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Week 5 - Inerrancy
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The Inerrancy of Scripture

Most systematic theologies do not dedicate a whole chapter to inerrancy but Grudem, recognizes the problem we face today.

Why do you believe he feels this is necessary?

To begin with Question 1 asks “Before you read the chapter, how did you define inerrancy?

For me it is" The Bible is without error in the original authorial intent.

The Meaning of Inerrancy

Scripture helps us to begin defining this”

The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times” (Ps. 12:6).

This indicates the absolute reliability and purity of Scripture. Similarly,

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him” (Prov. 30:5)

This indicates the truthfulness of every word that God has spoken. Though error and at least partial falsehood may characterize the speech of every human being from time to time, it is the characteristic of God’s speech even when spoken through sinful human beings that it is never false and that it never affirms error.

“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind” (Num. 23:19)

This was spoken by sinful Balaam specifically about the prophetic words that God had spoken through his own lips.

Now, at the end of the chapter, how would you define inerrancy?

‌Grudem defines it as:

the inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.

This definition focuses on the question of truthfulness and falsehood in the language of Scripture. The definition in simple terms just means that the Bible always tells the truth, and that it always tells the truth concerning everything it talks about.

This definition does not mean that the Bible tells us every fact there is to know about any one subject, but it affirms that what it does say about any subject is true.

It is important to realize at the outset of this discussion that the focus of this controversy is on the question of truthfulness in speech. It must be recognized that absolute truthfulness in speech is consistent with some other types of statements, such as the following:

1. The Bible Can Be Inerrant and Still Speak in the Ordinary Language of Everyday Speech

This is especially true in “scientific” or “historical” descriptions of facts or events. The Bible can speak of the sun rising (Ps. 113:3; James 1:11) and the rain falling (Isa. 55:10; Matt. 7:25) because from the perspective of the speaker this is exactly what happens. From the standpoint of an observer standing on the sun (were that possible) or on some hypothetical “fixed” point in space, the earth rotates and brings the sun into view, and rain does not fall downward but upward or sideways or whatever direction necessary for it to be drawn by gravity toward the surface of the earth. From the standpoint of the speaker, the sun does rise and the rain does fall, and these are perfectly true descriptions of the natural phenomena the speaker observes.‌

A similar consideration applies to numbers when used in measuring or in counting. A reporter can say that 8,000 men were killed in a certain battle without thereby implying that he has counted everyone and that there are not 7,999 or 8,001 dead soldiers. If roughly 8,000 died, it would of course be false to say that 16,000 died, but it would not be false in most contexts for a reporter to say that 8,000 men died when in fact 7,823 or 8,242 had died: the limits of truthfulness would depend on the degree of precision implied by the speaker and expected by his original hearers.‌

This is also true for measurements.

We should also note that language can make vague or imprecise statements without being untrue. Someone can say, “I live a little over a mile from my office,” which is a vague and imprecise statement, but it is also inerrant: there is nothing untrue about it. It does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact. In a similar way, biblical statements can be imprecise and still be totally true. Inerrancy has to do with truthfulness, not with the degree of precision with which events are reported.

2. The Bible Can Be Inerrant and Still Include Loose or Free Quotations

The method by which one person quotes the words of another person is a procedure that in large part varies from culture to culture. In contemporary American and British culture, we are used to quoting a person’s exact words when we enclose the statement in quotation marks. But when we use indirect quotation with no quotation marks we only expect an accurate report of the substance of a statement.

Written Greek at the time of the New Testament had no quotation marks or equivalent kinds of punctuation, and an accurate citation of another person needed to include only a correct representation of the content of what the person said : it was not expected to cite each word exactly. Thus inerrancy is consistent with loose or free quotations of the Old Testament or of the words of Jesus, for example, so long as the content is not false to what was originally stated. The original writer did not ordinarily imply that he was using the exact words of the speaker and only those, nor did the original hearers expect verbatim quotation in such reporting.

3. It Is Consistent with Inerrancy to Have Unusual or Uncommon Grammatical Constructions in the Bible

If it were left up to us to imagine what an inerrant Bible would be like, we might say that it would have a consistently elegant, magnificent literary style throughout with no misspelled (or irregularly spelled) words and no deviations from accepted grammatical rules. But the Bible nowhere claims to be “perfect” in things such as style, grammar, or spelling. What it claims is that its statements are truthful (see the verses cited above). In fact, what we find in the Bible is a wide variety of writing styles. Some of the language is elegant and stylistically excellent. Other scriptural writings contain the rough-hewn language of ordinary people.

