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The Inerrancy of God

My blogging friend, Wally (I love Wally), reposted something today and all I could think was, Wally, Wally, Wally, I hate to be a thorn in your side, but I must. Even though I am weak with the flu, I must.

So I started to beat my familiar drum in the comment space of the original post, but it was getting rather long so I moved it here. I tirelessly (well, not entirely tirelessly) continue to beat this drum because the church hinges way too much on this one-half of a sentence that Paul wrote to Timothy.

So here we go. The text of the original post is in black, my comments are in crimson:

“Time and time again the question of inerrancy comes up. This is surprising given the fact that 2 Timothy 3:16 is clear that all Scripture is God-Breathed.”

First of all, I don’t think God-breathed means what you, the author, thinks it means, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Second, when Paul wrote the words, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…”  he was referring to the Law and the Prophets; to the Old Testament.  The books that make up the New Testament had not all been written and none of them had yet been canonized as Scripture.

“God is the author of Scripture.”

According to the verse upon which you built your argument, God is not the author of Scripture, He is the inspirer of Scripture. There’s a difference. If I say that your post inspired my post, then I would be correct. If I say that you authored my post, then I would be incorrect. By definition, the inspirer is not the author.

“So to question inerrancy is to question God.”

Your logic is flawed. I can easily believe that Scripture might be flawed AND that God is absolutely perfect.

I believe that God’s inspiration of Scripture is perfect; man’s recording, recopying, translation, interpretation and teaching of it, not so much. 

If you believe that EVERYTHING on earth has been corrupted by sin, and that NOTHING is perfect this side of heaven, then why would Scripture be exempt? Scripture is an earthly book. I doubt there is a single copy of it in heaven. Why would anyone there need it when they have the Living Word right in front of them? The Living Word is perfect, but our copy has man’s imperfect fingerprints all over it.

“Do we believe in a God that errs? Or do we believe in a God that is perfect in every way? This is a huge question with massive implications.”

Those are huge questions with massive implications, but they have nothing to do with the inerrancy of Scripture because Scripture is not equal to God.

God is three in One – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, not four in One – Father, Son, Holy Spirit and Scripture.

“If we have a God that [should be who] errs, we cannot rely on Him for anything. If that be the case, what is our hope of salvation?”

Our hope of salvation is in the sacrificial death of Jesus on our behalf. It is the victory His blood, sweat and tears won for us. 

Scripture merely tells His story.

News reports get details of true events wrong all the time, but that doesn’t mean the event didn’t happen and it doesn’t change the truth of what happened.

“There are some who say that parts of the Bible are inerrant while others are not. The problem with this theory is, how do you decide which is which?”

Here’s how I decide: If Jesus said it (as recorded in the gospels) or dictated it (as in Revelation), then I have 100% confidence in it.  If Jesus quoted it our referenced it or directed questions back to it (the Law and the Prophets) then I have 100% confidence in it.  The rest I ask God to explain to me.

“The answer is simple, the Bible is all or nothing. We do not get to pick and choose which parts are true or correct. They all are. That is not to say that people do not abuse that fact, they do. People on both sides of the aisle abuse this by taking certain laws and saying we must still follow them today or be a hypocrite, or worse, in danger of eternal damnation. However, these stances are horrible examples of good interpretive work.”

I dare say the church’s extrapolation and fast-and-loose teaching of 2 Timothy 3:16 is also a poor example of good interpretive work.

“In the final analysis, we must affirm inerrancy as believers. If we do not, we have no basis for our faith and no reason to believe the message within the pages of the Bible.”

I disagree. Man can be wrong and God can still be right. My faith is in God.

Feel free to weigh in, even if your comments grow long.

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29 thoughts on “The Inerrancy of God

  1. David says:

    Thank you for your thoughts. With regard to inspired verses breathed out, the literal Greek actually means breathed out. So in reality it would be more accurate to say expiration as opposed to inspiration. These were the very words of God. I agree with you at the time Paul was talking about the Law and Prophets. But notice, that is usually what most people challenge is the Law and the Prophets.

