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Inspiration, Infallibility, and Inerrancy

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
May 27, 2021 12:01 am

Inspiration, Infallibility, and Inerrancy

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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May 27, 2021 12:01 am

Does the Bible contain any errors in what it teaches? Today, R.C. Sproul defends the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of Scripture.

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Coming up today on Renewing Your Mind. When I was in seminary somebody use the term inerrancy with respect to the Scripture that immediately categorized that person as being a back woods fundamentalist with no education whatsoever. Inerrancy.

The idea that the Bible is without your knowledge, teaching many believers. The concept is as natural as breathing.

It's God's word so it has to be true, it has to be accurate.

Others maintain that the Bible is actually full of errors today on Renewing Your Mind. We returned to Dr. RC Sproul series, hath God said to defend the inspiration and fallibility and inerrancy of Scripture, any time the subject of the authority of Scripture is raised and people engage in discussions about it.

There are three pivotal concepts that inform the conversation.

Those concepts all rights on the board and then will take some time to define them.

They include the concept of inspiration. The concept of infallibility and the concept of inerrancy now before I go into a development of these concepts here. I'd like you to just think within the quiet chambers of your own mind what are your personal reactions to these concepts will you think of when you hear the word inspiration and what goes through your mind when you think of the term infallible and perhaps most importantly, how do you react this relate to the term inerrant or inerrancy asked these questions for reason there is a tremendous amount of emotion that cast a pall over each and all of these terms, and sometimes I find it in theology somewhat difficult for people to get past the emotion to examine carefully the content of these words. For example, when I was in seminary somebody use the term inerrancy with respect to the Scripture that immediately categorized that person as being a back woods fundamentalist with no education whatsoever. No response will be. How can anybody believe in the inerrancy of Scripture in this day and age after 200 years of profound academic analysis and scholarly criticism, and so the term inerrancy emerges as something of a shibboleth. This issue became so severe that in the late 70s, an organization was formed in America that included scholars from around the world. Several hundred of them as a matter of fact, but under the leadership of an executive committee of 15 or 16 of them to study the question of the authority of the inspiration, the infallibility of the inerrancy of the Bible and this organization was called the International Council on biblical inerrancy and it devoted itself not only to 10 years of study, but also of publications of various sorts in several conference in the first summit meeting of this organization was held in Chicago in 1978 when several hundred people came together and discussed and debated various issues about the integrity of Scripture, and what emerged from that event was a document that included a united statement on Scripture and then a lengthier document that included 20 some affirmations and denials above Scripture that is careful definition, saying, we affirm that the Bible is this this this and this. We deny that it is this listlessness of the it would be as clear as possible what was being stated on the matter. I was asked to write a commentary for the ICD event on that document of affirmations and denials in brief form so that the layperson could have it and read through it and be educated and informed about some of these very subtle questions regarding your sacred Scripture.

Let's look then at these three concepts of inspiration, infallibility and inerrancy.

As I mentioned earlier in our session. When Paul says in second Timothy that all of the Scripture is inspired of God that's the English translation. I mentioned that the wording used, there should be translated expiration rather than inspiration because it is calling attention to the origin of the content of Scripture, not to the means or the method by which God endowed or governed or enabled human authors to become the instruments or the agents of his divine revelation, but that's what the word inspiration refers to in theology the term inspiration does not simply refer to somebody who is extraordinarily gifted for insightful or has a certain engaging charisma where we might hear a trumpet player play a triple tongue riff in jazz and monies done will say while that was an inch higher performance we mean by that God Almighty enabled him in some supernatural way to play the trumpet below. We may wonder about that with people like Dizzy Gillespie, and so on. But that was, not what is meant by an inspired actor or inspired football players somebody who gives an inspired performance of out of it. We were talking about inspiration and theology were talking about an activity that takes place through divine and supernatural help, or the term that we use is superintendents by which the human author is enabled to be vehicle for God's word to be set forth. That's what we mean by inspiration. Now, in classical Christian theology, the church has not defined in detail exactly how that inspiration takes place. What we would call the mode of the inspiration and there is a world of misunderstanding about this some people when they hear that word inspiration for verbal inspiration of the Bible.

What immediately comes into their mind is the idea that the human authors as they set about the task of writing the gospel of Luke, or John or whatever, but they were virtual automatons. That is their pay was seized supernaturally by the Holy Ghost in such a way as to bypass to quench and to squelch altogether any of the humanity of that writer so that his pen worked as a Ouija board or as what we would call a kind of automatic writing, or where the humanity of the human author was so annotated in this process that the author became virtually a machine in the hands of God. Such a view of inspiration is called therefore a mechanical view of inspiration, meaning that the human author is reduced to the status of machine and how many kinds of heard people say to me.