Challenges to Inerrancy‌

In this section we examine the major objections that are commonly made against the concept of inerrancy.

1. Objection: The Bible Is Only Authoritative for Matters of “Faith and Practice”

One of the most frequent objections to inerrancy is raised by those who say that the purpose of Scripture is to teach us in areas that concern “faith and practice” only

They mean by this that the Bible only speaks about what we believe and how we then should live because of this belief.

This position would allow for the possibility of false statements in Scripture, for example, in other areas such as in minor historical details or scientific facts—these areas, it is said, do not concern the purpose of the Bible, which is to instruct us in what we should believe and how we are to live.

Since about the mid-1960s, the advocates of this view have been willing to say that the Bible is “infallible,” but they have hesitated to use the word inerrant.

The response to this objection can be stated as follows: the Bible repeatedly affirms that all of Scripture is profitable for us (2 Tim. 3:16) and that all of it is “God-breathed.” Thus it is completely pure (Ps. 12:6), perfect (Ps. 119:96), and true (Prov. 30:5). The Bible itself does not make any restricti

A second response to those who limit the necessary truthfulness of Scripture to matters of “faith and practice” is to note that this position mistakes the major purpose of Scripture for the total purpose of Scripture. To say that the major purpose of Scripture is to teach us in matters of “faith and practice” is to make a useful and correct summary of God’s purpose in giving us the Bible.

But as a summary it includes only the most prominent purpose of God in giving us Scripture. It is not, however, legitimate to use this summary to deny that it is part of the purpose of Scripture to tell us about minor historical details or about some aspects of astronomy or geography, and so forth.

2. Objection: The Term Inerrancy Is a Poor Term

People who make this second objection say that the term inerrancy is too precise and that it denotes a kind of absolute scientific precision that we do not want to claim for Scripture, since it contains the everyday speech of ordinary people, round numbers, and free quotations. Furthermore, those who make this objection note that the term inerrancy is not used in the Bible itself. Therefore, it is probably an inappropriate term for us to insist upon.

The response to this objection may be stated as follows: first, the scholars who have used the term inerrancy have defined it clearly for over a hundred years, and they have always allowed for the “limitations” that attach to speech in ordinary language.

Second, it must be noted that we often use nonbiblical terms to summarize a biblical teaching. The word Trinity does not occur in Scripture, nor does the word incarnation. Yet both of these terms are helpful because they allow us to summarize in one word a true biblical concept, and they are therefore helpful in enabling us to discuss a biblical teaching more easily.

Finally, in the church today we seem to be unable to carry on the discussion around this topic without the use of this term. People may object to this term if they wish, but like it or not, this is the term about which the discussion has focused and almost certainly will continue to focus in the next several decades. When the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) in 1977 began a ten-year campaign to promote and defend the idea of biblical inerrancy, it became inevitable that this word would continue to be the one about which discussion would proceed. The “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” which was drafted and published in 1978 defined what most evangelicals mean by inerrancy, perhaps not perfectly, but quite well, and further objections to such a widely used and well-defined term seem to be unnecessary and unhelpful for the church.

3. Objection: We Have No Inerrant Manuscripts; Therefore, Talk About an Inerrant Bible Is Misleading

Those who make this objection point to the fact that inerrancy has always been claimed for the first or original copies of the biblical documents. Yet none of these survive. What is the benefit, then, of placing such great importance on a doctrine that applies only to manuscripts no one has?

In reply to this objection, it may first be stated that for over 99 percent of the words of the Bible, we know what the original manuscript said. Even for many of the verses where there are textual variants (that is, different words in different ancient copies of the same verse), the correct decision is clear, and there are very few places where the textual variant is both difficult to evaluate and significant in determining the meaning.

For most practical purposes, then, the current published scholarly texts of the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament are the same as the original manuscripts.

Thus, when we say that the original manuscripts were inerrant, we are also implying that over 99 percent of the words in our present manuscripts are also inerrant, for they are exact copies of the originals.

Furthermore, we know where the uncertain readings are (for where there are no textual variants we have no reason to expect faulty copying of the original).

Thus, our present manuscripts are for most purposes the same as the original manuscripts, and the doctrine of inerrancy therefore directly concerns our present manuscripts as well.

But the original manuscripts are those to which the claims to be God’s very words apply. If we have mistakes in the copies, then these are only human mistakes. But if we have mistakes in the original manuscripts, then we are forced to say not only that human beings made mistakes but also that God made a mistake and spoke falsely. This we cannot do.

