"This paper will carefully examine the relevant affirmations and denials in those documents [1978-99 Council on Biblical Inerrancy] to expose the ambiguous wording that opened the door for these old-earth views. I will then document a number of examples to show how leading inerrantists unknowingly and unintentionally have violated the principles that they endorsed in those two documents." - AiG
"An affirmation of biblical truth, which would include the affirmation of complementarianism, has to be rooted in a joyful biblical theology that is grounded in God’s purpose in creating human beings in His image, His purpose in making us male and female, instituting marriage, and the gift of sexuality." - CBMW
In this excerpt from the book Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy, Peter Enns shares his initial thoughts about inerrancy from his essay, entitled, “Inerrancy, However Defined, Does Not Describe What the Bible Does.”1
The Bible is the book of God for the people of God. It reveals and conceals, is clear yet complex, open to all but impossible to master. Its message clearly reflects the cultural settings of the authors, yet it still comforts and convicts across cultures and across time.
The Bible is a book that tells one grand narrative, but by means of divergent viewpoints and different theologies. It tells of God’s acts but also reports some events that either may not have happened or have been significantly reshaped and transformed by centuries of tradition. It presents us with portraits of God and of his people that at times comfort and confirm our faith while at other times challenge and stretch our faith to its breaking point.
This is the Bible we have, the Bible God gave us. Redefining or nuancing inerrancy to account for these properties can be of some value, and some are no doubt content to do so. The core issue, however, is how inerrancy functions in contemporary evangelical theological discourse. This too varies, but when all is said and done, I do not think inerrancy can capture the Bible’s varied character and complex dynamics.
Read Part 1.
Let us consider the full import of Christ’s words in John 17:17:
Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.
Jesus is praying to the Father regarding the sanctifying of His disciples. He tells the Father “Your word is truth.” This “word” is the same “word” which will sanctify them. They have kept it (v.6) as it was given them (v.14), but where is this word? I maintain it is Scripture (v.12), and this text associates the word with God’s own holy and truthful character. There is no room for human frailty.
This text also separates Jesus from the Scripture. Jesus is going away, but the word of the Father must now keep His disciples. Thus, it is a mistake to too closely equate Jesus the Word with the Scriptures. There does exist a close connection between the two, but we cannot push the association too far. Indeed, we cannot push it even as far a personification. The Scriptures are the written product of the Divine revelation, but they are a product all the same.
The battle over the inerrancy of Scripture hasn’t and isn’t going away. We must decide how we will approach the Bible – what our working assumptions will be. If “all Scripture is God-breathed” then all Scripture has the insignia of God upon it. This would be the bare-bones theological deduction from the relationship between the two.
For the human element to be lifted above the Divine element so as to enjoy equal ultimacy over the resultant production of Scripture requires an alteration to Scripture’s own self-witness. This is the reason why those who reject the idea of inerrancy (and I am far from rejecting all their work on account of their error), often plead in the vacuum of unaided reason.
Taking one prominent broadly evangelical theologian as an example, Donald Bloesch wrote,
This is the last portion of the “Exposition” section from the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. It gets right to the heart of the issue about inerrancy. For some recent media resources about the inerrancy issue, see the 2015 Shepherd’s Conference and Ligonier’s 2015 Winter Conference.
Infallibility, Inerrancy, Interpretation
Holy Scripture, as the inspired Word of God witnessing authoritatively to Jesus Christ, may properly be called infallible and inerrant. These negative terms have a special value, for they explicitly safeguard crucial positive truths.
lnfallible signifies the quality of neither misleading nor being misled and so safeguards in categorical terms the truth that Holy Scripture is a sure, safe, and reliable rule and guide in all matters.
Similarly, inerrant signifies the quality of being free from all falsehood or mistake and so safeguards the truth that Holy Scripture is entirely true and trustworthy in all its assertions.
Our understanding of the doctrine of inerrancy must be set in the context of the broader teachings of the Scripture concerning itself. This exposition gives an account of the outline of doctrine from which our summary statement and articles are drawn.
Creation, Revelation and Inspiration
The Triune God, who formed all things by his creative utterances and governs all things by His Word of decree, made mankind in His own image for a life of communion with Himself, on the model of the eternal fellowship of loving communication within the Godhead. As God’s image-bearer, man was to hear God’s Word addressed to him and to respond in the joy of adoring obedience. Over and above God’s self-disclosure in the created order and the sequence of events within it, human beings from Adam on have received verbal messages from Him, either directly, as stated in Scripture, or indirectly in the form of part or all of Scripture itself.