Inerrancy and the Inspiration of Scripture

01 Jun


When I think of the Scriptures, I honestly believe that they are truth. I believe that we are to obey what Christ and the Apostles have taught. I believe reading and studying the Word of God is one of the most important parts of our christian walk or journey with God. The question that comes to my mind would be “Is the Bible inerrant or is the Bible inspired”? What do I mean by inspired? What I am referring to when I think about the Bible being inspired is that when the authors of the scriptures wrote the Bible, was the Holy Spirit in total control meaning that the Spirit controlled every stroke of the pen if you will that the authors utilized?
As far as I know the question of inerrancy arose as a fundmentalist response to the rise of “modernism” a couple hundred years ago. These modernists or liberals as they are now called challenged the inspiration, reliability and authority of the scriptures. When this challenge was made fundamentalists arose to defend these things, appealing to a concept that they called “inerrancy.” In my mind it has never been clear whether this term “inerrancy” means “without error” or “incapable of erring.”

Let’s suppose this term means both meanings and see what the conclusion would be. First, if “inerrancy” means “without error”, then it only means that all statements in the Bible are correct, and are therefore reliable. I believe this idea is defensible, depending upon how we mean it. It may be true that there are mistatements in the Bible, including possible grammarical and other technical errors. However, this does not mean that the Bible’s teaching is untrue or unreliable in any way.

An example would be over in I Corinthians 1:14-16 which says “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name. Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other”.

Paul stated in I Corinthians 1:14 that in Corinth, he had only baptized Crispus and Gaius. Paul then corrects himself in verse 16 when he stated that he also baptized the househould of Stephanas. Therefore it can’t be said that the scriptures teach error in this case, because it contains both the error and the retraction or correction.

Secondly, If “inerrancy” means “incapable of erring” it would suggest the writers were operating under a supernatural influence that rendered them incapable of being mistaken. I know that many genuine Christians believe this view however, I do not see this view to be found in the scriptures. Now, this may be a reasonable inference about the Old Testament, insofar as it’s books were written by “holy men of God” who spoke as they were carried by the Spirit (see 2 Peter 1:21). Notice it does not say “holy men who “wrote” but rather “spoke” is the word. This passage in  2 Peter 1:21 is a reference to the Old Testament scriptures since that was all the apostles had at that time. There is reason to accept the inspiration of all or most of the New Testament material. Yes, Jesus did promise in John 14:24 that the Holy Spirit would lead them (the apostles) into all truth and would remind them of all that Jesus said. In addition, the application of the Old Testament prophecies to New Testament truth may be fully trusted, since Jesus “opened their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45). However, these two passages (John 14:24 and Luke 24:45) only refer to the fact that the apostles understood and remembered the truth accurately, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit. None of this though indicates any spiritual influence coming upon them at a particular moment that they put the pen to the parchment.

Once again, I do believe in the Bible. I do believe it is the truth of God. I also believe in the absolute authority of the scriptures. Since the scriptures are authoritative, Christians must submit to the teachings of the Apostles and prophets who were responsible for writing scripture. However, this belief does not necessarily demand a belief that the apostles writings as contained in the New Testament were either “inspired” in the same sense as the prophets, nor necessarily infallible. We see from the scriptures that Paul had to publically rebuke Peter – both of them apostles – which also means that one of them was certainly in the wrong (see Galatians 2:11). Paul confessed his knowledge was not exhaustive and that there were things that he did not know (see I Corinthians 13:9).

So how can we acknowledge the capability of the apostles to err and still believe in the absolute authority of the scriptures? Simply thus: “The boss may not always be right, but he is always the boss.” I do not believe that any misconceptions of any of the apostles have entered into their writings, since, by the time they wrote, they had pretty much settled most of their earlier confusion (such as that regarding circumcision of the Gentile converts). I am comfortable in believing every doctrine and every assertion in the Bible. However, if Paul had given instructions about which I was not sure of his “inspiration,” it would not give me a moment’s pause about obeying him nonetheless.

An apostle is an authoritative representative, to whom someone else has given the power of attorney to act on his behalf. In fact the word “apostle” means “one who is sent”. That is, the apostle must be sent by only Jesus Christ.

In John 20:21-23 Jesus said ” So Jesus said to them again,  Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them,  Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained. How did the Father send Jesus? Well, the Father gave Jesus all authority in heaven and on earth according to Matthew 28:18. Just as the Father had given Christ authority so also Christ delegates His authority to the apostles. To receive the apostles teaching is the same as receiving Christ Himself. So, it is less a matter of His inerrancy than one of who Jesus is, and what authority He has over my life. The same is trure of the apostles.

Now we know that in the scriptures Paul and the twelve were apostles of Jesus Christ. But what about other writers in the Bible such as Mark, Luke, Jude, or Hebrews? Were these writers apostles in the same sense. Well, we don’t know for sure. It does not appear that these men held equal status to that of the 12 apostles. One may ask, why we accept their writings? We accept their writings because these men traveled, labored, assisted in planting churches under the supervision so to speak of the apostles. When Mark wrote his gospel account, he was under the supervision of Peter. Luke was a follower and assistant of Paul for some time. Jude we know was the brother of Jesus and James. Whoever the writer of Hebrews was is clearly portrayed in scripture that he was a traveler with Timothy as it states in Hebrews 13:23. We know that Timothy was inseparable from Paul for some time, so we know that the writer of Hebrews must have been close to Paul.
What I am trying to point out, is that these men who were not considered part of the 12 apostles could not have produced their works without the knowledge and approval of the apostles with whom they closely associated. In conclusion, I am forced to believe that their books have the apostles approval. What the apostles approved, I am bound to approve as well.
Please feel free to comment on this article. I welcome your thoughts and knowledge regarding this subject.

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Posted by on June 1, 2012 in Inerrancy of Scripture


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