Bart Ehrman - Logical fallacy of equivocation.

4. Objection: The Biblical Writers “Accommodated” Their Messages in Minor Details to the False Ideas Current in Their Day and Affirmed or Taught Those Ideas in an Incidental Way

This objection to inerrancy is slightly different from the one that would restrict the inerrancy of Scripture to matters of faith and practice, but it is related to it. Those who hold this position argue that it would have been very difficult for the biblical writers to communicate with the people of their time if they had tried to correct all the false historical and scientific information believed by their contemporaries. Therefore, they claim, when the biblical writers were attempting to make a larger point, they sometimes incidentally affirmed some false ideas (such as scientific ideas) that were believed by the people of their time.

For example, although Jesus said that the mustard seed “is the smallest of all seeds” (Matt. 13:32), Fuller said that “the mustard seed is not really the smallest of all seeds, yet Jesus referred to it as such because to the Jewish mind of Jesus’ day … the mustard seed denoted the smallest thing the eye could detect. Were Jesus not to have accommodated himself thus to the Jewish mind but to have drawn instead upon his omniscience to state what was indeed the smallest seed, what he said would then have failed to enhance communication with his hearers about the all-important revelational matters of faith and the kingdom of God.”8

To this objection to inerrancy it can be replied, first, that God is Lord of human language and can use human language to communicate perfectly without having to affirm any false ideas that may have been held by people during the time of the writing of Scripture. This objection to inerrancy essentially denies God’s effective lordship over human language.‌

Second, we must respond that such “accommodation” by God to our misunderstandings would imply that God had acted contrary to his character as the God who “never lies” (Titus 1:2; cf. Num. 23:19; Heb. 6:18).

It is not necessary to agree with Daniel Fuller that Jesus affirmed a falsehood when he said that the mustard seed “is the smallest of all seeds” (Matt. 13:32). An important principle of biblical interpretation is that we should understand words to mean what the original hearers and readers would have taken them to mean at that time and in that culture. In this case, Fuller has misunderstood what the word seed would have meant to an agrarian people living in first century Palestine. When Jesus spoke of seeds, they would not have understood him to be speaking about all the hundreds of thousands of kinds of botanical seeds that might someday be found in all the plants on the earth. They would rather have understood him to be speaking about agricultural seeds, seeds which they would plant in the earth to grow crops.

5. Objection: Inerrancy Overemphasizes the Divine Aspect of Scripture and Neglects the Human Aspect

This more general objection is made by those who claim that people who advocate inerrancy so emphasize the divine aspect of Scripture that they downplay its human aspect.

I agree that Scripture has both a human and a divine aspect and that we must give adequate attention to both. However, those who make this objection almost invariably go on to insist that the truly “human” aspects of Scripture must include the presence of some errors in Scripture. We can respond that though the Bible is fully human in that it was written by human beings using their own language, the activity of God in overseeing the writing of Scripture and causing it to be also his words means that it is different from much other human writing in precisely this aspect: it does not include error. That is exactly the point made even by sinful, greedy, disobedient Balaam in Numbers 23:19: God’s speech through sinful human beings is different from the ordinary speech of men because “God is not man that he should lie.” Moreover, it is simply not true that all human speech and writing contains error, for we make dozens of statements each day that are completely true. For example: “My name is Wayne Grudem.” “I have three children.” “I ate breakfast this morning.”

6. Objection: There Are Some Clear Errors in the Bible

This final objection, that there are clear errors in the Bible, is either stated or implied by most of those who deny inerrancy, and for many of them the conviction that there are some actual errors in Scripture is a major factor in persuading them to challenge the doctrine of inerrancy.

In every case, the first answer that should be made to this objection is to ask where such errors are. In which specific verse or verses do these errors occur? It is surprising how frequently one finds that this objection is made by people who have little or no idea where the specific errors are but who believe there are errors because others have told them so.

In other cases, however, people will mention one or more specific passages where, they claim, there is a false statement in Scripture. In these cases, it is important that we look at the biblical text itself, and look at it very closely. If we believe that the Bible is indeed inerrant, we should be eager and certainly not afraid to inspect these texts in minute detail. In fact, our expectation will be that close inspection will show there to be no error at all. Once again it is surprising how often it turns out that a careful reading just of the English text of the passage in question will bring to light one or more possible solutions to the difficulty.

