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Inerrant Because Inspired

By David Hester

religion, articles, christianity

Joel Stephen Williams ("Inerrancy, Inspiration, and Dictation," Restoration Quarterly, March 1995) calls for rethinking the concepts of inerrancy and inspiration. He claims we are not being honest when we say the Scriptures are inerrant for there must be, according to him, qualifications. Williams claims:

The Bible says nothing about inerrancy in the modern sense and very little about inspiration. The few statements in the Bible about inspiration are quite vague (p. 166).

He calls some portions of the Bible trivialities, and says:

The usefulness of certain sections of the Bible like obscure genealogies is limited outside an antiquarian interest, while books like Luke, Romans, and Galatians are unequalled in excellence (p. 169).
Inspiration includes the whole process of producing sacred writings, since in the Bible sense it refers quite broadly to the activity of God's Spirit among his people bringing light and life. The Bible is verbally inspired in that its words are alive with God's Spirit. The Bible is not a dead letter to us when it leads to knowledge of God and life in the inner person. In and by the Scriptures we can be born anew by 'the living and abiding word of God' (1 Pet. 1:23; [p. 170]).

This is the neo­orthodox position on the inspiration of Scripture. One must have a "moment of meaning" for the Bible to become relevant in his life. The Holy Spirit must act in some semi­direct way upon the heart of the reader.

What shall we say? The neo­orthodox view is subjectivism at its worst. If the Bible has errors in some places, then how can it be trusted in others? As Geisler & Nix say, 'In no meaningful sense may God's authorship cover the whole of Scripture and, at the same time, the errors in Scripture' (Norman L. Geisler & William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, Chicago: Moody, 1981, p. 41).

Concerning the means by which God communicated to the authors of the Bible, Joel Williams says: "In the Bible a 'word' is something dynamic and alive" He quotes favorably from an author who claims that "a 'word' is more than simply speech; it is God acting" (Williams, p. 166).

The neo­orthodox position states God chose an imperfect channel of communication - human words - and further, has "adjusted" his statements so that they are no longer perfectly true. McCartney & Clayton answer this by making three crucial points:

First, Jesus Christ was here, and interacted with people face to face. If God can reveal Himself truly in the person of Jesus Christ, with all the limitations of being human, then He can certainly reveal Himself truly in language.... When He was on earth He was truly and unequivocally God. The incarnation serves as the ultimate foundation for God's linguistic communication with us (see Heb. 1:1­3).
Second, people can speak because God speaks. Language was not a human invention according to the Bible. God spoke first and by speaking created (Gen. l).... He did assign to man the task of naming the animals ... and perhaps most things, but speech was given to man. ... Anything that can be said in one language and culture can be said in any other (it may take longer in some languages than others).... Thus, although a particular language may influence the thought's form, it does not limit or determine thought.
Third, according to the Bible, humans were made 'in God's image.' Therefore they have an innate ability to think thoughts patterned after God's thoughts. Linguistic communication from God to humans is possible, though never exhaustive, just as communication between people is possible though never exhaustive (Dan McCartney & Charles Clayton, Let the Reader Understand, Wheaton: BridgePoint, 1994, p. 177).

Understanding the structure of the vocal cords and how they work in human speech, one realizes God made us capable of communicating, and further, that he can communicate with us.

Jesus' use of Scripture affirms that the Bible is inerrant. Over and again, he says, "It is written," and acknowledges the historicity of people, places and events such as Noah (Luke 17:26­27), Jonah's fish experience (Matt. 12:40), the destruction of Sodom (Luke 17:29, 32), and Naaman's leprosy (Luke 4:27).

In addition, Jesus often based his arguments upon a single word or tense of a word. His defense of the resurrection in Matthew 22:32 is based upon the tense of the grammar of Exodus 3:6. Jesus answered the Pharisees in Matthew 22:45 by calling attention to one word - Lord - (Psa. 110:1).

In John 10:34­35, which J. S. Williams thinks is "tenuous" support for inerrancy, Jesus defended himself by singling out one word from Psalms 82:6 - "gods." In Matthew 5:18, Jesus virtually affirmed his belief in verbal inspiration and inerrancy: "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."

Paul's argument in Galatians 3:16 is based on one word from Genesis 17:7: "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ."

Contrary to William's position, the Bible has a great deal to say about inspiration and inerrancy. Curiously, he never touches 1 Corinthians 2:7­13. In verse 13, Paul sets forth how inspiration took place: "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual (words)."

Williams closes his article with the statement

The Bible is not the ultimate end. Instead, it is a witness to God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. As John the Baptist pointed toward Christ, the Bible is a witness pointing toward God. A witness is not identical with that to which it attests. ... The Bible is revelatory as it points toward the will and nature of God. God is infallible and the word of God that we learn from. The Bible will thus be infallible, but the two should not be confused (p. 177).

It will not do, on one hand, to say the Bible is "our final court of appeal in this world," and that it reveals Jesus Christ to us, and, on the other hand, claim the Bible has inaccuracies and is errant. It either is or it isn't. If it is wrong in one place, how are we to trust it in others?

The Southern Baptist Convention faced an upheaval in the 1980s from moderates (liberals) in their seminaries who affirmed that the Bible is errant. It is interesting that Williams quotes extensively, with approval, from one of the Baptist's liberals who advocated that position (Roy C. Honeycutt, Biblical Authority and Canon: Grand Rapids: Academic Books, 1986, pp.29­30).

Could it be that churches of Christ will fight the same battles our ancestors did in the late 1800s? We must be ready to withstand all attacks from the left and affirm what the Bible teaches about itself-that it is God breathed and therefore without error.

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