The Bible: Inerrant and Infallible
The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. (Psalm 19:7-8)
In 1978, several Bible-believing, Christian scholars, theologians, pastors, and leaders met in Chicago to address a growing epidemic in the professing Church. Liberalism had begun to infect evangelicalism bringing with it doubts of the truthfulness and accuracy of the Bible. Rightfully alarmed, these men gathered to develop a statement that would reestablish the doctrine of the inerrancy of God’s Word. What they soon agreed on and published became known as the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.
This did not eradicate the denial of the reliability of Scripture but it did clarify the meaning of what has historically been professed and showed a united front of Christians who did believe the Bible to be what it claims to be, the pure and perfect Word of God.
“To this day, it [The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy] continues to set the benchmark for what it means to hold to biblical inerrancy—Holy Scripture is God’s written, errorless witness to Himself.” ~ Cameron Buettel1
What is Inerrancy? What is Infallibility?
Inerrant = “free from error”
Infallible = “incapable of error”
Inerrancy means that the Bible is without error, it is perfect. There may be some places that seem contradictory or wrong but with closer inspection, it is always revealed to be consistent.
Infallibility means that the Bible is incapable of error. This is an even stronger concept than inerrancy.
It is possible for mere humans to produce an inerrant document. I can write a shopping list with no errors, you can score a 100% on an exam, we can produce a technical manual that is completely accurate and without a single error. However, because we are human, we know we are not perfect. The fact that spell check is available proves that we humans, make mistakes. We can make a claim that a document we have written is without error, that it is inerrant, but we can never claim anything we produce is infallible because it was always possible we could have made a mistake.
The basis of inerrancy is laid upon the document itself. We ask: “Is it without error?” The foundation of infallibility, however, lies upon the source. We ask: “Is the source able to make errors?” The fact that God, the source of the Bible, is unable to sin and is perfectly perfect, we know that the Bible is infallible. If we know the source of the Bible is infallible, it only makes sense to conclude that it is also inerrant.
“The Bible as infallible and inerrant and therefore truthful must then be the reflection of the truthfulness of the nature of God. It is a true Word because God cannot speak anything other than a true Word.” ~ John MacArthur4
God is infallible and inerrant. He is sinless and perfect. He is holy and righteous. He is omniscient and omnipotent. He cannot lie. He has inspired chosen men in history to write the words He wanted to share with His people. Because He is omnipotent, He not only had the ability to do this, He had the ability to do this perfectly. Not only did He give us His Word perfectly, He has the ability to preserve that Word so that all future generations would be able to know what He said, know what He desires, know the Gospel, and have hope in eternity.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever. (Isaiah 40:8)
Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. (Matthew 24:35)
God’s Word is inerrant and infallible because He is inerrant and infallible. We can trust His Word because we can trust Him.
“The fact that God ‘breathed’ Scripture insures that the Bible is infallible, for God cannot breathe out error. The fact that the Bible equips God’s servants ‘thoroughly’ for service shows that it guides us into truth, not error…If God is infallible, then so will be His Word. The doctrine of Scripture’s infallibility is based on an understanding of God’s perfection of character.” (Got Questions)13
We no longer have the original autographs (copies) of the Apostles. However, we have lots and lots of copies. Through the science of textual criticism, we can trust that the Bible we have today is the Word of God.
“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. The verdict of this science, however, is that the Hebrew and Greek text appear to be amazingly well preserved, so that we are amply justified in affirming, with the Westminster Confession, a singular providence of God in this matter and in declaring that the authority of Scripture is in no way jeopardized by the fact that the copies we possess are not entirely error-free.
“Similarly, no translation is or can be perfect, and all translations are an additional step away from the autographa. Yet the verdict of linguistic science is that English-speaking Christians, at least, are exceedingly well served in these days with a host of excellent translations and have no cause for hesitating to conclude that the true Word of God is within their reach. Indeed, in view of the frequent repetition in Scripture of the main matters with which it deals and also of the Holy Spirit’s constant witness to and through the Word, no serious translation of Holy Scripture will so destroy its meaning as to render it unable to make its reader ‘wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus’ (2 Tim. 3:15).” ~ The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy3
Support for Inerrancy and Infallibility of the Bible
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Understanding how the Bible we have today was compiled helps to better understand what this verse is calling “all Scripture.” The sixty-six books we have today are the Word of God, the Scripture.
