Inerrancy Under Attack

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Biblical inerrancy has become one of the most-challenged issues surrounding God’s Word of our generation. “Biblical inerrancy” is really just a phrase that means the Bible is without error—an idea that is part of our foundation for being able to fully trust God’s Word.

Zack Hunt is a writer, speaker, and graduate student at Yale Divinity School, and he has a forthcoming book on holiness. Now, Hunt recently wrote an article titled “The Bible Isn’t Perfect And It Says So Itself” on biblical inerrancy for his blog, explaining that he doesn’t believe in it. Just to give you an idea of the tone of this article, here is a short paragraph from his opening:

Biblical inerrancy is a 20th century fundamentalist invention, not something which is actually intrinsic to the Christian tradition, but things like “facts” and church history are but minor inconveniences to the religious zealot.
So apparently, people who believe in biblical inerrancy are “religious zealots” who don’t care about facts or history. That’s quite an accusation! Hunt actually makes the claim more than once in this post that church tradition did not affirm biblical inerrancy, so I asked one of our Bible scholars on staff whether Hunt was correct. Here’s how our Bible scholar explained this to me with reference to the corresponding doctrine of inspiration, which is the “belief that God is the source behind biblical writings and acted through the Holy Spirit with the biblical writers . . . to communicate what God wished to communicate” (McKim, Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, p. 29):
The discussion and debate about biblical inspiration goes even farther back than the early church. But an orthodox view of inspiration leads to an orthodox view of inerrancy. If God, who does not lie, asserts something as true, the only proper response is to take His Word as being without error. The biblical inspiration debate was among the Jews, with the Pharisees, Sadducees, etc. taking different positions. After the temple was destroyed in AD 70, the mainstream view became the view of the Pharisees, who held that Scripture was revealed by God and without error. The church today widely affirms biblical inerrancy; in fact, there were no mainstream churches questioning biblical inerrancy until the 1700s.
Now, I’m not sure which “facts” Hunt was referring to in his statement, but it seems as though the church actually knows facts and church history very well.

Hunt goes on to claim that faith and inerrancy are opposites:

Faith, as Paul Tillich say, [sic] requires an element of doubt. It’s a choice to believe in the face of incomplete, or even imperfect evidence. Inerrancy, on the other hand, is an arrogant claim to certainty in the face of a definitive reality.
He says he knows this difference exists because of his mother. She wasn’t perfect or “inerrant,” but she taught him good things. He could often trust what she said, so he had “faith” in her words. Hunt also quotes Anne Lamott, who said, “The opposite of faith is not doubt. It’s certainty.”

Of course, Hunt’s (and Lamott’s) definition of faith isn’t even consistent with Scripture itself. Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” What this means is that faith implies certainty. We have a “more sure word of prophecy” (2 Peter 1:19, KJV)—God’s Word—which was given to us by a perfect God and is the most reliable word man could put his trust in. It’s not “arrogant” to say that God’s Word is without error. Is God, who created language, incapable of communicating a timeless, inerrant message to His people, through men? Of course not! If God’s Word doesn’t provide the standard of what it means to be “without error,” then the standard for deciphering what in God’s Word is accurate and what is not becomes completely arbitrary guesswork, to say nothing of posing a problem with Scripture’s own claims to be true!

What Hunt’s view does, however, is to make God less than perfect. In fact, he writes almost that: “In other words, my mom is a lot like the Bible. She’s not perfect, but I can still trust that what she says is true.” And yet, Hunt doesn’t believe everything the Bible says. Noah’s Ark, for instance, he says is okay to believe when we’re five years old. But as adults, we have to realize that the account of the Ark and the Flood is just meant to teach a theological truth—it’s not literal history.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t trust a God who intentionally lies to me just to teach me some truth about Himself—however one determines what that truth is!

Lastly, Hunt commits what Bible scholars call an “exegetical fallacy.” Now we know that Scripture is “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16, NIV), which literally means “breathed out by God.” The Holy Spirit divinely inspired men to write the books of the Bible, and we can trust in the inspiration and inerrancy of those books because of the Spirit’s leading. But Hunt says that “God-breathed” doesn’t necessarily mean God made something without error, because God had to work through men, who aren’t perfect.

How does he support this? He grossly misquotes the Apostle Paul, saying that even Paul admitted the Scriptures weren’t without error:

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
Hunt believes that knowing “in part” implies error is present in Scripture. But what Paul is implying about Scripture, if anything, is that Scripture does not reveal everything. It’s adequate for us, but it’s not exhaustive in what it communicates.  In fact, God is infinite in wisdom and knowledge, so we finite beings can never know everything!  But can we trust that what has been revealed to us is without error? Absolutely.

The trouble with believing that the Bible contains error is this: How do we know what’s incorrect and what isn’t? How could we possibly trust that the message of salvation through Christ alone is true? No, God has given us a Word that is inerrant and inspired from the very first verse. Church, we must stand boldly on God’s Word and know that our faith is certainty of its truth.

It’s sad to see the increasing attacks on biblical authority from both the world and the church!

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

Ken

*Steve Golden assisted in composing this blog post.

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