“Is the Bible inerrant?”, my professor wrote on the board, and a spirited discussion in my first Ph.D. seminar began. Some classmates said the Bible has errors, some said it doesn’t matter and I, and a few others, argued that the Bible is inerrant and it matters very much indeed. I am more convinced of the inerrancy of the Bible than ever and it has affected my personal life and ministry tasks greatly.
Every generation of theologians, pastors and Christians has to deal with this doctrine. Inerrancy, at it core, says “The Bible is without error or fault in all its teaching”. (Geisler) Is the Bible true or not? Is all of it true, or are only parts true? These questions must be grappled with in every age and by every serious Bible teacher.
Does inerrancy still matter and, if so, why does it matter? Here are three simple reasons why the doctrine of inerrancy still matters for this generation.
1. It describes the nature of the Bible. When we say the Bible is inerrant, we are recognizing that it comes from God and not just from man. While God used human authors, God himself is the ultimate author. Scripture is “God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) and not just man conceived.
Inerrancy notes that the Bible is perfect and perfectly reliable and only perfect God can do that. God is able to use imperfect men to give us exactly what we need and to do this perfectly. God is by nature sovereign and perfect. He is able, therefore, to use imperfect people like Moses and Paul to accomplish his purposes and to give us his perfect word.
If the Bible is just the ideas of people, well the world is full of ideas from people. And social media often suggests that the ideas of people can be less than edifying- some of the things I see on social media seem downright crazy! But if the Bible is truly God’s word, then we can trust God to give us exactly what we need and to give us his perfect word. We have, in the Bible, the perfect thoughts of God and not the imperfect ideas of people.
2. It defines the importance of the Bible. If the Bible is just another imperfect book, we might be inspired from it, but we are unlikely to transformed by it. If it is just another imperfect book, we take the parts we like and leave the parts that we don’t much care for, like those old beets in the buffet line.
If, however, the Bible is inerrant, we see that it is the source of truth. It teaches us the truth that we need even if that truth may be unpopular or difficult.
Truth transcends culture. Popularity and public opinion is not what should guide or instruct us. Truth is what we need and God teaches us the truth by giving us the Bible so that we know how we ought to live and what we ought to do. The Bible becomes the arbiter or right and wrong, not elections, polls or pragmatism. We are reminded of how much we need to know God’s word and how valuable it is for us for life and eternity.
3. It delineates the arguments about the Bible. Arguing about the Bible, and pretty much everything else in life, seems to be a pastime for Christians these days. But what determines if our arguments are right or wrong? Is it determined by who talks the fastest or the loudest? Is is based on feelings or personal sensibilities? Is it determined by what is currently popular or acceptable?
Inerrancy suggests the argument is defined by what the Bible teaches, not what man says. We know whether the arguments made are accurate by how well they match the scripture and not by how winsome or influential the arguer may be. The world’s way of arguing is to shout louder. The Christian way should be to study scripture more deeply.
Inerrancy does not end the argument, but it does delineate how that argument should be made. Imperfect people can still disagree about what the perfect word of God says. But at least we begin to formulate the parameters for how we should seek to know the truth and to help others know the truth.
I’m glad I argued for the inerrancy of scripture all of those years ago. This doctrine has helped me to be more obedient to God’s word in my personal life and more faithful to God’s word in my ministry life. But every generation needs to reaffirm the importance of inerrancy because every generation has to grapple with what is good, right and true.
Inerrancy still matters.