The sum of Your word is truth,
And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting. (Psalm 119:160)
Jesus and the Apostles
For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
The Apostles and Jesus recognized the Scripture as being the Word of God. These were not just the mere writings and ideas of men but they were the oracles of the Creator God.
“Jesus and the writers of Scripture believed in the truthfulness and historical reliability of even the most disputed parts of the Old Testament.” ~ Dr. Dave Miller and Eric Lyons7
Matthew 19:4 —> Genesis 2:24
1 Corinthians 15:45, 1 Timothy 2:13 —> Genesis 2:7, 21-25
2 Corinthians 11:3, 1 Timothy 2:13-14 —> Genesis 3
Matthew 24:37-39, 2 Peter 2:5, 3:6 —> Genesis 6-8
Luke 17:28-32, 2 Peter 2:6-7 —> Genesis 19
1 Corinthians 10:1-4, Hebrews 11:29 —> Exodus 14
John 3:14 —> Numbers 21:4-9
Matthew 12:39-40 —> Jonah
Jesus and the Apostles knew the Scriptures very well. They knew them so well that they could recognize the fingerprint of God upon His Word. They quoted from it often and even could recognize when those of their contemporaries were writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
“Scholars and theologians of all backgrounds, liberals and conservatives alike, agree that the historical Jesus of Nazareth believed and taught the high, exalted view of Scripture that common to first-century Judaism, namely, that the Bible is nothing less than the inspired Word of God.” ~ RC Sproul10
Regardless of what people think of the Bible today, it is easy to determine that Jesus and the Apostles believed the Scriptures to be the infallible, inerrant, inspired Word of God.
“However this sacred Book may be treated nowadays, it was not treated contemptuously, nor negligently, nor questioningly by the Lord Jesus Christ, our Master and Lord.” ~ Charles H. Spurgeon
“The concept of the truthfulness of the Bible, because it is the Word of God, has been held throughout the history of the church by most Christian theologians and leaders.” ~ Dr. Bruce Ware12
Historically, considering the Bible to be the inerrant and infallible Word of God was a nonissue. It was the common, basic belief. There was very few quarrels over the trustworthiness of Scripture.
There have always been those ready to twist God’s Word into something unrecognizable but the attack on the truthfulness of God’s Word, specifically among those professing to be Christians, is something that has taken root and grown into the ugly monster it has become only in more modern times.
“Inerrancy has been the faith of the Church. It is recognized that inerrancy was often assumed rather than explicitly defended. However from its earliest days the Church’s use of Scripture has demonstrated an underlying commitment to inerrancy.” ~ Dr. M. James Sawyer8
Consequences of Denying Inerrancy and Infallibility
Defenseless against the devil
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”…The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1, 4-5)
From the very beginning, there have been attacks on the truthfulness of God’s Word. The first sin was the fruit of doubt being cast on what God had proclaimed. Martin Luther was right when he said, “Whatever does not have its origin in the Scriptures is surely from the devil himself.” (Luther’s Works, Vol 36, 144)5
We can also see in this passage that what Satan told Eve didn’t actually sound bad. It actually sounded very “churchy.” He told Eve that eating the fruit would “open their eyes” to what is good and what is evil. Isn’t that something we want? We want to be able to discern evil from good. That is something God has told us in His Word that we should desire, to be able to recognized good from evil. And then he told her that it would make her “like God.” Again, isn’t that what we want? Don’t we want to be more like God? Are we not supposed to be being “conformed to the image of Christ” (Romans 8:29)?
False teachers twist God’s Word and they are know how to use it to manipulate you into thinking what they are saying is Biblical. Just like what Satan told Eve sounded good and like something God would want for them, he was teaching her to question God’s command, to doubt it, and to eventually go against it.
When we do not know God’s Word and do not trust that what He has said is completely true, we allow ourselves to be manipulated and led astray by crafty false teachers. When you hear someone casting doubt or changing what God has said to us in Scripture, you can be sure that this is not coming from God but that it is coming from the Devil.
