Categories
Uncategorized

The Inerrancy of Scripture: What’s at Stake

Every now and then, people will kick around the idea of the “inerrancy” of Scripture. What does inerrancy mean, and why is it such a big deal?

What is inerrancy?

When we say something is inerrant, we mean it is without error, mistake, contradiction, or falsehood. Inerrant means “true, trustworthy, reliable, accurate, and infallible.” Thus, if the Bible is inerrant, it is totally trustworthy and without error in everything it says. This isn’t some new theory. If the Bible is God’s Word, we expect it to be inerrant (and we make no apology for this word).

The Bible claims verbal inspiration. By this we mean that God approved every word of Scripture. Every single word is inspired by the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:13), and thus carries God’s divine authority. It isn’t merely the general thought behind the words that are inspired, but the very words of the Bible that are inspired. Jesus Himself implied that there is not a single word that is insignificant in Scripture (cf. Matt. 5:18; 22:32; Gal. 3:16).

The Bible claims plenary inspiration. This means Scripture is entirely truenot only in what it specifically teaches, but also in everything it mentions as it teaches. What I mean is, even though God did not design the Bible to be a history or science textbook, when the inspired writers do happen to mention something scientific or historical, their words are entirely factually true (cf. John 3:12). The historical accounts of places, the events, and people, along with any references to nature or biology, are true.

The Bible claims infallibility. Scripture can never fail or make a mistake. God “never lies” (Titus 1:2), therefore there can be no deliberate errors in Scripture. God “knows everything” (1 John 3:20), therefore there can be no accidental mistakes in Scripture. Proverbs 30:5 says, “Every word of God proves true.” Jesus prayed to the Father, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Jesus happened to believe in the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible when He said that “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

What inerrancy isn’t.

Inerrancy doesn’t mean man hasn’t made mistakes in copying the ancient manuscripts. The printing press has only existed for 5 centuries or so, meaning for the majority of human history, Scripture had to be copied by hand (people who made duplicates of Scripture were called “scribes”). Sometimes the scribes made mistakes (mostly by accidentally leaving out/duplicating a word or forgetting to punctuate something). But, because of the rich pool of ancient copies in our possession today (we have thousands upon thousands), it is remarkably easy to pinpoint where the scribes made mistakes.

The term “inerrancy” only applies to the autographs of Scripture (the original writings), not the manuscripts (the copies). When we talk about the inerrancy of Scripture, we are affirming that the original transmission of God’s revelation is without error.

Inerrancy doesn’t mean God didn’t use the unique writing styles of the prophets. The inspired writers of the Bible weren’t exactly automatons. A cursory study of the 66 books of the Bible will reveal that Moses, Paul, and Peter read somewhat differently (as you would expect from different writers). Additionally, a casual glance at Scripture will also show that the inspired writers used different literary styles (such as parables, poetry, metaphor, anthropomorphism, and hyperbole).

Yes, God utilized the unique personalities of the prophets and the apostles when transmitting Scripture. But because the Bible is inerrant, we know God’s inspiration insured what the prophets and apostles wrote was exactly as God intended.

Inerrancy doesn’t preclude the use of layman’s terminology. For example, sometimes the Bible uses non-technical phraseology, such as “from the rising of the sun” (Psalm 113:3). Scientifically speaking, the sun doesn’t rise (that’s impossible). But in layman’s terms, it does. As another example, sometimes the Bible uses round numbers and inexact measurements, just as we do today in everyday conversation (Did literally all of Israel gather around Jeremiah in the temple in Jeremiah 26:9? I doubt it). This is just an example of God speaking rhetorically, with His words being no less true.

What if the Bible were not inerrant?

If the Bible is not inerrant, God either made a mistake or He lied. If there were errors in the original autographs of Scripture, then either God purposefully or accidentally misled us. Are you ready to serve a God who lies or makes mistakes?

If the Bible is not inerrant, there is no reason to trust God. If God can lie or make a mistake in small areas of Scripture, why should we trust His words in the more important areas? When we can’t rely on the specific words and historical/scientific accuracy of Scripture, then we are robbed of our trust in God Himself.

If the Bible is not inerrant, the wisdom of man becomes a higher standard of truth than Scripture. It bothers me how some deny the inerrancy of Scripture on the basis of their feelings. “I fear it turns people off.” “I am uncomfortable describing the Bible with such a concrete word.” But God doesn’t ask us to follow Him with our feelings – He asks us to submit Him with our mind on the basis of facts and objective truth. It doesn’t matter what you like. Feelings are deceptive (cf. Prov. 12:15; Eze. 13:3). We must define ourselves by the Bible, not the Bible to our own comfort level.

If the Bible is not inerrant, then we cannot rely on the spiritual truth it teaches. The moment you admit the inspired Scripture contain historical/scientific/peripheral mistakes, you have put a dangerous crack in the dam. How can you argue the doctrine of Scripture is true (eternal judgment, sin, salvation, the deity of Christ, etc.) if you cannot also argue that the smaller, intricate details of Scripture are also true?

Conclusion

Some feel uncomfortable using the term inerrancy. They say they do not want to use words the Bible doesn’t use (To be consistent, they shouldn’t use words like “Trinity” or “Bible,” either). One writer prefers to describe the Bible as “reliable and true;” others prefer to use the word “inspired.” But this is a false distinction between words. If the Bible is truly inspired – and if it is reliable and true – then it is inerrant. And if there is any part or degree to which the Bible in not inerrant, it is also to that extent not inspired, reliable, and true.

After we have properly defined the word “inerrant,” we must unapologetically embrace the fact that the Bible is inerrant. We love inerrancy. It is what gives us hope, peace, and confidence in the Word of God.

Hey, here’s a good place to shamelessly plug my book!

If you want to know more about how we got the Bible and how it is authoritative in our lives, You Are A Theologian: Thinking Right About The Bible is a good place to start. Use it as a class at your church, or use it so you can hold your own when a skeptic tries to minimize the inerrancy of God’s word. Don’t let anyone ‘muddy the water’ about this topic – it is far too important.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

Categories
Uncategorized

How to Trick People into Rejecting Biblical Authority (Hint: Many of Our Churches are Doing a Pretty Good Job)

The road to hell isn’t obscure or hard to find. It is a super-highway, lined with familiar faces and paved with sincerity and good intentions.

Many of its travelers are self-proclaimed followers of Jesus who are oblivious to their final destination (Matt. 7:21-23). They were simply pointed that way by other well-meaning ‘Christians.’

How did they wind up on this super-highway? For many, it wasn’t a quick, conscious decision. Yet slowly, over time, they learned to reject the authority of the Bible.