    I would love to see your interpretive work on 2 Timothy 3:16 to see how you arrive at the conclusion that I am wrong on the subject.

    Yes, Salvation is through Christ. BUT, seeing as Jesus is God, if God errs and His words are incorrect. And if He did not preserve His Word as He said He does, then that makes Him a liar, which would make Christ’s sacrifice worthless. So yes, it is an issue.

    Your 4-1 argument is just nonsense. Nobody claimed that.

    Anyways, would love to know your interpretations and how exactly you arrived at them.

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    • “With regard to inspired verses breathed out, the literal Greek actually means breathed out. So in reality it would be more accurate to say expiration as opposed to inspiration.”

      Some translations chose “God-breathed” and some chose “inspired by God.” I have no idea which is more accurate since that greek word isn’t used anywhere else in Scripture, so we can’t compare it’s usage to any other context.

      The Greek word is θεόπνευστος (theopneustos) (Strongs G2315). It is a presumed derivative of πνέω (pneo) (Strongs G4154), which means “to breathe, to blow.”

      The KJV chose to translate it as “given by inspiration of God” and the NIV chose “God-breathed.”

      Strongs defines theopneustos as “inspired by God.”

      Whether it is more accurate to say expired or inspired doesn’t change my argument: God “breathed” life into Adam, but that doesn’t mean Adam became a perfect representation of God. In the same way, God “expiring” Scripture doesn’t necessarily mean that Scripture is a perfect representation of God. Both times He breathed into corrupted vehicles.

      God used flawed men as scribes and flawed men make errors.

      “These were the very words of God.”

      Revelation 21 says, “On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”

      Which twelve names were those? The twelve names Matthew and Mark listed in their gospels, or the twelve names Luke listed? John didn’t list all twelve, but he called Bartholomew, Nathanael.

      If God wrote every word, wouldn’t God be consistent in His writing of the apostle’s names?

      Atheists bring these things up and we twist God and ourselves into all kinds of pretzels in order to stubbornly cling to our long tradition of that verse. We would get so much further in furthering the cause of Christ if we would just admit that God’s perfect word was entrusted to and written down by flawed men. Admitting that doesn’t change God’s story, it just explains why some things don’t make sense.

      Paul’s treatise on hair in 1 Corinthians 11 is a prime example. It is poorly written, it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t jive with the Old Testament and it is inconsistent with Paul’s earlier actions. There is no way God – perfect writer, perfect communicator that He is – would write and communicate so poorly.

      Bible commentators, because their understanding of 2 Timothy 3:16 won’t let them admit it is poorly written and makes no sense, come up with all kinds of convoluted explanations. This one is taken directly from The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament (Walvoord & Zuck):

      “Other (but less acceptable explanations) have been suggested for the words, “because of the “angels”: (a) evil angels lusted after the women in the Corinthian congregation; (b) angels are messengers, that is pastors; (c) good angels learn from women, (d) good angels are examples of subordination; (e) good angels would be tempted by a woman’s insubordination.”

      What? So many (ridiculous) explanations for something written by God? Wouldn’t it be so much better for God’s reputation to just say that the words were written by Paul and Paul was a mere mortal who sometimes tried to be politically correct and please everyone and who sometimes was mistranslated. Paul, as you must know, had enemies. Watch any political ad and you will quickly see that it is not above us sinful mortals to twist the words of our enemies. If you studied Greek, you know that the Greeks used no punctuation. So it’s easy for me to see that Paul’s words could have been easily mistranslated.

      “I agree with you at the time Paul was talking about the Law and Prophets. But notice, that is usually what most people challenge is the Law and the Prophets.”

      My experience is that most people challenge Paul’s letters, but if, in your post, you were defining Scripture as solely the Law and the Prophets, then I agree with you completely.