Christianity Abandons the Bible as the Authority
“If Christians abandon the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, then having a standard of truth by which all humans are to live their lives would be impossible. Like the son who obeys his father insofar as he agrees with the father’s rules, a Christian would have his own standard of authority because the Bible would be authoritative only when he judged it to be a reliable guide. Simply put, Scripture cannot be demonstrated to be divinely authoritative if the Bible (again, in its original autographs) contained factual errors…The question must be asked: If God cannot handle correctly ‘trivial’ matters (such as geographical directions, or the name of an individual), why would anyone think that they could trust Him with something as critically important as the safety of their eternal soul, and expect Him to handle it in a more appropriate fashion? Or, looking at this matter from another angle, consider the question Jesus asked Nicodemus: ‘If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things’ (John 3:12)? Implied in this statement is the fact that had Jesus told Nicodemus earthly things, they would have been true. The same reasoning follows with the Bible. Because it is God’s Word, it would be correct in whatever matters it addresses. Furthermore, if the Bible is not truthful in physical matters, then it cannot be trusted when it addresses spiritual matters. Truly, the concept of partial inspiration impugns the integrity and nature of God, conflicts with the evidences for inspiration, and should be rejected as heresy.” ~ Dr. Dave Miller and Eric Lyons7
If we do not have an inerrant and infallible Bible, then we have no way of knowing what is true and what is false. If we cannot trust what the Bible says as being true, we do not have a steadfast sword for defending against the attacks of the devil (Ephesians 6:10-18).
“When we say that the Bible is the only rule of faith and practice, it is because we believe this rule has been delegated by the Lord whose rule it is. Therefore, we say that Bible is inerrant and infallible.” ~ RC Sproul10
Attacks the Character of God
“…if a Christian believes that the Bible is fallible, then one is forced to accept the inevitable conclusion that, on some occasions, God ‘breathed’ truth, while on others He ‘breathed’ error (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16).” ~ Dr. Dave Miller and Eric Lyons7
This and the next danger in rejecting the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible are perhaps the most serious. Rejecting the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible is comes very close to attacking the very character and nature of God.
To say the Bible contains errors is to say that God has either lied or He is not omnipotent. If God has lied to us, then He is not sinless and cannot be the righteous and holy God.
If God is powerless to provide us with an inerrant guide and preserve that Word for all generations, how can we ever trust Him with our eternity?
To suggest that God has either lied or is not omnipotent is a very serious accusation with very serious consequences.
There are many who reject inerrancy and infallibility by saying the Bible is wrong on some of the small things like geography, science, and specific historical facts but it is true in its overall message. But this does not seem to make logical sense either. If the God is not accurate in the small things, why should we trust Him with the biggest matters like our souls?
“If the Bible is not reliable and trustworthy in its allusion to ‘peripheral’ matters, how can it be relied upon to be truthful and accurate in more central matters? Is an omnipotent God incapable of preserving human writers from making false statements in their recording of His words? It will not do to point out that the Bible was not intended to be a textbook of science or history. If, in the process of pressing His spiritual agenda, God alluded to geography, cosmology, or medicine, God did not lie. Nor would He allow an inspired person to speak falsely.” ~ Dr. Dave Miller and Eric Lyons7
Often, the apparent mistakes and inconsistencies in the Bible can be cleared up with a bit more study. There has never been a single Biblical claim that has been proven to be inaccurate.
There may be claims that the Bible is inaccurate in areas when we come to the Bible through preconceived ideas. For example, many claim the accounts of Genesis cannot be trusted because science has proven evolution and that the earth is millions of years old. Some Christians will take these hypothesis and scientific data and rework the Bible to fit their preconceived ideas based on secular claims rather than understanding the data through the lens of the Bible. So, they change the way Genesis has been understood for the last several thousand years. The way Moses, Noah, Abraham, David, the Apostles, and even Jesus believed and taught were wrong, but now that we have modern science, we know better.
Reading the Bible this way, is saying that the way God has worded His message to us is wrong, so we will learn to read it differently than how He originally intended so that it fits our modern, preconceived ideas.
“To sum up the testimony of Jesus with regard to Scripture, you have one of three possibilities. The first is that the Old Testament is the Word of God…it is the Scripture. There are no errors in it, not one jot or tittle in the original manuscripts had an error, just as Jesus taught.
“Or, there are errors but Jesus didn’t know about them. That’s a problem because He knew everything as God.