And they learned to do this by sitting in the pew next to you.

We set them up for failure. We domesticated the authority of Scripture. By “we” I’m referring to many of our churches and fellow believers – not the least of which are many preachers, teachers, and parents today. We have sanitized Scripture, so much so that it no longer tugs on the heart or troubles the sinner.

Note some of the subtle ways we practically beg churchgoers to reject Biblical authority:

1. Avoid Talking About Important Topics

There are some preachers who rarely, if ever, talk about certain Biblical subjects. This is due to any number of reasons. Perhaps they haven’t studied a particular subject enough to address it with confidence (the end-times, transgenderism). Perhaps they have doubts about a particular subject themselves (unauthorized worship practices, eternal punishment). Perhaps they know the congregation is divided about the issue (alcohol, divorce). Maybe they generally just don’t like talking about the subject, regardless of how clearly it is taught in the Bible (church discipline, holiness).

As a result, the people of the pew are left with a vacuum in their understanding of the Bible. The funny thing about vacuums, however, is that they always get filled with something, eventually. Sin begins to fester. Truth, if not consistently taught on even the most difficult of issues, will be replaced with misconceptions and lies. And if some brave soul eventually does comes along and teach the truth, he/she will be challenged.

2. Act Embarrassed by the Bible

Building on #1, some churches prefer to just sweep the touchy subjects under the rug. Or, even worse, they hire preachers who say stuff like this: “Today’s sermon is from Matthew 19:9. Like other passages about this subject, the Bible has some pretty harsh things to say about divorce. I don’t like talking about this, but then again the Bible says some things I’m not 100% proud of.”

Even though this preacher has theoretically submitted to the authority of the Bible, he [perhaps unwittingly] deceived people into thinking that he is more gracious and lenient on people than even Jesus Himself.

However, like Paul, we cannot be ashamed of any part of the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16). All (parents, teachers, preachers, elders) must communicate the entirety of God’s truth – plainly and unapologetically.

We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Cor. 4:2)

3. Give an Ounce of Legitimacy to Things God has Condemned

The Bible is remarkably straightforward about many things: the existence of heaven and hell, the reality of sin, mankind’s impending eternal judgment, the singularity of the church, the existence of false teachers, the essentiality of baptism, the exclusive nature of salvation through Jesus Christ, the demand for Christians to live holy lives, etc.

However, by listening to many of our pulpits today, you wouldn’t know the Bible is clear about much of anything. In an effort not to “come on too strong,” many have all too eagerly embraced postmodernismparticularly the idea that virtually every religious view has at least some merit to it.

We’ve gotten soggy with deconstructionism. That is, the attitude that any kind of conviction about anything should be held with contempt and therefore pulled apart and displayed alongside an opposing view.

It is no secret that there are opposing views about virtually every issue. Yet, just because an intelligent person happens to believe, for example, that homosexuality is okay doesn’t mean that the Bible falls short of emphatically declaring it a sin.

We can get as “academic” as we want. But when people grow up hearing remarks about “different views” about sexuality, the inerrancy of the Bible, salvation, grace, sin, the church, etc., – with the preacher being so timid he can’t bring himself to say, “This is what the Bible says” – no wonder they learn to reject Biblical authority about these subjects.

Christians cannot afford to be anything less than emphatically clear when it comes to what Scripture teaches – directly or indirectly.

4. Adopt all the Latest Churchy Fads

It is to our shame that many followers of Christ read more contemporary religious books than they do the Bible (if they are reading books at all). This has caused several problems, not the least of which is a stunted ability to identify wrong beliefs.

Self-help sermons and how-to lessons reverberate in our auditoriums today. It is not uncommon to hear preachers talk about the importance of environmentally-friendly lifestyles, smart money management, coping with divorce, diversity appreciation, dealing with grief, appreciating grandma/grandad, becoming more tolerant, developing self-worth, etc. Self-help sermons in moderation are appropriate at times. Yet, while the Bible does speak to these subjects, it is not primarily about these subjects.

Unless we want to diminish the authority of God’s Word, we cannot neglect teaching the core themes of the Bible: what it means to have faith, the horror of sin, living holy lives before God, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the importance of the church, and learning how to suffer as a Christian. When we preach today’s fads at the neglect of the rich theology of Scripture, we minimize the extent to which the Bible is authoritative in our lives.

5. Compartmentalize the Bible to Accommodate Busy Lifestyles

But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at My word. […] Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at His word (Isa. 66:2, 5)

We’ve forgotten how to tremble.

An inflated view of our self-sufficiency blinds us to our need to read and re-read God’s Word. Constant gigabytes of data from the world consume our minds and hearts and desires. It is a stretch to believe someone who is swimming in pornography, pursuing an illicit sexual relationship, or consumed with envy is also investing much time with God’s Word. Our churches have enabled this behavior by making sure the Sunday sermon is “under 30 minutes,” and all the other church services are considered “optional.” People are busy, after all.

Here’s What We’ve Asked For

Do these five things, and the people sitting in the pew next to you will begin to reject Biblical authority over time. It will manifest itself in one of two extremes:

  1. Churchgoers will emphasize Biblical authority in theory yet reject it in practice. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “We want the Bible, and the Bible alone, preached here.” Yet show them how to better distinguish truth from tradition, pursue holiness, and correct their misconceptions, and they will often turn their backs on you.
  2. Churchgoers will claim Biblical authority in practice yet de-emphasize it in theory. On the other extreme, churchgoers often refuse to talk about Biblical authority or inerrancy, and instead want to “get past the specific words of Scripture” and “find the message God is trying to communicate through Scripture.” History testifies to the fact that these groups tend to drift quickly away from the Bible. These type of churchgoers have zeal, but not based on knowledge (Rom. 10:2).

An Appeal to Correct Our Wrongs

A negative list like this should invite us to positively pursue the opposite. Let’s talk about the important topics (even if they are uncomfortable). Let’s embrace the entirety of God’s Word. Let’s not be afraid to paint the Bible as “black and white” on most issues. Let’s not get swept up by the latest self-help book on the New York Times bestseller list. And let’s learn to live by every word that comes from the mouth of God, instead of bread alone (Matt. 4:4).

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

Categories
Uncategorized

Why is it Sometimes Difficult to Know God’s Will?

Sometimes I wish the Bible were more specific about some things.

When making big decisions – when studying particularly complicated, hot-button topics in categories of worship, morality, or ethics – when giving people counsel – sometimes I catch myself wishing that God had more clearly spelled out verbatim what He wants.

