Inerrancy Defined and Defended


As one who is eminently shake-able, I look daily and with great need to the unshakeable Word of God.  There’s no better place to turn when your heart has been shaken — Truth (with a capital “t”) is the solid foundation for a life of stability.  The #livefree Thursday community is pondering the word “shaken” today, and I’m joining the conversation.  Be sure to check out their great links as well.

From the earliest days of Christianity, the Bible was accepted as the Word of God, inspired and inerrant.  It was not until the 18th century that this belief came into question, but since that time, many mainstream evangelicals, people who believingly follow Jesus, have been shaken from their conviction that the Bible is truly “the living voice of God.”  In The Scripture Cannot Be Broken, John MacArthur has collected an anthology of fourteen articles, fourteen distinct voices attesting to the truth that Scripture is the very Word of God.  With publication dates ranging from 1946 to 1984, the authors, though diverse in style, are one in their adherence to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy of 1978.  The list of contributors reads like a who’s who of twentieth-century theological writers and thinkers, and I would recommend that a future edition include a brief biographical sketch of each contributor, either as an appendix or along with the bibliographical information accompanying their article.

This anthology is no over-simplified pledge-of-allegiance.  The writers acknowledge that our faith in God’s inerrant Word will involve “unresolved questions and difficulties with regard to the very content of this faith.”  Just as the transcendent mysteries of the Trinity and the incarnation “are not incompatible with unshaken faith, so the questions regarding inerrancy are often “the questions of adoring wonder rather than the questions of painful perplexity,” (Murray, p. 51).  Wherever my finite understanding comes into contact with God’s infinite grandeur, theology becomes the gateway to pure worship!

Inerrancy Defined

According to J.I. Packer, one of the murkiest issues in defining the inerrancy and infallibility of the Word of God is that “both have been so variously employed in theological discussions that they now bear no precise meaning at all,” (p. 97).  The Scripture Cannot Be Broken addresses objections, clears up misunderstandings, and fine tunes the reader’s understanding of God’s authorship and preservation of His words. Hearkening back to Augustine, Irenaeus, Origen, Aquinas, and a host of others, definitions of inerrancy center around the truth that the Scriptures are a reliable witness to the words and deeds of God through His inspired spokesmen and His incarnate Son, (Preus, p. 222).  Articles link inerrancy to inspiration, authority, and infallibility for clarification, since, in defining inerrancy, “we are attempting to do more than merely define a term, we are seeking to formulate a doctrine.”   Gordon R. Lewis offers an important analysis of inerrancy as it relates to infallibility:  The Bible is inerrant, i.e. errorless, in the truths it asserts; the Bible is infallible in its use of language (words) to affirm the truth that it conveys.

Inerrancy Defended

Given that inerrancy is foundational to orthodoxy, it is worthy of the thorough defense it receives from the pens of these fourteen essayists.  Their apologetics center around the witness of Scripture; i.e., the New Testament witnesses to the Old Testament and the organic unity of both testaments provides further internal evidence.  Evangelical biblicists are not dependent upon slick mano a mano argumentation whenever doubters raise a supercilious eyebrow.  To the objection that we are reasoning in a circle by allowing Scripture to speak for itself, John Frame (an author from the list for further study on page 329) replies that there is no system that does not involve circularity. For example,  if one starts with the presupposition that there is no God, every piece of evidence will serve to confirm that belief.

B.B. Warfield masterfully summarizes Christ’s and the sacred writers’ view of Old and New Testament Scripture, and Roger R. Nicole affirms the mystery that human instrumentality and divine influence could combine without compromise.  The authors provide abundant and satisfying argumentation and a rich store of Scriptural documentation for their positions, even addressing individual details such as the fact that although copyists did make errors, these inaccuracies affect no more than one one-thousandth part of the text and are insignificant in content.

Twentieth century writings on the doctrine of inerrancy are essential reading, but not because the truthfulness of Scripture is an end in itself.  As much as the heart craves a sure word, theology can never be a purely academic discipline.  The purpose of the Holy Scriptures is to make the reader “wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”  This is an intensely practical concern, for, in the words of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy:

“The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible’s own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.”

The timeless truth upheld in The Scripture Cannot Be Broken is this: God has spoken, and His Words are preserved for us in the pages of Scripture that we may know Him, obey Him, and love Him in truth.  Thanks be to God.

This book was provided by Crossway in exchange for my honest review.

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10 thoughts on “Inerrancy Defined and Defended”

  1. Love John MacArthur! Was just organizing the bookshelf last night and noticing how many of his we have…but now I think this one will be added : ) Thanks for the thorough and honest review!

    Blessings from #Thought-Provoking Thursdays

    Liked by 1 person

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