In a few passages, no solution to the difficulty may be immediately apparent from reading the English text. At that point it is helpful to consult some commentaries on the text. Both Augustine (AD 354–430) and John Calvin (1509–64), along with many more recent commentators, have taken time to deal with most of the alleged “problem texts” and to suggest plausible solutions to them. Furthermore some writers have made collections of all the most difficult texts and have provided suggested answers for them.

There are a few texts where a knowledge of Hebrew or Greek may be necessary to find a solution, and those who do not have firsthand access to these languages may have to find answers either from a more technical commentary or by asking someone who does have this training. ‌

But while we must allow the possibility of being unable to solve a particular problem, it should also be stated that there are many evangelical Bible scholars today who will say that they do not presently know of any problem texts for which there is no satisfactory solution.

Finally, a historical perspective on this question is helpful. There are no really “new” problems in Scripture. The Bible in its entirety is over 1,900 years old, and the alleged “problem texts” have been there all along. Yet throughout the history of the church there has been a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture in the sense in which it is defined in this chapter.

Examples of Some Difficult Texts‌

At this point it will be useful to examine three specific passages where people have thought there might be an historical error in Scripture (in addition to the “mustard seed” passage which I discussed above). The first example is rather simple, and I include it merely to illustrate how I would think through different possible explanations, but the other two are among the most challenging difficulties that have been raised against the doctrine of inerrancy.

1. The Order of Jesus’ Temptations (Matt. 4:3–8; Luke 4:3–9)

In Matthew, the order of temptations is (1) bread, (2) temple, (3) worship:

And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” …

Then the devil … set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down …”

Again, the devil … showed him all the kingdoms of the world.… And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” (Matt. 4:3–9)

But in Luke, the order of temptations is (1) bread, (2) worship, (3) temple:

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” …

And the devil … showed him all the kingdoms of the world … and said … If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” …

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here.” (Luke 4:3–9)

Which gospel tells us the order in which the events actually occurred? It is difficult to be certain. Our first impression is that Luke has arranged the events for a thematic purpose and does not intend to tell us the order in which they occurred because he just joins the events with “and” without indicating a sequence. By contrast, Matthew seems to suggest a chronological sequence with “then” in verse 5 and “again” in verse 8.

But further study of these adverbs shows that they need not always signal chronological sequence, and Matthew elsewhere tends to arrange events for topical purposes without implying strict chronological order, so there are also some arguments that Matthew is the one who has arranged the events for a thematic purpose, not chronologically. In any case, this is not a serious challenge to inerrancy because at least one of the authors has simply used a thematic arrangement of the temptations and has not claimed otherwise.

2. The Order of Theudas and Judas (Acts 5:34–39)

Some readers have thought that Luke (the author of Luke-Acts) made a historical error in reporting a speech by Gamaliel:

But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, … stood up … And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” (Acts 5:34–39)

In this case, Luke clearly specifies a chronological sequence with the words “after him” (Greek meta touton, “after this one”). The difficulty with this passage is that it seems to conflict with the Jewish historian Josephus, writing in AD 95, who also talks about the Jewish revolutionaries Theudas and Judas, but he puts Judas first and Theudas second, opposite the order in Acts:

But a certain Judas … from a city named Gamala … threw himself into the cause of rebellion. (Jewish Antiquities 18.4; he is called a Galilean in Jewish War 2.118)

Then recounting a later period, Josephus writes,‌

During the period when Fadus was procurator of Judea, a certain imposter named Theudas persuaded the majority of the masses to take up their possessions and to follow him to the Jordan River.… Fadus, however … sent against them a squadron of cavalry.… Theudas himself was captured, whereupon they cut off his head and brought it to Jerusalem. (Jewish Antiquities 20.97–98)

So Josephus says that Theudas came after Judas the Galilean, but Acts 5:34–37 says Theudas came before Judas. Does this indicate a historical error in the Bible?

One suggestion is that Gamaliel himself is the one who got the names mixed up and Luke simply quoted Gamaliel’s mistake accurately. But Gamaliel was a prominent Jewish leader at the time of these rebellions, so it is highly unlikely that he got these names mixed up.

Another suggestion is that Luke mistakenly switched the order of the names, but that does not matter, because what is important is the “punchline” of the episode, which is Gamaliel’s statement, “If this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them” (Acts 5:38–39). Grudem cannot accept that explanation, however, because it would require me to agree that Scripture is not truthful in some of the historical details that it reports, and that would mean that I no longer hold to biblical inerrancy in historical details. It would require me to agree that God’s Word does not always speak the truth.