However, God didn’t ask me to write the Bible for Him. And that’s a good thing.

It’s ridiculous (if not blasphemous) to think that I (or anyone else) could improve on the Bible. “For the wisdom of this world is folly with God” (1 Cor. 3:19). Not only is God’s Will perfect, but the way in which He communicates His Will is also perfect. “His way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true” (Psa. 18:30).

But this doesn’t answer our question. Why is it sometimes hard to know God’s Will on a given issue?

Some Things Are Concealed

By God’s design, some things to be harder to understand than others. “It is the glory of God to conceal things” (Prov. 25:2). God has not chosen to reveal everything to us.

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deut. 29:29).

It is a fact that there are Bible teachings I may not fully understand until I leave this world. In the meantime, I’m going to do my best to study to present myself approved and work through these questions so I can pursue the most God-honoring option (2 Tim. 2:15). Should I take this job? Should I further my education? Is it ethical to ____ in this circumstance? Will it please God for me to wear ______ or go to _____ movie or drink ____? Should we homeschool? Does ____ have a Biblical right to marry ____? Do my parents need to be in assisted living? Should I talk to ____ about his/her problem? Should we participate in ____?

The Bible does provide answers to these questions (or at least principles as answers), but sometimes you have to do some hard study. In the struggle, we grow to depend on God. And over time – if we make decisions in humble, childlike faith – we will be able to look back and realize He has been working in our lives all along, even when we couldn’t see it earlier.

Inspired Difficulties

God has given us a Bible that equips with everything we need to know to live faithfully for Him (2 Tim. 3:16-17). But that is not to say He always gives a checklist or yes/no answers to our questions. Some issues are still hard to understand (2 Pet. 3:15-16).

Why? One reason is surely because God would rather us be totally transformed in the image of His Son than be totally informed apart from any real struggle to better understand His Will. Thus, Paul writes:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:2).

This means God has a purpose in allowing difficult subjects. The Christian life is a test. He wants to expose our true motives and priorities, which are most clearly seen in our decisions about more ambiguous matters that may not be “black and white.”

God expects us to follow His Will (Col. 1:10) and He has revealed everything we need to know to live godly lives (2 Pet. 1:3). But He doesn’t want us to be mere automatons that follow a cold set of binary commands. He wants our lives to be living sacrifices, making daily decisions aim to glorify Him in what we do (Rom. 12:1).

God is Glorified in the Struggle

God did not say to Abraham: “I want you to sacrifice your son Isaac as a burnt offering on Mt. Moriah. But don’t worry – I’m not going to make you follow through with killing him. At the last second, I will provide a ram in your son’s place.” Even if He had said that, surely Abraham would still have followed God’s command. But God would not have been as glorified and Abraham would not have benefited as much through the test.

It is the tough decisions that separate the wheat from the chaff. When you’re not entirely sure about something, the final decision comes down to what’s most important to you. Do you love the world, or do you love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30)? The answer is seen in the pattern of decisions that emerge over time and we will either conform to this world or be transformed into the likeness of Christ.

God is glorified when – after wrestling with what to do or believe – we choose God over anything else. The question will not be, “How close can I get to sin without actually sinning?” Rather, “What is the most God-honoring option?” As we mature in Christ, difficult decisions become less difficult. “For those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Heb. 5:14).

Conclusion

I don’t claim to know all the answers. When it comes to difficult decisions and complex doctrines, I doubt I will get everything right. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try. And thankfully, we have a Savior who laid down His life so that even when we unknowingly err, the sins of Christians are covered (1 John 1:7).

He will never leave us or forsake us. As long as we keep our heads in the Book, He will eventually guide us back when we stray. And if we really will trust Him, like Abraham, we will see that He was guiding us through the difficult decisions all along.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

Categories
Uncategorized

Stop Saying “All Things Happen for a Reason”

After a tragedy, sometimes a well-meaning person will comment, “All things happen for a reason.”

Is that so? If the person making this statement is operating from a Biblical world view, are they suggesting that God the direct cause behind all things that have happened?

If beneath this statement lies the implication that God is the reason something happened, then this statement is wrong. In fact, one of the worst things you can say to someone grieving the loss of property, health, or a loved one is, “All things happen for a reason.” Sometimes things just happen because they happen – not because God has a specific design behind a particular unfortunate event. There does not need to be an immediate divine cause behind every event.

For example, God was not the cause, nor was He pleased, when Islamist Syed Farook and his wife murdered 16 social workers at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California on December 2, 2015. Of course, that terrible event in no way thwarted God’s purpose (cf. Psa. 2:1-4), and perhaps there are mysterious ways God could have used that event for good (cf. Rom. 8:28). But God did not orchestrate that tragedy. God does not cause such wicked events.

But why did God not stop that mass shooting (or any mass shooting)? For the same reason God does not stop you from fudging the amount you owe on your taxes this year, texting on your phone while driving, or living a godless lifestyle; the same reason He does not stop you from cheating on your spouse or ignoring the needs of your neighbor. The freedom to make choices (often catastrophic choices) is an essential part of what it means to be human. Thomas B. Warren writes,

Once man has been created, it is not the case that God could either permit or prevent man’s sinning without so changing man’s nature that he would no longer be man.[1]

There is a school of thought in Christendom today called Calvinism, which gets this topic wrong. Many Calvinists cannot fathom the idea that God doesn’t directly cause all things to happen. On September 17th, 2001, six days after the September 11th terrorist attacks, John Piper boldly said that God “could” and “would” be behind these actions.[2] According to Piper, and all other staunch Calvinists, all things happen for a reason, and God is that reason. Piper reiterates, “That is what the Bible teaches. God ‘works all things after the counsel of His will’ (Eph. 1:11).”[3] What a chilling thought – that God is behind all tragedy!

This is a disastrous abuse of the context of Apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 1:11. We should note that Paul did not say, “God directs all things, period” – but rather that God has entirely (“all things”) fulfilled His plan to redeem mankind and establish His church through Jesus His Son. The fact that Jesus redeemed us and established His church is the context of Ephesians 1 – not the divine orchestration of every individual event, wicked events included.

When a parent or sibling is grieving the loss of a child, sometimes a well-meaning friend will say something to the effect of, “God needed another angel in heaven.” This horrifying statement not only reflects deep Biblical ignorance (human beings do not go on to become angels, cf. Heb. 2:7), but it also leaves the terrifying impression that God is the direct cause of the child’s death. Thank God He doesn’t “need more angels.”

