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

Don Stewart :: What Is the Difference Between the Inerrancy of Scripture and the Infallibility of Scripture?

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What Is the Difference Between the Inerrancy of Scripture and the Infallibility of Scripture?

Answering Bible Difficulties – Question 5

There are two theological terms that are often used to explain the nature of the Bible—inerrancy and infallibility. They are used to point out how the Bible is different from all other books that have ever been written. Many use these terms interchangeably. Infallibility means incapable of making a mistake, while inerrancy means the absence of any error.

These concepts arose when the issue of the divine inspiration of the Bible was being addressed. Questions arose such as: In what sense, or to what degree, is the Bible the divinely inspired Word of God? How does it differ from all other books?

The Word Infallible Means Trustworthy

When referring to Scripture, the term infallible is usually used to mean reliable and trustworthy. It refers to something that is without any type of defect whatsoever. Those who trust its infallible teachings will never be lead astray.

Inerrancy Means There Are No Errors Whatsoever

The term, “inerrancy” is more recent. While some Christians use inerrancy and infallible interchangeably, they are normally used in slightly different ways. Inerrancy contends that the Bible does not have any errors of fact or any statements that are contradictory. Inerrancy is more concerned with the details of Scripture.

Infallibility is the broader term. It deals more with personal knowledge of the Lord rather than details. For example, one who believes in inerrancy will also believe in infallibility. The reverse, however, is not necessarily true.

There are those who argue that the Bible can contain errors of fact while still accomplishing its purpose—to bring humanity into a relationship with God. They see no problem trusting the Bible as the final standard of authority on all matters of faith and practice, though it may contain some errors. However, many others think the idea of an infallible, but not an inerrant Bible is something that is absolutely nonsensical.

There Are Three Basic Positions among Bible Believers with Respect to Inerrancy

With respect to the importance of the inerrancy issue, Bible believers usually take one of three positions. They include the following:

1. Inerrancy Is True and Should Be Used as a Test of Fellowship

This position holds that the doctrine of inerrancy is the only consistent Christian doctrine to hold concerning the nature of the Bible. Those who claim to believe in Jesus, yet reject the doctrine of inerrancy, should not be welcomed in Christian fellowship until they repent. Because inerrancy is such an important doctrine, it should be used as a test of fellowship. There is no room for compromise on such a vital issue.

2. Inerrancy, While True, Should Not Be Used as a Test of Fellowship

This perspective believes the doctrine of inerrancy is true but does not make it a test of fellowship among believers. This view allows for believers to be inconsistent in their idea of the nature of the Scripture without assuming they should be avoided by other Christians.

3. Inerrancy May Be True but Should Not Be Used as a Test of Fellowship

The third position holds that inerrancy may or may not be true. However, it should not be made a test for fellowship with believers. It is irrelevant.

The inerrancy of Scripture was never made a test of Christian orthodoxy in the past because no one seemed to doubt it. Those who stress the doctrine of inerrancy stress the divine side of Scripture while also admitting the human side. Those who do not necessarily embrace inerrancy stress the human side of Scripture. These are the various positions that Christians hold.

Summary – Question 5
What Is the Difference Between the Inerrancy of Scripture and the Infallibility of Scripture?

While the words, “inerrancy” and “infallibility” are usually used interchangeably, there are some Bible students who make a distinction between the two. Infallibility has the idea of being trustworthy, while inerrancy goes further and says that the Scriptures contain no errors whatsoever.

Believers respond to the concept of inerrancy in a number of different ways. Some assume it should be used as a test of fellowship with other believers, while there are those who do not feel it is where the line should be drawn. There are also those Christians who are not necessarily convinced by the doctrine of inerrancy; they think ones belief, or non-belief, in inerrancy is irrelevant. Consequently, they do not see it as a burning issue.

In What Sense Is the Bible Perfect? ← Prior Section
What Are the Consequences When the Doctrine of Inerrancy Is Rejected? 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.