Here’s the notes from last night, finishing up our studies about the nature of scripture and how God speaks to us in it.
Week 1: We saw that When God speaks, it can be written down.
- Sometimes he literally audibly spoke
- Sometimes he worked within authors so that what they wrote was what he wanted write
This is what the authors of the bible claim is the case for what they wrote.
In other words: there is nothing about the bible that prevents it from being the actual word of God from him to us. Humanity did not mess up the divinity.
Claim: The Bible is God’s word. When we read it, it is his speech to us.
Week 2: When God speaks, he can be understood.
Though there are some difficult parts of the Bible, and though there are some disagreements about what some things mean, nevertheless, the bible is clear about what we must believe and how we must obey. There is nothing that prohibits God form communicating clearly and effectively to us, and the bible indicates this is exactly what he did.
This week: When God speaks, he can be trusted.
Assertion: The bible reveals a God who…
- Is able to communicate to us.
- Has shown a desire and a decision to communicate with us
- Actually has communicated with us, throughout history
- Has shown that he communicates clearly and effectively
- Has shown himself to be perfectly, faithful and trustworthy, at all times.
…Therefore, since the bible is communication from this God, and since nothing about the medium or the authors presents any barrier to this God communicating, this bible must be totally trustworthy, faithful, and true at all times.
Definitions of Inerrancy:
“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.” (CSBI)
“Inerrancy means that when all facts are know, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences.” (Feinberg)
“Scripture is inerrant because the personal word of God cannot be anything other than true. When he gives us propositional information—and he certainly does—that information is reliable, though expressed in ordinary, not technical, language. The written Word, further, is just as inerrant as the oral message of the prophets and apostles. And their word is just as inerrant as the divine voice itself.” (Frame)
Ps 12:6, Ps 19:7-11, Ps 119:142, 151, 119:160, Pr 30:5, Mt 5:17-18, Mt 12:38-42, Mt 19:4-5, John 17:17
Responses to some common objections:
- Scripture never claims to be “inerrant.” True: in the sense that there is no Greek or Hebrew sentence that could be translated “The scripture is without any error.” But then, the bible also never anywhere says, “The Bible has mistakes.” It never says, “You will one day find that some of the things which are reported as true in here didn’t actually happen, or they’re actually are not from God, but just people doing their best, so you’ll have to use your knowledge you’ve gained from other places in order to discern what is really true and what’s not.” And, the bible never says, “Once Jesus came, he showed us that a lot of the things that we thought were from God were actually not. So use what you think he meant to see what is really from God and what is just human.” In other words, you can’t use the “the bible never says” argument here. Instead, you have to just see what the bible actually says, and see what the authors of scripture (and the Holy Spirit through them) actually said about what they were writing. And what they say is that a God who is totally faithful, all, knowing, unlimited in ability, and completely without sin or mistake, communicated to or through them. In other words, what they wrote is the words of God, and those words have the same qualities God has.
- To say the bible has no errors is to ignore the actual issues scripture has. In other words, the bible has issues—errors, contradictions, inconsistencies, issues with science, and moral problems. The only way to reply to this in short is to say that any and all of these issues that are brought up have been thought through and answered by Christians over the last 2000 years. And they have all been answered again at a modern academic level in the last few generations. There is nothing new that catches Christians off guard. In other words, the only issues people ever bring up are issues which have great explanations.
- But what about all the copying and mistakes over the years? Christians only ever claim that the text of the original manuscripts are without error. But any faithful copy which reproduced the text of the original would also be without error. So there’s no problem with copies just because they’re copies. And now, 2000 years later, even though we do have different manuscripts which differ in some things, we have a situation where we have thousands of those documents, and are able to tell where the mistakes are. And none of the major or minor teachings of scripture are affected by any of the differences. In other words, we might not know what the exact word order of a verse was, but we do know exactly what happened and exactly what message the writers were trying to convey.
- We don’t need the bible to be without error. We can know God anyway. Maybe, but do we have any indication in scripture that God would have done things this way? Do we have any reason to believe he left errors for us to discover, and left it to us to figure out what they were? This objection ignores the fact that without a totally reliable witness to the things God has said and done, we have to either give up the ability to really have confidence in what we can know about God, or we have to give something other than the bible the status of inerrant. We have to say that our minds have the power to know what is true, and that we can trust our own thoughts. We have to pick some final authority. The scripture claims to be that final authority.
- It’s not about the bible, it’s about Jesus. We all understand the sentiment. Jesus saves us, not the bible. But this also assumes that there is some kind of conflict between Jesus and the bible. It assumes that Jesus saves us apart from the bible. And it assumes that Jesus would agree with that statement. But in fact, the only record of Jesus thought we have, the New Testament, shows us that Jesus did not have this attitude towards the bible. He saw himself as fulfilling it, obedient to it, and totally in line with it. In other words, what the Bible says, Jesus says. Jesus and the bible are an inseparable team.
Application: Not discouraging thought or questioning, but encouraging confidence, boldness, and action.
Mt 7:24-27, Rev 22:7-20.
The aim: Confidence in God’s character as totally trustworthy, coupled with confidence in the word of God as totally reliable, leading to confidence that obeying his commands leads to experiencing his promises, leading to an excitement and ability to resist temptation, risk persecution, make sacrifices, and step out in bold faith and do things for God.