Throughout history, the church has rarely seen an attack on the inerrancy, inspiration and authority of the Bible of the magnitude of modern debates—debates which really only gained academic credibility in the last two centuries and popular consensus within the last generation. And make no mistake, the attack against inerrancy is inextricably linked to inspiration—certainly in the way we have traditionally responded to our critical scholars. By proving the words of the Bible are accurate, we are, at the very least implicitly, answering the attack on the inerrancy of Scripture. Therefore, the answers to inerrancy and inspiration will be given together.
Inspiration, like its sister doctrine, inerrancy, is not something invented by theologians and forced on the church—the arguments for them arise from the Bible and are based upon the internal consistency of the Bible. And make no mistake, the Scriptures are equated with God’s revelation in words (Matt. 19:4-5; Heb. 3:7; Acts 4:24-25; see also 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21).
This truth is something that we have seen throughout this series, most recently in Aaron’s post offering a definition of verbal plenary inspiration. My goal in this post is to build upon these truths we’ve already discussed by addressing the question of how Jesus understood (and understands) the Bible before looking at four important conclusions on the matter of why this doctrine really does matter.
How Jesus Understood (and Understands) the Bible
As we look to Scripture, it’s crystal clear that Jesus recognized the authority and inerrancy of Scripture—indeed, the way he uses it explicitly affirms their inspiration. He made constant appeal to it when tempted by Satan (Matt. 4:1-11) and used it often in his ministry to defend his actions (Matt. 11:15-17, 26:54-56). This demonstrates the authority Jesus placed in the Scriptures, but we are not left to make assumptions on the basis of Jesus’ actions alone. He, on at least four occasions taught the Scriptures in such a way as to make clear His position on inerrancy.
In a confrontation with the Sadducees over the doctrine of the resurrection, which that group denied, Jesus silenced His opposition, arguing the entire resurrection belief on the tense of a simple verb, “to be” (Matt. 22:32). Jehovah had told Moses at the burning bush, “I am the God of Abraham,” but as Jesus implied, Abraham had been dead 480 years when the statement was made. Arguing that God was the God of the living, not the dead, Jesus claimed life after death must be true. Jesus used the tense of a verb to prove Abraham was not simply physically dead, but was living in the presence of God. The fact that Jesus used a word and it’s tense to demonstrate His deep confidence in inspiration and inerrancy.
The final statement of Jesus that we will look at pertaining to inerrancy occurred during His Sermon on the Mount. In identifying His relationship to the Law, Jesus said, “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” (Matt. 5:18). Most scholars agree the reference to a jot and tittle referred to the yod, the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet and a small id distinguishing several similar letters. Dr. Gaussen notes, “All the words of Scripture, accordingly, even to the smallest stroke of a letter, are no less than the words of Jesus Christ.”1 Dr. Ed Young notes, “If, therefore, the inspiration of the Bible is plenary, it should be evidence that it is one which extends to the very words.”2
Five Truths About Why Inerrancy Matters
The question of ultimate authority is of tremendous importance for Christians, which is why understanding it matters so much. By way of conclusion, I want to look at five ways that inerrancy affects our Christian lives:
First, inerrancy governs our confidence in the Truth of the Gospel. A pilot will ground his aircraft even on suspicion of the most minor fault, because he is aware that one fault destroys confidence in the complete machine. If the history contained in the Bible is wrong, how can we be sure its doctrine or moral teaching is correct? The heart of the Christian message is history. The Incarnation (God becoming man) was demonstrated by the Virgin Birth of Christ. Redemption (the price paid for our rebellion) was obtained by the death of Christ on the Cross. Reconciliation (the privilege other sinners becoming a friend of God) was gained through the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. If these recorded events are not true, how do we know the theology behind them is true?
Second, inerrancy governs our faith in the value of Christ. We cannot have a reliable Savior without a reliable Scripture. For example many people teach that the Gospels and that the recorded words of Christ are occasionally His. If this is true then how do we know what we can trust about Christ’s teaching? If this is the case as these teachers want God’s people to believe then it follows according to their logic that the Gospel stories are merely wishful thinking or the personal views of the Gospel writers. If this is the case then believers cannot base their faith on Jesus, but rather on the opinions of men.
Third, inerrancy governs our response to the conclusions of science. Those who believe the Bible has errors are quick to accept scientific theories that prove the Bible is wrong. When we allow the conclusions of science to dictate the accuracy of the Word of God one places the authority of science over the Word of God. The consequence of doing this results in having to invent new principles of interpreting Scripture in light of science turning history into poetry and facts into myths. Another result of this line of thinking is that people will not know how reliable a passage is but instead decide what to make out of it. On the other hand those who believe in inerrancy test all theories including scientific theories according to Scripture.
Fourth, inerrancy governs our attitude in the preaching of Scripture. Denying biblical inerrancy leads to a loss of confidence in Scripture in the pulpit and the pew. The problem is not science or education it is the cold deadness of theological liberalism. Doubting the Bible’s history opens one calling into question its words, which results in people losing confidence in Scripture. The people of God don’t want opinions they want to know what God has said from His Word.
Finally a church without the authority of Scripture is like a crocodile without teeth. It can open its mouth as wide and as often as it likes—but who cares? Thankfully, God has given us His inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word. His people can speak His Word with authority and boldness, and can be confident, because His Word contains His instructions for our lives.
Today’s post is a continuation of our series on the doctrine of inerrancy and is written by Dave Jenkins, Director of Servants of Grace.