The modern doctrine of Biblical inerrancy is an inconsistent, self-contradicting teaching that undermines the Christian’s confidence in the Word of God. At first, that statement may seem oxymoronic, if not outright unorthodox; but before you cast me out with the bath water, consider the following discourse. The above thesis, I believe, is plainly proven by the following points: 1) the Modernist definition of inerrancy; 2) the biblical evidence against that definition; and, 3) the Confessional doctrine of Scripture which is formed from the biblical evidence. By way of introduction, let me make clear from the outset that I do in fact believe that the Scripture is void of error (inerrant) in all that its material. I believe that not only experientially (that is, from reading Scripture and seeing that it only speaks truth), but theologically: Scripture is the Word of God; God is truth; therefore, the Word of God is truth. However, as I hope to demonstrate below, I reject the modernist doctrine of inerrancy, which destroys the very foundation on which its doctrine is supposedly based.
The Modernist Definition
When we consider the modernist definition of inerrancy, the first place we should turn to is the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. This statement is often hailed as a landmark of sound teaching and a bulwark against the waves of liberal theology. Unfortunately, its arguments for the doctrine of inerrancy are self-defeating and unorthodox.
Article XV of the statement contains the following affirmation: “We affirm that the doctrine of inerrancy is grounded in the teaching of the Bible about inspiration.” I have no issues at this point; in fact, I made the same argument above. And yet, article X reads: “We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture….” Here we are presented with a difficulty. The autographic text of Scripture are the original, hand-written texts which we no longer possess. If inspiration applies only to the autographic text, and inerrancy is founded on inspiration, then only the autographic texts (the ones we don’t have) are inerrant. Doesn’t this mean that the copies we have now, the Bible that we have now, could be errant?
The writers of the statement seek to remedy the problem with this caveat: “[the autographic text] in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy.” But does this, in fact, solve the difficulty? The key phrase here is “with great accuracy.” Let us assume that modern textual critics even believe that they can reconstruct the autographic text from the extant manuscripts (which they do not). Even if they did so “with great accuracy,” there is still some “little inaccuracy.” In other words, if the autographs can be reconstructed with 99.9999% accuracy, there is still 0.0001% inaccuracy; therefore, the text as a whole cannot be said to be inerrant, because a portion of it is necessarily inaccurate. Fortunately, the Scholars come to our rescue with this sweeping assertion: “We further deny that this absence [of the autographs] renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.” Of course, as good evangelicals, they sweep the problem under the rug.
Lastly, in the Exposition section of the Chicago Statement, we read: “Since God has nowhere promised an inerrant transmission of Scripture, it is necessary to affirm that only the autographic text of the original documents was inspired and to maintain the need of textual criticism as a means of detecting any slips that may have crept into the text in the course of its transmission.” This should stagger us, especially coming from so-called conservative evangelicals. Only the autographic texts are inerrant, according to this statement, and until we have a settled, exact reconstructed copy of those autographs, we cannot say with certainty that the Bible is inerrant. The entire argument, the entire doctrine which this Statement supposedly defends, is utterly undermined by a single sentence. But the clause that I would like to particularly call into question is this: “God has nowhere promised an inerrant transmission of Scripture.” I disagree in the strongest terms possible.
The Promise of a Faithful Text
The Lord our God has indeed promised that his Word would be handed down faithfully from generation to generation. No, you will not find the exact term “inerrant transmission” in Scripture. And yes, there are corrupted manuscripts of the text of the Bible. However, by God’s singular care and providence, he maintained a faithful, inerrant transmission of the text right down to our present day.
Is. 40.8 – “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” If the text of Scripture became so corrupted that it now requires the “science” of modern textual criticism to reconstruct it, then it necessarily did not “stand for ever.” But, thankfully, we have God’s promise that his Word will in fact stand forever.
Matt. 5.18 – “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.” The canon of Scripture includes not only the books of the Bible, but the content of the Bible down to the last “jot” and “tittle.” The Lord Jesus here promises that not one little mark of the text of Scripture will pass away until “all be fulfilled.” Unless I missed the final day of judgement, all has not yet been fulfilled, therefore not one jot or one tittle has passed from the law.
Jn. 17.17 – “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” Here the Lord Jesus makes a startling statement regarding the Word of God: it is the very truth of God. When modernists claim that the Word of God has become corrupt, they imply that the truth of God has become corrupt.
Lastly, Is. 59.21 – “As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.”
The Confessional View of Inerrancy
Paragraph 8 of Chapter 1 of the London Baptist Confession of Faith reads: “The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic.” At first glance, this might seem to be teaching the same doctrine that the Chicago Statement teaches. However, we must be careful to pay close attention to all of the words of this carefully written statement. The last three words are crucial: “are therefore authentic.” The writers of the LBCF believed that they had the authentic text of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures.
When the writers of the Confession said that the Hebrew and Greek texts were immediately inspired, they also said that they were “by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages.” This stands in absolute contrast to the modernist doctrine. The text of Scripture was kept pure in all ages, meaning that the text was faithfully transmitted from the time of its writing down to our present age. While individual manuscripts might contain errors and corruptions, the text as a whole was faithfully preserved by God to the extent that we can say that the Hebrew and Greek texts that we have are the exact copies, with 100% accuracy, of the texts written by the original authors. Why? Refer to the texts cited above: God promised that his Word would stand forever.
This is one of the sweetest promises that we have as believers. Since God inspired and preserved the text of Scripture down through the ages, we can know with absolutely certainty that the Scriptures are the very Word of God. Therefore, we may rest assured in the hope of the gospel that has been passed down to us in the Bible. In other words, we may have absolute confidence in the promise of Christ that “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16.16). That promise is true, because the Word of God is inerrant, because the Word of God was inspired by God and kept pure by God, and God is himself truth.