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By Norman L. Geisler
The Bible is inspired, but is it inerrant, that is without errors? The
reason for a positive answer is simple: The Bible is the Word of God, and God
cannot err; therefore, the Bible cannot err. To deny the inerrancy of the Bible
one must either affirm that God can err or else that the Bible is not the Word
God Cannot Err
The Scriptures declare emphatically that "it is impossible for God to lie"
(Heb. 6:18, NASB). Paul speaks of the "God who does not lie"
(Titus 1:2, NIV). He is a God who, even if we are faithless,
"He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself" (2 Tim. 2:13, NKJV). God is truth (see John 14:6),and so is His Word. Jesus said to the Father,
"Your word is truth" (John 17:17, NKJV). The psalmist exclaimed, "The entirety of
Your word is truth" (Ps. 119:160, NKJV).
The Bible is the Word of God
Jesus referred to the Old Testament as the "Word of God" which "cannot be
broken" (John 10:35, NKJV). He said, "Until heaven and earth
disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any
means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished" (Matt. 5:18, NIV). Paul added, "All Scripture is
God-breathed" (2 Tim. 3:16, NIV). It came "from of the mouth of God"
(see Matt. 4:4, NIV). Although human authors recorded the
messages, "prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from
God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet. 1:21, NIV).
Jesus said to the religious leaders of His day, "You nullify the word of God
by your tradition (Mark 7:13, NIV). Jesus turned their attention to the
written Word of God by affirming over and over again, "It is written . . . It
is written . . . It is written . . ." (see Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). This phrase occurs over ninety times in the New
Testament. It is a strong indication of the divine authority of the written
Word of God. Stressing the unfailing nature of God's truth, the apostle Paul
referred to the Scriptures as "the word of God" (Rom. 9:6, NASB).
The Logical Conclusion: The Bible Cannot Err
Yes, God has spoken, and He has not stuttered. The God of truth has given us
the Word of Truth, and it does not contain any untruth in it. The Bible is the
unerring Word of God.
What About Science and History?
Some have suggested that Scripture can always be trusted on spiritual and
moral matters, but it is not always correct on historical matters. However,
these matters are often inextricably interwoven with the historical and
scientific. A close examination of Scripture reveals that the scientific
(factual) and spiritual truths are often inseparable. For example, one cannot
separate the spiritual truth of Christ's resurrection from the fact that His
body permanently vacated the tomb and later physically appeared
(see Matt. 28:6; 1 Cor. 15:13-19). Likewise, if Jesus was not born of a
biological virgin, then He is no different from the rest of the human race on
whom the stigma of Adam's sin rests (see Rom. 5:12). Further, the death of Christ for our sins
cannot be detached from his shedding literal blood on the Cross, for "without
shedding of blood there is no remission" (Heb. 9:22, KJV). And, Adam's existence and fall cannot be a
myth. If there were no literal Adam and no actual fall, then the spiritual
teaching about inherited sin and eventual or physical death are wrong
(see Rom. 5:12). Historical reality and the theological doctrine
stand or fall together. Likewise, Jesus' moral teaching about marriage was
based on His teaching about God's joining a literal Adam and Eve together in
marriage (see Matt. 19:4-5). In each of these cases the moral or
theological teaching is devoid of its meaning apart from the historical or
factual event. If one denies that the literal space-time event occurred, then
there is no basis for believing the scriptural doctrine built upon it.
Jesus often directly compared Old Testament events with important spiritual
truths, such as His death and resurrection which were related to Jonah and the
great fish (see Matt. 12:40). Or, His second coming as compared to the days
of Noah (see Matt. 24:37-39). Both the occasion and the manner of that
comparison make it clear that Jesus was affirming the historicity of those Old
Testament events. Indeed, Jesus asserted to Nicodemus, "If I told you earthly
things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly
things" (John 3:12, NASB)? In short, if the Bible does not speak
truthfully about the physical world, then it cannot be trusted when it speaks
about the spiritual world. The two are intimately related.
What is Truth and Error?
Since the Bible is wholly true, it is necessary to specify more clearly what
is meant by "truth" and what would constitute an "error." By truth we signify
that which corresponds to reality. An error, then, is what does not correspond
to reality. Truth is telling it like it is. Error is not telling it like it is.
Hence, nothing mistaken can be true, even if the author intended his mistake to
be true. An error is a mistake, not simply something that is misleading.
Otherwise, every sincere utterance ever made is true, even those that were
grossly mistaken. Likewise, something is not true simply because it
accomplishes its intended purpose, since many lies succeed.
The Bible clearly views truth as that which corresponds to reality and error
what does not correspondence to reality. This is evident from the fact that the
word "error" is used of unintentional mistakes (Lev. 4:2). The Bible everywhere implies a correspondence
view of truth. For example, when the Ten Commandments declare "You shall not
give false testimony" (Ex. 20:16, NIV), it implies that misrepresenting the facts
is wrong. Likewise, a correspondence view of truth is used when the Jews said
to the governor about Paul, "By examining him yourself you will be able to
learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him" (Acts 24:8, NIV). In so doing, he adds, "You can easily
verify" the facts (Acts 24:11, NIV).
Does the Humanness of the Bible Affect Its
The Bible may be the inspired Word of God in some sense, but it is also
human words. It had human authors, and "to err is human." Hence, we are to
expect some errors in the Bible. So goes the argument. In short, the clear and
simple truth of God has been confused by the lie of Satan, the master of lies
(see John 8:44).
Let us analyze what is wrong with this reasoning. A simple analogy will
help. Consider some parallel but equally faulty reasoning: 1) Jesus was a human
being. 2) Human beings sin. 3) Therefore, Jesus sinned. Any Bible student can
readily see that this conclusion is wrong. Jesus was "without sin" (Heb. 4:15, NASB). He "had no sin" (2 Cor. 5:21, NIV). Jesus was "a lamb without blemish or
defect" (1 Pet. 1:19, NIV). As John said of Jesus, "he is pure" and
"righteous" (1 Jn. 3:3; 2:1, NIV). But, if Jesus never sinned, then what
is wrong with the above argument that Jesus is human and humans sin, therefore,
Jesus sinned? Where does the logic go astray?
The mistake is to assume that Jesus is like any other human. Sure, mere
human beings sin. But, Jesus was not a mere human being. He was a
perfect human being. Indeed, Jesus was not only human, but He was also God.
Likewise, the Bible is not a mere human book. It is also the Word of God. Like
Jesus, it is both divine and human. And just as Jesus was human but did not
sin, even so the Bible is a human book but does not err. Both God's living Word
(Christ) and His written Word (Scripture) are human but do not err. They are
divine and cannot err. There can no more be an error in God's written Word than
there was a sin in God's living Word. God cannot err, period.
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