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The Authority of Scripture: Inerrancy

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
June 29, 2022 12:01 am

The Authority of Scripture: Inerrancy

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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June 29, 2022 12:01 am

Scripture is absolutely true, and therefore it should govern our lives. Today, Stephen Nichols asks an important question: Are we willing to submit to the inerrant Word of God?

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If we say the Bible is God's Word, then we will be led to say the Bible is true, because the Bible reflects God's character.

Now, think about this. To say that the Bible contains error is like saying God lies. There is a biblical church today who inadvertently claim that God lies, because they claim that the Bible contains errors. The battle for the doctrine of inerrancy has raged for several decades, and today on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. Stephen Nichols will help us understand why we can be confident that the Bible is true. In our last session together, we ended with saying that Scripture is God's Word.

That's the doctrine of inspiration. And if Scripture is God's Word, then, as the doctrine of inerrancy, what we're going to look at in our time together, tells us that Scripture is true. Now, we can spend the next twenty-some minutes together talking about how Scripture is true, or I could simply show you this, and it will prove once for all, this of course is from the reliable, very scholarly publication, The Weekly World News. This is from May 25, 1993, and there it is, Goliath's Skull Found in Holy Land. But this is my favorite. The banner down here reads, Dramatic Discovery Proves Bible Story is True. There you go. The Bible is true. We don't need to talk anymore. See, now, I wanted to show you that in the first session, but I was afraid if I did that, you would give up on me.

So I saved that for a couple sessions. But we are talking about how the Bible is true this time. So we've got inspiration. In fact, if we go back to that essay that I mentioned to you, that essay by B.B. Warfield back in the 1880s on the inspiration of Scripture, he gives us a very simple formula that has been followed since then. That inspiration teaches that the Bible is God's Word, and if it is God's Word, then we are naturally led to the doctrine of inerrancy that it is true. Now, we'll see this in Scripture itself by showing that Scripture reflects as the Word of God reflects the character of God. One of the interesting texts that shows us this is Numbers chapter 23 verse 19.

You remember Numbers. You read through it when you read through the Bible each year. But in Numbers chapter 23, 19, this is in that really curious exchange with the donkey and Balaam and Balak. And here we have a fascinating word, again, as God is speaking. And up in verse 17, we have the question, what has the Lord spoken? That question is, in fact, a rhetorical question. He's saying that once you realize that God has spoken, guess what?

It will happen. So he says this in verse 19, God is not man that he should lie, or a son of man that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? There is a clear linking here of the character of God with the revelation of God, and the conclusion of that is God's Word is true, reliable, and trustworthy.

Now, it's fascinating. It's not that the comparison is that God doesn't lie all the time, right? Because we don't lie all the time.

He's contrasting himself with us. And it's not as if everything we say is a lie, right? Even if we lie, sometimes we're telling the truth. So the idea is not that sometimes God tells the truth. In order for this contrast to work, it has to be an absolute contrast. And that absolute contrast tells us very simply, God does not lie.

He speaks truthfully. This is the doctrine of inerrancy. Now, the doctrine of inerrancy has been there not only within the pages of Scripture, but has been there from the beginnings of the history of the Christian tradition. The church fathers at numerous places will talk about the full trustworthiness.

The whole Bible is the Word of God. You'll even see this in one of the early bishops, Polycarp. Polycarp will be making a point, writing in his epistles to some of the churches as the bishop that was martyred at Smyrna. And he'll be writing to these churches, and he'll give them advice on different things they're facing. But then he'll just sort of back up and just quote Scripture. And the more the point he wants to drive home, the more Scripture he quotes. And you know what's fascinating? Polycarp doesn't even have to introduce it with saying, now this is Scripture, and therefore it's true, and you need to listen to this.