      “Yes, Salvation is through Christ. BUT, seeing as Jesus is God, if God errs and His words are incorrect. And if He did not preserve His Word as He said He does, then that makes Him a liar, which would make Christ’s sacrifice worthless. So yes, it is an issue.”

      I regret that I wasn’t able to communicate my point more clearly. I will say it again in hopes that the Holy Spirit will translate it into parlance you can understand: An error in Scripture does not equal an error in God. Scripture is not God and God is not Scripture.

      When/where did He say he preserved His word? Did he say He preserved the overall intent of it, or every single word of it? If every single word, then which version? I learned somewhere along the way that when the Jewish scribes copied the OT Scriptures, they copied even the errors so as not to be guilty of changing anything. They copied even the errors. Hmmm.

      “Your 4-1 argument is just nonsense. Nobody claimed that.”

      Of course it’s nonsense. That was my point. To equate the inerrancy of Scriptures with the inerrancy of God is ridiculous. And you did equate the two.

      “Anyways, would love to know your interpretations and how exactly you arrived at them.”

      I think I already did that in my post, but if not, you are welcome to browse through my previous posts and read what I’ve written on this topic before.

      This is going to have to be it for me tonight. I need my rest.

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      • David says:

        Ok, you obviously do not want to have an honest discussion on the topic.

        Inspired meant something completely different when the KJV was translated, just as the word gay meant something completely different 100 years ago.

        There are no errors in Scripture. That’s the whole point. And the argument about changing names? Do you have a middle name? Do you have a nickname? Give me a break.

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        • “Ok, you obviously do not want to have an honest discussion on the topic.”

          It’s disappointing that you would conclude that considering I spent a considerable amount of time – fever, stomach flu and all – answering your questions.

          “Inspired meant something completely different when the KJV was translated, just as the word gay meant something completely different 100 years ago.”

          Really, what did it mean?

          I would think God would use a word that transcends time since the Bible is intended for all people of all generations. Not to mention, again, that, though God may have dictated the Book, it was men who chose how to translate His words.

          I didn’t say there were errors in Scripture, I said there were imperfections and inconsistencies in the translation and teaching of Scripture that God, in His wisdom and ultimate plan, allows. For now.

          “And the argument about changing names? Do you have a middle name? Do you have a nickname? Give me a break.”

          It is statements like these (and the disgust I hear in them) that make it obvious to me that it is you who does not want to have an honest discussion.

          And, if you had taken an interest in what any of the other commenters had to say, you would have found that I am well aware that the differences in the apostles names could have been due to nicknames, middle names, pseudonyms, etc. It just seems to me that God would be consistent in what He calls them. Which leads me to the conclusion that He gave the gospel writers experience that He wanted them to record, but He didn’t micromanage every word of what they wrote. Just like He inspires your weekly sermons (I hope, if you’re a pastor), but it is a rare, glorious and anointed occurrence when He actually dictates them word for word.

          I know it is hard and scary to consider the possibility that one of your long-held beliefs might be in error. But sometimes God bids up to break free from the security and fellowship of our long-held beliefs so we can see a bit more of His brilliance. And accurately handle His word. Shine a clearer light in this ever-darkening world. This might be your day.

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  2. Alma Mater says:

    But how then, can you trust that Jesus’ words, as recorded by errant man in the gospels and in Revelation, are true and inerrant?

    And how can you trust our fallible recording of Scripture as any more accurate than the Catholics think it is? (Not to pick on Catholics, just that I have more knowledge of their beliefs as a once-Catholic myself). They believe that scripture, while inspired, must be interpreted through some infallible system (ie the pope and magisterium) or else we’d never know what to believe. They don’t believe in infallibility of the scriptures themselves, only that they were inspired.

    The big turning point for me I my leaving the Catholiv church was when a friend said to me, “if the bible says one thing and your church another, which one will you stand or fall with?”

    If I believed the scriptures errant, I may as we’ll still be Catholic, and have a works- based salvation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “But how then, can you trust that Jesus’ words, as recorded by errant man in the gospels and in Revelation, are true and inerrant?”