There are Biblical explanations as to why there is suffering (including the loss of property, health, and innocent life) in this world. Sometimes things happen just because they happen. God has given mankind freedom of choice, and sometimes bad choices are accompanied by tragic consequences – at times involving innocent people. Bear in mind, however, that God has a plan for people that is bigger than this temporal world. But the notion that God directly, individually ordains each and every instance of this world’s pain and suffering is not Biblical.

An excerpt from my newest book, You Are A Theologian: Thinking Right About God.

This is another volume in the You Are A Theologian book series. Thinking Right About God challenges readers to think more Biblically about God’s attributes, His triune nature, and His sovereignty. Like the first book in this series, it is ideal for a broad range of applications: personal study, small group discussions, and college/young adult/adult Bible class curriculum.

Purchase Here

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

Sources
[1]Thomas B. Warren, God and Evil, p. 298.
[2] John Piper, “Why I Do Not Say, ‘God Did Not Cause the Calamity, but He Can Use It for Good.” DesiringGod.org.
[3] Ibid.

Categories
Uncategorized

A Tale of Two Gods: How Calvinism’s God & the Bible’s God are Two Very Different Gods

One very popular denominational preacher and writer, John Piper, is famous for saying that “all things” – even down to the subatomic level – “are ordained, guided, and governed” by God.[1] The idea that God determines everything can be traced back to Augustine of Hippo in the 5th century and is particularly popular among a branch of Protestantism known as Reformed theology.

Reformed theology, more commonly known as Calvinism[2] (we will use these words interchangeably), is a religious philosophy that follows the teachings of John Calvin and other Protestant theologians from the Reformation era. It is should be noted that Reformed theology, or Calvinism, is experiencing a resurgence in America today. So popular is Reformed theology that any Christian who reads relatively conservative denominational literature is well acquainted famous Calvinistic authors. Understandably, younger preachers thirsty for truth tend to be particularly fond of their writings because of their often passionate, yet conservative, approach to many Biblical issues. (And as a result, their Calvinistic influences sometimes unknowingly creep into the young preacher’s respective pulpit.)

The reason it is important to examine Calvinism as it relates to this study is because Reformed theology has traditionally emphasized God’s sovereignty and predestination over everything else. In fact, the idea of the sovereignty of God is the basis of Calvinism itself. Reformed theologians take great pride in the lofty ways in which they talk about God. Ben Warburton writes, “The one rock upon which Calvinism builds is that of the absolute and unlimited sovereignty of the eternal and self-existent Jehovah.”[3]

But herein lies the problem: The sovereign God of the Bible and the sovereign God of Calvinism are two very different Gods. Calvinists have redefined the meaning of the word sovereignty. To the Bible-believing Christian, sovereignty simply means God’s ability and right to rule the world (chapter 5 of You Are A Theologian: Thinking Right About God). However, to the devoted Calvinist, sovereignty means “divine determinism.” Divine determinism is the belief that God determines, causes, and orchestrates everything in history according to His preconceived plan, including sin and evil.

Calvinists erroneously believe that God is the reason for sin, since – according to Calvinism – “sovereignty” is somehow synonymous with “total control.” Thus, they create a false dichotomy,[4] claiming that if God is sovereign, He must orchestrate and control everything that ever happens – and if He does not control everything, He supposedly cannot be sovereign. Arthur Pink, a famous Calvinist, writes, “Only two alternatives are possible: God must either rule, or be ruled; sway, or be swayed; accomplish His own Will, or be thwarted by His creatures.”[5] In the words of Jack Cottrell, Calvinists “equate sovereignty with causation, and say that the only way for God to be sovereign is if He is the sole, ultimate cause or originator of everything that takes place, including events in the natural world as well as human decisions.” Consequently, Cottrell continues, “there is no truly free will”[6] for mankind in the Calvinist worldview.

As a result, according to Calvinism, if someone commits a horrible atrocity, it is ultimately because God must have willed it to happen in the first place. Edwin Palmer, a well-known Calvinist, said it bluntly: God “has foreordained everything […] – even sin.”[7] How horrifying a thought. R.C. Sproul Jr., another leading Calvinist today, terrifyingly said, “God in some sense desired that man would fall into sin […] He created sin.”[8] Chilling, right?

Just as egregious is the Calvinistic idea that God subjectively causes individuals to have faith. To the Calvinist, the words “I have personal faith in Christ Jesus” have no real meaning because God is supposedly the cause of all things. To the Calvinist, you cannot choose to have faith; God must put it in you. According to the Synod of Dort,[9] God chooses who will believe in Him and who will not.[10] This, of course, makes the words of Jesus powerless: “whoever believes in Him may have eternal life” (John 3:16). Why? Because you can’t “believe in Him” without God causing you to believe in Him! To call this cruel would be an understatement. It is like dangling crutches at the top of the stairs, saying to a paraplegic below, “Come and get them!”

Historically, Christians have distinguished between God’s sovereignty de jure and de facto. De jure is a Latin word which in this context refers to God’s right to rule; De facto is a Latin word which in this context refers to God’s meticulous control over all events. Ardent Calvinists see this distinction as a mere formality; they believe God is both sovereign de jure and de facto all the time. Yet, New Testament Christians have always acknowledged that God is always sovereign de jure and chooses to limit His sovereignty de facto. In other words, God has the ability to meticulously control everything, but in His wisdom and love for mankind, He has chosen not to determine everything yet.

We find the distinction between God’s sovereignty de jure and de facto when Christ taught His disciples to pray, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). If God is already micro-managing every detail of history, why would anyone need to pray for God’s will to be done on earth? If God is sovereign de facto, it would already be done.

Any honest observer must acknowledge that the Bible is permeated with the implication that God has given men the choice to serve Him. We could fill this book with examples of God giving mankind the freedom of choice. How otherwise could God extend His kindness if people are unable to choose repentance (Rom. 2:4)? How otherwise can we be commanded to “grow in the grace” of the Lord Jesus Christ if are unable to choose to do so (2 Pet. 3:18)? Why would Joshua tell the Israelites to choose whom they would serve if they could not actually choose (Josh. 24:15)? How could God not “show partiality” if He individually chooses on whom to force faith (Acts 10:34)? How calloused is God if He “commands all men everywhere to repent” if they are unable to repent (Acts 17:30)?

The Bible does, in fact, teach that God is sovereign, but it certainly does not teach that God determines mankind’s decisions and preordains mankind’s actions. Let’s be very clear: You can be entirely dedicated to the doctrine of God’s sovereignty while simultaneously being absolutely sure of mankind’s free choice.

An excerpt from my upcoming book, You Are A Theologian: Thinking Right About God.

