Inspiration Versus Inerrancy

Conservative evangelicals were tired of liberal evangelicals who proclaimed the “inspiration” of the Scriptures in an equivocal way.  Liberals might agree, for example, that the Bible was “inspired,” but only in the sense that a beautiful poem might be an “inspiring” piece of literature – not in the sense that God was telling us something to believe or do.  In an attempt to prevent the weaseling, conservatives wrote the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy in 1978.  Ever since, conservatives have proclaimed “The Inerrancy of Scripture!” or, simply, “Inerrancy! as the battle cry for this, their unequivocal position.

While I can sympathize with the conservatives’ frustration, their cure was as bad as the disease.  That is, “inerrancy” doesn’t say anything about what the Bible is.  It only says what the Bible isn’t.  To boot, “inerrancy” is not a biblical word.  That is, we don’t find it in the Bible.  As a result, inerrancy is a problematic way to defend the integrity of Scripture.

Let us return therefore to a biblical word, a perfectly good biblical word: inspiration.  That is, the Bible is inspired by God.  He “breathed” His life into its words (2 Timothy 3:16).  The ideas of the Bible are His because He was the one who inspired those who wrote it (2 Peter 1:21).  That some people will want to wriggle out of the plain implication of this word is something we simply have to accept.  We cannot force the truth on people.

Any reference to “inerrancy” sends skeptics scurrying for any of the supposed discrepancies found in the biblical text.  In an ancient text, copied by hand, there are surely going to be words and passages that are difficult to reconcile and understand.  What’s amazing about the Bible is that such difficulties are few and never involve a major theme or issue.  Therefore, the sad fact about disagreements over inerrancy is that they always skew the discussion toward trivialities.  Crying “Inerrancy!” leads to majoring on the minors.

The prophets and apostles of Israel who wrote the Bible were writing on behalf of God.  Thus they were writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  This means that we may rightly regard the Bible as the word of God.  That it is therefore inerrant should go without saying, for how could God speak erroneously?  But to center our faith on what is absent from the text misses the point.  Rather, let us declare the Bible as inspired, as the word of God.  For then we are declaring what the Bible is instead of what it isn’t.

I believe in the inspiration of Scripture.  The Bible is the word of God to me, and I will heed it as such.  My battle cry is “Inspiration!” and I will not equivocate about its meaning nor dispute its authority over my life.  Indeed, I love the Lord of whom it testifies so comprehensively and profoundly (John 5:39; Luke 24:27, 44).

2 Replies to “Inspiration Versus Inerrancy”

  1. “The prophets and apostles of Israel who wrote the Bible were writing on behalf of God. Thus they were writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This means that we may rightly regard the Bible as the word of God. That it is therefore inerrant should go without saying, for how could God speak erroneously?”

    So true, Mike.
    Indeed, there’s a promise that holds until the end of time:

    “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Mt 24:35 ESV)

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