Question: If the teachings of the bible and its historical narrative were found to be inaccurate and full of mistakes, would it effect your faith in God?
For instance, if it was discovered that Adam and Eve were merely mythical figures without any substance or if the exodus of the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt was fabricated or the notion of Noah and a cataclysmic flood were exaggerated, would it undermine your walk with God?
Pause, as you consider your answer…
The premise of this question is one that has been around since the fall of man. At the temptation of man in the Garden of Eden, Satan posed this question to Eve, asking,
“Indeed, has God said…?” Genesis 3:1 (NASB95)
This simple but profound question undermined Eve’s confidence in the Lord’s ability to speak accurately and truthfully, which effectively sowed doubt in her heart. Furthermore, Satan added to her confusion by boldly selling her the lie that God was mistaken; even suggesting that the Almighty was deceptively omitting and distorting the real facts in His pronouncement of the outcome of death from eating of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
“The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'” Genesis 3:4-5 (NASB95)
While the question of the accuracy and reliability of God’s word has been around since the time of the fall of mankind, popping up at different times throughout human history, it is currently experiencing fresh momentum in post-Christian America. Ironically, it seems that its deceptive presence is even being promoted in a large way among modern Christians who, quite honestly, should know better. Instead of God’s people offering clear, concise, well-reasoned responses when the integrity of God’s word is brought up, confusion and ambiguity gives way to responses such as, “It’s probably no big deal if God’s word has mistakes in it. God is still God without the bible.” But is He? Or would biblical error make Him something else entirely?
The issue at hand is the doctrine of biblical inerrancy and it IS a big deal. In fact, for several reasons, it is one of THE big deals upon which our faith in God rises and falls.
The scriptures that we possess today, both Old Testament and New Testament, are holy. They are set apart and they stand apart. This means that they are distinguishable from all of creation and stand apart from the corrupting influence of our fallen world. Often the scriptures are described in their holy nature by the use of three “i” words…inspired, infallible, inerrant. These three terms are each unique in their definition, but at the same time, they are interconnected with one another. Here is a short explanation of each as they are used in the context of describing the bible.
Inspired points to the source of the bible, specifically that it’s origin is from God. How did this happen? We are told in 2 Timothy that God literally “breathed out” (Gr. θεοπνευστος) scripture.
“All scripture is inspired (Gr. θεοπνευστος; breathed out) by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” 2 Timothy 3:16 (NASB95)
Furthermore, we need to understand that God chose to use humans to express the revelation of His word as He breathed it out to us.
“But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” 2 Peter 1:20-21
Infallible expresses the fact that the scriptures cannot fail.
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stand forever.” Isaiah 40:8 (NASB95)
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” Matthew 24:35 (NASB95
Inerrant means that the bible is without error. If it is without error then we can conclude that the word of God is truth and is therefore completely reliable and trustworthy.
“…Your word is truth.” John 17:17b (NASB95)
“The words of the LORD are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times.” Psalms 12:6 (NASB95)
Furthermore, based on God’s nature behind the inspiration of His word we can make the following logical conclusion concerning the accuracy of scripture:
God cannot make errors. – Hebrews 6:18 The scriptures are God’s words. – 2 Timothy 3:16 Therefore, God’s word cannot make errors.
A Slippery Slope
All three of these descriptions explain the different facets of the importance of God’s holy word and must not be removed from our understanding of what scripture is. If any of these are removed, then it very quickly becomes a slippery slope in many different ways. Concerning the inerrancy of scripture, here are a few implications to consider:
Implication #1 – If the bible is false, then Jesus was a false witness. If Jesus was a false witness, then He was not God. If He was not God, then we are still dead in our trespasses and sins.
Implication #2 – If scripture is inaccurate, then it is unreliable. If scripture is unreliable, then so is our measure of morality. If our morality is unreliable, then sin may not really be sin.
Implication #3 – If scripture is fabricated, then it’s promises are empty. If it’s promises are empty, then so is our hope. If our hope is empty, then we are hopeless.
Implication #4 – If God’s word is in error, then God is in error. If God is in error, then He is not holy. If He is not holy, then we are not holy.
On and on we could go with the serious consequences that would result if God’s word were errant instead of inerrant. Eventually, abandoning the doctrine of inerrancy leads us to abandon scripture which ultimately will result in a complete and utter rejection of God by creating God in our image and defining Him as something that He is not.
The Root of the Issue
As I have thought about this over the course of the past few weeks, I believe one of the reasons believers fail to see and uphold the importance of inerrancy is because of another error called fideism. This term simply refers to those who believe that faith operates apart from and outside of biblical facts. It is argued that the wisdom, reason, and logic established in biblical truths are not required to establish faith in Jesus Christ. The reasoning behind this way of thinking says that since we are fallen people existing in a fallen world then the facts (which also includes God’s word) and our ability to interpret them, are unreliable, uncertain, and ultimately unknowable.
Additionally, it is often asserted that facts are neither pertinent or necessary in a person’s relationship with God. In fact, I heard it said just recently that although the preaching of His word is mandatory for the church (in a not very joyful, burdensome sort of way), real relationship happens through prayer. Those who follow this way of thinking basically believe in “blind faith.” They would describe following Jesus as being more like a leap in the dark than walking in the light. This blind faith method of relationship often leads to a faith that lacks substance since it operates largely on subjective feelings, emotional experiences, and sensationalism. I do not discredit feelings or emotions and I don’t believe God does either because they are a part of how He created us, but it is interesting that those who dismiss the solid substance of God’s word would choose to rely instead upon human emotions which can be compared to shifting sand in their reliability.
Ultimately, this way of thinking is self-defeating because if we are unable to correctly interpret facts, it stands to reason that we would also be unable to interpret our feelings leaving us with a false faith.
But the bible is very clear about the importance of established facts in our faith. I do not believe the Lord desires for us to sidestep the evidence, resigning ourselves to being fallen, sinful creatures who are hopelessly doomed to never understand the difference between what is accurate and what is false, but rather, His will is for us to cling ever closer to Him and His Holy Spirit as we discern, interpret, and confirm what He has revealed to us. Our faith is based upon clear evidence as the writer of Hebrews points out.
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3 (NASB95)
In this post, the error of failing to uphold biblical inerrancy along with some of it’s implications have been laid out. In Part 2, we will further examine the doctrine of inerrancy and the bulletproof accuracy of God’s word.