This is another volume in the You Are A Theologian book series. Thinking Right About God challenges readers to think more Biblically about God’s attributes, His triune nature, and His sovereignty. Like the first book in this series, it is ideal for a broad range of applications: personal study, small group discussions, and college/young adult/adult Bible class curriculum.

Coming August 2017

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

Sources
[1] John Piper, “Confronting The Problem Of Evil,” DesiringGod.org

[2] Calvinism, also known as Reformed theology, is basically the body of religious teachings and traditions started by John Calvin (1509 – 1564 A.D.) and other Reformation-era theologians such as Ulrich Zwingli and Jonathan Edwards. Calvinism can be summarized in five false religious ideas: (1) Total Depravity (babies are born guilty of the sin of their parents), Unconditional Election (God arbitrarily chooses – independent of any known standard – who will be eternally saved and who will be eternally damned), Limited Atonement (Christ did not die for everyone), Irresistible Grace (you do not have a choice as to whether or not you will obey the gospel), Perseverance of the Saints (it is impossible for a Christian to rebel against God).
[3] Ben A. Warburton, Calvinism, p. 63
[4] A dichotomy (pronounced “die-kot-uh-mee”) is the division of two mutually exclusive things or ideas. Thus, a false dichotomy is the division of two things or ideas that are not necessarily mutually exclusive. For example, it is a false dichotomy to say, “You either like bacon or sausage.” Why? Because real men like both bacon and sausage.
[5] Arthur Pink, The Sovereignty Of God, p. 14
[6] Jack Cottrell, The Faith Once For All, p. 81
[7] Edwin H. Palmer, The Five Points Of Calvinism, p. 25, emp. added.
[8] R.C. Sproul Jr., Almighty Over All, p. 53
[9] The Synod of Dort was a very important meeting in denominational history ultimately deciding the future of Calvinism. It was held between the years 1618-1619 in the town of Dordrecht (“Dort”) in the Netherlands. The Synod of Dort was held to silence honest, Scriptural challenges to Calvinism, and at its conclusion, the traditional five points of Calvinism were formalized, namely: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints.
[10] See Article XIV of The Articles Of The Canons of Dort (1619). “Faith is the gift of God; not in that it is offered to the will of man by God, but that the thing itself is conferred on him, inspired, infused into him. Not even that God only confers the power of believing, but from thence expects the consent, or the act of believing: but that He, who worketh both to will and to do, worketh in man both to will to believe, and to believe itself, […] and thus He worketh all things in all.” (Translated By Thomas Scott, p. 301).

 

Categories
Uncategorized

Bad Advice

Learning from past mistakes

Open Mouth Insert Foot

So, this morning I learned a hard lesson.  I say learned…I suppose I am in the middle of learning it.  I realized that a piece of advice that I gave my child (two years ago) was not good.  I shared something that I had been taught, but when I did so I did not give complete context and frankly, the premise of the advice was just wrong.

I gave the advice with pure intentions, passing along something I had been taught that seemed legit.  It was not until it had come full circle and my child had put into practice the advice that I had given, that I realized the flaw in what I had taught.

What is a mama to do?

Part of me wants to run myself through the ringer.  I found myself saying “What can I possibly have to say that is worthwhile?” “I just need to stop handing out any advice…” Like all the other times I berate myself, I realize intellectually what I am doing to myself, and that I just need to stop. I am not perfect, although sometimes I hold myself to an unreasonable standard.

The thing is, choosing to live an epic life does not mean living a perfect life.  I will make mistakes, it is what I do with those mistakes that will determine if I have an epic life or average.

So, I am choosing epic.  That means that I am choosing to learn from my mistakes and do my best to not repeat them.  That isn’t going to happen passively. It is a choice and one that I need to make every day.  The next time that I am faced with a situation like this (or the one I did two years ago, that just reared its ugly head) I am going to remember today and say something…different.  Wiser.  I am going to seek advice from those who are wiser than myself and use a filter before I blurt anything out.  That’s my plan.  However, just in case I drop the ball (because that will happen again at some point), I am going to try to be more forgiving of myself.

I’ll leave with some parting words from my beloved when I was beating myself up.  He said, “We will do our best as parents, and bathe our efforts in prayer and Bible study”.  Sounds like an epic plan to me.

Categories
Uncategorized

A Tale of Two Gods: How Calvinism’s God & the Bible’s God are Two Very Different Gods

One very popular denominational preacher and writer, John Piper, is famous for saying that “all things” – even down to the subatomic level – “are ordained, guided, and governed” by God.[1] The idea that God determines everything can be traced back to Augustine of Hippo in the 5th century and is particularly popular among a branch of Protestantism known as Reformed theology.

Reformed theology, more commonly known as Calvinism[2] (we will use these words interchangeably), is a religious philosophy that follows the teachings of John Calvin and other Protestant theologians from the Reformation era. It is should be noted that Reformed theology, or Calvinism, is experiencing a resurgence in America today. So popular is Reformed theology that any Christian who reads relatively conservative denominational literature is well acquainted famous Calvinistic authors. Understandably, younger preachers thirsty for truth tend to be particularly fond of their writings because of their often passionate, yet conservative, approach to many Biblical issues. (And as a result, their Calvinistic influences sometimes unknowingly creep into the young preacher’s respective pulpit.)

The reason it is important to examine Calvinism as it relates to this study is because Reformed theology has traditionally emphasized God’s sovereignty and predestination over everything else. In fact, the idea of the sovereignty of God is the basis of Calvinism itself. Reformed theologians take great pride in the lofty ways in which they talk about God. Ben Warburton writes, “The one rock upon which Calvinism builds is that of the absolute and unlimited sovereignty of the eternal and self-existent Jehovah.”[3]

But herein lies the problem: The sovereign God of the Bible and the sovereign God of Calvinism are two very different Gods. Calvinists have redefined the meaning of the word sovereignty. To the Bible-believing Christian, sovereignty simply means God’s ability and right to rule the world (chapter 5 of You Are A Theologian: Thinking Right About God). However, to the devoted Calvinist, sovereignty means “divine determinism.” Divine determinism is the belief that God determines, causes, and orchestrates everything in history according to His preconceived plan, including sin and evil.

