By gaining a thorough understanding of inerrancy Christians will be better equipped to understand and communicate what we believe and why we believe it. The purpose of the paper is to determine the proper concept and approach to biblical inerrancy. Several definitions and concepts of inerrancy will be discussed. Also, different conceptions of inerrancy; including absolute, full, limited and inerrancy of purpose will be examined. The different approaches to biblical inerrancy and the strengths and weaknesses Of each will also be listed.F-room the research a conclusion will be ran as to which concepts and approaches to inerrancy are the most biblical and offer the most balance while maintaining the credibility of the church, the scriptures, and the Lord our God.
INERRANCY DEFINED In order to gain an understanding of inerrancy it becomes necessary to determine the meaning of its root, error. The Merriam-Webster dictionary lists several definitions for the word error. The first definition describes error as an action.It is defined as: an act involving an unintentional deviation from truth or accuracy; an act that through ignorance, deficiency or accident departs from or fails to achieve what should be done. The second definition refers to error as a quality or state; the difference between an observed or calculated value and a true value; a deficiency or imperfection in structure or function. 1 For the purposes of this paper, the implication of ‘error will include both of the above definitions.These definitions support the dual nature of inerrancy; the Bible does not contradict itself, nor does it lie.
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The doctrine of inerrancy is supported by the principle that the Scriptures are the direct Word of God. The Bible is completely true because God cannot lie. Therefore, scripture “truly and properly speaking God’s Word, it will not chive nor err. “2 The word “inerrancy’ derives from the Latin inerrant which means “not wandering” or “fixed. It is defined as “the theological conviction that the Bible is completely truthful and accurate in every respect about all it affirms.
“3 One of the most prominent declarations on biblical inerrancy is found in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which affirms: 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 events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness o God’s saving grace in individual lives. Finger gives an equally in depth definition: “inerrancy means that when all facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences. “5 Several scholars and theologians have also proposed similar definitions.Erickson defines inerrancy as the doctrine that “The Bible, when correctly interpret in light of the level to which culture and the means of communication had developed at the time it as written, and in view of the purpose for which it was given, is fully truthful in all that it affirms. “6 Elmer Towns writes that the Bible is “accurate, reliable, authoritative and without error. “7 Perhaps the simplest definition is offered in Charles C. Erie’s Basic Theology in which he writes, “the inerrancy of the Bible means simply that the Bible tells the truth. “8 Several terms have been used synonymously or in conjunction with inerrancy.
The most common of these is the term ‘infallible. ‘ While at one point they were used synonymously, recent definitions make a distinction between the two. Infallibility is defined as “that which will not deceive or lead to error;”9 “the quality of being unfailing or not liable to fail. ” 10 Stephen Andrew uses the following distinction: “The Bible is inerrant if and only if it makes no false or misleading statements on any topic whatsoever. The Bible is infallible if and only if it makes not false or misleading statements on any matter of faith and practice. 1 1 Helm goes on to clarify that, “Inerrancy focuses our attention exclusively on questions of truth and falsehood, whereas the older term, “infallibility,” when applied to Scripture, lays emphasis upon the fact that the Bible is an unfailing guide to whoever may read it, and especially to the Christian and the church, for the purpose for which it was given.
1 2 Inspiration; that which moves humans to receive divine truth,1 3 is also frequently applied to the inerrancy debate. Historically, the church has always held to the inerrancy of the Bible.From the time of Jesus, the Scriptures have been regarded as the authoritative, inspired Word of God; “God’s speaking in written form. “14 God’s Word can be depended on because God is dependable. Consequently, inerrancy and inspiration have a direct relationship. 5 CONCEPTS OF INERRANCY The meaning of inerrancy has been hotly debated among scholars and theologians alike.
Several variations exist on what inerrancy should entail. Millard Erickson notes, “The term inerrancy means different things to different people, who contend over which position properly deserves to be called by that name. 16 Each of these conceptions attempts to explain the meaning of inerrancy. Absolute Inerrancy Perhaps the most rigid stance on the meaning of inerrancy is that of Harold Lindsey. In his book The Battle for the Bible, Lindsey asserts that the Bible does not contain error of any kind. “1 7 This is the concept of absolute inerrancy, which is defined by Erickson as is the position ‘that the Bible, which includes rather detailed treatment of matters both scientific and historical, is fully true.