Some have suggested that Josephus made the mistake and erroneously placed the rebellion of Theudas during the time when Fadus was procurator of Judea. Eckhard Schnabel says, “Josephus may be wrong about dating Theudas to the governorship of Fadus.” Such a mistake would not be impossible, for Fadus was procurator AD 44–46, and Josephus was writing fifty years later, about AD 95.

However, a better solution, it seems to me, is that Gamaliel in Acts 5 and Josephus are speaking about two different men, both of whom have the name of Theudas. Schnabel writes, “Theudas is a name that is not as infrequent as some have supposed. Since the name is not uncommon, it is possible, in theory, that there was an earlier Theudas” (than the one mentioned by Josephus).

This then would be the sequence of events (with approximate dates):

Before AD 6: Rebellion by the first Theudas (Acts 5:36)

AD 6: Rebellion by Judas the Galilean from Gamala (Acts 5:37 and Josephus, Antiquities 18.4)

AD 33–34: Gamaliel speaks in defense of the apostles, mentioning the first Theudas and Judas the Galilean (Acts 5:34–39)

AD 44–46: Rebellion by the second Theudas (Gamaliel could not have mentioned this rebellion ten years before it happened)

AD 62: Luke wrote Acts

AD 93–95: Josephus published Jewish Antiquities, mentioning rebellions by Judas the Galilean and the second Theudas

The main objection to this solution is that there is no other historical record of a rebellion by a first Theudas before AD 6. But our record of many of the events in first century Judea is incomplete, and therefore that is not a decisive objection.

In conclusion, this passage presents one of the most difficult challenges for inerrancy, and yet there are at least two reasonable solutions. It seems to me far easier to accept one of these solutions (especially the second one) than to agree that there are untruthful historical statements in the Bible.

3. Take Sandals and a Staff or Don’t Take Sandals or a Staff? (Matt. 10:9–10; Mark 6:8–9; Luke 9:3)

Upon first reading the parallel accounts in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, it appears that the accounts conflict with each other. In Matthew, Jesus says not to take sandals or staff, but in Mark, he says they should take a staff and wear sandals. Then Luke says not to take a staff:

Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. (Matt. 10:9–10)

He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts—but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. (Mark 6:8–9)

And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.” (Luke 9:3)

If we only had the accounts in Matthew and Mark, there would be a rather simple solution. In Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples not to “acquire” (that is, not to go out and purchase) an extra pair of sandals and an extra staff, “for the laborer deserves his food” (v. 10). This last clause explains that as they travel and preach, people will provide for their needs, so there is no need to bring extra sandals and an extra staff. Then in Mark, another part of the same conversation seems to be recorded, where Jesus clarifies that, of course, he expected them to take along the staffs they had and to wear sandals on the journey (it is highly unlikely that Jesus commanded them to travel barefoot on the rocky roads in first century Palestine, which would have made travel terribly painful and slow).

But can the statement in Luke be reconciled with this solution? It is certainly possible that Luke 9:3 has a similar meaning to Matthew 10:9–10. In both passages, Jesus is telling them not to take along extra supplies (such as “bread” or “money” or “two tunics,” Luke 9:3), because people will provide for their needs. Therefore, in Luke as in Matthew, Jesus tells the disciples not to take along an extra staff.

One objection to this interpretation is that Luke uses the same Greek verb as Mark, and therefore we should conclude that there is a direct contradiction: Mark says to “take” a staff and Luke says not to “take” a staff. However, this objection is not persuasive because the verb airō (“take”) is not a technical term with only one specialized usage in the New Testament, for it is a very common verb (it occurs 101 times in the New Testament). There is no reason that the same verb could not be used to say “take the staff you have” (Mark) and “take no extra staff” (Luke), if that is a suitable meaning in the two contexts.18 (Later, Luke 10:4 says not to “carry” sandals-presumably an extra pair—which is also similar in meaning to the prohibition of acquiring sandals in Matt. 10:10.)

Another objection is that it would be unlikely for someone to carry an extra staff on a journey. My reply is that we really don’t know how likely or unlikely this would be. Already in the early church a number of scribes who copied the gospel of Matthew, and who were more familiar with ancient travel customs than we are, apparently thought that Jesus was prohibiting bringing along more than one staff, because quite a few ancient manuscripts have the plural word “staffs” (Greek rhabdous, plural) in Matthew 10:10,19 and that is the wording followed in the KJV (“staves”) and NKJV (“staffs”) still today.20

In conclusion, a reasonable solution is that in Mark Jesus tells the disciples that they can wear sandals and carry a staff, but in Matthew and Luke he tells them not to acquire extra sandals or an extra staff.