      I trust that He perfectly preserved the gist of them, but not every jot and tittle of them. For example, if you compare the four gospels, there are differences in the names of the apostles. Does that throw off my belief in a Savior? Nope. It just tells me that perhaps some of the writers got their names wrong, or called them something else (Alma v. Kristina, etc.) If God was after perfection, He would have edited the gospels so that they were all uniform. My guess is it’s the fact that there were twelve apostles, and not what they were called by who, that matters.

      “They believe that scripture, while inspired, must be interpreted through some infallible system (ie the pope and magisterium) or else we’d never know what to believe”

      Don’t we Protestants do the same thing? We interpret Scripture through pastors and scholars and commentaries and counsels who decide what is Scripture and what is not. If God was the sole Author, there would only be one translation. There would be no differences between the Catholic Bible and the Protestant Bibles. There would be only one version of the Bible because He is able to make Himself perfectly clear. The fact that the Bible is not perfectly clear tells me that He may have a purpose for that. Perhaps He is testing Who, what we really put our faith in.

      Our faith should not be in the Scriptures. Moses’s wasn’t (until he wrote the Pentateuch, there were no Scriptures.)

      God doesn’t need the Scriptures in order to communicate with us. Sometimes He uses visions and dreams, sometimes He sends angels.

      If John had relied only on the Scripture at han to know God, then we wouldn’t have the Revelation. I love studying the Bible, but I won’t let it limit my high view of God.

      I don’t know if I’m making sense. I’m quite under the weather today…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Julie. Well you know I do not agree here. If you only totally trust what Jesus said or dictated and those things were recorded by the same process as the parts you don’t believe then how are you certain of those words? Who decides that stays and what goes? God promised to preserve His Word and He has done that. The author is correct in that once we open that door it is all fair game. Even the red letters. Do you recall the Jesus Seminar? But I don’t suspect debating this is productive so I won’t

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  4. andih94 says:

    I can find things to agree with from everyone here, because as Paul says we see now through a glass darkly, and in the end we’ll see it all clearly. Whether we’re right or wrong is less important, it seems to me, than our focus, which I think needs to be on God. I love scripture, though it’s gristly in parts, but I think there’s a danger in lifting it so high you can’t see God any more. Like any knowledge for its own sake it can be a pride trap, and a weapon to beat others with. We’ve all seen that, I’m sure. I’ve not been above a bit of point-scoring in my time, but ultimately, it becomes about us and not about God. Conversely, I used to worship in a church where the biggest bible I’ve ever seen outside a museum was carried in ceremoniously each Sunday, placed on the lectern, and never opened. The emphasis was on works and social projects with just a light seasoning of religion. They did great work and God was underneath it all, I’m sure, but they didn’t relate what they did to God’s word. God is very able to make himself known outside of Scripture and I see it as an account of God’s dealings with humanity, and ours with him. I do believe that there are difficulties in there because God wants us to lean on him, to leave room for faith, and a reason to search and think and chew over and consider and all that our minds are equipped to do. These conversations can be an important part of that process, but I am always a bit wary and keen to pull back when we start throwing isms around, because I think that shuts us down and makes a discussion unnecessarily adversarial.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I need that, too, Dawn. I think that’s the kind of maturity that God is woking to develop in all of us – the kind that brings unity, but not necessarily conformity. (Well, conformity to Him, ultimately, but not conformity to one another.)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a great post Julie, so much to chew on! I’ve often struggled with the fact you note that the scriptures were written by men who were fallible. God inspired yes but still room for error by the men who wrote them. Nice respectful debate in the comments, I enjoyed reading them immensely. Hope you feel better!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Tricia. I appreciate and admire your willingness and desire to chew on the things of God. Chew and ponder and consider rather than just automatically spitting out the things that don’t taste familiar. God bless you for that.

      Liked by 1 person

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