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Friday, March 11, 2016

Inerrancy in History

It is argued that the entire "inerrancy of Scripture" thing is a fabrication, a new thing. (Oddly enough, most of those who make this argument are fully invested in new things and happy to embrace them if they coincide with what they want to believe. Apparently, it is only when a belief opposes their preferences can a perceived "new thing" be considered bad.) But is it true? Is this a new thing?

Iranaeus (130-202 A.D.) believed in divine inspiration and argued that not a single detail, word, or letter could be considered insignificant. Clement of Rome (150-250 A.D.) said, "The Holy Scriptures which are given through the Holy Spirit ... nothing iniquitous or falsified is written." Origen (184-254 A.D.) said, "that not a jot or tittle was in vain in Scripture, that there was nothing in Scripture which did not come down from the fullness of the divine majesty." But it was really Augustine (354-430 A.D.) who pushed the inerrancy position. In his Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, Augustine said, "If we are perplexed by an apparent contradiction in Scripture, it is not allowable to say, 'The author of this book is mistaken'; but either the manuscript is faulty, or the translation is wrong, or you have not understood." In a letter to Jerome he made statements like "only the Holy Scripture is considered inerrant" and "Scripture has never erred."

As it turns out, it is not a new doctrine. It is an original doctrine. As I said before, it is a biblical concept. Jesus said it, multiple times (Matt 5:18; Matt 24:35; John 10:35). It is based on the character of God (Heb 6:18; Titus 1:2). It is the claim of Scripture itself (Psa 119:160; 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21; 1 Cor 14:37; 1 Thess 2:13; 2 Peter 3:15-16) It is the historic position of the Church.

Why is it that it didn't become so absolutely clear until Augustine's day? Because no one was asking the question. First, the actual canon of Scripture wasn't settled until the 4th century, and many of that day weren't literate. It wasn't until the canon was "set in stone" and people started arguing about the content that inerrancy became an issue. But Augustine was taking on heresies brought about by a misuse of Scripture, so he had to establish a reliable source. Why did it become a big deal in the Reformation? Because the Roman Catholic Church was twisting the usage of Scripture and that needed to be corrected. Why is it that so many claim that it is a fairly modern, 19th century innovation? Because in the 18th and 19th centuries, the "Age of Enlightenment" included a direct assault on the reliability of the Bible and Christians needed to respond clearly and absolutely.

Christians need to respond clearly and absolutely today. Either God is reliable and the words He breathed are true or we have an insurmountable problem. Accusations ranging from "You're putting words in Jesus's mouth" to "You're being arrogant" to "You're conflating your opinion as God's view" (by, you know, quoting God's Word) don't change the reliability of God, His Word, or the biblical and historical claim that He is true and, therefore, His Word is true. Look, I don't imagine that someone out there who does not believe in inerrancy of the Bible is going to smack their forehead here and say, "Wow! Didn't know that! Thanks for clearing it all up and now I believe." Perhaps, on the other hand, someone who does but is questioning amidst the constant assault on God's Word these days can derive some measure of relief from this. Believe what you want about it, but don't buy the lie that it is a new doctrine without support or reason. On the other hand, good luck with defending the faith with a fallible Bible. Do not, in that case, refer to it as "the Word of God" because "fallible" and "Word of God" is a slap in God's face. Don't think this is not a defense of the Bible; it is a defense of God.

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