At this point, readers should ask themselves if they find these solutions to these last two difficult problems for inerrancy to be reasonably possible solutions. If so, I do not think that they will encounter any other passages that present more difficult challenges to inerrancy than these. There are several other passages that interpreters have used to claim that there are historical errors or contradictions in Scripture, but to my knowledge, all of them have reasonable solutions that are readily available in the academic commentaries.21

Problems with Denying Inerrancy‌

The problems that come with a denial of biblical inerrancy are not insignificant, and when we understand the magnitude of these problems it gives us further encouragement not only to affirm inerrancy but also to affirm its importance for the church. Some of the more serious problems are listed here.‌

With respect to the previous section where I discussed some challenges to inerrancy, I could add that the difficulty of thinking that Gamaliel was referring to an earlier revolutionary named Theudas in Acts 5:36, or the difficulty of thinking that Jesus was telling his disciples not to take along an extra staff in Luke 9:3, seem to me to pale into insignificance when compared with the difficulty of saying that some of God’s words in Scripture are not completely truthful.

1. If We Deny Inerrancy, a Serious Moral Problem Confronts Us: May We Imitate God and Intentionally Lie in Small Matters Also?

This is similar to the point made in response to objection #4, above, but here it applies not only to those who espouse objection #4 but also more broadly to all who deny inerrancy. Ephesians 5:1 tells us to be imitators of God. But a denial of inerrancy that still claims that the words of Scripture are God-breathed words necessarily implies that God intentionally spoke falsely to us in some of the less central affirmations of Scripture. But if this is right for God to do, how can it be wrong for us? Such a line of reasoning would, if we believed it, exert strong pressure on us to begin to speak untruthfully in situations where that might seem to help us communicate better, and so forth. This position would be a slippery slope with ever-increasing negative results in our own lives.

2. If Inerrancy Is Denied, We Begin to Wonder If We Can Really Trust God in Anything He Says

Once we become convinced that God has spoken falsely to us in some minor matters in Scripture, then we realize that God is capable of speaking falsely to us. This will have a detrimental effect on our ability to take God at his word and trust him completely or obey him fully in the rest of Scripture. We will begin to disobey initially those sections of Scripture that we least wish to obey, and to distrust initially those sections that we are least inclined to trust. But such a procedure will eventually increase, to the great detriment of our spiritual lives. Of course, such a decline in trust and obedience to Scripture may not necessarily follow in the life of every individual who denies inerrancy, but this will certainly be the general pattern, and it will be the pattern exhibited over the course of a generation that is taught to deny inerrancy.

3. If We Deny Inerrancy, We Essentially Make Our Own Human Minds a Higher Standard of Truth Than God’s Word Itself‌

We use our minds to pass judgment on some sections of God’s Word and pronounce them to be in error. But this is in effect to say that we know truth more certainly and more accurately than God’s Word does (or than God does), at least in these areas. Such a procedure, making our own minds to be a higher standard of truth than God’s Word, is the root of all intellectual sin.22

4. If We Deny Inerrancy, Then We Must Also Say That the Bible Is Wrong Not Only in Minor Details but in Some of Its Doctrines as Well

A denial of inerrancy means that we say that the Bible’s teaching about the nature of Scripture and about the truthfulness and reliability of God’s words is also false. These are not minor details but are major doctrinal concerns in Scripture.

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Chapter Review

1. Before you read the chapter, how did you define inerrancy? The Bible is without error in the original authorial intent.

2. Explain the difference between saying the Bible always tells the truth and saying that it tells us every fact precisely.

3. What is the difference between infallibility and inerrancy? The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact, while infallibility means the idea that Scripture is not able to lead us astray in matters of faith and practice.

4. Define original manuscript:


5. Why can we have confidence in the original manuscripts even though we do not have copies of them?

6. Describe textual variants in a way that a layperson in the church could understand:

7. Now, at the end of the chapter, how would you define inerrancy?


8. What do you think is the strongest argument for inerrancy? Restate it in your own words.


9. Do you agree with Grudem’s list of problems with denying inerrancy? What would you add or take away?


10. How does confidence in the inerrancy of the Bible help you engage the text of the Bible devotionally?

11. As you finish this chapter, thank God for the truthfulness and trustworthiness of his Word.