He just quotes it and gets out of the way, because the prevailing view is that Scripture is true. Now, this view was developed more fully, as we saw with the Princetonians and with Warfield in the 1880s to the 1910s, especially as it came under attack, coming out of the ideas expressed in people like Thayer in the 1890s. But as we move out of the fundamentalist-modernist controversy, that era of the 1880s to the 1920s, we see that inerrancy pops up again.

In fact, it all started in 1961. In 1961, a commentary is published on Genesis by a professor at a sanctioned Southern Baptist theological seminary, and the book is published by a publishing house of the Southern Baptist Convention. And that commentary on Genesis, almost right out of the gate, the very first sentence, questions the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch.

And then it's off to the races. And before you know it, in the 60s and in the 70s, the largest Protestant denomination in America, the Southern Baptist Convention is embroiled in a battle for the Bible. And eventually the conservatives get the upper hand and bring the denomination around.

Well, what was happening in the Southern Baptist Convention was happening across the spectrum of American Christianity, so much that in the 1970s a group got together and decided to write a statement on Scripture. Now, this was maybe the dream team of theologians in the 1970s. There was J.I.

Packer. There was Jim Montgomery Boice. There was R.C.

Sproul. There was this host of theologians and churchmen recognizing the dangers of what was being said from pulpits, from the seminary lectern, that would result in the undermining of the authority, reliability, and trustworthiness of Scripture. And so they met. They formed a group called the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. They used to joke that it could be international because J.I.

Packer was a part of it, so he's British, so there's the international part. And they produced a statement in 1978 called the Chicago Statement on Scripture, or sometimes called the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy. This is an actual reprinting of the statement. It's only two pages long. It's got 19 articles. Well, there was a preface, too. This doesn't have the preface. It's a page-long preface and the 19 articles of affirmations and denials. And the Chicago Statement was intended to offer a definitive and a nuanced view of the doctrine of inerrancy. It recognized, the statement that is recognized, that when we talk about inerrancy, we are talking about the original autographs. It recognized that while the Bible is true, it is a truthful recording of human speech, and at times that human speech itself could be erroneous, so it is a truthful recording of somebody speaking falsely, in other words. It also recognizes what we call phenomenological language.

Now, there's a word you should say ten times. Phenomenological language is simply the idea that we talk in terms of the phenomenon. Nobody wakes up in the mornings and says, oh, what a beautiful earth rotation we have this morning doing. No, of course not. We, even in our scientific age, even in our technological age of the 21st century, what do we say?

Sunrise and sunset. We don't say earth rotation, but that's technically what it is, right? Well, the Bible speaks in phenomenological language, of the language of the phenomenon. So the statement stresses all that. But what's fascinating about the statement is that it essentially restates Warfield's basic idea.

The doctrine of inerrancy is lodged in the doctrine of inspiration. If we say the Bible was God's Word, then we will be led to say the Bible is true. Because the Bible reflects God's character. Now, think about this. To say that the Bible contains error is like saying God lies.

Think about that. If the Bible is a reflection of God's character and we say, well, the Bible contains error. It's limited inerrancy.

But why not just call it limited errancy, right? I guess it's a question of is the glass half full or is the glass half empty. But you're saying that God lies. Well, let's look at this. Let's look at what Scripture has to say about itself.

We see it in Numbers chapter 23 verse 19. God is not like us. We lie. We equivocate.

We go back and forth. We fail to keep our promises. God says that it will happen. God promises that it will be fulfilled. We see it in Proverbs chapter 30 verse 5. I'm going to make you work in this session.

We're going to be looking at a lot of texts. Proverbs chapter 30 verse 5 says, every word of God proves true. Every word of God proves true. And there is a wonderful application of that.

In fact, the author of Proverbs goes on to finish that application for us. He is a shield to those who seek refuge in him. God's trustworthy. His word is trustworthy. Therefore, we can flee to it for refuge.

Things that aren't trustworthy aren't worthwhile refuges for us to flee to. If we go over to, well, I guess we can go back to 2 Samuel chapter 7 verse 28. Here again, we see the admission. And now, O Lord God, you are God.

