Biblical inerrancy

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Biblical inerrancy is the doctrinal position that the Bible is without flaw or error.

There are differing views on inerrancy, ranging from it applying only to the Bible's spiritual teaching to it applying to the English-language Authorised (King James) version. Evangelicals hold that it applies to the original manuscripts.

Versions of inerrancy

All views of inerrancy are supported by the idea that the Bible is the message from God to mankind, and therefore cannot be in error.

Books on Divine Action—Divine Action and Modern Science (Oxford University Press, 2002) and the Vatican Observatory-sponsored Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action—also presuppose a conservative biblical authority over science, which is inherent in the doctrine of inerrancy.

As many as one third of Americans hold that the Bible is the actual Word of God, to be taken literally.[1]

Inerrant in original manuscripts

Evangelical Christians believe that the original biblical manuscripts, as opposed to translations or later versions, were inerrant.[2]

This view was supported by nearly 300 evangelical scholars who signed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy in 1978. These scholars included James Boice, Norman Geisler, John Gerstner, Carl F. H. Henry, Kenneth Kantzer, Harold Lindsell, John Warwick Montgomery, Roger Nicole, J. I. Packer, Robert Preus, Earl Radmacher, Francis Schaeffer, R. C. Sproul, and John Wenham.[3]

Inerrant in English translation

Some Christians[4] take that position one step further and believe that God has preserved His word, so that there is an inerrant Bible today. The latter view is based on the following: (i) God has promised to preserve His word in Psalm 12:6-7, and (ii) inerrancy only in the original manuscripts, which are lost to us, would do modern Christians no good.

Inerrant in matters of spiritual truth

Some Christian believe that the Bible is inerrant as a source of spiritual truth, but is more appropriately interpreted as metaphor or allegory in certain places (eg, the six day creation).

This view is the official stance of the Roman Catholic Church.

Liberal Christianity and Biblical Inerrancy

In general, liberal Christians tend to reject Biblical inerrancy in all forms, since certain passages[5] clash with their liberal ideology regarding things like homosexuality and the role of women. What this view overlooks is that if one is allowed to toss aside those passages which disagree with their personal politics, the document quickly loses any relevance as a guide to morality and Christian behavior. After all, how can any of it be sacred if one arbitrarily decides that some of it isn't? Also, how can someone who does not take the Bible seriously as God's preserved word call on others to do so?

Some argue that if the Bible cannot be proven inerrant, then the claim within it would be irrelevant.[6]

Seventies debate

Two books in 1976 sparked a firestorm of books and papers amongst religious studies scholars. These were Harold Lindsell's The Battle for the Bible and James Barr's Fundamentalism. Lindsell's book is sympathetic towards conservative Christianity, while Barr's is hostile. Despite this key difference, both were in remarkable agreement that biblical inerrancy provides the "first line of defense" and demarks the "proverbial line in the sand" between liberal and conservative christianity. [7]

External Links


  2. Introduction to Biblical inerrancy, infallibility, and authority
  3. [ Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy]
  4. Your decision
  6. Geisler & Nix (1986). A General Introduction to the Bible. Moody Press, Chicago. ISBN 0-8024-2916-5
  7. "Evangelicals, Biblical Scholarship, and the Politics of the Modern American Academy" in Evangelicals and science in Historical Perspective, David N. Livingstone, D. G. Hart, Mark A. Noll (Editors), Oxford University Press, 1999, p.306-326