year, where he argued against speaking to non-Christians about the authority of the Bible, because he said, ‘defending the Bible is too much for an average Christian to bear’. Stanley argues against saying things like, ‘for the Bible tells me so’, and so on. Well, I disagree with Stanley strongly on this point. The Bible is God’s Word, and if someone asks you why you believe what you believe, you can tell them: “The Bible tells me so, and I believe the Bible is the Word of God”. You don’t have to be embarrassed by that. You can say that proudly. And you don’t have to know every answer to every question that a non-Christian might throw at you.
But I would like to give you one more additional reason why you can trust the Bible, why you can believe in inerrancy. And I hope this is helpful to you, and it actually connects with somethings that Pastor Reed said in his sermon two weeks ago. Two weeks ago, he was in , and he quoted verse 12 which says, “But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me."
Pastor Reed said the key is that Paul didn’t just know what he believed, but who he believed and trusted in. And so this morning, as we think about the Scriptures, I want to ask you, do you trust Jesus Christ? Do you trust Jesus? If so, then you can trust Scripture. Here’s why.

Do you trust Jesus? If so, you can trust the Bible

Jesus implicitly trusted Scripture. When he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Jesus quoted Scripture.
"And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’ ”"
So in one of his most difficult times of trial, where did Jesus turn to for strength? The Bible. He didn’t need to defend it or justify it. He just quoted it.
Jesus taught his followers that Scripture cannot be broken.
"Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?"
Jesus taught, and fully believed himself, that Scripture is truth.
“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. 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."
Jesus prayed for you and I, that we would grow in the Word of God, because he knew it was truth.
"They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth."
So here’s the bottom line - This morning, I’m not asking you so much if you trust a doctrine. But rather, I’m asking, do you trust Jesus? Like Paul, consider who it is that you have believed.

External Evidence for Inerrancy

There is one final piece of evidence that I want to share with you this morning, as to why you can trust the Bible to be inerrant. That is what is known as external evidence. You see, so far we’ve talked about the internal evidences for inerrancy - namely, the Bible claims itself to be inerrant. And Jesus, as he is recorded in the Scripture, held the Bible to be authoritative and true.
But let me just show you some reasons from outside of the Bible (external evidences), which demonstrate the Word of God to be true. Specifically, I’d like to look at archaeology.

The Tel Dan Stele

For centuries, non-Christian scholars doubted the Bible because they said no outside evidence had ever been found for the existence of King David, or his dynasty. Liberal scholars, up until the 20th century even, dismissed the stories about David as myths. But then, in 1993, a stele was found (spelled s-t-e-l-e). This is a tall, narrow slab made of stone or wood, usually inscribed or carved in relief with names, laws, pictures, designs, or dedications for the dead. This stele was found in an excavation site located on the ancient Israelite city of Dan. And so this monument is known as the Tel Dan Stele (a tel is a mound of dirt that covers an ancient city). And on this monument, several words were recorded, among them being the words, “the house of David”. It also mentions Hadad and Joram (who are mentioned in 1 and 2 Kings). And thus, even after hundreds of years of people doubting that the Bible was reliable, and showed itself to be true. This find verified that there was a house of David, a line of Kings in Israel that traced themselves to David.

The Pontius Pilate Inscription

Here’s a second one - related to Pontius Pilate. You all know him, right? He was the Roman official who sentenced Jesus to death. And you know, people often mock Christians as believing a bunch of myths or a bunch of fairy tales. But myths don’t leave behind archaeological evidence. Yet, here we see just another bit of evidence, showing that the Bible didn’t just make things up. Here we have an inscription with Pontius Pilate’s name. He wasn’t an invented character. He wasn’t a literary device. He was a real person. And here is his inscription, with the English translation.

The Caiaphas Ossuary

The next bit of archaeological evidence that we have is the Caiaphas Ossuary. Caiaphas was the leader of the Sanhedrin from A.D. 18-36. He presided over the late night trial of Jesus in , before Jesus was taken to Pontias Pilate. Well, in 1990 a bone box was found by accident in Jerusalem, near the Temple site. Actually, there were 12 bone boxes buried together. But inscribed on the most ornately decorated bone chest or ossuary was the inscription found in two places, “Qafa” and “Yehosef bar Qayafa,” i.e., “Caiaphas,” and “Joseph, son of Caiaphas.” The historian Josephus gives his full name as “Joseph, who is called Caiaphas of the high priesthood.” Inside the ossuary were the bones of six people, including one 60-year-old man, who most would believe to be Caiaphas.
Why does all of this matter? Well you see, for those who call the Bible a fairy tale or a myth - myths don’t go to the trouble of naming the names of governors, and years, and cities, and ruling officials, especially if the authors are trying to pass their work off as truth. That’s because, the more details you provide, the easier it would become for someone to disprove it. Because there would have been people who lived during the reign of Pilate, or during the reign of Caiaphas. If Jesus didn’t live, or wasn’t put to death on a cross, or didn’t rise again, other people at the time would have known it. You wouldn’t go to the trouble of trying to careful set the life of Jesus in secular history. BUT, if the Bible really is true, then all of those details are in place to show that these events really DID happen. And time and time again, archaeology demonstrates the reliability of the Bible.
You see, myths don’t go to the trouble of naming the names of governors, and years, and cities, and ruling officials, especially if the authors are trying to pass their work off as truth. That’s because, the more details you provide, the easier it would become for someone to disprove it. Because there would have been people who lived during the reign of Pilate
Can archaeology prove inerrancy? No, of course not. But it provides us with good evidence to support the doctrine of inerrancy.

Conclusion

God can be trusted. The Bible claims itself to be authored by God. And if that is the case, then it is a reflection of His character. God cannot lie. Since God can be trusted, and therefore, we can have complete confidence and trust in the Bible as well.
Let us pray.
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