The Authority and Inerrancy of Scripture


Statement of the doctrine: the Bible has the right to bind our consciences to believe and obey it in all that it teaches.

How do we come to stand under the authority of Scripture? That is, how can a person come to gladly believe that it is, in fact, God’s word?

We can follow the lines of evidence that support the Bible’s claim to be God’s word.

  • The testimony of Jesus
  • The fulfillment of prophecy
  • Its internal consistency
  • The consistency of its teaching with empirical reality

But ultimately, the only way we can move from probability to a glad certainty is from the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit.

  • Because of sin, which blinds us to truth and hardens our hearts against it. Jn. 3:19-20; 2 Co. 4:1-3. This is not a simple matter of deciding between flavors of ice cream – for the Bible confronts our idolatries that we love so much and commands us to repent.
  • Because the best we can get from philosophical or historical arguments is a probabilistic case for the truth of God’s word.
  • God promises this and Scripture and the experience of two millennia of believers testify to it. 1 Jn. 2:20-27; Jn. 10:27.

This doesn’t mean that the above arguments are useless. God can, and does, use them to bring about our conversion. Nevertheless, ultimately our confidence rests in the witness of the Holy Spirit to the truth of God’s word, and he can, and does, many times brings about this conviction directly through his word.  (Story of the village in India with Carey’s Gospel of Matthew; Testimony of G. Campbell Morgan.)


Statement of the doctrine: the Bible is true in all that it teaches.

  • Proof 1: God does not lie: Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18; 2 Sam. 7:28
  • Proof 2: God’s word carries the character of God himself: Ps. 12:6; Prov. 30:5; Mt. 24:25; Mt. 5:17-19; Num. 23:19; Jn. 17:17

This is consistent with:

  • Use of ordinary language, like the sun rising and setting. 
  • Use of free quotes
  • Bad grammar

Challenges to inerrancy

  • The claim that inerrancy a poor term – an unbiblical term.  But we must sometimes use non-Biblical words to defend the statement of Biblical truth, since it is the meaning of the Biblical words themselves that are in question (like the debate around the Trinity).
  • The claim that inerrancy only applies to “matters of faith and practice” – but see Acts 24:14; Luke 24:25; Rom. 15:4.
  • Accommodation. But see 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21. Moral problem: we are to imitate God – is it okay to lie in order to make a larger point?
  • The claim that we are overemphasizing the divine aspect in inspiration of Scripture.
  • The claim that there are clear errors in the Bible
    • “The Bible is a hammer that has worn out many anvils.”
    • Voltaire and the Hittites; B.B. Warfield and Belshazzar and Nabonidus
    • Most apparent errors appear so because of a paucity of evidence and our lack of access to data from the ancient world. 
    • There are no alleged contradictions that have not been given a satisfactory solution.
  • No inerrant manuscripts: inerrancy applies to what was originally written. Thus Grudem’s definition: “the inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.”

Question: how can we have confidence that we possess the words of Scripture today? This is the question of the Preservation of God’s word, which we will take up next time.

Resources: Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (2nd edition); William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith (1st edition), Chapter 1.


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