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What is Inerrancy? Part 3

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
The Truth Network Radio
March 2, 2021 8:05 pm

What is Inerrancy? Part 3

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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March 2, 2021 8:05 pm

Inerrancy of the Bible is an important concept to Bible-believing Christians. Just what is this concept? And how does this topic relate to Mormonism? Please see an article related to this topic by visiting

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Viewpoint on Mormonism, the program that examines the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from a Biblical perspective. Viewpoint on Mormonism is sponsored by Mormonism Research Ministry. Since 1979, Mormonism Research Ministry has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect. And now your host for today's Viewpoint on Mormonism. Will you properly explain the doctrine of inerrancy with our Latter-day Saint friends? Welcome to this edition of Viewpoint on Mormonism.

I'm your host, Bill McKeever, founder and director of Mormonism Research Ministry, and with me today is Eric Johnson, my colleague at MRM. For the past few days, we've been looking at a quotation made by Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and it's found on the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 327. On that page, Joseph Smith is cited as saying, I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers, ignorant translators, careless transcribers or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors. Most Latter-day Saints, when they read that statement, naturally assume that because Joseph Smith said our Bible came through the hands of ignorant translators, careless transcribers or designing and corrupt priests, and the fact that as he says, there are many errors means they don't need to have the same kind of respect that those of us, what we call New Testament Christians have for our Bible. First of all, what Joseph Smith says in the first portion of that citation, as we pointed out, is really not much different than what Bible scholars have said. We believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. We believe the autographs, the handwritten autographs, the first generation, you might say, of a manuscript is certainly God-breathed and that is what we would call inerrant. As we pointed out this week, God gives us no guarantee that a handwritten copy of that manuscript is going to be inerrant. And we know that down through the years, there have been some mistakes, there have been some errors, as well as variance or differences in the text that we have today. Well, what do we do about that? Does that mean that Latter-day Saints are right that we have no reason to trust our Bible?

Absolutely not. So what we've been doing is hopefully explaining clearly what the doctrine of inerrancy is as opposed to what it isn't. And in doing so, we have been turning to well-respected theologians and scholars. Before I go on to Wayne Grudem that we were talking about yesterday, I want to restate John MacArthur, a Christian pastor, in three sentences I think he summarizes inerrancy as well as can be done. This is in his book, Biblical Doctrine, page 109. Inerrancy means literally without error. When applied to Scripture, it means the Bible is without error in the original copies.

And as we said yesterday, that's the autographs, the originals that were written by the apostles and prophets. It is therefore free, when properly interpreted, from affirming anything that is untrue and contrary to fact. And I want to point out, when he says properly interpreted, well first for us in the English language, we have to have a good translation to be able to make a proper interpretation.

But you have to have both of those together so that you can understand what God's mind is so that we can believe what he wants us to believe and we can act the way he wants us to act. Well let me put that in a context dealing with the subject of Mormonism. In other words, what I'm hearing you say, Eric, is that even though we have a correct transmission of, let's say, 1 Corinthians 15, a Mormon has that same transmitted text. The problem arises when the Mormon interprets 1 Corinthians 15, let's say on the subject of baptism for the dead, verse 29, and draws a conclusion based on that which is entirely erroneous and not even close to what we assume Paul meant when he penned those words. Therefore, the doctrine of baptism for the dead, as understood by Latter-day Saints, certainly cannot be inerrant. It is in error.

It's wrong. It's an understanding of the text that Paul never implied at all. It's reading into the text something that we would call eisegesis, as opposed to taking something out of the text which is exegesis. So we have to have an accurate rendering of the original text and then we have to be able to understand what the original author meant when he wrote that to his original audience to be able then to interpret it properly and then to be able to make a proper application for the 21st century.

It's pretty simple. So what we're going to do is we're going to look at what Wayne Grudem says in his systematic theology because he's going to further explain the meaning of this word inerrancy and he's also going to try and answer the question regarding those copies that may be questionable, may have errors in them. See, a Mormon is quick to throw everything out. An agnostic is usually quick to throw everything out. An atheist does the same thing.

But why is it we should not do that? Grudem is going to explain. This is what he writes in his book Systematic Theology, An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, and he writes this on page 96. And I recommend this volume if you're interested in a systematic theology book. It's over a thousand pages, but it's a great resource for the different doctrines that Christianity teaches.

This is what Grudem writes. It has rather brought us extremely close to the content of these original manuscripts. For most practical purposes then, the current published scholarly texts of the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament are the same as the original manuscripts. Thus, when we say that the original manuscripts were inerrant, we are also implying that over 99% of the words in our present manuscripts are also inerrant, for they are the exact copies of the originals. He goes on and says, Furthermore, we know where the uncertain readings are, for where there are no textual variants, we have no reason to expect faulty copying of the original. Thus, our present manuscripts are for most purposes the same as the original manuscripts, and the doctrine of inerrancy therefore directly concerns our present manuscripts as well. What he's saying, Bill, is what we have in the Bibles that we have in the English version, we have the English Standard Version, New International Version, King James, there are many different English versions, but when they have the ideas that the original authors wrote down 2000 plus years ago, then we can say that that is the same.

