All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
2 Timothy 3:16
“Without inspiration and inerrancy, the gospel of power becomes a suggestion of weakness.”1 Such a quote expresses our problem exactly! If we cannot trust the very word of God, what can we trust? Some of the churches say trust us, we have the ability to tell you which words are really from God and which are not. But I overstate the case somewhat. The churches merely lord it over you, and want you to give them the power to interpret. They assume the power of understanding the deeper things of God, the real meaning that lies behind the stated text. The danger lies in the fact that they themselves sometimes believe not in inerrancy, and we often observe moving goal posts of truth as such leaders are carried about by every wind of doctrine. If we start to follow such leaders, we are in danger of moving our posts until we find ourselves in a sand-lot football field, choked with worldly weeds, and instead of being a light to the world, we find ourselves carrying the ball toward the wrong goal post with the very sins that we are to repudiate. The roads of Christendom are filled with those who sought to follow good intentions, but in so doing, left behind the football of inspiration that would have kept their eyes on the right goal.
Some of the great meetings of Christians over the centuries have rightly stated the problem, and what ought to be the correct Christian response to it. I highly endorse such great statements of faith. Let me share one with you: “Holy Scripture, being God's own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God's instruction, in all that it affirms; obeyed, as God's command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God's pledge, in all that it promises.”2 Any study of Christian history reveals that as inerrancy is left behind so is the gospel, and God himself. This is a great statement of faith, reflecting accurately what the word of God itself attests. There are many other great statements of faith found in the historical annals of Christianity.
All such statements mirror the truth in scripture. At the best they are but reflections of the truth, and at the best, they remain simple, unambiguous restatements of what we find and agree upon in the scripture. If they seek to add anything in their statements, they are rapidly diminished in reliability, having been found to have subtracted rather more than they ever intended to add. All such statements must be examined through the focal lens of scripture. If they fail to mirror the scriptures, they must ruthlessly be set aside, no matter how esoteric we may find them. Grievous errors enter doctrine when we fail to keep the word of God as it is: a message of hope and redemption to a lost world.
I want to back up for a moment, and, if you will allow me the digression, to try to imagine how God may have tried to communicate to man. If man was totally lost and beyond hope, how would a God of love and mercy, yet also a God of perfect justice, want to communicate to them? You may say almost anyway besides the very way that he seems to have chosen, but I think you need to reflect a bit before giving that answer. Let’s follow the logic presented so clearly in the Bible. Man, an eternal being, is usurped from obedience to God, yet God is not willing to leave them lost in their sin. What might he do?
Might he choose to correct that lostness by becoming a sacrifice of death in our behalf? Might he want to let the world know about his sacrifice ahead of time, thousands of years, so that man might be both prepared, and able to look in faith toward that fullness of time? Might he realize that communication with men needed to be recorded, so that coming generations would anticipate his coming? Might he be so concerned with the utter errancy of man that he took a great deal of care to “breathe” into those words, that they might be utterly trustworthy?
That at least sounds plausible, you may admit. I believe the record of the Bible to be exactly what I said. God chose to communicate with man, and took perfect care to preserve the precise message to us that he desired. I think it appropriate to look at the record of scripture itself now, and see what God himself attests about his word. For those who would learn to follow God, inerrancy is not an option, something that they may or may not choose. Instead it becomes a mandate in the light of what both the writers and Jesus had to say about the words of Scripture. Notice the following passages.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God. Paul tells us this in his letter to Timothy (2 Tim. 3:16). It literally means that scripture is God-breathed. Human authors are used, but every word is wholly and completely inspired by God—not usually by dictation, but by God’s mysterious working in and through frail and faulty men to present the word exactly as God would will.
Peter tells us that no prophecy of scripture came about by the prophets themselves, but men spoke from God as they were moved by the Spirit (2 Peter 2:20,21). Peter’s words here are agreeing with Paul. Peter even suggests that the men and their personalities were somehow just exactly what God used to speak that which he would to us.
Jesus tells us that the scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35). Sometimes men who do not believe in inerrancy will express doubt at this passage or that passage by stating, “now this passage is really inspired”, indicating that they consider some of the scriptures to have sort of a lessor inspiration. If you hear a comment like that, it ought to quickly sound the alarm bell of your conscience. You may be dealing with someone who is questioning the validity of the inerrancy doctrine. I sat under the tutelage of a man who mentioned from the pulpit that he thought the flood was probably just a local flood. Alarm bells clanged loudly in my mind, and, though it took several years, that same man began a radical departure from conservative doctrine. While such a departure might not have to happen, it is my experience that it too often does.
Which brings us to another problem. The Bible ought to drive our doctrine and not the other way around. I notice that the churches I have attended often will choose a latest bestseller for the church to read, and those bestsellers may be excellent choices that move people back towards a godly life in Christ Jesus. But honestly, in all of my life, I cannot remember a single church-wide movement to get people immersed in the word. I think that is a great mistake! I would that we have a Bible reading month each year, with special books of the Bible chosen for us to read and study. A people who are immersed in the scripture are going to be very difficult to be carried around by stray winds of doctrine; rather they have built in alarm bells that will sound as soon as they hear false doctrine.
We should not endorse any doctrine which is not explicitly taught in the scripture. Every idea ought to be tested and proven from the scripture, which is the bedrock of our faith, teaching us foundationally how we ought to be when we would have godly lives. The scripture is not to be added to, nor diminished, but taught, as the pure milk of God, nourishing and feeding his church to grow as it ought. Paul puts it this way, “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14).
James tells us that not many of us should become teachers (James 3:1), because the teachers are to be judged more strictly. For this reason, Christians should strive mightily in prayer for their teachers, that those teachers should teach the unadulterated word of God. Those teachers are in a most awful position—God will judge them on the basis of how well they taught his message. It is our prayers, yours and mine, that will help to keep them on the right path.
My recommendation? That you fill your life with the passionate study of those same scriptures. As a measuring tool, I would suggest that you might weigh the time you are spending in the word of God, as compared to the time that you spend in other devotional books. Wouldn’t you be a bit closer to God if you were reading and reflecting on his word? Jesus himself said, “For I gave them the words you gave me, and they accepted them” (John 17:8, NIV). How are we to know those words which Jesus gave us, except that we begin reading them? Your word, O Lord, is a lamp unto our feet, a light unto our path.
1. White, James R. (2004-10-01). Scripture Alone: Exploring the Bible's Accuracy, Authority and Authenticity (Kindle Location 1177). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
2. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, http://library.dts.edu/Pages/TL/Special/ICBI_1.pdf, retrieved 10/15/2013.