I don't believe in verbal inspiration. The orthodox view because I don't believe that God reduced people puppets and made the machines and sometimes I get impatient and I want to say. Have you read anything in the history of Christian literature on this point because for centuries, those Christian theologians who articulated the view verbal inspirations have been super careful to point out that what they certainly did not mean by divine superintendents was mechanical inspiration. Another theory that is rejected in orthodoxy with respect to verbal inspiration is what is called the dictation theory. Again, if you hear the term inspiration. Maybe you're thinking what inspiration means or what to suggest to you is that while Luke was at his desk writing on the parchment preparing the scroll of his book God was dictating what he was to write down in his ear. Just as I might pick up the telephone call in the office and my secretary and say can I ask you to take this down. Send out this letter and I tell her what to write word for word, and so she types it up and sends it over my signature in her initials, she actually is the writer which is not really the author because all she is doing is recording what I have dictated my words in our patent now when I say orthodoxy does not subscribe to this notion of inspiration dictation to do so with a little more ginger spirit about it because at the Council of Trent. For example, in the fourth session of the national were the Roman Catholic Church does use the term with reference to the Scripture that Dante speaks about the divine origin of Scripture. The Roman Catholic Church says the Scripture comes to pass, the Holy Spirit that taught day that names the Holy Spirit dictating so there's a word have anybody wants Delaney blame for a dictation theory of inspiration hears historical evidence that someone somehow very important decision. Roman Catholic Church counsel has magnitude uses the term.

However, the term dictating is used to Trent's the concept of God, whispering words to human writer or saying them aloud, is not conveyed by that concept even a Trent what they're saying is that yes there is a parallel between the human authors and human secretaries Calvin for example, said that the writers of the Scripture were like a menu Wednesdays, which was an old-fashioned word for secretary. They were like secretaries for God, but not in the sense that their individual style, vocabulary, and so on were overruled and the church has stopped short of defining precisely the mode of inspiration now. The second concept infallibility has one that is intrigued me considerably. Again I go back to my seminary days when there was such a negative hostile reaction to the word inerrancy. But there wasn't that same sort of violent vehement protest against the word infallibility and I do know one institution that one of the soften their doctrine of Scripture to accommodate certain forms of criticism and that their old creedal statement declared that they believed in the inerrancy of Scripture they change that to mean they believed in the infallibility of Scripture how you think about that but used to believe that the Bible was inerrant, that is without error, and knowledgeably that anymore.

Now they believe that the Bible is infallible alike consciously were trying to write a weaker statement, but in terms of the meaning of the words ladies and gentlemen, they strengthened the statement because the term infallible means unable to fail and capable of making a mistake whereas the term inerrancy simply says mistake is not made now, is it possible for human beings without the help of divine superintendents without the existence of God the Holy Spirit to do anything inherently resetting. Is it possible for a human being without any special help from God to do anything inherently first impulse might be to say no, you know, we are fraught with error through and through but you think back to Ortega spelling test in grade school like 100, take a math test read assault and probably got all 10 right got hundred percent. I was student in my theology class in the matter how hard I make that that's the guy makes 100. I would be deceitful to take a point author would be just that he makes 100 is inerrant, but I know he's not infallible and that his inerrancy is temporary to be inerrant simply means one does not are to be infallible means one cannot. I can be inerrant temporarily, but I haven't been infallible for five seconds yet why would people trying to minimize inerrancy substitute word infallible for two reasons. First of all, the term infallible does not have all this negative emotional baggage attached to it that the term inerrancy does. I remember when the International Council on biblical inerrancy met for the first time an executive Council debated the question, how shall we define this organization.

Should we define ourselves as theologians who are concerned to propagate the concept of inerrancy and I remember saying at that time that I think inerrancy is a bad word strategically because we have to be so careful to define it to avoid all the misconceptions about and there such a widespread hostility to what out there. Can't we find a better word that people will not be so emotionally tripping over that will be able to get a clear concept across because really what were concerned about here are not simple concepts like inerrancy and fell below were concerned about is the truthfulness of Scripture, the word of God is true and trustworthy. That's what were concerned. How could it be true and trustworthy toward inerrant and has errors. It's not altogether true that as errors. It's not only look trustworthy, but I was planning we need a word that's more neutral as it is a shibboleth JI Packer said in his inimitable way. Patiently and calmly very British manner, so I prefer the term inerrancy because it is a shibboleth in a Civil Way, Mesa well known the Old Testament days.

This term shibboleth was a words became a password military situation. If the slide tried to sneak into the Jewish camp and pretended he was a Jew. All the sentry had to do was say give the password say shibboleth people are more Joyce couldn't say shibboleth texts that are all that were in cell only children who cannot erect. Remember when I lived in Holland that the Dutch had the same kind of a shibboleth test during World War II to keep the Germans from snaking in places that were supposed to be there little seacoast town called evening and an organization saving you neither either have to be better yet.