In a sense, they are also inerrant when we are using 99%. Now, the variance of 1%, we can talk about that later, and what do we do with that. But this is what he goes on and concludes this section. He says, It's extremely important to affirm the inerrancy of the original documents, the autographs, for the subsequent copies were made by men with no claim or guarantee by God that these copies would be perfect. But the original manuscripts are those to which the claims to be God's very words apply. Thus, if we have mistakes in the copies as we do, then these are only the mistakes of men. But if we have mistakes in the original manuscripts, then we are forced to say not only that men made mistakes, but that God himself made a mistake and spoke falsely.

This we cannot do. When you use the phrase the mistakes of men, naturally, what comes to mind? Well, if you're familiar with the title page of the Book of Mormon, and I might mention that Joseph Smith himself in the Times and Seasons Volume 3, page 943, he said that the title page was a literal translation from the gold plate.

So you can't dismiss this. But here's what it says towards the end of that title page in the Book of Mormon. And now, if there are faults, they are the mistakes of men.

Interesting. I doubt if Wayne Grudem knows about this, because Wayne Grudem doesn't study Mormonism, and he probably has never read this title page, but yet he uses the same phrase. We can see without any problem that some errors could creep into the various manuscripts and hand it down to our day. But at the same time, we can also feel confident that we can know where the mistakes are. That's why as evangelicals, we don't throw out the whole Bible just because some errors could have crept into the manuscripts. That doesn't bother us, because we know how to find them. And because the Latter-day Saint doesn't know that, I can see why it would be very easy for them to say, well, I'm not going to have anything to do with the Bible once they find out that Joseph Smith was in fact a fraud.

And that happens far too many times. Earlier in the week, you talked about how scholars are not the ones who usually are citing Article 8 in the Articles of Faith, and Article 8 says that the Bible is true as far as it's translated correctly. You don't hear scholars usually talking in that kind of a way. In fact, oftentimes the scholars are saying that we have lots of evidence, as we're going to say as evangelical Christians, of the historicity and the accuracy of the Bible as it was originally written. I want to give you two quotes, Bill, from two different Latter-day Saints.

One is from Donald W. Perry in an article that he wrote in the Ensign magazine, December 2014, page 61. And we should mention Donald Perry, professor at BYU, Brigham Young University. And he wrote an article called The Dead Sea Scrolls, Window to the Modern Bible. He said, And over the next few years, they found a total of 11 caves, close to a thousand biblical manuscripts. All but one Old Testament book was included there. And what that helped us to understand is the accuracy of the Old Testament that before, a thousand years later, around 900 AD, the Masoretic Text is all we had.

We didn't have anything before that. And this, we have, for instance, an entire book of Isaiah called The Great Scroll of Isaiah dated about the second century BC, so a thousand years before. And they found how accurate this was of the Book of Isaiah. So according to Donald Perry, the Old Testament can be ascertained through something like the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Let me just interject something, Eric. Those scrolls that we have, what is the latest possible date any of those scrolls could have been? It would have been no later than 68 AD. How does this corrupt church that we hear Mormons talk about, how is it corrupting these texts when they are written before this alleged church even got started? You see, there's a lot of problems that start springing up for the Latter-day Saint defense for why they don't want to believe our Bible. One other quote. This is from BYU professor Lloyd Anderson that he gave on the archaeology of the Scriptures.

This is what he says in part. For a book to undergo progressive uncovering of its manuscript history and come out with so little debatable in its text is a great tribute to its essential authenticity. Talking about the New Testament. First, no manuscript discovery has produced serious differences in the essential story. This survey has disclosed the leading textual controversies, and together they would be well within 1% of the text. Stated differently, all manuscripts agree on the essential correctness of 99% of all the verses in the New Testament.

That's exactly what Wayne Grudem said. where you can request our free newsletter, Mormonism Researched. We hope you will join us again as we look at another viewpoint on Mormonism. Beginning on Saturday, March 6th, the Utah Lighthouse Bookstore will be reopening on Saturdays. If you're in the downtown Salt Lake City area, be sure and stop by to say hello to either Bill McKeever or Eric Johnson, who will be there from 1 to 5 p.m. Once again, the bookstore is located just west of Smith's Ballpark at 1358 South on West Temple Street in Salt Lake City. That's on Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m. Bill or Eric will be there, and of course, they look forward to seeing you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-19 11:09:24 / 2023-12-19 11:14:43 / 5

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