Inerrancy (2): Why It Is Necessary7 min read
The theologian who denies inerrancy is faced with certain foundational problems that he cannot wish away. He has to be inconsistent in how he interprets Scripture, he has to form a conviction about errors in the Bible apart from the Bible itself, and he has to nullify the true weight and authority of Scripture.
The liberal theologian would often claim personal reverence toward Scripture’s spiritual teachings, but he would not support inerrancy the scientific and historical realm. He arrives at a problem, however, because doctrine is based on history. This is not to say history merely illustrates doctrine (such as the brass serpent in John 3:14), but history actually defines doctrine in many cases. For instance, Romans 9, 10, and 11 are deeply theological, but they concern Israel’s past, present, and future – historical matters. Adam’s fall is both historical and theological as well. So are the virgin birth, miracles, Babel, the Flood, the Exodus, and so many other events. The most prominent instance in which doctrine is based on history is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The liberal theologian will claim, “Yes, but these are foundational. We are contesting the non-essentials of the Bible’s claims.” Firstly, who decides what is non-essential? There is no way to be consistent in this. Secondly, is not the integrity of God in all of His words foundational regardless of their content? So then, the question is, What is the Christian to do with doctrine that is based on history? How can a Christian be consistent in denying certain historical facts, while embracing with certainty theological facts based on history? He cannot be consistent. The fact that doctrine is based on history makes the Bible rise or fall as a whole.
Furthermore, this touches the personal sphere as well. What does a liberal do with “inspirational” Bible promises that are based on facts? If God could not record history correctly through human instrumentation, why should one believe His predictions? As well, what does a liberal do with instructional Bible verses that are based on the events of one’s life (Hebrews 11, for example)? Does Scripture not lose its relevance if it is not real? The liberal claims he can dismiss inerrancy while maintaining a “good Christian life.” He is wrong. He may live religiously, but Christianity is a doctrinal thing. Christianity is based on realities through which God teaches and strengthens us. Inerrancy is for practical living as much as it is for Christian belief structure.
Another question inerrancy deniers must answer is this: why was it so dangerous to take from the words of Revelation, as set forth in 22:18-19? Notice the intensity expressed in that passage:
For I testify unto every man that hears the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the tree of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
Why would God be concerned with preserving the entirety of a book that was full of symbols? He was adamant about this because every word holds the significance of divine authority. If God curses men for taking away symbols that point to facts, why would there be no consequence to taking away pure historical facts themselves? By liberal standards, Revelation is probably a “least” book in Scripture because of its “confusing” nature; why, then, would God be concerned with preserving every word in, of all books, Revelation? Surely every word of God matters to Him in every genre; it is man’s tampering that is the danger, not God’s failure to give clarity and truth when He speaks. Again, “Let God be true, and every man a liar.”
And the problems for the liberal continue, because there is no reason to reject inerrancy from the attitude of Scripture itself. Liberal scholars reject it because of higher-critical observations looming over the text, not derived from the text. They will claim to uphold the spiritual parts of Scripture, but inconsistency arises when this is done.
Firstly, Scripture nowhere denies inerrancy; in fact, it positively affirms it in unison. Notice what the liberal must believe in light of this: he must believe both that his views are superior to Scripture’s positive witness to inerrancy and that any Biblical passage affirming inerrancy is in error, even if it came from the lips of Christ. Thus, he deems Biblical science and history unreliable, as well as theological portions that touch the doctrine of Scripture. The liberal cannot avoid this: if Biblical science and history are liable to err, so are Biblical doctrines. Thus, we are left with a completely unreliable Bible, both historically and theologically. Evidently it does rise or fall together. A student or scholar is inconsistent, ignorant, and arrogant who claims to believe Scripture’s theology but not its facts. Its theology loses significance once its facts do, since theology claims a text unliable to err.
Secondly, Scripture nowhere denies plenary verbal inspiration; rather it affirms it. Inerrancy is built upon the claim that God breathed the very words of Scripture. To reject inerrancy is to embrace one of two claims: (1) that God can lie (if He inspired the very words), (2) that Scripture is not inspired in its words and is inspired in only some of its concepts. According to option one, God is all-knowing: if He contradicted what is true, He would know it and be deceiving deliberately. A liberal would probably not consider himself a Christian if he viewed God as a deceiver. Thus, option two is probably better in his mind. He encounters the same problem as he did with inerrancy, however, because Scripture affirms inspiration clearly. Thus, he denies another facet of the Bible’s theology.
This, then, is what the liberal has to do when rejecting inerrancy. He has to reject that Scripture is inspired in its words and is only inspired in some of its thoughts. On this basis, he has to believe that both science and history are liable to err, as well as theology that does not fit with his higher-critical views. All of this must be true to deny “just the science and history of Scripture.” A question arises at this point: why embrace the Bible and Christianity at all? There is no true reason other than preference. Scripture defines itself by total reliability and total origination from God. Once these two pillars are rejected (however subtly) Scripture ceases to be what it claims to be and is no more significant than the writings of Plato or some random sage.
This is what happens when man tampers with something that is supernatural. He becomes the judge of it. Even if some parts of Scripture were inspired (in the liberal worldview), who would decide which parts were? The liberal would, of course. Then man has to become the ultimate authority on Scripture. Imagine: this all starts when “non-essential” science and history in the Bible are compromised.
Ultimately, there is no unique spiritual value to a text that did not fully come from God and that is not truly reliable (in all of its parts). Since God is sovereign, every text in the world plays some role in His grand scheme. As well, every book has some measure of truth in it. These have no distinct value, though. Yet this is what the Bible is reduced to if it is only vaguely from God and only partially reliable.
We are still left needing an infallible rule of faith. What, then, becomes that rule? Academia? The Roman Catholic Church? God? Surely it would be better to have God guide, rather than a system of man. If only He would speak! But wait. He has. One should not call himself a conservative or consistent Christian if he is going to tamper with this issue. There is nothing conservative, consistent, or helpful with denying inerrancy.