“Or, there are errors, Jesus knew about them and covered them up.
If the second is true that the Scripture contains errors of which Jesus was unaware, then Jesus isn’t God and you can dismiss the whole thing. If the third is true, Jesus knew about the errors but covered them up, then Jesus is the devil, a liar. Belief in the deity of Jesus Christ then demands a belief in the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture.” ~ John MacArthur4
When Jesus teaches from Scripture as if it is the inerrant and infallible Word of God, He is either lying, is ignorant, or He is telling the truth. If He is lying, He is not the sinless Lamb in which we can trust to wash away our sins. We are without hope. We are still lost in our sins. We have no Savior.
If He was ignorant, then He is not God the Son, the second person of the Trinity. He is an imposter and again we are left still lost in our sins, without a Savior, and without hope.
If He is telling the truth, however, then we know we can trust Him, we can trust His sacrifice, we can trust our eternity with Him, and we can trust the Bible to be the inerrant and infallible Word of God.
Some people claim they believe and trust Christ as their Savior but they don’t trust all of the Bible. They believe most of it for the salvation of their souls but they have a hard time believing things like a world-wide flood, Jonah in the belly of the fish, the dividing of the Red Sea, etc… However, Jesus made it clear that He believed these things. So if you believe Jesus but don’t believe what He believed and taught, what you are claiming is illogical.
“If you say you believe in Christ but doubt the Bible’s truthfulness, you are being inconsistent and even irrational. Christ endorsed the Bible as true and authoritative. Therefore it follows that if you give Christ a place of honor and authority in your life, to be consistent you have to give Scripture that same honor and authority.” ~ John MacArthur6
To deny the inerrancy and infallibility of the Scripture, is to accuse Christ of lying or ignorance. To make these accusations it to directly attack the character and nature of Christ, the one you claim to be the perfect, sinless, holy, righteous Son of God who bore your sins on the cross.
“At the end of the day, inerrancy is inseparable from Christology…The issue is not the sacrosanctity of a book, a ‘paper pope,’ or bibliolatry. The issue at stake is the integrity of the person and work of Jesus. He can save us only if He is sinless, and He is sinless only if all of His teaching—including what He teaches about Scripture—is true.” ~ RC Sproul11
The inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible means we can trust not only the Source but His Words completely. We can trust our Savior and what He believed and taught completely. We have a shield and refuge in the Word of God. We have a sword in which we can use with complete faith. We have a Savior and a salvation in which we can rest and have peace in. We have hope in our future and joy for today.
1. Buettel, Cameron. 2015. “Blog Post – Evangelical Syncretism: The Inflexibility Of Inerrancy”. Gty.Org. https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B150302/evangelical-syncretism-the-inflexibility-of-inerrancy.
2. “Infallibility And Inerrancy”. 2017. Ligonier Ministries. Accessed July 20. http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/infallibility-and-inerrancy/.
3. “Is My Bible Really Free From Errors?”. 2017. Gty.Org. Accessed July 20. https://www.gty.org/library/questions/QA172/is-my-bible-really-free-from-errors.
4. MacArthur, John. 2001. “The Truthfulness Of Scripture”. Gty.Org. https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-248/the-truthfulness-of-scripture.
7. Miller, Ph.D., Dave, and Eric Lyons, M.Min. 2017. “Biblical Inerrancy”. Apologeticspress.Org. Accessed July 18. http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=416.
9. “Scriptural Inerrancy”. 2017. Ligonier Ministries. Accessed July 18. http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/scriptural-inerrancy/.
11. Sproul, R.C. 2015. “What Difference Does An Inerrant Bible Make?”. Ligonier Ministries. http://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-difference-does-inerrant-bible-make/.
12. Ware, Bruce. 2017. “Inerrancy”. Biblicaltraining.Org. Accessed July 18. https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/inerrancy/systematic-theology-i/bruce-ware.
13. “What Does It Mean That The Bible Is Infallible? What Is Biblical Infallibility?”. 2017. Gotquestions.Org. Accessed July 18. https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-infallible.html.
14. “Why Is It Important To Believe In Biblical Inerrancy?”. 2017. Gotquestions.Org. Accessed July 18. https://www.gotquestions.org/Biblical-inerrancy.html.