As listeners to my podcast will know, I have begun undergraduate studies online at Liberty University, working toward a Bachelor of Science in Religion—Biblical and Theological Studies. This has (hopefully understandably) reduced my blog and podcast output, both here and at http://www.rethinkinghell.com, which I was already struggling to balance with a full-time secular career and growing family. I do have an interview recorded for an upcoming episode of the Theopologetics podcast, which I’ll publish soon, and I’ll be moderating a Christological debate in August, but to keep the blog alive in the meantime, as well as in the future between podcast episodes, I’ve decided to publish some of my coursework.
I submitted the following short essay on the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture a couple of months in a first semester course in theology. I won’t reproduce the assignment instructions or grading rubric, except to say that it was required to consist of between 600 and 800 words, and to be primarily based upon articles in the second edition of the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, published in 2001 by Baker Academic. Naturally, then, I was limited to the extent I could explore, consider, and respond to arguments against my view, which is that Scripture is, indeed, inerrant. Please keep that in mind, as well as that this fulfilled a requirement of an undergraduate theology course, not one at the graduate or postgraduate levels.
The Christian worldview is being attacked from all sides. Today’s evangelicals face unprecedented pressure to conform to secular, pagan ideas and standards of behavior. Articulating and defending the authority of Scripture may be more important now than it has ever been before.
To claim that the Bible has authority is to claim that it deserves obedience, not only compliance with the imperatives it records, but also assent to the truth claims it makes. In one sense this authority is conferred upon it by the sovereign creator who demands that it be obeyed. In another very real sense the Bible’s authority is innate and from within “as the authentic embodiment of God’s self-disclosure.” It records, not merely the words of men to which God happens to command obedience, but God’s own words, carrying as much weight as if still hanging in the air after he spoke them.
This is what it means to say that the Bible is inspired. “While involving the instrumentality of humans,” Carl Henry explains, “Scripture is affirmed nonetheless to owe its origin not to human but to divine initiative,” such as in Peter’s statement that “no prophecy of Scripture…was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God” (2 Pet 1:20–21). Indeed, the Greek word from which the doctrine of inspiration arises—“All scripture is given by inspiration [emphasis added] of God” (2 Tim 3:16, KJV)—literally means “God-‘spirated’ or breathed out,” as if words materialized on parchment at the warmth of God’s breath.
The Bible is therefore not only authoritative, but inerrant—completely true, as originally intended, in all that it affirms, lacking any errors in its original, God-breathed manuscripts. Since God is “the God of truth” (Isa 65:16) it follows that what he moved the authors of Scripture to write is likewise wholly true and without error. This is, as Paul Feinberg explains, “the testimony of Scripture itself,” which self-identifies as God-breathed and incapable of erring (John 10:35) down to individual words (John 10:35, cf. Ps 82:6) and letters (Matt 5:18). This is the strongest of the four arguments for inerrancy listed by Feinberg, given the clarity of the relevant texts. However, because the argument can seem circular (the Bible is trustworthy because it claims to be), it’s worth reinforcing with the other arguments Feinberg lists: first, that inerrancy has enjoyed widespread belief throughout Church history, compelling Christians today to defer to the generations of giants upon whose shoulders they stand; second, that trust in any text of Scripture is only justifiable if one can trust all of it, although one is unlikely to concede that all of Scripture is cast into doubt if Ezra and Nehemiah don’t agree on the exact number of Asaph’s sons who returned from Babylon; and third, that denying inerrancy leads to denying other important doctrines, perhaps the weakest argument given the number of otherwise orthodox Christians who reject inerrancy.
Christian critics of inerrancy are not without a rebuttal, but it is not impressive. They insist that rejecting inerrancy needn’t lead to rejecting other doctrines, but examples demonstrating the slippery slope abound. They contend that one error in Scripture is not cause for rejecting all of it, but while it wouldn’t follow that the entire Bible is errant, it would follow that one cannot trust any of it. They claim that inerrancy is a nineteenth century novelty, but it has been affirmed throughout Church history, if with less precision than in recent centuries. They insist that inerrancy is not explicitly claimed by the Bible, is not falsifiable, fails to appreciate the human contribution to Scripture, and is meaningless in the absence of the original manuscripts. Yet inerrancy is implied by what Scripture explicitly affirms, could be proven false by sufficient evidence (but has been supported by evidence uncovered thus far), does account for the human element without discounting the divine element, and manuscript evidence indicates that the original text has been transmitted faithfully. The case for inerrancy emerges from the crucible unscathed.
In light of the Bible’s authority and inerrancy, Christians must not cave into the pressure to conform to the unbiblical ideals of imperfect, created human beings. Whether the pressure is to have sex outside of marriage, to affirm the legitimacy of same-sex relationships, or to permit the murder of unwanted, preborn human beings, it is God who is owed obedience. His God-breathed, self-revelation has greater authority than those from whom such pressure originates. It is he to whom all will be held ultimately accountable.
Having innate authority as God’s self-disclosure, the Bible demands obedience. Containing the very words of God as if breathed onto parchment, Scripture is as reliable as God is. People are therefore required to subject their convictions to it, yielding and conforming their thoughts and feelings to Scripture wherever they conflict.
Feinberg, Paul D. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., s.v. “Bible, Inerrancy and Infallibility of.” Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001.
Henry, Carl F. H. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., s.v. “Bible, Inspiration of.” Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001.
McDonald, Hugh D. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., s.v. “Bible, Authority of.” Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001.
 Hugh D. McDonald, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., s.v. “Bible, Authority of” (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 153.
 Carl F. H. Henry, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., s.v. “Bible, Inspiration of” (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 160.
 Paul D. Feinberg, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., s.v. “Bible, Inerrancy and Infallibility of” (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 156.
 Ibid., 157.
 Ibid., 158.
 Ezra 2:41 records that 128 sons of Asaph returned from Babylon, whereas Nehemiah 7:44 records 148. This is not necessarily a contradiction, and is offered only as an example of the kind of very minor alleged discrepancy unlikely to call into question all of Scripture.
 Feinberg, “Inerrancy,” 158.
 Ibid., 159.