The Bible is Inerrant

by Derek Brown

Trustworthiness. What a blessed character quality. When you are able to trust another person—a friend, family member, spouse, employer—it means you can rely on them to tell you the truth, fulfill their promises, and consistently provide you with accurate information. We know that such relationships are the source of much joy, peace, and satisfaction. But we also know that when a person’s trustworthiness is in question, there will be a fracture in our relationship with them. How can we relate to each other with any depth if I can’t trust that you will tell me the truth, keep your word, or consistently provide me with correct information?

It’s no wonder, then, why Satan’s first strategy with humans was to undermine the trustworthiness of God’s Word. First, he created an atmosphere of doubt: “Did God really say?” (Gen 3:1). Once he had Eve on her heels as she pondered the possibility that God’s Word may not be reliable, Satan struck the fatal blow: “You will not surely die” (Gen 3:4). Now that the trustworthiness of God’s Word was in question, Adam and Eve were ready to accept a direct contradiction to it. The rest, as we know, is history. 

From the beginning of time, Satan has sought to splinter our relationship with God by drawing into question the trustworthiness of his Word. Are there some mistakes in the Bible? Can we trust all of it? “Surely a minor mistake here or there doesn’t really make a difference,” some well-intentioned Christians have reasoned.

Inerrancy and our Relationship with God
The doctrine of inerrancy, then, is a foundational Christian teaching, for it has everything to do with our relationship with God. Without an error-free Word from our Creator, the basis of our faith has been removed. If we cannot be sure that God has spoken truthfully, then how can we trust him? While there are some evangelicals who argue that giving up on inerrancy allows them to trust God even more, the reality is that they’ve cast aside the one quality that allows for the very possibility of relationship: trustworthiness.

Sadly (and somewhat ironically), some theologians have tried to modify the word “trustworthy” to denote, not errorlessness, but “general reliability.” Not fond of the word “inerrant,” they campaign for the term “trustworthy” to describe the nature of God’s Word. While this may sound harmless, the truth is that “trustworthy” in this context means something less than “entirely true.” It means something like, “The main message of the Bible is dependable, but some of the details may be incorrect.”

Is the Bible “Generally Reliable?”
But we would never accept this kind of “general reliability” in any other relationship. If your teenage child offers you a broadly accurate account of the broken window—a white Rawlings baseball broke it yesterday afternoon around 2:00pm—but fails to include the detail that he was the one who threw it, the truthfulness of the other facts would not provide you with an adequate picture of what really happened, nor would it serve to strengthen the relationship between you and your child. Even unintentional mistakes in delivering information, when these slip ups occur often enough, begin to erode our trust in another person.

But Scripture does not leave us to wonder about the nature of God’s Word. Repeatedly, Scripture declares that God is true (John 3:33), righteous (Ps 7:9), holy (Is 43:3), that he never lies (Heb 6:18), and is competent to deliver his Word to his people. God’s character alone should secure in our minds the conviction that his Word is wholly true and without error. But Scripture goes beyond descriptions of God’s character to specific descriptions of God’s written revelation to embed firmly into our hearts that Scripture is inerrant.

“The Law of the Lord is Perfect”
For example, Psalm 19:7 says God’s Word is perfect. The Hebrew word for “perfect” here means, “blameless, whole, complete, without blemish, lacking in nothing.” It is used elsewhere in the Old Testament to refer to sacrificial animals that bear no imperfections. Only animals without a discernible flaw could be offered to the Lord as a sacrifice (Lev 1:3, 10; 4:28, 42; Num 6:14,; 28:3; 28:9; 29:2, 8). The word is also used of God and his work of redemption (Deut 32:4). When this word is used to describe God’s written revelation, it means that Scripture possesses absolutely no flaws. To suggest that small, incidental errors exist in Scripture—even a seemingly insignificant historical detail is to misunderstand the character of God and the meaning of the word perfect in Psalm 19:7.

Scripture is also described as true (Prov 30:5), truth (John 17:17), and as a revelation that cannot be broken (John 10:35). Jesus viewed even the smallest details in Scripture—like verb tenses and plural nouns (Matt 22:32; John 10:34)—as providing doctrinal substance and worthy of complete faith. On this last point, we should observe that after his resurrection, Jesus rebuked the disciples because they were hesitant to believe everything in Scripture: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25).

The Historic Position of the Church
Also, despite what non-inerrantists claim today, although the word inerrancy is of recent vintage, the concept of inerrancy—that God’s Word is wholly true and without error—has been the church’s teaching from its inception. Scores of quotes from early church fathers, medieval theologians, Reformers, post-Reformation scholars, and faithful modern-day ministers could be culled to demonstrate that belief in a wholly true Bible is the historic position. Early church leader Clement of Rome (c. 35-100 AD) speaks for all when he writes, “Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit. Observe that nothing of an unjust or counterfeit character is written in them.”

But, as we’ve already noted, inerrancy is more than just a doctrine; it is the basis by which we can even enjoy a relationship with God. Our God always—always—speaks truthfully. He never lies, he always keeps his promises, and he unfailingly delivers accurate information. We can trust his Word with an unqualified, sincere, and glad trust. 

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Proverbs 30:5

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