Right? So, we know who God is. You are God, and your words are true. You have promised this good thing to your servant. We have young kids at home. And, you know, we're at that stage where the kids ask us to do a lot. And I'm always saying, oh, yes, we can do that.

We can go here and do this thing or we can see that. And I don't always keep my promises. And the thing about kids is they sort of remember that you tell them you're going to do something. We have a balcony in our church. They always want to sit in the balcony. And every Sunday I pretty much say, well, maybe next Sunday we'll sit in the balcony.

And of course, the next Sunday rolls around and they say, well, last Sunday you said we would sit in the balcony. We don't keep our promises, do we? We try to, but we are finite. We are frail. We are even sinful. God is not. He's none of those things. He's not finite. He's not limited.

He's not frail. He's pure and righteous, and His words are pure and righteous and true. And you can bank on it. God keeps His promises. God keeps His promises. Well, as we go over to the New Testament, we see the same thing. In fact, we see it in Christ's ministry.

It's sort of like Polycarp trying to advise the early church. All he does is speak Scripture. He doesn't have to even say, you know, you should follow this because it's Scripture. He just quotes it. Jesus does the same thing, doesn't he?

Right off the bat in the temptation. Here He is met with Satan. Here He is met literally with a lie. And how does Christ respond?

At every turn, how does He respond? He simply quotes Scripture. We even see it in His own words when He says over in John chapter 10, at John 10, 35, almost as an aside. Jesus is in one of those many debates He's having with the religious leaders of the day, the Pharisees, and He quotes the Old Testament, and then almost as an aside, a parenthetical comment, He says, and Scripture cannot be broken. Scripture cannot be broken. So Jesus, both in what He explicitly says and by His example, is showing us that God's Word is true, that it is trustworthy.

In His high priestly prayer, that wonderfully intimate prayer for us as Christ is about to leave, as He is on the eve of His crosswork on our behalf, in that high priestly prayer, He prays that we are sanctified, and He prays, Sanctify them through Thy Word. And then He says, Your Word is truth. Your Word is truth. Because it's truthful, because it's trustworthy, it can be a refuge. Because it's truthful, because it's trustworthy, it is what works on us. As Paul says in the Thessalonians passage, or as Jesus says, it is what sanctifies us.

Something that doesn't measure up to truthfulness, something that doesn't quite get up to that level, isn't something that we should have as the authority of our life, that we turn to, that we let govern us, that we let control us. Scripture is true, and therefore it should govern us. We see it beyond Christ as well. We see it in other New Testament authors. Paul in Romans chapter 10, for instance, he's quoting from Isaiah chapter 28. And as Paul quotes from Isaiah chapter 28, he doesn't even say, the prophet Isaiah said, he says, Scripture says, and he gives the quote. And because it is Scripture, it is true. And it is that Old Testament quote that is the pivot of Paul's argument in Romans chapter 10. We even see it in the way the New Testament authors reflect on themselves. A verse I take tremendous comfort in.

In fact, we're going to see this as we get into our session on interpretation. But at the end of 2 Peter, in chapter 3, verse 16, Peter is referring to his beloved brother Paul. And he says in verse 16 of 2 Peter chapter 3, speaking about Paul, as Paul does in all his letters when he speaks of these matters, and then he says, there are some things in them that are hard to understand.

I can't tell you how comforting that is to know. This is Peter. He spoke Greek. He was a disciple. He spent years with Christ. He was under the inspiration. And he says, I'm stumped by Paul every once in a while.

Isn't that encouraging? The next time you feel a little lost in the tall grass of Romans, just let those words of Peter echo in your head and you will be comforted. But he says, things that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction. So, he's talking about false teaching.