Calvinists erroneously believe that God is the reason for sin, since – according to Calvinism – “sovereignty” is somehow synonymous with “total control.” Thus, they create a false dichotomy,[4] claiming that if God is sovereign, He must orchestrate and control everything that ever happens – and if He does not control everything, He supposedly cannot be sovereign. Arthur Pink, a famous Calvinist, writes, “Only two alternatives are possible: God must either rule, or be ruled; sway, or be swayed; accomplish His own Will, or be thwarted by His creatures.”[5] In the words of Jack Cottrell, Calvinists “equate sovereignty with causation, and say that the only way for God to be sovereign is if He is the sole, ultimate cause or originator of everything that takes place, including events in the natural world as well as human decisions.” Consequently, Cottrell continues, “there is no truly free will”[6] for mankind in the Calvinist worldview.

As a result, according to Calvinism, if someone commits a horrible atrocity, it is ultimately because God must have willed it to happen in the first place. Edwin Palmer, a well-known Calvinist, said it bluntly: God “has foreordained everything […] – even sin.”[7] How horrifying a thought. R.C. Sproul Jr., another leading Calvinist today, terrifyingly said, “God in some sense desired that man would fall into sin […] He created sin.”[8] Chilling, right?

Just as egregious is the Calvinistic idea that God subjectively causes individuals to have faith. To the Calvinist, the words “I have personal faith in Christ Jesus” have no real meaning because God is supposedly the cause of all things. To the Calvinist, you cannot choose to have faith; God must put it in you. According to the Synod of Dort,[9] God chooses who will believe in Him and who will not.[10] This, of course, makes the words of Jesus powerless: “whoever believes in Him may have eternal life” (John 3:16). Why? Because you can’t “believe in Him” without God causing you to believe in Him! To call this cruel would be an understatement. It is like dangling crutches at the top of the stairs, saying to a paraplegic below, “Come and get them!”

Historically, Christians have distinguished between God’s sovereignty de jure and de facto. De jure is a Latin word which in this context refers to God’s right to rule; De facto is a Latin word which in this context refers to God’s meticulous control over all events. Ardent Calvinists see this distinction as a mere formality; they believe God is both sovereign de jure and de facto all the time. Yet, New Testament Christians have always acknowledged that God is always sovereign de jure and chooses to limit His sovereignty de facto. In other words, God has the ability to meticulously control everything, but in His wisdom and love for mankind, He has chosen not to determine everything yet.

We find the distinction between God’s sovereignty de jure and de facto when Christ taught His disciples to pray, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). If God is already micro-managing every detail of history, why would anyone need to pray for God’s will to be done on earth? If God is sovereign de facto, it would already be done.

Any honest observer must acknowledge that the Bible is permeated with the implication that God has given men the choice to serve Him. We could fill this book with examples of God giving mankind the freedom of choice. How otherwise could God extend His kindness if people are unable to choose repentance (Rom. 2:4)? How otherwise can we be commanded to “grow in the grace” of the Lord Jesus Christ if are unable to choose to do so (2 Pet. 3:18)? Why would Joshua tell the Israelites to choose whom they would serve if they could not actually choose (Josh. 24:15)? How could God not “show partiality” if He individually chooses on whom to force faith (Acts 10:34)? How calloused is God if He “commands all men everywhere to repent” if they are unable to repent (Acts 17:30)?

The Bible does, in fact, teach that God is sovereign, but it certainly does not teach that God determines mankind’s decisions and preordains mankind’s actions. Let’s be very clear: You can be entirely dedicated to the doctrine of God’s sovereignty while simultaneously being absolutely sure of mankind’s free choice.

An excerpt from my upcoming book, You Are A Theologian: Thinking Right About God.

This is another volume in the You Are A Theologian book series. Thinking Right About God challenges readers to think more Biblically about God’s attributes, His triune nature, and His sovereignty. Like the first book in this series, it is ideal for a broad range of applications: personal study, small group discussions, and college/young adult/adult Bible class curriculum.

Coming August 2017

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

Sources
[1] John Piper, “Confronting The Problem Of Evil,” DesiringGod.org

[2] Calvinism, also known as Reformed theology, is basically the body of religious teachings and traditions started by John Calvin (1509 – 1564 A.D.) and other Reformation-era theologians such as Ulrich Zwingli and Jonathan Edwards. Calvinism can be summarized in five false religious ideas: (1) Total Depravity (babies are born guilty of the sin of their parents), Unconditional Election (God arbitrarily chooses – independent of any known standard – who will be eternally saved and who will be eternally damned), Limited Atonement (Christ did not die for everyone), Irresistible Grace (you do not have a choice as to whether or not you will obey the gospel), Perseverance of the Saints (it is impossible for a Christian to rebel against God).
[3] Ben A. Warburton, Calvinism, p. 63
[4] A dichotomy (pronounced “die-kot-uh-mee”) is the division of two mutually exclusive things or ideas. Thus, a false dichotomy is the division of two things or ideas that are not necessarily mutually exclusive. For example, it is a false dichotomy to say, “You either like bacon or sausage.” Why? Because real men like both bacon and sausage.
[5] Arthur Pink, The Sovereignty Of God, p. 14
[6] Jack Cottrell, The Faith Once For All, p. 81
[7] Edwin H. Palmer, The Five Points Of Calvinism, p. 25, emp. added.
[8] R.C. Sproul Jr., Almighty Over All, p. 53
[9] The Synod of Dort was a very important meeting in denominational history ultimately deciding the future of Calvinism. It was held between the years 1618-1619 in the town of Dordrecht (“Dort”) in the Netherlands. The Synod of Dort was held to silence honest, Scriptural challenges to Calvinism, and at its conclusion, the traditional five points of Calvinism were formalized, namely: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints.
[10] See Article XIV of The Articles Of The Canons of Dort (1619). “Faith is the gift of God; not in that it is offered to the will of man by God, but that the thing itself is conferred on him, inspired, infused into him. Not even that God only confers the power of believing, but from thence expects the consent, or the act of believing: but that He, who worketh both to will and to do, worketh in man both to will to believe, and to believe itself, […] and thus He worketh all things in all.” (Translated By Thomas Scott, p. 301).

 

Categories
Uncategorized

Stop Saying “All Things Happen for a Reason”

After a tragedy, sometimes a well-meaning person will comment, “All things happen for a reason.”

Is that so? If the person making this statement is operating from a Biblical world view, are they suggesting that God the direct cause behind all things that have happened?

If beneath this statement lies the implication that God is the reason something happened, then this statement is wrong. In fact, one of the worst things you can say to someone grieving the loss of property, health, or a loved one is, “All things happen for a reason.” Sometimes things just happen because they happen – not because God has a specific design behind a particular unfortunate event. There does not need to be an immediate divine cause behind every event.