That postnasal drip and the and the Germans could never pronounce that evening, and here that's evening and they can do that and so that was what they would trip them up on.

Packer said this, he said there's never been a confession written that somebody couldn't sign dishonestly to redefine the terms agreed to suit themselves to use language in a way nobody else uses it, which is sure dishonestly happens every day. I'm sad to say in the world. Theology. But he said people really choke on inerrant extent they're not to say they believe inerrancy. Leslie really believe it. Why give them an easy way to cheat because every theologian knows what is meant by inerrancy and what is meant by inherence into perfectly meaningful and significant word and it's a good word historically would stick with. I was persuaded by that, is it good for you here. I was ready to soften not going to soften the view but for public relations purposes because I understand that sometimes scholars change their minds on certain issues, but because they've really been convinced of the truth or falsity, but because it's become academically a liability liberal state. The term inerrancy and they're going to say you're not academic you're not intelligent enough scholarly if you embrace a term like that. If you're not secure in your scholarship and your intelligence maybe you might be intimidated to go shoot. I think that's one reason why people change from inerrancy to infallible. Why, because even though the term infallibility is a stronger term actually that inerrancy.

It doesn't have this anti-intellectual prejudice associated why where we most frequently hear the concept infallible or infallibility, not for the general assembly of the press during church America. Not for the preaching of the local Baptist minister never claims to be infallible. The concept of infallibility is associated historically with what with the institution of the Roman Catholic Church infallibility.

The church infallibility. The papacy defined in 1870 by pies tonight, but a doctrine which has been defended, for example, budgets would theologians and whatever else you think budgets would theologians and Roman Catholic theologians not too often that somebody says they're stupid. Nobody has accused the Jesuits of being on the intellectual or intellectually inferior Protestant liberals tremble in their boots when they have to stand up against the Jesuit and so the term infallibility has the cultural support of the intellectual credibility of the Roman Catholic academic world.

We follow my point.

But in terms of its actual meaning.

It's a higher and stronger term.

A stronger claim than the term inerrancy.

Finally, before I finish this little time of definition that other problem with inerrancy is inerrancy must be carefully defined what it does not mean is that there aren't grammatical crudity used to be found in the Bible or does it mean that the Bible speaks with absolute scientific precision inerrancy means no errors of truths, no deceit, no fraud, no lies, but allows, for example, the use of real numbers when the Bible says that Jesus fed 5000 people there may have only been 4978 there but we would not call a report of a historical incident that rounds off things like that's a fight, they would not say that that's an error.

Somebody objected to inerrancy because Jesus said that if you have the faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will be able to say to this mountain, so one set of the mustard seed is the smallest seed of all the people. Civil what we have found smaller seeds than the mustard seed is there room in truths for the legitimate literary use. For example of hyperbole when Jesus goes into town and the gospel writer says, and all of Capernaum came out to hear is that a legitimate use of hyperbole or do we have to insist that every man woman and child sick or healthy, actually came out of their house and went up and listen to Jesus. Obviously the author does not intend to be saying that each and every person there, but rather is using the normal literary forms to convey truth. That's the biblical concept of truths and all that orthodoxy has insisted, is that the Bible on every page and with every word, is utterly and completely consistent with the Bible's own definition of truths but was inspired.

It's infallible only backup it's inspired.

Therefore it's infallible and it's infallible. Therefore, it is inerrant, it is inerrant therefore it is altogether true and correct and those clear definitions give us confidence in God's word. Glad you joined us for the Thursday edition of Renewing Your Mind. Idly Webb and we are continuing a week of important messages helping us understand and defend the trustworthiness of Scripture. Today's messages from Dr. RC Sproul series, hath God said, and to help you continue your study on this important topic. We like to send you the six part series on two DVDs. Contact us today with your donation of any amount to look at her ministries and we will send them to you. You can do that securely online@renewingyourmind.org work. You can call us with your gift at 800-435-4343 in an issue a few years ago in table talk magazine, Dr. Michael Kruger wrote our arguments may not always convince skeptics, but that does not mean our arguments are invalid. God has provided ways that we can know these books of the Bible are from him in this series by Dr. scroll explains how we can know that the Bible is truly God's divinely inspired word. So again, we invite you to request this series by Dr. scroll our number again is 800-435-4343 or you can give your gift to make your request online@renewingyourmind.org and if you never subscribe to table talk.

Let me encourage you to do so every month, the editors focus on a single topic like discipleship or church history or are subject today.

The inerrancy of Scripture, trusted pastors, theologians and teachers provide helpful articles that Bush will find a section of daily Bible studies and devotions. You can learn more and subscribe@tabletalkmagazine.com in order to determine if the Bible is truly God's word. We need to look at several things, including what Jesus said about the Scriptures.

RC will concentrate on that tomorrow as we ramp up his suitcase. I hope you'll join us for Renewing Your Mind


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