What is Inerrancy?

I guess the greater question is when talking about biblical inerrancy; —first & foremost what exactly is inerrancy?  Well, when you have discussions, on inerrancy it’s always good to start out by defining the term.  But that’s actually where the problem starts.  There is no one clear definition or interpretation on what biblical inerrancy is.  -Now to set the story straight, this does not imply Biblical literalism, which does not take into account textual criticism and grammatical error.  When we say that the Bible is the Word of God, does that imply that it is completely accurate, or does it contains insignificant inaccuracies in details of history and science or that it is perfect and inerrant without contextual or grammatical flaws?

What others say about the Bible & Inerrancy?

Here are some quotes about Inerrancy and what some of the so-called experts describe and define it as?

  • ·         “The inerrancy of the Bible means simply that the Bible tells the truth. Truth can and does include approximations, free quotations, language of appearances, and different accounts of the same event as long as those do not contradict.’ (Charles C. Ryrie, What You Should Know About Inerrancy, p. 16).

 

  • ·         “By this word we mean that the Scriptures possess the quality of freedom from error. They are exempt from the liability to mistake, incapable of error. In all their teachings they are in perfect accord with the truth.” -(E. J. Young, in his classic work on the inspiration of the Bible, gives us good definition of inerrancy)

 

  •  ·         “The word inerrancy means “freedom from error or untruths.” Synonyms include “certainty, assuredness, objective certainty, infallibility.”  -(J. Hampton Keathlye III)

 

  • ·         “Inerrancy.  Inerrancy does not mean everything in the Bible is literally true.  It does not mean everything in the bible is true.  But that everything the Bible teaches and affirms is true.”  -(William Lane Craig, Biblical Inerrancy Podcast on ReasonableFaith.com)

 

  • ·         “The very nature of inspiration renders the Bible infallible, which means that it cannot deceive us. It is inerrant in that it is not false, mistaken, or defective. -(Harold Lindsell, 1978)

 

  • ·         “Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.” -(Chicago Statement of Inerrancy)

 

 Many people also describe calling the Bible inerrant as saying Biblical inerrancy is about truthfulness and honesty not precision and accuracy.  Which borders more on biblical infallibility then inerrancy.  John Some consider this to be a lesser definition of inerrancy.  “‘Inerrant’ means there are no errors; ‘Infallible’ means there can be no errors.”  (John Frame, 2002).  Frame does allude that modern theologians insist on redefining what inerrancy is so that it actually says less than ‘inerrancy’. Now when it comes to the premise of biblical inerrancy, a good starting point is the  Chicago Statement of Inerrancy.   Here is sample, but vital part of the statement: 

We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from falsehood, fraud, or deceit.

We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.

We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.      

We deny that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.

The International Council on Biblical Inerrancy in its Chicago statement affirmed inerrancy in a brief statement that the “Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching.…” In 1978, a large gathering of American Protestant churches, including representatives of the Conservative, Reformed and Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Baptist denominations, adopted the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.  Then further explained inerrancy in detail and clarity in the rest of the statement.  In addition, according to this statement, only the original manuscripts are absolutely inerrant cause they are inspired and ‘god-breathed.’  Christians, who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, often reference this statement of belief by saying that only the original autographs (the original writings by the original authors) are, strictly speaking, without error.  But the process of transmission, however imperfect, is reliable enough to “faithfully represent the original,” such that no “essential element of the Christian faith” is compromised by the lack of original biblical wording.  And the majority of Christian theologians, philosophers, and scholars believe this and hold to this.  Click here to listen to John Dodson give a message on the subject.  However agnostic Bart Ehrman’s has an objection to this standard of inerrancy: What good does it do to say that the words are inspired (or inerrant) by God if most people have absolutely no access to these words? 

Now, when I think of inerrancy, I think of Occam’s Razor approach and I assume the most simple and elegant definition of inerrancy…..NO ERRORS.   “The theological basis of the belief of inerrancy, in its simplest form, is that as God is perfect, the Bible, as the word of God, must also be perfect, thus, free from error.” (New World Encyclopedia: Biblical Inerrancy)  In addition to that, I think some of the larger questions are:  Is inerrancy essential?  Is inerrancy biblical?  Is it right to believe in biblical inerrancy?  Am I interpreting inerrancy correctly? 

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About M. Rodriguez

When I first received Christ salvation, I made it a priority to read the whole bible and I did. But it was the Bible that made me question my faith. For I found it flawed and lacking. Due to this I launched a personal inquiry/investigation into my faith, and ultimately realized that the Christian God of the Bible was indeed man-made. Now I Blog about those findings and life after Christ.
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15 Responses to What is Inerrancy?

  1. Having read this, I don’t think we disagree on any important point. Particularly if your definition of inerrancy supports the Chicago Statement, which from this I infer that it does. When I held that the Bible was inerrant, I would have agreed with all of this, although I would have been very uneducated about the possibility of errors in transmission. I wasn’t aware we didn’t have the original manuscripts, back then.
    Anyway, I’ll add a postscript to my article at http://leavingfundamentalism.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/what-is-fundamentalist-christian/ to reflect this discussion.

  2. Interesting post. You may be interested to read the following related post: http://thirdmillennialtemplar.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/inerrancy/

    It’s from a rather Catholic perspective, but maybe you’d be curious to see how the issue looks from the other side of the Tiber.

  3. ignorantianescia says:

    This is very interesting. Not being an inerrantist nor having been raised as one, I was unaware there is such a diverse spectrum of definitions. And those are some good questions in the inal paragraph.

  4. I think the Chicago Statement contains much doublespeak….an example is Article X

    “ARTICLE X
    We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.

    We deny that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.”

    This is called making it up as you go along, in my opinion. It affirms something it can not know. It says the copies are the word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original. Problem is, we don’t have any original writings to compare to the copies. We can’t know this to be true unless we had an original copy. This is just window dressing for the copies we have (which have many contradictions).

    The denial is just an attempt to move the discussion past the issue. Again, how do you know that any essential element of the Christian faith is not affected by the absence of the autographs? How could you know this?

  5. I guess this answer confuses me. Not trying to be dense…do you mind elaborating? Are you saying the Bible is the word of God when someone has faith that it is? Or am I totally missing your point?

    • sorry didn’t mean to take so long to get back to you.

      When I say faith, I mean say believe without evidence.

      Hebrews 11:1
      FAITH= is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see

      the bible calls us to believe without evidence or have not seen. That is ultimately the foundation of religion, Christianity and the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is believing and believing what you have been told, even we were not really there.

      Romans 10:17- So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.

  6. Pingback: Inerrancy What is it? | Grahams of Montrose

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