For example, God was not the cause, nor was He pleased, when Islamist Syed Farook and his wife murdered 16 social workers at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California on December 2, 2015. Of course, that terrible event in no way thwarted God’s purpose (cf. Psa. 2:1-4), and perhaps there are mysterious ways God could have used that event for good (cf. Rom. 8:28). But God did not orchestrate that tragedy. God does not cause such wicked events.

But why did God not stop that mass shooting (or any mass shooting)? For the same reason God does not stop you from fudging the amount you owe on your taxes this year, texting on your phone while driving, or living a godless lifestyle; the same reason He does not stop you from cheating on your spouse or ignoring the needs of your neighbor. The freedom to make choices (often catastrophic choices) is an essential part of what it means to be human. Thomas B. Warren writes,

Once man has been created, it is not the case that God could either permit or prevent man’s sinning without so changing man’s nature that he would no longer be man.[1]

There is a school of thought in Christendom today called Calvinism, which gets this topic wrong. Many Calvinists cannot fathom the idea that God doesn’t directly cause all things to happen. On September 17th, 2001, six days after the September 11th terrorist attacks, John Piper boldly said that God “could” and “would” be behind these actions.[2] According to Piper, and all other staunch Calvinists, all things happen for a reason, and God is that reason. Piper reiterates, “That is what the Bible teaches. God ‘works all things after the counsel of His will’ (Eph. 1:11).”[3] What a chilling thought – that God is behind all tragedy!

This is a disastrous abuse of the context of Apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 1:11. We should note that Paul did not say, “God directs all things, period” – but rather that God has entirely (“all things”) fulfilled His plan to redeem mankind and establish His church through Jesus His Son. The fact that Jesus redeemed us and established His church is the context of Ephesians 1 – not the divine orchestration of every individual event, wicked events included.

When a parent or sibling is grieving the loss of a child, sometimes a well-meaning friend will say something to the effect of, “God needed another angel in heaven.” This horrifying statement not only reflects deep Biblical ignorance (human beings do not go on to become angels, cf. Heb. 2:7), but it also leaves the terrifying impression that God is the direct cause of the child’s death. Thank God He doesn’t “need more angels.”

There are Biblical explanations as to why there is suffering (including the loss of property, health, and innocent life) in this world. Sometimes things happen just because they happen. God has given mankind freedom of choice, and sometimes bad choices are accompanied by tragic consequences – at times involving innocent people. Bear in mind, however, that God has a plan for people that is bigger than this temporal world. But the notion that God directly, individually ordains each and every instance of this world’s pain and suffering is not Biblical.

An excerpt from my upcoming book, You Are A Theologian: Thinking Right About God.

This is another volume in the You Are A Theologian book series. Thinking Right About God challenges readers to think more Biblically about God’s attributes, His triune nature, and His sovereignty. Like the first book in this series, it is ideal for a broad range of applications: personal study, small group discussions, and college/young adult/adult Bible class curriculum.

Coming August 2017

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

Sources
[1]Thomas B. Warren, God and Evil, p. 298.
[2] John Piper, “Why I Do Not Say, ‘God Did Not Cause the Calamity, but He Can Use It for Good.” DesiringGod.org.
[3] Ibid.

Categories
Uncategorized

Why is it Sometimes Difficult to Know God’s Will?

Sometimes I wish the Bible were more specific about some things.

When making big decisions – when studying particularly complicated, hot-button topics in categories of worship, morality, or ethics – when giving people counsel – sometimes I catch myself wishing that God had more clearly spelled out verbatim what He wants.

However, God didn’t ask me to write the Bible for Him. And that’s a good thing.

It’s ridiculous (if not blasphemous) to think that I (or anyone else) could improve on the Bible. “For the wisdom of this world is folly with God” (1 Cor. 3:19). Not only is God’s Will perfect, but the way in which He communicates His Will is also perfect. “His way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true” (Psa. 18:30).

But this doesn’t answer our question. Why is it sometimes hard to know God’s Will on a given issue?

Some Things Are Concealed

By God’s design, some things to be harder to understand than others. “It is the glory of God to conceal things” (Prov. 25:2). God has not chosen to reveal everything to us.

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deut. 29:29).

It is a fact that there are Bible teachings I may not fully understand until I leave this world. In the meantime, I’m going to do my best to study to present myself approved and work through these questions so I can pursue the most God-honoring option (2 Tim. 2:15). Should I take this job? Should I further my education? Is it ethical to ____ in this circumstance? Will it please God for me to wear ______ or go to _____ movie or drink ____? Should we homeschool? Does ____ have a Biblical right to marry ____? Do my parents need to be in assisted living? Should I talk to ____ about his/her problem? Should we participate in ____?

The Bible does provide answers to these questions (or at least principles as answers), but sometimes you have to do some hard study. In the struggle, we grow to depend on God. And over time – if we make decisions in humble, childlike faith – we will be able to look back and realize He has been working in our lives all along, even when we couldn’t see it earlier.

Inspired Difficulties

God has given us a Bible that equips with everything we need to know to live faithfully for Him (2 Tim. 3:16-17). But that is not to say He always gives a checklist or yes/no answers to our questions. Some issues are still hard to understand (2 Pet. 3:15-16).

Why? One reason is surely because God would rather us be totally transformed in the image of His Son than be totally informed apart from any real struggle to better understand His Will. Thus, Paul writes:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:2).

This means God has a purpose in allowing difficult subjects. The Christian life is a test. He wants to expose our true motives and priorities, which are most clearly seen in our decisions about more ambiguous matters that may not be “black and white.”

God expects us to follow His Will (Col. 1:10) and He has revealed everything we need to know to live godly lives (2 Pet. 1:3). But He doesn’t want us to be mere automatons that follow a cold set of binary commands. He wants our lives to be living sacrifices, making daily decisions aim to glorify Him in what we do (Rom. 12:1).

God is Glorified in the Struggle

God did not say to Abraham: “I want you to sacrifice your son Isaac as a burnt offering on Mt. Moriah. But don’t worry – I’m not going to make you follow through with killing him. At the last second, I will provide a ram in your son’s place.” Even if He had said that, surely Abraham would still have followed God’s command. But God would not have been as glorified and Abraham would not have benefited as much through the test.

It is the tough decisions that separate the wheat from the chaff. When you’re not entirely sure about something, the final decision comes down to what’s most important to you. Do you love the world, or do you love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30)? The answer is seen in the pattern of decisions that emerge over time and we will either conform to this world or be transformed into the likeness of Christ.

God is glorified when – after wrestling with what to do or believe – we choose God over anything else. The question will not be, “How close can I get to sin without actually sinning?” Rather, “What is the most God-honoring option?” As we mature in Christ, difficult decisions become less difficult. “For those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Heb. 5:14).

