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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Answering Bible Difficulties

Don Stewart :: Aren’t There Too Many Qualifications to the Definition of Inerrancy?

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Aren’t There Too Many Qualifications to the Definition of Inerrancy?

Answering Bible Difficulties – Question 29

Supposedly, those who believe in inerrancy have so many qualifications to their definition that they make it theoretically impossible to prove an error in Scripture. Every time a supposed error is found, those who believe in inerrancy redefine inerrancy in such a way that it makes proving an error impossible. The doctrine of inerrancy is therefore meaningless.

Those who believe in inerrancy reject this idea. A number of points need to be emphasized in response.

The Problems in Scripture Are Not Ignored

Those who believe in the doctrine of inerrancy realize that there are problems involved in the text as it presently stands. They do their best to come up with workable solutions. These scholars do not ignore the problems, neither do they define them out of existence. Instead, they work hard to try to find a reasonable answer to the difficulty. While in the past some Bible believers may have given simplistic answers to difficult problems, this is no longer true today.

Those Who Believe in Inerrancy Recognize What an Error Consists Of

Although some writers may be guilty of defining biblical inerrancy in such a way that it is meaningless, this is not the case with most Bible scholars who believe in inerrancy. It is important to recognize that those who accept the doctrine of inerrancy realize what an actual error is, and what it is not. They do not create some impossible standard that could never be met.

It is realized that there are a number of things that would actually constitute an error. First, an error can be a misstatement of fact. For example, it could be attributing something to someone that was not true, such as claiming Pontius Pilate was actually a Jewish leader, or that King Herod eventually became the Roman Caesar. If the Bible made claims like this, then it would constitute an error.

Contradictory statements between two authors or in the writings of one author would also constitute an error. If an author clearly contradicts what he has written elsewhere, or contradicts another biblical author, this would make the Scripture in error. Therefore, those who believe in inerrancy realize for the doctrine to be meaningful there must be a realistic understanding of what an error consists of.

Appeal Is Not Always Made to Some Lost Original When a Problem Arises

One of the accusations that seemingly makes the doctrine of inerrancy meaningless is the appeal to “lost originals.” When an obvious mistake in Scripture is found, it is explained away by suggesting the error is only in the copies, but not the original. It is charged that doing this makes the doctrine of inerrancy meaningless.

However, it is not true that Christians often resort to saying that the mistake is in the copy, not the original. The difficulty needs to be worked out with the text that is now available—not the continuous appeal to some lost original. Those who believe in inerrancy understand this and work with the text as it stands.

Appealing to a lost original should be done in the smallest number of cases and only when the original reading is uncertain.

It Is Recognized That Some Problems Do Not Have Immediate Solutions

That there are problems that do not have an immediate solution is recognized by Bible-believers. The people who have faith in the living God and His Word wait for further information to deal with problems where there is presently no solution. They make the distinction between a difficulty and a proven error. A difficulty is a problem for which there is no answer at the time. An error is a proven contradiction. While there are indeed a number of difficulties associated with Scripture, there still has yet to be a proven error.

Inerrancy Is a Biblical Belief

Those who advocate inerrancy start with the belief that the Bible has about itself—it is true in everything that it says. With that as a starting point, they tackle the problems they confront in Scripture—they do not attempt to define the problem out of existence or refuse to acknowledge that difficult areas exist. Rather, they take the perspective that the words of the Bible ultimately derive from a perfect God who cannot lie.

Summary – Question 29
Aren’t There Too Many Qualifications to the Definition of Inerrancy?

Critics charge that individuals who hold to the doctrine of inerrancy make too many qualifications to allow the idea to be meaningful. Every time an error in Scripture is demonstrated, the doctrine of inerrancy is supposedly redefined so as to make the error go away.

While there may be some who do this, there are responsible biblical scholars who face the Bible difficulties. They neither ignore them, nor qualify them in such a way as to remove the supposed error. It again must be emphasized that a difficulty is not the same thing as an error. If there is a plausible solution to a certain difficulty, then it is wrong to call it an error.

Does Inerrancy Cause Worship of the Bible? (Bibliolatry) ← Prior Section
Aren’t Many Statements of Scripture Outside the Realm of Being Inerrant? Next Section →
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The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.