Absolute inerrancy holds that everything in is intentional?that the Bible set out to give an accurate accounting of specific historical and scientific events, and that any contradiction found in the Bible can and must be explained. In fact, Lindsey goes to great measures to reconcile several biblical discrepancies commonly pointed out; noting that while they can retainer be explained, accuracy must be judged based on the context of the time in which it was written. 19 Full Inerrancy Similar to but less rigid than absolute inerrancy, is the concept of full inerrancy.
Full inerrancy differs from absolute inerrancy in that it maintains that while the Bible did not set out to give historical and scientific data, the historical and scientific accounts of the Bible are indeed accurate. This view takes into account the fact that biblical authors were in fact human; the historical and scientific aspects of the Bible are correct although not necessarily exact. Erickson describes them as “popular descriptions,” and “general references;” noting that “what they teach is correct in the way they teach it.
20 Limited Inerrancy Limited inerrancy draws a distinction between doctrinal verses and those which are merely human observations. Under its umbrella, the Bible is fully true in all of its galvanic doctrines; but its historical and scientific data is limited to the understanding of times of its day. Like full inerrancy, the concept of limited inerrancy recognizes the humanity of biblical authors; noting that God did not reveal scientific or historical matters which were not of biblical once. 21 Inerrancy of Purpose Inerrancy of purpose is somewhat similar to limited inerrancy in that it makes distinctions.However, this position distinguishes isolates the verse which help the Bible to fulfill its purpose, seeing all other material as incidental. Inerrancy of purpose maintains that the purpose of the Bible is to bring people to salvation and a personal relationship with God rather than to convey truth.
Therefore, the Bible is completely inerrant in accomplishing this purpose. CRITIQUE OF CONCEPTS OF INERRANCY One asset for those who hold to absolute inerrancy is the position of great that from which they come. Such strong faith is certainly admirable and necessary to uphold such a staunch position.Absolute inerrancy supporters believe that the Bible cannot contain errors and be trustworthy at the same time. Those things which may seem to be errors in the Bible are merely difficulties which can be explained; however explanations must be limited to the understanding of the time in which it was written. This is where apparent weaknesses come into play, as formulating an explanation for every difficulty will undoubtedly take a considerable amount of effort. Also, current explanations for the various difficulties in the Bible are certainly limited to the understanding of current times.
Lindsey devotes an entire chapter to reconciling biblical discrepancies; a famous example being his explanation of the Molten Sea discrepancy. In Chronicles 4:2 the diameter and circumference of the sea is listed as 10 cubits and 30 cubits respectively. 22 However, the circumference of a circle is known to be 3.
14. Linseed’s explanation for this discrepancy is that the circumference of the Molten Sea was actually measured from the inside. As logical and accurate as Linseed’s ethos and results seem, his explanation was still limited to his own understanding of pi-3. 4. This seems to defeat his assertion that accuracy of the Scripture must be judged according to the prevailing standards of the time.
“23 There is also no solid way to prove that Lindsey is inerrant in his explanation. Both limited inerrancy and inerrancy of purpose maintain that the Bible is inerrant in matters related to salvation. However, there must be some unified principle to determine what things are to be considered related and irrelevant. Therefore, both include a measure of subjectivism. It also mess that the word “limited” invalidates the word “inerrancy. If he meaning of inerrant is that which does not err, limiting that implies that error is indeed a possibility.
Of the several conceptions of inerrancy, the position of full inerrancy offers the most balance and credibility. Full inerrancy holds to the inerrancy of the Bible while allowing for certain writings to be estimations or even descriptions of how certain events occurred. Like inerrancy of purpose, full inerrancy maintains that the Bible accurately accomplishes its purpose; however full inerrancy supports do not believe the Bible to purposefully satirical or scientific.