Here it is. The church is a newborn baby, and there's false teaching already crept into it. But then he says this, as they do to the other Scriptures. Now, the ink wasn't even dry on Paul's epistles, and Peter is recognizing them as authoritative, as truthful, and he is equating them with the other Scriptures. So, what we find here is not just an isolated piece here and there, but what we find is a consistent message that Scripture is the Word of God. Now, sometimes theologians will speak of what they call the self-attestation. In the Reformation era, they used the Latin for this, the internum testimonium, and then they would even make it the internum testimonium spiritus sancti, the witness of the Holy Spirit, that we know the Bible is true because it is from God, and it bears the stamp, the divine witness of the Spirit, the internal testimony. Or, as we sometimes express this doctrine, the self-attestation. Ultimately, to answer the question, how do we know God's Word is true, it's because it tells us it is.

Now, immediately, a critic would launch a response to that. Well, that sounds to me like circular reasoning. Well, part of me wants to say, you're right, it is, because in fact all reasoning is circular. Some circles are more vicious than others, like the circle of your own head of human autonomy.

That's a pretty vicious circle to be in. But we don't simply have to say Scripture is true because it says it and that's it. We can look to external evidences that support, now that's a key word, not prove, but support the truthfulness of Scripture. Scripture didn't occur off behind some bushes somewhere, and some prophets with decoder rings giving some secret message.

It occurred in real places, in real time, in real events, and we can bear this out. This is where archaeology, this is where history comes in to support the claims of Scripture. There was a discussion for years that there was no hard data, no evidence to support the Davidic dynasty. This is so prominent in the Old Testament, and here we are lacking data, archaeological, physical data, to support the presence of a Davidic dynasty. And so the critics lodged the charge, therefore the Bible is not true. And then lo and behold, there is an inscription discovered with the simple words, Beit David, the house of David. Scripture didn't occur in a vacuum. It didn't occur outside of time and place.

There is a place for archaeology. There is a place for historical data, not to prove that the Bible is true, but to support it, to show us that it is indeed a reliable and trustworthy book. You know, the bottom line issue here is not so much argument, although I think there is a place for that, and it is important to make arguments for the truthfulness and trustworthy of Scripture.

The bottom line issue here by and large is one of attitude, an attitude of submission or not. Are we willing to submit to this ancient book as the Word of God, or are we not? The doctrine of inerrancy reminds us, forcefully reminds us, that this is the Word of God.

It is true. It is our trustworthy refuge, and it is through this Word that we are sanctified. That's the doctrine of inerrancy. And that's Dr. Stephen Nichols with a message from his series, Why We Trust the Bible. As Christians, this is the foundation of everything that we believe. Without God's special revelation, we would be lost, trapped in the darkness of our sin.

Studying, understanding, and embracing what we find in the Bible defines every aspect of our faith. If you'd like to learn more and continue your study on this important topic, I hope you'll contact us today and request the six-message series by Dr. Nichols. You can do so with your donation of any amount to Ligonier Ministries. There are a couple of ways you can reach us. One is by phone at 800-435-4343, or you can go online to

Dr. R.C. Sproul said that the purpose of Scripture is to help believers renew their minds and live more fully for Christ. Learning why the Bible is trustworthy is an important place to start.

That's why we encourage you to request this series. Again, it's called Why We Trust the Bible by Dr. Stephen Nichols. Our phone number again is 800-435-4343, and our online address is I also want to let you know about another of our helpful resources. It's called Ask Ligonier. Twenty-four hours a day, Monday through Saturday, you can receive answers to your biblical and theological questions in real time. This is not an automated system. You'll be able to chat with a trained team member at any time, day or night.

Just go to Well, as we've heard from Dr. Nichols this week, there is one topic that seems to be a constant for the skeptics, the reliability of the Bible. Tomorrow and Friday, Dr. Michael J. Krueger will help us understand where the Bible came from and how we can know it's reliable. I hope you'll join us Thursday for Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-29 02:45:56 / 2023-03-29 02:54:27 / 9

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