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  • Love and Liberty

Biblical Inerrancy

“Help, Lord; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men. They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak. The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things: Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?

For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him. The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.” (emphasis added)

In an effort to defend the concept of biblical inerrancy, some will refer to the words of Psalm 12:6-7 which are emphasized above. Before I address the topic of biblical inerrancy, I would like to address the words found in the twelfth Psalm. I believe it is an error to claim these two verses are referring to the preservation of scripture as some claim.

With Barnes, I believe the subject of verse seven is not “the words of the LORD” in verse 6, but the people referred to in verse 5. As God said, on their behalf he will arise (vs. 5), will set them in safety (vs 5), will keep them (vs. 6), and preserve them (vs. 6). The poor and needy were safe in his hands. This generation of wicked men would oppress them, but the poor and needy were safe in God’s hands forever, that is constantly, or for as long as they would need his protection. Remember, the word forever in the Bible means only for as long as the conditions pertaining to the subject being spoken of exists, not necessarily time without end. It is a word that expresses continuity. An error that people make is they try to define biblical words with dictionaries instead of learning how the word is used in the scriptures. Looking for the meaning of terms as they are used in the scriptures will help us tremendously. The point of these verses is that the people did not need to fear the worldly men who were in positions of power, for God was their refuge. They could trust the words of the LORD on this, for his words are pure.

Biblical Inerrancy

It is important to understand that people do not always mean the same thing when they speak of scriptural inerrancy, scriptural infallibility, and scriptural inspiration. Some believe the Bible is without error in every way in all matters, that is, it is infallible in that it cannot be wrong in any way and be the Word of God (view #1) – science, history, dates, morality, every word and every letter is perfectly in place (in the original languages), etc., while others believe the Bible is inerrant in that it accurately reveals who God is, what his purpose is, and what our obligations are (view #2), and if men wrote down their understanding of science, dates, numbers, etc., but were inaccurate, it doesn’t change the fact that the theological, moral, and historical proclamations in the scriptures are infallible. Some reject that the historicity of the scriptures is completely factual, or more precisely, that what we may think is a historical event may in fact just be an allegory or parable (view #3). Though there are allegories and parables in the Bible, and they are rather easy to identify, those who take this view think that even the books of Jonah, Job, and Esther may only be parables. (C.S. Lewis held to this view, at least at one point). Of course, some try to change or even throw out the theology and morality of the Bible (view #4), but in doing so they are rejecting the faith.

Are there any passages of scripture that teach God inspired every single word that would comprise the First Testament and New Testament canon?

The Bible says: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…”, but some do not think that inspiration (being God-breathed) guarantees inerrancy in every detail, believing that God did not literally dictate every single word, but inspired the biblical writers, who had their own personalities and writing techniques, to convey truth. Others take it that God-breathed means God indeed dictated every single word of the biblical writers.

If view #2 were true, would it cause you to lose confidence in the Bible? Have modern theologians placed the doctrine of scriptural inspiration under a burden it was not meant to bear? I believe in the inspiration of the scriptures, but must I believe every minute detail was dictated by God? Also, if there is a minor, inconsequential, non-theological error would it mean I cannot trust the scriptures? Even if view #2 is true, it would not dampen my faith, it would not make the Bible less authoritative. If a date was slightly off, or a number was recorded inaccurately, or a name was misspelled, or one’s understanding of the stars was different than it is today, none of this would change my mind about the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

I believe that when I am holding a faithful translation of the Bible today that I am holding the Word of God, even if God did not dictate every single word that was written, and even though translations are not word-for-word perfect.

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