Conclusion

I don’t claim to know all the answers. When it comes to difficult decisions and complex doctrines, I doubt I will get everything right. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try. And thankfully, we have a Savior who laid down His life so that even when we unknowingly err, the sins of Christians are covered (1 John 1:7).

He will never leave us or forsake us. As long as we keep our heads in the Book, He will eventually guide us back when we stray. And if we really will trust Him, like Abraham, we will see that He was guiding us through the difficult decisions all along.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

Categories
Uncategorized

The Inerrancy of Scripture: What’s at Stake

Every now and then, people will kick around the idea of the “inerrancy” of Scripture. What does inerrancy mean, and why is it such a big deal?

What is inerrancy?

When we say something is inerrant, we mean it is without error, mistake, contradiction, or falsehood. Inerrant means “true, trustworthy, reliable, accurate, and infallible.” Thus, if the Bible is inerrant, it is totally trustworthy and without error in everything it says. This isn’t some new theory. If the Bible is God’s Word, we expect it to be inerrant (and we make no apology for this word).

The Bible claims verbal inspiration. By this we mean that God approved every word of Scripture. Every single word is inspired by the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:13), and thus carries God’s divine authority. It isn’t merely the general thought behind the words that are inspired, but the very words of the Bible that are inspired. Jesus Himself implied that there is not a single word that is insignificant in Scripture (cf. Matt. 5:18; 22:32; Gal. 3:16).

The Bible claims plenary inspiration. This means Scripture is entirely truenot only in what it specifically teaches, but also in everything it mentions as it teaches. What I mean is, even though God did not design the Bible to be a history or science textbook, when the inspired writers do happen to mention something scientific or historical, their words are entirely factually true (cf. John 3:12). The historical accounts of places, the events, and people, along with any references to nature or biology, are true.

The Bible claims infallibility. Scripture can never fail or make a mistake. God “never lies” (Titus 1:2), therefore there can be no deliberate errors in Scripture. God “knows everything” (1 John 3:20), therefore there can be no accidental mistakes in Scripture. Proverbs 30:5 says, “Every word of God proves true.” Jesus prayed to the Father, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Jesus happened to believe in the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible when He said that “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

What inerrancy isn’t.

Inerrancy doesn’t mean man hasn’t made mistakes in copying the ancient manuscripts. The printing press has only existed for 5 centuries or so, meaning for the majority of human history, Scripture had to be copied by hand (people who made duplicates of Scripture were called “scribes”). Sometimes the scribes made mistakes (mostly by accidentally leaving out/duplicating a word or forgetting to punctuate something). But, because of the rich pool of ancient copies in our possession today (we have thousands upon thousands), it is remarkably easy to pinpoint where the scribes made mistakes.

The term “inerrancy” only applies to the autographs of Scripture (the original writings), not the manuscripts (the copies). When we talk about the inerrancy of Scripture, we are affirming that the original transmission of God’s revelation is without error.

Inerrancy doesn’t mean God didn’t use the unique writing styles of the prophets. The inspired writers of the Bible weren’t exactly automatons. A cursory study of the 66 books of the Bible will reveal that Moses, Paul, and Peter read somewhat differently (as you would expect from different writers). Additionally, a casual glance at Scripture will also show that the inspired writers used different literary styles (such as parables, poetry, metaphor, anthropomorphism, and hyperbole).

Yes, God utilized the unique personalities of the prophets and the apostles when transmitting Scripture. But because the Bible is inerrant, we know God’s inspiration insured what the prophets and apostles wrote was exactly as God intended.

Inerrancy doesn’t preclude the use of layman’s terminology. For example, sometimes the Bible uses non-technical phraseology, such as “from the rising of the sun” (Psalm 113:3). Scientifically speaking, the sun doesn’t rise (that’s impossible). But in layman’s terms, it does. As another example, sometimes the Bible uses round numbers and inexact measurements, just as we do today in everyday conversation (Did literally all of Israel gather around Jeremiah in the temple in Jeremiah 26:9? I doubt it). This is just an example of God speaking rhetorically, with His words being no less true

What if the Bible were not inerrant?

If the Bible is not inerrant, God either made a mistake or He lied. If there were errors in the original autographs of Scripture, then either God purposefully or accidentally misled us. Are you ready to serve a God who lies or makes mistakes?

If the Bible is not inerrant, there is no reason to trust God. If God can lie or make a mistake in small areas of Scripture, why should we trust His words in the more important areas? When we can’t rely on the specific words and historical/scientific accuracy of Scripture, then we are robbed of our trust in God Himself.

If the Bible is not inerrant, the wisdom of man becomes a higher standard of truth than Scripture. It bothers me how some deny the inerrancy of Scripture on the basis of their feelings. “I fear it turns people off.” “I am uncomfortable describing the Bible with such a concrete word.” But God doesn’t ask us to follow Him with our feelings – He asks us to submit Him with our mind on the basis of facts and objective truth. It doesn’t matter what you like. Feelings are deceptive (cf. Prov. 12:15; Eze. 13:3). We must define ourselves by the Bible, not the Bible to our own comfort level.

If the Bible is not inerrant, then we cannot rely on the spiritual truth it teaches. The moment you admit the inspired Scripture contain historical/scientific/peripheral mistakes, you have put a dangerous crack in the dam. How can you argue the doctrine of Scripture is true (eternal judgment, sin, salvation, the deity of Christ, etc.) if you cannot also argue that the smaller, intricate details of Scripture are also true?

Conclusion

Some feel uncomfortable using the term inerrancy. They say they do not want to use words the Bible doesn’t use (To be consistent, they shouldn’t use words like “Trinity” or “Bible,” either). One writer prefers to describe the Bible as “reliable and true;” others prefer to use the word “inspired.” But this is a false distinction between words. If the Bible is truly inspired – and if it is reliable and true – then it is inerrant. And if there is any part or degree to which the Bible in not inerrant, it is also to that extent not inspired, reliable, and true.

After we have properly defined the word “inerrant,” we must unapologetically embrace the fact that the Bible is inerrant. We love inerrancy. It is what gives us hope, peace, and confidence in the Word of God.

Hey, here’s a good place to shamelessly plug my book!

If you want to know more about how we got the Bible and how it is authoritative in our lives, You Are A Theologian: Thinking Right About The Bible is a good place to start. Use it as a class at your church, or use it so you can hold your own when a skeptic tries to minimize the inerrancy of God’s word. Don’t let anyone ‘muddy the water’ about this topic – it is far too important.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.