The inerrancy of Scripture refers to the quality of being without error, whether caused by ignorance or deceit. Since God cannot deceive or be ignorant, God is inerrant in what He thinks and what He says. Given that Scripture is His Word, Scripture, too, is inerrant.
The Meaning of Inerrancy and Infallibility
The infallibility of Scripture points to the impossibility of error. To say that God is infallible is not only to say that He does not err, but that He cannot err. Since Scripture is His Word, the same may be said of His Word. Some writers use the term in a looser sense, to indicate general reliability in religious matters. But the word infallibility itself does not suggest any such limitation. It is a stronger term than inerrancy, not a weaker term.
History and Origin of Infallibility
Scripture is profitable for the people of God (2 Timothy 3:16). All of it is “God-breathed.” The Bible is entirely pure (Psalm 12:6), perfect (Psalm 1119:96), and true (Proverbs 30:5). The Bible itself does not make any restriction on the kinds of subjects to which it speaks truthfully. Dr. Beeke explains, “The Reformers taught that the Bible’s infallibility is exhaustive, for every word of every sentence is the breath of the living God” (Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism, 133).
Martin Luther, quoting Augustine’s letter to Jerome, said, “I have learned to hold only the Holy Scripture inerrant” (What Luther Says: An Anthology, 1:87). According to Fred Kloster, this view of Scripture as “alone and entire” (Sola and Tota Scriptura) is uniquely Reformed (The Uniqueness of Reformed Theology: A Preliminary Attempt at Description, 1). Sola and Tota Scriptura has led Calvinists to stress that Scripture alone can bind the consciences of believers (Westminster Confession 1.10, 20.2, 31.4).
Inerrancy relates to how the Word of God is without error, while infallibility refers to how the Scripture is authoritative. As Christians, we have an authoritative Word that demands a response. Jesus often issued hard words like how we must follow Him in all of life (Luke 9:23-27), which divided His audience and challenged them to count the cost. In all of God’s Word, there is an absolute standard and authority by which Christians are to ground their lives and ministries (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Infallibility and Christians Today
As Christians today, we stand upon the shoulders of men like Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Owen, and Spurgeon who stood wholly on the Scriptures. Their faithful ministry and preaching have stood the test of time because they believed the truth of inerrancy and infallibility, which is why they didn’t fail to proclaim the whole counsel of God.
Whether you are a pastor, a stay-at-home mom, or you work a 9-5 job in a skyscraper or somewhere else, God’s Word is still the same as it ever has been and ever will be. God is faithful to His promises, for they find their fulfillment in Christ. Understanding the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture is essential to the ministry of the local church and daily Christian life.
Inerrancy Governs Our Confidence in the Truth of the Gospel
A pilot will ground his aircraft even on suspicion of the most minor fault because he is aware that one fault destroys confidence in the entire machine. If the history contained in the Bible is wrong, how can we be sure its doctrine or moral teaching is correct? The heart of the Christian message is history. Consider the following:
- The Incarnation (God becoming a man) was demonstrated by the Virgin Birth of Christ.
- Redemption (the price paid for our rebellion) was obtained by the death of Christ on the Cross.
- Reconciliation (the privilege of sinners becoming a friend of God) was gained through the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ.
- If these recorded events are not true, how do we know the theology behind them is true?
Inerrancy Governs Our Faith in the Value of Christ
We cannot have a reliable Savior without reliable Scripture. For example, many people teach that the gospels and the recorded words of Christ are only occasionally His. If this is true, then how do we know that we can trust Christ’s teaching? If this is the case as these teachers want God’s people to believe, then the gospel stories are merely wishful thinking or their personal views. If this is view is correct, then believers cannot base their faith on Jesus, but rather on the opinions of men.
Inerrancy Governs Our Response to the Conclusions of Science
Those who believe that the Bible has errors are quick to accept scientific theories that prove the Bible wrong. When we allow the conclusions of science to dictate the accuracy of the Word of God, one places the authority of science over the Word of God. The consequence of doing this results in having to invent new principles of interpreting Scripture in light of science turning history into poetry and facts into myths. Another result of this line of thinking is that people will not know how reliable a passage is but instead decide what to make out of it. On the other hand, those who believe in inerrancy test all theories including scientific theories, according to Scripture.
Inerrancy Governs Our Attitude in the Preaching of Scripture
Denying biblical inerrancy leads to a loss of confidence in Scripture in the pulpit and the pew. The problem is not science or education; it is the cold deadness of theological liberalism. Doubting the Bible’s history opens one calling into question its words, which results in people losing confidence in Scripture. The people of God don’t want opinions; they want to know what God has said from His Word.
The Authority of Scripture is Needed in the Church
A church without the authority of Scripture is like a crocodile without teeth. A crocodile can open its mouth as wide and as often as it likes, but who cares? Thankfully, God has given us His inspired, inerrant, sufficient, clear, and infallible Word. His people can speak His Word with authority and boldness and can be confident because His Word contains His instructions for our lives.
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Dave Jenkins is the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and the Host of the Equipping You in Grace Podcast and Warriors of Grace Podcast. He received his MAR and M.Div. through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter at @davejjenkins, find him on Facebook at Dave Jenkins SOG, Instagram, read more of his writing at Servants of Grace, or sign to receive his newsletter. When Dave isn’t busy with ministry, he loves spending time with his wife, Sarah, reading the latest from Christian publishers, the Reformers, and the Puritans, playing golf, watching movies, sports, and spending time with his family.