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Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Short Essay on the Inerrancy and Inspiration of Scripture

I am going to preface this particular post with a disclaimer.  This was an essay written for my Theology 201 class at Liberty University and as such there was s very strict word length, which I still ended up being above, although I substantially cut some of the words used.  This is in no way a complete and thorough evaluation of Inerrancy and Inspiration, but I do believe it presents some points worth considering.  With this disclaimer, I do hope you will read over my humble thoughts, and will be blessed. 

In Christ,
Paul Emery

Short Essay on Inerrancy and Inspiration

            The challenges of inerrancy and inspiration have plagued the Church for millennium.  Secularists and liberal theologians will challenge the entirety of Scripture while arguing that the Bible is still a good moral authority.  Even pastors in denominations that are fairly conservative will challenge the need for an inerrant and inspired account of God’s word.  In Theology for Today Dr. Towns quotes Dr. Robert Bratcher who stated, “To invest the Bible with qualities of inerrancy and infallibility is to idolatrize it, to transform it into a false God.”[1]   As the Bible is the Word of God, it seems not plausible, but necessary for the Bible to be authoritative, inerrant and inspired.

            2 Peter 1:3 says “seeing that His divine power has granted to use everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence”.  Joshua 1:8 says, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it;” Each of these two verses contains at least one very important word, “everything” in 2 Peter 1:3, and “all” in Joshua1:8. The Bible is what should direct the lives, through the power of the Holy Spirit, for every believer, and truly for all people.

As the very Word of God, the authority of the Bible is two-fold.  Christ, who was God in the flesh, used Scripture as He battled against Satan during His forty days in the desert.  For each of the tests Satan placed before Him the Son of God responded with Scripture to respond to each temptation (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10; Luke 4:4, 8, 12). In His use of the Scripture, Christ validated the “ontological authority” of the Scripture.  The Bible also obtains it’s authority from God, Himself.  “Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action),” (2 Timothy 3:16).  Scripture is God breathed, just as His spirit was put into man in Creation through the breath of God (Genesis 2:7).

Dr. Towns gives a great definition of Inspiration in relation to the Scriptures in his book Theology for Today, “Inspiration is the guidance or influence of the Holy Spirit on the human writers of Scripture so that God controlled them in such a way that what they wrote was exactly what God wanted them to write without error” (Towns 2001, 59).  Inspiration of the Scripture is directly taught by the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16.  Christ supported the inspiration of the Scriptures in Matthew 5:17-18 when He addresses that He came to “fulfill the law” (Matthew 5:17), how until “heaven and earth pass away” not one portion of the law “will pass away” (Matthew 5:18).  Inspiration or dictation of God is also supported in 2 Peter 1:21 and 1 Corinthians 2:13.

P.F. Feinberg has a fairly solid definition of inerrancy.  “When all the facts become known, they will demonstrate that the Bible in its original autographs and correctly interpreted is entirely true and never false in all it affirms” (Elwell 2001, 156).  In his introduction to the Gospel he compiled Luke explains how he “carefully investigated everything from the first” (Luke 1:3).  Since God has provided us “everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3) the information has to be inerrant, and completely truthful.  Again in Matthew 5:18 Christ says: “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.”

There are four major arguments that Feinberg identifies when it comes to the discussion on inerrancy.  The first argument Feinberg identifies is “the Biblical Argument”.  In this argument the premise is that Scripture itself teaches its inerrancy, even if the word itself is never used.  This draws back to the point in the beginning of this essay that the Scripture cannot be a good book or profitable in some of its teaching and not in others because the Bible itself proclaims that “Every Scripture is God-breathed”.  This argument however, would seem to be easily rejected by those who are outside of the faith because it can appear as circular reasoning.  The second argument is “the Historical Argument”.  Many secularists and liberal theologians will say that the cannon of Scripture was not created until the Council of Nicaea.  In this argument though there is abundant evidence of the quotation of Scripture all the way back to 2nd century Christian fathers as Dr. Towns points out in Theology for Today, pg. 78-79.    

Some would claim that the last two arguments are the weakest.  In the “Epistemological Argument” the challenge is that some of the scripture is not inerrant then there can be no sure indication of which portion is inerrant, and which portion is not.  “The Slippery Slope Argument” would then go a step further and argue that if you give up on inerrancy other doctrines will be more easily rejected.  This seems to be the most appropriate argument because what has been demonstrated in many mainline denominations that have moved into areas of much greater concern for example the Episcopalian Church and their acceptance of homosexuality after rejecting the inerrancy of the Scriptures.

The relationship between inspiration and inerrancy is that of a symbiotic relationship.  If the Scripture is indeed “inspired by God” who is perfect then the Words which He chose for His revelation must be inerrant not just as it relates to “faith and practice” but as Dr. Towns attests "There was no error in grammar, historical locations, sociological understanding mathematics, geology, geometry, or geography” (Towns 2001, 59).  If even one portion of Scripture is not inerrant, then all of Scripture needs brought into question as to whether it could be breathed by God. 

In taking the view of the absolute authority, inspiration, and inerrancy of Scripture means that one accepts it in its entirety as Peter suggests, that the Scripture is the revelation of Christ and therefore has “granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3).  It also verifies the Apostle Paul’s claim that the purpose of Scripture is “profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action),” (2 Timothy 3:16).  The Scripture is God’s perfect revelation to us, and as such will always point us to living for God's glory.


Blum, Edwin, Jeremy Royal Howard, and Holman Bible Editorial Staff, eds. Hcsb Study Bible, Black Genuine Leather. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2010.

Feinberg, Paul, ed. "Inerrancy and Infallibility of Bible." In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed, edited by Walter A. Elwell, 156-59. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2001.

Ryrie, Charles C., ed. Ryrie Study Bible: New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update. Expanded ed. Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1995.

Towns, Elmer L. Theology for Today. 2nd ed. Nashville, Tenn.: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2001.

Zondervan. Amplified Bible. Reprint ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

[1] Robert Bratcher, “Biblical Authority for the Church Today,” Christianity Today, (May 29, 1981): Quoted in Elmer Towns, Theology for Today. (Mason, OH: Cengage Learning, 2008), 65

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