Drinking Deeply

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 at 11:45 AM

Inerrancy and Infallibility

I stumbled upon an interesting post about the terms "inerrancy" and "infallibility" and I must say I don't entirely agree, at least with not how I understand the post.

First off, some personal definitions:

Inerrant - Does not have error
Infallible - Cannot have error

The distinction to me is that I can produce something that is inerrant. 1+1 = 2 is an "inerrant" statement (under base 10 with 1 representing the algebraic concept denoting the multiplicative identity... yadda yadda), but I cannot produce something that is infallible. There is nothing I could do or say to make something I made infallible. Only God can produce something infallible.

Returning to the post:

To summarize my view of what the post is saying, I read it as a warning against using the terms "inerrancy" and "infallibility" to apply to Scripture because they give a static view of the Bible.


And there’s a deeper problem. The deeper problem is that the words inerrancy and infallibility, they tend to kind of give you a static view of the Bible. And the Bible proclaims of itself it is not static it is dynamic, it is active, it is alive. I mean this is not some kind of a carcass you can perform an autopsy on. The Bible is living and active.

Now, I agree that Scripture is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). Additionally I do also see how inerrancy and infallibility do not necessarily lead us to understand Scripture as "living and active." But the reason I disagree is I feel that inerrancy and infallibility are taught by Scripture, and while they do not lead explicitly to "living and active," they are right alongside them and are not contradictory to them. Thus, both should be taught and preached.

I don't think the author of the post (or the speaker quoted in the post) is throwing out the concept inerrant and infallible, but rather the terms "inerrant and infallible."


Of course the word the Bible uses to define itself with regard to its authority is inspiration. All Scripture is inspired of God. But the Greek word, the Greek word is theopneustos which literally means God-breathed. That’s what the Bible says of itself, all Scripture is God-breathed. The breath of God is on this book.

Along those lines, I don't agree with the last sentence. It isn't merely that the breath of God is on this book (I assume he's talking about the Bible), but that the book (words and concepts, not the ink and paper) is the breath of God. This means it's not just that people wrote down some words and God decided to imbue it with His breath, but it's God decided to write some words, and used people to do so. This is directly tied in with the authority of Scripture. When Scripture speaks, it is God's very words (Romans 9:17 and Exodus 9:13-16 (emphasis on 16)).

Thus while I am sure I agree with the author of the post on the living and active vs. the inerrant and infallible terms (we must understand and believe both), I don't think it is appropriate to throw out the terms "inerrant and infallible" per se. This is simply because those terms are terms (though constructed) are useful to describe specific doctrines. Sure, I could throw out the terms "infallible" and "inerrant," but I would still believe that the Bible teaches that it itself is the highest authority, without, and cannot be with, error. It's kind of like using the term "Reformed" or "Calvinist." Are they labels that can be dispensed with? Of course. If they lead people astray should they be redefined, and maybe disposed of? Of course as well. But should we not use them at all because there is a possibility of leading people astray? I don't believe so. Especially now when people are redefining terms like "inerrancy" and "infallibility" it is necessary to stand up to defend and teach what they do mean, and correct and rebuke those who teach otherwise. To do otherwise would simply give the theological field to those who redefine the term, and affirm their definition to reject a biblical doctrine. (The redefinition of the term infallible to exclude inerrancy comes to mind)

One final comment that isn't on the original post, but is on a comment (and so may not have been the original poster's intent).


I think Jim Dixon's warning is a needed corrective and balance to the stagnant view of Scripture. But we must remember that what makes the Bible living is the Holy Spirit: it is nothing in the printed word itself that is salvific or sanctifying apart from the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. There are many non-Christians who read the Bible and come away (a) unenlightened and (b) non-Christians. No Holy Spirit, no living (written) word.

Otherwise, it seems we teeter on the verge of making an idol out of the written word. God gives life: to you, me, and His word.

Of course, I could be wrong - but I don't think so.

One sentence that jumps out immediately is "What makes the Bible living is the Holy Spirit. it is nothing in the printed word itself that is salvific or sanctifying apart from the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit."

While I agree that there is nothing in the paper and ink that makes the Bible living and active, I would loudly assert that the Bible is the Word of God, living and active, even if one does not believe it (aka one does not have the Holy Spirit illuminating it). Remember the second half of that quote from Hebrews "sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

One cannot make an idol out of the Bible if we are ascribing to it what it ascribes to itself: that it is the very breath of God. It isn't given life by God, it is life-giving.

Once again, I don't think the original poster was saying that the Bible was not infallible or not inerrant, merely that the terms do not lend themselves to a proper view of Scripture. While I agree that it is possible to come to that conclusion, it should only give us greater motivation for preaching the whole Word as infallible and inerrant (and thus living and active) in order that those who hear and understand would come to a fuller understanding of Scripture, not to throw out the terms entirely.

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Blogger Steve said...

Hey Mickey-

Thanks for your thoughts on this topic! You have represented my thoughts well in your post. Obviously, I lifted Dr. Dixon's quote out of its context which isn't completely fair to him. If you get a chance, download his sermon at the chcc.org site.

I struggle with these terms because of how they are somtimes used. Fundamentalists sometimes include that the Bible is infallible in all it teaches concerning science and history and I don't agree with this and I don't believe the church historically has held this view.

I also struggle with the relevancy of the doctrine of inerrancy in that inerrancy teaches that the Bible is inerrant in the original manuscripts, in the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. But we do not have these originals. We have copies. So is it necessary to argue for inerrancy especially when you hold to infallibility?

Just some thoughts I'm wrestling with.

Grace and peace,


Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Good thoughts on the discussion. I updated a post on this subject at my blog to link to your post. I also added a DD link to my blogroll. Thanks for linking to TS!  


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