A Theological Case for Inerrancy (3)

The Inspiration of Scripture – Proposition: “The Scriptures come from the God who breathed them out and caused them to be inscripturated through men who were ‘borne along’ by the Spirit.  That is what makes them Scripture.” – 2 Tim. 3:16 C1; 2 Pet. 1:20-21 C1; Matt. 4:4 C2; Jn. 17:17 C2; Psa. 119:89-91 C2

Inerrancy – Proposition: “The inspired Scriptures are the Word of God before they are the words of men.  They must be up to the job of transmitting truth from Him who is True.  This truth will be as reliable in one area of knowledge as in any other, even if exact precision is not necessary.” – 2 Tim. 3:16 C2; Psa. 12:6 C3; Jn. 17:17 C2; 2 Pet. 1:19-21 C2.

In closing out this foray into the notion of inerrancy from a theological perspective (see Part Two here), I call your attention to the support-texts I have given for the two doctrines above.  Three of the passages used in support of inspiration have been used again to support inerrancy.  I have also run these verses through the “Rules of Affinity” so as to show how sure these proposals are (even though more texts could be mustered to support the propositions).  Let us examine the outcomes.

2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:20-21 tell us the Scripture comes from God and those who wrote it were superintended, nay, “carried along” by Him in their production of it.  They do not deal with the collection of the Canon, since that is a separate (though related) issue.  The C1 tag corresponds with the places in the first proposition where phrases from the texts make up the proposition.  Matthew 4:4 connects with 2 Tim. 3:16 because of the reference to “the mouth of God” and the connection between “every word which proceeds from the mouth of God,” and the Scripture as “God-breathed out.”  Palpably, Jesus was referring to and quoting from the Scriptures in His Temptation.

John 17:17, as already stated, refers to God’s Word as “Truth.”  That “Word” is inscripturated.  The link with Matt. 4:4 is in the way a man ought to live.  He must live in Truth, not in falsehood.  Psalm 119:89f. connects the settled Word “in heaven” with the discipling Word which the psalmist observes.  We have that Word.

When we turn to see how the doctrine of inerrancy utilizes these texts we get the following:

2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:19-21 are now rated C2 since they provide the support in the first two statements in the proposal upon which inerrancy is based (they do not testify to inerrancy with the same clarity that they do for inspiration).  In Psalm 12 I am only interested in the first assertion about the words in verse 6 (“the words of the LORD are pure words, etc.”), not the preservation in verse 7, which I hold to be referring to the people in the context.  The purity of the words of God relates there to their ability to “keep” the people safe, and their trustworthiness, not just their moral clarity.  I believe a good (C3) inference can be made that the dependability of the words (“refined seven times”), logically applies comprehensively to all they claim.  John 17:17 calls the Word of God “Truth.”  This truth separates believers from unbelievers in the world.  It could hardly do that effectively if it enunciated scientific or historical error, since error in those cases would lessen the force of any ethical assertion made in the Bible, and throw immediate suspicion upon its authorship.  But then we are back to the matter of the sustained voice of Scripture that it comes from God, and that it is His Word not mans.

There seems to be no way out of concluding that the theological case for inerrancy is sound if the witness of Scripture is to be our guide.  The only theological case against inerrancy which is weighty is the Barthian view which effectively makes it irrelevant.  But inerrancy is irrelevant to Barth because he constructs his doctrine of Scripture upon the hiddenness of the revealing God (see Sections 4 through 6 in the Church Dogmatics I.1).  Barth distinguishes revelation from Scripture, thereby leaving Scripture open to be a word of man as well as a word of God.  The Spirit reveals by the Bible, but the Bible itself is not the revelation.  This denudes the Bible of its innate power and authority, and it renders its self-witness mute.

But does not the Bible itself witness to what God spoke?  Yes it does, but (and this is crucial), what God spoke in the past is only the Word of God to us if it is a scriptural Word.  In point of fact, the scriptural Word is the only Word of God we have!  It is the written Word which has authority.  What God said to men in times past, even if it is reported in the Bible, is only the Word of God to Everyman because it is in the Bible.  If God spoke to Moses then Moses heard the Word of God.  But until Moses wrote it under inspiration that revelation to him was not revelation to us.

Even the words of Jesus can only be the Word of God to us if we find them in the Bible.  Until He returns, even our notions of Jesus’ stature as the Logos depend upon what Scripture says about Him.  That kind of preeminent declarative power demands both inspiration and inerrancy.

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