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Definition of Inerrancy

Inerrancy  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  1:05:47
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Definition of Inerrancy Lesson # 1

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The subject of inerrancy is directly related to the authority of Scripture and inspiration because the Scriptures declare that it is inspired by God and bears the authority of God and consequently, they are inerrant.
In other words, because the Scriptures are inspired by God, they are authoritative and inerrant.
There are two English words that are employed to express the nature of the Bible’s authority, namely “inerrant” and “infallible.”
Though these two words are nearly synonyms, they are used differently by different groups.
For example, the Roman Catholic Church applies the term “inerrant” to the Bible but “infallible” to the church and specifically to the teaching of the pope.
Protestantism rejects the idea of the infallibility of the pope but of course applies the term “inerrant” to the Scriptures.
In fact, Protestantism is of the conviction that the Scriptures are the ultimate authority for the Christian rather than some teacher or ecclesiastical organization.
Some today have used the term “infallible” for what B.B. Warfield viewed as limited inspiration and what they call limited inerrancy meaning that they limit the Bible’s inerrancy to matters of faith and practice but not when it comes to matters of history and science.
The subject of inerrancy has stirred a considerable amount of controversy within the church in recent years.
Some have claimed that inerrancy is a new concept in the church.
Consequently they are of the conviction that inerrancy is irrelevant to the tradition of orthodoxy in the church and is not an essential article of faith.
However, the belief that the Bible is free from errors appears in the writings of Augustine, Luther, Calvin and Warfield and Hodge.
Some argue that the term inerrancy is not found in the Bible and is not taught in the Bible.
However, these individuals fail to see that the Trinity is a term which does not appear in the Bible either, yet no evangelical Christian would deny the doctrine of the Trinity!
The doctrine of inerrancy is implied by the view of the Bible found within the Bible.
The doctrine of the inerrancy of the Scripture means that in its original autographs the Bible contains no mistakes.
In the original languages in which it was written, it is absolutely infallible—without error.
This has been the position of all the confessions of the great evangelical churches down through the years.
Inerrancy means that the Bible in its original autographs is entirely true in all that it affirms regardless of the subject matter and does not contain any false affirmations.
The original autographs are inerrant because they are inspired by God.
Consequently, the Bible in its original autographs bears the authority of God Himself and are the ultimate authority over the Christian.
J. Hampton Keathley III writes “The word inerrancy means ‘freedom from error or untruths.’ Synonyms include ‘certainty, assuredness, objective certainty, infallibility.’ But doesn’t the concept of inspiration automatically imply inerrancy? So we might ask the question, ‘Why this section on the inerrancy of the Bible?’ Ryrie has an excellent explanation in answer to this question. Formerly all that was necessary to affirm one’s belief in full inspiration was the statement, ‘I believe in the inspiration of the Bible.’ But when some did not extend inspiration to the words of the text it became necessary to say, ‘I believe in the verbal inspiration of the Bible.’ To counter the teaching that not all parts of the Bible were inspired, one had to say, ‘I believe in the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Bible.’ Then because some did not want to ascribe total accuracy to the Bible, it was necessary to say, ‘I believe in the verbal, plenary, infallible, inerrant inspiration of the Bible.’ But then ‘infallible’ and ‘inerrant’ began to be limited to matters of faith only rather than also embracing all that the Bible records (including historical facts, genealogies, accounts of Creation, etc.), so it became necessary to add the concept of ‘unlimited inerrancy.’ Each addition to the basic statement arose because of an erroneous teaching.[1] Clarifying the definition of inerrancy has become necessary because many have, in very subtle ways, retained words like inspiration, infallible, and even inerrant in speaking about the Bible while denying its freedom from error.”[2]
When approaching the subject of a definition for inerrancy we must make certain qualifications.
First of all, inerrancy allows for a variety in style.
For instance, John has a simple style of writing which we would expect from a fisherman.
Luke wrote his gospel and Acts in a more sophisticated style because he was in fact a doctor and a formally educated man.
So the various styles of the human authors of Scriptures is compatible with inerrancy.
Secondly, inerrancy permits a variety in details with regards to explaining a particular event.
We see this in the Synoptic Gospels where each of these three gospels presented their view or perspective regarding a particular event.
They would be speaking of the same event but would communicate different details regarding it because they viewed it from a particular standpoint and only presented those details which would contribute to the purpose of their gospel.
We must remember Jesus spoke Aramaic and yet the Gospel writers wrote in Greek.
Thus they had to translate Jesus’ words into Greek which resulted in one writer using slightly different words to describe the same event, but both would give the same meaning, yet with different words.
So the details would be different but both accounts would be accurate.
Thirdly, inerrancy does not require or demand a verbatim report of events.
The Gospel writers were not stenographers.
When they quote Jesus, they were not using tape recorders or equipment used by stenographers today.
Rather, they communicated in their Gospels the gist of what Jesus said but under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit which guaranteed the accuracy of what the Lord said.
J. Hampton Keathley III writes “A verbatim quote could not be demanded for several reasons. First, as already mentioned, the writer had to translate from Aramaic to Greek in recording Jesus’ words. Second, in making reference to Old Testament texts it would have been impossible to unroll the lengthy scrolls each time to produce a verbatim quote; furthermore, the scrolls were not readily available, hence, the freedom in Old Testament quotes (William R. Eichhorst, The Issue of Biblical Inerrancy: In Definition and Defence, Winnipeg, Man.: Winnipeg Bible College, n.d., p. 9).”[3]
Another point we must note regarding inerrancy is that it allows for departure from what would be considered good grammar or standard forms of grammar.
This would mean that inerrancy allows for mixed metaphors which is frowned upon in English grammar.
In John 10:9, the Lord declares “I am the door” but then in verse 11 He says “I am the Good Shepherd.”
English grammar would consider this a mixed metaphor.
However, this is not a problem for the Hebrew and Greek languages.
Inerrancy also permits for problem passages which don’t appear to have any solution meaning that there are some passages which have problems that appear to indicate the Bible is factually in error.
However, as history has shown, either an archaeologist makes a find which resolves a problem or a linguist’s research has resolved a problem.
J. Hampton Keathley III writes “The solution to some problems must be held in abeyance. The answer, however, is never to suggest there are contradictions or errors in Scripture. If the Scriptures are God‑breathed they are entirely without error.”[4]
Lastly, inerrancy demands an account in the Bible does not teach error or contradiction.
J. Hampton Keathley III again explains, “In the statements of Scripture, whatever is written is in accord with things as they are. Details may vary but it may still reflect things as they are. For exam­ple, in Matthew 8:5‑13 it is noted that the centurion came to Jesus and said, ‘I am not qualified.’ In the parallel passage in Luke 7:1‑10 it is noted that the elders came and said concerning the centurion, ‘He is worthy.’ It ap­pears the elders first came and spoke to Jesus, and later the centurion him­self came. Both accounts are in accord with things as they are.”[5][6]
[1] Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology, Victor Books, Wheaton, IL, 1987, electronic media.
[2] Bibliology, The Doctrine of the Written Word, Biblical Studies Press, 1997; www.bible.org, pages 21-22.
[3] Bibliology, The Doctrine of the Written Word, Biblical Studies Press, 1997; www.bible.org, page 23.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Enns, pp. 167-168.
[6] Ibid.
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