The need to uphold biblical inerrancy

I have just read an article at Cranmer’s Curate, Edmund Grindal and the need to uphold biblical inerrancy, with much interest.

 In the course of his spiritual reflections at Wycliffe, it struck your curate forcibly that the need for a clear conviction about biblical inerrancy is the underlying issue facing the modern Church.

Inerrancy is essentially the conviction that the Bible does not err in the theological, moral and historical truths that the God of all truth wishes to reveal to mankind this side of the Second Coming.

The word ‘inerrancy’ is one that I never came across as a young Christian.  I suspect it is the badge of a US position unfamiliar to me.

Nor do we need much familiarity with the fathers to know of the allegorical interpretations of the Old Testament by Origen and his school, but also that such an interpretation of Genesis could be regarded as ad litteram by Augustine. 

But in some ways whatever hesitations we might have about this miss the point.

The question is really whether we take our rule of life and thought from the bible, or from some approved subset of the customs and shibboleths currently in vogue in the society in which we happen to live.   Which of these twain is, for us, “the word of God”; “the laws of the Medes and the Persians”? 

Those seem to be the real choices before us.  And let us bear this in mind, in our own thoughts as much as in public debate. 

There is much too much writing which presumes that Christians must prove things, which leaves silent what the alternative is and what, if any, justification there might be for it.  It is possible, and common, for some to demand before agreeing that Christians must be able to prove X and Y and Z, to a level that a professor might find daunting, while at the same time accepting whatever is said on the TV evening news.  It is not unknown for Christians to do this to themselves!

There is very little that can be said for the conformity position, of course.  It is the lazy choice, usually, the path of least resistance, the path of convenience.  Let’s remember that, before we criticise ourselves.


6 thoughts on “The need to uphold biblical inerrancy

  1. If you Google “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” materials describing the view being advocated here in the USA should appear.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  2. Hi Roger,

    The traditional term was infallibility, which really included inerrancy with a Holy Spirit overlay of direction and purpose.

    Inerrancy is more of a logistic defensive term, popularized around the 1890s at the same time that the usage of the concept was switched from the Reformation Bible (e.g. English AV) to the ethereal original autographs, the Benjamin Warfield switcheroo.

    Understandably, the concept of inerrancy in unidentifiable and malleable manuscripts is ripped to shreds by the skeptics, and rejected by tangible, traditional “inerrantists” (often using the phrase infallible).

    Steven Avery

  3. Thank you for these pointers, Steven.

    We need to be careful not to get trapped into doctrinal positions which may be mistaken. I worry that some US believers have been maneouvered into untenable positions by atheists in just this manner.

    If I ever get the chance to go through this, starting with what scripture says, and with how our Lord himself treats scripture — which is certainly as being the Word of God — and how the apostles do the same, and working out what we are, and are not committed to, I probably should. We all fear the sliding slope, and rightly too; and we rightly fear the urge to adopt “defensible” positions, which turns out merely to be the process of compromise.

    I’m no theologian, tho, and I daresay others have done it already. I don’t know — so long as we don’t start in on the “this bit is inspired but this bit, which I find inconvenient, is not” and keep seeing the whole of Scripture as what God says to us all, we shouldn’t go too far wrong. It is the bits of the Word that we do not understand that have things to teach us.

  4. Thanks, Roger.

    Here is one funny tip in the history. When Warfield was challenging the skeptics and liberals to break his inerrant autographs, he actually threw in the caveat that the Bible accuser would have to demonstrate the autographic text ! 🙂

    Logic was stood on its head. And this is not an exaggeration.

    Now, it is also possible to define inerrancy in various ways, some of which are similar to your “inconvenient” above, along the lines of “Luke was confused” or “Matthew had a bad beard day”.

    This is a fascinating and interesting, and even vital, topic, and you probably will have some fun coming up more to speed.


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